We do not draw near to Thee, our Heavenly Father, though upon an accustomed way, as if we knew Thee. We do not know Thee aright We know in part, and we teach only in fragments. Thou art greater than that a man should compass Thee with his thoughts. Thou art finer and nobler than anything of which we have had any experience; and there is nothing in all the round of human life that is fit to be a true interpretation of Thee. Our very best things are afar off from Thee. We know what goodness is, and we believe that Thou art good; we know what knowledge is, and we believe that Thou art vital with knowledge; we know what purpose is, and we believe that Thou dost dwell with eternal purposes and decrees; we know the qualities which go to make Thee; but what Thou art in the fulness, in the glorious combination, in the wonderful procession of these qualities, residing in infinite strength and in utmost perfectness, we do not know. What is there in us, nascent creatures, born of the dust, and working slowly our way through ages up to the higher forms of experience and knowledge, that is fit to represent God? Our joy is, that in all respects in which we come short of a knowledge of Thee, Thou art better than anything of which we can conceive. We cannot think too highly of Thee, nor set about the central thought of God too many stars of glory. We cannot praise Thee in exaggeration, nor can we overmeasure the wonder and the glory of Thine infinity. And when we see Thee as Thou art, when the glass is broken, and the veil is laid aside, and we stand face to face with Thee, then we shall know that we were children upon earth—yea, babes—in our conception of the manhood and glory of Christ Jesus.
And now we beseech Thee to accept us, not because we understand Thee, but because we need Thee. Rest upon us. Brood us. Be patient in waiting for us; for, with differing steps, but all too slowly, we are some afar from Thee, and some nearer—none near. We are all learning, enforced mostly, some voluntarily, few eagerly, none entirely.
O Lord our God, all the sources of our, better life are in Thee. Thou feedest the clod by the rains from heaven, but the soul is not of the dirt nor of the earth; and that must be fed by invisible and spiritual influence. Grant unto us, we beseech of Thee, that Divine power which we need. Give to each one that which he individually requires, according to what he is, according to what his history has been, according to the nature of his want and the greatness of it. O Lord, dwell with us as we would dwell with our children, only with that higher wisdom of our Father which is in heaven, and not with the broken and imperfect and passionate wisdom of earthly parents.
So, this day, may we rejoice in Thee, not because we are called, not because we have attained, not because we have a prospect growing and brightening as we draw near to it. May we rejoice in the Lord. Be Thou our breath; be Thou our light; be Thou our joy. Even though the mountains be removed and cast into the sea, may we know how to rejoice in Thee. Though the heavens do part, and though they be rolled together as a scroll, may we know how to rejoice in Thee. For Thou are the same yesterday, today, and for ever. Thou changest not; neither is there in Thee any shadow of turning. The sun changes day by day and year by year; but the Son of Righteousness stands, radiating eternal beams. Grant that we may stand in the strength of God, and not in the feebleness of man's strength.
Accept, we pray Thee, our faint desires, and minister to them strength. Accept the confession which we make of our weakness and ignorance and pride and infirmity and heinous transgression. We pray that Thou wilt forgive us our shortcomings, and cleanse us of every evil, and deliver us from the power of temptation, from habits that are wrong, from easily-besetting sins; and grant that we may grow daily stronger and stronger in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Make Thy kingdom more precious to every heart; and, since all may have knowledge and grace and immortality, oh, may we more and more rejoice in Him who has brought God near to us, who has taken our place, who has suffered for us, and by whose stripes we are healed.
Look, we pray Thee, this morning, into every heart that has ventured hither from what reason soever; and do abundantly more for them than they have asked or thought. Some have come from curiosity. Oh, give them a blessing of surprise! Bring home to them something of that truth which shall make them feel that the treasure of God is with them. If there be any that have come here in trouble, wondering if there be any refuge open to their souls, grant them such a view of God's mercy and providence that they shall rejoice in the strength of God. If there be any who are walking in darkness, grant, that they may feel that that darkness comes from turning their faces to the earth; and may they lift up their countenances, and look toward God, and feel the shining of His love in their faces, that He may be their light and their comfort. We pray that Thou wilt walk with those who are in the night, and bring them toward the morning of hope and joy. Inspire strength in those who are ready to perish. Lift up those who are bowed down with burdens which are heavier than they can carry—for if Thou dost not take away the burden, Thou canst make it light by giving them more strength.
We pray that we may all learn that lore which is fit for living or for dying, or for the immortal life. May we thus take from this life its best things; and while its weaknesses, its infirmities, and its troubles all go as the chaff from the summer threshing-floor, may its strength and patience and purity and knowledge be garnered in us. So may we be prepared for that glorious land where there shall be no more ignorance, such as stumbles men here; no more distractions, such as unruly passions bring in hither; no more separations, such as divide men in this world; no more envies or jealousies or hatreds or divisions: but where all shall love and be loved, for all shall be lovely, and where Thy kingdom shall shine forth in the glory of the inheritance of the saints. May we all, with our faces turned thitherward, with cries and prayers, with hymns and songs, yea, at times with shoutings of joy, press forward toward the mark of the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus.
