(Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1845).
(Preached on the Tuesday Afternoon, Nov. 4.)
Ps. cxxxix 15, 16.
Thine Eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect, and in Thy book were all my members written, which day by day were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
GOD, being One, the Author of nature as of grace, worketh harmoniously in both His kingdoms. And as in other ways, so in this: in both He createth and hath created by a single act; in both He carrieth on His work, silently yet in Majesty. His work broke not His Eternal rest; His rest on the seventh day hindereth not His continued working. The creation of the worlds was but the action of His Will; He said, "Let there be light, and there was light." "He spake the word, and they were made; He commanded, and they stood fast." Yet although they stood fast by that command, He still "upholdeth them by the Word of His power." My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." He still worketh, but Unseen; noiselessly, known only by the workings. His greatest workings are carried on in silence. It is as though things acted of themselves. Hence the Heathen worshipped the Heavenly bodies as though they were gods; and the wise of this world, though fools in God's sight, have said, "There is no God." "Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge; they have no speech nor language, their voice is not heard; yet their line is gone out into all lands, their words unto the end of the world." Their silence is speech; all nature speaks in that it is; yet it carries on its Maker's Will in silence. Sun, moon, and stars, roll their courses, day by day, year by year, and century by century; summer and winter, day and night, melt into each other, yet we scarce see how, we cannot tell when one begins and the other ends; we feel when one has ended, but it is not until the other has made some advance; the sun sets, but it is not yet night; it rises, but it has been already for some time morning: we sow the seed, but we cannot tell when it is quickened; unseen it unfolds its life; we "sleep and rise night and day, and the seed springeth and groweth up, man knoweth not how, for the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear." We see their growth after a time, but are, again and again, amazed at it, how rapid; how this world, as by a resurrection, seems to awake from the death of winter into the new life of spring. Yet this amazing change is wrought in objects, to us countless; each blade of grass, each herb of the field, every leaf of every tree, has its own separate history; no two leaves unfold themselves alike; yet thus manifold as are God's workings, and countless His works, all by one viewless harmony join together to set forth their Maker's praise.
So it is, our Lord tells us, in the Kingdom of God, both as a whole in the Church, and in each separate soul, each fruitbearing tree and seed within it. It was planted at Jerusalem, the smallest of all seeds; it gained strength, men knew not how; "they wondered in themselves whereto this thing would grow;" yet day and night "mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed;" every thing aided its growth; to scatter the believers, was to spread the belief; the wind which would carry it away, and has ever since sifted the seed, but wafted it to new seed-plots. He Who holdeth the winds directed them; each grain sunk silently and noiselessly to the bed which God "had prepared" for it, the ground, which by the tender showers of His grace He has softened to receive it. To shed Christian blood was to water the seed; to cut deep into the choice Vine, was to make it put on fresh fruit; the seeds which fell singly, arose multiplied; the world found that the Church was every where, that it was around it, encompassing it, without, within it, mastering it, it knew not how, only it felt it. So had our Lord foretold; " the kingdom of God," He said, "cometh not with observation." It was leaven hid in three measures of meal, working its way, and spreading silently and unseen, "until the whole was leavened." Our Lord sowed Himself, as a corn-grain in the earth, by His Precious Death and Burial; and It yielded much fruit. He was "lifted up from the earth," and "drew all men unto Him;" lifted them up, as He was lifted up, by the power of His Death, and the likeness of it, so that they too were, with Him, "crucified to the world," lifted up above it, Heavenward, to live to Him, and in Him, and through Him.
