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And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, be not afraid. And when they had lift up their eyes, they saw no man save Jesus only.—Mat. XVII. 6-8.
IN this part of the history are three things:—
I. The disciples’ fear and astonishment, ver. 6.
II. Their comfortable and gracious recovery by Christ, ver. 7.
III. The event and issue of all, ver. 8.
I. Their astonishment: They fell on their faces, and were sore afraid. Their falling on their faces was not out of worship and reverence, but consternation, as those John xviii. 6, ‘As soon as he said to them I am he, they went backward and fell to the ground.’ The causes of their fear must be inquired into. These were holy men, the flower of Christ’s disciples; they were men in an holy action—(for Belshazzar in his cups to tremble were no news)—they were not in the presence of an angry God, it was a gospel-voice that they heard: ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.’ They had not a full dispensation of his glory, but only a glimpse of it, and that under a cloud and revealed in mercy; yet they were sore afraid. Upon any visions and apparitions of the divine majesty, God’s servants fell to the earth: Ezek. i. 28, ‘When I saw the appearance of the likeness of the glory of God, I fell on my face.’ Paul, when Christ appeared to him from heaven, he fell to the earth, Acts ix. 4: Rev. i. 17, ‘When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.’ Abraham was cast into great horror, Gen. xv. 12, when God appeared solemnly to enter into covenant with him. So Isa. vi. 5, ‘Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone.’ So Daniel x. 8, 9, ‘When I saw this great vision, there was no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned into corruption, and I retained no strength. Yet heard I the voice of his words: then was I in a deep sleep upon my face, and my face was towards the ground.’
Now I shall give—(1.) The special reasons why the manifestation and appearance of God to his great prophets did breed this astonishment and fear; (2.) What general note and observation may be concluded hence for our profit.
1. The special reasons why these manifestations and appearances of God to his great prophets do breed this astonishment and fear—they are two:
[1.] To humble them to whom he vouchsafed so great a favour. To humble them lest the glory of these heavenly visions should too much puff them up. Therefore there was ever some weakness discovered in those that did receive them. Jacob wrestled with God, but came off halting and maimed, though he prevailed, Gen. xxxii. 31. When he came off from seeing God face to face, he halted on his thigh. Paul was rapt into the third heaven, yet presently buffeted with a messenger of Satan, lest he should be lifted up with the abundance of revelations, 2 Cor. xii. 7. Corruption remaineth in us, and 403we are not able to bear these favours which God manifesteth to his choice servants, and therefore there is something to humble them in the dispensation, and to keep them from being puffed up with pride, something that is a balance to the great honour wherewith God hath honoured them.
[2.] All those that received visions from him to teach his people, God would season them by leaving a stamp and impression of his excellency upon them. This was the preparation of the prophets, and a preparation of the disciples to fit them for the work of the gospel. A due representation of God’s glory and excellent majesty doth qualify them for their duty; they are fittest to carry God’s message and describe him to others who are thus qualified and prepared, and have some reverence and awe of God impressed upon their own hearts, and have felt the power of his great majesty: 2 Cor. v. 16, ‘Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men.’
The general conclusion and observation which we may draw from thence is this:—
Doct. That God is of such glorious excellency and majesty, that we are not able to bear any emissions or extraordinary representations thereof in this state of frailty.
1. I will prove that God is a great God and of glorious majesty.
2. Give. you the reasons why we are not able to bear the extraordinary manifestations thereof in this state of frailty.
1. That God is a God of great majesty, and ought to be reverenced by all that have to do with him. The point being a matter of sense, and evident by natural light, needeth not to be proved so much as improved.
[1.] Scripture representeth him as such: Dan. ix. 4, he is called the great and dreadful God;’ so Deut. vii. 21, ‘A mighty God and terrible; and Nahum i. 5, ‘A great and terrible God is he:’ and again, Job xxxvii. 22, ‘With God is terrible majesty.’
