« AnteriorContinuar »
have been stated may be a means of stirring up both the reader and the writer of these pages to an earnestness of importunity which, backed by the Divine Saviour's name and merits, may succeed in obtaining for both this inestimable benefit! Amen.
THE FIRST DAY OF LENT, COMMONLY CALLED
Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite heurts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
HE days of Lent, of which Ash-Wednesday
is the first, are designed to be preparatory to the observance of the approaching festival of Easter. The origin of this annual fast is of high antiquity; for “ Irenæus, who lived but ninety “ years from the death of St. John, and conos versed familiarly with St. Polycarp, as Poly“ carp had with St. John, has happened to let
us know, though incidentally, that as it was “ observed in his time, so it was in that of his predecessors.
The institution appears to have originated in the preparation which was made by the Jews for the great day of atonement, previous to which they are said to have observed a season of forty days humiliation.
The first day of Lent is called Ash-Wednesday in allusion to a custom which prevailed in the primitive church of sprinkling ashes on the heads of penitents before their re-admission to the
communion at Easter. To this custom the preface of the Commination-service refers, wherein we are reminded, that “In the primi“ tive church there was a godly discipline, that, “ at the beginning of Lent, such persons as “ stood convicted of notorious sin, were put to
open penance, and punished in this world that “ their souls might be saved in the day of the “ Lord; and that others, admonished by their
example, might be the more afraid to offend."
The Collect for Ash-Wednesday was composed at the Reformation, and contains,-A preface declaratory of the Divine character — A request founded on it - And the end proposed by that request.
The preface consists of two parts which are closely connected with each other, and both relate to the character of Him with whom the penitent sinner has to do in the great concern of his salvation. The former part of the description is more general, the latter more confined and yet more consolatory to a contrite heart.
The members of our church are supposed to be, at this season, more deeply impressed and affected by a conviction of their sinfulness and demerit than is common even with awakened sinners. They are supposed to have engaged in the necessary work of self-examination, and to have foued the result of it very humiliating. It is taken for granted that, when they look forward to the great day of expiation shortly to be commemorated, their sins which occasioned so great a sacrifice appear with a deeply crimson hue. In such a state of mind there is no small danger of discouragement and despair. Indeed desperation is inevitable, unless the soul be relieved by those views of Divine mercy which the
gospel presents. The preface of our collect is therefore designed to obviate this danger, and to encourage the mourner in his approach to the throne of grace.
That God “hateth nothing that He hath “ made," is clear from His own positive declarations confirmed by an inviolable oath. “ As “ I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure “ in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked “ turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye “ from your evil ways; for why will ye die, “O house of Israel?” (Ezek. xxxiii. 11.) If an objection to this declaration should be founded on the many passages of Scripture which speak of the wrath of God as revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness;, if it should be said, that “ all that do unrighteously are an abomina“tion to the Lord,” (Deut. xxv. 16.) that He “ hateth all the workers of iniquity,” (Psalın v. 5 ;) that God has declared that it is " in His desire “ to chastise" the wicked, that He rejoices over" the impenitent “ to destroy them,”(Deut. xxviii. 63;) the answer to it is easy.
As His creature, God “ hateth nothing that He has made.” The cause of His displeasure is superadded to His work; and though the moral government of God and the glory of His holiness, justice, and truth, peremptorily require that He should execute vengeance on incorrigible sinners, yet penal evil, as such, is not desirable to the Divine mind, because it is connected with the destruction of His own work. However dear His creatures, as such, may be to Him, the honour of His own most holy name is dearer.* This subject is,
* It assuredly could not be the design of the compilers of our Liturgy to assert, in an universal and unqualified sense,
however, one of the deep things of God, into which it behoves us to look with holy awe without seeking to be wise above what is written. We shall therefore hasten to the consideration of a point which is less embarrassed, after that we have observed the evidence which arises to prove that God hateth not us from our continuance in life, when He might have cut us down, and assigned us our portion in outer darkness long ago; froni the gift of His dear Son to atone for our sins, although He was under no obligation to provide a ransom; from the promise which He has made of His Holy Spirit to all that ask Him; from the means of grace, which we so richly enjoy in His word and ordinances; from the exhortations, promises, and even threatenings, of His word; from the various paternal chastisements with which from time to time we have been visited. Each of these topics will afford to us sufficient demonstration of God's good will towards us. And in whatever difficulty
that God hateth no rational being which He hath made; because such a notion is confuted by the case of Devils, and damned human spirits that are departed this life. But no creature whatever can possibly be the object of His hatred, eonsidered merely as His creature, and so long as it continues to be what it was made and intended to be. · But sin, the
very moment that it attaches to any intelligent creature, excites His invariable disgust. And yet, when we reflect on the extensive benefits which flow from the mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and especially the riches of Divine forbearance, it may not perhaps be strictly just to assert, that God hates any human sinner, so long as He is pleased to continue him in a state of probation on this side of eternity. The words of St. Peter (2 Epistle ii. 9) are very strong and expressive. And, though we may not be able to unravel the difficulty with which they seem to be clogged, yet they must be strictly true, and capable of being explained in a sense that is perfectly consistent with all the Divine attributes.