صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

sin from public and exemplary calamities. But is not sin, though differing in degree, and mitigated by circumstances, every where the object of divine displeasure? Is it -less so when found in his own family, and among his own servants? And shall the afflictions so incur red be ranked among those which work for us a more exceeding weight of glory? Surely not. Are they not the bitter fruit of our own departure of heart; and will not those departures diminish, rather than increase, our future glory? The fact is, afflictions, in their own nature, are divisible into separate kinds; and if what is predicable of one, be transferred to another, we "darken counsel by words without knowledge." Some afflictions belong to us merely as children of Adam-liability to disease, to death; the action of the elements, in their present disordered state producing the extremes of heat and cold; sufferings from hunger and thirst, the loss of friends, and the decays of nature, Added to these, in many cases are the sufferings arising from our relation to immediate ancestors, whose wickedness has added to the primeval curse. The sin of Cain decreased the fertility of the ground he cultivated, and the accumulated transgressions of the antediluvian sinners broke the beauteous fabric of the original earth, and washed away its richest juices by floods of judicial wrath and now how many parents entail disease and beggary on their descendants! Again, afflictions are sent as admonitory instructions and warnings to the world at large. When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. But surely displeasure mingles with in all these cases; mercy and very different are these afflictions from such as are given only for the exercise and brightening of graces already strong afflictions, similar to those of which the Apostle

speaks, 1 Cor. iv. 9, &c. where he represents himself and the other Apostles, whilst conflicting with difficulties in their Master's cause, as combatants worthy the attention of angels, who wait to behold the victors honoured with a crown of unfading glory. Those who thus suffer with Christ (i. e. as he did), participate in the Redeemer's triumphs: but these are sufferings resulting from goodness, and not from sin; they are of a distinctand higher class than even those purifying afflictions which, by disengaging the soul from terrestrial objects, facilitate its ascent to God *, and which, therefore, are means of grace-spiritual medi cines which demand our gratitude, and prepare for those honourable sufferings which exercise the grace received, and which capacitate the soul, through the gracious promise of God, to receive that reward of divine approbation which constitutes glory, and (in its highest degrees) "a weight of glory." But these are sufferings for the name of Christ and the extension of his kingdom, and which can only be properly sustained by those who are truly his devoted servants.

I have thrown these few hints together, in the hope that they may lead some to more profitable views of a subject which has been greatly obscured by common-place declamation.

EUSEBIUS,

ON MEN KNOWING NOT WHAT THEY ASK IN PRAYER.

Matthew, xx. 20.

Ye know not what ye ask. WHEN our Lord was about to

leave his sorrowing disciples, he consoled them with the assurance that he would send unto them the

ranked those which the Scripture resembles

* Under this class of afflictions may be

to a wall and a thorn hedge, which prevent an egress into dangerous paths.

Holy Ghost," the Comforter, who should abide with them for ever." This blessed promise he is constantly fulfilling in the experience of his people hence there is no child of God who does not set a high value on the work of the Holy Ghost. Among the many blessings derived from his instructions, it is not one of the least, that he helps our infirmities in prayer, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit maketh intercession for us. Sin has so darkened the human mind, that even after it is renewed by the Spirit of God, ignorance prevails to a painful extent, and many a petition is directed to the mercy-seat, which Godin mercy refuses to answer. "Ye know not what ye ask."

[ocr errors]

There are several classes of persons to whom these words may with great propriety be addressed; we will mention four, and may the Spirit of truth make a profitable application of the subject!

The words may justly be addressed to formal worshippers, who repeat prayers without considering their meaning-without prizing the blessings they are designed to procure; or really desiring the enjoy ment of them.

How admirably adapted our excellent Liturgy is to express the feelings and desires of the humble, penitent, believing Christian, let those say, who, whilst adopting its petitions, have held sweet communion with God, poured out their soul before him, and received inestimable blessings from his gracious hands. Yet, among our congregations, how many persons are there who make use of its language without correspondent feelings, and ask for blessings, which it gladdens the heart of a seraph to receive, with all the coldness of indifference and the listlessness of apathy! They make confessions of guilt and vileness, to which their hearts yield no assent-address

[ocr errors]

petitions for spiritual blessings, of which they feel not their needand supplicate favours, neither estimating their transcendent value, nor the tender mercies of Him who waits that he may display his grace in freely bestowing them. May we not say of such persons, "Ye know not what ye ask?" If any of this description should peruse the present essay, let me beseech him, before he again joins in the solemn services of our Church, to retire to his closet, and seriously read over their several parts, consider well their import, and pray for divine grace that he may no longer be satisfied with repeating prayers,but so identify them with his own state and personal wants, as to "pray with the spirit and the understanding also."

