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If it be required what religion binds us to believe, we may safely refer to the articles of our church, as containing an epitome of the doctrine of the Bible. Let these be compared with the Scriptures; let the example of the noble Bereans be followed, and the Scriptures be searched for the purpose of determining whether these articles be true; and it will befound that they contain the truth, and nothing but the truth, and likewise, by expression or implication, all that is necessary to be believed in order to salvation.
If a further question be asked, what religion binds us to do (for religion consists of faith and practice, both of which are essential parts of its composition) a reference may be made to the ten commandments. And these may be summed up in two comprehensive duties, love to God and love to man. For " the end of the
commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, "and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” 1 Tim. i. 5.
From this brief definition of “ true religion” it will appear that, when we pray for the preservation of the church therein, we beseech God to maintain in His household an orthodoxy of belief and holiness of conduct, that He would guard it from heresy, impiety, and superstition, which are the grand enemies of “true religion ; that His church may be " like a tree planted by “the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his “ fruit in due season, whose leaf shall not "wither,” and whose fruit shall abound to the glory and praise of God. O how important and comprehensive a petition ! What Christian man is there, but most join in it with heart and voice.“ O Lord, we beseech thee, keep thy
• church aud household in thy true religion, in “ the profession of the faith which was once “ delivered to the saints,” in the cultivation of every Christian grace, and in the practice of every Christian duty. Let “ faith work by love" throughout all its borders. Suffer not the weeds of heresy to flourish in it, the sacrilegious hand of schism to rend it, the alloy of superstition to debase it, the ague of indifference to chill its blood, nor the foul spots of vice to degrade its dignity or deform its beauty. Let thy royal
daughter be all glorious within, and her clothing be of wrought gold.” Let
Let her be " “sented unto thee in raiment of needle-work, and with joy and gladness be introduced to thy presence. If the sap be diminished in any branch of the ecclesiastical tree which thou hast planted, and its fruitfulness of consequence be prevented, O Lord renew its union and communion with its Divine root. Restore it to vigour and fertility. May the leaven of infidelity, superstition, impiety, and immorality, be purged from the whole lump; and may it be newly leavened with faith, purity of worship, devotedness to thee, and universal rectitude of conduct. Particularly we commend to thy care that valuable member of thy mystical body to which we belong. May the church of Eng!and live before thee; and be, as hitherto, a peculiar object of thy favour! May her doctrine and worship be preserved, and may discipline be revived in her establishment.* May she continue, to the end of time, a conservatory of thy truth and a witness for her Lord, exhibiting, in the spirit and conduct of all her members,
* See the Cominination service,
the genuine effects of a true faith in her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ ! “Finally, whatsoever
things are true, whatsover things are honest,t “ whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things “ are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, what“soever things are of good report,” may these exist and abound among us! Then shall we indeed be called “ the city of righteousness, - the faithful city.”
We need not have gone further than the subsequent part of our collect for a definition of true religion, as it exists in the hearts of all the genuine members of the church and household of God. It is a reliance “ on the hope of God's
heavenly grace.”. This is the substance of it; and though the definition may be verbally extended, every addition made to it must be a ray emanating from this central point. “True
religion” is “ faith working by love." A dependence on the grace of God for salvation and the hope of eternal life is the foundation of practical religion, on which the whole superstructure of Divine worship and personal holiness must be built. It is the only root on which the fruits of righteousness can grow. And let it be carefully observed, that this faith is not a mere act of the understanding, but a Divine principle habitually influencing the will and affections; for with the “ heart man believeth “unto righteousness, and with the mouth con“ fession is made unto salvation."
Do we then “ lean only on the hope of God's • heavenly grace ?" Is His mercy, as it is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord, the sole basis of our hope towards God? Do we excusively
+ Marg, reference, “Venerable." VOL. II.
depend thereon ? By the answer which conscience gives to these questions we may determine whether we are true members of “ the “ church and household of God” or not, for this is the description which the church hath herself given of all her children,
Let us not hastily pass over this inquiry, nor dismiss it without close self-examination. To « lean” is to rest ourselves on that which we suppose to be capable of supporting us. Το “ lean only” on any prop employed by us, is to rest our whole weight on it exclusively of any other support, and without any dependence on personal ability. Do we thus “ lean” on the grace of God, “not trusting in our own righteous“ ness but in His manifold and great mercies, for pardon, acceptance, sanctification and glory?-But what is it that we confide to this prop? It is nothing less than the “ hope” of eternal life; all our expectation of an escape from the wrath to come, and of an inheritance among the saints in light. Do we view, with an awakened eye, the magnitude of that which we confide to the grace of God? And are we so satisfied with the revelation which is made of that mercy, and with the channel through which it flows, that we can rest our hope entirely upon it ? Then may we indeed infer our membership "s with the os church and household of God."
The hope which God's heavenly grace affords, is a “hope which maketh not ashamed.” The hope of the penitent believer's bosom is founded on a certainty; for it is built on the basis of Divine truth, exhibiting “ grace which reigns “ through righteousness unto eternal life by Je“ sus Christ our Lord.” The hope of the gospel may therefore afford full satisfaction to the mind, and be avowed without fear or shame; for it shall never be productive of confusion to those who possess it. That “heavenly grace” which, flowing from above, leads thitherwards, can never disappoint those who trust in it. They have present evidence of its efficacy, and of their own interest in it, from its transforming power on their hearts and lives. Thus they are “sealed “ with the Holy Spirit of promise;" and this is
an earnest of the inheritance, until the redemp“ tion of the purchased possession unto the praise • of God's glory.”
That faith which our collect describes is
not only the common belief of the articles of our faith, but it is also a true trust and confidence in the mercy of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and a steadfast hope of all good things to be received at God's hand ; and that although we, through infirmity, or temptation of our ghostly enemy, do fall from Him by sin, yet if we return again unto Him by true repentance, He will forgive and forget our offences, for His Son's sake, our Saviour Jesus Christ, and will make us inheritors with Him of His everlasting kingdom; and that in the mean time, until that kingdom come, He will be our protector and defender in all perils and dangers, whatsoever do chance; and that, though sometimes He doth send us sharp adversity, yet evermore He will be a loving Father to us, correcting us for our sins, but not withdrawing His mercy finally from us, if we trust in Him, and commit ourselves wholly unto Him, hang only upon Him, and call upon Him, ready to obey and serve Him. This is the true, lively, and unfeigned Christian faith, and is not in the mouth and outward profession only, but it liveth and stirreth inwardly in the