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device of human skill shall we send them up to the throne of grace, with what pinions of the dove shall we wiog their fight to the seat of mercy, if we trust in our own efforts to convey them there, or if we disclaim not our dependence on augbt but Christ_" by whom alone we have access, by one Spirit, unto the Father"to claim attention to them on His own behalf, to present them by His mediation, to second them by His intercession, and to introduce us, as it were, under the protection of His mighty arm, into the presence chamber of the King of kings?
Such, then, is the form, and such the doctrines therein contained, by wbich our church has provided for the partial performance of the precept contained in the text. That this preliminary exhortation is purely scriptural, that it is also reasonable, and highly conducive to devotion, I have endeavoured here briefly to shew, and I trust will require no further proof. It only remains for me to entreat you to reflect seriously on its deep force of meaning, and to attend carefully to its general spirit, when it is read in the service of our church. Suffer not-though its constant repetition may have palled on the ears of the unthinking, suffer not, in future, that the nature and purport of its solemn call should press lightly on the attention, or pass unheeded by. Consider, I pray you,
with what kind of spirit it requires us to come into the presence of God. Observe how it demands of us the renunciation of every sentiment of self-righteousness and of self-dependence, of worldly-mindedness and of pride. How it distinctly assures us that, without penitence and deep humility, without the acknowledgment of our many sins, without the teachableness and simplicity of a child, it is impossible to serve God as we ought. And recollect, finally, that, while it declares to us the temper of mind with which we sbould draw near upto our heavenly Father, it is impossible, unless we abide strictly by those directions, to carry on the remaining solemnity as we ought; nor, unless we listen carefully to the reasons for confession, can we duly follow the minister to that succeeding office, when he goes on to say, as an inference from these preliminary arguments, Wherefore, I pray and beseech you, as many as are here present, to accompany me with a pure heart and humble voice unto the throne of the heavenly grace."
ON THE LITURGY.THE CONFESSION.
1 John i. 8, 9.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The spirit of this plain and explicit precept is one which pervades the whole of scripture, and is to be clearly traced, as well in the injunctions of the law, as in the more gracious encouragements of the gospel. To come before God with presumptuous confidence, and boldly, without some preliminary acknowledgment of our unworthiness, or some earnest petition for mercy, to demand his blessing,—as though we had really done nothing to forfeit his favour, and had no previous pardon to ask, were indeed to come before him with a falsehood on our lips, and to impose on ourselves a deception of the most fearful and perilous kind. Not even the costly ceremonies of the Mosaic ritual were able, without some such humiliation, to propitiate the wrath of heaven : nor could the most ample trespassoffering find any favour or acceptance in the sight of God, as we are expressly told amongst the details of the Levitical law, without a previous confession of the sins which required His pardon.* And it is hardly necessary to say how espe cially urgent is the gospel - the more complete developement, as it was, in this as in other particulars, of the covenant of grace-on the necessity and importance of that full perception and acknowledgment of our sins, and that utter renunciation of all merits of our own, which are required by the injunction in the text. Not to the proud, or the self-righteous, or the unrepentant was any portion of its merciful promises addressed. It was to the conscious offender, the burthened and the weary sinner, the lost sheep of the house of Israel, that Christ published his tidings of joy : and as “they that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick,” so He
“came not to call the righteous,” (much less the self-righteous,)“ but sinners to repentance."
The examples, moreover, of pious and godly men, recorded in holy writ, are calculated to force deeply on our conviction the important truth that prayer without confession is but an unavailing, if not absolutely an unmeaning service. Those who, to our undiscerning eyes, would seem to have had the least occasion for supplicating the pardon of heaven, appear to have ever been the most acutely touched with the sense of their manifold infirmities. It is a startling thing, and one that must seem a paradox and a mystery to the careless professor, who has not taken the pains to probe the secrets of his own heart, and who fondly fancies that all is right within, to read of Daniel,--on the brightness of whose untarnished character history has fixed no spot, praying unto God, and saying, “O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; we have sinned and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts, and from thy judgments ;"_“O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces.”+ Or to observe the pious
+ Daniel ix. 4, 5, 7.
* Matthew ix. 13.