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have sinned and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not : He will deliver bis soul from going down into the pit, and his life shall see the light.” In the verse just before, it is also declared, “ He shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him.” (Job xxxiii. 26-28.) These are great and all-sufficient encouragements to prayer.
Meditate on another promise made to those who pray. “ Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jer. xxix. 12, 13.)
What we have to pray for, is expressed in very simple and few words. To be “ mercifully delivered,” is what we desire. Persons in real and distressing want, express that want in few words. “ Forgive us our trespasses !” “ Deliver us from evil!” These are the simple but very comprehensive petitions, taught us by our Lord himself.
3. With confession and prayer, we unite adoration. We glorify Christ, as being exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto his people, and remission of sins. We plead our cause in his name, and we worship him as equal with the Father and the Holy Ghost in their eternal power and godhead. But observe most particularly how, in this Collect, we adore God for bis “ goodness.” This is the attribute by which he delights to be addressed : “ Thou art good, and doest good.” What a proof bath he given us of his infinite kindness, in parting with his own dear Son, to die for our salvation ! • Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us, and gave bis Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John iv. 10.) " 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 ?” (Romans viii. 32.)
Be comforted then, when you lie most low in your own eyes before a throne of grace, and remember that he who sits upon that throne is full of mercy, goodness and truth. Your pardon, your acceptance, your redemption, all contribute to the praise of the glory of his grace. You may boldly entreat him, in the language of the Psalmist, “O remember not against us former iniquities : let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us, for we are brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name : and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name's sake.” (Ps. Ixxix. 8, 9.)
The great mistake to which, above all things, fallen man is most inclined, is that of imagining that he can, by his own goodness, in some way merit God's favour. Near akin to this, is another proud error; the idea, namely, that he can by his own wisdom and strength attain to holiness, and secure good success in his various undertakings. These are first-rate and leading mistakes in religion. The man who entertains them, knows neither God nor God's law, nor the nature of the Gospel, nor yet his own vileness and weakness. He
has every thing to learn : he must go down to the lowest form. He must begin with the lesson of humility.
The Collect for this Sunday will assist us in doing this ; for it breathes the genuine spirit of an humble-minded believer. In it we are led to use the language of entire self-renunciation. There is no room left for boasting of any thing we ever have done, or of any thing we can do, or ever shall do. We appeal to the heart-searching God, and solemnly profess before him, “ that we put not our trust in any thing that we do.” Consider this in several particulars.
1. First, in regard to the obtaining salvation by our own goodness. Can we thus merit beaven ? Observe the doctrine of Scripture ; “ By the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified.” - All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans iii. 20—24.) “ By grace are ye saved, through faith : and that, not of yourselves : it is the gift of God : not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians ii. 8, 9.) :- Agreeably to this view, we find the holy Apostle Paul pleading, not his own goodness, but the merits of his Redeemer. His ardent desire he thus expresses ; " that I may win Christ, and be found in bim, not having mine own righteousness which is of the law ; but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (Phil. iji. 8, 9.)
We read in the Gospel (Luke xviii. 11) of a character just the opposite of this; namely, the Pharisee; such an one as St. Paul was before his conversion, and such as he afterwards desired never again to be. This Pharisee is described by our Lord as standing in the tenple, and praying thus with himself; “ God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican : I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” Plainly this man could not say, “I put not my trust in any thing that I do.” On the contrary, our Lord expressly pourtrays him as one, who trusted in himself that he was righteous. His language was vain boasting, not prayer. Such a character is rejected by God : for “ every one that is proud in heart, is an abomination unto the Lord.” “He giveth grace to the lowly; but the proud he beholdeth afar off.”
Take now an instance of the opposite of this Pharisaic character. Read the history of that holy, devoted, self-denying man, Nehemiah. When by the grace of God he had done any good action, he was accustomed to bring it before the Lord, as a man who had no trust in himself: all his plea was-free grace: “ Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy.” (Nehemiah xiii. 22.)
When God is in any respect particularly gracious to us, it becomes us with so much the deeper humility to confess our own unworthiness. Yet such is the natural pride of our hearts, that we are easily puffed up with a little kindness shewn us by God; fancying that he has seen some virtue and merit in us, for the sake of which he favours us. This proud thought must be beaten down. Look at the case of the Israelites: their character was but a picture of our hearts ; and we need the very same rebukes, which were given them. “ Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the Lord thy God hath cast out the nations from before thee, saying, for my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations, the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee; and that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deut. ix. 4, 5.)
2. Secondly, as we have no righteousness or merit of our own to shew before our holy Judge; so likewise have we no wisdom or strength in ourselves, by which we may trust to do any thing that is good. What language can be found more completely self-renouncing in this respect, than the declaration of St. Paul ? " Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves : but our sufficiency is of God.” (2 Cor. iii. 5.) The right way to view a Christian, is, to regard him as a man whose wisdom and strength would utterly fail, if he were in the slightest degree to trust himself : but being conscious of his owu ignorance and infirmity, he betakes himself to God in all his difficulties, and the Lord by his Holy Spirit delivers, helps, and guides him. Our rule is, “ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding." Comply with this command, and you shall find the promise faithfully performed on your behalf—" the Lord shall direct thy paths.” And shall a man who has thus been blessed, go and boast as if his own wisdom were the thing that had helped him ? It cannot be. Say rather, “ Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake.” (Psalm cxv. 1.)
This Collect therefore sends us on bended knees to implore the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, as our only defence against the wrath of an angry God, our only deliverance from danger, temptations and adversities. Jesus, of his own free mercy, pardons all who repent of their sin, pleading the merits of his blood. Jesus, by his own good Spirit, freely given to all who pray, enables us to walk in wisdom, to subdue sin, and to follow after holiness. To Jesus therefore be all the praise of our salvation. “I will sing of thy power ; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning : for thou hast been my defence and my refuge in the day of my trouble. Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing ; for God is my defence, and the God of my mercy.” (Psalm lix. 16, 17.)
