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God through the propitiatory sacrifice* of the Messiah. The broken-hearted publican went down to his house justified, while the pharisee with all his self-confidence was dismissed with a frown. This is a specimen of the Divine procedure in every case.
“God filleth the hungry “ with good things, but the rich He sendeth
empty away”. Let us then inquire whether that mercy, of which the gospel is a revelation, be our only plea or not. Do we exclusively rest our hope of success in our prayers on this ground? Let not the inquiry be carelessly made; for “the heart is deceitful above all
things.” The pharisee no doubt thought himself to be right in his act of worship; but he was awfully mistaken. Let us therefore scrutinize our own souls with close attention, lest any root of pride and self-righteousness remain unmortified in our bosoms; for the self-emptied penitent alone is acceptable to God.
For the purpose of conciliating the Divine regard to our supplications, we proceed to remind our almighty Friend that we are “ His “ people.” This intimation is not, however, to be considered as contradictory to the plea which we have before urged. For that blessed relation to God, which we here claim, is not founded on personal merit. No: this argument is in perfect unison with the former, since hereby we recall to mind that mercy, which God has already bestowed on us in making us His people, and encourage ourselves therein. “Lord, “ if thou hast chosen us to be thy people, and “ hast brouglit us near to thyself, notwith“ standing all our unworthiness of so great a
favour; surely thou wilt now hear our pray« ers, and confer upon us all needful blessings." The inference deducible from this consideration resembles that of the Apostle; “ He that spared " not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us “ all, how shall He not with Him also freely give “ us all things." The motive which we thus address to Divine compassion is of a very forcible nature, and has been frequently used. In this manner Moses reasoned with the Lord God of Israel, when Pharaoh, in consequence of the message which Moses brought to him respecting the liberation of Israel, made their yoke more heavy, and imposed on them severer tasks. “ Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, " Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil intreated “ this people? Why is it that thou hast sent “ me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak “ in thy name, he hath done evil to this peo
ple; neither hast thou delivered thy people at “ all.” They are thy people; thou hast acknowledged them to be such; and yet thou hast not granted them the promised deliverance. The success of this appeal immediately appears. It was all that Moses could wish. On another
. occasion, when the Lord had refused to go up in the midst of Israel, on account of their rebellion against Him, Moses urged the same plea, and with like success. “ Consider," said he to the Lord, “ that this nation is thy people. “ And He said, My presence shall go with “ thee, and I will give thee rest."
And (to mention but one instance more) when Israel had provoked the Lord at Kadesh-Barnea, so that the Lord had said He would destroy them; Moses fell down before the Lord forty days and forty nights. And what was the argument
which he used for turning away the fierce anger of the Lord? Let us attend to his prayer: "O "Lord God, destroy not thy people, and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through "thy greatness, which thou hast brought forth "out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Remem"ber thy servants, Abraham, and Isaac, and "Jacob; look not to the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their "sin: lest the land whence thou broughtest us out say, Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which He promised "them, and because He hated them, He hath brought them out to slay them in the wilderness. Yet they are thy people, and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest out by thy mighty power and by thy stretched-out arm." It seems that this argument is irresistible, when urged in penitence and faith; for no sooner had Moses finished speaking, than "the Lord said, "I have pardoned according to thy word."
What encouragement then have we in beseeching the Lord "mercifully to hear the "prayers of His people !" of His people!" For has not He said concerning us also, “ They shall be my people, and I will be their God?" And do we not read, that "the Lord's portion is His peo
ple, Israel is the lot of His inheritance?" Do we not also stand in a covenant-relation to Him, as Israel did, having been "baptised in the "name of the Father, of the Son, and of the
Holy Ghost?" Are we not thereby made, professionally at least," members of Christ,
children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of "heaven?" And has not God, as a party to the covenant, stipulated to hear "the prayers "of His people which call upon Him?" But if,
in addition to this external relationship, we can moreover claim an interest in His promises, demonstrated by the witness and seal of His Spirit in our conversion-if we can prove our Divine election by our effectual vocation; then indeed wę may view ourselves as "a chosen generation, "a royal priesthood, a peculiar people;" and may clearly infer our right, founded on the covenant of grace and its gratuitous and rich promises, to all the blessings of time and of eter nity. We may indeed ask in faith, nothing doubting. But can we urge this latter consideration? If we avouch the Lord to be our God, we may be sure that He hath avouched us to be His people. If we have chosen Him as our portion, and surrendered ourselves up to His service, we need to entertain no doubt whether He hath chosen us: for His grace is preventing grace, and, consequently, is the cause, not the effect, of repentance, faith and obedience.
There is yet another concise but energetic hint in this introductory part of our collect, the mention of which must not be omitted. We remind the glorious object of our adoration that we belong to the people" which call upon Him." This brief intimation is a volume of argument comprised in four little words. For therein we appeal to the Divine faithfulness, and found thereon a humble claim to success in our application. It is as much as to say, "Lord, thou hast bid us to ask, and promised that we "shall receive. Thou hast bound thyself to
thy praying people by the credit of all thy "Divine attributes, which thou hast pledged for "the fulfilment of these promises, which are in "Christ Yea, and in Him Amen, to thy glory. "Thou hast sworn by thyself, in addition to
"thy promise, that by two immutable things, in "which it is impossible for thee to falsify, we "might have strong consolation, who have fled "for refuge to the hope set before us. Lord, we now call upon thee; let it be unto us according to thy word." Undoubted is the success of those, in whose hearts the Spirit thus maketh intercession. But it must be observed that we cannot claim the fulfilment of the promise, unless our prayer be unfeigned and the language of faith.
Having made these remarks on the introductory petition of the collect, we proceed to consider-The request which is subjoined for a knowledge of our duty, viz. that "we may per"ceive and know what things we ought to do."
Perception and knowledge are nearly synonyms, and are used as convertible terms; though the latter was probably intended by its station in our collect, to express a higher degree of conviction than the latter. We" perceive objects so soon as the morning-light dawns ; but we cannot accurately distinguish their colours and shapes till the day be fully broke. There is the same difference in the apprehensions of the children of God concerning spiritual objects; for the path of the just is as the shin"ing light, which shineth more and more unto "the perfect day." When our eyes are first anointed with Divine eye-salve, like the person to whom Jesus restored sight, we see men as trees walking. The objects of faith are somewhat confused and indistinct to our view. But when the great Physician has again touched our eyes, we see all things clearly.
Our duty respects the law of works, or what is incumbent on us as God's creatures;-the
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