Richard Lowndes.

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is too hard a thing for man's unassisted strength. The
"repentance to salvation not to be repented of '" is
produced and perfected in us by nothing else than
"the goodness of God."^ If we would repent, then,
with any earnestness and sincerity, or to any good

1 Acts V. 31. 2 2 Cor. vii. 10. s Rom. ii. 4.

82 OUR vows.

effect, we must humbly cry to God, " Turn Thou me,
and I shcall be turned."^

The third proof of the depth and reality of our re-
pentance is the manner and spirit in which we regard
the faults of other people. A true penitent will be
very tender and charitable towards the sins of others.
An humble remembrance of his own misdoings, a sense
of what he would have been himself but for God's un-
deserved mercy, a consciousness of his own frailty, will
always restrain him from any harsh censorious judg-
ing of his neighbor's life. This is a very sure test
whereby we may prove our professed repentance.
None who are really possessed with a godly sorrow
for their own past sin will be uncharitable towards tlie
faults of other men.

Much has thus been said concerning repentance, be-
cause it is a subject about which men are too easily and
too willingly deceived. Yet is this a matter of nothing
less than life or death to us, since a true, sincere, earn-
est repentance is one necessary condition to our ob-
taining God's forgiveness of our past sins.

The other condition is faith : let something in turn
be said of this. St. Paul describes faith to be that
firm persuasion of the mind which causes those things,
which as yet we do only hope for and do not actually
see with our eyes, to be as substantially real to us as
if we positively knew them through the evidence of
our senses. Our faith, for instance, causes God to be
to us as really an existing Being, as if our minds were
already ravished Avith the glories of His immediate
presence. Our faith makes the precious sacrifice once
offered upon the cross by our Loi*d (blessed for ever!)

» Jer. xxxi. la


and the effects of that sacrifice, to be as sure and cer-
tain to our minds, as if we were indeed kneeling be-
neath that cross with sad though adoring gaze, or were
already entering on the eternal glory which that sacri-
fice has purchased for us. Our faith makes the pres-
ence and the influence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts
as great and as blessed a reality to us, as if we actually
heard with our ears His persuasive voice behind us,
saying, " This is the way, walk ye in it ;"^ or felt His
directing hand guiding us along the path of life.

Christian faith is a belief in all those points of doc-
trine which go to make up the scheme of salvation
declared by Christ and His Apostles. In all of them,
not in some only. It is not enough to believe that
Jesus died to save us from the punishment due to sin,
while we forget that He also came to save us from the
power of sin itself. It is not enough to believe that
Christ came to restore us to the position of God's
children, while we remain in wilful ignorance of those
duties which as children we are bound to render to
our heavenly Father. It is not enough to believe in
the wondrous love and mercy of God revealed to us in
the Gospel, while we care not to remember too His
truth, and justice, and holiness. The faith whereby
men are to be saved, and which is a fixed condition of
our salvation, is a full and undoubting belief in the
entire scheme for man's redemption in Christ Jesus
our Lord, which the love of God has made known to

And this faith is necessary, because, just as without
repentance men would never amend their lives, and
become fit for God's presence in heaven, so without

* Isa. XXX. 21.

84 ouK vows.

faith they would never accept, and enihrace, and rely
on that one way of life whereby God will have all
men to he saved.

Upon these conditions, then, upon our repentance
and faith, God is willing to forgive us our sins for
Jesus Christ's sake.

Finally, we express our belief in the resurrection of
our bodies at the last day, and in their existence
throughout eternity, in a state of either happiness or
misery. "We believe that these bodies of ours, which
shall be turned into dust in the grave, will in the end,
at the great day of account, be raised again, and be
joined once more unto our souls to live forever. This
is a great mystery. Yet may the difficulty be some-
what lessened if we bear in mind the important fact
that matter is imperishable. It may lose its present
shape ; it may have utterly and entirely passed away
from any human recognition ; but it cannot he anni-
hilated. Though we perceive it not, yet does it exist
to the Divine perception. To the sight of God every
atom is still present, not one is lost to Him Who seeth
all things. And to His Almighty power, the collect-
ing of these scattered atoms, and producing out of
these a new and glorious body, is no impossibility.
As from the seed, which decays and perishes in the
earth, the Divine wisdom causes the newly developed
plant to spring in all its wondrous beauty ; so from
the undistinguishable atoms of our natural body, which
have been "sown in corruption," the "Word of the
Lord can raise an incorruptible, immortal, spiritual
body, to the praise and honor of His own glorious
majesty. And these risen bodies are to enter upon an
endless existence ; they are to live forever and ever :


tlie wicked are to "go away into everlasting punish-
ment, but the righteous into life eternal."^

These are the articles of the Christian faith which
we promise to believe.