And now we commend ourselves to Thee. Living or dying, we are the Lord's. We are Thine: take care of Thine own until the day of redemption comes; and with unveiled face and open lips in the new language of the other life, we will praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Amen.
We rejoice, O Thou most Holy One, that Thou art so tender and gentle. The stretching out of Thine hand is not for thunder; and the looking forth of Thine eye is not with lightning to blast us. Thine eye is full of light even as the coming of the morning; and Thy heart is full of joy; and it is a Father's heart, and it is full of tenderness. Thy mercies are upon the earth even as the dew and the light, and the beauty of the day; and even in our sorrows Thou dost send down upon us the most precious things that ornament the spirit.
Grant, we beseech of Thee, that we may know how to draw near to Thee from day to day—not by any one path only, but by many. As birds fly through the air whithersoever they will, so may our thoughts evermore find their way to Thee, and find it easily. Everywhere may there be a sense of Thy presence. Everywhere may there be joys, and sorrows that are the seeds of joy.
We pray, O Lord, that Thou wilt grant that we may not be servile, and that we may not think that Thou art pleased with adulation. May we draw near to Thee with sincerity of love and with that filial fear which love inspires. May we be sincere with Thee and honest with ourselves. We beseech of Thee that Thou wilt cause us to grow, by the sweet inspiration of Thy Spirit, into all manliness, into all honour, into all truth, into all fidelity, into all goodness unfeigned, into trust, into hope, into cheerfulness, into patience and longsuffering, that the inward man may grow day by day, and that our souls may be as a garden which the Lord's own right hand hath planted.
We pray that Thou wilt strengthen us in the struggles which we are obliged to maintain within ourselves with the evil that is in us; with the deceit, the pride, the vanity, the sordidness, the forgetfulness of things generous and noble, and the remembrance of things selfish and unworthy.
We beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thou wilt help all who need help. If there be those who doubt Thee, if there be those who know not what to think of Thee, may they behold Thy life in Jesus Christ as the example and pattern of their own. But who shall doubt its beauty? and who shall doubt their own insufficiency? Who that has striven to maintain an equable frame like unto that of our Lord does not know the need of Divine help? And may we be turned away from outward reasonings. May we be turned away from the settlement of those things which are hidden in Thee and in the future; and may it be our most earnest desire to know how to build up in ourselves that godlikeness which shall interpret God. And so, O Lord, may those who fear or doubt, may those who are indifferent to the Church and its ordinances, be brought near to their better selves and to Thee, and to a faith that springs from living sources. We know our weakness and want, we know Thy power, and we know that we are in Thy hands. We are glad to believe it. We lean upon Thee in times of discouragement. Thou art the overhanging rock which shelters us in times of distress; and we flee unto Thee as unto a tower from our enemies. In times of weakness and weariness Thou art to us a Father indeed, and Thou dost in Thine own household feed us and sustain us and send us forth again refreshed.
We beseech of Thee that those in this Church who are labouring in the Spirit of Christ for the welfare of men may be filled with perseverance and with zeal and with all bountifulness of soul. We pray that the work which hath prospered in their hands may still prosper. We thank Thee that Thou art drawing out from the world, in its sinful sense, those who were immersed in it for their own destruction. Thou art calling to a higher and better life those that have been oblivious to it; and we pray that Thou wilt go on working with the power of truth, by the Holy Ghost sent down from on high. O Lord, bring light and cleansing and newness of life to those that are in the region and the shadow of death.
Bless all the Churches of this city and all Thy servants that minister in them; and we pray that Thou wilt take away the hindrances, the divisions, the heart-burnings that are between Church and Church. Grant that the Spirit of Christ may purge out of His servants all evil leaven, and that they may see eye to eye and work hand in hand.
And to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit shall be praises evermore. Amen.
We rejoice, our Father, that we may look up to Thee as those that watch wearily in the night, and look for the morning; for in Thee there is no darkness, but only light, Joy comes from Thee. From us is sorrow born. We stumble by ignorance and by transgression, and make ourselves miserable; but Thou everlastingly art the Repairer. Thou for evermore art building up the things which we cast down; and we rejoice that both by the things in which we are right and by the things in which we are wrong Thou art building us. By Thy discipline, by Thy chastisement, Thou art working, even as by Thy caress. We rejoice that we do not know all of Thee, nor all of Thy way of mercy. We should be sorry if there were no more of Thee than we could compass in our thought. We should be sorry if with our faint and small mercy, if with the slender flame of love that burns amidst glowing passions in our souls, we could understand the grandeur, the fulness, the infinite outstretch of Thy being, and the mystery hid from ages, and to be hid through ages, of Thy riches in the glory of goodness as a healing power throughout Thy realm. We rejoice and give thanks for what Thou art. Thou art enshrined. And though we cannot behold any figure, nor outline even in our thought the way in which we think toward Thee, it is a way of light and growing mercy and goodness; and our souls are glad, yea, and they sing, as we think of Thee, and are burning toward Thee, still hearing at every step of experience, at every outlook, and at every added thought and emotion, It doth not yet appear; for the fulness of Thy nature is beyond comprehension, and the knowledge of Christ passes all understanding.
