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There are some fearful and downcast souls who look only on God's justice, and so dread his vengeance, as to fear that he cannot be reconciled to them. To encourage these to draw near unto God, the minister leads them to address these words to God:
"Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out mine iniquities." Psalm li. 9.
"O Lord, correct me, but with judgement; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing." Jer. x. 24. Psalm vi. 1.
"Enter not into judgement with thy servant, O Lord; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified. Psalm cxliii. 2.
He reminds them for their comfort, that "To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him: neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws which he set before us." Dan. ix. 9, 10.
And assuring them, that the God they thus dread as a severe task-master, is a most merciful Father, he bids them, "Arise and go to their Father, and say unto him, Father, we have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and are no more worthy to be called thy sons." St. Luke xv. 18,19. These are the words which the Church puts into the mouth of the fearful and downcast.
There are some ignorant souls who do not know their guilt and danger, who almost think they have no sin, or that a little repentance will obtain pardon for their little sins (as they think them). Such ignorant souls are taught to say, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us: but, if we confess our sins, he is
faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 St. John i. 8. 9.
There are others not ignorant, but negligent and careless; who do not deny that they sin, and that they need repentance, but put it off from week to week, and are in danger of putting it off till it is impossible to repent. These careless ones are taught to say," I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Psalm li. 3. And are exhorted, after acknowledging their sins, to do that, without which all acknowledgements of sin are but mockery of God; "Repent ye; for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand." St. Matt. iii. 2.
There are some, lastly, who, though they do acknowledge their sins, do it only with the lips. To these, the cold and formal, the Church, by her minister, speaks, like Joel to the Jews of like character and says, "Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil." Joel ii. 1, 3.
Thus, not a class or kind of persons, not a state or frame of mind likely to be found among the outward worshippers of God, is left out in these Sentences; but the Word of God is set before and put into the mouth of all the fearful and downcast, the ignorant, the careless, and the formal. How important then (as it must plainly appear) is it that we should all be in our places before the minister stands up, in the name of his God, to read to them his Almighty Master's words; and those who, from any cause but absolute necessity, (such
as God Himself knows to be so) are absent at the beginning of Divine Worship, are assuredly guilty of irreverence and disrespect to the temple, and Him that dwelleth therein'-are doing harm to themselves, and disturbing the worship of their brethren, who have come desiring to worship God aright.
The minds of the worshippers being thus prepared by passages of the Word of God, suited to their several cases, the servant of God addresses to them an EXHORTATION, the object of which is still further to prepare the mind for a drawing near to God, with that deep humility, which becomes guilty but repenting creatures; rebels, coming to the foot of their Sovereign's throne, trusting to his proclamation of mercy to such as throw away their weapons and return to duty, and yet with love, as to a Father, that waiteth to be gracious-that watches for the return of his prodigal children-that is more ready to forgive than they to ask forgiveness-'more willing to hear than we to pray. Let us then now notice the Exhortation; and bear in mind, that whoever the minister may be, he stands before us as the servant of God, and as an "ambassador for Christ ;" and as such we should receive him-"God accepteth no man's person"-God's people should do the same; but however humble the man may be, they should give him the honour for his office' sake.
The minister, in the words of the Exhortation, addresses the people as 'his dearly beloved brethren; and so you are to faithful ministersyou are our brethren " -"partakers of the same flesh and blood"-compassed by the same infirmities subject to the same temptations-objects of the same Heavenly Father's love-the same
Blessed Redeemer's travail-the same Holy Spirit's influences. You are now our brethren, dearly
beloved, and longed for ;" and if you only believe in Him who died for you, and "hold the beginning of your confidence sted fast to the end," you will be "the joy and crown of faithful ministers.
He declares first, that the Scripture moveth us in sundry places' (that is, the Scripture exhorts us in many passages and texts) to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness.' Thus the first part of this Exhortation contains a general call to confession of our sins; the next, a caution not to conceal them, in these words, 'that we should not dissemble nor cloke them before the face of Almighty God.'-Next, the state of heart, with which we should confess, is pointed out, that it should be humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient-this latter is an important word, because our obedience' is the proof of our humility and penitence; since "to obey is better than sacrifice ;" and if we be "willing and obedient,” "confessing and forsaking our sins, we shall find mercy. For God never throws his "pearl" of pardon "before swine," nor gives that which is to make us holy" to the dogs," who will "return to their own vomit again ;" when He forgives, it is that men may "go, and sin no more"--when He pardons a rebel, it is that he may throw away the sword, and take the reaping hook, and sickle, and work for God, and not fight against Him.-After setting forth in few words the state of heart with which confession should be made, the Exhortation next shews the end of confession, i. e. that, to obtain which confession is made, viz. that we may obtain forgiveness of the same,' (that is of our manifold sins and wickedness) by 'God's infinite goodness and mercy;' and what goodness but infinite
goodness-what mercy but that which knows no end and bounds could forgive our sins, which are all but infinite? the sins of each of us
in number than the hairs of our heads," but he, who knows the number of those hairs, has "merciful thoughts towards every true penitent sinner, which no man could number unto Him." It notices next the best season for confession of sin, which is when we assemble and meet together' in church, though we ought at all times. to acknowledge our sins before God,' and as each day brings with it "the evil thereof," by adding, it may be, to our sins, and certainly to our negligences and ignorances, so each day we ought "to watch our hearts," and whereinsoever we find ourselves to have offended either in thought, word, or deed, there to bewail our sinfulness, and humbly confess it to Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life.' And in this part of the Exhortation are noticed, in a way of short analysis or summary, the different parts of Divine Worship after, confession, which are to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, this we do in our thanksgivings; the next is to set forth his most worthy praise,' (the praise of which He is most worthy)-this we do in the Psalms and Hymns; the next is to hear His most Holy Word' which we do when the Lessons are read; in the last, 'to ask such things as are necessary both for our bodies and our souls -which we do in the Collects, Litany, and other Prayers of our Church. You perceive then, that we have a short analysis (or taking to pieces) of the whole Service, so that every part of it is shortly set forth in these few words. In the last words of this Exhortation, the minister is taught to intreat as many as may be present, (and all who mean to come to worship should be so) 'to accom