[2.] This eminently shineth forth both in his works of creation and providence, (1.) Creation, in the stupendous fabric of the heavens Jer. xxxii. 17-19, ‘Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and outstretched arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee,’ &c. In that mighty collection of waters in the sea: we cannot look upon that vast expansion of the firmament, that huge body of waters in the sea, without some religious horror. What is the God that made all this? Jer. v. 22, ‘Fear ye not me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for a bound to the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it; and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?’ (2.) Providence, whether in his way of mercy or judgment. Mercy: what a majestic description of God is there, Ps. l. 1-5, yet there his presence m his church is described. The drift of the psalm is, to set forth God’s power and majesty when he comes to call the Gentiles, and to set up the evangelical way of his worship, when the light of the gospel shall shine forth from Sion: Ps. lxv. 5, ‘By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God, thou God of our salvation.’ Though God is a God of salvation, yet the way of his delivering them 404carrieth majesty and terror with it. So his works of judgment: Ps. cxix. 120, ‘My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments, when the wicked of the earth are put away like dross.’ A lion trembleth to see a dog beaten before him, and it is imputed as a fault to the wicked that they do not take notice of it: Isa. xxvi. 10, ‘They will not behold the majesty of God.’
[3.] His greatness and majesty is such that we cannot comprehend it: Job xxxvi. 26, ‘Behold, God is great, and we know him not, nor can the number of his years be searched out.’ The greatness of God cannot be known, but only by way of negation, that he hath none of those infirmities which may lessen his being in our thoughts; or by way of comparison, that he is above all, God is greater than man, Jer. xxxvi. 12.
[4.] So great that he is fain to put a covering on, to interpose the clouds between us and him, for we are not able to bear his glorious and majestic presence: Job xxvi. 9, ‘He holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it.’ What would become of us if he should discover all his glory? This is his condescension to the lower world to appear under a veil, and cover his throne with clouds.
But though we do not know his full majesty, yet there is enough discovered both to faith, reason, and sense, that God is great and glorious, both in himself and in all his works. Scripture declareth it to faith, and reason will soon subscribe to so evident a truth, that he that made and sustaineth all things must needs be a great God. What other conceptions can we form of him when we look to the heaven and this earth which he sustaineth by his great power, and he declareth himself to sense by his daily providence to be a God of great majesty.
The proof of it needeth not so much to be spoke to as the improvement of it, which we are called upon for everywhere.
(1.) It is a mercy that, being so great, he taketh notice of us: Ps. viii. 3, 4, ‘When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou visitest him?’ When we consider how the majesty of God shineth forth in the heavenly bodies, and those many glorious creatures God hath made besides us, we may wonder that God should esteem of man, and take care of man, and be so solicitous about man’s welfare, who was formed at first out of so vile materials as the dust of the earth, and is still of so very frail, infirm, and mortal condition, and hath carried himself so unthankfully to God, that he should take care of him above his whole creation: Ps. cxiii. 6, 7, ‘The Lord our God dwelleth on high, who humbleth himself to behold the things in heaven and earth.’ That the great God of such glorious majesty should take notice of worms, and behold us not only by visiting, over-seeing, and governing the affairs of this lower world, but should condescend to this low estate of ours in taking our flesh, whose excellency and majesty is so great that he might despise the angels, of whom he hath no need; but to stoop so low towards men is matter of wonder, praise, and adoration.405
(2.) We should be humble in our conversing with him, considering what he is and we are: Job xlii. 5, 6, ‘I have heard of thee with the hearing of the ear, now mine eye seeth thee, therefore I abhor myself in dust and ashes.’ This should keep his children in a holy awe. Oh! how low should we lie before this great God: Gen. xviii. 27, ‘Who am I, that am but dust and ashes, that I should speak unto God?’
