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appear dimmer than a small taper in the glorious shining of a mid-day sun.
The blessedness of heaven will consist, further, in the perfect holiness of those who are admitted to enter there. Each one will walk in his uprightness, (Isaiah lvii. 1, 2.) There will be no feeling of sin, no sight of sin, no temptation to sin, anywhere in heaven. The thoughts of the redeemed will be pure, their services and worship unalterably and perfectly holy. Holiness will be the very nature of a glorified saint. He will be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect.
The joy of heaven will be greatly increased by the society of those who dwell there. Saints and angels, surrounding the throne of God and of the Lamb, will bear one another company in such hymns of praise, as cannot on earth be conceived. They will converse together with such a clear understanding of all things, and with such delight and sympathy, that eternity will never become wearisome. Of this joy and fulness of glory, how little idea can we form here below ? A short discourse, a short prayer, a few hymns, frequently more than suffice for us; and if we exchange a few words of pious conversation, we are soon satiated with one another's society. It will not be thus in heaven! And, therefore, in a word, we must add, that these good things not only pass man's understanding, but they also exceed all that we can desire. Our highest feelings of devotion never rise high enough; heaven is still higher : God is able to do for his people exceeding abundantly above all that they ask or think. (Ephes, iii. 20.)
Now, these things the Lord hath o prepared” for those that love him. From the foundation of the world, the kingdom of glory was prepared for them. (Matt. XXV. 34.) When Jesus was about to suffer on the cross, he declared to his disciples, that by rising from the dead and ascending into heaven, he was going to his Father's house, in order to prepare a place for them. But these good things, be it remembered, are only for those who love God. This all-important truth, therefore, must now be considered. It forms the main subject of the prayer in this Collect.
2. We pray for the grace of Love. That we may love thee-even Thee, O Lord, who art infinitely and altogether lovely !
The love which believers feel towards God, springs from their beholding in him all that is excellent and worthy of our best affections. He is perfection itself. He is upspotted holiness. Yea, our God is love. The more we contemplate him in his word and in his works, the more will admiring, adoring thoughts of him fill and overflow our hearts. " Who is a God like unto thee ?” (Micah vii. 18.)
The medium, however, through which the love of God is chiefly seen and felt, is, the gift of his own dear Son to die for our sins. " We love him, because he first loved us;" because he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Broken-hearted and believing penitents are the only persons on earth who ever love God. Others may say that they love him ; but they know not their own hearts. Repentance and faith are the steps by which we rise to love.'
And when this spirit of love is breathed into the heart, it so takes possession of the whole soul, that no room is left for any rival affeccon. Therefore, the prayer in the Collect is, “ Pour into our hearts :" fill them, full and overflowing. Pour into them such love, that we may love thee “ above all things.” This is directly the opposite of our natural state. An unconverted man loves God last and least; or rather, not at all. A true child of God loves his heavenly Father in all his gifts, and above all his gifts. Every feeling is made subject to this affection of love. He delights in God supremely. “ W'hom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” (Psalm 1xxiji. 25.)
Observe in a few particulars, what is meant by loving God above all things. First, we ought to love bim more than Self. The idol of every unregenerate man, is self. Little as he thinks it, his leading motive in all he does, is self-love. To make this discovery, is a part of the work of conviction of sin : which is the office of the Holy Spirit. And when the same blessed Spirit has duly humbled us for this sinful preference of self before God, he changes our nature, and graciously inclines us to prefer the glory and the will of God before any interest or inclination of our own. Mighty change! What less than the love of God could effect it? We are then led also to love God above all our dearest friends, as our Saviour says, “ He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me.” Not that we cease to love our relatives : on the contrary, we love them more truly than ever ; for we love them religiously.- We love God likewise above all earthly possessions: whether they be riches, or honours, or pleasures, or health, or even life itself.--So long as any thing is loved, pursued, or delighted in, more than God, so long the Spirit of God is grieved. There must be no rival to him in the heart. When the question is asked us, “ Lovest thou me more than these ?” we must be prepared with Peter's answer, “ Yea, Lord; thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee."
