« AnteriorContinuar »
Army of invisible Enemies, employing to overcome us, and not less formidably because imperceptibly, all the Stratagems, that Heaven allows them to use; this, as it increases our Danger, may well quicken our Prayers for Safety and Deliverance. That there should be evil Angels, as well as evil Men, of the greatest Abilities and Accomplishments, is, if rightly considered, no great Wonder: and that both should intice us to Sin, is no scasonable Discouragement: for let ys but apply to God, and we shall not be left in the Power of either. What the Power of wicked Spirits is, we are not told in Scripture : and it is no Part of Religion, in the least, to believe idle Stories about them. Of this we are sure, that they have no Power but what God permits : and He will never permit them to do, what shall prove in the End, any Hurt to those, who serve and fear Him. More especially we are sure, that they cannot in the leaft, either force us into finning, or hinder us from repenting. Invite or diffuade us they may, by suggefting falle Notions of the Pleasure, or Profit, or Harmlesiness of Sin: by representing God, as too good to be angry, or too fevere to be reconciled: by describing to our Imaginations, Repentance to be fo easy az any Time, that it is necdless now; or so difficult now, that it is too late and impofiible : by putting it into our Thoughts, that we are so good, we may be confident and careless; or so wicked, we must absolutely de!pair. It concerns us therefore greatly, not to be ignorant of. their Devices'. But, provided we keep on our Guard ; earnestly apply to God, and are true to ourselves; neither their Temptations, nor those of the whole World, shall prevail against us.
For then only, as St. James gives us to understand, is every Man tempted dangerously, when he is drawn away of his own Lust, and enticed m. The Enemy within therefore is the moft formidable one: and against this it is chiefy, that we are to watch, and pray, that we enter not into Temptation : remembering
? 2 Cor. ii. 11.
James i. 14.
always, that how willing soever the Spirit may be, yet the Fleh is weak
And now let us obferve, in the last Place, under this Head, that as we are to pray against being led into Temptation ourselves, we should be very careful, never to lead others into it; but do every Thing that we can, to keep them out of it, and deliver them from it: and that, as begging God's Help that we may ftand, must be grounded on a strong sense of our Proneness to fall; we should fhew great Compaflion towards them, who, through the fame Proneness, have fallen. Brethren, if a Man be overtaken in a Fault; ye, which are spiritual, restore such a one in the Spirit of Meekness : considering thyself, left thou also be tempted
Thus we have gone through the fix Petitions, which compose the second part of the Lord's Prayer; and thew it to be worthy of its Author, by diftinctly comprebending, in so little room, whatever is necessary for the Honour of God, and our own Good, both temporal and spiritual. What remains further, is, to speak briefly of the third Part, which concludes the whole, by ascribing to our heavenly Father, the Praise due unto his Name P: acknowledging here more expressly, what indeed hath been throughout implied, that His is the Kingdom, the rightful Authority and supreme Dominion over all : His the Power, by which every Thing just and good is brought to pass; His therefore the Glory of whatever we his Creatures do, or enjoy, or hope for; of whatever this Universe, and the whole Scheme of Things which it comprehends, hath had, or now hath, or ever shall have in it, awful or gracious, and worthy of the Admiration of Men and Angels. And as all Dignity and Might and Honour are His; so they are His for ever and ever : originally, independently and unchangeably. From everlasting to everlasting He is Godt: the same Yesterday, To-day, and for ever':
These Words then are, at once, an Act of Homage
• Gal. vi. 1.
P Pfalm xxix. 20 a Ps, xc. 2• Heb. xiii. 8.
to his Greatness, and Thanksgiving to bis Goodness : both which ought ever to have a Place in our Prayers ; and the Conclusion is a very proper Place. For the infinite Perfections of God our Maker, which we thus celebrate, are the best Reason poflible for every Petition that we have offered to Him: and therefore our blessed Lord introduces them as the Reason. For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory. Besides, ending with these Acknowledgments will leave them fresh and strong upon our Minds : especially as we finish all with that folemn Afleveration, Amen : which is a Word used in Scripture, only upon serious and important Occafions, to confirm the Truth and Sincerity of what is promised, wilhed, or affirmed. It relates therefore equally to the whole of the Prayer : and is in Effect declaring, that we do heartily believe whatever we have faid, and heartily desire whatever we have asked.