(3.) That we must not please ourselves with the performance of ordinary service to him, but we should raise it to an eminent degree of worship and adoration: Ps. xlviii. 1, ‘Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God;’ and Ps. cxlv. 3, ‘Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.’ Alas! the best we do is much beneath God. What low thoughts had Solomon of his stately temple 2 Chron. ii. 6, ‘Who is able to build him an house, seeing the heaven of heavens is not able to contain him? who am I that I should build him an house?’ Thus should we see that our best resolutions and performances come much short of the excellency and greatness of God. All formality and lifeless service proceedeth from hence, that we have not due and raised thoughts of his majesty and being: Mal. i. 14, ‘I am a great king, saith the Lord of hosts.’ The greatness of God calleth for other service than usually we give to him—he gets nothing from us that is perfect. But surely we should not put him off with our refuse, but spend the best of our strength, time, parts, and affections, in his service. Superficial dealing in it argueth mean thoughts of God, it is a lessening of his majesty.
(4.) We serve a great master, and so may expect great things from him. He discovereth himself unto his people according to the greatness and majesty of his being: Ps. cxxvi. 2, 3, ‘The Lord hath done great things for them, yea, the Lord hath done great things for us whereof we are glad.’ Kings or princes do not give pence or brass farthings, but bestow gifts becoming their magnificence. The heathens were forced to acknowledge it, and the people of God do willingly acknowledge it. So Joel ii. 21, ‘Fear not, O land, be glad and rejoice, for the Lord will do great things.’ Be the mercies never so rare, the way never so difficult, God is able to accomplish them.
(5.) This should banish the fear of man, as to any danger can come from them to us, or to any attempts against God: Mat. x. 28, ‘Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell fire.’ They may threaten great things to us, but God threateneth greater. See Exod. xviii. 11, ‘Now I know that God is greater than all gods, for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly God was above them.’ There is a greater being we have to depend upon.
(6.) Because God is of such majesty and greatness, we should quarrel at none of his dealings, for he is too high to be questioned by the creature, and his counsels are carried on in such a way as we cannot judge of them, no more than a worm can judge of the affairs of a man; he is great in counsel, and wonderful in working.
(7.) This should keep his children in an holy awe: Heb. xii. 28, 29, ‘Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire.’ When we come in the holy assemblies: Gen. xxviii. 17, ‘How dreadful is this 406place!’ In our general course we must not slight his frowns nor despise his favours, all comes from a great God; nor behave ourselves irreverently in his presence, but still walk as those that have to do with a great and glorious God.
2. That in this present state we are not able to bear any extra ordinary manifestation of his greatness and majesty.
[1.] Because of his glory, which would consume and swallow us up. This was a voice ‘from the excellent glory,’ 2 Pet. i. 17. Now if this excellent glory by the vail of the firmament were not obscured, man were not able to bear it: Job xxxvii. 20, ‘If man speak, he shall be swallowed up:’ 1 Tim. vi. 16, ‘He dwelleth in light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see,’ till we are received to heaven. Thus it is, his glory would kill us, his voice confound us. There is a mighty disproportion between mortal creatures and the infinite majesty of God; the brightness of his glory soon burdeneth and over-burdeneth the infirmity of the best creatures.
[2.] Because of our weakness.
(1.) Natural. We faint when we meet with anything extraordinary, and therefore no wonder if we are astonished with the near approach of the excellent majesty of God, and made unfit for any action of body or mind. If we cannot look on the sun, how can we see God? our felicity in heaven would be our misery on earth. This wine is too strong for old bottles.
(2.) Sinful infirmity, consciousness of guilt is in it also, and our disconformity to God through sin: Isa. vi. 5, 6, ‘Woe is me, for I am undone; I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, and mine eyes have seen the king, the Lord of hosts.’ So Peter: Luke v. 8, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.’ This raiseth a fear in us upon every eminent approach or discovery of God’s glory. Before the fall, God and Adam were friends; he would have endured God to speak to him; yet after the fall, the appearance of God became terrible. When he heareth his voice, he is afraid, and hideth himself; and something of this fear sticketh to the best of his people, and when God is eminently near it is discovered; for persons that have sin in them, to be near to so holy and glorious a majesty, that is a part of the reason of this fear and trouble. Well, then, both these causes go together, the representation of the majesty of God, and the sense of our own frailty and weakness.
