« VorigeDoorgaan »
highest authority assures us, no possibility of serving two such opposite masters as God and the world, Christ and Belial. The amputation of a limb and the excision of an eye are often required in compliance with His will. If any man will be His servant, he must “ deny him“ self;" he must “take up his cross, “ forsake " all, and follow Him" wbithersoever He leads by His word and Spirit. Now, “ who is sufificient for these things?” Who by his unassisted powers is able to take a solitary step in this unbeaten path, and much less to persevere in it to the end? Yet, without this, we do unto God no “true and laudable service." How evident therefore is it that, throughout the whole progress of the work from its commencement to its consummation, “it cometh of God's only
gift” “ that His faithful people do unto Him true and laudable service!”
His grace is opposed by every thing within us and around us, and yet it prevails.
What powerful encouragement doth the introduction of our collect afford in offering the petition to God which follows it! For if God, of His mere grace, hath engaged us in His service; if He hath awakened, rescued, called and employed us, when we were serving other mase ters who are His enemies and rivals, what abundant reason have we to conclude that HR will now enable us to persevere in His holy ways,* and accept our imperfect endeavours to please Him! There was no motive that could induce Him to think of us at first when we were “ enemies to Him by wicked works,” except His own Divine Philanthropy. But His own glory is now concerned in enabling us to hold on to the end, and in “ accepting us through
“ the Beloved !” The greater difficulties are already overcome hy converting grace: and though remaining difficulties are utterly insurmountable by our native powers or acquired strength, yet if a comparison may be made between them and such as have been already removed, the still existing obstacles are easily removable. But there is no gradation of facility and difficulty when God is the agent; for as nothing is impossible with Him, so all things are alike easy to be accomplished by Omnipotence. With these encouraging views let us address the throne of grace, and beseech God to“ grant, that we may so faithfully serve Him “ in this life, that we fail not finally to obtain “ His heavenly promises, through the merits of « Jesus Christ our Lord."
The mode of expression which is adopted in this petition implies great earnestness of mind. And surely we should be fervent and importunate, when we consider the nature of the objects which we propose to onrselves. The maintenance of fidelity to our liege Lord, and the attainment of His approbation and rewards, are things of such importance, that no fervour of soul can be adequate thereto.
Our own helplessness, the encouragement which arises from the Divine promises, from our own past experience and that of others, should rouse all the energies of our souls in the work of supplication.
The service of God is a service for life. The terms of agreement between the Master and His servants are settled: (Rev. ii. 10) “ Be thou “ faithful unto death, and I will give thee a “ crown of life.” Our service in order to be “ faithful" must be laborious; for our work
calls for the unremitted exertion of all our powers. O that we may avoid the fate of the unprofitable servant (Matt. xxv. 26, 30) who was not condemned for purloining or squandering his master's property; for gluttony, drunkenness, or debauchery; but for the non-improvement of his time and talent.
be “ steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in " the work of the Lord, knowing that our “ labour shall not be in vain in the Lord. “ Eternal life" will be their portion, and theirs only, “ who, by a patient continuance in well
doing, seek for glory, honour, and immoros
tality.” “ If any man draw back, God will “ have no pleasure in him.” May we not be of their number “who draw back unto perdition, “ but of them that believe to the saving of the a soul." “ He that endureth to the end," and he only, “shall be saved.” Our labour there- . fore must terminate only with our lives.
Now, when we consider the natural indisposition of our hearts both to do and to suffer the will of God the continual and varied temptátions to abandon His service to which we are exposed--the unnumbered difficulties in which our work is involved, and the sacrifices which it demands--the frequent declensions of others with whom we are acquainted, or of whom we have heard and read, from the good ways of the Lord, and our own frequent deviations from them,—we shall plainly perceive the necessity of imploring grace, “ that we may so faithfully
serve God in this life, that we fail not finally “ to attain His heavenly promises."
The end of obedience is salvation. Those who, through grace bestowed on them, are enabled " faithfully to serve God in this life,” VOL. III.
shall assuredly “ attain His heavenly promises." All His adorable perfections are pledged for the fidelity of His promises, the accomplishment of which nothing can frustrate. But what reward do His promises ensure to His servants? We must wait to know, We may, however, in the interval rest satisfied, that it will be worthy of God who bestows, and of Christ who purchased it; and that it will be as great as the soul is capable of receiving. “ Where I am,” “there,' says our gracious Redeemer, “ shall also my « servants be.”, And if we are with Him, it will be enough; for “ in His presence is fulness “ of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures 66 for evermore."
A connection is stated in our collect to exist between faithfulness in our Master's service and the attainment of His promises. And the statement is strictly Scriptural. But let not the believer, who is jealous of his Master's glory, fear lest our church should be found inculcating the popish tenet of the merit of works. No: The reward promised is wholly of grace, and in no respect wages earned by our obedience. Nevertheless, it is connected with our service, and will be proportioned to it, as appears evi: dently from our Lord's parable of the talents.
" Good works are in no respect, in the covenant of grace, the condition of acquiring á right to justification and salvation; they are not such a condition, either in whole or in part; in that quality they are not necessary. Nay, in that quality they are insupportable. This is a truth, and a truth important in the highest degree, which has always been acknowledged and advanced by all the orthodox; but which has not always been sufficiently urged, and
sufficiently improved, when the opportunity offered. All this, however, does not hinder good works from being in the covenant of grace a real condition, and a condition absolutely necessary. But it is a condition parallel to that which obliges a beloved child to render to his father, to the utmost of his power, a respectful and filial obedience; an obedience not forced, nor peevish, but paid with alacrity to his father, and having no mixture in it of any thing servile or mercenary. Works then are a condition of homage and acknowledgment, in the same sense and with the same restriction as an annual rent, with which a landed estate is charged, is a condition that a donee must fulfil, in order to retain legitimately that which he possesses by the sole liberality of the donor, and which he has not previously merited by his services.” *
Our collect cautiously guards against any abuse which might arise from the connection between faithfulness in God's service and the attainment of His heavenly promises, by informing us that those promises are only attainable " through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.” He purchased all for us, and bestows all upon
“ Eternal life is the gift of God through “ Jesus Christ our Lord.” God forbid that we should rob our Redeemer of the honour which is justly due unto His name!
Oh, reader, what encouragement is given to our fidelity in the delightful service of God! What has the world to propose that is comparable to the promised blessings of the Gospel? Its
* See a work of Ph. Naude Le Pere, Professor of Ma. thematics, and Fellow of the Royal Society at Berlin, 1736 : where the reader will find much more excellent observation on the same subject.