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THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
0 Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men; Grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there . be fixed, where true joys are to be found, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“ THE world pasşeth away, and the lust
1 thereof: but he that doeth the will of “ God abideth for ever.” Such was the language which the beloved disciple held, when he addressed the members of the Christian church in his day, for the purpose of arming them against all inordinate affection to the world and the things thereof. And surely, if such considerations were necessary to be suggested then, when Christianity was in its full vigour under the fostering hands of the Apostles, and during the first abundant effusion of the Spirit when persecution raged and when the disciple of Jesus was daily exposed to martyrdom, they cannot be unnecessary to be repeated now in these dregs of time, when the church of Christ has lost its primitive purity and energy--when outward peace, security and prosperity have, as it were, clipped the wings of devotion--and when the love of many waxeth cold. I; It is certain that every professor, who is unconscious of the ensnaring power of the world, and of a .
criminal attachment to it in his own bosom, is destitute of self-knowledge, and is not of those who are fighting manfully against the world, the flesh, and the devil. For the cure of this moral distemper, the worldliness of the human heart, serious reflection on the empty and tran-, sitory nature of the world itself, and of our inclinations after it, is prescribed by the Apostle whose words we have quoted. The world itself, this beautiful frame of nature, and all possibility of deriving gratification from it, will soon cease for ever; and then all those who have set their hearts upon it, and made it their portion, will perish with it. Then the sensualist, the voluptuary, the glutton, the drunkard, and the covetous, feeling wants which will never be relieved, desires which will never be accomplished, and pains which will never be allayed, will experience in the agonies of regret, disappointment, and despair, the torture which is occasioned by the worm that never dieth." But the believer in Jesus who doeth the will of « God," who is habitually “crucified to the “ world, and to whom the world is crucified," who lives in a course of humble obedience to the will of God through faith which worketh by love, “shall live for ever." He shall abide in a state of grace throughout this mortal life, and after it shall be advanced to a state of eternal glory.. batikge2 su Sat 9d JORD 32 But the way of man is not in himself: " it is “ not in man that walketh to direct his steps." To regulate the state of our own hearts, and the course of our own lives, is out of our power. The world is our natural element, so that a change of nature is necessary to qualify us for ting it and living in another. Like the cel,
we grovel in the mud, unable to rise to the surface and soar above it, till we are made “ new creatures in Christ Jesus.” “By prayer " therefore and supplication" our requests, on this subject as well as on every other, must be " made known to God.”. And this we do in a concise and appropriate form of sound words · prepared for our use on this day.
Our collect for the fourth Sunday after Easter contains an introduction a petition--and the end for which that petition is offered.
The introduction ascribes glory to Divine Omnipotence, by a declaration of our belief that God can perform that which is beyond the reach of all finite power that which is more difficult than the government of the stormy wind and tempest, or of the raging ocean -- more difficult than the reduction of the chaotic mass in which the atoms of the heavens and the earth first appeared to that order and beauty in which they now subsist. “God," and God " alone,” by His “ Almighty' power, can "order the 66 unruly wills and affections of sinful men.”
It is to be observed that in this prayer we are speaking of ourselves; for ourselves supplication is here made as appears by the pronoun “our's in the concluding part of the collect, though we are taught to speak in the third person for the charitable purpose of including in our request all the members of the Christian church. We then are the “ sinful men” and women, whose « unruly wills and affections' require Omnipotence to controul and govern them. Each of us may say, “I am a sinful man, O Lord.” But are we conscious that we are “ full of sin," and that “in us, that is in our flesh," in our · whole constitution, independently of renewing
grace, “dwelleth no good thing?" If not, we shall not feel any necessity for this act of supplication, nor be able cordially to unite in it. Our church-service is adapted to the use of conscious sinners and of none else. Indeed no forms of prayer or praise, no religious worship can be adapted to any other persons here on earth.
The faculties of the human soul are usually stated to be threefold--the understanding, the will, and the affections. The two latter of these are mentioned in our collect, and the former is implied. For the will cannot be regulated, nor the affections directed into their proper channel, without a previous illumination of the understanding. The understanding being the directive faculty, the will and the affections depend on its decisions.
The will, instructed by the understanding, is the regent of the affections. · It is the power of choosing or rejecting whatever is proposed to it by the understanding. In a perversion of the will consists the essence of our fall; for, misled by the ignorance of the mind, it invariably chooses what God hates, and delights in that which 'He abhors; and it detests and rejects all that He approves. Conversion also, which re.. pairs the injnry that we have received by the fall, has a principal relation to the will; for it restores the elective faculty to its proper office, and gives to it its primæral tendency. is
The " affections“ or passions of the soul are the servants of the understanding and will. Our desires and aversions, our love and hatred, our joy and sorrow, our hope and fear, are governed by the superior powers of the mind. For according to the représentations of the intellectual,
and the bias of the elective faculty, the passions are excited to action.
Now it is acknowledged in our collect that our « wills and affections” are in an unruly?', state; and the truth of the acknowledgment is sanctioned and established by the word of God. For “the carnal mind is enmity against God; “ it is not subject to the law of God, neither - indeed can be." And even after conversion has taken place, our « wills and affections” are still turbulent and tumultuous as the winds and waves, so that He only who "s gathereth the “ wind in His fists,” and who said authoratively 'to the sea, “ Peace, be still,” can manage them.
That our wills and affections are not intirely. under the regulation of the Divine law, is a confession in which all may properly join. For, though all - God's people” o love the law of « God after the inner man,” yet they all “ find 66 another law in their members.” In them all “ the flesh” still “lusteth against the Spirit, so " that they cannot do the things that they “ would.” Conversion is a gradual work which God carries on in the hearts of His people, till, at length, their will is lost in the Divine will, and their affections flow, invariably and with a full tide, to Him as their point of attraction. During the present state, however, even those who are " turned from darkness to light and “ from the power of Satan unto God," may truly concur in the humiliating confession, that " God alone can govern their unruly wills and « affections.” Let the restraint of His power be suspended, and they “start aside like a "s broken bow.” Let the slightest temptation assault them, and the tendency of the needle to its due point of attraction is disturbed. The