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over to punishment, unless they be forgiven, what a weight of guilt has every impenitent sinner lying on his head!
« If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly " and the sinner appear?" Oh! that, if these pages should fall into the hands of any careless transgressor, he may be stirred up to seek for deliverance from the bands of his sins before it be too late!
THE TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(HE children of this world cleave wholly
to the dust of the earth as their portion. The curse of the serpent (Gen. iii. 14) whose children they are, is exemplified in their hearts and lives; for they lie prostrate on the ground, feeding on its dust, without any desire to arise from the state of degradation to which they are reduced. They are “ carnally minded,” which r is death” both in its nature and consequences, and yet are neither alarmed nor humbled on account of it. On the other hand, the children of light “groan being burdened,” because their souls cleave to the dust, because there remains a carnal affection in their hearts. Their judgment and their choice lead them to seek those things which are above; yet they lament that their souls often grovel on the earth. Instead of soaring, like the early lark, heavenwards in faith and love, they frequently find themselves crawling like the worm on the dunghill. Others perhaps think them fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; but to themselves they appear dull and lifeless. They therefore beseech God to excite their affections and to invigorate their endeavours, that they may rise superior to worldly
cares and interests, and be more intirely absorbed in the momentous concerns of eternity, having “ their hearts surely fixed there where true joys are to be found.'
And they are encouraged in supplicating Divine grace for this purpose by contemplating past mercy. The.“unspeakable
gift” of Christ, through whose blood they have redemption; and the “ exceeding great “ and precious promises,” that they who “wait “ on the Lord shall renew their strength, shall “ mount up with wings as eagles, shall run “ without weariness, and walk without faint
ing,”—lay a foundation for confidence in prayer that emboldens their hopes. The object which they propose to themselves is the uninterrupted and vigorous observance of God's testi: monies, by walking in all His commandments and ordinances blameless. " Quicken me after “thy loving-kindness, so shall I keep the testi“mony of thy mouth,” is the daily prayer of the genuine believer in Jesus, the true member of our church.
The desires of the Christian are fully expressed in the collect now under our consideration; which contains-The character of those who therein pray for Divine grace-The request which they offer--And the twofold end which they propose by it; one of which relates to the present life, and the other to the life to come.
Those who in our collect pray for Divine grace, are described as God's faithful people; that is, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word “ llisos" and the English word “ faithful" may be interpreted either in an active or passive sense. They mean either believing, or worthy of being believed. The Greek word is translated in its active import, (John xx. 27,) where our Lord exhorts Thomas not to be “ faithless" but believing; and in the same sense it seems to be used (Gal. iii. 9,) where it is said, that “ they which be of faith are blessed with * faithful Abraham.” (See also Acts x. 45. and 'xvi. 1. 2 Cor. vi. 15. 1 Tim. vi. 2. Tit. i. 6.) This term, in its active sense, is often used for the purpose of describing the Christian church in its aggregate capacity. (Eph. i. 1. Col. i. 2.) The epithet therefore belongs not only to those who are full of faith, and strong in the grace which is in Jesus Christ, but to all believers; for in every church there are those whose faith is in an infantile and feeble state.
But what is the faith of God's elect which thus characterizes the people of God? It is an act or habit of the awakened soul, by which it relies exclusively on the Lord Jesus for pardon and salvation. And as this is the leading peculiarity of all those who are taught of God, it is commonly made use of for the purpose of distinguishing the godly from all other persons.
But it may be asked, why is the prayer of our collect restricted to the use of God's “ faithful “ people?" Is not such a restriction uncharitable? Do not others need that quickening grace which is here implored, even more than they? It is readily admitted that, however needful Divine influence may be to the faithful people of God, those who are without faith want it still more: and it is to be observed that we pray for their conversion to the faith of Christ, in various other parts of our diversified liturgy. But none besides God's faithful people feel their want of the blessing which we implore, or join in our petition for it. The prayer is appropriate to the lips of awakened persons. When
Elijah prayed for the widow's dead son, (1 Kings xvii. 21) his prayer differed widely from what it would have been, if the child had only been dangerously ill. We do not solicit in our collect the Grst communication of spiritual life; for that is supposed to be already operative in the souls of the supplicants. But we pray for its increase. It is not a resurrection from death to life, but a restoration from sickness to health which we implore. The hope of a plentiful crop implies that there is life in the tree from which it is expected.
We have frequently remarked in the course of these essays, that the prayers of our church are accommodated to the use of her members on the charitable supposition that, they are, what they profess to be, real Christians. This is inferred from their baptism, their own declarations, and their prayers. A public liturgy must, in the nature of things, be built on this plan. But hints are frequently interspersed in our forms, calculated to produce self-examination and to detect hypocrisy. Indeed every form furnishes matter for inquiry with relation to ourselves. Are we numbered among “ the faithful in Christ Jesus?” If we are, we feel the propriety and excellency of the prayer which is here prepared for our use. For while faithless persons are torpid and indifferent to the state of their own souls, we are distressed about the languor of our sensibilities and the unfruitfulness of our conduct. We mourn over ourselves, and are anxious for an increase of grace.
The request which God's faithful people make, or the nature of the blessing which is implored, next claims our attention. We pray that God would stir up our wills, and excite them to energy and action.