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It is when a man entering into his closet, and from that to the secret place of God, meets for the first time with Him as a righteous God in Christ, and when God at the same time meets with the sinner as a returning and believing child, saying, Abba Father, that the sinner is reconciled to God, and united to the Saviour.
And what follows? Only the same thing again and again till his dying day. The duty of Christ’s religion is in fact just this, that the believing sinner cannot help from day to day coming, and coming always newly, and yet always in the same way, to his reconciled God and Father in Christ Jesus.
We have dwelt on this because it is ever to this same daily duty of coming to Himself in Christ, that God directs men, when He is about to call them to trial and suffering, and would prepare them to endure such.
This is the only preparation that a believer needs when days of persecution are at hand, or when they actually arrive. It is not some new, unheard of thing that they need, some new duty they are called to. Ah, no! blessed be God. Or if you call it new, it is only in this sense that it is to be performed with new zeal, with new strength, with new desires of attaining to the enjoyments of God. So that when He says to His people, “Come, my people, enter into thy chambers,” he is just calling them to closer communion with Himself; to more frequent coming to the blood of Christ than before, that they may become more lively members of a living Head.
If we do not make this blessed use of communion with God; if we do not use God’s perfections as a refuge and a hiding-place, then the closet is useless to us; it must be a first step to the secret of God’s presence. This has been the refuge of God’s people in every age.
We entreat you to cultivate secret prayer. Oh! seek never to enter the closet without giving into the presence of the Holy One, to have dealings with the Lord God. Taste the sweetness of casting yourself by faith upon the perfections of God as reconciled in the cross, for your only refuge—with Christ’s sinless obedience as your covering in his sight.
And it is just by obedience to this very command that every justified sinner is sanctified and prepared for a state of glory, and perfected by degrees into complete conformity to the image of Emmanuel.
Ah, yes! beloved, -- and it is by this very process – humbling as it is – that you, believer, are to be strengthened, and emboldened, and prepared for times of trial, of suffering, and of death.
And in the day which is coming – a day of wrath – a day of trouble and distress – “a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness;” – What will you need then? When the cup of a nations’ sin is filled up, and when “the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity,” – What will you need? Just what you have been needing all the while: to be hidden in the secret place of the Most High God!
If you wish in that day to be secure, under the covert of your holy, holy, holy God, from the storm of the Lord’s anger; then you must much in the Lord’s presence. This must become more precious to you than it is, and then you will better understand the duty, as well as the privilege, of entering into your chamber and shutting to the door, until His indignation be over past. Alas! when times of trial come, many die away, and fall back, and are burned by the scorching rays of persecution, just because they never got power to come to God, and take refuge in Him from all danger.
But let us not forget to say, that many who do come into the closet, and who are God’s children, enter it and leave it just as they entered, without ever so much as realizing the presence of God.
And there are some believers who, even when they do obtain a blessing, and get a little quickening of soul, leave the closet without seeking more. They go to their chamber, and there get into the secret place, but then, as soon as they have got near to Him, they think they have been peculiarly blessed, and leave their chamber, and go back into the world.
Now this is calculated to draw us back again into sin: at least, by this we may lose many glorious advantages that we might otherwise gain over it. It is just by perseverance in prayer that we get the shelter we need.
Fix your minds upon this, that in that Day what will constitute safety will not be the profession of godliness, -- though that be good in itself, -- not zeal for Christ’s cause, not anything but the being hid in the secret of God, and a more solemn, secret, personal, sensible union, or rather confirming of the union between them and Christ.
We know that in such times many shall be blown away as the chaff, who were not so esteemed before: and the reason will be that they are not acquainted with the Holy God with whom they have to do. Beware, believers, of this; try yourselves by this balance of the sanctuary, that you be not judged of the Lord.
Oh! how is it that His own people have so little perseverance? How is it that when they do enter into their closets to be alone, they are so easily persuaded to return empty away; instead of wrestling with God to pour out His Spirit, they retire from the closet without the answer, and submit to it as being God’s will.
We must not let the evil deepen, until we sink into a state of backsliding; or make up our minds to bear it, or withdraw to some believer and talk about it, and then rest in a hope that we are living, just because we seem to feel that we are dead.
This is a melancholy view of the case; and yet, believer, can you not bear witness to its truth in your inmost conscience, that there have been times when your complaining of deadness to others was a real comfort to yourself, and a sort of satisfactory proof to you that you were really alive unto God?
That is a husky, shallow religion, which leads you to be always going to ministers to complain of your deadness, instead of taking it to God, and lying with it all about you before the mercy-seat; casting your dead soul before Him, doing violence to your sloth, and wrestling humbly, but earnestly – till you find an entrance into His holy presence.
Many are active enough in labour, and try to do much for God, as they think, but as to their prayers, where are they? Few indeed, and often dead enough. You go through them as a necessity, but they are soon over. But what does God say? “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.”
That blessed work would advance more rapidly, if, instead of laying the case before a friend or minister, you were rather keeping it to yourselves, and lying at God’s feet till you conquer in His strength, and then contending with the pride which is growing out of the victory.
I read lately, in the life of an eminent servant of God, an incident illustrative of this. He was in the ministry, and one day two of his brethren came from a long distance to see him. To their surprise, he received them coldly, and would scarcely speak to them. When they saw this, they took leave, and as they were going, instead of asking them to remain, he bade them farewell, saying, “You will wonder at the reception you have met with to-day; but I have been two hours this morning seeking access to God, and have not obtained it, and I have much need to be alone.”
This was one of the mighty wrestlers of the last century, who stirred up themselves to lay hold on Jehovah’s strength; like the widow before the unjust judge, taking no denial, but, by their continual importunity, getting power with God, and prevailing.
If you dwelt in His presence you would be pressing forward to gaze on His holy perfections as so many chambers of safety for your souls. You would look on His power as your defense against the enemy. You would hide in His omnipotence, you would repose in His faithfulness, you would live upon His love, and take refuge in His very holiness, made yours in Christ Jesus. Strange refuge this for a guilty sinner! You would not be content with a mere knowledge about God. You would know Him as I AM THAT I AM. You would hear a voice say, “Come, my people, come and make my perfections your refuge, and my presence your dwelling-place: make me your fortress, your buckler, your high tower.” You would be found studying His character as revealed in His Son; getting fresh discoveries of the glory of Christ, learning the worth of the atoning blood, and the depths of His unchanging love; daily crying out with him of old, “Wash thou me.” And you would be daily going more out of self and into Emmanuel, “in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace.”