It was both the great wisdom and infinite goodness of God, that he did not only frame a creature capable of society with others of his own kind, but that he fashioned him so as to be capable of so high an elevation, -- to have communion and fellowship with himself. It is less wonder of angels, because they are pure incorporeal spirits, drawing towards a nearer likeness to his nature, which similitude is the ground of communion, but that he would have one of the material and visible creatures below, that for the one half is made of the dust of the earth, advanced to this inconceivable height of privilege, -- to have fellowship with him, -- this is a greater wonder, and for this end he breathed into man a spirit from heaven, that he might be capable of conformity and communion with him who is the Father of spirits. Now, take this in the plainest apprehension of it, and you cannot but conceive that this is both the honour and happiness of man. It is honour and dignity, I say, because the nature of that consists in the applause and estimation of those that are worthy, testified one way or another, and the highest degrees of it rise according to the degree or dignity of the persons that esteem us, or give us their fellowship and favour. Now, truly, according to this rule, the honour is incomparable, and the credit riseth infinitely above all the airy and fancied dignities of men. For the footstool to be elevated up to the throne! For the poor contemptible creature to be lifted up to the society and friendship of the most high and glorious God, the only Fountain of all the hierarchies of heaven, or degrees upon earth! So much as the distance is between God and us, so much proportionally must the dignity rise to be advanced out of this low estate to fellowship with God. The distance between creatures is not observable in regard of this, and yet poor creatures swell if either they be lifted up a little above others or advanced to familiarity with those that are above them. But what is it to pride ourselves in these things when we are altogether, higher and lower, at one view, as grasshoppers in his sight? Therefore, man being in honour, and understanding not wherein his true honour and dignity consists, he associates himself to beasts. Only the soul that is aspiring to this communion with God, is extracted out of the dregs of beastly mankind, and is elevated above mankind, and associated to blessed apostles, and holy angels, and spirits made perfect. And that were but little, though it be an honour above regal or imperial dignities, but it is infinitely heightened by this, -- that their association is with God, the blessed and holy Trinity.
Now herein consists man's happiness too, for the soul being enlarged in its capacity and appetite far beyond all visible things, it is never fully satiated, or put to rest and quiet, till it be possessed with the chiefest and most universal good, that is, God. And then all the motions of desire cease. Then the soul rests from its labours. Then there is a peace and eternal rest proclaimed in the desires of the soul. "Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee," Psal. cxvi.7. O what a poor short requiem do men sing to their own hearts from other enjoyments! Oftentimes men's hearts, whether dreaming or waking, speak in this manner, Soul, take thy rest, but how ill grounded is that peace, and how false a rest, daily experience in part witnesseth, and the last day will fully declare. But O how much better and wiser were it for you to seek the favour and light of his countenance upon you, and to be united to him who is the Fountain of life, so ye might truly, without hazard of such a sad reprehension as that fool got, or grievous disappointment, say, Soul, take thy rest in God!
Man was advanced to this dignity and happiness, but he kept not his station, for the great dragon falling down from that pinnacle of honour he had in heaven, drew down with him the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth, and thus man, who was in honour, is now associated with, and made like to, beasts or devils. He is a stranger to God from the womb, all the imaginations of his heart tend to distance from God. He is exiled and banished from God's presence, the type whereof was his being driven out of the garden. And yet he is not long out, nor far away, when the infinite love of God moves an embassage to send after him and to recall him. Many messengers are sent beforehand to prepare the way and to depose men's hearts to peace. Many prophecies were and fore intimations of that great embassage of love, which at length appeared. For God sent His Son, his own Son, to take away the difference, and make up the distance. And this is the thing that is declared unto us by these eye and ear witnesses, to this end, that we may know how to return to that blessed society which we had forsaken to our own eternal prejudice. Is man banished out of the paradise of God into the accursed earth? Then the Son is sent out from his own palace and the paradise above, to come into this world, and to save the world. Is there such a gulf between us and heaven? Christ hath put his own body between to fill it up. Do the cherubim watch with flaming fire to keep us from life? Then the Son hath shed his own blood in abundance to quench that fire, and so to pacify and compose all in heaven and earth. Is there such odds and enmity between the families of heaven and earth? He sent his Son the chief heir, and married him with our nature, and in that eternal marriage of our nature with him, he hath buried in everlasting oblivion all the difference, and opened a way for a nearer and dearer friendship with God than was before. And whence was it, I pray you, that God dwelt among men, first, in a tabernacle, then in a fixed temple, even among the rebellious sons of men, and that so many were admitted and advanced again to communion with God? Abraham had the honour to be the friend of God, -- O incomparable title, comprehending more than king or emperor! Was it not all from this, the anticipating virtue of that uniting and peace-making sacrifice? It was for his sake who was to come and in his flesh to lay a sure foundation for eternal peace and friendship between God and man.
