Richard Sibbes ~ Drawing Near to God
The Saint’s Happiness adapted in Voices From The Past
Puritan Devotional Readings
Worldly reasoning will tell you that God does not see or govern, but has left the earth. But as we go into the presence of God we learn that all things are beautiful in their time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). All of God’s ways are merciful and true though we might feel much forsaken at the present.
The Holy Spirit teaches us to see that God is our best friend, and that he will never forsake us. God fills the whole earth and heaven with his presence. He is always present in power and providence by his Spirit in supporting, comforting, and strengthening the hearts of his children. God alone can fill every corner of the soul of man. God is a fountain that will never run dry.
If it is good to be near God, then the nearer we are to him, makes it even better. Man must not neglect God for any reason, and it is good to lose all for God. Why? because we have riches in him, liberty in him, and all in him. A man may be a king on earth, and yet a prisoner in himself. If we lose anything, even our own life for God, we shall save it.
Taste and see how good God is! (Psalm 34:8). How excellent is your loving-kindness, which you have laid up for them that fear you! (Psalm 36:7). ‘How precious to me are you thoughts, O God!’ (Psalm 139:17).
Labor to be near to him. God is near to all that call upon him. There is not a minute of time in all of our life but we must either be near to God or we will be undone. We must grow in our understanding and fill our thought with him. The soul is never at rest till it rests in him. The soul grows in the Spirit and finds sweet communion. Our affections mount up in prayer as in a fiery chariot to hear him speak to us, seeking comfort in our distresses.
Draw near to him in praise. This is the daily work of the angels and saints in heaven. Let us lift up our hearts with joy inexpressible (1 Peter 1:8).
David’s Conclusion; or, The Saint’s Resolution (1639) on Psalm 74:28 “But it is good for me to draw near to God.”
God’s children are swimming upstream and live contrary to the course of the world. They are living among men, and live as men do, but are moving in a different direction than the world, and are carried along by the Holy Spirit. Others may take whatever course they desire, but let us take this course: to draw near to God.
Drawing near to God is our chief good. It is our happiness to seek him. The nearer anything is to the principle of something, the better off it is. Nearer to the sun, the more light; nearer to the fire, the more heat; nearer to goodness, the more good; nearer to happiness, the more happiness.
“It is good”; that is, it puts in us a blessed quality and disposition. It makes a man to be like God himself; and, secondly, it is good, that is, it is comfortable; for it is the happiness of the creature to be near the Creator; it is beneficial and helpful. To draw near. How can a man but be near to God, seeing he filleth heaven and earth: “Whither shall I go from thy presence?” Psalms 139:7. He is present always in power and providence in all places, but graciously present with some by his Spirit, supporting, comforting, strengthening the heart of a good man. As the soul is said to be total in Toto, in several parts by several faculties, so God, is present to all, but in a diverse manner.
Now we are said to be near to God in diverse degrees:
first, when our understanding is enlightened; intellectus est veritatis sponsa; and so the young man speaking discreetly in things concerning God, is said not to be far from the kingdom of God, Mark 12:34.
Secondly, in minding: when God is present to our minds, so that the soul is said to be present to that which it minds; contrarily it is said of the wicked, that “God is not in all their thoughts,” Psalms 10:4.
Thirdly, when the will upon the discovery of the understanding comes to choose the better part, and is drawn from that choice to cleave to him, as it was said of Jonathan’s heart, “it was knit to David,” 1 Samuel 18:1.
Fourthly, when our whole affections are carried to God, loving him as the chief good. Love is the firstborn affection. That breeds desire of communion with God. Thence comes joy in him, so that the soul pants after God, “as the heart after the water springs,” Psalms 41:1.
Fifthly, and especially, when the soul is touched with the Spirit of God working faith, stirring up dependence, confidence, and trust on God. Hence ariseth sweet communion. The soul is never at rest till it rests on him. Then it is afraid to break with him or to displease him; but it groweth zealous and resolute, and hot in love, stiff in good cases; resolute against his enemies. And yet this is not all, for God will have also the outward man, so as the whole man must present itself before God in word, in sacraments; speak of him and to him with reverence, and yet with strength of affection mounting up in prayer, as in a fiery chariot; hear him speak to us; consulting with his oracles; fetching comforts against distresses, directions against maladies.
Sixthly, and especially, we draw near to him when we praise him; for this is the work of the souls departed, and of the angels in heaven, that are continually near unto him. The prophet here saith, “It is good for me”. How came he to know this? Why, he had found it by experience, and by it he was thoroughly convinced.
God will be near those who are careful to hold communion with him. “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18). Near to bless, to comfort, to give life, to guide, to support them. Let this encourage us to come to God—indeed, to run to him.
The father ran to meet the returning prodigal (Luke 15:20). God will be first with loving-kindness: “You will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I” (Isaiah 58:9). God says, in effect, “What have you to say to me? What do you want from me? Here am I to satisfy all your desires.” Elsewhere it says, “Before they call I will answer” (Isaiah 65:24).
When we apply ourselves to seeking God, he is near to counsel, to give life, to defend—ready with blessing before our imperfect desires can be formed into requests.
I add this these words to keep in your heart…
Dearest Jesus, draw Thou near me,
Let Thy Spirit dwell with mine;
Open now my ear to hear Thee,
Take my heart and seal it Thine;
Keep me, lead me on my way,
Thee to follow and obey,
E’er to do Thy will and fear Thee,
And rejoice to know and hear Thee.
Underneath Thy wings abiding,
In Thy Church, O Savior dear,
Let me dwell, in Thee confiding,
Hold me in Thy faith and fear;
Take away from me each thought
That with wickedness is fraught,
Tempting me to disobey Thee,
Root it out, O Lord, I pray Thee.
(Dearest Jesus, Draw Thou Near Me)