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hast removed our fears. Can we die with peace? It is thou alone hast renewed our hopes. If heaven be now open to receive any men that are, or ever were, or shall be, it is not by the merits of their own innocence, but by those of thy allsaving death."*
The mean by which these glorious atchievements have been effected is pointed out in our collect. It is “ through His only begotten Son “ Jesus Christ that God hath overcome death and " and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life.” We can form no conception of any other way by which our salvation could have been accomplished consistently with the honour of God. But by the incarnation, sufferings and death of this Divine person we see glory secured to every perfection of the Godhead, and the surest basis laid for human hope. “In Him mercy and truth meet “ together, righteousness and peace kiss each “ other.” By means of His mediation “God “ can be just and the justifier of him that be“ lieveth in Jesus.” By the active obedience of the God-man, the law, from which sin derived its condemning power, was satisfied in its utmost demands. By His penal and vicarious sufferings, the curse of the law, of which corporeal death was a part, was exhausted of all its power. And by His resurrection from the dead the most satisfactory evidence hath been given, that He hath accomplished the work which was given Him to do: death was triumphed over in its own domains and assurance given of its total abolition at the resurrection-day. The declaration of our Lord's ex-. piring lips, “ IT IS FINISHED," the truth of which was fully demonstrated by His resurrection, filled
* Dr. Comber on the Te Deum,
heaven with melody and hell with dismay. Well may we join together to celebrate his victory, and thus anticipate the song which will be ever
“God hath opened unto us the gate of ever“ lasting life.” So the church teaches us to say, on a charitable supposition that all who use her service are true believers. But let not the reader conclude rashly and without an inquiry that he is such. Let him examine himself, “whe“ther he be in the faith, and whether Jesus Christ “ be formed in him the hope of glory.” In this inquiry the prayer which follows the preceding recital of Divine mercy will greatly assist him. . It will indeed afford a satisfactory criterion of character. Therein we humbly beseech Almighty God, that, as “ by His special grace preventing
us, He doth put into our minds good desires, “so by His continual help, we may bring the “same to good effect.”
In this petition an acknowledgment is made of favours already conferred on us, and a request is offered for a communication of a further blessing. If we are justified in the acknowledgment we make, and sincere in the request we offer, we “may
safely conclude that God, through His only
begotten Son Jesus Christ, hath opened unto “ us the gate of everlasting life," and that we are entering through it.
Happy, thrice happy are those persons who can truly join in this grateful acknowledgment, and humbly praise God for putting into their minds good desires! Happy indeed are wc, if we are “risen with Chrisi” in holy desire after the attainment of those blessings which His cross hath procured for us! - if as new-born babes we desire the sincere milk of the word that we may grow thereby”-if with the Psalmist we can address God and say, “ Whom have I in heaven “ but thee, and there is none upon earth that I “ desire in comparison of thee;"—then indeed we may bless God for “putting into our minds good o desires."
The persons who join in our collect are supposed to be converted persons--that is, to have felt the enlivening “ power of Christ's resurrec" tion.” For they are supposed to be under the influence of “good desires,” and no good desires prevail in the bosoms of unconverted persons. These are all “dead in trespasses and sins.” And as an inanimate body feels no desires after those things which are necessary to the support of animal life, its existence and comfort, so the unregenerate soul feels no want of those blessings, for the enjoyment of which it was at first created, and without which it must perish eternally. But is this supposition trué, reader, with respect to you? Are you athirst for pardon, holiness and heaven? Are you conscious of desires which Gud only can satisfy ?
For it is carefully to be remembered, that those “desires” only are “good” which have relation to the justification, sanctification, and glorification of our fallen souls. Heavenly things alone are durable, substantial, and satisfying. That only is good in the true sense of the word, which has a connection with an immortal life. The favour and friendship of God, a conformity to His image, and an enjoyment of His presence, are the only objects that are worthy of an immortal mind. And every awakened soul can say with David, “ As the heart panteth after the water-brooks, so
panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God; “ when shall I come and appear before the pre“ sence of God?" It is admitted that the enlightened mind doth not always feel the same degree of spiritual hunger and thirst; but it finds a dissatisfaction in every thing but God, and habitually longs for Him as its portion for ever.
A state of heart in which spiritual desires predominate is a state of grace, for according to our collect it is the effect of God's “special grace.” It not only proves that we have been partakers of those common influences of the Holy Ghost which the ungodly sometimes feel, but that we have received that “special grace” which bringeth salvation. Good desires are the "seeds of eternal “ life. And they who sow in tears shall reap in “joy. He that now goeth forth and weepeth, “ bearing this precious seed, shall doubtless “come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves “ with him.” Among the various characteristics by which the Godly are distinguished from others in the Scriptures, there is none that is more frequently introduced than the activity of holy desire with which they are inspired. They seek after God. (See Ps. ix. 10.--xiv. 2.-xxiv. 6.-xl. 16.-lxiii. 1.-lxix. 6, 32.—xx. 4.-cxix. 2.Col. iii. 1. Heb. xi. 6.) And this trait of the converted character implies every other essential attribute of it, and differs from every thing of which a hypocrite can boast.
“ Salvation is of the Lord,” for His " special grace preventing us puts into our minds good “ desires. It precedes, so as to be the operative cause of all good within us, for “in our flesh “ dwelleth no good thing." We are “ His work
manship, created in Christ Jesus” unto good desires as well as “unto good works.” And not one good desire would ever have arisen in our
fallen hearts, if His “special grace preventing “us” had not put it within us. And Oh! what comfort may the believing soul, the weakest of the flock, derive from the consideration which is here suggested by our collect! Your soul, trembling penitent, is “ athirst for God.” To be restored to His favour, and to be conformed to His image, is the ambition of your heart. Wellthis desire is the fruit of His grace; not of common but of “special grace. It is a sure token of your resurrection with and through Christ to a state of spiritual life, and a pledge of future glory.
Having made our humble acknowledgments for mercies received, we proceed to beseech God that “by His continual help we may bring" the good desires which He has inspired into our hearts “to good effect;" that the seed of eternal life which is sown may not languish and die; but that, being watered continually, it may spring up and bring forth permanent fruit.
The blessing we implore is a progressive blessing. For in proportion as we are conformed to the image of God, and are enabled to glorify Him, our - good desires" are brought “ to good “ effect.” And this is a gradual work which will not be accomplished till “ Christ who is our “ life shall appear, and we shall appear with “ Him in glory.” Then, and not till then, will those desires which “special grace” has formed within us be fulfilled. Then will the seed sown produce its proper fruit in full perfection. Then only (will every true penitent say) « shall I be “ satisfied, when I awake up after thy likeness.” The initial state of grace is the vernal season of the soul, in which the tree of righteousness buds and blossoms with holy desires.