« AnteriorContinuar »
because they feel themselves to be not wholly delivered from the motions of sin ; though the condemnation of sin be removed.
Such then is the confession with which this Collect opens. And it is important to dwell on this view ; distinguishing it from another which (although a true doctrine) yet is not the point here adverted to. It is not here meant that sinful men, willingly remaining such, are restrained and overruled by the power of the Almighty : that is indeed a most certain Scripture truth; but it is not the truth here touched. The thing lamented and confessed, is, that converted men still mingle much sin with the work of grace ; so that, were it not for the prevailing power of the Spirit, our wills and affections would soon fall back again into utter confusion, disorder, and rebelliou.
Is there, however, a remedy for this mournful state? There is ; and by continual prayer to God we may obtain the application of the remedy. This we learn from the second part of the Collect.
2. We here pray that our hearts may be perfectly sanctified; and that they may thus be established with grace.
The sanctification of our hearts is described, by reference to two most powerful affections of our nature; love and desire.
We pray that we may love the thing which God commandeth. He commands nothing but what is for our real good, our true happiness. His law is holy, his commandment is holy, just, and good. Even those precepts which require from us the greatest degree of self-denial, yet are in themselves excellent: and when our heart is persuaded of this, and inclined by the power of divine grace to obey them, they are felt to be delightful, and even accounted easy : for nothing appears difficult to a heart that loves. - This is the love of God," saith St. John, “ that we keep his commandments : and his commandments are not grievous.” (1 John v. 3.)
The Psalms abound with expressions of the delight which the Psalmist felt in contemplating the will and word of God. Let us pray for the holy feelings which he had, and which he pours forth in language such as the following: “ O how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day. Behold, I have longed after thy precepts : quicken me in thy righteousness. I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved. My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved : and I will meditate in thy statutes."
We further pray that we may have grace to set our desires on the good things promised by God. The heart must have some satisfying object upon which to employ its ardent pursuits and hopes. And here lies the difference between the unregenerate and the regenerate soul. The unregenerate accepts the promises of the world, of the flesh, and of Satan : the regenerate can be content with nothing short of the promises, the exceeding great and precious promises of God. The deceitful world bids us fair; and most men quickly conclude their bargain with it, exchanging glory, honour, and immortality, for a few straws and baubles. Satan heightens the delusion, by exhibiting the kingdoms of the world and all the glory of them, and promising to give them to his worshippers. The heart of the carnal man catches at the bait : and like the rich fool described by our Lord, says, as if all were secure, “ Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many
years : take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” But they who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, desire no other portion than his favour. " Thy loving kindness is better than life." " Whom have I in heaven but thee ? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” “ Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy: at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
Thus it is that the heart is established with grace.” A single glimpse of heaven throws all earthly glory into the shade. To have the eye and the desires fixed on that inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, is the true secret of an established heart. There is on earth no resting-place: all below is uncertainty, change, disappointment, vanity, and vexation. How manifold are the changes that we see on every side! Riches take to themselves wings and fly away : pleasure, which for a season was sweet, afterwards bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder: the friendship of the world melts away like the dew : health will soon be exchanged for sickness, feebleness, and death : it cannot be long before mirth will be succeeded by heaviness, and the house of feasting will be turned into a house of mourning. But to those who are looking for a better country, even an heavenly, it is no grief to think, that in a little time they will be gone : on the contrary, they rejoice in the thought; for, “ where their treasure is, there is their heart also.” Their salvation through Christ is to them a sure and solid ground of joy. “In the world,” says our blessed Master, “ ye shall have tribulation : but in me ye shall have peace.” “ Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast." Let us then pray for an increase of faith, of hope, and of love. Let us, by the help of God's Spirit, look “ not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen : for the things which are seen, are temporal; but the things which are not seen, are eternal.”
RECOLLECTIONS OF MORNING ROUNDS WITH
BY A CLERGYMAN.
It is a long time since I read to you the first paper bearing this name; and if No. 2 seems to have been very tardy in following No. 1, you must remember that I said I would not lay hold on any trifling circumstance, and dress it up into a story.