Use. Is to press us to two things:—
1. To press us to an holy awe and reverence when we come near to God.
2. To take heed that our fear of God do not degenerate into a slavish fear.
First, To press us to an holy awe and reverence of God, when we draw nigh unto him. Surely we should in all our worship have such thoughts of God as may leave a stamp of humility and some impressions of the majesty and excellency of God upon us; and we should fall upon our faces, though not in a way of consternation, yet in a way of adoration. And because usually we bewray much slightness and irreverence in our converse with God and approaches to him, I shall press it a little.407
1. I will show how the scriptures in the general do call for this holy awe of the majesty of God in all our worship: Ps. cxi. 9, ‘Holy and reverend is his name,’ and therefore never to be used by us but in an awful and serious manner: Ps. xcvi. 4, ‘The Lord is great, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.’ Whether we pray, or whether we praise God, still the heart must be deeply possessed with a sense of his excellency; and we must admire him above all created or imaginable greatness whatsoever, and so mingle reverence with our most delightful addresses to him. Again, Ps. lxxxix. 17, ‘God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of his saints, and to be had in reverence of all that are round about him.’ Holy angels and sanctified men, who of all creatures have nearest access to God, should most adore and reverence him, because they are best acquainted with him, and have the clearest sight of him that mortal creatures are capable of. The angels are an assembly of holy ones, that always behold his face, therefore always lauding and glorifying God. So God is said to be terrible in his holy place, Ps. lxviii. 35, whether heaven or the church. Indeed, the awful carriage of his people in his worship should be one means to convince of the excellency and majesty of God, 1 Cor. xiv. 25. The apostle showeth there that an unbeliever, coming into the Christian assemblies when they are managed with gravity and awe, is ‘convinced and judged, and will fall down on his face and worship God, and say, God is in you of a truth;’ that is, seeing their humility, brokenness of heart, hearing their praises and admirations of God, and seeing their orderliness and composedness of spirit; whereas rudeness, slightness, and irreverence doth pollute and stain the glory of God in their minds.
2. Other addresses will not become faith and love.
[1.] Faith, for whosoever cometh to God must fix this principle in his mind, ‘that God is,’ Heb. xi. 6. We do not worship God aright if we do not worship him as believers; and if we worship him as believers, we will worship him with reverence and godly fear. Faith giveth us not only a thought of God, but some kind of sight of God, and sight will leave an impression upon the heart of reverence and seriousness. Surely a sight or believing thought of God should be able to do anything upon the soul. It is the great work of faith ‘to see him that is invisible,’ Heb. xi. 27. We should in our whole conversation live as in his sight, and live as those that remember God standeth by and seeth all that we are about: but especially in our worship—we then set ourselves as before the Lord. Pray as to our Father that seeth what we do: Mat. vi. 6, ‘Pray to thy Father, which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret will reward thee openly.’ Hear as before the Lord: Acts x. 33, ‘We are all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God;’ then the soul should turn the back upon all other things, that the mind may be taken up with nothing but God.
J2.] No other worship will become love. Worship is an act of love delight. Now love is seen in admiring the excellencies of that glorious being whom we love, and ascribing all to him, as being deeply affected with his goodness: Rev. iv. 10, ‘The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him 408that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, Lord, to receive glory, honour, and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.’ They fell down, not out of astonishment, but reverence, and cast their crowns before the throne. Whatever honour they have, they had it from God, and are content to lay it at his feet, from whom they have life, and being, and all things. They have such an high esteem of God that before him they cannot be too vile. They are unworthy to wear any crown in God’s presence, and are content that their honour be a footstool to advance and extol his glory. Certainly those that are heartily affected to God will go about his worship, as with cheerfulness, so with humility and reverence.
Secondly, To take heed that our humility and reverence do not degenerate into servile fear and discouragement. It is apt to do so even in the best of God’s people. We can hardly keep the middle between the extremes; our faith is apt to degenerate into presumption, and our humility into despondency of spirit, and our fear into discouragement and distrust. So hard a matter is it to ‘serve the Lord with fear, and to rejoice with trembling,’ Ps. ii. 11, or to walk in the fear of God, and in the comforts of the Holy Ghost.