And now we beseech of Thee that we may have, every day, some such sense of the fulness of God's mercy and of the power of God round about us as we have of the fulness of the light of heaven before us. Our tapers we trim, and we fear lest the lamp shall go out without oil; but none of us have ever had a thought or a care lest the sun should be emptied, or lest the air should be exhausted. The supply is over-abundant, and the waste is infinitely more than that which we use.
O Lord our God, we pray that we may bear about every day a consciousness of Thy super-eminent power. May our thought of the love of Christ not spend itself in vain arguments and theories and reasonings respecting its origin, methods, grounds, and conditions. O that we may enter into the greatness of the feeling that God so loved the world that He gave Himself in the person of His Son to die for it, to suffer; and though very God, to suffer as we suffer, tempted in all points as we are, yet sinless. May we bear before us this inexplicable marvel; and may the love of God be to us as a heaven full of stars by night, and full of light by day, inextinguishable. So, under Thy canopy, may we develop all our power. Under Thee may we find ourselves able to cope with unbelief, with fear, with all the elements which beset us in this mortal state; and may we have the power of God within us, and the witness of God within us that we are the sons of God; and may we march in the greatness of this hope, and abound in its consolations.
We pray for Thy blessing to rest upon each heart in Thy presence. Though man thinks little of man, though men are trodden under foot of men, and though the cry of distress falls on heedless ears, there is not a soul so barren nor so poor that Thou dost not look out upon it with infinite compassion; and grant that no one in Thy presence may be discouraged, or think unworthily of himself. Grant that every one may have some sense of the value that there is in Him before God by reason of that which is in God. We pray, O Lord, that Thou wilt thus inspire and lift up the poor, the discouraged, the lowly, and the careless, and bring them into the consciousness of Thy presence and of Thy compassion.
Draw near to all those who are seeking Thee through a dreamland, all of whose march seems as by night, and who stumble and fall often. Thou art the mighty God, and Thou canst renew the strength of those that trust in Thee. We pray that Thou wilt give stability and earnestness to those that waver and are overcome by doubt. We pray that Thou wilt draw near to those who have known Thee, and have fallen from their first experience of love and devotion, and have grown cold and heedless, though not without oft regrets, and not without many resolutions to return to Thee. Vouchsafe to them all, we beseech of Thee, O Lord our God, the quickening influence of Thy Spirit, that they may be brought back to the Bishop and Shepherd of their souls. Be near to any who are seeking to know more and more perfectly Thy righteousness. Grant that there may be those who shall at last find the rest of God, unbroken by strife or by invasion. May there be those who shall sit down beneath the shadow of Thy wings, and over whom Thy banner shall be displayed, and who shall rejoice in the Lord and not in themselves.
Be with all those who are in affliction. Draw near to any households wherein lie the beloved, waiting for the last rite of separation. O Lord, we pray that in darkness there still may be light. While the sisters mourn, may Jesus be with Mary and with Martha again, the resurrection and the hope of eternal life. And we pray that those who watch wearily by the side of the sick may have strength and comfort and refreshment of soul, and preparation for Thy providential will.
Grant Thy blessing to rest upon all our occupations; upon all our family relations; upon our whole household life. Wherever we are, and whatever we do, may we have the conscious presence of our God and the joy of His salvation.
We pray that Thy blessing may rest upon all Thy Churches today; upon all Thy servants that everywhere do preach the Gospel that is in Christ Jesus. Especially remember Thy servants in the city adjacent who labour in word and doctrine with zeal for the quickening of Thy people, and for the calling of men from darkness to light. Give them health and strength and wisdom and Divine luminousness; and guide them from sowing to reaping, until there shall be an abundant harvest.
We pray that Thy blessing may rest upon those who everywhere preach the gospel today—upon those who stand upon the verge of civilization; upon those who are in the midst of poverty in scattered populations, and who labour in body and mind, travailing sore, to make known the unsearchable riches of Christ Be with all those who are in foreign lands of heathen darkness striving to make known the name of Jesus Christ. We pray that Thou wilt give to them the power of faith; and may that faith bring forth appropriate fruit in thine own time, and abide. Send forth that imperious command by which all evils shall sink away, and all goodness shall arise, to the glory of Thy name.
And to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit shall be praises evermore. Amen.