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PRACTICAL ESSAYS

ON

CJe Collects

IN THE

LITURGY OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND. THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY.

O God, zoho knoioest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright; Grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

THE Omniscience of God is a subject of meditation which, while it is replete with terror to the wicked, affords strong consolation to the penitent believer. Faith in Christ interprets every Divine attribute to our advantage, and enables us to contemplate all His awful perfections with serenity and delight. The dawn of day, which drives the felon to his hiding-place, gives confidence, comfort, and securitv to the faithful citizen. What the heathen moralist pretended to on the score of personal purity, the humble believer actually enjoys through faith in Christ and the testimony of a conscience cleansed by atoning blood. For VOL. II. B

"whoso hearkeneth" to the voice of wisdom speaking in the Gospel, "shall dwell safely, and "shall be quiet from fear of evil."* Prov. i. 33.

Our collect contains, An appeal to Divine Omniscience—and A prayer addressed to Divine Omnipotence,

We therein appeal to Divine Omniscience with a view to the comfort of our souls under their manifold troubles, and for the purpose of exciting confidence in the prayer which we afterwards offer. "God knoweth us to be set in the midst "of so many and great dangers, that we cannot always stand upright."

That our spiritual dangers are "many and "great," is too evident to need much illustration. It appears from the warnings, the promises and exhortations of Scripture, from the offices of Christ and His Spirit, from the feelings and confessions of the saints in all ages, and from our own past experience, if indeed wre are true pilgrims who are journeying through the wilderness of this world towards the heavenly Canaan. The warnings which abound in the sacred pages against unbelief, pride, self-sufficieney, selfrighteousness, love of the world, despondency, presumption, hypocrisy, apostacy, and numberless other evils, would be impertinent if our "dangers were not "many and great." The "exceeding great and precious promises" of instruction, consolation, strength, and salvation, would be utterly needless, if our path were smooth and free from peril. The various exhortations to watchfulness, diligence, exertion, fortitude, and an assumption of the panoply of God, imply a constant exposure to danger on every side. Why is Christ called a Saviour and Deliverer, a Sun and Shield, a Prophet, Priest, and King? Why is He "made of God unto "us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and u redemption?" Why, but because God know"eth us to be set in the midst of so many and "great dangers, that we cannot always stand "upright." The complaints, the prayers, and the praises of the saints, in all ages, bear testimony to the same fact. And every Christian pilgrim hath the witness in himself, that the representation of our collect is founded in truth.

* Integer vita?, scelerisque purus,
Non eget Mauri jaculis, Deque arcu,
Nee venenatis gravida sagittis,

Fusee, pharetra;
Sive per Syrtes iter sestuosas,
Si"e faeturus per inhospitalem
Caucasian, vel quae loca fabulosus
Lainbit Iaspes.

This ode is certainly beautiful; but it will not bear a com-
parison with the 23d Psalm. "The Lord is ray Shepherd,"
&c. "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
*''death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me, thy rod
"-and thy staff, they comfort me."

i^

The multiplicity of our dangers is so great, that, while avoiding one Which is perceived, we fall into another which is unperceived; while fighting against presumption, we are assaulted by despondency; and while endeavouring to counteract a spirit of despondency, we are in danger of presumption. While we are solicitous and diligent in the cultivation of holiness, a self-righteous spirit too often prevails over us; and while we resist the horrible influence of self-righteousness, we are in danger of growing cold in the prosecution of a holy walk. Our situation resembles that of the ship in which St. Paul sailed, which fell into a place where two seas met. If we are saved, it is by miracle, like St. Paul's companions, who*

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"some on boards, and some on broken pieces of "the ship, all escaped safe to land."

As it is impossible to enumerate the dangers to which we are exposed, so also it is impossible to state their magnitude. For it is a danger of SINNING to which we are liable. And what is that, but a danger of losing heaven, and of falling into hell. When a soldier in the field of battle contemplates his situation, he reflects, not only that he is continually in danger of being wounded by the bullets which are flying towardshim, and which he neither can see nor avoid by any precaution of his own, but also that every one of them is winded with death. Death and destruction issue forth from every discharge of musquetry and artillery of which he hears the report, and it is uncertain whether he may or not be the next victim. Now "lust, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth " sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth " death." And what but Almighty power can prevent the birth, growth, and maturity of this destructive evil? If we consider that our dangers are not only so many as to be more in number than our moments or our thoughts, but that each of them is big with eternal consequences, —that our souls are the precious objects about which our solicitude is required, we shall surely join heartily in the prayer of our church for n strength and protection."'

The "many and great dangers" to which we are exposed, are as little under the control of man as the winds and waves. He who alone knows them all can save us from them. Should a question arise, why He suffers His people to be exposed to them when He could at once place (hem out of the reach of danger— the answer is eisy: it is for His glory and for their benefit that

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