« PreviousContinue »
of Grace are “ all yea in Christ, and in Him “ Amen, to the glory of God.” Provision is made for the honour of every Divine attribute ; and the utmost security is given to the conscious sinner who wishes to share in promised blessings. Did man solicit redemption before it was revealed and promised? Was not the “unspeak“ able gift" conferred independently of any intreaty on the part of man? And “if God
spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also
freely give us all things?” God was under no obligation to provide a remedy for human misery, The scheme of mercy was the spontaneous contrivance of His own gracious bosom, antecedent to any solicitation, yea to human existence. The work of the Spirit, by which the redeemed soul is made an actual partaker of redemption, is not, in the first instance at least, the effect of prayer. Our first convictions of guilt and helplessness are altogether unsought; and even the subsequent conversion of the fallen soul from sin to holiness, in all its progressive stages, is of mere grace; for every holy desire in the conscious mind is from God.
That “God is more ready to hear than we to
pray,” may further be argued from the mani. festative glory which God derives from the communication of His saving benefits. All His attributes are honoured by His audience of our prayers and compliance with our requests. His justice, mercy, holiness, faithfulness, omnisci. ence, omnipotence, are all magnified, while He listens to “the prayer of the poor destitute" who implores His grace. He gives without impoverishing Himself, and hath chosen this way of exhibiting the glories of His name.
We need not enlarge on the subsequent clause in the preface of our collect, that “God is wont “ to give more than either we desire or deserve," after what has been said on the first branch. Our desires are faint and limited. Our deservings are intirely out of the question. Were we to receive what we deserve, our portion would be terrible indeed. Were we to receive no more than we desire, we should fall very short of those “good " things which God hath prepared for them that « love Him." The experience of every awakened sinner demonstrates that “God is wont to give, " more than either we desire or deserve;" for his desires reach not to that "abundance of grace “and of the gift of righteousness” which is conferred upon him. The doctrine is further illustrated throughout the believer's course; and will be eternally confirmed by the inconceivable riches of “ the inheritance which is incorruptible, un« defiled, and fadeth not away.” It has already been exemplified in our redemption by means which could never have entered into the conception of man-in our adoption which raises us to an alliance to which we could never have aspired ; and these benefits are preparatory to “a grown “of glory" too dazzling for human imagination. We proceed to consider the prayer of
our collect, which is founded on the consolatory preface we have reviewed. We beseech God to “pour “ down upon us the abundance of His mercy,
forgiving us those things whereof our con“ science is afraid, and giving us those good
things which we are not worthy to ask, but “ through the merits and mediation of Jesus “ Christ His Son our Lord.”
We are taught to implore an “abundance of “mercy,” because in the judgment of our YOL. III.
church we all need it. And her judgment is
All that the conscious sinner needs is to be found in God.
- With Him there is mercy, " and with Him is plenteous redemption." Every attribute of Deity is infinite, and, among His other perfections, His mercy. The source from which we seek mercy is infinite compassion; the channel through which it flows is infinite merit; and the hand by which it is applied is infinite power. The effects which it hath produced in the “great cloud of witnesses", who are now before the throne, are such as preclude despair; nay, they lay a foundation for hope and confidence which cannot be shaken. We are not straitened in God, but in ourselves. From our own unbelief originate all the doubts and fears, which agitate and distress our souls.
The special purposes for which we implore this « abundance of mercy," are-The removal of the evils which we have deserved by forgiveness of sins, and the communication of the good which we need, though wholly undeserved.
We implore through God's abundant mercy
" conscience is afraid.". The conscience of a sinner who is taught of God, as the members of our church are supposed to be, perceives grounds of fear to which others are strangers. It appre, ciates, with some small degree of accuracy, the magnitude of the guilt which it has contracted, and knows that "the wages of sin is death It can therefore enjoy no peace, but as it has recourse to the abounding mercy of God, and the cross of the all-atoning Redeemer. It is instructed in that capital point of Bible-Divinity, that " without shedding of blood there is no
remission;" and it has proved its own inabi, lity to apply that blood to its own comfort:with: out the almighty grace of God the Holy Ghost:
The genuine believer, though his understand ing is enlightened and his judgment convinced, and a full persuasion produced in his soul that the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, “ cleanseth from all sin," yet hath his seasons of fear and apprehension. He trembles at times, when sin is exhibited to his view in its horrible deformity and demerit, and when he obtains a glimpse of the immaculate purity that dwells in God, lest his sins should be too heinous and aggravated to be forgiven. There are moments of darkness in his experience when the glory of the Mediator's person and work is eclipsed and hidden from his view by the thick clouds of unbelief, and then distress necessarily prevails within him. But perhaps the most common cause of perplexity is a doubt inferred from his own remaining imperfection of his interest in the atoning Saviour. And even when the hope of forgiveness for past transgressions is most lively, the propriety of supplication for pardon
is not superceded; for the Christian believer knows that in every moment, in every thought, word, and deed, he contracts fresh guilt, for the removal of which fresh discoveries of abundant mercy are indispensably necessary. The frequent use of such a prayer as that which our collect supplies will therefore suit the sensibilities of all genuine churchmen.
The second purpose for which we implore abundant mercy is the communication of the multifarious good of which we stand in need. Our wants, both those of our bodies and those of our souls, are innumerable. For, with respect to every blessing necessary to the welfare either of soul or body, we are intirely dependent on the providence and grace of God. We shall not aim at an impossibility by an attempt to enamerate the good things which we need. An endeavour to calculate the number of the sands which encircle the shore of the ocean, or the drops of which the ocean is composed, would be preposterous.
The very least of all those good things which we need, “we are unworthy to ask ;' for so far from having merited any good at the hand of God, we have deserved nothing but evil, pure unmixed evil. 6It is of the Lord's 'mercies, * that we are not consumed; because His com“ passions fail not." --- We have therefore no plea derived from ourselves why “judgment without “ mercy.” should not be executed on us by our final exclusion from the favour and presence of God, and by our condemnation to eternal misery. Whatever we contemplate that is personal and our own, is calculated to preclude us from the enjoyment of any good.