If I had not kept to this purpose, I might long ago have come forward with my second number. "Do not let what I have said, however, lead you to suppose, that I have now some remarkable incident or wonderful tale to tell. No. It is not incident that I look for; it is not anything to amuse or to make you wonder, but something which either illustrates the human character, or may suggest some point of practice to be attended to, or which may display the grace of God. Now, since my former paper, my visits have not been altogether barren of such cases. A solitary instance did now and then present itself; and one I remember precisely of the same kind with the second of the three that I am going to lay before you. But when there occurred three, diverse in kind, and conveying different lessons, in one and the same visit, I did think them worth recording, and am only sorry, that being exceedingly engaged, I could not pen them down when they were fresh in my recollection ; but last night and this morning tried to recollect what had, in a great measure, faded from my memory.
Of the three examples, one was not of a pleasing character, the other two were so in a considerable degree, but in a different manner.
The first was a striking proof of the extreme folly of some parents ; and how they endeavour to counteract in their children any benefit which they may have received from their teachers in the Sunday-school.
The visitor asked a woman on whom we called, why her daughter was not at the school on the preceding day. The reason was, a new frock in which the mother intended her child to appear, had not been ready in time. The child, it seemed wished to go in the frock in which she had been used to attend. But the mother kept her at home because she was likely not to be as fine as some of her fellows. We endeavoured to show her that she was doing her child serious injury, putting into her mind that very vanity which it was the aim of religious instruction to root out. The woman was very good-natured, laughed, and assented to all we said ; but it was evident we had not succeeded in making her see that there was anything seriously evil in her manner of bringing up her child.
Now, you will know how to make use of this case in speaking to mothers. But the reason why I particularly mention it is, that you may remind the parents of Sunday scholars of the quarterly meeting of parents and teachers at the school at 8 o'clock in the evening of the first Tuesday in February, which this year is also the first day. Impress on them that the teachers are their best friends, their greatest benefactors, and that the least thing they can do is, to meet them, to see the faces of those to whom they owe so much : and to hear the addresses which may show them in what way they will best second at home the instructions given by the teachers in school.
The two remaining instances are of a more pleasing character. We called upon a middle-aged man and his wife, and on entering, as it was Christmas, I introduced myself, as I did in almost all the houses, by wishing the inmates a happy Christmas and new year. This served as introduction, and I went on to say a few words on the great blessing of the season, the occasion that it was of joy, and the manner in which we should rejoice in it, which I said, was not in light merriment and feasting. Ah, Sir, said the woman, we know more of fasting than feasting. We are glad if we can get needful food for our family. I felt immediately that I was wrong--that I had spoken inconsiderately, and said, I believed it, and was truly sorry that such
was the case, but hoped that something would be done for the poor (the soup subscription was then forming). The man then entered on a brief detail of his work and wages, which were the one short, the other low; and concluded by saying, that he had a favour to ask me. I expected that the favour related to the relief of his temporal wants, that he might be recommended for the -- Charity, or something of that nature. I was therefore much gratified when he said they had a Bible, but the print was becoming too small, he wished therefore to be informed by me, to what person he might pay a penny a week, or such sum as, from time to time, he could spare, in order to purchase one of larger type. There happening to be no collector at this time for this part of the town, Miss R. herself kindly undertook the charge of his money.
The case to which I alluded in the beginning as resembling this, was of a man in - - 's district, who, doubting whether he should employ the only money he could spare in buying a Bible or a blanket, gave up the blanket and bought the Bible.
