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before us ;-and especially from the verses which follow our text. "If I ascend up into Heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in Hell, behold, thou art there if I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shalt thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me!" In vain then shall we try to shun his presence. Search the universe! explore all nature; but you shall find no place without God!
Search Heaven. Heaven is his throne, the seat of his glory; there he will certainly be found; for it is the happiness of saints and angels that they "always behold his face." We know not the extent of the heavenly world; innumerable are its blest inhabitants, but "all the pure in heart see God;" nor can we suppose that any person who is so happy as to be admitted into that glorious state, can hide, or wish to hide, himself from his presence.
Or if; by the heavens, we understand the visible, the material heavens, that vast space in which we behold the sun, the moon, and the stars of light; extended as these are beyond the utmost powers of calculation or conception, there shall no spot, in all the vast domain be found, in which God is not. The sun is said to be ninety-four millions of miles distant from the earth; and the fixed stars are thought to be many hundred thousand millions of miles distant. What immensity, what grandeur, what glory is here! God is here.
"If I make my bed in Hell" (Hebrew, Sheol.) If by Hell we understand the place of torment, where impenitent sinners are confined in chains of darkness, there, indeed, in a most awful sense, is God present!-present in the dreadful power of his incensed justice, inflicting the deserved punishment. of sin; for amongst the inyriads of those miserable creatures, there is not one who escapes his notice, or avoids his rod.
But the word Hell sometimes signifies the invisible world, the state of souls departed, whether in happiness or in misery. Of this state, as to the manner of their existence, mortals yet in the body know very little; it is to us the invisible, the unknown state but it is not so to God. Jesus Christ is said (Rev. i. 18) to have "the keys of Hell and Death”. that is, of the invisible world, and of death, by which the spirits of men are separated from the body, and enter into the invisible world; consequently this state, and all the souls which are in it, are perfectly known to him; it is therefore impossible to avoid his presence there.
And thus, if we refer to the most distant parts of the sea and land, though far removed from the known and inhabited parts of the globe, in deserts and forests yet untrod by the foot of man, even there, everywhere, would God be present; and to make the foolish attempt of hiding from him, would be as vain as the effort of the refractory prophet Jonah was, "who fled from the presence of the Lord," in the land of Israel! but God followed him to the ocean, and by a dreadful storm, convinced him of his error, and taught him obedience.
This glorious perfection of God is intimately connected with another, equally essential to his being, that is, his Omniscience, or Universal Knowledge. God's knowing all things, implies his being everywhere present. The imperfection of man is very obvious; his knowledge, like his presence, is confined to very narrow limits. His relations, his friends, it may be, are in a foreign country, and he is anxious to know their condition; but he must wait weeks and months before he can obtain it. His dearest friends are at a few miles distance; they sicken and die, and he knows it not. Distance deprives him of the knowledge of the event. He is confined to one place. But God beholds, at one glance, all the children of men in every place; all their actions, all their words, all their thoughts. Yea, saith He, "every beast of
the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains; and the wild beasts of the field are mine." Yea, further still he telleth the stars, he calleth them all by their names." "The ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings." "There is not a word on our tongues, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether!" "No thought can be withholden from him." "He seeth wickedness.' "He seeth in secret." "Hell and destruction are before the Lord;-how much more then the hearts of the children of men!" Surely, then, God is everywhere present. This will further appear, if we refer to,
2. His Universal Providence.
We have already noticed his universal observation of men, their thoughts, their words, and their actions: but he is not a mere spectator of what passes in the world. Of that world he is the constant Supporter and Governor. He " upholds all things by the word of his power; "by him all things consist," that is, they stand together, in the same harmonious order in which he first placed them. Nothing in the universe lives or moves, independent of him. The sun, the moon, the planets maintain their station, or move in their orbits, by his influence. The seasons revolve, summer and winter, spring-time and harvest, succeed each other at their appointed periods. The earth produces food for man; yea, the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, look to him for suste nance, and he giveth them their food in due season." The very sparrows are not beneath his notice, and the hairs of our head are all numbered.
He controls the affairs of empires and nations; the "hearts of kings are in his hand, and he is Governor among the nations." He overrules even the policy, the pride, the ambition, and the avarice of wicked men, for the purposes of his own glory, and
makes them the unwilling instruments of promoting the very objects which they wished to destroy.
But this special providence of God is exercised in behalf of his church: hence it is that God has committed the management of the whole world to Christ, the Mediator." Angels, principalities, and powers, are all subject to him ;" and he employs them for the benefit of his people. "All power," said he to his disciples," in heaven and earth is mine; therefore go and preach the gospel to all nations ;" and for your encouragement in that work, whatever difficulties you may encounter, whatever opposition you may meet with, remember this, "I am with you" (and will be with your successors in the Christian ministry)" always, even to the end of the world." It was the belief, and the sense, of the presence of Christ, that rendered the apostles and martyrs laborious and dauntless in their holy labours, and serene and joyful in prisons, and at the stake; it was this which made St. Paul rejoice that, when "all men forsook him," when he appeared before Nero, "the Lord stood with him and strengthened him :' and this presence of the Lord (miraculously visible) animated Stephen, the first confessor, when he said to the Sanhedrim, " Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God."
If further evidence be necessary to prove the universal presence of God, let us, in the last place, derive it from,
3. The Testimonies of Scripture.
Many of these have already been produced, in the two particulars already mentioned; a few more will strengthen the evidence.
It is expressly affirmed (Prov. xv. 3) that "the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good;" and again, in 2 Chron. xvi. 9. "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of
them whose heart is perfect toward him." It must needs be so, if you consider that the divine inspection reaches even to the hearts of men, so that the most secret springs and movements of our minds, though unknown to our fellow-mortals, are fully exposed to his observation. Thus, when aged David transferred the kingdom to Solomon his son, he exhorted him" to serve the Lord with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind," enforcing his exhortation with this solemn truth, "for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts." Happy would it have been for Solomon had he duly regarded this! Happy will it be for us if we habitually regard it!
When Jesus Christ dictated to St. John the seven epistles to the angels of the seven churches in Asia, he says to each of them, "I know thy works ;" and he adds to one of them-" These things, saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire; all the churches shall know that I am he who searcheth the reins and hearts; and I will give to every one of you according to your works." Rev. ii. 23. The belief of this truth enabled Peter to appeal to his Master, when the question was thrice repeated, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" Peter replied, "Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee." In a word," there is not any creature that is not manifest in his sight, but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." Heb. iv. 13.
The presence of God is, in a most gracious manner, granted to his church. The name of the church, as predicted by the prophet, was to be "Jehovah Shammah"-The Lord is there." Of the temple at Jerusalem, the centre of the ancient church, God was pleased to say, "My heart and my eyes shall be there continually," denoting his most gracious presence, and parental affection; and we are sure that the church of Christ is not deserted by its glorious King. "Wherever two or three are gathered together