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of every rank painfully feel; and therefore cona cur in the petition of our collect with fervency of spirit, and cry, “Stir up, we beseech thee, “ O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that
they plenteously bringing forth the fruit of “ good works, may of thee be plenteously re“ warded, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Do you not, Christian reader, feel a need of this awakening, quickening, and animating influence on your heart? Consider your languor in prayer and praise; the weakness of your graces, of your repentance, faith, hope, love, joy, and zeal. Arise then, and call
upon thy God. He only who implanted can invigorate them. Oh! 'tis a dying life which we now live. And shall we be contented with it? Shall we not importune Him who is its author and giver, that He would free it from its obstructions, and cause its operations to be performed with facility and energy?
But it may be asked, how God performs the work of stirring up the wills of His faithful people? A full answer to this inquiry is neither possible nor needful, since the exact methods of Divine procedure are inscrutable by our finite minds. It is enough for us to know, that God
giveth His Holy Spirit to them who ask Him" for the precious gift. We may, however, observe, without seeking to be wise above what is written, that God sometimes applies the threatenings of His law to the fears of His people for the purpose of rousing them to action; and that He sometimes attracts them by an application of His promises to their hopes. Sometimes by awakening providences He wrenches their affections from the present world; and sometimes by foretastes of a better allures their desires after
it. His methods are various and adapted to the different tempers and circumstances of His people. But whatever external means are used, it is the secret power of His Spirit which gives them all their efficacy, and renders them successful.
We proceed to consider the objects which we propose
in this petition for enlivening grace. These are twofold, the one mediate and the other ultimate. The one relates to the present life; and the other to the life to come.
The mediate object which we propose in our prayer for enlivening grace, is fruitfulness in good works. This indeed is the mediate object of redemption, of faith, and of regeneration.
we are God's' workmanship created in Christ “ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before “ ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. ii. 10.) Christ “gave Himself for us, that He “ might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify “ unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of “good works.” (Tit. ii. 14.) To this end the Scriptures were given by inspiration of God, and the gospel is preached, viz. “ that the man of “ God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto “all good works.” (2 Tim. iii
. 17.) For this the Apostles were anxious on behalf of all their converts, because it is the only evidence of a genuine faith, the mean of glorifying God, and of recommending the gospel to the notice and approbation of others. (See 2 Cor. ix. 8. Col. i. 10. 2 Th. ii. 17. Tit. iii. 1. Heb. xiii. 21.)
Believers are here compared to trees according to a common Scripture-metaphor. The emblem is appropriate in a variety of views, and is calculated to afford us much instruction. As fruitful. ness is the object for which a tree is planted, (for
it is carefully to be observed, that the emblem is here restricted to trees of the fruit-bearing species, as distinguished from those of the forest) so is fruitfulness in good works the end of conversion and faith. A tree must have in it a principle of life, or it can produce no fruit. And there can be no fruitfulness in the soul without the sap of the Spirit; for “without me,” says Christ, ye can “ do nothing." A tree brings forth fruit according to its species; but the quantity produced depends on the soil and season. No tree can please its proprietor that is unfruitful. If it bring forth nó fruit, it is cut down as a cumberer of the ground.
Every true Christian is a tree of righteousness which the Lord has planted in His garden the church. Every genuine member of the church is a fruit-bearing tree. He first bears the fruit of repentance, and then the fruits of a holy walk according to the station and circumstances in which he is placed. But no faithful person is satisfied either with the quantity or quality of his own good works.
His fruits are, in his own estimation, rather “like the shaking of an olive“ tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vin“tage is done,” than like the proportion which a good tree ought to produce. He wants to be more prolific of holy thoughts, words, and actions, to the praise and glory of God. A plenteous crop is the object of his ambition. For this he labours and prays day by day.
The ultimate object proposed by our prayer is a plenteous reward in the life to come.
Our own happiness, if pursued in a way that is consistent with the glory of God, is a legitimate object of our concern. For Moses, in his celebrated acts
of self-denial which are recorded for our instruction, “had respect unto the recompence of the “ reward.” (Heb. xi. 26.) The reward which is connected with the
practice of good works, is a reward of grace, not of debt; for it is through “ Jesus Christ our Lord," exclusively for His merit's sake, that we expect to receive it. But though good works are not the meritorious cause of salvation, yet are they its necessary appendages, and preparatory to the attainment of eternal life. For sanctification is a pre-requisite to glorification, as corporeal-life and health are to corporeal-enjoyment: and the extrinsecal works which internal sanctification produces are the invariable effects of holiness, and indeed helps to its growth, just as action is at once the evidence of life in the animal frame, and promotive of its health. The degree of holiness attained here will therefore be the measure of happiness enjoyed hereafter. A plenteous sowing will produce a plenteous harvest. The effect follows, however, not in a way of merit, but as a natural adjunct; in like manner as corporeal comfort is consequent on a well-organized body preserved in health by temperance and exercise. Both the cause and effect are the free gifts of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let the reader once more inquire before he lays down the volume, whether our collect express the feelings of his soul or not—whether he be made alive unto God whether his soul be solicitous for more abundant holiness— whether he pant for spiritual health and vigour-whether he be earnestly solicitous to perform the functions of spiritual life by plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works - which are by Jesus Christ to the glory