The same is mostly the history of individuals. God created us, gave us life once, and then preserves it. Men grow in stature, (blessed are they, if in wisdom too,) they know not how; they eat, they drink, they sleep, are nourished, they know not how; and so day by day, and year by year, pass through the stages of life, through childhood, youth, to manhood, and mature years. So should it be in our re-creation. In Holy Baptism, He re-creates us in His own Image; passes His Hand upon us, puts the first germ of spiritual life within us, to grow, be nourished, expand, flower, bear fruit, until it take into itself all our old nature, and we become wholly new. It is a spark from heaven, which should be fanned into a flame by the breath of charity, and burn within us, until it has consumed all low desires, all selfish thoughts, every thing which offendeth; and yield us pure, a holy acceptable sacrifice unto God. Such should our Christian course be; such is the blessed course; a gradual daily growth, from the first hour when we awake to the thought of God and of our own deathless being, to our final passage through death, to endless life. Amid manifold hindrances, it may be, will be this growth, sometimes slower, then with quickened life, with fresh impulses, starting into new life, yet, on the whole, even while we grieve over our slowness, one stedfast, should it be, though often unperceived, growth upwards, Heavenwards.
Such is the course in nature and in grace, in the Church and individuals, pointed out in the amazing words of that Psalm of endless depth, "Thine Eyes did see my substance yet being imperfect, and in Thy book were all my members written, which day by day were fashioned, when as yet there were none of them." In nature, they tell us how, within the dark grave of the womb, the formless substance a of the future being is day by day unfolded, woven unseen into the one curious and intricate interlacing "of our bodies, "clothed with skin and flesh, and fenced with bones and sinews," taking the form marked out for it in God's book, until it burst forth into life, each different from its fellow, yet as God before willed it to be. In grace, they tell us how the body of the Second Adam is formed, His Church, growing out of the formless and deformed mass of our race, in this our prison-house and land of death; consisting of perfected vet also of yet imperfect members, which are being perfected; each with its separate lineaments, and form, and office; some more, some less, honourable; yet all growing together into one harmonious body, intricate in its harmony, yet harmonizing in its intricacy; all needed for the perfection of the whole, and all needing one another; each member, lay or clergy, teacher or taught, old or young, rich or poor, head or foot, having its separate functions and uses; all growing together into one unseen mystical whole, in a secret way, unknown to the world and amid the world's darkness, but under the Eye of God; her destinies, hindrances, reverses, growth, all written in God's book; until clad with the full number of the Elect, having gathered and formed all her appointed members, and grown "unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ," she, at her Maker's, Saviour's, Husband's call, be translated wholly out of this "land of the shadow of death," to live for ever with and in God "in the land of the living." And as of the whole Church, so they speak too of us, who, however imperfect, are yet His members; of us, who too often, by our manifold frailties, the wilfulness of our childhood or our youth, issuing in our present weakness and imperfection, are "spots and wrinkles," marring the Church's glory, and blemishing her who is the body of our Redeemer. Yet for us too, such as we are, if, "being imperfect," we yet are His, the Church awaits her perfecting; on us hath the Eye of God ever been, and even now resteth, quickening us secretly by His gracious Look, "guiding us by His Eye upon us," recalling our wandering glance from straying amid the vanities of this world, to fix itself on Him Who hath looked upon us, and would hold our gaze, that we also, with Hagar, should look after "Him That seeth us."
"Fearfully indeed and wonderfully are we made;" a marvel to the blessed Angels and to ourselves. Strange, out of what death they of us who shall live are brought into what life! what conflicting passions, feelings, appetites, powers, cravings, shall all have been fashioned by God's moulding Hand, until they all be gathered and curiously wrought together in one, as being held together by Him Who is One, all centre in One, and so, in His Unity, to Whom they tend, become one. Strange, through what variety of accidents, griefs, joys, terrors, fears, death, life, His encircling Providence girding us round shall have fenced in our way; and He Who has all creation at His command, shall have made all creation, good and bad, great and small, natural and moral, the holiness of Angels and men and the malice of Satan, work together to the salvation of His elect.
