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THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
Grant, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people pardon and peace; that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve thee with a quiet mind, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
NOR this shall every one that is Godly
“ pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found,” O “ merciful Lord;" for thy faithful people” discern their need of pardon and peace.” They know that " in
thy favour is life,” and therefore estimate aright the importance of obtaining and preserving it.
Our present collect, though very concise, is very weighty and comprehensive. It consists of-An earnest prayer for “ pardon and peace" - And a specification of the ends for which these blessings are implored.
In the petition we shall be led to consider,The character of the persons who pray-The blessings implored--The manner of praying for them which is adopted—And the character which is drawn of Him to whom the prayer is adáressed.
The persons on whose behalf prayer is made in our collect, are characterized as God's faithful people. The necessity indeed of pardon is common to all persons, at all times, and in all places. “Enter not into judgment with thy “ servant, O Lord; for in thy sight shall no
“ man living be justified,”—is language suitable to every fallen child of Adam; and therefore in the Lord's prayer which is designed for general use all are taught to implore forgiveness. And our church, in the collect now before us, in the general confession, and in the petition which is annexed to each of the ten commardments, instructs all her members to ask for mercy, knowing that “ there is no man who “ liveth and sinneth not;" that the most highly sanctified of all the sons of men has much sin to be daily blotted out by the
of Divine pity, dipped in the detergent fountain of atoning blood.
But though all men need the blessing of pardon, we ask it only on behalf of God's “ faith“ful people,” among whom we reckon ourselves, Because none else feel their need of it, and will cordially join in imploring it, none else are qualified to receive it, none else can be partakers of it. For thoug'i the grace of pardon is proposed to transgressors as such, and the promises are made to sinners without any reference to personal merit or congruity, yet it is evident that the rebel must be restored to a sense of his rebellion against his rightful sovereign, and the traitor to a cordial acknowledgment of his treasonable spirit and practice, before either of them can be considered to be in a state of mind suited to a reception and improvement of royal mercy. The propriety of thus characterizing those who supplicate pardon, is justified by a text of Scripture which has been already cited: “ For this, says the Psalmist, after having mentioned the forgiveness which himself had received from God, “ shall every one that is Godly pray unto $6 thee in a time when thou mayest be found.”
The grace of God is needful to discover to us our need of pardon, and to suggest the hope which encourages an address to the throne of mercy. It is faith which shews us the evil of sin, its guilt, and the danger which results from it. Without faith pardon can neither be obtained nor enjoyed; for it can only flow from Christ as He is believed on in the heart.
It may be said that every believer is already pardoned, and that there is therefore an impropriety in putting a prayer for remission of sins into the mouths of God's “ faithful people.” To this it may be answered, that the Lord's prayer is our model for supplication, and that therein our Lord's disciples, who are true believers, are taught to pray for the pardon of their sins. The truth is, that pardon is a repeated or continued act of Divine mercy, hourly needed, and hourly to be implored and embraced by faith for the maintenance of peace in the conscience and of love. in the heart. And it may be moreover remarked, that although all genuine believers are pardoned from the time that they become such, yet all of them do not enjoy the comfort of a lively hope that they are so; and that those who have obtained mercy, and have a good hope towards God, do not permanently experience the same degree of satisfaction in their bosoms on the momentous subject. Fresh adhesions of guilt to the conscience occasion bereavements of Divine conso. lation, and drive the penitent to the throne of grace for renewed discoveries of “ pardon and “ peace."
The nature of the blessings which we implore is the next thing which requires our attention. Sin, as “ the transgression of the law," renders
us liable to punishment, even that punishment by which Divine Justice has sanctioned its holy commandments. Now pardon is a removal of guilt, the consequence of which is an exemption from the changer of punishment. The pardoned person is no longer liable to be treated as a criminal; he is “ passed from death unto life" with relation to the law of God. The pardon of sin is altogether a free gift, an act of mere grace, as it respects its objects; though it is a dearly purchased blessing, and an act of strict justice, as it respects our Surety. It is a benefit in which inviolable equity and boundless compassion are united. God is “ faithful and just, as well as merciful, in forgiving the sins of those who penitently confess their sins and believe in Jesus Christ. The inestimable value of this blessing may be inferred from the price it cost, the danger from which it rescues its objects, and the length of the golden chain of which it forms the primary link. The series of consequences resulting from redemption, of which pardon is the first gradation, terminates in eternal life.
But a sinner may be pardoned through faith in the blood of the Lamb, and yet not enjoy peace of conscience; just as a criminal may be freed from the sentence of the law which had been passed on him by the mercy of his prince, and yet remain for a considerable time under apprehension of death. For till he is apprized, by credible testimony, of the mercy which hath been extended to him, his fears will continue to prevail. Now that pardon and peace are not always contemporaries in the experience of believers, is evident from Scripture. For St. John
rote unto some persons “ who believed on the
" name of the Son of God, that they might “ know that they had eternal life, and that they “ might believe on the name of the Son of God" with a faith of assurance for the perfect satisfaction of their minds. (1 John v. 13.) For wise reasons a gracious prince who has signed the instrument of pardon in favour of a convict, sometimes suffers him to remain in ignorance of the grace extended to him, even till he arrives at the gloomy spot appointed for the execution of criminals--not because the prince is reluctant to communicate happiness, or takes pleasure in the protracted anguish of the felon; but because the felon's own profit, and the benefit of others, require such a delay. In like manner “ the God of all grace" sometimes withholds from His people those tokens of His favour which would assure their hearts of an interest in His pardoning love, or suffers their own remaining unbelief to preclude them from the enjoyment of His salvation, for a longer or shorter space, according as His wisdom directs, even after that they are made partakers of justifying faith. To " dwell safely,” and to bę
quiet from fear of evil," (Prov. i. 33) are dif. ferent things; for though both spring from faith in Jesus, they are different gradations of privilege, and arise from different degrees of the same principle. It is with good reason therefore that to our petition for “ pardon” we add ano. ther for “ peace.” Herein we pray for a removal of all those obstacles in ourselves which hinder a full discovery of Divine goodness to our souls, that we may be prepared humbly and thankfully to receive the blessing of remission, that our unbelief may be helped and our faith increased. A conscious sinner cannot rest in