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THE NINTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
Grant to us, Lord, we beseech thee, the Spirit to think and do always such things as be rightful ; that we, who cannot do any thing that is good without thee, may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
UR present collect is a prayer for sancti
fying grace-an important blessing for which we cannot pray too frequently nor too earnestly. For “without holiness no man shall “ see the Lord.” Our collect, like the Divinely inspired Scriptures on which it is founded, is “ profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for cor“ rection, for instruction in righteousness; that “ the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly Şc furnished unto all good works.” It lays down some of the most important doctrines of true religion, and convicts, of glaring hypocrisy out of their own mouths, even those who hold errors contrary to those doctrines. It is calculated to correct those whose practice disagrees with the prayers they offer, and whose conduct falsifies the sincerity of their public worship. It is suited to promote the piety of those who are sincere in their approaches to the mercy-seat; and, by teaching them to pray for further degrees of renewing grace, to advance their conformity to the will of God; that the man of God may be complete in every good word and work.
Our collect contains -A prayer for sanctifying grace--and A declaration of the end for which that grace is implored.
The blessing implored is the Spirit of God, that is, the influence of the Holy Ghost. Our church maintains in all her forms the necessity of Divine influence to all spiritual life and action, as every one who has used them must plainly have discerned, unless indeed he has repeated them after the manner of an Automaton. With. out this energy continually communicated to us, all our thoughts, words, and works, must of necessity be always and altogether wrong. Before conversion, we are dead in trespasses and sins, and a dead man is incapable of action. After it, a continuation of the same agency on the soul by which life was produced, is indispensable to a holy walk; even as the continued ingress of air, which first sets the lungs of a new-born infant in motion, is essential to its vitality, growth, and action, through every successive period of life. For the Spirit of God is that to the soul which breath is to the body. Hence Christians are said to “ live in the Spirit," and to " walk in the Spirit;"
«the Spirit “maketh intercession for them,” by exciting within them “groanings that cannot be uttered.” They "worship God in the Spirit;" and
through the Spirit they mortify the deeds of “ the body.” And it is the characteristic of the unregenerate that they are “ sensual,” destitute of any other than an animal life, “ not “ having the Spirit.” And “if any man have “not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His ;" “ for to be carnally minded is death ; but to be
spiritually minded is life and peace.”
If any one should be disposed to explain the word 55
Spirit” in our collect as meaning that holy temper of mind which is implored, we shall not dispute the point; though the former sense seems most eligible. But the alternative is of no great consequence, as the texts of Scripture just quoted, and other passages of our Liturgy where the Holy Ghost is unequivocally introduced, will demonstrate that a holy temper of mind in fallen man is intirely the work of the Divine Spirit, by whose inspiration alone the thoughts of our hearts can be cleansed, so that we may be enabled to love God, and worthily to magnify His holy name.
The mediate cause of imploring the influence of the Holy Ghost is the sanctification of out thoughts and actions, that they may always be conformed to the rule of right. The prayers of our church are uniformly spiritual. They afford no sanction to that system of mere morality which is frequently substituted for vital Godliness. They make no attempt to whiten the outside of a sepulchre which is within full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. On the contrary, they constantly enforce the necessity of inward purification, and of a conformity in heart to the Divine law. In our present collect the church-of-England worshipper is taught to pray for the sanctification of his thoughts, as well as of his doings; and for the former as of primary importance without which the latter is unattainable. Our liturgy makes no use of the figure called Hysteron-proteron, preposterously placing that first which should be last, whereby the souls of men might be deceived and destroyed. The spring must be cleansed, and the stream in its first efflux therefrom be pure; or
the water of a more distant part of its channel cannot be clear and limpid.
Let the reader pause and make an inquiry whether the anxiety of his bosom corresponds with that of the genuine churchman or not. The latter watches over his thoughts as well as his words and works, perceives their natural tendency to aberration from that which is rightful, feels his own inability to conform them to the rule of rectitude, is convinced of the necessity that they should be conformed thereto, and earnestly longs for their intire subjection to the law of God; and therefore he fervently prays for “the Spirit to think and do always those “ things that be rightful.” On the contrary, the merely nominal member of our church feels no concern about the current of his thoughts, if his exterior conduct be but decent and irreproachable; and even with respect to the latter, he regårds rather its appearance before men than its relation to the heart-searching God. The difference between these two characters, in this particular point of dissimilitude, is material and eternally important; for the tree must be made good, before its fruit can be good.
Let it be remembered that our thoughts are cognizable at the bar of God as well as our words and actions; and that their tendency, as it is now a criterion of our spiritual state, will then be a meritorious cause of their condemna. tion who die without repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; and also an evidence of their justification who, through grace, have believed in Him.
“ The thought “ of foolishness is sin," (Prov. xxiv. 9.) and therefore “the thoughts of the wicked are an - abomination to the Lord.” (Prov. xv. 26.)
In the work of conversion, not only must " the “ wicked forsake his way,” but also “ unrighteous man his thoughts.” (Is. lv. 7.) “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts," as from their natural fountain. (Matth. xv. 19.). For “ every imagination of the thoughts of “ man's heart is only evil continually," until it is renewed by Divine grace; (Gen. vi. 5;) and therefore we pray for “the Spirit to think “ always those things that be rightful.” And Oh! how needful it is that we should
pray earnestly ; since the day is coming “when God “shall judge the secrets of men ;" and since He will then “bring to light the hidden things of “ darkness, and will make manifest the counsels “ of the hearts.” (Rom. ii. 16. I Cor. iv. 5.).
What then is the rule of right to which our thoughts are to be conformed? Doubtless the same which is to regulate our words and actions, namely, the holy law of God. Every transient thought which is contrary to this law, is sinful; a proof of our fallen, guilty, and polluted state, and the seed of actual transgression. But what doth the law require ? It requires us to “ love " the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds,
souls, and strength, and our neighbours as “ ourselves.” O let us compare the thoughts of our fallen hearts with this extensive and unchangeable rule of right, till we feel the necessity of repairing to the atoning cross, and of fervently using the petition of our collect for the sanctifying grace of the Holy Ghost !
On the rectitude of our thoughts depends the rectitude of our doings. For what the lips utter and the hands execute, the heart suggests. The heart is the laboratory of practice, and thought the parent of action. We therefore comply