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so it is also in the Christian's experience. He lives but to acquire daily and hourly evidence of his own imbecility. And as the ivy while it sprouts is furnished with unnumbered fibres which spring out of every shoot and seize on its supporter, in like manner faith, in every occurrence that arises, finds a new occasion of adhering to God and of trusting in Him. And it is not only in the great concern of salvation, but also in the minutest circumstance of life, that the Christian finds his own incapacity for self-guidance and self-support. Hence prayer is mingled with all his undertakings, and praise accompanies all his successes.
The appeal to Divine Omniscience which is made in our collect, has a further relation to our spiritual concerns. These are infinitely more important than those of the outer man, and with respect to these our utter weakness is still more evident. For in whatever point of view we contemplate them, it is undeniable that “we “ have no power of ourselves to help ourselves.'
As transgressors of the Divine law we are in a state of condemnation : for “ as many as are under the law” (and all men are born under it) " are under a curse.” Have we then 66
“any “ power of ourselves to help ourselves" by reversing the sentence of the law, and by restoring ourselves to the favour of God ? None at all. This appears from the awful nature of the Divine attributes, from the requisitions of the immutable law of God, and from the provision made for our relief in His gospel. His inexorable justice requires satisfaction which we can never make; and His truth, which has promnlged the tremendous decree that “ the soul “ which sinneth shall die,” cannot fail of being
accomplished. The only alternative which His law recognises is, “ This do and live;” or “ Fail “ of doing it, and suffer the penalty.” It leaves no room for repentance, and allows of no failure. It is positive and determinate in its decision. The provision of the gospel preaches also the utter helplessness of man in the work of expiation. For an atoning sacrifice has been offered, which at once shews the heinousness of human guilt, and the utter inability of man to remove the burthen of it from his own shoulders by his own power.
If we are viewed as rational creatures placed under a covenant of works, a perfect obedience to the Divine law is necessary to constitute us righteous in the sight of the great Lawgiver, and to intitle us to the rewards which under that covenant He has promised. But have we “any “power of ourselves to help ourselves" by fulfilling the terms of life ? Alas, no. For we have already failed in ten thousand instances of accomplishing'that which the law requires; and so great is the corruption of our nature that we must necessarily fail in every future attempt to fulfil it even supposing, what will not be admitted, that the obedience of a part of our lives could be accepted instead of the whole. The least defect invalidates our claim on the score of personal obedience, and leaves us the prey of despair.
Being alienated from the life of God through “ the ignorance that isin us,” and “dead in tres
passes and sins,"we are unconscious of our own spiritual state. We are unacquainted with our disease and the remedy which is provided for it. We are insensible of our danger, and also of the way of escape. Have we, then, any“ power s of ourselves to help ourselves,” by rousing ourselves to the all-important inquiry, “ What " must I do to be saved ?”Will fallen reason, left to itself, by its own deductions ever infer our lost condition, or the way of salvation ?Will conscience ever awake from its torpid state of inactivity without enlightening and enlivening influence from God? Surely no.
For as “ no man hath quickened his own soul,” it is impossible that any man ever should do it. Left to ourselves we should “ sleep on and take our" carnal “ rest,” till we were roused to “weeping “ and wailing and gnashing of teeth,” by “the
worm that never dieth and the fire that is not “ quenched.”
When we become believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, “ quickened together with Him," and so made alive from the dead,” our minds are illuminated by His word and Spirit, our hearts by faith embrace Him in His various saving offices, and our will has received a new bias, whereby it chooses Him for its portion. But have we any “power of ourselves to help our“ selves” by persevering in the way of faith and obedience, by strengthening the graces and habits which by almighty power have been formed within our bosoms, and by enduring to the end in the pursuit of glory, honour, and immortality ? Oh! no. Those who are kept, are
kept by the power of God “ through faith $6 unto salvation." The bruised reed would soon be crushed, the smoking flax would of itself expire, were not God the Keeper of Israel. 66 When we consider how weak we are in ourselves, yea the very strongest among us, and how assaulted, we wonder, and justly we may, that any can continue one day in a state of
grace. But when we look on the strength by which we are guarded, the power of God, then we see the reason of stability to the end. For Omnipotence supports us, and the everlasting arms are under us.
Now the carnal mind is unconscious of its own imbecility in all these respects and a thou.. sand others which might be specified. In its own vain and proud estimation it is equal to any thing that is required. It cannot, therefore, without hypocrisy, adopt the language of our church. Its true sentiments would be expressed in the preface of our collect, if its appeal were reversed by an omission of the negative particle. The genuine members of our church, however, mean what they assert, when they address • Almighty God' as “ seeing that they have no pow“ er of themselves to help themselves.”
It is a consideration full-fraught with consolation to the awakened mind that God doth see and is intimately acquainted with all its weakness. For while His promises demonstrate His complete knowledge of our case, they demonstrate also that the most complete provison is made for its relief. Till “the unsearchable “ riches of Christ” are revealed to the soul, it is no wonder that it is afraid to prosecute an inquiry into its own poverty and wretchedness; for the sight thereof must necessarily overwhelm it with despair. But when that fullness of grace which is in Him is exhibited to view, it can bear the discovery of its own emptiness, freely confesses it, and derives comfort from God's acquaintance with it. We have therefore encouragement in the introductory part of our
* Archbishop Leighton on 1 Pet. vol. 1, p. 57.
collect, while we proccd to consider the request which it makes.
We pray that “ Almighty God, who seeth “ that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, would keep us both outwardly in
bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we “ may be defended from all adversities which
may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
We implore, in the first place, the conservation of our bodies, “ that they may be deor fended from all adversities which may happen os to them.”
The " adversities” to which our bodies are liable, are too generally and sensibly felt, and consequently too well known, to make a recapitulation of them necessary. And indeed they are so many, that an enumeration of them would be impossible. Our exposure to bodily adversity, in some shape or other, is incessant. As one wave of the sea is impelled by another,* so is it also with respect to the evils of fallen nature. But as this is a trite subject, though one that is universally interesting, we shall only make one remark concerning it. That any man possessed of the power of reasoning on the past, present, and future-who has contemplated the experience of others and reflected on his own can be happy for a moment without a persuasion of an interest in the Divine favour and a hope full of immortality, is truly astonishing. For the present condition of man is like that of a shipwrecked mariner, who is tossed on the sur face of a tempestuous ocean, to the bottom of
* Unda impellitur unda.