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the words which we may choose to make SERM. use of are not material, but perhaps none w are better than these :-"Let the words of “ my mouth, and the meditation of my “ heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, “ my strength and my redeemer!”
But if it be necessary that all parts of our devotion should be performed with reverance and attention, it is more particularly necessary that this should be so, for surely it would be the height of absurdity to be then negligent and inattentive, when we are offering up our petitions against it; if we make this preparatory address only an empty form, which it is to be feared too many do, what is it but a solemn mockery of the Almighty!
The service opens with several detached sentences from scripture, one or more of which the minister is directed to read: the purport of some of them is, to recommend confession of sins and repentance,
SERM. and of others, to assure us, that if this VII.
confession and this repentance are sincere, we shall save our souls alive. Now these are, with peculiar propriety, placed at the bpening of our service ; for, guilty creatures as we all are, confession of our guilt ought certainly to precede our supplications; we ought surely not to presume to ask for blessings, before we have, with unfeigned sorrow, acknowledged our transgressions, and asked forgiveness of them. The efficacy of repentance is also expediently set before us at the beginning of our devotions, since, if we believe every sin to be irreparable, it would answer no purpose to confess or to beg forgiveness; all hope would be precluded, and, consequently, all endeavour to obtain God's favour would be discouraged. After the recital of one, or more, of these sentences, there follows an exhortation, or piece of advice, from the minister to the congregation, grounded
upon them. It begins with the address SERM. of “Dearly beloved brethren,” which de notes the zeal that the minister has, or ought to have, for the spiritual welfare of his flock, and the deference and attention which they, in their turn, ought to pay to what proceeds from him. “The scripture “ moveth us in sundry places, to acknow“ ledge and confess our manifold sins and “- wickedness, and that we should not dis“ semble nor cloke them before the face " of Almighty God, our heavenly father, “ but confess them with an humble, lowly, " penitent, and obedient heart." The meaning of this is evident; we are certainly commanded, in various places of the holy writings, to own our misdoings; not to think that we shall be able to conceal them from the Almighty God, and this we ought to do with an humble, mortified, and repentant sense of them, “ to the end “ (as the exhortation sets forth) that we Vol. II.
SERM. " may obtain forgiveness of the same, by W “his infinite goodness and mercy.” We
confess our sins in order to obtain remisşion of them. “ If we confess our sins “ (says St. John) God is faithful and just “ to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us "s from all unrighteousness.” But although we ought at all times to make this acknowledgement, we ought to do it, most chiefly, when we are met together to give thanks for the favours we have received ; to celebrate the praises of our maker; to hear his holy word read to us; and to ask whatever is necessary both for our bodies and souls: this being the case, the congregation are besought to accompany the minister, with humble voices and sincere hearts, in the following general confession :- Al “ mighty and most merciful father, we " have erred and strayed from thy ways " like last sheep;” this is in imitation of the following passage in scripture.“ All
* we, like sheep, have gone astray, we SERM.
VII. " have turned every one to his own way;" that is, like sheep who have deserted their shepherd, we have wandered from the paths of the Lord; “ we have followed too “ much the devices and desires of our own * 'hearts;" we have given ourselves too much up to the innate corruption of our nature, a corruption which we were born with, and derived from our first ancestor, but which, by the grace of God, we might, if we had endeavoured it, have surmounted. “ We have left undone what we ought to o have done; and we have done what we si ought not to have done." Numberless acts of piety and benevolence, which it was our duty to have performed, we have nego lected; numberless crimes, sins, and follies, which we ought to have avoided, we have committed; " and there is no health in us;" we are spiritually sick and indisposed, and there is no salutary principle remaining