03/06/2007

Sermon Nearness to God

PSALM 148:14
A people near unto him: praise ye the Lord
Nearness to God
Glorious things are spoken of Zion, the city of God. Glorious promises are made, glorious privileges are given, and glorious titles ascribed to her. Yet nothing can be said of them more for their honour and comfort than what is said in our text: A people near unto him. The world indeed may look upon them with contempt, and regard them only as “the common people” and it may be true that they are generally poor and afflicted people: but their outward meanness is more than compensated by their spiritual privileges - for they are a people near unto God.
The words of the text may immediately refer to the Jewish nation, as God’s peculiar people; but as they are applicable to true believers in all ages, we shall consider them in that view; and shall enquire - what is implied in this nearness - and why it is matter of joy.
I. In what respects are true believers near to God?
As creatures, God is not far from every one of us; for in him we live, and move, and have our being. But as sinners, he is far from us, and we are free from him. .. But all his people are near to him. That is,
1. The awful breach is healed, and they are reconciled
2. The power of sin is subdued and they are near as to union and likeness
3. They are near as to communion and fellowship
4. They are near to him in a way of endearment, being precious in his sight
5. they are so near to him that they will soon be with him
II. Consider the reasons why this nearness is matter of exultation and joy - A people near unto him: praise ye the Lord
1. This nearness is lasting: those who are thus brought near to God shall be for ever near
2. Those who are near to God have God also near to them
3. They have blessings and privileges that none else can enjoy
4. Being near to God, they are also near to heaven

Improvement
(1) How vain are all our hopes of happiness without God!
(2) Let us be reconciled to those providences which tend to bring us near. The severest trials are often among the means which God employs to bring us to himself; and had it not been for them we might still have been afar off, and without hope. Nor are we likely to be kept near without a similar discipline.
(3) Let nearness to God be the object sought after in every holy duty, both public and private.
(4) Not only let us desire to be brought near in a way of interest, but to keep near in a way of communion. Continued nearness to him will be our greatest honour and happiness: it will soften afflictions, heighten our mercies, fortify us against the fear of death, and be our best preparative heaven.
(5) If the Lord’s people be near and dear to him; let them be so to us.

For thee, my God, may my whole soul,
Bound by a thousand ties,
Be truly fix’d, and day by day
To greater nearness rise.

Begone vain world with all thy charms,
Nor more disturb my peace;
Ye inward lusts, infernal powers,
Your fruitless efforts cease.

Fly swiftly hence, ye joys of sense,
Let every sin depart;
The God of heaven asserts his claim
And grace commands my heart.

(This is an alternative version of Beddome's hymn 763,
headed 'Renunciation of the world'

To thee, my God, O let my soul
Be bound by sacred ties;
On thee be fixed, and day by day
To greater nearness rise.

Be gone vain world with all thy charms,
Nor more disturb my peace;
Enticing pleasure, wealth and power,
Your fruitless efforts cease.

Fly swiftly hence, ye gilded scenes,
Let every sin depart;
The God of heaven asserts his claim
And grace commands my heart.)

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