Now you see the ground of our restitution to that primitive fellowship with God, my earnest desire is that ye would lay hold on this opportunity. Is such an high thing in your offer? Yea, are you earnestly invited to it, by the Father and the Son? Then sure it might at the first hearing beget some inward desire, and kindle up some holy ambition after such a happiness. Before we know further what is in it, (for the very first sound of it imports some special and incomparable privilege,) might not our hearts be inflamed, and ought not we to inquire at our own hearts, and speak thus unto them: Have I lived so long a stranger to God, the fountain of my life? Am I so far bewitched with the deceitful vanities of the world, as not to think it incomparably better to rise up above all created things, to communicate with the Father and the Son? And shall I go hence without God and without Christ, when fellowship with them is daily, freely, and plentifully holden forth? I beseech you, consider where it must begin, and what must be laid down for the foundation of this communion, even your union with Jesus Christ the Mediator between God and man. And you cannot be one with him, but by forsaking yourselves, and believing in him; and thence flows that constant abode and dwelling in him, which is the mutual entertainment of Christ and a soul, after their meeting together; "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" We are by nature enemies to God. Now certainly reconciliation and agreement must intervene by the blood of the cross, before any friendly and familiar society be kept. Let this then be your first study, and it is first declared in the gospel. Jesus Christ is holden out as partaking with you in all your infirmities; he is represented as having fellowship with us in our sins and curses, in our afflictions and crosses he hath fellowship in our nature, to bear our sins and infirmities. Now, since he hath partaken in these, you are invited to come and have fellowship with him in his gifts and graces, in the precious merits of his death and suffering, in his rising again and returning to glory. And this is the exchange he makes and declares in the gospel: I have taken your sins and curses, O come and take my graces, and that which is purchased by my blood. Now this is the first beginning of a soul's renewed fellowship with God, and it is the foundation of all that is to come to embrace this offer, to accept him cordially as he is represented, and to pacify and quiet our own hearts by faith in that he hath done. And this being once laid down as the ground stone, the soul will grow up into more communion with him.
To speak aright of this communion, would require more acquaintance with it than readily will be found amongst us. But it is more easy to understand in what it is exercised and entertained, than to bring up our hearts unto it. Certainly, it must neither be taken so low and wide, as if it consisted all in these external duties and approaches of men unto God; for there is nothing capable of communion with the Father of spirits, but a spirit. And, sure I am, the most part of us removes them, and acts little that way. It is a lamentable thing, that men pretend to please God with such vain empty shows, and bodily appearances, without any serious exercise of their souls, and attention of their minds in divine worship. Neither yet must it be taken so high, and made so narrow, as if it consisted only in those ravishments of the soul after God, which are joined with extraordinary sweetness and joy, or in such rare pieces of access and liberty. For though that be a part of it, yet is it neither universal to all God's children, nor yet constant in any. There may be some solid serious attendance on God in his ordinances, which may have more true substantial life in it, and more of the marrow of Christianity in it, though a soul should not be acquainted with these raptures, nor ever carried without the line of an equal walking with God. Therefore that which I would exhort you to, is to acquaint yourselves with Jesus Christ, and you shall find a new way opened in him, by which you may boldly come to God, and having come to God in him, you are called to walk with him to entertain that acquaintance that is made, till all the distance and estrangedness of your hearts be worn out. And I know not any thing which is more apt either to beget or preserve this fellowship, than the communication of your spirits often with him in prayer, and with his word in meditation. And this is not to be discharged as a custom, but the love of God within, drawing the heart willingly towards communication with him, and constraining to pour out your requests to him, and wait on him, even though ye should find that sensible sweetness that sometimes is found. It were an happy advancement in this fellowship, if converse with God, whether in prayer and solemn retirements, or in meditation, or in our ordinary walking, were become the delight of our hearts, at least that they might be carried that way towards the entertaining the thoughts of his majesty, his glory, and grace, and goodness, and wisdom shining everywhere, as from a natural instinct, even when we are not engaged with the present allurements of that sweetness that sometimes accompanies it.