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teachable heart, that the word be not heard in vain, but may sink deep into your heart, and be as entirely part of your mind, as a graft becomes part of the tree into which it is inserted; and like a graft, well flourishing, bring forth much fruit-even the fruit of a holy and religious life, to the honour and praise of God, and the eternal welfare of your soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Prevent us, O Lord,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The Church having already led us to the fountain of grace, here instructs us to
grace may not only be present with us as our guide, but may prevent-or go before us-duly regulating all our undertakings'; preparing us to think aright what we shall do, and how we shall act, so as to please our God. The direction is given in accord with the apostle's injunction, that " whatever we do, we do all to the glory of God.” Wherefore, ere we begin any undertaking, let us pause and reflect. Is our purpose true and just and honest? Is it such a purpose as that we can pray God's blessing upon it? If having undertaken, we continue it, then let us take good heed that the spirit in which we pursue it be agreeable to the spirit of his word and will. And when we bring our purpose to its close, be it our care, that it tend to the glory of God, and the welfare of our souls. To this end, however, his gracious favour must both prevent and follow us ; go before our steps, and accompany them ; for by the influence of the same grace alone it is that we can so direct any of our doings, that they may be pleasing in his sight, and finally by his mercy obtain everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
* No reasonable man expects his plans to be successful further than they are prospered of God. This is so universal a feeling in the common every-day concerns of life, that the husbandman, when expressing his hope of a fruitful harvest after all his toil, closes his expression of hope with a declaration of faith—“ if it please God !" So it is in all our doings. The divine favour must pretent, or go before us. That preventing grace it is which sanctifieth our thoughts, whence spring our actions ; and so goes before us !
Nor can any activity be expected to prosper, which is not so sanctified and regulated. Your children, as they gradually gain experience of human life, may, perhaps, wonder how it is, that if this be a just view of God's ordering the affairs of men, bad men should flourish ; that sometimes the envious and malicious, the unjust and the selfish, the slanderer, and even the blasphemer, prosper in the land, become rich and great and of worldly consideration. David was struck with the same apparent difficulty. “I do see the ungodly,” saith he, “in such prosperity. They come in no misfortune like other folk, neither are they plagued like other men.” Such was the Psalmist's lament. But
calm reflection convinced him that this worldly prosperity was to the wicked a part of retributive punishment. “ Thou, O God, didst set them in slippery places.” He confessed it was “his own infirmity in faith. For at last he represents himself as looking for their place, but, behold, it could not be found. “I went by,” said he, “but lo, he was gone !" The end, therefore, is not yet : and though sure judgment is for an hereafter, God sees fit, even here often, to bring punishment upon the wicked, by making them the agents of their own misery, and, in their very cunning, the workers of their own ruin. The unbeliever in his cold pride, the scoffer in his scorn, the slanderer in his self-reproaching lie, the envious in their malice, and the worldly in their selfishness-all and each could tell, for they all feel, the certainty of this truth. Assure, then, your dear children, that if they would be really happy, they must be guided by God's preventing and following grace. If so they wisely act, they may haply be enabled to “ keep innocency and take heed to the thing that is right, for that, and that alone, shall bring peace at the last.”
i 1 Cor. x. 31.
A FEELING pervades this collect, which is one amongst the many proofs supplied by her services, of the provident care taken by the Church to uphold in every way the honour of Him to whose throne she leads her followers. God being from everlasting to everlasting, to Him must be known equally what has been and what is to be, as well as what is. To scruple this, were to question the divine majesty of Jehovah. To comprehend the mystery, indeed, were far beyond the range of any finite intellect, but to receive it humbly as a truth confessedly incomprehensible, is the special province of faith, which is the evidence of things not seen even by the mental eye. When, therefore, the worshipper pours forth the expression of his wants and wishes ; when he supplicates for pardon and peace, for strength and holiness, for faith and hope and charity and other heavenly graces; he must not be supposed forgetful of the glorious attribute of Divine omniscience. He is well aware that his wants as well as his sins, his desires as well as his infirmities, his mind and his affections, are all alike known to his heavenly Father long before. Still the Church, wisely judging that every doubt should be removed as to the faith of her sons and their right apprehension of the nature of their God, and in a mingled feeling of jealous honour for that God and watchful anxiety for the souls committed to her charge, supplies this prayer; in the words of which declaration is made, fully and unreservedly, that the very necessities we have been making mention of before Him,
He already knoweth; and even knew before we asked: and, further, that since He knoweth them better than we know them ourselves, our ignorance in asking is known to Him. Yet have we prayed. And meet and right it is that we should by prayer make our wants known unto Him; for is it not this same all-present, omniscient, and heart-searching God, who himself demands, that if we would receive, we must ask? True it is, every gift from Him is of grace ;
grace; “Yet, for this,” saith He by his Spirit, “ Yet for this will I be inquired of by thee '.” Thus does the Church train her sons to a faith without wavering ; to a hope without presumption. We confess, that infirmity stamps even this our holy offering of prayer and
supplication and praise ; and we throw ourselves upon the tender compassion of our God, to pardon this and all infirmities, and compensate our ignorance by that wisdom of which He is himself the inexhaustible fountain. Here, too, we avow, in proof of infirmity, that as courage failed us to pray for some blessings, and ignorance of the soul's real wants precluded the possibility of praying for others, so our whole trust and confidence is, that in his unwearying mercy, He will accept the perfections of another on our behalf, and that even “ those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask, He will vouchsafe to give us, for the worthiness of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
| Ezek. xxxvi. 37.
through Jesus Christ
“ Almighty God! who hast promised .
Our holy trust and confidence in God having been refreshed and renewed by the considerations which the former collect suggested, we the more boldly appeal to the plighted word of Almighty God, that He would hear and answer our petition. We state his own promises, declared by the Son, as from the Father. “Whatsoever ye ask the Father, in my name, He will give it you."
Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full”.” Can language be more explicit? Come, therefore, in reliance upon these promises, as gracious as they are glorious : glorious, for they give us all the privileges of sonship; gracious, for we are not worthy of them—we beseech Him to hear us
mercifully." Mercy is still our cry. What, though we do that which is commanded ? we are, after all, but unprofitable servants; and if our service be accepted of our heavenly Lord and Father, it owes its acceptance to his love and compassion; to his pity, for Jesus' sake, upon the fallen and unworthy. Here, however, we are reminded that 56 some ask and receive not." “ They ask not aright.” It is only, “if we ask according to his will,” that God heareth us '; and what that Will is, the Scriptures so plainly declare, that none fail of knowing it, except the wilfully ignorant. The Church rejoices, because “ His will is our salvation." The aim of our prayer, then, is, to be set forward in the work of securing that salvation : for it is the one thing
1 John xv. 11, and xvi. 14.
2 James iv. 3.
3 1 John v. 14.