Therefore, to avoid this consternation, do two things:—
1. Consider how amiable God hath represented himself in Jesus Christ, and how near he is come to us; and within the reach of our commerce there is ‘a new and living way through the veil of his flesh,’ Heb. x. 20. So that, though our God be a consuming fire, yet there is a screen between us and this fire; though if he should draw away the veil, a glimpse of his glory would kill us, yet this glory being veiled, we may have ‘access with confidence.’ Eph. iii. 12. There are naturally in our hearts fears, estrangedness, and backwardness from God. But now God is incarnate, and hath been manifested in our flesh, we may have more familiar thoughts of him, and they are made more sweet and acceptable to us.
2. Get your own peace with God made and confirmed to you more and more: Rom. v. 1, 2, ‘Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ So Eph. ii. 18, he ‘preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that are nigh, for through him we both have an access by one Spirit to the Father.’ See the breach made up between you and God, and be very tender of putting it to hazards any more. God, that is a consuming fire to guilty souls, is a Sun of righteousness to the upright. When we are accepted in the Beloved, those thoughts of God which guilt will make amazing and terrible, will be through peace comfortable and refreshing.
II. Their comfortable and gracious recovery by Christ, ver. 7, ‘And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, be not afraid.’ He relieveth and helpeth them by three things:—(1.) His approach; (2.) His touch; (3.) His word.
1. His approach. He came to them, you must understand, having laid aside his glory which he had in the transfiguration, that he might more familiarly converse with them, and without prejudice. Because of their weakness and infirmity he layeth aside his majesty, and re-assumeth 409the habit of his humiliation; as Moses did put a veil upon his face, that the people might endure his sight and presence. God’s appearing at first may be terrible; but the Issue is sweet and comfortable: a still calm voice followed the earthquake, wind, and fire 1 Kings xix. And God doth good to his people after he hath humbled them and proved them, Deut. viii. 16. Here, when the apostles lay, like dead men, Christ came and put new life and strength into them. He came out of love and pity to them, that nothing more grievous might happen to them, either loss of life or senses. He would not let them perish in these amazements.
2. His touch He touched them. Christ’s touch is powerful, and a means of application. Usually thus Christ conveyed and applied his power: Mat viii. 3 He touched the leper and cleansed him. Mat. viii. 15 He touched Peter’s wife’s mother and cured her of a fever. So Mat ix. 19 He touched the two blind men and they received their sight; and in many other places. So this touching of the apostles was to apply his power, and to recover them out of their trance
3. His speech: ‘And said, Arise, and be not afraid.’ The glorious voice of the Father affrights them, and the gracious voice of the Son reviveth and refresheth them. He comforts those whom the terrors of the Almighty had cast down. He doth not chide them for their fear or little faith, as he doth at other times; he considered the greatness of the cause, their natural infirmity, the governing of which was not in their power, and the terribleness and suddenness left no time for deliberation; therefore he doth not chide them, but encourageth them. The like was done in other cases, as to Ezekiel in his trance: Ezek. ii. 1, ‘Son of man, arise, stand on thy feet, and I will speak to thee.’ So too the apostle John: Rev. i. 17, 18, ‘When I saw him, I lay at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not; I am the first and the last.’ So here, be not afraid We must reverence Christ, but not be scared at him. Such a fear as may stand with our duty is required, but not that which disableth us for it, or discourageth us in it; that is no more pleasing to God than security.
[1.] Observe Christ’s tender care over his disciples in their faintings and discouragements.
(1.) That he comforteth and reviveth his disciples. Christ alone can help us, and confirm us against our fears; the disciples did not stir, but lay prostrate upon their faces, till he came and touched them and said, ‘Arise, be not afraid.’ In all the troubles and perplexities of his people, he will be owned as the causer and curer of them: Hosea vi. 1, ‘Come, let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us, he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.’ So Job v. 18, ‘He maketh sore and bindeth up, he woundeth and his hands make whole.’ As all our troubles and perplexities are from his hands, so must the healing be. If he make the wound, all the world cannot find a plaster to heal it; and no wound given by himself is above his own cure; and he woundeth not as an enemy, but as a chirurgeon, not with a sword, but a lancet. All other means are blasted till we come to him.
