Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

than others, he will tempt us to be supercilious despisers and contemners of others.

5. Now, O Christian, it is a very hard matter, and thou wilt find it so, thus to turn thee about to every assault; and that man had need to have his spiritual senses well exercised that shall be able dexterously to do it. Now when so great circumspection is scarce sufficient for our security, how can they possibly escape without fearful wounds and gashes in their consciences, who are supinely negligent of their souls, and mind not which way their thoughts, their passions, their affections incline, and so give the Devil a handle to turn their souls by which way he will! Certainly if we do not buckle our spiritual armour close to us, but suffer the joints of it by our heedlessness to lie open, the Devil may easily wound us wheresoever and in whatsoever part he pleaseth. And truly if, through this inadvertency and want of circumspection, Adam in the state of innocency and the state of uprightness fell, when the Devil had no immediate access or admission into the inward faculties or powers of his soul-yet if Satan, who was but a young, unpractised, and inexperienced Devil, could prevail with him by his wiles to ruin himself and to betray the great trust which God had deposited in his hands for all his posterity,--how much greater, may we think, is his advantage over us, into whom he may insi. nuate himself and his temptations, and when we are busy about other things strike and wound us at unawares.

“ Secondly, besides this inadvertency, the Devil hath another grand advantage to lead us into evil, and that is because we are naturally prone and inclined of ourselves to those very sins to which he tempts us. It is very hard for that place

to escape that hath enemies without and traitors within. So stands the case with us, we are not only beleagured, but betrayed; there are in our hearts multitudes of lusts that hold intelligence with the Devil and espouse his cause. Yea, there is no one sin, how vile and profligate soever, but it may find partisans in our base and wicked hearts, wherein are the seeds and principles of all impieties; and therefore as things of a like nature presently concorporate (as we see one drop of water diffuseth itself and runneth into another so temptations to sin ineeting with a sinful nature are presently entertained, and as it were embodied together; for whilst we pursue what Satan tempts us unto, we do but pursue what our own natural lusts and corruptions inclined unto before, waiting only for an opportunity of being called forth into act.

" And therefore considering both the advantages the Devil hath against us, and the great disadvantages under which we lie, (he a spirit, we but flesh-he wise and subtle, we foolish and ignorant-he experienced, we raw and unpractised—he diligent and watchful, we careless and negligent-he laving a close siege to us without, and we betraying ourselves within it must needs be ascribed only to the goodness and grace of God to deliver us from the commission of that evil, to which we are so fiercely and cunningly tempted.""*

In a situation so helpless as ours, and under circumstances apparently so desperate, what hope of safety or deliverance can arise ? None, assuredly, from any exertion of our own wisdom or strength. But “the right-hand of God's

* Bishop Hopkins on the Lord's Prayer, p. 146, &c.

« shall I eat, what shall I drink, and wherewithal « shall I be clothed,” are the questions which have engrossed the whole of their attention ; while the all-important inquiry, “ What shall I do to be “ saved,” has never occupied a serious thought. And even among those persons who are well informed in the theory of Divine truth, there are many who know nothing more than the theory, They have no clearer conceptions of it than a blind man would have of light and colours, to whom some friend had communicated, through the organ of hearing, the system of philosophy, It may moreover be oberved that those who have been taught of God, and in consequence of Divine instruction have been brought to an experimental acquaintance with the doctrines of the gospel, need to be continually reminded of them. For so treacherous is the sinful heart of man, that, as inscriptions made on the sand of the seashore are in danger of being obliterated by the next returning wave, so every religious impression is liable to be erased from the human breast by the next worldly object that is presented, unless God is pleased to perpetuate and deepen it by His Word and Spirit.

That man is a lost sinner, and that his salvation must be wholly of and from God--that man has destroyed himself by sin, and is incapable of becoming his own saviour; insomuch that if he be delivered from the wrath to come, and be restored to the favour and image of God, his deliverance and restoration, in their rise, progress and accomplishment, must be the effects of infinite mercy and almighty power—these are the leading truths of Divine revelation, which are inculcated, in different modes of speech and in various striking images, throughout every part of the Bible. These truths which are thus proclaimed and enforced in the Scriptures, are incorporated with every page of our national liturgy, and form the basis of every act of worship which is prescribed for our use. What the book of Revelation teaches us to believe, the book of common prayer teaches us to practise. In that repentance and faith are described, in this they are acted. In that we learn our need of salyation and the way of obtaining it; in this we reach out our hand, and take of the fruit of the tree of life—we eat, and live for ever. .

The collect for the fourth Sunday in Lent may be considered as an epitome of the Liturgy; it is a compendious repetition of all those acts of repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ which are elsewhere enjoined. It is an echo of the voice of God which cries, “ Repent ye and believe the Gospel.” We cannot therefore dispute the truth of those declarations which the Scriptures make about our misery by nature, without falsifying the devotional arowal of our own lips, and proving ourselves to be hypocrites in our solemn acts of worship.

Our collect consists of—A bumble confession that “we worthily deserve to be punished," and An earnest petition that "by the comfort of “ God's grace we may mercifully be relieved, " through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

This confession is made by all those persons who join in our service. It is designed for the use of all the members of our church; not only of those who have been gross transgressors of the Divine law, but of those also who have « escaped the pollution which is in the world “ through lust.” And it is with the strictest

propriety adapted to the lips of all men : for though there is a difference in the degrees of guilt which men have contracted, there is no distinction of innocent and guilty persons, since “ all have sinned and come short of the glory of “ God.” And though the degree of punishment apportioned to the measures of guilt will certainly vary, yet in all instances the “ wages of sin is “ death” everlasting; and “ if we say that we “ have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the “ truth is not in us." Two inquiries will free this confession from all ambiguity, and enable us to determine whether we have been honest in making it or not.

The first question that arises from this confession relates to the extent of that punishment which we acknowledge that we have deserved. And on the answer which we give to this question will depend the degree of humiliation we shall feel while we avow our guilt, and the degree of earnestness with which we shall implore relief. Now unassisted reason can make no satisfactory reply to this inquiry, because it cannot ascertain the malignity of sin, nor duly appreciate its demerit. Human reason, in its present fallen state, enveloped in thick mists of ignorance and biassed by self-love, is sure to form a wrong estimate on this, and indeed on every other theological question. To the solution of the question proposed Omniscience alone is competent, because it depends on the nature of God against whom we have transgressed-on the quality of our obligations to Him as our Creator and Law-giver and on the natural powers bestowed on man in his creation-state before sin had impaired them; for the law considers man as created and not as fallen in its

« AnteriorContinua »