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certain destruction? Do I feel that, even in my best moments, my strength is weakness, and that, like Sampson when deprived of his mystic locks, I shall easily be bound by my enemies in their hellish bonds, and so become the object of their infernal scorn and triumph, unless God give me and continue to me His grace that I may be enabled to “ withstand the “ temptations of the world, the flesh, and the “ devil?"
An answer to these inquiries will at once determine the reader's sincerity or insincerity in the use of our collect. Unconsciousness of a warfare, a confederacy with the triune foe, indifference about success, or a reliance on personal ability, will shew the church of Englayd professor, while he offers this petition, to be a hypocrite before God. O that there may be great searchings of heart among all those who read these pages, remembering that there can be no neutrality in the warfare between God and His threefold rival ! “ The friendship of the “ world is enmity with God.” “They that are “ in the flesh cannot please God.” “ live after the flesh, we shall die." If we “ walk according to the course of this world, “ according to the prince of the power of the
air, the spirit that worketh in the children of “ disobedience;" if we have “our conversation “ in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires “ of the flesh and of the mind;" we are evidently “ the children of wrath,' numbered with the enemies of God, and with them must perish.
A close connection subsists between the two petitions of our collect. An hostility to “ the is world, the flesh, and the devil,” is always
- If we - No man
accompanied by an adherence to “the only - true God.” Some master we all have whom we serve and obey, and there is also some object of enmity against whom we fight. The object whom we love and follow is either the Triune Jehovah, or his trinal adversary and rival. If we love the Lord, we hate evil. * And if we love the world, cherish the flesh, and follow the devil, we hate God.
can serve two masters” of opposite tempers, interests and claims, “ for either he must hate “ the one, and love the other, or else he will “ hold to the one, and despise the other: ye “ cannot serve God and Mammon.” (Matth. vi. 24.) It is a momentous question, to which of the twain my heart and life are devoted.
That purity of heart and mind for which we pray is a freedom from obliquity in the will and from error in the judgment. And purity of heart occupies the first place in our petition with strict propriety; because a disposition to do the will of God, as it is made known to us, is an essential prerequisite to an accurate acquaintance with it. For “ if any man will do, that is, is determined to practise, "the will of God, « he shall know of the doctrine" which is announced, “ whether it be of God” or not. (John vii. 17.) A guileless spirit, free from reigning hypocrisy, is indispensably necessary to a genuine profession of Godliness.
of Blessed are “ the pure in heart, for they," and they only, “ shall see God.” And Oh, what reason have we to be earnest in imploring this purity of
* Ps. xcvii. 10. This passage may be taken either in an imperative or indicative sense; but the latter scens preferable.
heart and mind! For when we consider the perverseness and deceitfulness of our hearts, and the darkness that prevails in our understandings; when we moreover take into the account - the
temptations of the world, the flesh, and the “ Devil,” to which we are exposed, and by which we are continually assaulted; we shall plainly perceive that this qualification for fol. lowing God can only be derived from the grace of His Holy Spirit. It is His office to give a right bias to our affections, and to “lead us “ into all truth." Extraneous admixtures de base the piety of all the followers of God in the present state of imperfection; and therefore all who know themselves will be fervent in praying for increasing purity both of heart and mind. And blessed be God, what we ask He delights to bestow. He “ sits as a refiner and purifier “ of silver,” patiently inspecting and carrying forward to perfection the sanctification of His people. O let us seek for purity of motive, aim and end, in our profession of following “the “ only true God;" for then we shall prove that “ unto the upright there ariseth light in dark
ness," and that “the path of the just is as a
shining light which shineth more and more “ unto the perfect day.” For “ if God gives
grace, knowledge will not stay long behind; “ since it is the same spirit and principles that
purifies the heart, and clarifies the under“ standing."*
If it should appear on an inquiry that the reader is no longer the servant of sin, but that he is become the servant of God; he will perceive the propriety of imploring grace that he
* Dr. South,
may be enabled to follow “ the only true God,” by loving Him with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength, by obeying His will with alacrity and perseverance, and by devoting his all to God's service and honour. For he will be conscious that, though his conversion has been genuine, it has been imperfect, and that, while be desires to follow the only true God without partiality and without hypocrisy, he falls very short of fulfilling his duty even to his own satis. faction. He will therefore be humbled under a sense of imperfection, and will pray earnestly for grace that he may follow more closely the object of his supreme regard.
But as some persons may have supposed themselves to be followers of “ the only true God,” while in reality they have no proper regard for Him, let them bring their love to the test by answering the following questions. “ desires fervent and affectionate after Him? “ Do you find an holy impatience in your spirit “ till you enjoy Him? Will nothing else con“ tent you but God? Can you say, that there “ is none in heaven nor in earth that you desire “ in comparison with Him, and if the whole “ world were thrown into your bosom for your
portion, you would pluck it thence, and cast “ it at your feet, resolving that you will not be ..put off with such trifles ? Do you find a joy
springing and diffusing itself through your “ hearts, when you are engaged in communion “ with Him-a sweet and potent delight, to “ which all the pleasures of sin are but flat and “ insipid? Are you jealous for the Lord of “ Hosts? Are your anger and grief never so “much kindled for any wrongs that are done “ unto you, as they are for the provocations
" Are your
«s that are daily committed against the great “ Majesty of Heaven? Canst thou mourn and
weep for these in secret, and, if thou hast power and authority to do it, punish and
avenge them openly ?-Thou mayest for. thy “ comfort conclude, that God hath kindled this
heavenly flame of love in thy breast--a flame " that aspires heavenwards, and will at last carry
up thy soul with it, and lodge it there, where " the desire of love shall be satisfied, the joy of “ love perfected, and the zeal of love eternally " rewarded."*
That many persons who are professed members of our church do not thus follow nor desire to “ follow the only true God,” is too plain to be denied. For that which is the object of our chief love and confidence, whatever it be, is the god we follow. If the world or any thing in it be esteemed supremely by us and resorted unto for comfort, surely that is the deity we worship. If the dictates of the flesh and of the devil be complied with, voluntarily and habitually, in opposition to the commandments of the only true God, it is evident whose we are and whom we serve. O let us not deceive ourselves by supposing that external worship, the homage of the lip and of the knee, will constitute us the servants of Jehovah, if our hearts be far from Him! Let us not provoke God by imploring His grace that we may “follow" Him as “the only true God,” the alone object of our adoration, love, and service, while the bias of our affections is turned from Him, while our will is obstinately bent on the pursuit of
* Bishop Hopkins on the Ten Commandments, p. 56.