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Are we then earnestly desirous of being “ devoutly given to serve God in good works, " to the glory of His name?” Do we desire an exemption from adversity, both for ourselves and the church, chiefly with a view to His glory? Do we lament our deficiences, our want of zeal and fervour, of activity and diligence, in this holy cause?
Do we labour daily to serve Him more devoutly, and pray earnestly for grace that we may? Do we mourn over the declensions of His church from its primitive zeal, charity, and purity, and pray for that unction from above to be poured upon it which may revive its beauty and glory? If, in the use of our collect, we are thus influenced, let us remember, for our encouragement, that our petitions are offered in the name of “ Jesus « Christ our Lord."
THE TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY,
O God, our refuge and strength, who art the author of all Godliness ; be ready, we beseech thee, to hear the devout prayers of thy church ; and grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
RAYER is a duty and privilege of the
highest importance. It is a duty which we owe to God our Creator and Redeemer, as entitled not only to our homage, and to daily professions of fealty and allegiance; but also to an acknowledgment of our dependance on Him, and obligations to Him. It is an inestimable privilege, inasmuch as it is the appointed mean of obtaining every blessing which we need, the exercise of a gracious permission given us to draw on the royal bank of heaven for the supply of all our wants. As in the human body there is a reciprocal communication between the heart, the seat of life, and all the other parts of the body, by the vital fluid which is incessantly emanating from its reservoir by means of the arteries, and returning to it through the innumerable channels of the veins; in like manner there is a mutual intercourse perpetually maintained between God and His people, the Spirit of grace flowing from Him to them, and return ing from them to Him in prayer and praise. In this intercourse spiritual life consists.
The veins in which the blood on its return to the heart is conveyed, are furnished with valves by which its reflux is prevented.* Answerable to this admirable contrivance in the animal deconomy, there is a wise provision in the spiritual. For prayer, in order to be successful, and to maintain the life of the soul, must not be a mere expression of want, or desire of relief. But it must be mixed with faith; a reliance on the merit of Christ, and a persuasion of Divine ability and willingness to grant our petitions. The promises of God must be considered as faithful and true, and His perfections as pledged for their fulfilment. A fluctuation of mind, between hope and fear, confidence and distrust, expectation and doubt, is sinful. A man thus exercised has no solid and substantial support. Like a wave of the sea, his mind is sometimes exalted to heaven with hope, and then depressed to the deep with fear: sometimes he rolls to the shore of success with rapidity of motion, and then recedes with equal impetucsity towards the gulph of despair.
Such a man, since he dishonours God by his unbelief, and reflects disgrace on every attribute of the Divine character, has no ground to expect an accomplishment of God's promises, or a supply of his own wants. God may indeed, and often does, in the riches of His grace, grant petitions thus unworthily offered; and it is well for
* These “ small membranes, or valves,” are “ like so many half thimbles stuck to the side of the veins, with their mouths towards the heart. In the motion of the blood towards the heart, they are pressed close to the side of the veins ; but if the blood should fall back, it must fill the valves; and they being distended, stop up the channel, so that no blood can repass them."-Quincy,
us that He does. But it is no impeachment of His truth, if they are not granted. For to the prayer of faith the promise is exclusively made. Let the supplicant, says St. James, (ch. i. 6,7) “ ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that !' wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven “ with the wind and tossed. For let not that
man think, that he shall receive any thing of " the Lord.”
These remarks will assist us in explaining our present collect, which consists of-An introductory act of adoration-And a prayer.
The introductory act of adoration addresses God under several appropriate characters. He is “our refuge, and strength, and the author of “ all Godliness."
God is “our refuge.” Now a refuge is a place of safety, where a person exposed to dan. ger may be protected. God is frequently called in Scripture the refuge of His people. « The “eternal God is thy refuge,” says Moses to the Israelites. (Deut. xxxiii. 27.) “ The Lord is “ my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer: « The God of my rock, in Him will I trust, He o is my shield, and the horn of my salvation,
my bigh tower, and my refuge, my Saviour; “ Thou savest me from violence.” (2 Sam. xxii. 2, 3. See also Ps. ix. 9, and xlvi. 1, 11, and xlviii. 3, and lvji. I, and lix. 16, and lxii. 7, 8, and xci. 2, and xciv. 22. Is. iv. 6, and xxv. 4. Jer. xvi. 19. Heb. vi. 18.) In this view of Dia vine grace and power, besides the general idea of protection which it conveys, a reference may be supposed to an ordinance of the ceremonial law, viz. to the cities of refuge. To this insti. tution there seems to be an evident allusion in
St. Paul's description of faith, (Heb. vi. 18,*) where believers are characterised as having “ fled for refuge to the hope set before them."
This ordinance was a merciful provision made for the security of those persons who had been involuntarily guilty of homicide, and its particular circumstances strongly illustrate the gospel of Christ. " These cities were to be of easy access; to have good roads leading to them, and bridges wherever there was occasion. The width of these roads was to be, at least, thirtytwo cubits, or forty-eight feet. At cross-roads they set up posts with inscriptions directing the way “TO THE CITY OF REFUGE.” Every year,
*“Confugientes tanquam ad asylum, ut illi Num. 35. 2. Josh. 21, 27. A Deo justo scil. et irato, ad Deuin misericordem et intercessione filii placatum." Grotius et Jacobus Capellus in Poli Syn. Crit. The city of refuge seems to have been an emblem of the Jewish church ; and St. Paul may
be supposed to have referred to it as such, Gal. 3. 23. This hypothesis is strongly confirmed by the restriction of the involuntary manslayer to the city of refuge till the death of the high priest; which may well represent the bondage of the church till the death of Christ, after which its emancipation was perfected. But this view of the typical relation which might be intended by this Divine ordinance, does not, I couceive, vacate the common and prevai:ing opinion that the cities of refuge were typical of Christ. For the Jewish church could be an asylum only as itself was under the protection of God reconciled to sinners in Christ Jesus. And without such a supposed allusion to Christ in this institution, how such a concatenation of correspondences can be accounted for, is difficult to conceive. It may be asked, “If Christ be the antitype, what shall become of those who are chargeable with wilful transgression ?" To this it may be replied that there is a sin for which the gospel has provided no remedy. Or it may be said that no type agrees with its antitype in every minute circumstance, some grand outlines of resemblance being sufficient for the intended purpose of illustration,