« AnteriorContinuar »
THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT.
O Lord, raise up (we pray thee) thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas through our sins and wickedness we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us, through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord; to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
HE collect for the fourth Sunday in Advent is a composition of very great antiquity, being found in the most antient liturgies. In some of them, however, it is appointed for the first Sunday in Advent instead of the fourth. It is a very pleasing thought that, while we are using the prayers of the church, we are, for the most part, making requests of the same kind and in the same words, which the people of God have used for almost eighteen centuries. * Our wants, our pleas, and even our expressions, are in unison with those of the primitive Christians.
The collect before us contains-An importunate prayer for Divine interposition on our behalf-A statement of our case, as rendering that interposition indispensably necessary to our relief-A repetition of the request in other words
* An account of the antiquity to which some liturgies have a claim will be found in Wheatly.
-The meritorious ground on which our hope of success is founded—and A doxology, or ascription of praise.
The language which is here prepared for our use, is not such as cold formality suggests; but it is the expression of deep distress, and the dictate of fervent desire. Let triflers with religion be silent, lest they mock the Searcher of hearts by the use of words with which their feelings bear no correspondence. Let the self-sufficient formalist, and the careless worldling, refrain from the adoption of petitions which would proclaim aloud their hypocrisy. The state of heart to which our collect is exclusively appropriate, may be illustrated by that of a drowning man; if indeed any just conception can be formed of the energy of his soul in calling for help. The dangerous situation in which he is placed admits not of lengthened argumentation on the subject. “ Save! I perish,” is the short but comprehensive cry, which one should expect to hear; and to hear it importunately repeated, either till help was obtained, or his voice silenced by the overwhelming stream.
As our congregations are mixed bodies, consisting both of those who have “the form of god" liness without its power," and of those who, using the forın, feel also the vital influence of religion, it is impossible that all the prayers which
, are offered should be suitable to every individual worshipper. And as it is the will of the adorable Head of the church, that “the children should “ first be fed,” it was proper that the forms of the church should express their sensibilities and
"ibe their wants, while other parts of the serare accommodated to a more general use. prayer before us no unawakened person can
join without flagrant insincerity; for he perceives not, that he is “ tied and bound with the chain ~ of his sins;" he is unconscious of any spiritual race which he has to run; he is aware of no difficulties in the work of preparation for a state of future happiness.
The penitent worshipper, however, enters into those views which the primitive Christians had in the use of this importunate prayer. He finds in himself the same wants and the same impediments which they found; he has the same conviction of the importance attached to success in his religious warfare, and experiences in his own bosom the same daily struggle between sin and grace, between unbelief and faith, of which they complained. He knows therefore the necessity and value of omnipotent interference for the support and advancement of his soul in faith and holiness, and the truth of that interesting declaration, that “without Christ he can do nothing.'
For the exertion therefore of Almighty power to convert and renew his heart the conscious sinner continually and fervently prays; for he is assured, that no other agency can succour him. And so sharp is the contest, so severe the trial, that he sometimes apprehends his case to he nearly desperate, and yields to an unreasonable fear that God either cannot or will not afford the needful aid. His faith is at so low an ebb, that he can only breathe out the hesitating language of doubt, “ If thou canst do any thing, “ have mercy on me and help me.” That which is to others a subject of indifference, or perhaps even of profane ridicule, causes him to 56
groan being burthened.”
It is carefully to be observed, that all the genuine members of the church believe a real VOL. I.
intercourse to subsist between the Divine Saviour and the souls of His redeemed, and are therefore taught to pray that He would “ come
among them, and with great might succour “ them.” It is not, however, local access which they implore, but the communication of His grace. The nature of this “ mysterious “ commerce” * they do not pretend to explain, but they know it to be real by the effects which it produces. For as the purple cluster that hangs on the vine-branch proves its derivation of sap from the root, and of consequence its union with it, so does every repentant tear, and every grateful aspiration, demonstrate the believer's union with the Prince of life, and a participation of His Spirit. That the motion of the lungs depends on a connection with the circumam. bient air, is not less liable to be disproved, than that all spiritual vitality in the human soul results from Divine operation on it. The humble believer may therefore safely conclude, that he “dwells in Christ, and Christ in him; that he “ is one with Christ, and Christ with him."
The affecting state of soul which we describe and make the ground of our present application to the throne of grace, will be understood by all who are seriously engaged in " working out “ their own salvation with fear and trembling.” The confession of corruption and imbecility which we are taught to make, is adapted to the sensibilities of all true Christians, and at all times, unless indeed when their feelings are occasionally benumbed, and their souls overtaken with an unseasonable slumber. They are :ll conscious of being “ sore let and hindered
* Horseley's Charge.
by their sins and wickedness, in running the race that is set before them.”
Let the reader examine his heart, whether this avowal be verified in his own experience; whether he painfully feel and truly lament the slow progress which he makes in his spiritual race; whether he be truly convinced, that the cause of his sluggish inactivity is from himself; whether he be humbled on account of it, and earnestly desirous of its removal. And if he should have no such consciousness as hath been described, let him consider whether he doth not lie to God, and grossly affront the omniscient Jehovah by such an appeal as that which is made in our collect; whether he can persuade himself that he is a genuine member of the catholic church, which has in every age been taught to adopt this language; or may not justly suspect that he is a dead limb of the ecclesi. astical tree. Let him consider what would be his own estimate of the honesty of a man who appeared at his door in the posture of a supplicant, imploring pity by a tale of feigned woe; stating that he had a journey of immense importance before him, on which depended his life and all its comforts; that he was unhappily maimed by the way, and thereby incapacitated for continuing his progress; that he was needy and friendless, and must perish without the kind assistance which he now solicited. If you discovered that this supposed traveller was a resident in your own neighbourhood, had no journey before him, was sound in all his limbs, and laboured under no corporeal incapacity; your displeasure at the fraudulent attempt to impose on you would be instantly excited, and you would lament the black turpitude of his heart.