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Our present collect contains-A declaration of God's goodness towards His people, and—A prayer founded on that declaration. The preface of our collect acknowledges, in a grateful address to God, His great goodness towards His people, in which we shall consider---the character which is drawn of those who are the objects of Divine regard, and the nature and extent of God's favour to them.
The objects of Divine regard are those whom God “hath brought up in His steadfast fear and “ love." These exclusively are partakers of His special favour and complacential regard. Sinners, as such, He pities, and hath opened a way for their return to His paternal embrace. But none can be assured of an interest in His affection, can cry “Abba, Father,” or rely on His help and government, except those who are described in our collect as possessed of filial dispositions towards their heavenly Father. And it is carefully to be observed that these are not partakers of His special favour on account of any natural difference between them and others; for the distinction which is made is intirely of grace. The proud supposition that we have any thing which we have not received, is precluded by our collect; for those very qualities, by which the objects of Divine regard are distinguished from others, are expressly ascribed to the operation of Divine influence upon them.
The fear of God in which His people are brought up
is that reverential regard to Him, that filial awe of His majesty, which pervades and is interwoven with all their sensibilities and all their conduct. To enter at large into the nature and effects of this holy fear, would open too wide a field for our present purpose. We must therefore VOL. II.
be content with observing that it implies' a supreme respect and reverence for God as our Father and Lawgiver, and for every thing which He has enjoined and commanded. His name, His word, His day, His ordinances, His commands, are tó His people objects of habitual, devout, and affectionate regard. The promotion of His glory is their aim, and the attainment of His approbation their end.
Reader, hast thou been brought up in the fear of God? Is this Divine principle paramount in thy bosom? Dost thou fear to offend Hin more than thou fearest the displeasure of the world, and so as to be ready to incur any temporal inconvenience, loss, or suffering, rather than His frown? Read the account which is given of the spirit by which Daniel, and Shadrach, Me-' sech and Abednego were actuated; and then inquire whether the same Divine temper is to be found, in any degree, in thyself. They feared God, and therefore had nothing else to fear. And let it be remarked, that this holy disposition is not a slavish dread of punishment, restraining merely from outward acts of sin; for this may exist where there is not a spark of filial fear. That is only occasional and partial in its influence; but this is constant and universal. “ straint” which arises from legal terror, can give us no solid comfort, if it be but a bare restraint and no more: we should not rest nor think ourselves safe enough, till we have a well grounded assurance, that we are possessed of a better and a higher grace, even the grace of sanctification. For this will hold out against temptations where that may fail. We may deceive ourselves then (and thousands in the world do so deceive themselves) if upon our abstaining from sins, from which God withholdeth us, we presently conclude ourselves to be in a state of grace, and to have the power of godliness and the spirit of sanctification. For, between this restraining grace whereof we have now spoken, and the renewing grace whereof we now speak, there are sundry wide differences, They differ, first, in their fountain. Renewing grace springeth from the special love of God towards those that are His in Christ : restraining grace is a fruit of that general mercy of God, whereof it is said in the Psalm that “ His mercy is over all His works." They differ, secondly, in their extent: both of person, subject, object, and time. For the person: restraining grace is common to good and bad; renewing grace proper and peculiar to the elect. For the subject : restraining grace may bind one part or faculty of a man, as the hand or tongue, and leave another free as the heart or ear; renewing grace worketh upon all in some measure, sanctifieth the whole man, "body, soul, and “spirit,” with all the parts and faculties of each. For the object : restraining grace may withhold a man from one sin, and give him scope to another; renewing grace carrieth an equal and just respect to all God's commandments. For the time : restraining grace may tye us now, and by and by unloose us; renewing grace holdeth out unto the end, more or less, and never leaveth us wholly destitute. Thirdly, they differ in their ends. Restraining grace is so intended chiefly for the good of humane society (especially of the church of God, and of the members thereof) as that indifferently it may, or may not, do good to the receiver; but renewing grace is especially in. tended for the salvation of the receiver, though ep consequenti it do good also unto others. They
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differ, fourthly and lastly, in their effects. Renewing grace mortifieth the corruption and subdueth it and diminisheth it, as water quencheth fire, by abating the heat : but restraining grace only inhibiteth the exercise of the corruption for the time, without any real diminution of it either in substance or quality ; as the fire wherein the three children walked, had as much heat in it at that very instant, as it had before and after, although by the greater power of God the natural power of it was then suspended from working upon them. The lions that spared Daniel, were lions still, and had their ravenous disposition still; albeit God stopped their mouths for that time that they should not hurt him. But that there was no change in their natural disposition appeareth by their entertainment of their next guests, whom they devoured with all greediness, breaking their bones before they came to the ground. By these two instances and examples we may in some measure conceive of the nature and power of the restraining grace of God in wicked men. It bridleth the corruption that is in them for the time that it cannot break out; and manacleth them in such sort, that they do not shew forth the ungodly disposition of their heart. But there is no real change wrought in them all the' while; their heart still remaining unsanctified, and their natural corruption undiminished. Whereas the renewing grace of God, by a real change, of a lion maketh a lamb; altereth the natural disposition of the soul by draining out some of the corruption, begetteth a new heart, a new spirit, new habits, new qualities, new dispositions, new thoughts, new desires-maketh a new man, in every part and faculty compleatly new. Content not thyself then with a bare forbearance of sin, so long as thy heart is not changed, nor thy will changed, nor thy'affections changed; but strive to become a new man, to be transformed by the renewing of thy mind, to hate sin, to love God, to wrestle, against thy secret corruptions, to take delight in holy duties, to subdue thine understanding, and will, and affections, to the obedience of faith and godliness. So shalt thou not only be restrained from sinning against God as Abimelech was; but also be enabled, as faithful Abraham was, to please God; and consequently assured, with all the faithful children of Abraham, to be preserved by the almighty power of God through faith unto salvation."*
The love of God, in which His people are further said to be brought up, is that spirit of gratitude to Him which they feel on account of His goodness to them, and that delight in Him which they experience as the only source of happiness to their souls. They love Him, because He hath first loved them; and deriving from the contemplation of His excellencies, and their hope of personal interest in Him, a satisfaction which the world can neither give nor take away, they cleave to Him as their portion for ever.
Many persons preposterously presume that they love God, who in works deny Him; while others, without any substantial reason, doubt whether they love Him or not, though their conduct
proves that they are sincerely attached to Him. In order therefore to assist the reader in the awful work of self-examination on this subject, let it be observed that, wherever love to God exists, it must be a supreme regard. For no one can love God at all, till he is made sensible
* Bishop Saunderson's Sermon ad populum on Gen, xx, 6.