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THE NINETEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
O God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee; mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. THE desires of God's people respecting a
conformity to His blessed will have been uniformly the same in all ages. As the echo corresponds with the voice that produces it, so does the believing soul, when breathing its wants in prayer, with the commands of God in every age and under every outward circumstance of life. The same conviction of inability prevails in all who are “ taught of God," and all look to the same source of help for the inability which is needed. What David near three thousand years ago implored for himself, we also implore in our collect for this day, and with the same convictions and sensibilities, if indeed our lips and our hearts be in unison. “Teach me,” said the penitent Psalmist, “ to do the thing that pleaseth thee, " for thou art my God: let thy loving Spirit lead “ me forth into the land of righteousness.' “ He requesteth to be fully instructed in the will of Him, whom as his Lord and his “God” he hath determined to serve and obey. But conscious of his own inability to do the will of
* Ps. cxliii. 10. The Psalter version is quoted, because it more exactly corresponds with the phraseology of our collect.
Jehovah, even when known, he intreateth the good Spirit of God to “ lead” him out of the mazes of error, and the pollutions of vice, into the pleasant land of truth and holiness."'*
Our collect consists of-A humble confession And an earnest petition.
To please God is the holy ambition of every regenerate person. This was the anxious desire and endeavour of the blessed apostles. They laboured that, whether present or absent, they might be accepted of Him. (2 Cor. v. 9.) They exhorted all their followers to “walk as. “children of light, proving what is acceptable “ unto the Lord;" (Eph. v. 8, 10.) To “offer “ up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God " through Jesus Christ;” (1 Pet. ii. 5.) To ". endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus “Christ;" and not to “entangle themselves with " the affairs of this life, that they might please “ Him who had called them to be soldiers." (2 Tim. ii. 3, 4.) And not contented with exhortations, they prayed on behalf of all their disciples, that “they might be filled with the know« ledge of the Divine will, in all wisdom and “spiritual understanding; that they might walk " worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being “ faithful in every good work, and increasing in “the knowledge of God;" (Col. i. 9, 10) and that God would “make them perfect in every “ good work, to do His will, working in them “ that which is well pleasing in His sight, through “ Jesus Christ.” (Heb. xiii. 21.)
A regenerate soul can have no satisfaction in himself
but from a humble hope that both his person and his duties are pleasing to God. For the
* Bishop Horne,
favour and smile of his heavenly Father are becoine his portion. Therein he makes up his happiness. Independent of Divine approbation, nothing can communicate peace or pleasure to his mind. For he is convinced that in God's fa“ vour is life.” Thus “a good man is satisfied “ from himself:” (Prov. xiv. 14) not from himself, or his own righteousness, as opposed to the merit of his Redeemer, but from himself, as opposed to those extrinsecal and vain sources of satisfaction to which the worldling applies for consolation. “ The testimony of his conscience,” enlightened by the word and Spirit of God, that both his person and endeavours, though the former be sinful and the latter imperfect, are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, affords him a satisfaction, even in the deepest scenes of outward adversity, which the world can neither give nor take away. (2 Cor. i. 12.)
A general intention of pleasing God is prayed for by every regenerate person; “ because the end constitutes the specific difference in things moral, as the shape does in things natural. But here it behoveth us to clear up some doubts respecting the intention of pleasing God.”
“1. It is inquired, whether in every good work the actual intention of pleasing God be necessary throughout the whole performance of it? E. G. A dutiful son obeys his parents with the intention of pleasing God: I ask, whether he commits sin in any particular instance of duty, in case he doth not always keep this intention actually in remembrance? I answer; it is sufficient that the intention preceded, and is habitually retained, although it be not thought of in every individual act: for many operations are produced by virtue of a primary intention, when they are no longer accompanied therewith. In like man ner as an arrow is carried to its mark through the intermediate space, by a single effort of the archer, though he neither thinks of the space n r the mark : so by one impulse of the will a good work attains its aim, when the performer no longer thinks of his aim or first intention. The same might be illustrated by the similitude of a traveller, who does not at every step think of the place whither he is going, and yet proceeds strait forwards by virtue of his first intention.”
“ But here two things seem necessary to be noticed : first, that we must labour as much as pos! sible to maintain the actual intention of pleasing and glorifying God in every particular action. Secondly, we must b'ware, lest, after the first good intention, some evil and inordinate intention should arise. For the latter does not derive rectitude from the former; but the former will be marred, corrupted, and defiled by the latter."
- 2. It is inquired. whether it be possible for a regenerate man always to retain this habitual intention of “pleasing God in all things," although occasionally he may fail in many things ? I answer that it is not only possible, but even necessary, if he will keep faith and a good conscience for these do not agree, nor have place in the same heart together with the design of sinning and displeasing God. Therefore every faithful man hath a constant design of pleasing God, and abstaining from sin, according to that declaration of St. Paul, The good that I would, “ I do not; but the evil that I would not, that I 66 do: therefore if I do that I would not, it is no " more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” (Rom. vii. 19.) He that chooseth the good and tefuses the evil, retains the design of pleasing
God, although, under the influence of evil concupiscence, he may sometimes commit that which is displeasing to God; he makes it his main business to please God in all things, while he studies to avoid every individual sin.”
“ 3. It is inquired whether a faithful man, retaining this design of pleasing God, be always acceptable and pleasing to Him, notwithstanding the forementioned failings and infirmities? I answer, first, that the person of a pious and faithful man is always pleasing and acceptable to God; because he is regarded, not as he is in himself, but as a member of Christ the head : “ There is
no condemnation to thein who are in Christ “ Jesus.” (Rom. viii. 1.) Secondly, The good works of believers, although imperfect, are nevertheless pleasing to God, because they are regarded by Him, as a loving Father, not as a rigid Judge; as covered and adorned by the perfect obedience of Christ, not as naked and alone, Lastly, the failings and sins of believers are in themselves odious and displease God; and yet that displeasure affects not their persons. God hates sin therefore in the regenerate themselves ; and for that cause, by the Spirit of grace, proclaims war against it; but the regenerate themselves are, notwithstanding, acceptable to Him, and for that cause He confers on them His favour and His blessing."*
It is supposed that all who join in the recital of our collect are possessed by this holy ambition to please God; for the use of such a prayer would be absurd in one who is destitute of it. Is the reader conscious of this desire ? Is it the labour
* Bishop Davenant's Exposition of the Epistle to the Colossians, chap. i. ver. 10.