And this amazing everlasting work is going on continually. "Which day by day were fashioned." It is the very marvellousness of God's works, in nature, in the Church, in each single soul, that they go on so noiselessly. " Axe and hammer are not heard'," but the house of the Lord is raised without hands. Day by day we rise, and night by night lie down, and see not, except rarely, the growth of others or our own. We may count over our falls and bruises, and God's mercies in upholding us when we have not fallen; we may know our own secret groanings that we are no other than we are, our yearnings, our looks to our gracious Lord to unmake us what we have made ourselves, and re-make us what He once made us, and wherein He would have us grow; the frailness of our prayers and our longings to pray; our coldness and selfishness and our desire to love; our pride and our desires to be humble; our struggles, surprises, the cloudings of our mind; how some besetting sudden sins have overtaken us unawares; we find ourselves angry, when we meant to rebuke aright; we meant to eat for health, and find we have been self-indulgent; to speak of self for profit, and fear it is vanity; to do good, and fear we havp been too forward; to avoid injuring others, and fear it has been a cowardly keeping back of the truth; to rest from weariness, and find it sloth; our very duties perplex, and we know not whether we have chosen aright; in prayer we fear lest we have omitted active duty, or active duty have displaced some measure of our prayer; we have to bewail our sins, and yet be of a cheerful countenance; penitents, but do our part as though we had been holy. Then how much of us is hidden from ourselves! Satan darts thoughts into our hearts, and we know not whether we gave not a moment's assent to them, though, when aware, we loathe them; we scarce know whether an angry thought have been our own, or our penalty and trial; much trial is withdrawn from us, and we know not what we should be, if again exposed to it; we dread lest we fall not, only because Satan is not permitted to try us in earnest; we feel ourselves encompassed with death, and see not how it is to end in life.
And so we must be content oftentimes to abide, uncertain about our issue; in fear, yet in hope; knowing what we deserve, and hoping what we do not deserve for His sake Who deserved it for us; a mystery to ourselves as to others; "fashioned in secret," even from ourselves. This is our comfort and stay, that we "are fashioned;" "we made not ourselves, but He made us," and He, our Maker, remakes us. It is our comfort that "we are His workmanship:" and so we trust, that His Spirit hath quickened us, and still indwells in the mansion He made, and is restoring its decay, although we see more of our own decay than of His blessed work. " He hath made us;" and so, we trust, that He will sustain us to the end. He maketh us that for which we have no thought. Did we make ourselves, we might well be concerned that we see not what we are becoming; now we may trust, that, although in secret, still we are being fashioned into "a vessel fit for the Master's use."
Still although we know not where we are; how much has been, or is being wrought in us; what our progress; we must know that something is being wrought. Day by day are God's mighty operations wrought; "day by day," unbrokenly, "are our members fashioned." They are our members which are fashioned, and not without ourselves, although by God; they are our wills which are to be subdued; our appetites to be reined in; our love to be directed and upheld in its One End; our actions to be conformed, one by one, to the Will of God. We may not be conscious that we are growing in grace, but we must be that we are acting under grace. We may not see how direct our path is, (that we shall see, as it becomes straighter,) but if we are moving upward, we must make efforts, and feel them. Downwards, persons may float un-perceived, but it is to the gulf; descent alone is quiet, easy, painless, but it is--to Hell. We cannot win our way without resistance, nor resist self without consciousness and pain. If we feel not the clog, which our sinful nature hangs around us, it is because we are following it. Moral natures cannot stand still, unless perfected. Whatever lives, grows or decays, until it has reached its term. Things live on, without growing; but decay, at first imperceptible, has begun; it may seem some uppermost bough only which is leafless, but death is at work at the very centre.
Such then being the universal law of God, that whatever does- grow, grows continually, that things are continually, though silently, tending to one end, each day of our existence has an immeasurable value, because each day tends to that which is immeasurable,--an everliving life or an undying death. The careless world, alas! our careless selves, too often, have lived or live, as though our days were of slight account, that we might live on through them, thinking, purposing, hoping, to live well on the whole, but disregarding each single item of our time, as though of little moment. One day or many days we might give up to pleasure, to travelling, to refreshment, to our callings; nay, we might even pass whole days or all our days in an easy way, and yet on the whole do well. As though moment by moment made not up our hours; hour by hour brought not on the night, that "night wherein no man can work;" day by day made not up the sum of our days, the period of our trial, and brought not on the Day of account and of final retribution! As though we might be careless about each item of our worldly wealth, and our whole worldly estate not totter! as though we might, day by day, neglect to provide oil for the lamps wherewith we are to meet our Lord, and 'not be shut out!'
