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« which He set before us. The Lord our God is “righteous in all His works which He doth; for “we obeyed not His voice.” Do we then in our hearts justify God, both in the judgments of His rod and in those of His mouth, in what He has done, and in what He has threatened to do? Can we subscribe to the declarations of Scripture, and to the confessions of our liturgy, in their full latitude of interpretation ? This question will afford us a criterion of Divine teaching, of nuine Christian experience, and of true conformity to the church of England.
We now proceed to consider the prayer for deliverance which follows the coufession of sin in our collect.-What the blessing which we implore comprises, will appear from the review which we have taken of our situation as rendering that blessing necessary.
" that we who are justly punished for our offences, may be
inercifully delivered by God's goodness."
Do we then implore an absolute exemption from the afilictive red of God's fatherly correction in this present life ? Oh, no! our Reformers were too wise to put such a petition into our mouths. And if they had been so ignorant as to insert such a request in their liturgy, no truly awakened and enlightened member of our church could have joined in it. For every duly instructed mind knows that, though “no affliction for “the present is joyous but grievous, yet it after“ wards yields the peaceable fruits of righteous
ness to them that are exercised thereby.”Every such person remembers, that “ before he was
afflicted he went wrong, and thankfully ac“knowledges that “in very faithfulness God has “ afflicted him.” He is assured that “ these light
" afflictions which are but for a moment, work “ for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight “ of glory.” In praying therefore for a cessation of chastisement, he would pray for a removal of his greatest blessing.
As “ our offences” constitute the meritorious cause of our punishment, in the deliverance which we implore, the pardon of these must be the first object. For the cause must be removed before the effect can cease. Remission of sins therefore must precede, in the established process of Divine mercy, every other gracious communication from above. The criminal must be freed from guilt by an act of grace, before his chains can be knocked off and the prison-doors be thrown open. Yet how many persons wish to have the effect removed, who never think of its producing cause ! They would gladly be extricated from suffering, but feel not the burthen of guilt. Such ignorantly use the language of our collect. For the first object of desire to a sincere penitent is to know that there is nothing penal and vindictive in what he suffers. Suffering is in itself grievous; but the thought that it is the result of unpardoned guilt, of Divine displeasure, and a prelude to banishment from God, is far more bitter. This therefore is his
cry, Lord, correct me, but with judgment—not in " thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing." “ Enter not into judgment with thy servant,
Lord, for in thy sight shall no man living be “justified.”
The extirpation of that corruption which renders afflictions necessary to the welfare of the soul, is another object of desire, when we pray for deliverance from punishment. For the existence of corruption is itself the severest
punishment to a penitent sinner. He knows that the disease inust be subdued, before its syinptoms can rationally be expected to abate. The riches of pardoning mercy being revealed in the heart by the Holy Ghost given to us through faith in the word of God, we are assured of God's gracious design in our afflictions. We want not to have them removed, till their end is answered, but we want to have them rendered needless by a full conformity to the will of God in our souls.
We may, however, in humble submission to the will of God, pray for such a mitigation of our sufferings, as may be consistent with His glory and our own welfare.
But we chiefly implore patience to bear the load, and grace to profit by it. Our Lord's cry, in His dreadful agony which He endured in the garden of Gethsemane, is a pattern for our imitation in any case that is at all similar. “ Father, if it be possible, let this cup “ pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but “as thou wilt.” We shall not err in supplicating for relief from sufferings, if we humbly leave the event to the Divine will, and are more anxious for spiritual than for temporal mercies.
A complete deliverance from the punishment which our sins have deserved, and to which we are liable, in another world, is also in the eye of the penitent supplicant, while he uses our collect. And lastly, he keeps also in view a deliverance from all the sad effects of sin which he now feels, by the final justification, sanctification, and glorification of his person, soul and body, at the great day of judgment.
Such then are the desires of the members of our church, while we pray “that we who are justly “punished for our offences, may mercifully be “delivered by Divine goodness." Is the reader conscious of such desires ? So far as our collect may be supposed to respect a mitigation of our sufferings, a total rescue from them, and salvation from future misery, it will find many lips which can cordially adopt its language. But pardon and sanctification are the chief objects of a believer's importunate requests; and these are blessings of which it is to be feared that many nominal members of our communion do not perceive the value and importance, and after the attainment of which they feel no anxiety.
Our act of supplication is an appeal to Divine mercy. We have no personal merit to plead, for we are “ justly punished for our offences.”— The“ goodness" of the Divine character enkindles hope, which the “ mercy" displayed in the gospel confirms. No unnecessary tautology appears in the petition we present. For no aggregation of words can fully express the total renunciation of self-righteousness which a contrite bosom feels. And the inspired writers have laboured for expressions, and have added term to term, for the purpose of exhibiting the riches of the grace of God. “ We are justified freely by His grace, “ through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
The argument by which we are taught to enforce our request, is drawn from “ the glory of “ God's name," that is, of His Divine character and perfections; for the name of God comprehends all that relates to Him. God's own glory is the great end of all His dispensations. He can do nothing that would be hostile to it, that would tarnish or obscure it. Can we then demonstrate that our deliverance, in those views which we have taken of it, will be conducive to the honour
of His name? Yes, blessed be God, we can; for the Lord has proclaimed His name, “ The “ Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious,
long-suffering and abundant in goodness and “ truthr, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving
iniquity, transgression and sin.” one Divine attribute be magnified at the expence of another ? Certainly not ; and unless we can shew that every perfection of His character will be exalted by our deliverance, our argument is futile, and the hope we build on it groundless. Can we then demonstrate that Divine justice, truth and holiness, will receive glory as well as Divine mercy, if our request be granted ? Does He not declare that “ He will by no means “ clear the guilty ?” Has He not said, that " the soul that sinneth shall die?” And are we not guilty ? Have we not sinned ? Assuredly we have.-But, blessed be His name, the provision which He has made for the honour of His justice, holiness, and truth, in the method of grace, is so complete, that “ He can be a “just God, and yet a Saviour.” God set forth His co-equal Son to be “a propitiation through “ faith in His blood, to declare His righteous
ness for the remission of sins that are past, “through the forbearance of God, to declare “(says the Apostle) His righteousness; that “ He might be just, and yet the justifier of “ him that believeth in Jesus.” Thus mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, meet and kiss each other; while a fost sinner, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is pardoned, accepted, sanctified, and exalted to the right hand of God in glory everlasting. The name of the Lord will indeed be glorified by the destruction of the impenitent who reject His great salvation. But