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which he is every moment in danger of sinking; or to that of one who inhabits a country which is shaken by an earthquake, who sees his friends and neighbours every moment ingulphed around him, while he himself totters on the brink of the yawning pit. That any man under such circumstances can yield up himself to a carnal security, and neglect to seek an interest in the only Saviour and Deliverer of lost sinners, is a proof how deeply the fall has injured our understandings as well as our hearts.
But what ground of confidence have we in praying for bodily conservation ? Has God promised to His people absolute exemption from those adversities, which may happen to the body? Has He afforded it to any of our predecessors in the walk of faith, many of whom have doubtless surrounded His throne of grace with as great sincerity as ourselves? Have we not seen that sickness and health, life and death, come alike to all, whether saints or sinners, children of light or children of this world? In answer to these questions, while we admit that the Divine promises are the proper and only ground of confidence in prayer, and that no promise of complete exemption from calamity is made to the servants of God, yet the use of our collect may be fully vindicated. It is our duty and privilege to pray for bodily preservation, with a submission of ourselves to the Divine will. For we find that saints have thus prayed in all ages of the church, and that the Lord has heard them. Our petition, however, must be offered with a clause of limitation always implied: “ Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass “ from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as 56 thou wilt.” - So far as is consistent with the VOL. II.
glory of thy name and the spiritual advantage of our immortal part, we implore defence against those bodily adversities to which sin has exposed us, and which the curse of thy law has threatened; and that when thou seest it necessary to inflict chastisement on us, thou wouldest mitigate it as much as may be, afford us patience and comfort under it, and in thine own good time bring it to a happy issue." We have abundant encouragement to present our bodies as well as our souls before the mercy-seat, for they also are purchased by the blood of Christ, are made" temples of the Holy Ghost," are destined to be instruments of promoting the Divine glory on earth, and to be partakers of the "rest that remaineth for the people of God" in heaven.
We proceed to a far more important object of concern, and pray for the conservation of our souls, that they may "be defended from all evil "thoughts which may assault and hurt them." There is no necessity of a pause in order to prove to those persons, who are attentive to the transactions of their own breasts, the propriety of this petition, or the necessity of earnestness in the use of it. For the bosom of fallen man is the laboratory of the prince of this world, in which he is continually fabricating evil thoughts-thoughts that are inconsistent with the purity of the Divine law, and offensive to the holiness of the Divine nature.
In our natural state "every imagination of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil continually." (Gen. vi. 5.) Man, of his own nature is fleshly " and carnal, corrupt, naught, sinful and disobe"dient to God; without any spark of goodness "inhim, without any virtuous or Godly motion,
“only given to evil thoughts and wicked deeds."* And even after conversion, legions of “ evil “ thoughts” daily arise in the bosom, and “as« sault and hurt the soul.” Who would choose to have the thoughts of a single day-of a single hour-exposed to the view of the world, or even to the confidential inspection of his most intimate friend? No one would willingly submit to such an exposure. For many of our thoughts are not only offensive to the infinite purity of God, but would shock the delicacy of a fellow-creature. And the more we are introduced to an acquaintance with God, the more clearly do we discern the impurity of our own bosoms.
Our “evil thoughts,” if not counteracted by the influence of Divine grace, must destroy our souls by keeping them in a state of alienation from God and of unfitness for heaven; nay, by preparing them more and more for the society of devils and the mansions of outer darkness. And even after that they become a source of sorrow to the mind, so far as they prevail they “hurt the soul" by interrupting its communion with God, its progress in sanctification, and its energy in prosecuting the great object of life, the glory of God.
Now who can defend us from " those evil " thoughts which assault and hurt the soul” but God only ? Surely Omnipotence and Omniscience are required for this purpose. Our own imbecility is evident at the first glance. If the subtilty and power of Satan, the corruption of our own hearts, out of which evil thoughts naturally proceed, (Matt. xv. 19.) the nature of
* Homily for Whit-Sunday,
thought, and the excitements to evil by which we are surrounded, are taken into consideration for a moment, we shall perceive the impossibility of being our own defenders. If any man doubt it, let him make the trial. Let him endeavour, the next time he bends his knee, opens the Bible, or attends public worship, (seasons at which it may be supposed that the task is feasible if at any) to exclude from his mind all worldly ideas. The result will issue in the confusion of his imagined ability.
Oh, what need, then, is there for earnestness in the use of our collect! The awakened soul will feel its excellence, urge the precious name of Jesus to enforce the success of its petitions, and add at its close a hearty " Amen."
THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT.
We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty to be our defence against all our enemies, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
VHE brethren in Ægypt (saith St. Augus
tin, Epist. 121.) are reported to have many prayers, but every one of them very "short, as if they were darts thrown out with “ a kind of sudden quickness, lest that sudden ~ and erect attention of mind, which in prayer " is very necessary, should be wasted or dulled “ through continuance, if their prayers were “ few and long." Our collects are“
prayers “ whereunto devout minds have added a pierc
ing kind of brevity, as well in that respect “ which we have already mentioned, as also
thereby the better to express that quick and
speedy expedition wherewith ardent affections, “the very wings of prayer, are delighted to “present our suits in heaven, even sooner than “our tongues can devise to utter them.”*
The collect to which our attention is now called, consists of two petitions--the first of a more general, and the second of a more specific nature. The general petition implores Divine regard to the desires of God's humble servants,
ker's Eccles. Pole vol. 3, p. 180. Oxford edit.