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« shall not have dominion" over those, who “are " not under the law but under grace.” Frequently they appear indeed to themselves to be almost, if not intirely, vanquished; but even when reduced to the last extremity, they revive, their courage is renewed, and victory again declares for them. The glory of God and the final happiness of His redeemed require that the corruption of their nature should for a while exist and struggle for the mastery, in order that His grace may be the more magnified in its destruction at last, and that pride may be for ever hidden from their eyes. But ultimately He will utterly destroy it, and in the interval afford them sufficient grace to maintain the conflict with it. The bush that burned with fire and was not consumed is an apt emblem of the believer's bosom during the present life. Its preservation arose from God's presence in it. A tower beleaguered by its enemies without, and divided by a mutiny within, is apparently in a hopeless state; but, if Omnipotence be engaged for its safety, it cannot be overcome.
But who are those who enjoy Divine protection? Is it a common blessing? Is there no. discrimination among the fallen race of Adam with respect to it? Those only “who trust in God" enjoy it in that extent to which our collect refers. Those indeed “who know not God, and who “ obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ," are defended by God's providential care and restraining grace from innumerable evils, while they continue unconscious of the power by which they are protected. But their deliverances are all of a temporal and outward nature. They have no security from spiritual dangers. They are exposed to the wrath of God, are a prey to the “ roaring
« lion who walketh about seeking whom he may « devour,” and are the miserable captives and slaves of corruption.
The persons then who are favoured with Divine · protection are all those, and those only, “who Go trust in God.” This is one of the most common characteristics of the Godly in the Scriptures. And it is reasonable to expect that it should be so; for faith takes the precedence of all other graces of the Christian character. Those who are here described, perceive their exposure to all the evils of which sin is the meritorious and instrumental cause both in time and eternity. They know their inability to protect themselves; and therefore they confide in God for deliverance from eternal destruction, and from all its preludes and anticipations. Reader, dost thou trust in . God ? Scrutinize the habitual frame of thy heart, and let conscience dictate the reply.
The preface of our collect, continuing its strain of adoration and gratitude, proceeds to say that “without God nothing is strong.” It is happy for us that “ help is laid on One who is mighty " to save, on God manifest in the flesh.” For finite interposition, of whatever kind, could have availed nothing to the expiation of our guilt, or to the conversion of our souls. And even after that we have received the atonement,” and are " turned from darkness to light, from the power “ of Satan unto God;” our strength, independent of God's continual help, is like that of Sampson when his Nazarite-locks were shorn-it is perfect weakness. · Without Divine help the Christian would be, like a machine that has lost its main spring, incapable of motion ; like the machine of nature, were its primum mobile the sun banished from its system; or like the human body,
were air excluded from its lungs and heat from its blood-vessels. All life would be extinguished, and its tendency to destruction would be rapid. No act of Divine life can be performed without that “ strength” which is “made perfect in " weakness.”
Moreover, “ without God nothing is holy.” It is through sanctification of His Spirit that there is any holiness in our persons or acts. His Spirit is therefore called “ the Spirit of holiness." His “ love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy “ Ghost given unto us” is the cause and essence of all sanctity both of heart and life. The will and the power to conform ourselves to His law which is the rule of holiness, are both from God.
On the preface of our collect which we have reviewed is founded a most important petition. For we implore grace “ that, God being our “ ruler and guide, we may so pass through things os temporal that finally we lose not the things “ eternal.” From the connection between the preface and prayer of our collect we may observe, that the promises of God, though their fulfilment is sure, do not supercede the necessity of supplication. For prayer is the appointed medium of communication between God and us. It is, in common with other instituted means, one of those “joints and bands by which nourishment is “ ministered to the members of Christ's mystical body; which, by their instrumentality, maintains its communion with its head. God is bound, by His covenant-relation to His people, to supply all their needs; but He has declared that for this He will be intreated.
Our petition implores an increase of Divine mercy on our souls, that is, a further experience of its riches. There can be no increase of this attribute in God; but there may be a further communication of its fulness made to us, and this we implore. Those who have been taught to “trust “ in God, and who are under His protection," are already partakers of covenant-mercy; for faith and all its effects proceed from it. We have nothing that we have not received from Him. But all the partakers of His mercy want larger and richer supplies. They are daily and hourly pensioners thereon, and they know their dependent state. To be a receiver of mercy is their highest honour and privilege. They never expect to get beyond the need of it; nay, they desire it not. The object of their highest ambition, either in time or in eternity, is a participation of the grace of God.
Our collect being intended for their use only " who trust in God,” it is assumed that He is or the ruler and guide” of all those who join in its recital. For all believers are under His governance and direction. They have been taught that it is both their duty and privilege to submit to the laws of His kingdom, and to give themselves up implicitly to the guidance of His word and Spirit. They have learned that they can only be safe and happy so long as God manages all their concerns, and sways His sceptre over their hearts and lives, defends them from their enemies, and disciplines both their spirit and conduct. The dangers and intricacies of the Christian life are so many and so great that they dread to be abandoned to their own wisdom and strength, and therefore habitually surrender themselves into the hands of Him who is “ the protector of all who trust in Him, “ without whom nothing is strong, nothing is 6 holy.” Let me inquire whether God be my - ruler and guide"-whether I have really yielded myself up to the governance and guidance of His word and Spirit. On this inquiry depends my hope of being enabled “so to pass through things “ temporal as not finally to lose the things “ eternal.”
This is the object of our petition. And, Oh, how important an object it is! Surely the man who is not solicitous about it, is brutish and devoid of rationality. We are only passengers through the present world towards eternity, to which we are drawing nearer every hour: and shall we be unconcerned whether we lose or gain the blessing of eternal life? Indifference on this subject is madness; Anxiety is wisdom.
During our passage through things temporal we are exposed to a thousand dangers every step we take. We are not for a moment secure from destruction, but whilst God is “our ruler and “ guide.” The conduct of Israel through the howling wilderness was miraculous. They were fed, clothed, guided, protected, and saved, by a succession of miracles which God wrought on their behalf. The Christian pilgrimage is also conducted by a continued series of Divine interpositions, less apparent indeed to the eye of sense, but equally manifest to the eye of faith. In God, by a derivation of help from Him, the Christian þeliever lives, moves, and hath his
Without the constant rule and guidance of Omnipotence, a safe transition through the present evil world would be impossible. As well might a man expect to pass through deep and rapid rivers without being drowned, or through a raging conflagration without being þurned. The