There is no mere loss. Days in which we gain nothing are not merely lost; they weigh against us and weigh us down; day by day our habits harden upon us; day by day we become more confirmed in habits of selfishness or self-denial, wilfulness or subjection of our will; reverence or irreverence; communion with God or thoughtlessness of Him. Day by day, we are nearer, as to the end of our lives, so also to that place wherein our lives will end, Heaven or Hell. We see not the approach of either; but day by day Death is nearer; day by day men's own feet are carrying them nearer to their everlasting doom.
But although day by day we must grow or decay, yet is not the amount of our growth in our power. By the grace of God alone can we grow; and that flows into us more largely or more scantily, according to what we have ourselves become. If we have allowed our hearts to grow cold, or worldly, much more if defiled, we cannot at once love or serve God, or repent, or have that alacrity and energy of faith, which is the blessing of His more faithful servants. We are not masters of our own faith or love. We cannot expand ourselves to receive God. One step only is in our power, the next. We cannot at once have great love, or deep humility, or intense penitence, or an active soul, or a reverent spirit, or a devout mind. We can neither at once unlearn evil habits wholly, nor learn great virtues. We can rarely bound in our Christian course. Step by step is the toilsome ascent to be won. Single acts of virtue, wrought by the grace of God, are the steps to Heaven. If in these we correspond to the grace of God, He will give larger increase. It may be, He will bring us into some new trial, in which, if by His grace we conquer, He will make us other men. One decisive deed well done, solely for His glory and His love, one trial well surmounted by His grace, will often, through His mercy, lift men up at once far beyond their measure. On one heroic act, He has wrought the whole living habit into the soul. A whole life may lie wrapt up in one single deed, which He hath given and crowneth. One fervent act of self-devotion to our Lord, giving ourselves for life or death, weal or woe, to His Blessed and Almighty Will, surrendering ourselves and all which is ours wholly into His Hands, without reserve, to dispose of us, wholly as He wills, and it may be, we shall find His gracious Hand on ours, leading us to follow His steps, although it be to Calvary. But as this deed or purpose itself, so all is of grace. The morrow of grace is no more in our power, than of time. The first act for which He gives us grace is ours; all beyond is God's. But as we use the present, He will give the future. Despair we not, then, when we see any grace of reverence, or deep love, or lowly humility, or instant fervent thankfulness, which we have not; nor yet must we attempt to transplant it at once full-grown into ourselves. Reverence we the gift of God's Holy Spirit in it, and yield we ourselves to His moulding Hand, day by day, to fashion us; yet must we beware, lest we become unreal, by seeking at once to be what we reverence. Let us do what, by His grace, we can; but let us not act, as if we had, what as yet we have not. If we humble ourselves, that we can no more, it may be, He will look upon our humility, and give us what we are grieved that we have not. Pray we for the grace of God to do each single act, as He shall will, to His glory; and He will lead us whither as yet we know not.
But although God forms us day by day, yet are there, from time to time, seasons of larger growth, as in nature so in grace. God, in His mercy, gives us fresh starting points in our Christian race. Some such most of us perhaps have passed; too many, it is to be feared, have wasted. Such are childhood's earliest trials. The bitter fruits we have felt in ourselves from some one sin of childhood, some neglect of God's loud warning or His call, may make us sorrowfully estimate the deep value of such calls, had we obeyed. What a depth of misery has lain wrapt up in one childish sin! Into what a harvest of death has one seed of sin, through successive acts, been multiplied! And so, in God's chosen faithful ones, how has one faithful use of grace drawn down more grace, issuing anew in fresh acts of faith, and these again inviting larger gifts of grace, until God hath enriched the whole soul with large "fruits of righteousness." Such periods, again, when used aright, are Holy Confirmation and the first Communion. Yea, so full is this of the richness of God's treasure, that thoughtful persons have said, that none ever went far astray, whose first Communion was diligently prepared for, and received and treasured holily. And, when these and other seasons have been wasted, God in His mercy visits us anew, but mostly in an austere form. "A mighty and strong wind" must "rend the rock" of our stony heart "before the Lord," ere He can speak to us in the "still small voice." When the clouds of our sins have gathered to hide from us our true Sun, storm and tempest must mostly scatter them. Sickness, the near approach of death, bereavement, must shake us through and through, to bring us to ourselves. The numbness of our spiritual life must mostly be quickened by some startling stroke of pain.
