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The people of God therefore cannot entertain slight thoughts of sin, the wages of which they know to be death eternal, and the guilt of which they have learned under the cross of their atoning Lord. Our church instructs us, in our present collect, to consider even our sins of frailty as possessed of a binding power. They bind us over to punishment: and unless we were to obtain absolution from them, they would bind us in “ chains of everlasting “ darkness," from whence there would be no «. escape till we had paid the uttermost farthing' of our debt; and as this involves an impossibility, “ the flame of our torment would ascend up for
ever and ever.” The penalty of the violation of God's law, in every instance, is death. And every devious thought or desire incurs that tremendous penalty.
O how proper, how necessary, then, is the constant and fervent adoption of our collect! For if, through faith in Christ, the offences of yesterday have been pardoned, we need to-day absolution froni new offences. O that selfexamination and reflection may recommend our collect to more fervent and frequent use, and render the house of God, while we recite it, a penitentiary to our souls!
The nature of the blessing which we implore next calls for our attention. What is absolu . “ tion?" It is, as the very word implies, a deliverance from the bands of sin. To absolve is to loose from something wherewith the absolved person was bound. Now the guilt of sin is twofold, * intrinsical and formal, or extrinsical and adventitious. The intrinsical or formal
* See Bishop Hopkins's Exposition of the Lord's Prayer, p. 87, 4to edit,
guilt of sin is the desert of punishment. This cannot be removed. For the sins of justified persons do, in their own nature, deserve punishment as much after they are forgiven as they did before. The pardon of a traitor doth not annihilate the treason of his actions, nor render them unworthy of death. Pardoning grace cannot alter the nature of sin.
But absolution is a deliverance from the bands of sin, or from the obligation to punishment on account of it. The law of God connects sin and punishment together. It threatens eternal death as the reward and wages of sin. Now absolution is a deliverance from those bands by which our sins, as transgressions of the law of God, had bound us over to eternal damnation.
This is the blessing which we implore; and can we ask a greater? For if every sin is a band or chain, the token of our disgrace, and the prelude of our destruction, Oh! with how many are we bound! As fast as one is loosened by pardon, we implicate ourselves in others. Constant prayer for absolution is therefore , necessary
But it may be asked (and a solution of the question is essential to the peace of an enlighte ened conscience )--How can God loosen our bands? How can He free us from the obligation to punishment, without infringing the honour of His own law, violating His own fidelity, and trampling on the rights of immutable justice? The answer to this question is “ the great mystery of Godliness.”. This question our church solves in the conclusion of her collect, where she teaches us to pray for absolution “ through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The
law makes no objection to a vicarious interpo. sition. The fidelity of God in His threatening is preserved equally inviolate, whether the punishment be inflicted on the original transgressor or on a proper surety. The rights of immutable justice are secured in either mode of requiring satisfaction. The penalty of sin must be endured either by the sinner or by one who stands in his stead. Now a substitute hath been provided-One every way qualified to atone for our sins—One who was enabled, by the adorable dignity of His person, to satisfy every claim that could be made. He has been bound with our chain; the bands prepared for us were imposed on Him. He “ suffered, the just for “ the unjust.” And, in consequence of His obedience, God can be “just and the justifier “ of him who believeth in Jesus." From hence arises our confidence in prayer while we implore the forgiveness of sins.
We consider, in the last place, the earnestness with which the request of our collect is urged; a degree of earnestness in some small measure proportioned to its importance. The petition offered is expressed, explained, repeated, and enforced by that name which must prevail. This fervency will not be thought irrelevant, if the foregoing particulars have been duly weighed. For the necessity of absolution is so great, that excessive importunity to obtain it is impossible. Let the reader inquire whether his sensibilities coincide with the energetic language of our collect.
Let the habitual “ worker of iniquity” consider his state and tremble. For if the sins of frailty, of which the saints are conscious, bind
over to punishment, unless they be forgiven, what a weight of guilt has every impenitent sinner lying on his head !
“ If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly “ and the sinner appear?” Oh! that, if these pages should fall into the hands of any careless transgressor, he may be stirred up to seek for deliverance from the bands of his siņs before it be too late!
THE TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
HE children of this world cleave wholly
to the dust of the earth as their portion. The curse of the serpent (Gen. iii. 14) whose children they are, is exemplified in their hearts and lives; for they lie prostrate on the ground, feeding on its dust, without any desire to arise from the state of degradation to which they are reduced. They are “ carnally minded,” which - is death" both in its nature and consequences, and yet are neither alarmed nor humbled on account of it. On the other hand, the children of light “groan being burdened,” because their souls cleave to the dust, because there remains a carnal affection in their hearts. Their judgment and their choice lead them to seek those things which are above; yet they lament that their souls often grovel on the earth. Instead of soaring, like the early lark, heavenwards in faith and love, they frequently find themselves crawling like the worm on the dunghill. Others perhaps think them fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; but to themselves they appear dull and lifeless. They therefore beseech God to excite their affections and to invigorate their endeavours, that they may rise superior to worldly