« AnteriorContinuar »
finish this great work in the souls of His people, is by affliction and death. Against the experience of these, therefore, we cannot pray for absolute defence. There is no real adversity but sin. Moral evil is the only evil from which we need to be solicitous for protection. This therefore our church teaches us to deprecate in the various circumstances of trial to which we may be exposed. If we are in a state of poverty, we are not warranted to pray for a state of opulence; but we must beseech Him, that we may be kept from the various temptations to sin which may arise from such a situation—that we may be defended against a spirit of impatience and discontent, which would prove adverse to the peace of our minds, to our growth in grace, and to our preparation for heavenly happiness. If we are laid on a bed of sickness, we are not authorised to pray, absolutely, for a restoration of health; but we must solicit grace that we may glorify God in the furnace of trial, and come out of it, either by recovery or death, as gold purified in the fire. Are we in a state of persecution? We are not at liberty to seek exemption from it, but that we may be defended against a murmuring and revengeful temper under it, and that we may be enabled to rejoice that we are " counted worthy to suffer for Christ's "sake." It is needless, and indeed would be impossible, to recount all the various scenes of tribulation incident to the church of God, or the dangers which are appropriate to each. It is a consolatory thought, that God knows them all, and that while we sincerely pray for defence against them, He will be our shield.
Our collect supposes a consciousness in those who use it, of utter inability to defend themselves, and to withstand the slightest temptation. They acknowledge that by grace they are saved, not only from the fear of hell, but also from the power of sin. They look to Him who alone is "able to keep them from falling and to present "them faultless before His glory with exceeding "joy."
We address the throne of grace "through "Jesus Christ our Lord." In Him all our trust is reposed, for "we put none in any thing that "we do." To Him we look for the acceptance of our prayers, for the justification of our souls, for defence against all adversity, and at length for an abundant entrance into His everlasting kingdom. We know that our "tears need to "be washed in His blood, and that our repent"ances need to be repented of."*
THE SUNDAY CALLED QUINQUAGESIMA, OR THE NEXT SUNDAY BEFORE LENT.
O Lord, who hast taught us, that all our doings without charity are nothing wortli; send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellentgift of charity, the very bond of peace, and of all virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted, dead before thee. Grant this' for thine only Son Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
THE practice of converting precept into prayer, which is so frequently exemplified in our collects, manifests a spirit both of humility and faith. It bespeaks a consciousness of inability to fulfil the statutes of God without His grace, and at the same time answers the objections which unbelief is prone to raise against religion from the difficulty of its duties. For it teaches us that, although we are insufficient of ourselves to comply with the holy and blessed will of God; yet this affords no excuse for disobedience or slpth, since in Christ all fulness dwells, and humble supplicants are sure to derive from His fulness grace to help in every time of need. In our collect for Quinquagesima Sunday, which was drawn up for the use of the church in the year 1549, we are taught to pray for the communication of a particular grace to our hearts, which we are enjoined in Scripture to cultivate. "Above all these things," says St. Paul, after having enumerated several other graces, "put on charity, which is the bond of "perfectness." Col. iii. 14.
This excellent "form of sound words" con^ tains,—A preface reciting an important article of scriptural instruction — A prayer founded on that recital—A commendation of the blessing for which we pray ;—and An earnest enforce* ment of the request made.
The important article of scriptural instruction, which the preface recites, is taken from St. Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians, Chap, xiii. 1, &c.—a passage which is chosen for the epistle appointed to be used with our collect. Though the penman of this epistle was a man like unto ourselves, yet our collect recognises God as the author of it. It is His instruction which is recited, and is therefore to be depended on as "a faithful saying and worthy of all ac"ceptation." Its truth and importance are equally indisputable. And it may therefore be introduced to the notice of the congregation in the awful style of the prophet, "O earth, earth, "earth, hear the word of the Lord." "Hear all "ye people; hearken, O earth, and let the Lord "God speak, the Lord from His holy temple."
The solemn consideration on which we found our present act of supplication, is this, "That "all our doings without charity are nothing "worth." For the purpose of explaining this weighty subject, it will be requisite to shew,-rrWhat charity is—That a man may possess very brilliant gifts and endowments, may make a splendid show of benevolence towards men, nay, exhibit in his conduct a striking semblance of piety towards God, and yet be destitute of charity — and that gifts, outward acts of benevolence to man, or of piety to God> are of no value whatever without charity.
A solution of the question, What is charity, is a matter of high importance, for the term is frequently misunderstood j and thousands, through misconceptions of the subject, have been deceived to their eternal ruin. The word charity is synonymous with love. The Greek term used in the New Testament is sometimes rendered charity and sometimes love. It is to be lamented, that the same word has not been always employed by our Translators, as thereby mistakes might have been prevented; and that love, as the more intelligible term to common readers, had not been chosen.
The nature of this grace* will appear from another branch of the standard writings belonging to the church of England, namely^ her homilies, one of which is intituled, " A sermon "of Christian love and charity." Now, as the same persons wrote both the homily and the collect, the former being dated but thirteen years after the latter, the meaning of our church in the word cannot be mistaken if we adopt the definition of the homily.
"Of all things that be good to be taught unto Christian people, there is nothing more necessary to be spoken of and daily called upon than charity, as well for that all manner of works of righteousness be contained in it, as also that the decay thereof is the ruin or fall of the world, the banishment of virtue and the cause of vice.
* A/aanj ts» Sic&ens ^uvijf «yafl)j, est animi bonus affectum quo efficitur ut nihil Deo pneferat. Maxim. 1. Centur. Sentent. torn. 7» Et Prosper: Charitas est recta voluntas ab omnibus terrenis aversa,etDeo inseparabiliterunita, ab igne quodam Spiritus Sancti incensa.—Quoted by Bp. Davenant in bis Exposition of the Epistle to the Colossiaus; who in another place says, Est virtus divinitus infusa, qua sincere diligitur propter se Deus, et propter Deum proximus.
VOL. II, G