Again, in the Church's year, at some seasons, "the windows of heaven" seem to stand open, ready to "rain down Righteousness," if our earthliness be prepared to receive it. "I will hear," saith the Lord, "I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth, and the earth shall hear the corn and the wine and the oil, and they shall hear Jezreel," the plenteous harvest which "the Lord shall sow." In the holy season of expectation of His Coming, or His actual Birth in the Flesh, or the blessed austere days of penitence, or the Passion or Resurrection or Ascension, or the Descent of the Holy Ghost, the wonders of old time are again renewed. He Whom we look for again cometh. He is born in the faithful heart which watches and longs for Him; their "eyes see their salvation;" the Virtue of His Fasting hallows theirs, and shields their soul from temptation; they die anew in His Death; rise in His Resurrection; ascend with Him; from Him receive the Promise of the Father. Such mysterious efficacy has His Incarnation, that the very seasons of His precious Acts and Sufferings are full of blessing. "The tracks of Thy chariot wheels drop fatness."
And to you, brethren, this week, which to-day brings to a close, has, we hope, in some sort, been some such period of blessing, not for the ministry of the preachers, but through the Presence of Christ, Whom here ye sought. And yet even such as I, if I, in myself too poor, have not been able to "bring out of His treasury things new and old," yet have I sought at least to bring before you what was old, and what aforetime has yielded fruit. Yet whatever any of us were, that whereof we would speak has been in itself the most solemn sermon to your souls. Not the words wherein we speak of them, but the eternal truths themselves, are the aweful preachers to man. The deadliness of sin, the sinner's death, final judgment, eternal woe, penitence, the Cross, the Sight of God, the bliss of Eternity, surely the very names might startle us from our listlessness, and bid us gird ourselves to more devoted service. Are they not the very Voice of Christ to wake the dead? Him too have many of us sought at His mercy-seat, where He feedeth us with Himself, and "washeth," we trust, our sinful "souls with His own Precious Blood."
And now this solemn time is over j much sweetness had it while it lasted. God grant that its fragrance may not pass away, but may remain, "as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed," "a sweet savour of Christ" unto life everlasting. Yet that it be so, we must take some pains, by God's grace, to fix that grace in our souls, that it evaporate not in these our feelings whatever we may have had, nor even in expressions of thankfulness towards Almighty God Himself. Nor be we disappointed, on the other hand, if we see not as yet in ourselves the fruit of these our solemn services. So it is in God's work in nature. The life-giving nourishment of the tree riseth within, swells branch and bud ready to, bursting, ere yet one leaf unfold itself. And so we trust that His grace has risen within our souls, although as yet we do not know what He has been doing with us; save that we hoped that while "our hearts burned within us," at thoughts of His endless love, or our own, but for His mercy, endless shame and misery, He, although unseen, was nigh. But holy acts fix holy thoughts. As yet perhaps these very services have come so close upon us, or we again have been led into them half unawares, or led on in them, or in part we have been joying in peaceful, happy, thankfulness for God's gracious acceptance of this work, that we have had hardly time to form more than some general purpose to give ourselves more wholly unto Him. But the life of religion is in single acts. Acts, within or without, are our steps to heaven. Whether, inward, of faith or hope or love, breathed from the soul to God, or secret self-control in which by God's grace we hold down and keep under our besetting sin, or unknown self-denial, or self-humiliation, or silent suffering, resigning ourselves wholly to His Fatherly Will, or meek silence in reproach undeserved of man; or outward acts again, in deeds of self-denying love, or peace-making, or active service, or humility, or religious worship, or abstinence.
