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thought, and the excitements to evil by which we are surrounded, are taken into consideration for a moment, we shall perceive the impossibility of being our own defenders. If any man doubt it, let him make the trial. Let him endeavour, the next time he bends his knee, opens the Bible, or attends public worship, (seasons at which it may be supposed that the task is feasible if at any) to exclude from his mind all worldly ideas. The result will issue in the confusion of his imagined ability.
Oh, what need, then, is there for earnestness in the use of our collect! The awakened soul will feel its excellence, urge the precious name of Jesus to enforce the success of its petitions, and add at its close a hearty “ Amen."
THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT.
We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty to be our defence against all our enemies, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“THE brethren in Ægypt (saith St. Augussol tin, Epist. 121.) are reported to have “ many prayers, but every one of them very ~ short, as if they were darts thrown out with " a kind of sudden quickness, lest that sudden ~ and erect attention of mind, which in prayer " is very necessary, should be wasted or dulled " through continuance, if their prayers were “ few and long.” Our collects are “ prayers ” whereunto devout minds have added a pierc“ing kind of brevity, as well in that respect “ which we have already mentioned, as also " thereby the better to express that quick and • speedy expedition wherewith ardent affections, as the very wings of prayer, are delighted to “ present our suits in heaven, even sooner than ~ our tongues can devise to utter them.”*
The collect to which our attention is now called, consists of two petitions—the first of a more general, and the second of a more specific nature. The general petition implores Divine regard to the desires of God's humble servants,
* Hooker's Eccles. Pol, vol. 3, p. 180. Oxford edit.
in which some important things are taken for granted and made the foundation of the Divine regard which is implored.
Our church supposes, in the judgment of charity, which “believeth and hopeth all things” to the utmost bound of rational probability, that those who join in her worship and use of her collect are « God's humble servants." But though our church forms this charitable opinion of us, surely it becomes us to be jealous of ourselves, and to inquire whether our style of address, in approaching the footstool of the Divine Majesty, be consistent with truth. For as all men are either the servants or enemies of God, (a neutrality being impossible to be maintained, our Lord having said, “ He that is not with me " is against me"); and, since the time is at hand when all His enemies, who refused to have Him for their master, will be brought forth and slain before Him (Luke xix. 27); it is of the highest importance, not only to the acceptance of our prayers but also to the salvation of our souls, that we should determine whether we be “ God's “ humble servants" or not. The possibility that a single individual should be found, who, with the oily words of submission to Divine authority on his lips, maintains in his heart and conduct a spirit of hostility to the Divine Government, is a very awful consideration.
In a certain sense, all creatures, not excepting even the devils, serve God; for they must all ultimately subserve the purposes of His will. Not only do “ Fire and hail, snow and vapour, “ and the stormy wind fulfil His word,” but wicked spirits and wicked men, without design, accomplish His purposes and promote His glory. The temptation of man in Paradise made way
for the introduction of redemption; and every subsequent act of that opposition to God and His people, which the powers of darkness make, is over-ruled by Divine wisdom and power for the furtherance of their sanctification and His honour. In like manner, when Joseph's brethren through envy and malice sold the future governor of Egypt to the Ishmaelites, they fulfilled thereby the design of Divine Providence; for “God sent “ him thither to preserve life,” (Gen. xly. 5) so that on their atrocious act a long train of most important consequences depended which a finite mind can trace only in part. Thus also the Assyrian monarch, though he meant not so, was the rod of God's anger, the instrument of doing His will. (Is. x. 5-7.) And thus also the Messiah was “ delivered by the determinate counsel “ and foreknowledge of God," though “ wicked “ hands took and slew him.” (Acts ii. 23.) And all evil doers, whether embodied or unembodied, must finally exhibit the righteousness and holiness of God by their sufferings in hell, being made eternal monuments of His praise. · But it is in a very different light that we view ourselves, when in our collect we profess ourselves to be “ God's humble servants,” for the service of which we speak is of a voluntary nature. It is a devotion of heart, a state of selfconsecration to the Divine will, producing a devotion of life and conduct, which we profess. Let us examine ourselves then, that we may ascertain whether the language which we hold be sincere, remembering that empty compliments will not pass current before the throne of Omniscience which searcheth the hearts and trieth the reins of the children of men. Are we indeed humbled under a sense of the Majesty
of that Master whom we profess to serve? Doth a reverential awe of Him pervade and influence our daily walk ? Have we any due apprehensions of our unworthiness, both as creatures and as sinners, to be the servants of so great a Lord ? Doth a fear of offending Him, and a desire of pleasing Him in all things, prevail habitually within our bosoms? If we are indeed His “humble “ servants,” the tenderness of our consciences and the circumspection of our behaviour will prove our attachment to Him and our reverence of His name, in a thousand circumstances which an unawakened mind treats with indifference. A holy anxiety to avoid even the appearance of evil, that is, of rebellion against His commands and disobedience to His will, of hostility to His service, or even a want of love to it and zeal in it, will afford daily proof that we speak the language of truth, when we call ourselves His humble servants. A “testiniony that we please
God” will be the grand object of pious ambition, which will outweigh every consideration arising from the opinion which may be formed either by the world around us, or by our fellowservants in the church of God. As “ God's “humble servants," we shall - be obedient to “ Him who is our master, with fear and trem“bling, in singleness of heart; not with eye♡ service as men-pleasers, but as the servants of
Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; " with good will doing service, as to the Lord " and not to men.”
It is further supposed, (and the supposition is founded) that the bosoms of all God's humble servants are occupied by hearty desires after spiritual blessings. To the desires of their hearts they are therefore taught to pray for Divine