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in which some important things are taken for granted and made the foundation of the Divine regard which is implored.
Our church supposes, in the judgment of charity, which “believeth and hopeth all things” to the utmost bound of rational probability, that those who join in her worship and use of her collect are 66 God's humble servants.” But though our church forms this charitable opinion of us, surely it becomes us to be jealous of ourselves, and to inquire whether our style of address, in approaching the footstool of the Divine Majesty, be consistent with truth. For as all men are either the servants or enemies of God, (a neutrality being impossible to be maintained, our Lord having said, “ He that is not with me “ is against me"); and, since the time is at hand when all His enemies, who refused to have Him for their master, will be brought forth and slain before Him (Luke xix. 27); it is of the highest importance, not only to the acceptance of our prayers but also to the salvation of our souls, that we should determine whether we be “ God's “ humble servants” or not. The possibility that a single individual should be found, who, with the oily words of submission to Divine authority on his lips, maintains in his heart and conduct a spirit of hostility to the Divine Government, is a very awful consideration.
In a certain sense, all creatures, not excepting even the devils, serve God; for they must all ultimately subserve the purposes of His will. Not only do “ Fire and hail, snow and vapour, “ and the stormy wind fulfil His word, but wicked spirits and wicked men, without design, accomplish His purposes and promote His glory. The temptation of man in Paradise made way for the introduction of redemption; and every subsequent act of that opposition to God and His people, which the powers of darkness make, is over-ruled by Divine wisdom and power for the furtherance of their sanctification and His honour. In like manner, when Joseph's brethren through envy and malice sold the future governor of Egypt to the Ishmaelites, they fulfilled thereby the design of Divine Providence; for “ God sent “ him thither to preserve life,” (Gen. xly. 5) so that on their atrocious act a long train of most important consequences depended which a finite mind can trace only in part. Thus also the Assyrian monarch, though he meant not so, was the rod of God's anger, the instrument of doing His will. (Is. X. 5-7.) And thus also the Messiah was “ delivered by the determinate counsel “ and foreknowledge of God,” though “ wicked “ hands took and slew him.” (Acts ij. 23.) And all evil doers, whether embodied or unembodied, must finally exhibit the righteousness and holiness of God by their sufferings in hell, being made eternal monuments of His praise.
But it is in a very different light that we view ourselves, when in our collect we profess ourselves to be “ God's humble servants," for the service of which we speak is of a voluntary nature. It is a devotion of heart, a state of selfconsecration to the Divine will, producing a devotion of life and conduct, which we profess. Let us examine ourselves then, that we may ascertain whether the language which we hold be sincere, remembering that empty compliments will not pass current before the throne of Omniscience which searcheth the hearts and trieth the reins of the children of men. Are we indeed humbled under a sense of the Majesty
of that Master whom we profess to serve? Doth a reverential awe of Him pervade and influence our daily walk ? Have we any due apprehensions of our unworthiness, both as creatures and as sinners, to be the servants of so great a Lord ? Doth a fear of offending Him, and a desire of pleasing Him in all things, prevail habitually within our bosoms ? If we are indeed His “ humble “ servants," the tenderness of our consciences and the circumspection of our behaviour will prove our attachment to Him and our reverence of His name, in a thousand circumstances which an unawakened mind treats with indifference. A holy anxiety to avoid even the appearance of evil, that is, of rebellion against His commands and disobedience to His will, of hostility to His service, or even a want of love to it and zeal in it, will afford daily proof that we speak the language of truth, when we call ourselves His humble servants. A “testiniony that we please “God” will be the grand object of pious ambition, which will outweigh every consideration arising from the opinion which may be formed either by the world around us, or by our fellowservants in the church of God. As « God's “ humble servants," we shall “be obedient to “ Him who is our master, with fear and trem“bling, in singleness of heart; not with eye
service as men-pleasers, but as the servants of “ Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; “ with good will doing service, as to the Lord 66 and not to men.”
It is further supposed, (and the supposition is founded that the bosoms of all God's humble servants are occupied by hearty desires after spiritual blessings. To the desires of their hearts they are therefore taught to pray for Divine
regard. But Oh! what gross hypocrisy is this, if our souls be unconscious of any eagerness to obtain and enjoy what God has promised and what our lips implore! “ Desire is the uneasi“ ness a man finds in himself
the absence " of any thing whose present enjoyment carries “ the idea of delight with it.”* Now is such an uneasiness in any measure excited within our souls? To join in a form of prayer, and to feel the spirit of prayer, are things widely different from each other.
Should an inquiry be started respecting the complex object of those desires which are formed in all the bosoms of God's humble servants, a reference may be made to the “ exceedingly
great and precious promises” of the Gospel which will solve the question. For the Spirit of God excites hunger and thirst after those blessings which are provided for His people in Jesus Christ. By a comparison therefore of our sensibilities with the provisions of the Gospel, we may ascertain whether “ the Spirit maketh in“ tercession for us with groanings that cannot “ be uttered," and whether we are honest in “soliciting regard to our hearty desires.” Of those various wants, to the relief of which Divine mercy is here inplored, we have a schedule or inventory in the prayers of our church. Let us examine it attentively, and see if they express our “ hearty desires.” These, if an epitome of them be required, may all be summed up in a restoration of the favour, the likeness and enjoyment of God. In soliciting Divine regard to our
“ hearty " desires,” we have strong ground of confidence. For God Himself is the author of those desires, since “all holy desires proceed from Him.” The blessings we covet are all purchased blessings, for which an adequate price has been paid ; so that on all the promissory notes which the treasurer of the bank of heaven has issued to God's humble servants, the words, Value received, are written in legible characters. The communication of those blessings, for which the awakened bosom is athirst, will bring honour to the author of redemption, to the faithfulness of God who hath covenanted to bestow them, and to the grace of His Spirit who hath excited the desire after them. We desire nothing but what is promised to us; and the promises of God are so many bonds, for the fulfilment of which He hath, as it were, pledged to us the honour of all His Divine perfections: and our desires are thefore the claim of a specialty debt and can never be disappointed. The Lord “will fulfil " the desire of them that fear Him; He also “ will hear their cry and will save them.” (Ps. cxlv. 19.) Our own experience, and that of a great cloud of witnesses, will prove, that “not “ one thing fails of all the good things which “ the Lord our God hath promised concerning
us: all are come to pass unto us, and not one “ thing hath failed thereof."
The second petition of our collect is of a more specific form, and describes the nature of the blessing which it implores. We beseech “Al“ mighty God” to “ stretch forth the right“ hand of His majesty to be our defence against “ all our enemies, through Jesus Christ our « Lord.”
The Gospel which is annexed to our collect, leads to a conclusion that our spiritual enemies