And to this end, of fixing our purpose of more stedfast warfare under Christ's banner, it may by His gracious aid be of some help, now at the close, to name some few simple rules, familiar perhaps to many of you, which yet to some, who are beginners, may be useful. And yet, if any have not begun to live under rule, burden yourselves not with too much at once, lest it oppress or weary you, or you tire after a time, or it become mechanical, and you become distracted by thinking of your rules rather than of Him, under Whom you would thereby bring yourself under rule, Whose Holy Will you wish to make your Rule.
Above all, whatever you attempt, impress on the mind and pray God there to write a deep consciousness of your own helplessness and inability to begin or continue or hold on in any good. And this, not in the way of formal acknowledgment, (for this, all ever make,) but impressing it and stamping it upon your inward souls, and acting upon it, whatever else you are doing, in continual, quick, instantaneous prayer for the aid of God. This very habit itself plainly cannot be gained at once. For, gained, it is to live in heaven, in continual intercourse with God; we ever breathing up to God and in God, His pity ever descending upon us. It too must be His gift; as, when it is given, it is the key to all His other gifts, and the treasuries of His love. Yet this too He will bestow upon us, in degrees, as we use faithfully His secret drawings to look up to Him.
But, first, in order of time, will perhaps be that searching of the heart, whereof I have so often spoken, both in order to gain a clean heart, by pouring out our whole selves in penitent confession to God, and also to know more clearly, what are our chief enemies. And these, indeed, we cannot expect to know all at once, as neither can we all our past sins. The eye must be cleansed, in order fully to behold sin, as well as to see God. Subtler and spiritual sins we shall not perceive, until we ourselves are becoming spiritual. Such are seen only in the full rays of the Sun of Righteousness. There might we behold the slightest specks floating to and fro, not settling, as it were upon the mind, yet still not leaving it pure in His Sight. More shall we ourselves see, as more light is poured into our souls; and more will be poured in, as we faithfully use what we have, and wilfully withhold no corner of our souls from its dread beam. Meanwhile, we may without fear commit our "secret faults" to His pity, by Whom we trust they will be "cleansed." We shall have enough at first to do with overt sins. First, we should declare a deadly, inveterate, war with these.
And when we have surveyed them, then it is advised, to select some one, by God's grace, to exterminate. In so doing we shall not neglect the rest. Give we ourselves with earnest purpose to destroy one of God's foes within us, and He will for the time keep the others chained that they hurt us not. Wage we war in His Name, and He Who drove out the seven nations before Israel by little and little, will withhold our seven deadly enemies, the deadly sins, that they press not too heavily upon us. Only to this one end direct we all our strength. It is not a common easy warfare to which we are called, but one by which we are to uproot, one by one, all which rebels within us against the Lord our God, root and branch, so as to leave neither name nor remnant. We single out our foe, only that we may utterly destroy it. We track it out, that no remaining fibre of it, may again shoot forth, to choke our vineyard.
To this one conflict then, we should bring all our spiritual force to bear. "Goliah fallen, the Philistines fled." The same sin will shew itself in different forms. How, for instance, will sloth or vanity poison or mar every action of our life. Resist we it then in all; mortify it in all; in every conflict praying God for grace; in every victory giving Him the glory. Be this the object of our earliest thoughts. In the morning, consider we the occasions wherein we are likely thus to be tried; about midday, if we can, (it much lightens our task at night) review minutely our progress or defeats in it, and again, at least, at night; meditate we on the opposite Virtue in our Blessed Lord; let us gaze on Him until we be ashamed to be proud or vain members of Him Who stooped from Heaven to our lowliness, or slothful members of Him Who so watched, toiled, was wearied, in seeking us. Then strive we, not only to uproot the sin, but to implant the opposite grace. This is often easier than simply to combat sins. It is even easier, for instance, to become very meek, than simply to restrain outbreaks of anger; for so must we throw ourselves, more out of ourselves, wholly upon the grace and strength of God. Then for this grace pray we fervently; for this ask, that when in the Holy Communion He vouchsafes to "come under our roof," He would bring it to our souls; on this let us meditate; to this, be the reverential reading of Holy Scripture directed; be we on the watch, how to practise it; take we shame, if we may without scandal, for any thing connected with our fault; own we it; put on ourselves something irksome, if we fall, that we be in earnest with ourselves; heed we not rebellious thoughts, but, by God's grace, crush it in the act. If not at once, it will slowly bleed to death. But let every step be, in "mistrust in self, and trust in God."
