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tuary of God.
proeeds to explain how that confession should be made, namely, “ with an humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient heart,” and the reasons for which, “ to the end that we may obtain forgiveness of the same by his infinite goodness and mercy.” This is the great and important truth which meets us, as it were, at the very threshold of the sanc
The scriptures are searched, not for matter of self-satisfaction, or of flattery to our corrupt and perverted passions, but to refer us rather to those passages which require men, “in sundry places” indeed, “to declare their iniquity, and to be sorry for their sin;"* which assert that “ he that covereth his sins shall not prosper;" + and which remind us that we are not worthy “even so much as to lift up our eyes unto heaven.” This formulary admonishes us that, when we draw near at any time unto God, the homage we have to pay is that of a fallen and a miserable creature who has no merit of his own to plead, and no claims whatever of himself on the
mercy and compassion of heaven. If, like Nehemiah, we have petitions to present to the throne of grace, and would venture, in his words, to say“I beseech thee, O Lord God, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his command
* Psalm xxxviii. 18.
† Proverbs xxviii. 13.
ments, let thine ear now be attentive, and thine ears open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant which I pray before thee now ;" * we are reminded, at the same time, that we must not presume thus to address him without adding, like the same holy man, “we have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept thy commandments, nor thy statutes, nor thy judgments" Or if, like Jeremiah, we have occasion to exhort each other, saying, “ Let us lift up our hearts with our hands unto God in the heavens,” † we cannot effectually and devoutly comply with that exhortation without addressing ourselves, like him, ere we venture on the office of thanksgiving, in the language of deep humiliation, unto God, “We have transgressed and have rebelled : thou hast not pardoned.” Thus our own feebleness and our own insufficiency, the principle on which is founded the urgent necessity of our prayers, and the consideration which, increasing, as it does, the sense of our need, should augment also the warmth and sincerity of our devotion—is the first point which is forced upon our notice ere we begin the solemnities of public worship. Dissimulation before God is openly denounced, confession earnestly recommended : and, though we have no ground to hope for forgiveness but the infinite mercy and
* Nehem. xv. 6. + Lam. iii. 41.
goodness of God extended to us for the sake of Christ, yet we are told that that mercy cannot be obtained but by humility, contrition, penitence, and entire resignation to his will.
II. But though these duties of self-abasement are at all times obligatory, the concluding part of the form of exhortation declares that they are peculiarly incumbent on us at our occasional meetings in the house of God. " And although we ought at all times humbly to acknowledge our sins before God, yet ought we most chiefly so to do when we assemble and meet together, to render thanks for the great benefits we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy word, and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary as well for the body as the soul.” And here, again, we have a doctrine in complete opposition to the proud imaginings of the natural heart of man. One might antecedently have supposed that some, at least, of these duties of thanksgiving and praise, and hearing the word, and supplication, the four fold objects of our assemblies in the house of Godcould have been performed without such a preceding exercise of humiliation; but scripture authority forbids the thought. Not unto miserable sinners as we are, does the Psalmist's invitation
apply—“Rejoice in the Lord, 0 ye righteous, for praise is comely for the upright.”* Not unto us, if left alone with our natural infirmities, can be ascribed even the ability to pray aright, when we are assured and “ know that God heareth not sinners.” | Not for us is it to indulge the momentary thought of supplicating, in our own names, the mercies of heaven, who have heard and meditated on those fearful and humiliating words, “ What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous ?. Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints ; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man!” Nay, the very visions that are opened to us of the high transactions of heaven, must help further to remind us of our own unspeakable and entire unworthiness in the sight of God, when we find that the beings who are about the throne, and admitted to the immediate presence of Deity, fall down on their faces before him, in the profoundness of humiliation and self-abasement, as though even they were not meet to gaze on the inconceivable brightness of the glory of God.
We cannot, therefore, presume to appear, in any wise, before him, without first renouncing every claim to merit of our own, and declaring that, in all we ask for, and all we do, our sole dependence is on the merits of Christ, and the infinite mercy of God. Nor can any one office of public worship be performed aright until such an acknowledgement has been duly made. Thanksgiving is indeed abundantly owing for the benefits we have received at his hands; but how feeble must be that expression of gratitude, how unworthy that offering of thanks, which comes from a heart well satisfied with its own corruptions, and which, therefore, appreciates not the infinity of God's mercy, and seeks not, with the right and overwhelming sense of its deficiency, to be cleansed in the atoning blood of Christ! Without confession too, it is but mockery to talk of praise. Praise – the outpouring of a joyous and a happy spirit-gushes not forth from that fountain which is embittered still with the poison of unrepented sin ; nor will it spring up from that heavy and burthened heart which is bowed down with the dark secrets of transgressions unconfessed. The word of God too-- how worse than vanity it is to read it, if we read not to obey, if we come to listen with unhumbled hearts, or without the self-abasing consciousness of its infinite value to our sinful and ruined souls ! And as for prayers--by what
* Psalm xxxiii. 1.
Job xv. 14.
+ John ix. 31. $ Rev. vii. 11.