Page images

thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Further, the ministers of the Gospel, faithfully fulfilling the commands of Christ, are made the means of bringing many souls to the knowledge of salvation by faith in him. They are specially appointed for this purpose : and if they have the mind of Christ, they will delight in bringing up a family of spiritual children for the Lord.

An eminent example of all this we have in Timothy; for he enjoyed every one of the above-named advantages. He had the word of God: he had pious parentage, (these two being mentioned by name, his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice) and he had the teaching of the apostle Paul. By these means and instruments it pleased the Lord to “ bring him up." Hence the apostle could with the greater earnestness exhort him, “ Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them : and that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. ii. 14, 15.)

Now of such young persons, (and indeed of all persons who are thus brought up, and who improve their religious advantages by a diligent use of them,) it is here declared that God will, yea, and actually does “ help and govern” them. And it should be a great encouragement to pious parents, ministers, teachers in Sunday Schools, and others, to reflect that God favours their exertions, and is ever ready to follow up these early advantages by increasing mercies and privileges. Here is a double blessing. The Lord often helps the young in temporal matters, shewing mercy to thousands in them that love him and keep his commandments. The children springing from a generation of pious parents, are frequently blessed for several generations afterwards. It is a most encouraging declaration that David makes : “ I have been young and now ain old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (Psalm xxxvii. 25.) But the Lord also helps them in spiritual things: he governs them : he puts a boly restraint upon them, and guides them by boly rules, as the effects of pious training. He answers the prayers both of parents and children, giving them “one heart and one way, that they may fear him for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them.” (Jer. xxxii. 39.)

2. Upon these declarations is founded the prayer, in which we implore God's good providence to guard us; and his grace, to instil into our hearts holy fear and holy love.

“Keep us under the protection of thy good providence.” This is a prayer, that all our temporal wants may be supplied, and that all dangers may be removed far from us. And will not our good and gracious God do all this, and much more for his children : May we not say, like David, “ The Lord is my shepherd : I shall not want.” “ O fear the Lord, ye his saints : for there is no want to them that fear him." ". Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Does he not hear the young ravens when they cry; and will he not much more hear us ? 'Yes, truly. In all our ten poral concerns we may take comfort from the words of our Saviour, when he says, “ Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.”

But we pray for a yet higher blessing, when we commend our souls to God, beseeching him to inspire them with “a perpetual fear and love of his holy name.”—The name of the Lord is great, and worthy to be praised. The Gospel sets forth his brightest glories, in the face of Jesus Christ. Here we may learn to reverence his perfect law, to delight in his unbounded mercy, to honour him as a Father, to love his will, and to account his service perfect freedom. Oh blessed souls, that have their prayers thus answered, by being brought into a temper of holy fear and holy love! And this, perpetually! For in what moment of our lives could we willingly consent to quit the service of so good a Master ? Is there any line of duty before us ? Let us be stirred up to pursue it by the motive of love. Is there any ensvaring temptation in our path ? Let us be made circumspect, ibrough the fear of offending so good a God as our God is. Are we visited with any trial or affliction or sickness? Let us bow to the rod, and yet lovingly kiss the band that holds it. Are we brought nigh upto death? Then let that perpetual fear and love, in which the Lord never fails to bring up his children, be the temper of our mind in our last hours. But one step more remains : and we shall enter into the presence of Him whom our soul loveth, to serve and worship him, perfectly and for ever.


Prayer is the proper spirit for the Church militant here on earth. The Collect before us breathes forth with admirable simplicity this spirit of prayer. The whole Collect is, in fact, one short fervent ejaculation, coming from a heart full of right views and right feelings. We shall notice first, What is the hearty spirit of prayer : and next; What is the petition here offered up.

1. What is here most fitly called, “ an hearty desire to pray," must arise primarily from a deep feeling of our many wants. They who feel no wants, utter no prayer : but when once we are made sensible of our necessities, it is as natural to us to pray, as it is to the young ravens to cry. He who is hungry will ask for bread, and he who is thirsty will ask for water, in a very different manner from a person who has well eaten and drunk, and who is satisfied. “The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” He who is in pain or in danger utters a cry that may be heard from a great distance : wbile persons that are at ease, quietly remain so. Thus it is in spiritual matters. An ignorant man, feeling the blindness of bis natural heart, will ask for divine teaching. An awakened soul, feeling the burden of sin, will pray for pardon and peace. The weak will desire to be strengthened in the ways of the Lord. Every one who hath tasted that the Lord is gracious, will desire from him more ạnd more of the spirit of holiness.

With regard to our temporal wants also, we should cultivate the habit of laying them before the Lord in prayer. They are all, in sub

stance, comprised in that short petition taught us by our Lord, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

This “ hearty desire to pray” is exceedingly enlarged by our conviction of God's willingness to hear and answer prayer. How condescending and how kind is our God and Saviour, in encouraging us poor and miserable sinners to draw nigh unto him. “ Him that cometh unto me,” saith Jesus, “I will in no wise cast out." He is more ready to hear than we to pray; for it is written, “ And it shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” (Isaiah Ixv. 24.) The Lord is so condescending, that the Psalmist is emboldened to say to him, “ Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me; for I am poor and needy.” (Psalm 1xxxvi. 1.) How animating are such declarations as the following: " Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him : he also will hear their cry, and will save them.” (Psalm cxlv. 16, 18, 19.) Well may such assurances as these stir up in us an hearty desire to pray, and encourage us to come boldly unto the throne of grace,

Some persons are grieved, because they cannot express their wants in fluent language. Those who are cast down on this account, should be cheered by the recollection, that what is chiefly pleasing in the sight of God, is the “ hearty desire.” He does not need our words, though it is fitting in general that we should endeavour to use them. There is frequently a solemn silence in the most fervent private devotions : the lips are speechless, while the heart speaks to God.

