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power is committed : our Lord himself declared to his disciples, “All power is given unto me, in heaven, and in earth.” Let us pray Therefore in the name, and through the merits, of this almighty Saviour and Mediator. Whatsoever we ask in Christ's name we shall receive. “He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us.”
Two things are to be noticed in this prayer. We pray for the peace of God : and we ask that this peace may abide with us continually.
1. First, we ask for the peace of God. "Grant us thy peace.' It is a very short prayer, yet it contains all that can be wished for.
When offering up this petition we should remember the price which was paid to obtain peace for us. Jesus laid down his life to reconcile sinners unto God. Christ is our peace. The enmity between God and sinners, is taken away by the blood of the cross. The work of our Redeemer is beautifully described in these few words :-“He came and preached peace.” (Ephes. ii. 17.) Just before his crucifixion, Christ bequeathed this blessing to his disciples in the following words : “ Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you : not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” Surely what he thus calls, “ My peace,” must be a blessing peculiarly great and precious. It is a peace, you see, such as the world cannot give. The world may soothe us for a season, but cannot effectually heal our griefs : nay more, if we lean on the world, we shall find that it is but a bruised reed, which breaks down with us, and at the same time pierces us through with many sorrows. All that the world offers is sure to end in disappointment. Jesus alone disappoints none who look for his promised blessing.
The peace of God arises partly from a consciousness of pardon, and partly from those quiet and holy dispositions which are wrought in the heart by God's Holy Spirit. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ :” these are the words of St. Paul. The prophet Isaiah says, “ The work of righteousness shall be peace ; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever." " The fruit of the Spirit is peace.” There is no such thing as true peace, without holiness. " There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
2. Moreover, we pray that the peace of God may abide with us continually, even · all the days of our life.'
Those who belong to the flock of Christ, ought to rejoice in reflecting how kind a shepherd they have to take care of them. It is a happy day, when they put themselves entirely under his protection. Peace of mind, and abundant religious consolations belong to them from that day forth till death. They may say in the words of the Psalmist, “ He maketh me to lie down in green pastures ; he leadeth me beside the still waters. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
In the midst of prosperity, when every thing around us seems to smile, yet the best blessing we can ask for, is, inward peace. It sanctifies and sweetens every other mercy. There is no joy to be compared with this blessing ; and no prosperity is perfect without it. In the times of adversity this blessing is an unspeakable consolation : it suffices, when all other comforts fail. See how the Apostle bids us hold communion with God, and commit all our anxieties to him : “ Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God; and the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds, through Christ Jesus.”
Even if heavy trials should fall upon us, if we should suffer many grievous temptations, much unkindness, and many losses, we may still find comfort in God. The prophet Isaiah says, “ Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.”
In times of persecution, this peace will cheer and support the servants of Christ. Peter slept in the prison as soundly as ever he did in his life. (Acts xii. 6.) The world and the Church may be all in confusion, and yet a believer in Christ may possess undisturbed tranquillity. " There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God; the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved : God shall help her, and that right early.” (Psalm xlvi. 4, 5.)
To the very end of life we may pray in faith for peace, expecting to have our prayers answered. And when death comes, God will grant to us what we most need, namely, support and rest. “ Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.” “ The righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace : they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.”
We may suitably close the exposition of this Collect with the benediction of St. Paul : “ Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means." Amen.
THIRD SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY.
In this Collect mention is made of certain evils which we lament; and certain blessings which we implore.
1. First, consider the Evils we lament.
We speak of dangers lying in our path. As soon as any one determines in his heart to follow the Lord fully, he may immediately expect to meet with hindrance and opposition. Satan never quits his hold on any slave of his, without making violent endeavours to keep him. His hatred and malice against the Gospel are so bitter, bis arts are so deep, and the power permitted him to use is so great, that every one who shakes off his yoke, must prepare himself for war. Nor does our danger belong only to the beginning of our Christian warfare: it continues till death. Satan never ceases to attempt the ruin of our souls. When he cannot com pass bis cruel end by violent assaults of persecution from sinful men, then he aims to allure by worldly and carnal pleasures ; by “ the lust of the flesh, and the Just of the eyes, and the pride of life.” He is the god of this world ; and he works upon men's hearts, by worldly objects.