Let it be remarked here, that it is the habit of some
persons to repeat the Apostles' Creed with their daily
devotions, imagining it to be a prayer. This is a mis-
take. It is very right, indeed, to repeat the Creed.
But the Creed is not a prayer, and is not to be regard-
ed as such. Still, while the Creed is not and cannot be
a prayer, it may be said devotionally^ and a life and
reality may be imparted to its various sentences, very
different from the meaningless formality with which it
falls from too many a lip. Thus, while we confess
our belief in God the Father, the Maker of heaven and
earth, the thought may pass through our minds as to
whether we, the creatures of His hand, are rendering
to Him the love and obedience which we are so deeply
bound to pay ? When we declare with our lips that
Jesus Christ is Lord, the question may arise, Is He my
Lord also. Lord of my heart and of my affections?
When we speak of Christ's lowly birth of the humble
Mary (humble, yet blessed in the lips of all coming
generations), our silent prayer may ascend to heaven,
that we too may be as little children in meekness and
humility of heart. When we recall His precious death
upon the cross, the form of the Crucified One may be
present to our minds ; we may adore His surpassing
love, and pray the while that our souls may be washed
from all uncleanness in the streams of His most pre-
cious blood. The descent into the grave and the resur-
rection frora the dead may kindle in us the desire that

1 Matt XXV. 46.


86 OUR vows.

we may die unto sin, and be buried unto all carnal
lusts and appetites, and rise again with Christ unto
newness and holiness of life. As we confess the Sav-
iour's ascension and His seat at the right hand of God,
our eyes may be lifted up to Him our Mediator, im-
ploring His all-prevailing intercession on our behalf
now, and ever throughout our lives. As we acknow-
ledge Him to be the One who shall come again to be
our Judge, the question will at once arise within us,
"Where in that dread day will my lot be found ? Oh,
may I hope to stand at the Saviour's right hand among
the blessed ? Or shall I be reckoned among the poor
lost souls whose place is in that outer darkness where
shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth ?
As Ave profess our belief in the Holy Ghost, in the
Catholic Church, in the communion of saints, in the
forgiveness of sins, in the resurrection of the body,
and in the life everlasting, these each in turn may
suggest their own separate and peculiar thoughts ; and
as the words do pass our lips, the hope may rise within
us that we may indeed be ever temples of the Holy
Ghost, that we may live worthy of our vocation as
members of Christ's Church, that we may be numbered
with God's saints now in their present state of blessed-
ness, and at the last be with them " in the glory ever-
lasting." So may we use the Creed to our greater
comfort and edification, and prove the truth of the
Apostle's declaration, " With the heart man believeth
unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is
made unto salvation.'"

» Eom. X. 10.



IISTCE obedience
follows faith, we
promise, third] j,
to keep God's will
and command-
ments, and to
walk in til e same
all the days of
cm* life.

On these com-
mandments let it
be first remarked
generally, that we
are to keep them, not only in the letter, but in the
spirit; and again, we are not only not to trealc them,
but we are not to wish to Irealc them.

The commandments are divided into two parts. The
first four teach us our duty towards God ; the last six
teach us our duty towards our neighbor. Let the po-
sition of these commandments teach us one all-import-
ant lesson, viz., that our first thought should be to love
and fear God. This is (strange as it may appear) too
often forgotten. What is so common as to hear men
speak of " never having injured any one," of " being

88 OUR vows.

in charity with all the world," of " having fulfilled all
the duties of their several stations honestly and faith-
fully V and then they will rest on this, and foolishly
imagine that the fulfilment of their duty towards their
neighbor can excuse their neglect of the more import-
ant duty owed to God. But this is a mere delusion.
It is first of all required of us, that we give our hearts
to God. First are we called upon to believe in God,
to fear and love Him with all our soul and strength ;
this is our earliest duty, nothing may take the place of
this ; our duty towards our neighbor follows after-
wards. This God teaches plainly, for what is His first
commandment ? nothing else than this, " Thou shalt
have none other gods hut J/e." In this we are taught
that the Lord is to be the one great centre of the soul's
affections. He is to be the Being whom alone we are
to worship and adore. He is to be the One in whom
we are to repose our heart's best trust and confidence;
under His providence we are to "live and move and
have' our being." God is to be the soul's great

