« PreviousContinue »
It is founded on it; for there is a close connection between the appeal and the petition. Selfdiffidence is essential to the success of the application which we make to God for His protection. The act of self-renunciation is a most forcible plea, addressed to the compassion of the Divine bosom. The language of distress which the Syrophenician woman uttered, when she applied to the Divine Jesus for relief, was greatly enforced and rendered powerfully persuasive by her avowal of unworthiness.
“Lord, help me, was her brief, but comprehensive prayer. “The
dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from the “ master's table,” was the argument by which she urged her petition; which produced from the Saviour's lips high commendation of her faith, ard interested His power in her behalf. If, in the same temper of mind, we can attest Divine Omniscience, that “ we put not our “ trust in any thing that we do,” we shall also succeed in our petition, and “by His power be “ defended against all adversity.” The act of self-renunciation accords with the appeal to mercy. Without the former, the latter would be absurd; or, at least, the latter necessarily implies the former. And as God has promised His help to those who, disclaiming self-confidence, throw themselves intirely on His mercy, the connection between the two parts of our collect furnishes an appeal to the faithfulness of God. He has assured us, that He “will regard “ the prayer of the destitute, and not despise “ their prayer.” His glory will be eternally promoted by the exertion of His power on behalf of those who put their trust in His mercy.
But what is the request which we make?-Of what nature is the favour we implore, when
we beg that God would “ mercifully grant that
by His power we may be defended against all
adversity ?” Is affliction adversity? Is death to be so denominated ? Do we beg of God to exempt us by His power from these? affliction and death are favourable, and not adverse, to the true believer. They are included in his catalogue of blessings. They are benefits derived to him from Divine mercy under the provisions of the covenant of grace. We do not therefore pray to be defended against any species of trial, nor against the attack of death.
- What then do we solicit?-Our act of supplication may be explained by our Lord's prayer for his disciples, John xvii. 15. "I
“I pray,” said the compassionate Jesus, addressing Himself to His Father, “ I pray not that thou shouldest take " them out of the world, but that thou shouldest “ keep them from the evil.” He knew what was good for them, and He loved them too well not to ask the best things for them. If it were for the glory of His name, and for the good of His dear people, God could at once remove them out of the reach of trouble, without dying, as He did Enoch and Elijah. But He sees it to be better for them, and more for His own honour, that they should continue awhile in the vale of tears. When our blessed Lord therefore, in the formulary which He drew up for the use of His church, taught us to implore God, that He would - deliver us from evil, He could not intend that we should contradict what He had instructed us to ask in a former petition, viz. that God's “ will” might “ be done in earth, as “it is done in heaven." « This is the will of “ God, even our sanctification." And the method by which He chuses to carry on and to finish this great work in the souls of His people, is by affliction and death. Against the experience of these, therefore, we cannot pray for absolute defence. There is no real adversity but sin. Moral evil is the only evil from which we need to be solicitous for protection. This therefore our church teaches us to deprecate in the various circumstances of trial to which we may be exposed. If we are in a state of poverty, we are not warranted to pray for a state of opulence; but we must beseech Him, that we may be kept from the various temptations to sin which may arise from such a situation that we may be defended against a spirit of impatience and discontent, which would prove adverse to the peace of our minds, to our growth in grace, and to our preparation for heavenly happiness. If we are laid on a bed of sickness, we are not authorised to pray, absolutely, for a restoration of health ; but we must solicit grace that we may glorify God in the furnace of trial, and come out of it, either by recovery or death, as gold purified in the fire. Are we in a state of persecution ? We are not at liberty to seek exemption from it, but that we may be defended against a murmuring and revengeful temper under it, and that we may be enabled to rejoice that we are “counted worthy to suffer for Christ's “ sake.” It is needless, and indeed would be impossible, to recount all the various scenes of tribulation incident to the church of God, or the dangers which are appropriate to each. It is a consolatory thought, that God knows them all, and that while we sincerely pray for defence against them, He will be our shield.
Our collect supposes a consciousness in those who use it, of utter inability to defend themselves, and to withstand the slightest temptation. They acknowledge that by grace they are saved, not only from the fear of hell, but also from the power of sin. They look to Him who alone is
able to keep them from falling and to present “ them faultless before His glory with exceeding
joy." We address the throne of grace" through « Jesus Christ our Lord.” In Him all our trust is reposed, for “we put none in any thing that " we do." To Him we look for the acceptance of our prayers, for the justification of our souls, for defence against all adversity, and at length for an abundant entrance into His everlasting kingdom. We know that our “ tears need to o be washed in His blood, and that our repent“ances need to be repented of."*
* Beveridge's Private Thoughts.
THE SUNDAY CALLED QUINQUAGESIMA, OR THE
NEXT SUNDAY BEFORE LENT.
O Lord, who hast taught us, that all our doings without charity are nothing worth; send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of churity, the very bond of peace, and of all virtues, without which wohosoever liveth is counted dead before thee. Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
HE practice of converting precept into
in our collects, manifests a spirit both of humility and faith. It bespeaks a consciousness of inability to fulfil the statutes of God without His grace, and at the same time answers the objections which unbelief is prone to raise against religion from the difficulty of its duties. For it teaches us that, although we are insufficient of ourselves to comply with the holy and blessed will of God; yet this affords no excuse for disobedience or sloth, since in Christ all fulness dwells, and humble supplicants are sure to derive from His fulness grace to help in every time of need. In our collect for Quinquagesima Sunday, which was drawn up for the use of the church in the year 1549, we are taught to pray for the communication of a particular grace to our hearts, which we are enjoined in Scripture to cultivate. “ Above all these things,” says St. Paul, after having enumerated several other graces, “put on charity, which is the bond of
perfectness.” Col. ii. 14.