Consider how he 'tempts men in different circumstances. The young he tempts with the pleasures of sense, with the gaieties, and all the glittering pomps of the world. He tells them how sweet present gratification is : hiding from their view the bitter fruits of sin. He places evil companions round about them. As we advance in years, he deceives us with the desire of riches, puffs us up with thoughts of self-importance, loads us with cares of business, and with many worldly hopes and fears. He often works on the poor by stirring up in their minds hard thoughts of God, making them discontented, inclining them to steal, and lie, and swear : or drives them to seek comfort in drunkenness, and in forgetfulness of God. He has a bait for every age, every constitution, every condition of life.
Such is the power of Satan, and such are the snares of the world and of sin, that we are constrained to call our temptations by the strong term used in this Collect, necessities :' by which we mean to lament the excessively harassing power of sin. Satan seems to reduce us to the last extremity. It is no imaginary thing, this cruel malice of our great enemy: it is real! That wise and holy man, the apostle Peter, in his old age, expressly warns us, “ Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."
But the servants of God bewail not only their “ dangers and necessities ; ” but likewise their own “ infirmities.” A man never feels his weakness so much, as when he tries to put forth his strength. Never does the follower of Christ discover his infirmities so completely, as when he begins to resist the enemies of his soul.
Think of this, humble-minded Christian ; and see how weak you are in yourself. Your understanding is weak; so that you scarcely know what to do. Your will is weak ; so that you scarcely have the heart to do what you know you ought. Your affections are full of infirmity ; too often they are ready to fly off after any trifle, at the very moment when they ought to be fixed on God and heavenly things. Hence it is, that even in our devotions there is much infirmity : we know not what we should pray for as we ought, and we often ask amiss, or without faith.
Shall we then give up prayer? The Collect which we are considering will tell us, No. We pray imperfectly: but this is no reason why we should not pray always. Rather it is a reason for our continuing instant in prayer, pleading the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Reflect now on the Blessings which, in this Collect, we implore.
We ask in the first place that God would “ mercifully look upon our infirmities.” That He should look upon us, may to some appear but a small matter. And a small matter it may be among men. Some persons when they look upon the infirmities of their neighbours, do so, only to take advantage of them. So the prophet speaks, " Thou shouldest not have looked on the affliction of iny people in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity." (Obadiah 13.) Others look,' it is true ; but with cold indifference : thus we read in the Gospel, of the man that fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, leaving him half dead : a Levite journeying there, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. (Luke x. 32.) But from our merciful
God we have better hopes. A beggar in the streets, if he can but catch the eye of a benevolent man, expects something of him. When we entreat the Lord to look upon our infirmities, we not only hope, but we may be sure that he will look with compassion, with love, with favour. He will not forsake us in our greatest need.
We ask him to stretch forth his right hand to help and defend us.' Help us to fight on ; and defend us against enemies whom we cannot conquer by ourselves. As Jesus stretched forth his hand to save Peter when sinking in the water; so, O God, stretch forth thy right hand for our deliverance. “ Be thou our arm every morning : our salvation also in the time of trouble.” Day by day renew our strength. Let thy Spirit itself help our infirmities. Enable us in thy strength to tread down all our enemies. We plead the animating promise, that “ the God of peace shall bruise Satan under our feet shortly." And when. the battle is ended triumphantly, we will ascribe all the glory to our Almighty Redeemer, saying, so sing unto the Lord a new song, for he hath done marvellous things : his right hand, and his holy arm, hath goiten him the victory.”
FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY.
