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Ghost to convince the heart of its unbelief and self-righteousness. John xvi. 9. Let us remember that our collect is an appeal to Omniscience, that therein we call God to witness the truth of our asseveration. We invoke Him as conscious of our sincerity. Our negation is corroborated by an attestation of the Divine Being, and has therefore the nature of an oath. If we falsify, are we not guilty of perjury? And yet, tremendous as the thought is, may we not fear that many persons make this declaration, “ Lord “ God, thou seest that we put not our trust in « any thing that we do," while they feel no concern about the salvation of their precious souls, or are trusting in themselves for justification before God? Can the Searcher of hearts look upon me, when using this prayer, and pronource on me the eulogy which He pronounced on Nathanael, « Behold an Israelite indeed, in “ whom there is no guile”? Sincerity is a correspondence between the heart and lips. Genuine churchmanship supposes a cordial communion and harmony with the sentiments of the church, as well as with her rites and ceremonies. And if a separation from the latter be schismatical, a discordance from the former is heretical. O let us then inquire, What is the basis of our hope towards God? To what do we trust for success in our addresses to the throne of grace? In the performance of good works, in what do we confide for their acceptance? In the prospect of death and of a judgment to come, on what is our affiance placed ? Christ must be exclusively the Saviour of our souls, or He will be no Saviour to us at all. His honour will He not give to another, nor suffer His merit to be confounded with any supposed worthiness in the sinful acts of man.
The consequence' therefore of putting our trust in any thing that we do, must be fatal to our eternal welfare. For it proves us to be in a state of ignorance both with respect to ourselves and God, to be intirely destitute of faith in Christ, and therefore under condemnation for our sins, and to be disqualified for joining in the work of heaven, which is to sing, “ Worthy w is the Lamb that was slain, to receive glory, « and honour, and blessing." • If it should be thought by the reader that the ellipsis in our collect may be differently filled up, and that instead of being supplied with a view to justification before God it may more properly be completed in the following manner, “O “ Lord God, who seest that we put not our “ trust in any thing that we do for the purpose 66 of defending ourselves against all adversity, “ either of body or mind,"—if this sense should be preferred, the author will not contend for his own. But he observes that these separate lines of interpretation will meet at last in the same point. For if we sincerely renounce self-confidence in one respect, we virtually renounce it in all respects. If we cannot, by our own obedience, justify ourselves before God, neither can we, by our own strength, defend ourselves from the innumerable evils to which we are exposed. This latter view of our own impotence will claim our attention in several of the succeeding collects. And the former is explicitly acknowledged by our church in the prayer that immediately precedes the consecration prayer in the communion service. . We proceed now to consider the earnest prayer to Divine Omnipotence, which is founded on the foregoing appeal to Divine Omniscience,
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, and 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 colJect furnishes an appeal to the faithfulness of God. He has assured us, that He “ will regard so 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 ? Oh'no: 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 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” miglit “ 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
in heanctificatione carry
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,