And how are we to acquire such feelings towards
God? How may we learn to love Him ? or to regard
Him as our Father, and as our best and real Friend ?
In answer to this it must be said, that the power of
loving God is a divine gift, and as such must be sought
for at God's hand. By God's grace only may we poor
follen creatures be enlivened with any feeling of true
devotion. The love of God is the result of God's pres-
ence with us : thus St. Paul says, " The love of God is
shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is
given us."^ The first of all the fruits of the Spirit, too,

» Kom. V. 5.


is described as being "love.'" But while this is so, it
is also true that the grace of God works in us and
produces the desired effects by natural means; and
therefore we maj say, that in whatever way we should
ordinarily learn to love and trust any human being in
this world, by the very same means may we be drawn
to give our hearts to God. Thus, it is not an utter
stranger, a person of whom we know literally nothing,
that we can love here in this world. Love and friend-
ship are produced by constant companionship and
intercourse with another ; by our admiration of that
other's qualities and character ; by a sense of kindness
and favor received ; by our appreciation of the other's
goodness and amiability and excellence. And in no
other way can we acquire any real love for God, If
we would love, we must learn to IcnoiD God ; we must
call to mind what He is, and what He has done for us;
we must dwell on these things ; think of them, very
often meditate on them. It is by the diligent study of
Holy Scripture in particular that we shall become ac-
quainted with God, with His character. His greatness,
His beneficence. There, in His own Word, God has
revealed Himself to us ; and there must we learn what
He is "with whom we have to do."^ This, remember,
should be our great object in reading the Bible. It is
not the simple reading of the Bible, as a task to be
got through, that can be of any value to us. The re-
sult produced on our minds through our reading, the
information we thereby acquire, the experience we
obtain — these are the important points. We should
read the Scriptures in order to become acquainted
with God's will, as therein declared ; we should read

1 Gal. V. 22. 2 Heb. iv. 13.


90 OUR vows.

in order that we may learn how to conduct ourselves
in various positions and circumstances of life ; that we
may receive support and encouragement or warning
from the various histories recorded ; that we may ob-
tain full information about our duties, our privileges,
our blessings, our responsibilities. But above all, we
should study our Bibles for the one express object of
learning to Tcnow God. Thus is it, then ; by knowing
God, by holding communion with Him, by realizing
and constantly seeking His immediate presence, — thus
is it that we may, under Divine grace, obtain the
power to love and trust in Him with all our hearts
and all our souls.

2. By the second commandment we are forbidden to
interpose any thing between our own souls and the one
true God, who alone is worthy of our heart's love and
adoration. God is a Spirit, and it is by our spirits, by
that unseen part of our being which dwells in the
fleshly tabernacles of our bodies, that our worship is
to be rendered. Any thing, then, which can hinder
the soul's approach to God Himself, — any thing on
Avhich the soul may rest, and thus stop short of God
in its devotion, is forbidden. All mere '"''formality "
in religion, therefore, is hereby especially condemned.
By ^'■formality,'''' be it remembered, is not meant " the
use of forms " in our worship of the Almighty. Let
this common error be seen through and avoided. In-
deed, so far from forms of prayer being condemned,
there is the highest sanction for, at any rate, one form
of prayer. For what else than a form is that model
of all prayers, which our Lord Himself has left for His
Church's use? When we pour out that best of aU
petitions, addressing God as " Our Father," what are


we in truth doing but using a form of prayer? And
not only are forms allowable, but they are an actual
necessity. There cannot possibly be any piiblic wor-
ship without the use of forms. Even if the prayer
offered up by a minister in a congregation be an ex-
temporaneous one, yet to every one else than himself
in the congregation such a prayer must be a form ; as
much a form as if it were read aloud from a printed
book. The using of a form, therefore, is unavoidable ;
but this is not "formality." Formality in religious
worship consists not necessarily in the use of forms.
We may be just as formal while we use our oion un-
taught expressions in prayer, as when we repeat some
well-remembered collect.