It is a consolation unspeakably great to reflect, that God is acquainted with all the difficulties we meet with, while travelling through this sinful world. We are not left to fight our way through life, unpitied and unknown. The eye of the Lord is upon every believer continually for good. We may apply to ourselves what Moses said to Israel of old concerning the watchful care of God: “ He knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness.” Or we may adopt the words of a beautiful hymn, and cheer ourselves with the thought
God pities all my griefs,
He pardons, every day :
And wise to guide my way. These reflections are suggested by the opening address of this Collect; which in its subject very closely resembles the preceding one. We call upon God as knowing what our difficulties are. Some of these arise from without, some from within : and we earnestly beseech him by his effectual grace to give us safety and deliverance,
1. First, we lay before God our overwhelming difficulties. “ We are set in the midst of many and great dangers.”
The world is a scene of never-ceasing temptation. It offers pleasure, gain, dignity, to the young, to the healthy, and to the learned. When men have been thoroughly cheated into the slavery of the world, and know not how to deliver themselves, then a burden of wants, and cares, and fears, is bound upon their backs, and they are ready to sink under the load. It is bard to have much to do with the world and keep a clean conscience. The world steals away our time, our thoughts, our spirituality, and our happiness. To walk closely with God is our only safety : but it is not easy thus to walk.
The rich are tempted to pride, to fulness of bread and idleness. The poor are tempted to a distrust of God's providences, and to desperate and profligate living. The godly rich man feels that it is hard for him to enter into the kingdom of heaven : and the godly poor find it very difficult to keep down murmuring and rebellious thoughts.
There are peculiar dangers even within the professing Church of Christ; dangers from false teachers, deceitful workers, who corrupt the simplicity of the gospel, and beguile unstable souls. Quite unawares we are sometimes alarmed at seeing grievous wolves entering into the fold, making bavoc, and not sparing the flock.
There is also another danger, a very great and overwhelming one, arising from persecution. In reference to this, our Lord said to his first disciples, -, Behold, I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves !” What a picture ? Lambs in the midst of wolves ! Thus it has been with the church in various ages. Thus would it be with us, in our day, if God did but permit Satan to have his will. But in truth, to a certain extent, there always is persecution going on. Many a time has an ungodly family proved “a fiery furnace" to a young believer. When one has been converted, and the rest have remained unconverted, 0 what unkindness and opposition has the convert met with on all hands. Not only his comfort, but even his faith has been placed in jeopardy : like a lighted candle carried abroad in a stormy night, every moment in danger of being extinguished.
These things cause the servants of God to sigh out their griefs before him in prayer. They are constrained also to add a humble confession of their own utter weakness : “ by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright.” We do not: and of ourselves we cannot. We make no excuse for ourselves; we lament this infirmity of nature as being sinful infirmity.
Mark tbis well:- for some persons offer it as an excuse for their faults, that since nature is weak, perfection is not to be expected of them. They take a little blame to themselves, and lay all the rest on nature :' so they hush up the matter, and quiet their consciences.
But a humble child of God does not do thus. No: he puts his sins and his sinful nature both together, and takes the whole blame to himself. Then he carries the entire burden in prayer to God: beseeching him for Christ's sake to pardon all his sins; and to pity and help his weak nature-his poor, feeble, treacherous heart.
What surer proof can we have of the frailty of nature, even in the best, than those words of St. Paul; “ the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh : and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Gal. v. 17.)-Or look at the case of Peter : our Lord warned him again and again ; yet he seemed unwilling to be convinced of his frailty. At length he fell; most greviously fell; the very night of his warning; while his Master was within sight, and within hearing ! What a lasting proof of frailty ; " written for our admonition.”
Let us look back at our own history. Do we not often break our best resolutions ? Then, we make them again : and again break them. No wonder that pious persons should grow weary of their evil hearts, which so continually deceive them with new promises. The matter of amazement is, that our God is not wearied out! But he is a merciful God, patient, long-suffering, forbearing, forgiving. He is soon