The words may justly be addressed to those who pray ABSOLUTELY for some temporal good, which, if possessed, might prove a curse instead of a blessing.

"Your heavenly Father knoweth what things ye have need of," is a portion of Scripture which we should do well to bear continually in mind; for there are many things in life which, in themselves good, by being abused become evils; and God, in mercy, withholds that from his children which he knows would be an occasion of sin and misery to them. Hence arise the different circumstances in which the children of God are placed: one abounds in riches, and all the elegancies of life; another can scarcely obtain a sufficiency of the coarsest food, and hardly knows where to lay his head: one enjoys a full tide of health, strength, and spirits; another is weak, emaciated, dejected, a burden to himself and those around him: one rejoices with the wife of his youth, surrounded by a numerous and blooming offspring; whilst another, "the Lord writes childless:" one passes smoothly through life, and knows little of sorrow or suf

[blocks in formation]

This is a case by no means uncommon, particularly amongst

those Christians who have been brought to a knowledge of the Lord in a gradual and milder manner. "Drawn by the cords of love," they are strangers to those acute feelings of the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of their hearts, those bitter compunctions for sin, those alarming threatenings of a broken law, those terrifying views of their danger, with which some have been exercised; and hence they suppose themselves destitute of scriptural views of the evil of sin, and of real hatred to it; and they are almost ready to envy those who have been brought through the deep waters of souldistress, as possessing livelier evidences than themselves of a work of grace upon the heart. But, my Christian brother, whilst, urged by these impressions, you pray for the terrors of the law, and the thunders and lightning of Sinai, 66 ye

know not what ye ask." Be satisfied if you know enough of the evil of sin to make a Saviour precious to you; and of the misery of your fallen nature to look for every thing from him. Seek not to go down into those dark and dismal paths "where the arrows of the Almighty drink up the soul," and black despair lurks to drag you into its horrible pit. Mr. Newton somewhere says that he could ne

ver join in the petitions which he has heard from some good men, "that God would give them deeper views of the evil of their own hearts," without adding, that he might see at the same time so much of the preciousness of Christ as would counterbalance the view of sin; and then that the Lord would show him what he pleased. We should leave God to do his own work in his own ways.

Lastly, The words may justly be addressed to those who, when under afflictive dispensations, are more earnest with God to remove them, than fulfil his designs by them.

One lesson

"All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to such as keep his covenant and his testimonies; and, therefore, all afflictions have for their ultimate object the good of his people. Are they medicines? Their operation must be continued till the salutary effects are produced. Are they purifying fires? The fires must possess that intensity of heat, and cease not to burn, till the dross be thoroughly purged. Are they designed to convey instruction? must follow another, or the same lesson be repeated, till the intended truths are perfectly learnt. Is affliction a seed, the produce of which is the peaceable fruits of righteousness? We must wait, like the husbandman, for the precious fruit of the earth, and have long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain." God's purposes are not of yesterday; and his plans are the result of his purposes, "He doth all things well." The fruit of affiction is the taking away of sin; let that be the grand subject of our petitions, when exercised with it. And whilst, with humble submission, we implore the removal of God's heavy hand from us, let the principal desire of our hearts be, that we may not come out of our afflictions till the Lord's pür.

[blocks in formation]

CHAP. II. SECT. III.

[Continued from Vol. VI. Page 352.] HAVING in our last treated generally of psalmody as a part of divine worship, let us now proceed to consider the manner in which this daily sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving is directed to be offered in the Church of England.

The introduction to this part of the service is formed by the four following versicles, recited alternately by the Minister and people. "O Lord, open thou our lips: "And our mouth shall show forth thy praise.

