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HOW TO BEGIN THE DAY.
Mr George Herbert, in his poem called "The Bag," having pathetically described the wound in Christ's side as He was hanging on the cross, makes Him speak thus to all believers as He was going to heaven :
"If you have any thing to send or write,
I have no bag, but here is room,
Will use me in this kind, the door
How to begin the Day.
Under the law we find that every morning there was a lamb offered in sacrifice (Ex. xxix. 39); and every morning the priests burned incense (Ex. xxx. 7); and the singers stood every morning to thank the Lord (1 Chron. xxiii. 30). And so it was appointed in Ezekiel's temple (Ez. xlvi. 13–15). By which an intimation was plainly given, that the spiritual sacrifices should be offered by the spiritual priests every morning, as duly as the morning comes. Every Christian should pray in secret, and every master of a family with his family, morning by morning; and there is good reason for it.
1. The morning is the first part of the day, and it is fit that He that is first should have the first, and be first served. The heathen could say, A Jove principium-" Let your beginning be with Jupiter." Whatever you do, begin with God. The world had its beginning from Him, we had ours, and therefore whatever we begin, it concerns us to take Him along with us
in it. The days of our life, as soon as ever the sun of reason rises in the soul, should be devoted to God, and employed in His service; "From the womb of the morning let Christ have the dew of thy youth" (Ps. cx. 3). The first-fruits were always to be the Lord's, and the firstlings of the flock. By morning and evening prayer we give glory to Him who is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last; with Him we must begin and end the day, begin and end the night, who is the beginning and the end, the first cause and the last end.
Wisdom has said, "Those that seek me early shall find me;" early in their lives, early in the day; for hereby we give to God that which He ought to have, the preference above other things. Hereby we shew that we are in care to please Him, and to approve ourselves to Him, and that we seek Him diligently. What we do earnestly we are said in Scripture to do early (Ps. ci. 8). Industrious men rise betimes. David expresseth the strength and warmth of his devotion, when he says, "O God, thou art my God, early will I seek thee" (Ps. lxiii. 1).
2. In the morning we are fresh and lively, and in the best frame; when our spirits are revived with the rest and sleep of the night, and we live a kind of new life; and the fatigues of the day before are forgotten. The God of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps, yet, when He exerts himself more than ordinary on His people's behalf, He is said to "awake as one out of sleep" (Ps. lxxviii. 65). If ever we be good for anything it is in the morning; it is therefore become a proverb, Aurora musis amica-"The morning is a friend to the muses; and if the morning be a friend to the muses, I am sure it is no less to the graces. As He that is the first should have the first, so He that is the best should have the best; and when we are fittest for business, we should apply ourselves to that which is the most needful business.
Worshipping God is work that requires the best powers of
the soul, when they are at the best; and it well deserves them; how can they be better bestowed, or so as to turn to a better account? Let "all that is within me bless His holy name," says David, and all little enough. If there be any gift in us by which God may be honoured, the morning is the time to stir it up (2 Tim. i. 6), when our spirits are refreshed, and have gained new vigour; then "awake, my glory, awake psaltery and harp, for I myself will awake early" (Ps. lvii. 8). Then let us stir up ourselves to take hold on God.
3. In the morning we are most free from company and business, and ordinarily have the best opportunity for solitude and retirement; unless we be of those sluggards who lie in bed, with "yet a little sleep, a little slumber," till the work of their calling calls them up with, "How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard?" It is the wisdom of those who have so much to do in the world, that they have scarce a minute to themselves all day, to take time in the morning, before business crowds in upon them, for the business of their religion; that they may be entire for it, and therefore the more intent upon it.
As we are concerned to worship God when we are least burdened with deadness and dulness within, so also when we are least exposed to distraction and diversion from without. The apostle intimates how much it should be our care to attend upon the Lord without distraction (1 Cor. vii. 35). And therefore that one day in seven (and it is the first day too, the morning of the week,) which is appointed for holy work, is appointed to be a day of rest from other work. Abraham leaves all at the bottom of the hill when he goes up into the mount to worship God. In the morning, therefore, let us converse with God, and apply ourselves to the concerns of the other life, before we are entangled in the affairs of this life. Our Lord Jesus has set us an example of this, who, because His day was wholly filled up with public business for God and the souls of men, rose up in the morning a great while before
day, and before company came in, and went out into a solitary place, and there prayed (Mark i. 35).
4. In the morning we have received fresh mercies from God, which we are concerned to acknowledge with thankfulness to His praise. He is continually doing us good, and loading us with His benefits. Every day we have reason to bless Him, for every day He is blessing us; in the morning particularly; and therefore, as He is giving out to us the fruits of His favour, which are said to be "new every morning" (Lam. iii. 23), because though the same we had the morning before, they are still forfeited, and still needed, and upon that account may be called still new; so we should be still returning the expressions of our gratitude to Him, and of other pious and devout affections, which, like the fire on the altar, must be new every morning (Lev. vi. 12).
Have we had a good night? and have we not an errand to the throne of grace to return thanks for it? How many mercies concurred to make it a good night; distinguishing mercies, granted to us, but denied to others! Many have not where to lay their heads; our Master himself had not: "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head;" but we have houses to dwell in, quiet and peaceable habitations, perhaps stately ones; we have beds to lie in, warm and easy ones, perhaps beds of ivory, fine ones, such as they stretched themselves upon who were at ease in Zion; and are not put to wander in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth, as some of the best of God's saints have been forced to do, of whom the world was not worthy. Many have beds to lie on, yet dare not or cannot lie down in them, being kept up either by the sickness of their friends or the fear of their enemies. But we have laid us down, and there has been none to make us afraid; no alarms of the sword, either of war or persecution. Many lay them down and cannot sleep, but are full of tossings to and fro until
the dawning of the day, through pain of body or anguish of mind. Wearisome nights are appointed to them, and their eyes are held waking; but we have laid us down and slept without any disturbance, and our sleep was sweet and refreshing, the pleasant parenthesis of our cares and toils. It is God who has given us sleep, has given it us as He gives it to His beloved. Many lay them down and sleep, and never rise again; they sleep the sleep of death, and their beds are their graves: but we have slept and waked again, have rested, and are refreshed; we shake ourselves, and it is with us as at other times, because the Lord has sustained us; and if He had not upheld us, we had sunk with our own weight when we fell asleep (Ps. iii. 5).
Have we a pleasant morning? is the light sweet to us? the light of the sun, the light of the eyes, do these rejoice the heart? and ought we not to own our obligations to Him who opens our eyes, and opens the eyelids of the morning upon us? Have we clothes to put on in the morning, garments that are warm upon us (Job xxxvii. 17), change of raiment, not for necessity only, but for ornament? We have them from God; it is His wool and His flax that is given to cover our nakedness, and the morning when we dress ourselves is the proper time of returning Him thanks for it; yet, I doubt, we do it not so constantly as we do for our food when we sit down to our tables, though we have as much reason to do it. Are we in health and at ease? have we been long so? We ought to be thankful for a constant series of mercies, as for particular instances of it, especially considering how many are sick and in pain, and how much we have deserved to
Perhaps we have experienced some special mercy to ourselves or our families, in preservation from fire or thieves, from dangers we have been aware of, and many more unseen. Weeping, perhaps, endured for a night, and joy came in the morning;