Yet whatever we would gain, seek we, as the first, best, gift of all, the gift of love. For "love is the fulfilling of the law." And then shall we gain real victories, when "faith worketh by love." Would we, as the outset, gain real penitence, pray we for loving penitence, or for penitent love; pray we, "Lord, for love of Thee, I would grieve that I ever offended Thee." Or humility? let it be humble love. Or love of our neighbour? seek we to mortify self-will and idle partialities, behold Christ in all, and so desire to love them with a superhuman love, as loving Him in them; let us love all, our friends in Him, or, if any hate us or speak evil of us, for Him.
And as we make progress in our spiritual conflict, we shall see what occasions are most hurtful to us, in what way our sin most steals upon us or assails us; and so we can either by ourselves, or by help of some who has the care of human souls, form rules to ourselves, how we can keep off the occasion, or be strengthened under it. For to come into temptation with no fixed rule to guide us, nothing to appeal to against our biassed judgment, is to give ourselves over to defeat.
You will at once feel, my brethren, what an aid in all our conflicts must be, if but a brief meditation on our Lord, if but daily in our prayers, to look unto Him, "the Author and Finisher of our faith," and that, Crucified for us! or some brief recollection of the solemn hours of the mysteries of our Faith, and of His Precious Sufferings, if but with the use of the Lord's Prayer, in thought of and in union with them; or frequently to place ourselves in the Presence of God, by an act of the mind, "Thou, God, seest me;" or to take occasion of things of sense to rise up to Him our Creator; or to have some brief aspiration through the day to which our minds may often recur, forming in our souls a secret cell, in which, retiring from the world, we may even amid the world, hold brief converse with our God; or again, what a treasure that is, to count nothing small, wherein we may please God, to seek in all our thoughts, words, or acts, to please God Alone, to do little things, to accept each little or somewhat greater cross, for His Will's sake; to seek in all things to conform our will to His, and to count all things gain to us, which are permitted by His Righteous Will.
But, above all, as ye began with God, so with Him would ye end. "He that persevereth unto the end shall be saved." Perseverance to the end is the crowning gift of God, and given to all who pray for it, to none perhaps who do not pray for it. Again and again we begin well but again and again after a time we grow weary, or other imagined duties or employments interfere, and we lay aside what we had well begun and found good to our souls, not because it ceased to be so, but because we had not bound our unstable souls fast unto Him, the Unchangeable, by constant prayer for perseverance. Pray God then daily to "strengthen the thing which He hath wrought in you; pray Him daily, in Whose "Hands are the issues of death" to be your "guide" unto and "over death."
And now, brethren, in the Name of God and with His blessing, Farewell. Gladly might we have lingered on in these solemn services, had other duties permitted. But there is a time to meditate in stillness, and again a time to carry out into life what in stillness we have gathered. Blessed and sweet to the soul is the memory of these hours, in which we have together meditated on some of the most solemn subjects relating to our salvation and our endless end in God, and together daily partaken of the Bread of Life. We shall not pass away, I trust, from each other's memories; but each, where God has placed them, shall in His Holy House, in the Communion of our Church, and at His Holy Altar, remember the one the other, that by His grace persevering to the end, we may together rejoice in His Presence in endless glory.
"And now the very God of Peace sanctify you wholly, and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." "Faithful is He that calleth you, Who also will do it."
Lord of all power and might, Who art the Author and Giver of all good things; Graft in our hearts the love of Thy Name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of Thy great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.