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and supplicate: He is not a Being of inexorable wrath, displaying the terrors of His justice in the consuming fire of Sinai, but God reconciled in Christ, whom thou art invited to approach. Come, lay thy hand upon the head of the (true) sin-offering, and it shall be accepted for thee, as a full atonement for all
thy sins. *
* Levit. i, 4.
On the General Confession.
RAYER is the motion of the heart towards God. It is the breath of the regenerate soul, the result of Divine life communicated from above. The language of the lips is not essential to its nature. The Omniscient Friend of sinners, to whom it is addressed, discerns the secret and yet unformed desire. But various reasons may be given, why, on certain occasions, and for certain persons, it is expedient to clothe the desires of the soul in words, even when in secret they appear before the throne of grace. In the public assembly it is absolutely necessary; otherwise the great end of our religious associa-, tions would be frustrated. There an individual must be the mouth of all, for the prevention of confusion, and for the promotion of edification. In a general confession of sin, however, it seems proper that every private worshipper should accompany the minister" unto the throne of "the heavenly grace," not only "with a pure "heart," but also "with a humble voice, saying "after him,"
"Almighty and most merciful Father; we "have erred and strayed from Thy ways like "lost sheep. We have followed too much the "devices and desires of our own hearts. We "have offended against Thy holy laws. We
"have left undone those things which we ought "to have done; and we have done those things "which we ought not to have done; and there " is no health in us. But Thou, O Lord, have "mercy upon us miserable offenders: Spare "Thou them, O God, which confess their "faults: restore Thou them that are penitent; "according to Thy promises declared unto "mankind in Christ Jesu our Lord. And grant, "O most merciful Father, for His sake, that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and "sober life, to the glory of Thy holy name. Amen."
The titles by which God is addressed in Scripture, are not used promiscuously and at random, but are adapted to the subject with which they are connected. * It would be easy to shew the truth of this remark by a reference to a variety of passages. Probably the same observation will hold good with respect to the service of our church. When we use the confession before us, we come before God as criminals that deserve punishment. What, then, are those attributes of Deity to which, on such an occasion, it becomes us to have recourse? Does not the Omnipotence of Jehovah prove that He has no need of us, and that He can suffer no loss by our annihilation?-that He is able, on supposition that the whole race of mankind were, according to their just deserts, to be "punished with everlasting destruction "from the presence of the Lord and from the
* Thus, Jehovah is never used in connection with a relative pronoun. But the relatives are always joined to some name that refers to the covenant of grace.
glory of His power, " * to bring into existence in a moment, by a single act of Omnipotence, another race of reasonable creatures who should shew forth His praise? It certainly does. The mention of this perfection of the Godhead also reminds us, that it is not through want of ability, if He delay or forego the fulfilment of those threatenings in His word, which are pointed against transgressors of His law. The epithet
Almighty,” therefore, is properly introduced here' with a view to promote holy fear and trembling in the sinner's bosom. But then the recollection of this attribute is also absolutely necessary to the hope of pardon. For were not our God « Almighty,” the atonement of Christ could never have been consummated by His resurrection; and, apart from this consideration, finite power could not have created us anew, that so, by the merit of His death, we might be “ made meet to become partakers of the “ inheritance of the saints in light.” | But, since His mercy is equal to His power, our hope of acceptance is built on a firm foundation, when we address Him as “ Almighty and most “ merciful;" especially when we add to these most gracious and glorious appellations that peculiar relation, in which He condescends to stand to penitent sinners in Christ Jesus. God was our “ Father" by creation: but we have unhappily forfeited the relationship, and are “no more worthy to be called His children.' In Christ He renews the connection; and, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, becomes our “ most merciful Father” also. I Coming to
2 Thess. i. 9.
+ Col. i. 12. # It was a wise saying of Martin Luther, “ Nolo Deum absolutum.”
an Almighty God," who is also our "most "merciful Father," we may comfortably indulge the hope of forgiveness, and be encouraged to make a free and undisguised confession of all
We open the first prayer of our public liturgy with a general acknowledgment of sin; "We "have erred and strayed from Thy ways, like "lost sheep." Beautiful and energetic is this scriptural illustration of our wretched state. Folly is a striking characteristic of the class of animals here mentioned, which appears in their proneness to wander from the shepherd, under whose care they remain in safety, and from the pasture which supplies their wants. The Apostle Peter has noticed this, and applied it to the disciples of Christ: "Ye were as sheep going "astray." David, in his confession, declares that the propensities of his fallen nature resembled those of the silly tenants of the fold: "I "have gone astray like a sheep that is lost: "seek thy servant." Isaiah, in the name of the whole church of Christ, says, "All we, like
sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every "one to his own way." On this resemblance between sinners and sheep our Lord builds His most beautiful parable. § Had we not wandered into the wilderness, there had been no necessity for the good Shepherd's search after us. Could we have found our way back, He needed not to have come in order to shew it to us. Had we been able, on a discovery made to us of our sin and danger, to return by our own strength, He needed not to have laid us on His shoulders,,
1 Epist. ii. 25. Chap. liii. 6.
Ps. cxix. 176. § Matth. xviii. 12. Luke xv. 3..