This desire to pray is the gift of the Holy Spirit. The collect expressly leads us to this consideration. And Scripture shows us this truth distinctly : “ Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings, which cannot be uttered.” (Rom. viii. 26.)

2. Our petition in this Collect is for the “ mighty aid ” of God. Dangers and adversities we must expect in this world. Providence permits thém : Satan, our cruel enemy, willingly stirs them up: they are often sent to make us feel our own utter helplessness, and to lead us the more earnestly to depend on the Lord as our Saviour, our friend, and our portion. As long as we continue in the body, we shall always have occasion, on one account or another, to offer up this petition.

We pray therefore “ Defend us ;” that is---from dangers and adversities, that they may not reach us so as to hurt us. A man may be in the midst of a battle, yet if he is protected by a shield broad enough, he shall escape unwounded. We also pray, “Comfort us;" that is,—when under dangers and necessities : for while we are actually in the midst of them, even though we may be safe, yet it is very distressing to feel them so near. We need to have our spirits fortified and supported in the trying hour. And that which our Lord bids his disciples do to one another, we may be well assured he will himself do on our behalf, “ Comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak.”

This prayer we offer up in the name of Jesus, the captain of our salvation. "" In that he himself hath been tempted, he is able also to succour them that are tempted.” “ For we have not an high priest, which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. iv, 15, 16.)


This Collect contains an invocation expressive of faith in God; an earnest ejaculation; and a plea, urged in the spirit of mingled fear and hope.

1. The invocation expresses our faith in God.

He is the protector of all that trust in Him. “ The Lord God is a Sun and shield.” “He is a buckler to all them that trust in him." “ The fear of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” “ He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

Our faith in this Almighty Protector is so much the more confident, because, through Christ Jesus, we are permitted to look up to Him as a Father. Being reconciled unto him through the death of his Son, we are encouraged to believe that, if we continue in his love, he will make all things work together for our good. “So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what inan shall do unto me.”

But while we thus profess our faith in God, we declare also our renunciation of all other confidences. Without him“ notbing is strong, nothing is holy.” It is too true, alas! that we are prone to trust to ourselves. Vain man would be wise, though born like a wild ass's colt: he will boast of his strength, though a single touch of the finger of Almighty God can crush him to atoms in a moment: he will go about to establish his own righteousness, though he is utterly an unclean thing, and all his righteousnesses are as filthy rags : peither has he any power of himself to help, to govern, or to sanctify himself. But they that are taught of God, are far otherwise minded : their hearty faith is united with profound humility : so that while they avow before the Lord, “ All my springs are in thee;" they as sincerely add, “ Without thee we can do nothing.”

2. Next follows an earnest ejaculation : « Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy.”

What a condemned sinner asks for, is Mercy. But when we are pardoned and set at liberty, we still need the continuance of God's favour, and we daily live by mercy. We never can ask for this too freely; God giveth liberally: we should ask largely. He abundantly pardons : let us then bring before him all our sins, how many or how great soever they be, lamenting and forsaking them, trusting in his promises through Christ; and He will blot out and forgive them all. Let us tell him all our infirmities, sorrows, and temptations; and he will succour us. He will do this, not merely for a few times, but unceasingly, again and again, as often as our need requires. For this is the promise of Christ to his disciples; “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." And again it is said, “ He giveth more grace.” And again, “ My grace is sufficient for thee.” Let us then call upon him, nothing doubting but that he will increase in us the fruits of righteousness, according to what St. Paul says, “ God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye always having all-sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” (2 Cor. ix. 8.)

3. We proceed next to urge our plea, in the spirit of mingled fear and hope. “That thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal."

Every part of this plea is full of force. “ Thou being our ruler and guide.” We need both; we need a ruler, for we cannot govern ourselves : we need a guide, else we shall continually wander and become as lost sheep. “ The way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” Therefore he must depend on the good providence of God. "The beart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked :" therefore we must not lean to our own understanding, but depend entirely on the grace of God.-The emphasis is most marked and beautiful, Thou being our ruler and guide :" not ourselves! No: we should soon rush into every folly and sin, did we not commit the keeping of our souls to Him, without whom (as we before acknowledged) - nothing is strong, nothing is holy.”

Hence we hope, so to pass through things temporal, as not finally to lose the things eternal. Yet our hope is not unmingled with fear. The expression *So pass,” implies that there is another, a far different way of passing through life. And alas ! how many do so pass through this world, as finally to lose both body and soul in hell. Careless and unawakened sioners aim at enjoying this life, regardless of the Redeemer's solemn question, “ What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” The lovers of pleasure barter away heaven, for a few years' carnal enjoyment. The covetous and the proud are so captivated with the shining gold and flattering diguities of this world, that they cannot enter into that kingdom which is prepared only for the poor in spirit. Others cannot enter in because of unbelief. Like the Israelites of old, wandering in the wilderness, they never see Canaan. Hence there is cause for fear, as well as ground for hope, “Let us fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.(Heb. iv. 1.)

They, and they alone, pass safely, and enjoy a good hope through grace, who walk closely with God. “ For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men ; teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world ; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus ii. 11-14.)

Therefore, let us watch unto prayer. If we have escaped the pollutions of the world, let us beware lest we be again entangled

« PreviousContinue »