This Expreffion therefore may remind us, that sur Prayers Thould always be composed, both in such a. Language, and in fuch Words in that Language as all, that are to use or join in them, are well acquainted with. For else, as St. Paul argues, How shall he, that occupieth the Room of the Unlearned, fay, Amen: feeing be understandeth not what thou sayest?
And it thould likewise remind us very strongly of another Thing, if poffible, yet more important: that we lhould never say to God, what we cannot say with the utmost Truth of Heart. Now with what Truth, or what Pace, can any Person, that lives in any Sin, repeat the Prayer which our Lord hath taught us, and say Amen to it; when every Sentence in it, if well confidered, is inconsistent with a bad Life? Let us therefore consider both it and ourselves very carefully, that we may offer up our Devotions always in an acceptable Manner. For the Sacrifice of the Wicked is an Abomination to the Lord: but the Prayer of the Upright is bis Delight'.
I Cor. xiv. 16.
* Prov. xv. 8.
L É C T U RE
The Nature and Number of the Sacraments.
THE far greatest Part of the Duties which we owe
to God, Aow, as it were, of themselves, from his Nature and Attributes, and the several Relations to Him, in which we stand, whether made known to us by Reason or Scripture. Such are those, which have been hitherto explained to you: the ten Commandments; and Prayer for the Grace, which our fallen Condition requires, in order to keep them. But there are still some other important Precepts peculiar to Christianity, and deriving their whole Obligation from our Saviour's Inftitution of them: concerning which it is highly requisite that our Catechism should instruct us, before it concludes. And these are the two Sacraments.
The Word Sacrament, by virtue of its Original in the Latin Tongue, fignities any sacred or holy Thing or Action: and among the Heathens was particularly applied to denote, sometimes a Pledge, deposited in a facred Place; sometimes an Oath, the most sacred of Obligations ; and especially that Oath of Fidelity, which the Soldiery took to their General. In Scripture it is not used at all. By the early Writers of the Western Church it was used to express almost any Thing relating to our holy Religion ; at least any Thing that was figurative, and fignified somewhat further than at first Sight appeared. But afterwards a more confined Use of the Word prevailed by Degrees : and in that stricter Sense, which hath long been the common one, and which our Catechism follows, the Nature of a Sacrament comprehends the following Particulars. · Edep, Elem. Jør. Cive pe 238. Gronov, in Plaut, Rud. 5. 3. 21.
1. There must be an outward and visible Sign: the solemn Application of some bodily and sensible Thing or Action, to a Meaning and Purpose which in its own Nature it hath not. In common Life, we have many other Signs to express our Meanings, on Occasions of great Consequence, besides Words. And no Wonder then, if in Religion, we have fome of the fame Kind.
2. In a Sacrament, the outward and visible Sign must denote an inward and spiritual Grace given unto us: that is, some Favour freely bestowed on us from Heaven; by which our inward and spiritual Condition, the State of our Souls, is made better. Most of the fignificative Actions, that we use in Religion, exprefs only our Duty to God. Thus kneeling in Prayer is used to thew our Reverence towards Him to whom we pray.
And figning a Child with the Cross, after it is baptized, declares our Obligation not to be ashamed of the Cross of Christ. But a Sacrament, besides expressing on our Part, Duty to God, expreffes, on His Part, fome Grace or Favour towards us.
3. In order to intitle any Thing to the Name of Sacrament, a further Requisite is, that it be ordained by Chrif himself. We may indeed use, on the foot of human Authority alone, Actions, that set forth either our Sense of any Duty, or our Belief in God's Grace. For it is certainly as lawful to express a good Meaning by any other proper Sign as by Words. But then, such Marks as these, which we commonly call Cere. monies, as they are taken up at Pleasure, may be laid aside again at Pleasure; and ought to be laid afide, whenever they grow too numerous, or Abuses are made of them, which cannot easily be reformed : and this hath frequently been the Café. But Sacraments are of perpetual Obligation: for they stand on the Authority of Christ; who hath certainly appointed Nothing to be for ever observed in his Church, but what He saw would be for ever useful. Nor doth every Appointment of Christ, though it be of perpetual Obligation, deserve