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of his life to be accepted of God? Is it the supreme object of his wishes and aims? If not, let him not mock God by suffering the petition of our church and of all her genuine members to pass over feigned lips.
We proceed to inquire, what our church means by being without God,” when she says that
« " without Him we are not able to please Him." To be without God, implies a separation from God, both with respect to His favourable regard and the communications of His grace. All men naturally are thus separated from God. For we are « by nature children of wrath,” as our catechism has taught us. We are atheists, if not in the common sense of the word, yet in one that is very awful ; for we are without any intercourse with God, excluded from any participation of His spiritual influence. Now Divine influence is as necessary to the life and all the vital functions of the soul, as breath is to the life and operations of the body. Man indeed, in his natural state, has a capability of loving and enjoying God; just as the body, in a paroxism of faintness, has a capability of hearing, seeing, and smelling. But this capability must, in both cases, be restored to its proper office by extrinsic power.
In this state of separation from God, the human soul is, of necessity, destitute of those sensibilities and emotions which are requisite to a state of acceptance with God, and to the performance of any act which is pleasing to Him, as the 13th article of our church declares in conformity to Scripture doctrine. It has no faith in Christ for pardon and justification. It has no love to God, as a Father, Friend, and Benefactor. Now faith
“ work by love" in every one who is acceptable to God. For “ without faith it is "impossible to please Him;" and “ love is the “ fulfilling of the law."
We may now see that the declaration of our collect is founded in the strictest verity. It is fully sanctioned by the word of God. (See Rom. viii. 8.) Nothing that is done by an unjustified and unsanctified person is acceptable to God. For every act so performed wants the requisites which are essential to acceptable service.
We pause for the purpose of pointing out the folly of those persons, who think that every man may so act by his own unassisted powers as to please God; and who suppose that mere morality, independent of faith in Christ, or any spiritual regard to God, will recommend them to His favour. There are many such deceived persons. They are conscious of no prevailing desire to please God, but other aims rule their hearts and conduct: and yet they fancy that they do please Him. They derive no spiritual influence from Him; for they feel no need of it and never seek it, and yet imagine that they are acceptable to God. O fatal delusion of the fallen mind! May God in His mercy dispel from the minds of all such dreamers the awful phantasms of error, before it be too late to derive advantage from their dispersion !
It is supposed that this declaration is fully understood and firmly believed by the members of our church; that they are all convinced that “ without God they are unable to please Him :" that Divine instruction and aid are necessary to a right performance of every act, and that Divine mercy must be engaged in the acceptance of our imperfect services. Does the reader understand and believe it? If he do, the earnestness with
which he solicits Divine help will evidence his persuasion both of its truth and importance. He will unite cordially with the congregation of the faithful in praying for the teaching and influence of the Holy Ghost.
This leads us to consider the earnest petition of our collect, that God's “Spirit may in all things “ direct and rule our hearts, through Jesus Christ
our Lord.” Herein we shall be led to consider -The blessing which we implore-And the extent of that blessing.
The blessing which we implore is the direction and governance of our hearts by God's Holy Spirit.
1. We implore Divine direction, that we may know the will of God, and be guided in it. Of our privileges and duties we are intirely ignorant, but so far as we are “ taught of God.” This is evident from the confessions and prayers both of Old and New Testament saints, from the promises of Scripture, and from the office of the Holy Ghost as it is therein described. The Scripture itself will not avail to our direction in the path of duty and peace without the illumination of that Spirit who inspired and indited it: not through any defect in the information given us in the Bible, but through a defect in our moral powers whereby we are incapacitated for discerning and using that information. The Scripture indicates our path; but we must have eyes to see it, or light will avail nothing. Now our spiritual eyesight is so impaired by the fall, that Divine interposition is required for its restoration to its office. Do we feel our need of direction by God's Holy Spirit ? Do we indeed seek it? Are we determined to follow it as it is afforded to us ? Are we convinced that without it we are sure to mistake our way, and can never know “how to walk and “ to please God?"
2. We implore Divine governance. It is not enough that light be shed abroad in our understandings, unless Divine “Love” be also “shed • abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given “ unto us.” For to know is one thing, and to practise what we know is another. Temptations to err and stray from the path of duty are too strong, and the natural bias of our will to evil is too inveterate to be overcome by mere information of right and wrong. The will must be converted. God must not only give us “ the “ spirit of a sound mind,” but also “ the spirit “ of love and of power.” He must not only “ open our eyes,” but he must actually “turn o us from darkness to light, and from the power " of Satan unto Himself.” And this conversion of the heart, like the antecedent direction of the judgment, must be a continued and increasing act of Divine grace. For we are not, in the highest state of sanctification attainable on earth, like a well-constructed watch which, when it is wound
up, will go right for a considerable length of time. But we rather resemble a ship at sea, which requires continual impulse from the wind as well as direction from the rudder, in order to maintain its course and perform its voyage to the desired port. Without the former it will be the sport of the waves and be carried away by the current, notwithstanding the skill of the most consummate steersman. We must “live in the • Spirit,” and “walk in the Spirit," if we would please God.
The extent of the blessing which we implore is very great. It is to run parallel with every step we take, or rather to be interwoven with every
act we perform. For we pray, that the “ Holy “ Spirit may IN ALL THINGS direct and rule our “ hearts. There are persons who suppose (and if we may judge from the spirit and conduct of many professors, their number cannot be small) that we have nothing to do with God except in the performance of religious duties. But, in fact, every action ought to be considered as a religious duty; for « whether we eat, “ or drink, or whatever we do,” we are required to “ do all to the glory of God.” Our whole man, body, soul, and spirit; all our thoughts, words, and actions, ought to be devoted to God. To make His love our constant motive, His word our invariable rule, and His glory in all things our end, is our privilege as well as our duty; and we can be happy only in proportion as we do so. We want the teaching and governance of the Holy Spirit in order that we may perform aright the common actions of life, as well as our more holy duties. I cannot buy or sell, eat or drink, labour or rest from labour, walk in the way, or sit in the house, on right motives and for right purposes, unless niy heart be " directed and ruled” by God the Holy Ghost.
We pray that the “ Holy Spirit may in all o things direct and rule our hearts;” but do we mean what we say? May not the address of our Lord to the sons of Zebedee be renewed with propriety to many who recite our collect? “ Ye know not what ye ask.” Is there nothing, in which we should wish to be exempt from the direction and governance of the Holy Ghost? Let us look into the word of God, the standard by which the direction and governance of the Spirit is conducted; and then turn our eyes