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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 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 “ 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” 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. 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
Each of us
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, nò 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 repairs 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 primæval tendency.
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 ac. cording to the representations 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 "s 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 “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” “ love the law of <God after the inner man, yet they all “ find " 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 rs affections.” Let the restraint of His power be suspended, and they “start aside like a “ broken bow." Let the slightest temptation assault them, and the tendency of the needle to its due point of attraction is disturbed. The stream of their affections, though restored to its proper channel, is either languid in its course, or ready to overflow its banks, or in danger of being diverted to a devious course.
Now “ God's people” know by painful experience, that He " alone can order their unruly - wills and affections." For they discern that conversion and sanctification are exclusively His work, in their rise, their progress, and completion. It may be asked, How doth God perform His work of “ ordering the unruly wills and « affections of sinful men ?" Doth He destroy the freedom of the will, and put a force on the affections? No; the will must be free, the elective faculty cannot be compelled. But He “ orders the unruly wills and affections of sinful “ men" in their natural state by His providential government of the world, often restraining them from “ fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the “ mind” by " hedging up their way with thorns.” And He enlightens the understandings of His people, and thereby converts the bias of their wills. He exhibits to their view the danger and folly of sin, the vanity of the world, and, above all, the love of Christ; and hereby the important change is begun, carried on, and perfected. He “ draws them with the cords of
a man, and with bands of love,” working on those rational powers with which He has endued them, until reason again becomes, what it was originally designed to be, the vicegerent and obedient servant of the King of kings.
We proceed now to consider the supplicatory part of our collect which is founded on the foregoing introduction. We lift up our hearts to God as His people, and implore grace for a twofold purpose.
First, that we may love the thing which He commandeth. The law of God which contains His commands is “holy, just, and good," and every precept thereof is calculated to promote the glory of God and the happiness of man, proportionably to the extent in which it is obeyed. The path of duty therefore is the path “ of pleasantness and peace.” If nothing could be said in favour of submission to the will of God respecting present advantages accruing from it, yet the prospect of eternity would demonstrate the wisdom of cultivating a spirit of Godliness. But it is certain that piety is as preferable to its opposite, even with respect to present comfort, as the heaven is higher than the earth. For of what doth a humble submission to the will of God deprive us?
Of nothing but what is conducive to misery. It is a deliverance from evil and tormenting passions; it is the enjoyment of Divine and heavenly dispositions. The grand source of the misery which we feel is the disorder and turbulence of our passions. The human heart, in its natural state, may be fitly compared to a kingdom in which confusion and dissention predominate. If we imagine to ourselves a society which is the seat of civil war, and overrun by an invading and merciless foe, in which all law and restraint are abolished, the subjects in arms against their rightful sovereign, a thousand upstart tyrants gratifying themselves at the expence of every thing that is right and just and good, property and tranquillity lost and destroyed, and life constantly in danger, — in such an imaginary . scene of woe, we have a just picture of the state of man, while his unruly will and affections bear the sway in an unconverted state. Holiness