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“their lips,” by adopting the service of our church, while their hearts are far from him!” Let profession be brought to the test, before it be confided in. For, in the awful day of the Lord Jesus, many will say, “Lord, Lord, have we not “ prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast « out devils, and done many marvellous works;" “ to whom he will reply, “I never knew you;
depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
The inquiry, What renders a sinner“ accep"table in the sight of God,” and what will secure to him acceptance before the Judge at his coming; is most awful and weighty. Acceptance in the sight of men is easily attained ; but it is of no value. The approbation of conscience may be, through ignorance, no evidence of Divine favour. Acceptance “in the sight of God” should be the object of earnest pursuit, and the method of obtaining it the object of sedulous inquiry.
All men are by nature in a state of condemnation through sin. They are rejected as reprobate silver. In this awful state we must eternally have continued, if no provision had been made for our justification in a way irrespective of human merit. But, Blessed be God! Christ died to atone for the sins of the world, and obeyed his own law for the justification of the ungodly. To teach the way of salvation through faith in him the gospel is preached. And whosoever repents and credits the report it makes, so as to believe in Him, “his “ faith is counted for righteousness;" he is “jus“ tified from all things, from which he could not “ be justified by the law of Moses.” An act of Divine grace frees the believer from condemnation, which act the process of the judgment-day will recognise and ratify. The ground of human acceptance “in the sight of God,” then, is the merit of the Mediator. The act by which we become interested in it, is faith. And the proof that we are so, is the “ obedience of faith." In the Divine act of justification there are no gradations. But of “mcetness for the inheritance “ of the saints in light" there are degrees of attainment, proportioned to the measure of faith and of the gift of Christ.
Oh! with what fervency should we rehearse the collect before us, imploring for ourselves, our fellow worshippers, and all mankind, that we may be “found acceptable in His sight, who “ liveth and reigneth with the Father and the “ Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end!” May the heart and lips of every member of the church add, with a holy fervour, “ Amen!”
THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT.
O Lord, raise up (we pray thee) thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas through our sins and wickedness we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us, through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord; to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
HE collect for the fourth Sunday in Advent
is a composition of very great antiquity, being found in the most antient liturgies. In some of them, however, it is appointed for the first Sunday in Advent instead of the fourth. It is a very pleasing thought that, while we are using the prayers
of the church, we are, for the most part, making requests of the same kind and in the same words, which the people of God have used for almost eighteen centuries. *
Our wants, our pleas, and even our expressions, are in unison with those of the primitive Christians.
The collect before us contains—An importunate prayer for Divine interposition on our behalf-A statement of our case, as rendering that interposition indispensably necessary to our relief-A repetition of the request in other words -The meritorious ground on which our hope of success is founded—and A doxology, or ascription of praise.
* An account of the antiquity to which some liturgics have a claim will be found in Wheatly.
The language which is here prepared for our use, is not such as cold formality suggests; but it is the expression of deep distress, and the dictate of fervent desire. Let triflers with religion be silent, lest they mock the Searcher of hearts by the use of words with which their feelings bear no correspondence. Let the self-sufficient formalist, and the careless worldling, refrain from the adoption of petitions which would proclaim aloud their hypocrisy. The state of heart to which our collect is exclusively appropriate, may be illustrated by that of a drowning man; if indeed any just conception can be formed of the energy of his soul in calling for help. The dangerous situation in which he is placed admits not of lengthened argumentation on the subject. “ Save! I perish,” is the short but comprehensive cry, which one should expect to hear; and to hear it importunately repeated, either till help was obtained, or his voice silenced by the overwhelming stream.
As our congregations are mixed bodies, consisting both of those who have the form of god" liness without its power, and of those who, using the form, feel also the vital influence of religion, it is impossible that all the prayers which are offered should be suitable to every individual worshipper. And as it is the will of the adorable Head of the church, that “the children should “ first be fed,” it was proper that the forms of the church should express their sensibilities and describe their wants, while other parts of the service are accommodated to a more general use. In the prayer before us no unawakened person can
join without flagrant insincerity; for he perceives not, that he is “ tied and bound with the chain “ of his sins;" he is unconscious of any spiritual race which he has to run; he is aware of no difficulties in the work of preparation for a state of future happiness.
The penitent worshipper, however, enters into those views which the primitive Christians had in the use of this importunate prayer. He finds in himself the same wants and the same impediments which they found; he has the same conviction of the importance attached to success in his religious warfare, and experiences in his own bosom the same daily struggle between sin and grace, between unbelief and faith, of which they complained. He knows therefore the necessity and value of omnipotent interference for the support and advancement of his soul in faith and holiness, and the truth of that interesting declaration, that “without Christ he can do nothing.”
For the exertion therefore of Almighty power to convert and renew his heart the conscious sinner continually and fervently prays; for he is assured, that no other agency can succour him. And so sharp is the contest, so severe the trial, that he sometimes apprehends his case to he nearly desperate, and yields to an unreasonable fear that God either cannot or will not afford the needful aid. His faith is at so low an ebb, that he can only breathe out the hesitating language of doubt, “ If thou canst do any thing, “ have mercy on me and help me.” That which is to others a subject of indifference, or perhaps even of profane ridicule, causes him to groan “ being burthened.”
It is carefully to be observed, that all the genuine members of the church believe a real VOL. I,