A Restful Night
THE kind of a night we spend is in a large degree for us to determine. The Christian should at times leave everything in God's hands, and do nothing but lie back on God's bosom. The opportunity comes every night when we go to sleep. This is the season when the mind and soul should rest not less than the body. We can train ourselves to shed our cares into God's arms if we try. So far from gaining anything we lose much by submitting to wakefulness begotten of anxiety. Anxiety gnaws at the cords of good judgment and leaves us with a warped mind when the day dawns after a troubled night. Sweet sleep delights to respond to the invitation of a peaceful conscience and a mind whose last thoughts sway to and fro in the cradle of God's love. A trustful consideration of God's care of our concerns is frequently the only sleep-giving medicine necessary for distraught nerves.
O God, who hast drawn over weary day the restful veil of night, wrap our consciences in heavenly peace. Lift from our hands our tasks, and all through the night bear in Thy bosom the full weight of our burdens and sorrows, that in untroubled slumber we may press our weakness close to Thy strength, and win new power for the morrow's duty from Thee who givest Thy beloved sleep. Amen.
PEACE comes when we are assured that there is no earth-born cloud between our lives and God. Peace is the consequence of forgiveness, which in turn is God's removal of that which hides or obscures His face, and breaks union with Him. The happy sequence culminating in fellowship with God is penitence, pardon, peace--the first of which we offer, the second we accept, and the third we inherit.
1. The earliest step in penitence is to give head to good desires. They are the voice of our capacity crying out for fulfilment. Desires should crystallize into resolution. The human will is of great power to set the life free from bondage. We do not honour God's power by depreciating the ability of the human will to do strong deeds. The whole of human advance, the entire process of self-improvement hinges on a stiff will. The first stage in penitence is to bend the will away from sin and stiffen it toward goodness. "He who repents not, cannot be absolved; nor is it possible to repent and will (the sin) at the same time, the contradiction not permitting it."
Lord, give me the repentance which is of the will, that, not only in desire but also in intention and effort I may embrace what is good, especially those virtues which once r neglected or refused, and so be endued with power to accept Thy pardon; through Jesus Christ our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.
2. Penitence springs from a consciousness of having pained a loving God, and continues in a sustained effort not to offend that love again. If the expression of penitence is in the will, the motive is in the heart
O God, who requirest of me only such things as will turn to my profit, and who art pained by my least act of waywardness, warm my heart until it is aflame with love toward Thee, that my chief delight may be to bring Thee joy by my fidelity to Thy counsels; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
3. The chief value of recitation in a school is not so much to see what a scholar knows as to clinch his knowledge. A man never knows the wickedness of sin until he has declared his specific evil acts to God, just as a child tells its faults to the mother who already knows them. Life is so constituted that it requires representative and definite acts before inner impulses and ideals can reach fruition.
What are my faults and wherein have I sinned (a) against God, (b) against my neighbour?
(a) Confess your sins to God.
(b) Take time to drink in His pardon.
(c) Revise and purify the controlling motive of your life.
(d) Set your purpose afresh.
(e) Nerve your will toward victory.
Blessed is he whose unrighteousness is forgiven: and whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth no sin; and in whose spirit there is no guile. I will acknowledge my sin unto Thee: and mine unrighteousness have I not hid.
I will confess my sins unto the Lord . Turn Thy face from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds.
Cast me not away from Thy presence: and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
The Acceptance of Pardon
PARDON is valuable only so far as we use it. It introduces us into the near presence of God, with whom we may now hold familiar converse as with a friend.
The Lord hath put away thy sin. He hath not dealt with us after our sins: nor rewarded us according to our wickednesses. Look how wide the east is from the west: so far hath He set our sins from us.
UNDER the inspiration of a newly received gift the tongue becomes eloquent with gratitude. Thank God for His forgiving love toward you.
(a) Thanksgiving is a preservative against fatalism. It relates the gift to the Giver and teaches us to see the hand of Providence in all that happens.
(b) Thanksgiving is pleasant to God. It lifts man up from the position of being a mere seeker of benefits to the dignity of one who aims to use his privileges as the Giver requires.
(c) The common gifts are the ones to specify first. But day by day it is good to pick out also at least one incident of special and personal bearing wherein to glorify God.
The Psalter is the best possible handbook of thanksgiving and praise. The Psalms were not written for the specific purpose of aiding others: they were the natural expression of the soul pouring out its highest emotions before God. For this reason they are better fitted to serve humanity at large. Though not prepared by Christian minds, they were composed by minds prepared for Christianity, so that in essence they are Christian.
Father of lights, from whose unshadowed home above comes every good and perfect gift, I receive as from Thy hand my share in the common blessings which, without respect of persons, hourly descend upon mankind. I thank Thee for the special tokens of Thy friendship and personal care that have made me glad this day. Help me to use these and all Thy bounties according to Thy design, that my whole life may be a hymn of praise to Thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.
For sacramental channels of Absolution see the Book of Common Prayer. The formula of ordination to the Priesthood contains the words,"Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; sad whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained." The first form of Absolution in the order for Morning and Evening Prayer reads, "Almighty God . . . hath given power and commandment, to His Ministers, to declare and pronounce to His people, being penitent, the Absolution and Remission of their sins." The authoritative means works fully, whether it be bestowed upon the many in the congregation who have repented in private, or upon the one who has made use of the further counsel of the Church to "open his grief," or confess his wrongdoing to some Minister of God's Word, to the end that he may perfect his penitence and insure his inner peace. God's absolutions are never halfhearted.