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which affords the sovereign balm. Yet the law is necessary to be preached and understood, to arouse the conscience and to prepare the mind for the reception of those consolatory truths which are the instruments, through grace, of repentance and salvation.
In the creation, then, of a "new and contrite “ heart" the conscience is first brought under a spirit of bondage. “Every transgressor in thought, « word, or deed, is guilty of death,” says the holy law of God. “I am a transgressor, and “therefore liable to eternal destruction, "says the enlightened conscience. Now this conviction alone will not produce repentance, but rather despair. Therefore the conscience is further brenght under the inflaence of pardoning mercy.
That I am a sinner, I acknowledge; but " such is every one for whom Christ died. I
grieve for sin and hate it with a perfect hatred, « because it crucified Him; and I am resolved,
by the grace of God, to lay the axe both to “ the root and branch of sin, till it be intirely “extirpated from my soul."
O how earnestly should we offer up the petition of our collect, tkat God would « create and « make in us new and coptrite hearts,” since repentance is necessary to all sorts and conditions of men ! and unless we worthily lament “our sins, and acknowledge aur wretchedness,” we cannat " obtain," even « of the God of all
Bercy, remission and forgiveness." It is necessary therefore to the unconverted, whether they he rich or poor, young or old, decent or profligate in their general behaviour; because all, without exception, have sinned and come short of the glory of God. It is constantly necessary also to believers, because they are still in a state
of imperfection. A Christian man's perfection, in the present life, is to bewail bis imperfection. The heart of believers is the temple of God; and because, like that at Jerusalem, it is continually contracting fresh dust and pollution, it requires therefore to be swept with the besom of repentance from day to day.
Does the reader inquire for motives to enforce the necessity of importunity in the use of this important prayer?
Where shall we begin or end in an attempt to enumerate them ? Every thing within us and without us, above and below, on the right hand and the left, reverberates in our ears the language of our collect. The mercy of God, the death of Christ, the promise of His Spirit, the upbraidings of our own consciences, the frailty of life, the certainty and near approach of death, the severity of the future judgment, the happiness of saints in heaven, the misery of the damned in hell, and the eternal duration of both, join issue with the returning season of Lent, and powerfully address themselves to us, saying “ What meanest thou, “O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God, if so “ be that God will think upon thee that thou
perish not.” O let us then employ the days of Lent in praying for and in cultivating a truly penitent state of mind. Thus shall we concur with the design of our church. For in vain we use her forms unless we enter into her spirit. If indeed we are enabled, through grace, to “lament our sins” worthily and in a manner suited to their demerit, and to “ acknowledge “our wretchedness” as guilty, polluted, and helpless criminals, we shall assuredly “ obtain “ from the God of all grace perfect remission “and forgiveness.” Nay, we have already attained it, and shall also be blessed with the happy knowledge that we are forgiven and accepted. But, without Godly sorrow and humble confession, we can have no founded hope of remission, but on the contrary must remain eternally subject to the guilt which we have incurred. O may
O may that “ almighty and everlasting God, who hateth nothing which He hath
made, and who doth forgive the sins of all “ them that are penitent, create and make in “ us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily “ lamenting our sins and acknowledging our
wretchedness, may obtain of Him, the God “ of all grace, perfect remission and forgiveness,
through Jesus Christ our Lord !” Amen.
* A considerable part of the above is extracted from an essay which the author, a few years since, wrote for a periodical publication.
THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT.
O Lord, who for our sakes didst fast forty days and forty nights, give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy Godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honour and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
HRISTIANITY, considered in its effects on
the human heart, is a system of duties and comforts which run in parallel lines from beginning to end. It unites in itself the opposites of self-denial and enjoyment; and these are so connected, during the present state of man, that they cannot be separated. Like the links of a chain, they depend on each other, so that, without the practice of self-denial, the felicities of the gospel cannot be experienced; and, without an experience of the privileges of the gospel, selfdenial cannot be practised. What God hath joined together, let no man therefore attempt to put asunder.
The forty days of Lent (a word which signifies spring) were very early observed in the Christian church as we have already remarked, and seem to have originated in the forty days of humiliation which were kept by the previous to their great day of atonement
Wheatly, p. 203. Oxford F
though there is no positive scriptural prescription either for that Jewish fast or our own, yet the number forty is so signalized in Scripture as to account for the duration assigned to both, and to give an evident propriety to it. On this subject a learned author has made the following conjecture, which, if it be nothing more, seems at least to be ingenious and innocent; but, perhaps, many readers will think that great probability is attached to it.
“ Concerning the period of forty days,” during which our Lord fasted, “ the words of St. Luke seem to imply that it refers to some other transaction of Scripture, as a counterpart and acccomplishment; and that this precise time of forty days, rather than any other, was proper to the occasion.' He says, when the days were ended, or, as the Greek will bear, “ when the days were fulfilled ; the word being the same as in that passage of St. Mark, “What shall be the sign as when all these things shall be fulfilled ?" But I lay no great stress upon the word: for, whether the expression of the Evangelist implies it or not, the period of forty days doth certainly connect this transaction with many others in the sacred history; and there is reason to suppose, that the period itself was derived from some very early occasion. After revolving it long in my thoughts, I would propose the following conjecture to those who are skilful in the Scripture, namely, that the first man spent forty days in Paradise, and that in this period he was tempted, fell into sin by eating the forbidden fruit, and forfeited the tree of life with the inheritance of immortality. If this be supposed, the period of forty days will occur naturally in other transactions, and particularly in this of our Saviour's temptation, which is