Love such as this can never be attained without much prayer. And even when we feel that our petitions have been in some good measure answered, we shall still have need to watch with jealousy over our spiritual state : we shall find it necessary to renew our study of God's promises, and to meditate very often on his loving-kindness and tender mercies. By degrees our cold and wintry hearts will be melted by the warm beams of his heavenly grace : we shall learn to cast away our earthly and carnal desires : we shall draw nearer and nearer to the company of saints and angels : and at length, when death has dissolved every tie to this world, we shall see God as he is, and shall be perfected in love. The Lord of peace himself grant us this, for Christ's sake. Amen.
SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
In addressing our prayers to the Most High, we should remember both our own unworthiness, and his infinite condescension and mercy. “ God is in heaven, and thou upon earth.” He is the Lord of all power and might; we are the feeble creatures of a day, crushed before the moth. Yet is he also a gracious and condescending God. “ Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high, who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth?” He is “ the author and giver of all good things." While the children of disobedience keep up the unceasing inquiry, “ Who will shew us any good ?” the believer turus at once to his God, and beseeches him, “ Lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us." This is the chief good of man, even the favour of God. And humble suppliants pleading the merits of Christ, may confidently expect to obtain his favour; and, together with it, all needful blessings during their sojourn upon earth. “ For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory : no good thing will be withhold from them that walk uprightly.” (Psalm lxxxiv. 11.) .
To this bountiful God and Saviour, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, we here offer up four several petitions, asking for the best gifts that he can bestow. .
1. First, we pray for the engrafted love of God. “ Graft in our hearts the love of thy name." By the “ name” of God we understand his titles, attributes, and nature : in a word we mean, Himself. We ask for grace to enable us to love him. We ask that this love may be engrafted in our hearts. The nature of grafting is well known. It is referred to in Romans xi. 17, where a branch of a wild olive is represented as being graffed among the branches of a good olive, and with them partaking of the root and fatness of the olive tree. This simile should remind us, that the love of God is not the natural growth of the heart of man. So far from this being the case, “ the carnal mind (as St. Paul assures us) is enmity against God." Therefore if ever divine love takes possession of our hearts, it must be by a transforming power; the power of the Holy Spirit changing our hateful nature, and inclining us to delight in the will of God. Such an infusion of holiness into our dispositions we are encouraged to expect, if we ask for it in faith. It is God's free gift : but he has offered it to us on the condition of our asking for it in faith. This is the way in which it is given us at the first; and thus it is that love is maintained and increased.
If we were to name any one of the titles of God, as more pecuTiarly worthy of our love, we might perhaps not improperly select that, with which the Lord's prayer opens : “ Our Father which art in heaven.” Love that blessed title, ir Heavenly Father.” For in this short invocation we describe at once both the majesty and the mercy of God. We thus approach him with the spirit of adoption; with tenderness and confidence, yet with reverence and godly fear. Every thing expressive of honour, dutifulness, and love, is comprised in those few sublime words.
2. Next, we pray for increase of grace. “ Increase in us true re. ligion.” The foundation of genuine piety is, lively faith in Christ. Agreeably to this the eminent apostle Paul describes his life as being a life of faith. He says (Gal. ii. 20.) “ The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” “Faith which worketh by love,” is the faith of which he speaks ; as appears from chap. v. 6. of the same epistle. When we pray therefore, « Increase in us true religion," we do in fact the same thing which the apostles did, (Luke xvii. 5.) when they said unto the Lord, “ Increase our faith.” Grant that our root may grow : and increase its fruitfulness likewise : cause us to abound in the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. (Gal. V. 22, 23.)
3. Thirdly, we pray that God would deal with us in a kind way, such as may be for our profiting. “ Nourish us with all goodness.” The tenderness with which God brings up his children, is such as a loving mother or nurse uses towards a helpless infant. The mother is all kindness ; and she gives to her little one what she believes to be good for it. And is the Lord less compassionate or less wise ? Has he not assured us that he is far more so? What mean those words— “ Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget; yet will I not forget thee.” (Isaiah xlix. 15.)
