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THE FIFTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy church, with thy perpetual mercy; and because the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable for our salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
UR present collect is a prayer for preserving grace
in the first petition more generally expressed—and in the second more particularly explained. In discussing the collect we shall not however follow this order; but shall considerThe motive of the request which is made-The general nature of the blessing which is implored -Its extent-Its source and the channel of its conveyance.
The motive of our request is the frail and helpless state of the church and of every member that belongs to her communion. “The frailty of man “ without God cannot but fall.” It is a motive,
”. the force of which every conscious bosom must feel, both as it applies to us in our individual capacities and as members of the Christian church.
The salvation of lost sinners must be wholly of grace. It was grace which contrived and executed the plan of redemption; and it is grace which “opens our eyes, and turns us from dark“ ness to light, and from the power of Satan “ unto God, that we may receive reinission of
sins, and an inheritance among them who are “ sanctified by faith in Jesus.” It is, moreover,
grace that maintains the life of God in the soul of man, when it hath been kindled there; for
kept by the power of God, through “ faith, unto salvation, ready to be revealed in
the last' times.” But of the necessity of Diyine grace for these momentous purposes the unconverted mind is unconscious, and therefore it cannot cordially implore it. Unawakened sinners may recite the collect of our church; but the sensibilities of their souls cannot correspond with its request. If they allow a part of the glory arising from conversion and conservation to be due to Divine grace, they, at the same time, arrogate a part also to themselves. If the necessity of pardoning mercy be verbally admitted, the admission is clogged by meritorious conditions which the criminal is
supposed to be capable of performing by his own power, for the purpose of depriving God of that glory which He claims in His word. If faith and repentance be allowed to be essential to salvation, they are perversely considered as acts of the human mind independent of Divine grace. If it be granted, that a holy walk is
. indispensable, all that can be required is represented as being within the ability of man. The true member of our church has, however, far different views of the subject. He knows that " the frailty of man, without God, cannot but
fall,” fall first into sin, and then into hell; that, unsupported, he must fall so as to rise no more. And therefore he joins heartily in praying, Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy “ church with thy perpetual mercy:” “ Keep
us evermore from all things hurtful, and lead “ us to all things profitable for our salvation, “through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The propriety of this prayer will appear, if we consider- The difficulty of a Christian's work—And his own depravity and helplessness.
The difficulty of a Christian's work is immense, and insurmountable by the strength of fallen man. According to the common notions of Christianity it is indeed easy enough. For an assent to Divine truth, exterior decency of deportment in our commerce with the world, and formality in our religious duties, constitute its aggregate. The necessity of self-renunciation, of a life of faith on the Son of God, of mortification to sin and the world, of a heavenly conversation, and of real devotedness in heart to God, is excluded from the modern system of Christianity, and represented as the reverie of a disordered understanding, if not as a juggle of designing hypocrisy. Nominal Christians consider their bodies and souls, their time and talents, as their own; and the language of their conduct is, “Who is Lord over us?" And it is therefore no wonder, if such a request as that of our collect should fail of exciting the sensibilities of their hearts.
But if the awful requisitions of Scripture, our baptismal engagements, and the preparatives for coming to the Lord's supper as they are stated in our prayer books, be duly weighed, it will appear that the Christian's work is arduous indeed. The habit of true reperitance, genuine faith, and spiritual obedience, is not attended with those facilities which men in general suppose to be attached to it. “To renounce the « devil and all his works, the pomps and vani" ties of this wicked world, and all the sinful “ lusts of the flesh; to believe all the articles of " the Christian faith; and to keep God's holy
“ will and commandments, walking in the same « all the days of our lives,” requires the agency of God's “special grace" to be continually exerted on the heart; as the preface prefixed to the Lord's prayer in our church-catechism in
“ A true repentance for our former “ sins, a steadfast purpose of leading a new life, “ a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ, " a thankful remembrance of His death, and “ charity with all men,” loving our neighbours as ourselves, are things from which the corrupt heart of man is so totally abhorrent, that they can only be produced and maintained within us by God's omnipotent power.
For the depravity of human nature is so great that “in us, that is, in our flesh, dwelleth no “ good thing." Previous to conversion we have no will to that which is good; but are utterly averse from it, and prone to all evil. There is a direct contrariety between our carnal hearts and every thing that is “holy, just, and good.” And even after conversion “the flesh still lust“eth against the Spirit, so that we cannot do “ the things that we would.” (See Rom. vii.) ~ Wherefore we have no power to do good works,
pleasant and acceptable to God, without the
grace of God by Christ preventing us, that “ we may have a good will, and working with “ us when we have that good will.” (Art. x.) Our collect doth not merely say that the frailty of man without God may peradventure fall, but that it must of necessity fall. If Adam, though created in the image of God and endued with sufficient strength for maintaining his allegiance, -if he, forewarned of his danger, and under the awful sanctions of promises and threatenings, warın, as it were, froin the lips of the great
Lawgiver, and involving not only his own happiness or misery, but that of all his posterityif he fell, “ Let him” among the degeneraet children of Adam “ that 'thinketh he standeth, “ take heed” of trusting in his own strength for ability. The dreadful declensions of eminent saints, such as David and Peter, demonstrate the truth of the position in our collect, that “ the frailty of man, without God, cannot but 6c fall.”
We proceed to consider the general nature of the blessing which is implored. It is the conservation of the church, and of ourselves as her members, in the faith and fear of God. In praying for this blessing we consider ourselves as called out of a state of nature into a state of grace, as “justified freely through the redemp• tion that is in Christ Jesus,” and as partially sanctified by the agency of the Holy Ghost. For unless we were brought into a state of salvation, it would be absurd to pray that we may be kept in it. But it is supposed that, as professed members of the Christian church, we are " regenerate and made the children of God by
adoption and grace;" and as such we pray that by the same grace, through the ministry of the word and sacraments, we may be so kept from the power of inward corruption and of outward temptation, that we may not disgrace our holy profession, wound our own souls, grieve the Spirit of God, be cut off from communion with Him, and lose our part in the heavenly inheritance.
The genuine believer in uttering this prayer is conscious of his own weakness, and of the danger to which he is continually exposed. He knows by painful experience which frequent