by Richard Sibbes
Ps. 27. 4, ‘One thing have I desired of the Lord, that I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple,’
MAN in this world, especially since his defection from God, standing at a distance from his happiness in respect of full possession, it is not the least part of his bliss to be happy in expectation. Happiness being by all men desirable, the desire of it is naturally engrafted in every man; and is the centre of all the searchings of his heart and turnings of his life. But the most of men, like the men of Sodom, grope and find not the right door, Gen. 19:11. Only to a true Christian, by a supernatural light, is discovered both the right object, and the right way to felicity. Upon this discovery, finding himself, while he is here, a stranger to his happiness, he desires to take leave of this sublunary condition, that he may enjoy him who is 'the desire of all nations,' Hag. 2:7.
Now although God cast common blessings promiscuously upon good and bad; yet he holds his best favours at a distance, as parents do cherries or apples from their children, to whet their appetites the more after them. And indeed the best perfection of a Christian in his military* condition, is, in desire and expectation; and it is enough to him that; for that he hath God's acceptation, who knowing whereof we are made, and how unable to hold weight in the 'balance of the sanctuary,' Dan. 5:27, takes his best gold with grains of allowance.
The soul of man is like a cipher, which is valued by that which is set before it. If it weary itself in the desire of earthly things, like the silk-worm, it finisheth its work with its own destruction. But if on things above, when this earthly tabernacle is turned to ashes, there shall result a glorious phœnix for immortality.
There are no characters better distinguishing a Christian, than those that are inward (hypocrisy like sale-work, may make a fair show outward; an hypocrite may perform external works, but cannot dissemble inward affections), and amongst them, none better discovers his temper, than the beating of the pulse of his desires, which this worthy author (who departed not without being much desired and no less lamented) hath most livelily set forth in the ensuing treatise; which a Christian, holding as a glass before him, may discern whether he have life or no by these breathings.
For the object here propounded, what more desirable than the chief good? For the place, where can it be more desired, than in his house, where his presence is manifested? What better end to be in that house, than to behold God in the 'beauty of holiness?' Ps. 29:2. What term of happiness better than 'for ever'? This was the desire of the holy prophet David, and that it may be thy desire, is the desire of
Thy Christian friend,