Or, following up the comparison of a believer to a tree, we may observe, that the method of nourishing and increasing fruitfulness in a tree, is digging about its roots, watering it, and pruning away its unfruitful branches. Thus does God deal with his servants. By the visitations of his providence he digs up the hard ground which is apt to form in and about their hearts : he softens them by the descending dews of his gracious Spirit; and he cuts away the unprofitable parts of their character, in order that they may bring forth more fruit. All His dispensations, of what kind soever they may be, towards his children, are designed to produce in them growth in grace.
4. Lastly, we pray that we may be kept in the profession, and in the blesed enjoyment of true piety. “Of thy great mercy keep us in the same.” We need grace for the commencement of our spiritual life ; grace for its continuance ; and grace for its preservation to the last moment of our earthly existence. When we pray, “ Keep us,” that short petition is a silent acknowledgment that we cannot keep ourselves. Nothing less than “ the great mercy” of God, obtained through the continual intercession of Christ, can keep such feeble, tottering, wandering, helpless creatures as we are. When Peter, that over-confident disciple, forgot his own weakness, he fell. Jesus had said to him, “ Simon, Simon, bebold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that ihy faith fail not.” (Luke xxii. 31, 32.) So then let us pray for our selves ; never forgetting that Christ is our Advocate with the Father. Thus may we exult in the glorious hope, of being kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation. Amen.
EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
- How vast a privilege prayer is, may in some degree be known, from observing the language and spirit of this Collect. In it we see that creatures the most weak and unworthy have boldness to address the great God of heaven and earth : and, pleading the name of his Son Jesus Christ, they may ask in the most comprehensive manner for all things that are good, and for deliverance from every evil thing. Let us consider each part of the Collect with this view.
1. First, our privilege appears from that holy liberty with which we are emboldened to address the great Lord of heaven and earth.
We appeal to him as ordering all things by bis never-failing providence. Heaven and earth bear witness to this doctrine, “ The Lord reigoeth.” Look upward to the heavens above, and exclaim with the Psalmist, “ () give thanks unto the Lord ; to him that by wisdom made the heavens ; to him that made great lights ; the sun to rule by day; the moon and stars to rule by night ; for his mercy endureth for ever.” (Ps. cxxxvi. 1-9.) Or look upon the earth beneath, and you see the promise fulfilling to this day, “ While the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease.” (Gen. viii. 22.) In the government also of man, God's providence is equally manifest. Bad men, even against their will, are compelled to submit to his controul. Take as a proof of this the language addressed to the proud Sennacherib; “I know thy abode, and thy going out and thy coming in, and thy rage against me. Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult, is come up into mine ears, therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.” (Isaiah xxxvii. 28, 29.) On the other
the providence of God: for they can look up to him as a Father, a Friend, a Shepherd, a Protector, and Guide. The history of Joseph, one of the most eminent of his saints and servants, is a delightful comment on this view of providence. Every thing, the very smallest matters, and even those events which appeared contrary to his advantage were overruled for his good, for the glory of God, and for the benetit of others. The hatred of his brethren, the journeying of the Ishmaelites at the moment when his murder was contriving ; his being sold to Potiphar, his unjust imprisonment, his interpreting the dreams of the chief butler and the chief baker; all these were so many steps to his future advancement : and on the review of all, he declares to his astounded brethren, (Gen. xlv. 8.) “ So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God : and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his bouse, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.” · 2. Seeing then that the providence of God never faileth, we inay freely and confidently ask of him to bestow on us all real good, and to deliver us from all evil.
“ Hurtful things” are those which might prove to us an occasion of sin : and the words may likewise mean, afflictions heavier than we can bear. All temptations which might lead us to depart from God, we may justly beseech him to remove far from us. Especially we should pray against the assaults and machinations of that evil spirit, the devil, who constantly seeks to destroy us. Bad men are his agents; and we should therefore pray to be delivered from unreason- ' able and wicked men. As to the adversities of this world, they may by divine mercy be so sanctified to us, as to become real blessings : but when they threaten to overwhelin us, we may lawfully ask of God either wholly to withdraw them; or else so to diminish them, as that we may not be swallowed up of overmuch sorrow. And he who knows what is best for us, will not cast out our prayer. For he