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"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,
"PT^HE brethren in JEgypt (saith St. Augus"J^ 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,
* Hooker's Eccles. Pol, vol. 3, p. 18Q. Oxfoj-d edit. 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 "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 fulfd 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. xlv. 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 ii. 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