The subject of this Collect is taken from the Epistle for the day ;-one of the most beautiful chapters in the Bible. We here address the Lord as our teacher, concerning divine love. Whom should we desire for our instructor and example in this holy art, but the Lord himself ?.“ God is love:" he hath so loved us, as to give his Son to die for us : and the first-named fruit of the Spirit is love. From God therefore let us seek to obtain this most excellent gift of charity.
Let us observe what is the lesson taught us on this subject, and what is the prayer which we consequently offer up to God.
1. The lesson taught us is simply this, “ That all our doings with· out charity are nothing worth.” The apostle Paul has mentioned
several kinds of works, such as men are apt to glory in ; all of which fall into the back-ground, and are to be considered as worthless, in comparison of the grace of love. Eloquence is very attractive : yet it is no better than sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal, a mere empty jingle of fine words, if it be without love. The same may be said of deep learning, and the power to work the most amazing miracles : the man who possesses these gifts, or any other remarkable talents, if he have not love, is as nothing in the sight of God. Were a man to be so bountiful, as to give all his substance to the poor, or so selfdenying as even to give his body to be burned, he would gain nothing from God, if love were not the ruling motive of his heart. Many are admired as charitable, because they give away much money, who, nevertheless, are destitute of charity. The love of God and of their Saviour, does not reign in their hearts.
Let us carefully look within, and see what is our character before God. Let us not deceive ourselves with outward appearances.
2. Upon this short but awakening lesson, we are led to ground the prayer which forms the remainder of this Collect.
• Send thy Holy Ghost.” Without the aid of God's Spirit, we shall for ever remain cold, hard, and selfish, and yet self-admiring. For self is the idol of unregenerate man, an idol which nothing but Almighty power can throw down.
We pray that God would bestow upon us “ that most excellent gift of charity.” It is spoken of as a gift. It is the best of all gifts: it is heavenly : it is godlike. We ought to covet it most earnestly.
The language of the Collect is peculiarly forcible here. “ Pour into our bearts” the gift of love. The fountain is God : from him alone flows every grace, like streams of living water, through Christ. And whither should it flow? What shall receive it? Oh, let it flow into our hearts : here is the place for the free gifts of God to be received. Let this heart of ours be emptied of self-love, self-seeking, self-applause, self-interest, self-righteousness : let the whole accursed family of self be driven out, and let us by the help of the Holy Ghost learn to love the Lord our God, with all our heart, and with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength ; and love our neighbour as ourselves.
Moreover, “ charity is the very bond of peace and of all virtues.” Where love is, there is quietness. A loving family dwell in unity and joy : strife is unknown among them : they have no quarrels to make up. A church in which love reigns, is a blessed society; honourable to God and happy in itself. A heart.filled with love, is full of all other Christian graces. Patience is there, with kindness; humility too is there; benevolence and beneficence are there ; no one grace is wanting, where love is the master of the heart.
Love is the “ bond” of all virtues. A bond is that which holds other things together. The fable of the bundle of sticks is well known. A dying father called his children around his bed, and shewing them a bundle of sticks fast tied together, bid them try to break it. One tried, and another, but none was able. Then undoing the cord, he set them to break the sticks one by one, which was easily
done, and quickly too. So, my children,' said he, if after my death you fall to quarrelling, you will soon all of you be broken : but if you remain united, none will be able to injure you.' Such is the power of love to hold together all persons and all things that come under its influence. On the contrary, take away this bond, untie this holy cord, and quickly pride enters the heart: the Spirit of God is grieved, prayer is less fervent, we grow cold towards God and towards man: we become unkind, hasty, envious, selfish, humoursome, revengeful, factious, unquiet, discontented, and, in short, the authors of much misery to ourselves and others. Therefore above all things, let us pray for grace to be clothed with charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
And let our prayers be the more earnest, as remembering that all religious profession without love, is but a state of death. There is no middle state between love and hatred, in the view which the allseeing God takes of our character. We either love God and holiness, or else we hate God, and every body and every thing that is good. Perhaps for a long time no marked occasion draws out our bad dispositions : but if enmity be there, God sees it, and reckons with us accordingly: nor will opportunity be wanting to set our evil feelings in motion. He that liveth without love, is counted dead before God. He is not united to Christ. What if God should say to any one of us, “ I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” What if Christ should say to us, as he did to the Jews of old, " I know you that ye have not the love of God in you!”
If any who have received this grace, are beginning to grow lukewarm, let them remember this message to the church at Ephesus. (Rev. ii. 4.) “ I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." Oh, let us be quickened to repent, and do the first works. And may the Spirit of God make us meet for that kingdom of heaven hereafter, where all is holiness, and harmony, and joy. Amen.
The Collect for this day is appointed to be used throughout the whole of the season of Lent. The petitions which we address with so much importunity to the Almighty and Eterval God, are founded on those great doctrines which the Apostle Paul declared to be the sum of all his preaching : they are in fact the substance of the whole Bible, namely, “ Repentance toward God, and 'faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. With this view let us consider each part of the Collect, carefully comparing it with the blessed truths of Scripture.
1. First, we appeal to the goodness of God. “ Who hatest nothing that thou hast made.” God is love. There is nothing which he can be said to hate, but sin. This he calls “ that abominable thing which I hate.” (Jer. xliv. 4.) But sin is not a thing of God's making. It was brought into the world by Satan ; and if a man will love sin, then God must hate him, even as he hates Satan, for his sin's sake. Yet God is so long-suffering, even to obstinate rebels, that he pleads