ON THE PRESENCE OF GOD
Consider first, that ’tis a most certain truth, an article of faith which no Christian can be allowed to doubt that the great God who made us all, the eternal, incomprehensible, infinite majesty, in whose comparison the whole creation is a mere nothing, is everywhere present, is truly and really in every place, and in every being; so that wheresoever we are, and wheresoever we go, God is there, and is there with all his divine attributes the whole deity, the whole blessed trinity is there. ‘Shall a man be hid in secret places, and I not see him saith the Lord’ ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth saith the Lord?’ Jeremias xxiii. 24. And Ps. cxxxviii; ‘whither shall I go from thy spirit?’ ‘Or whither shall I flee from thy face? If I ascend up into heaven thou art there: if I descend into hell thou are there,’ & c. And do all Christians know this truth and yet dare to sin? Alas! they cannot here justly plead ignorance; because ’tis one of the first things they have been taught from their very childhood. But their misery is, they think so little of God or his divine presence, that they quite forget it: so that we may say to them, with regard to the presence of God, what St John Baptist said to the Jews, with regard to their Messiah, (St. John i. 26,) ‘there hath stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not.’ O how little indeed is this great God known, even by too many that call themselves Christians!
Consider 2ndly, that God being everywhere present is witness to all our thoughts, words, and actions; he sees and hears all that passes; nothing can be concealed from him; no not even the most secret motions and dispositions of the soul. ‘He is the searcher of the reins and hearts,’ Apoc. ii. 23, ‘reaching to the division of the soul and of the spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts, and of the intents of the hearts; neither is there any creature invisible in his sight, but all things are naked, and open to his eyes.’ Heb. iv. 12, 13. ‘Tis in vain then for the sinner to flatter himself, like the libertine, mentioned by the wise man, Ecclus. xxiii. 25, & c., that saith, ‘who seeth me?’ ‘Darkness compasseth me about, and the walls cover me, and no man seeeth me.’ ‘Whom do I fear?’ And in the mean time he considereth not that darkness and light are alike to the Lord, (Ps. cxxxviii. 12,) and that his ‘eyes are far brighter than the sun beholding round about all the ways of men, and the bottom of the deep, and looking into their hearts, into the most secret parts.’ O that men would always remember these great truths!
Consider 3rdly, that God is not only really present with us, in every place, and sees all that passes, but is really present within us, fills our whole soul, and is more truly, perfectly, and intimately in the very centre of the soul, giving, preserving, and maintaining its very life and being, than the soul is in the body which it animates, and to which it gives life and motion he is the life of all lives, and the being of all beings, and were he to withdraw his presence through it were but for a moment, from any being whatsoever, in that moment it would cease to be, and would return to its ancient nothing. ‘In him we live, and move, and be,’ saith the apostle, Acts xvii. 28. So that we are not only encompassed with the Deity on all sides, as the birds are with the air in which they fly, or the fishes with the waters of the ocean, but are in such manner penetrated by him, that he fills every part of our being with his whole self, so that it is strictly and literally true, that we are always in him and he in us. What an aggravation then must it be to the guilt of all our sins, that they not only are committed against God, and before his own eyes, but are committed in God himself, in whom we lie, move, and be?
Conclude by regretting thy having thought so little hitherto of the presence of God; by which he is both in all places and in all things, and more especially in the midst of thyself. Resolve to have this truth ever before thy eyes for the time thou hast yet to come. O let us strive, my soul, to be always with him, who is always with us.