"O God, make speed to save us : "O Lord, make haste to help us!" These sentences, my readers will recollect, are adopted from the book of Psalms. The prayer of the two first is for such a sense of mercy and divine favour as may fit us for the work of praise. For that which opens a sinner's lips, and awakes all his powers to the blissful employment of thanksgiving, is a spiritual perception of the pardoning love and gracious acceptance of God. To excite these happy thoughts is the object of sacred psalmody; but the means, however well adapted to the end, cannot of themselves accomplish that end; in order to this, they must receive His effectual blessing who has appointed them. If a sense of guilt, or distressing doubt of God's mercy, depress the mind, in vain the rest of the congregation join in animated strains of joy and praise; they produce no "me

lody on my heart." I may perhaps
catch some glimpses of hope where
the sacred song describes the ten-
der mercies of the Saviour; the
penitential Psalms may
well corre-

spond with my feelings; but, in general, the matter of these sacred songs will be unsuitable to me, unless I can follow the church in her experience, and arise from the footstool of the "throne of grace" a believer in that message of God delivered by his Minister, which "said to the faithful, Go in peace, thy sins are forgiven thee. If I fail here, through unbelief, you require of the wretched captive melody in his heaviness. How shall he sing the Lord's song, unless he restore to him the joy of his salvation?With the Psalm from whence the sentence before us is taken, he will say, Deliver me from blood-guilliness, O God! thou God of my salvation! and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

The two last of these sentences are, in fact, a translation of the celebrated Hebrew exclamation of congratulation, HOSANNAH- an entreaty for present help-for present salvation-" Be this the auspicious moment!'-Save now, O Lord, I beseech thee: O Lord, send now prosperity. And such will ever be the prayer of him whó has on former occasions tasted the pleasures of divine psalmody. He will long again to renew the repast; and now, if his heart is ready, an opportunity offers. Seeing, therefore, the people preparing for the sacred song, he will think of the beautiful supplications of the Psalmist Remember me, O Lord, according to the favour that thon bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation, that I may see the felicity of thy chosen; and rejoice in the gladness of thy people, and give thanks with thine inherit

ance.

The heavenly service begins with the "Gloria Patri," as it is termed -a form of ascribing praise and

glory to the most holy Trinity. And this is directed to be sung after every Psalm, as a suitable chorus to divine songs on every subject. Every hope of the Christian, indeed, rests upon the manifestation of the sacred Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, three Persons but one God, all severally engaged according to the bonds of the everlasting covenant, in the economy of man's redemption. All our boast and all our glorying ought, therefore, to be continually in God the Father, our Creator, who chose us "of his mere accord;" in God the everlasting Son, who has redeemed us with his most precious blood; and in God the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life, who sanctifieth all the elect people of God. O never let our hearts be faint, or our voices mute, when this ascription of praise, this grand chorus in the sacred songs of the Church, is offered up to the tremendous Majesty of heaven!

The Minister next repeats in English the invitation so common in the Psalms, and so much venerated by the Jews, Hallelujah :

"Praise ye the Lord."

slight the proffered mercies of his God, or, in ignorance, fail to notice the day of his visitation.

O come, let us sing unto the Lord; let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; and show ourselves glad in him with psalms. Thus the congregation mutually invite each other to the service of sacred psalmody, and propose to each other what shall be the subject of the song" Let us in triumphant songs, and with all the powers of music, exult and glory in our God," &c. That I am giving the precise ideas of the original Psalm, my reader may know from comparing the eightyfirst Psalm, where the same words occur: Sing aloud unto God our strength; make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp, with the psaltery," &c.

66

The expression, the strength of our salvation, is in the original, the rock of our salvation, or of our safety. The nature of the country where the Israelites dwelt gave occasion to this metaphor. The almost inaccessible summits of their rocky mountains formed, it appears, the natural strength and defence of their country. These were the places of their retreat from

The people, in the response, accept, as it were, the invitation: "The Lord's name be praised." After this the Psalms appointed for the day, according to the regu-danger, and of security against a lar division of the Psalter, are directed to be said or sung. As, however, in the Morning Service, a particular Psalm is always made to commence the work of praise, this Psalm will deserve our especial attention.

THE NINETY-FIFTH PSALM.

We immediately perceive the propriety of appointing this Psalm to precede the others at our morning sacrifice: it is, in fact, an exhortation and summons to the sacred task, conveying at the same time, in most impressive language, a solemn admonition that no one

too powerful enemy; in these situations they deposited all that was most dear and precious to them in times of public calamity : they hid themselves in the clefts of the rocks, and in the tops of the ragged rocks. Many allusions are made to this custom in the Psalms and other Scriptures. Thus Jeremiah exclaims: Oye that dwell in Moab, leave the cities and dwell in the rock; be like the dove that maketh her nest in the sides of the hole's mouth.

The force of this figurative expression, when applied to Him whose almighty protection forms

« السابقةمتابعة »