(2.) That he is exceeding ready, and hath great pity and tenderness 410towards them. As appeareth by laying aside his glory, and coming to the disciples, when they came not to him; and speedily, that he might not leave them long in the trance, lest worse effects should follow. And is he not like affected to all his people in their perplexities and troubles? Yes, verily. See Isa. lvii. 16, ‘I will not contend for ever, nor will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.’ He speaketh as if he were afraid lest man’s spirit should fail, being long overwhelmed with terror and trouble. So the apostle, 2 Cor. ii. 7, ‘Comfort him, lest he be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.’ The Lord Christ is full of bowels and compassions, pitieth his people in their infirmities, fears, and troubles.
[2.] The manner and way which he taketh is considerable also—by touch and speech. The touch noteth the application of his power; and in his speech he saith, ‘Arise, be not afraid.’ Christ doth not love to confound, but comfort, his servants, and therefore taketh this double course, by secret power enlivening and strengthening their hearts: Ps. cxxxviii. 3, ‘I cried unto the Lord, and thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul;’ that is, God did secretly support him and strengthen him under the trouble. He doth it also by a word; therefore we read of God’s speaking peace to his people: Ps. lxxxv. 8, ‘I will hear what God will say, for he will speak peace to his people and his saints.’ Besides an inward strengthening, there is a necessity of a word from Christ’s own mouth ere we can cast off our discouragements. Besides his touching or his laying his right hand upon us, there is need of his word to us.
Use. It teacheth us what to do when we have serious thoughts of appearing before God. For the case in hand is about those that were affrighted and disquieted with divine visions, which was occasioned by natural frailty, and partly by a sense of sin. Now al of! us must shortly come into God’s presence, but who can dwell with devouring burnings? If your thoughts be serious, you will find that it is no slight thing to appear before God, who is our creator and our judge, and who is an holy and glorious God, to whom we have carried it very unthankfully and undutifully. Now who can relieve you in these perplexed thoughts but the Lord Jesus Christ? Get a word from him that your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged, Isa. vi. 7; and wait on him till he settleth your souls in the peace and hope of the gospel, Isa. lvii. 14; and then you are relieved in your agonies of conscience; stand up, be not afraid: the gospel is a sovereign plaster, but his hand must make it stick.
III. The event and issue of all, ver. 8, ‘And when they had lift up their eyes, they saw no man save Jesus only.’ This intimateth two things:—
1. That this testimony from heaven did only concern Jesus Christ, for Moses and Elias vanish out of sight, and Jesus is left alone, as the person in whom God is well pleased, and all the church must hear him When they are withdrawn, Christ remaineth as Lord and head of the church, and so it showeth the ceasing of Moses’s law, and the continuance and authority of the law of Christ. The apostle telleth us, ‘When that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall 411 be done away.’ They only prophesied, prefigured Christ to come, but now upon the exhibition, the legal ordinances vanished.
2. That God manifesteth himself, for time, measure, and degree, as he himself seeth fit for our good; for the vision is removed when the intent of it is obtained. Here the spiritual banquet doth not always last; heaven is a perpetual feast, but we must not look upon earth to be feasted always with spiritual suavities. There is no permanency but perpetual vicissitudes, in our enjoyments within time; we have clear and cloudy days in the world, a feast, a desertion: Cant. v. 1, 2, ‘I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved. I sleep, but my heart waketh; it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled; for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.’ And ver. 6, ‘I opened to my beloved; but my beloved hath withdrawn himself and was gone.’ After the greatest manifestations of Christ’s love, there may be a withdrawing; we cannot bear perpetual comforts, and God reserveth them for a better time, when we are more prepared for them. There must be day and night in this world, and winter and summer; but in heaven it is all day, there is a perpetual sunshine, never clouded nor overcast.412413
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