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limb in the human body is not the cause of animal life, but a prudent measure adapted to its preservation and improvement; and the agency by whieh the operation is performed must, of all necessity, be extrinsical. To trust in acts of self-mortification, as the meritorious cause of acceptance with God, or as sufficient, without Divine influence, to sanctify the heart, is the essence of Pelagianism and Popery; whilst to deny the necessity of self-mortification, and to neglect the practice of it, is the essence of Antinomianism and the height of spiritual delusion.
THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT,
Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; keep us both outwarılly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
N exact uniformity prevails in the religious
experience of the genuine members of the catholic church, however distant from each other may be the ages in which they have lived, and however different the outward circumstances in which they have been placed. This uniformity is especially manifest in the addresses which they present to the throne of grace. At its footstool they have all been found, stating the same wants, making the same requests, and urging the same arguments. There David a thousand years before the coming of Christ cried, “ Make haste “ to help me, O Lord, my salvation.” And there all the genuine members of the church of England at the present day, and near two thousand years after His coming, cry in the same strain of self-abasement and fervent desire,
Almighty God, who seest, &c.”
If the awakened sinner would consult his own feelings, wants, and desires, and compare them with the provisions of the gospel, he would derive from the result of his inquiry a complete system of orthodox Divinity. He would be in
no danger of Socinianism, Arianism, or Pelagianism; for he would find his guilt, helplessness and misery to be so great, that an “Almighty' Redeemer, Comforter, Sanctisier, and Preserver, is essentially necessary to his soul. “ He that « believeth hath the witness in himself,”. -a witness or testimony which all the sophistical arguments of fallen reason, his own or of others, cannot invalidate. To the criterion of this testimony we may safely refer the character of our established forms of worship, and submit that they should stand or fall by the verdict of an awakened conscience. Let them be brought to this test, and they will appear to have been the production of workmen who need not to be ashamed. Surely the conscious mind must cordially join issue with the collect for the second Sunday in Lent now under consideration.
Our collect contains-An introduction, stating the ground on which the subsequent request is built,—And that request for Divine conservation, both in our bodies and our souls.
The exceedingly great and precious promises of God afford a mirror in which we may distinctly see our own deplorable condition. For He has not promised any thing which we do not want, and which we can derive from our
In the natural world He has made nothing in vain, but every production of His plastic hand discovers His wisdom, power, and goodness. And in the covenant of redemption, the master-piece of wisdom, no needless blessing is provided. And Oh! if this criterion of our state be resorted to, how humiliating will it prove !. It will disclose guilt, helplessness, and misery in the utmost degree. For if God has promised help and salvation, it is because we
are lost and impotent in ourselves. This we confess in the introductory part of our collect; and Oh! that we may so feel it, that sincerity may be mixed with our confessions, and fervour of spirit with our supplications !
The appeal to Omniscience which forms the preface to our collect has a two-fold aspect corresponding with the subsequent prayer. It relates both to our bodies and to our souls.
The feeble and endangered state of our bodies, though a subordinate concern to that of our souls, is an object of some regard. For the welfare of the soul is therein implicated. And though the Christian believer knows that, in the scale of importance, no comparison is to be instituted between the interests of the immortal soul and those of the mortal body, yet he is allowed to care for the latter, to provide for its wants, to feel its pains, and to seek relief from its miseries. A contrary requisition would be unnatural; for “no man ever hated his own “ flesh, but naturally loveth and cherisheth it."
" That we have no power of ourselves to help « ourselves," is a truth which is firmly impressed on the heart of every genuine Christian. He differs widely in his views and feelings, even respecting the conduct of his temporal affairs, from the unawakened world. He realizes a Divine Providence in all his concerns. That « in God we live, are moved,* and have our “ being,” forms a part of his creed. And, - therefore “in all his ways he acknowledges “ God, that God may direct his paths.”
Both his retrospective and prospective views of life are such as become a creature and a
sinner. That independency of God at which Adam aimed, when, seduced by the temptation of the wicked one, he took the forbidden fruit, and which is the object pursued by all his guilty and blinded children, the believer knows to be unattainable ; and, moreover, he feels no desire after it. For being reconciled to God by the death of His Son, and persuaded of the Divine good-will towards him, he is assured that he is in the best hands, while in the hands of God. Independency, the idol of the unconverted heart, is his abhorrence. He not only is poor and helpless, but he acquiesces in being so; and while God condescends to be his helper, he would not be otherwise. When he looks back to the days of infancy, childhood, youth, and manhood, which have elapsed, he perceives that a Divine hand has conducted, preserved, and upheld him through every stage. The many dangers seen and unseen, which he has escaped, the continual support which he has experienced, and all the comforts which he has enjoyed, he attributes, not to his own wisdom, prudence, foresight, vigilance, or strength, but to Divine Providence. He ceases to “sacrifice to the net, " and to burn incense unto the drag, because his “ portion has been fat, and his meat plenteous: (Hab. i. 16.) for he sees that it is God who hath “ crowned him with loving kindness and tender “ mercies.”
In the prospective views of life which the believer takes, he feels that his “ help standeth “ in the name of the Lord who made heaven and " earth :" for he has no power of himself to
help himself.” As the ivy becomes more feeble by its growth, and is less capable of supporting itself, the further its branches are spread,