But I proceed to the third instance that occurred in our round of the 27th of Dec. It was in a house which we had pearly omitted, Miss R. thinking that the occupants would not be at home. At bome they bowever proved to be, and made us at home with them, from the kindness and courtesy of their behaviour. They were at dinner : we, therefore, wished to decline going in, and desired merely to change the tract. But they would hear of no such thing, and absolutely compelled us to go in and sit down. Dinner was set aside, and they composed themselves for conversation. Of course the great event of the season, the incarnation of the Eternal Word, became our subject; and, after speaking awhile on the great salvation, I proposed that we should go, thinking that we detained them too long from their meal. But they were not willing that I should go without offering up prayers with them, which I most willingly did ; after which we parted very good friends. They no doubt would sit down to their repast with gladness and singleness of heart praising God; and I was happy to have had the privilege of breaking a few fragments of the bread of life to those who evidently preferred it before that which perisheth. A very few remarks I would offer in these cases :
Be thankful, my female friends, that you have been better educated by your parents, than the poor children whose bad lessons at home you have to counteract by better at school, and manifest in your own persons a superiority to those foolish vanities which you condemn in them. An attire suited to your station in life, you do right to maintain ; but let it be a little matter with you, and let your adoroing be the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is, in the sight of God, of great price.
Again, I would observe, that you do not always teach, when you go into the houses of the poor, you may sometimes learn. From the man who was struggling against difficulties and making sacrifices to obtain a Bible, you may learn how precious that book should be to you. And from the third case, learn with Job xxiii. 12, to esteem the word of God more than even your necessary food, and to prefer before the meat which perisheth, that meat which endureth to everlasting life.
JUSTIFICATION DECLARED BY WORKS.
FROM an apparent contrariety of doctrine between St. Paul (Rom. iii. 28.) and St. James, (James ii. 24.) many persons have been led to entertain very indistinct views on the momentous subject of a sinner's justification in the sight of God, and some have even been led to include their own works for that purpose. From the very term used in Scripture—"justification,” which means acquittal from guilt, and reinstatement in the divine favour, with a title to life eternal, together with the scripture assurances that so precious a boon can never be accorded to man, without adequate satisfaction to the offended justice of the Most High, we might perceive that the persons referred to are resting upon a sandy foundation. Indeed, as the cause of acceptance, or the ground of justification, or as a matter of merit before God, even faith itself is as much excluded as works. The meritori. ous cause of the blessing is the perfect righteousness of the divine Mediator, wrought out in our nature and in our behalf,—the instrument, whereby we apprehend the blessing, is faith, - and the evidence of its possession is a holy life.
On this head, the Homily of Salvation (part 2.) speaks of faith, as ' putting us from itself, and remitting, or appointing us unto Christ, for to have only by him, remission of our sins, or justification ;' and Archbishop Usher, in the same spirit, says, “ We say not faith is an instrument to work our justification, Christ alone must do that; it is no act of ours, nothing is in usmit (faith) is the instrument of application, the only instrument whereby we apply the medicine and the plaster of Christ's blood ; faith is the only hand which receiveth Christ, vot as a hand that gets a man's living, but like a beggar's hand, that receives a free alms given to the donor ; it opens itself to let fall all other things; then, when it is a naked hand, it layeth hold on Christ, yea, it fills itself with Christ,-it layeth fast hold on justification.'
The view thus assumed as scriptural, is confirmed by St. Paul, both as to the satisfaction made to the divine justice, or the righteousness provided, and also as to the instrumentality of faith, as may be seen by a careful perusal of his Epistles to the Romans and Galatians ; whilst the boly tenor of bis doctrine is exhibited in all his writings; (See for instance Titus ii. 11, 12; and iii. 8.)
The epistle to the Galatians appears to have been written about A. D. 58, and that to the Romans about A. D. 60, their object being the same, viz. to draw off professing Christians from a legal foundation ; and it seems that the abuse, on the part of many nominal believers, of the doctrine of free justification in Christ Jesus, as taught by St. Paul, elicited from the pen of St. James, the first Bishop of Jerusalem, about A. D. 64, the epistle bearing his name, the design of which is evidently to inculcate the necessity of such a walk and “ conversation, as becometh the gospel of Christ.”
St. James, accordingly, viewing faith, (not with St. Paul merely as a PRINCIPLE) but in its exercise, adopts the very strong language on the necessity of good works, which as we have seen has been