Nearer to God

James 4:8.---'Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.'

THERE is a sense in which God cannot draw more 'nigh' to any man than He is already---the sense in which Paul proclaimed to the Athenians on Mars' Hill, that 'He is not far from any one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being.' The fact of the omnipresence of Deity lies at the foundation of our faith. Every church that lifts its spire into the heavens is built under the belief that wherever mankind assemble to worship the King Eternal, He will be there. Every oath in the law courts and before the police officials appeals to a present God. Every prayer is directed to One who hath 'searched us and known us.' Every petition for forgiveness is offered to Him 'who compasseth our path, and our lying down, and is acquainted with all our ways.' Every thanksgiving at meals is presented to a God who 'daily loadeth us with benefits.'

And it is a true belief; for it is impossible to express by language the closeness of the relation existing between the Creator and the Creation. 'He upholdeth all things by the word of his power.' His power gives energy to every cause, to every force. This world, with every creature on it, is pervaded by the all-moving, all-surrounding, all-supporting Power. 'In his hand thy breath is, and his are all thy ways.' The structure, the movement, the government of the globe---the formation of man's body, both within and without---and the structure of the souls of men, with conscience in each as 'the candle of the Lord,' alike bear witness to the reality of that glorious Presence which is the Life of the universe.

We can draw near to God in the study of His revelation, and in that study he will draw near to us. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that the treasurer to Queen Candace, 'who had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and, sitting in his chariot, read the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit of God said unto Philip, go near and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him and opened his mouth, and beginning at the same scripture preached Jesus.' Truth concerning Jesus of Nazareth, His life, character, and death, His ascension, and second coming, is especially the truth in which God reveals Himself to mankind. And here is one striking example of the fact that God draws nigh to him who devotes himself to earnest examination of the Scriptures.

The condition of God's spiritual action in the souls of men is honest attention to truth. The use that a man makes of his power of attention fixes his position in this world, and no less determines his destiny. still more true is it in relation to spiritual things that success depends on attention. He who would 'know and understand God' must give his whole attention to God. The truths to be learned are spiritual; they are not to be understood simply by the reason; they require the exercise of the conscience and the affections.

To 'draw near to God, then, is to bring the mind into earnest contact with those writings which express His mind. In the world of Nature God is revealed as He was in the Holy Place of the Temple, in Scripture He is revealed as he was in the Holiest of all. There of old none but the High Priest once a year might approach---but into this Holy Oracle of the New Testament revelation the humblest of men may go at all hours, and be welcome to communion with the King of Kings. 'I will meet with thee there' were the words in which access was permitted to Moses, but they express equally the reality of our own possible communion with God.

The promise is fulfilled in the practice of obedience. Men are alienated from the life of god through the ignorance that is in them. God becomes a foreigner and the greatest stranger in His own world. souls are filled with the God-dispelling principle of rebellion. The do not wish to recognize His presence in their duties, and as a punishment they become unable to recognize it in their woes. An atheistic atmosphere envelopes them. The moral faculty, which by its independence of the will proves both a Divine power and a Divine government, is systematically set at defiance; Nature and revelation shine upon them in vain. They are without God in the world.

But when the soul has approached the Savior, and, like the woman in the crowd, touched the hem of His robe, it receives also into itself the principle of a loving and healthful obedience which brings it into conscious union with the Most High. In every effort at compliance with the Spirit of God the soul brings itself into direct contact with Him. It abides under the shadow of the Almighty. 'Thou meetest him that worketh righteousness.' By inspired goodness we are united to the Fountain of goodness. By all endeavors after spirituality, by all sincere struggles to escape the slavery of sensual appetites and malignant passions we rise into the sphere where the light of God's presence shines.

In every effort towards the discharge of daily duty in the spirit of faithfulness and affection God feels and interest so real that He makes Himself known as he does not unto the world. For although imperfect beings are frequently impatient with imperfection, the Perfect Being affectionately appreciates the incomplete labors and endeavors of His sons and daughters. 'She hath done what she could' is but the preparation for 'Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!'

In works of love to man we can draw near to God, and He will draw near to us. there is no dark court or alley where our benevolence may lead us to visit and relieve the fatherless, or the widow, or the homeless, the sick or the sorrowful, but there an Eye follows us. He Himself becomes the Comforter chiefly by raising up comforters to the miserable from among their fellow-creatures. The actively loving soul is the organ of the Unseen Affection; and we cannot think that the agent of the Eternal Sympathy will be allowed to remain wholly unconscious of the companion Power which impels him.

So, loved of God, speaking of our pastoral visitations; we are to move about among a people as Christ's representative, with endless little opportunities of helpfulness made for us, our presence often welcomed as a proof that God has not forgotten. And for the present keep in mind that we are meant to bring Christ with us when we visit, to make people have the happy feeling that He, too, is there---for a while, for a while!'

In Christ, timothy. Maranatha