Formality in our devotions really consists in our
not seeking after God in spirit and in truth ; it consists
in offering up petitions or uttering words of praise and
adoration without any sensible lifting of the heart to
the Almighty.

It is formality when we attend any place of worship
from a mere sense of duty, or from habit only, or
from a compliance with the demands of what the
world around us calls respectability. It is formality
if we receive the blessed Sacrament of the Lord's Sup-
per without any conscious striving after communion
with our Lord therein. If we regard that Sacrament
as being of itself an end^ and suppose the mere par-
taking of it outwardly to be sufficient ; if we use it not
as a means to an end^ — that end being oneness with
Christ ; if in the receiving that blessed Sacrament we
discern not the Lord's Body; if there is no craving
after the communion of the Blood of Christ in that
cup of blessing, no looking for the communion of the

92 OUR vows.

Body of Clirist in the bread wliich we brcak,^ — then
is such a coming to the table of the Lord nothing else
than mere formality.

A reliance on the simple act of worship which the
members of our body may perform, but in which our
spirits bear no part — which, in truth, does nothing else
than interpose a cloud between our souls and the light
of God's glorious countenance — this is formality ; and
as such is forbidden by the second commandment.
Any thing, let it be repeated, which interposes itself
between God and our souls, any reliance on the mere
act of worship, any thing with which we may remain
satisfied and contented instead of seeking a closer and
more real communion with God, any thing which in
any way hinders or prevents the soul's drawing near
to its Maker, is forbidden. That which alone is valu-
able to us, and that which alone is acceptable to God,
is the humble sincere love, trust, and adoration of the"
soul as it bows itself before the Father of spirits.

As regards tlie declaration contained in this com-
mandment, that God will " visit the sins of the fathers
upon the children," while we acknowledge the neces-
sity of this — for in the very nature of things it cannot
be otherwise— yet in this rule, which sounds so severe,
let us also recognize the overruling mercy of God.
Perhaps nothing could be devised more likely to bring
men to a better way of life than the remembrance of
what fatal consequences their sins must entail upon
their children. Men will often be indifferent about
themselves ; they will be ready to sacrifice every thing
for the sake of present enjoyment and indulgence of
their carnal appetites, when none but themselves are

1 1 Cor. X. 16.


concerned ; and yet, despite this reckless feeling, they
will frequently check themselves in their career, and
will amend their ways, when they find that others may
be involved and brought to ruin by the consequences
of their misconduct. So surely do the wisdom and
mercy of God make all things work together for our

Even if there were no revelation, we see how, by
natural law aijd social influences, parental sins send
their sad consequences down upon the children's state.
Classes of diseases, like gout, consumption, and insan-
ity, descend in families. Various diseases were caused
by far back sins of generations. How often a drunken
father leaves a ruined property or pauperism to his
children ! A thief transmits a legacy of disgrace to
his offspring. The finger of opprobrium is pointed at
a murderer's son. The bad tempers and habits of a
father or mother are too commonly copied by sons and
daughters. Jews suffer shame the world over for the
disbelief of their ancestors. Indeed our whole race
are in misery through Adam's fault. But, then, bless-
ings and honors come down from good parents as well.

Of one other thing, too, we may be well assured,
however difiicult or impossible it may now be for us
to understand, viz., that every person born into the
world — be his position, or circumstances, or disad-
vantages what they maj— every person will be found
hereafter to have been so dealt with by God, as that
salvation and an escape from eternal misery was placed
within his reach, if he had chosen to avail himself of
the opportunities granted to him. To no person what-
ever will salvation be proved to have been an impos-
sibility, or damnation an unavoidable necessity. At

94 OUR vows.

the day of judgment God's perfect justice will be fully
vindicated, and His goodness and mercy to every
living man will be plainly manifested.

3. By the third commandment we are enjoined to
reverence the great and holy name of God. We are
forbidden to give way to rash profane swearing. The
commandment does not condemn or disallow that
solemn and serious taking of an oath before a minister
of justice, such as our laws require. This is certainly
permitted by God. But we are warned by this com-
mandment that the rash use of hasty, profane, or
blasphemous expressions will surely bring down upon
us the wrath of God. " I say unto you, that every
idle word that men shall speak, they shall give accouut
thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words
thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt
be condemned."^ Let this solemn declaration of our
Lord be continually in our minds, our warning and our

It is not only by rash and profane swearing, how-
ever, that we may break this commandment. When-
soever we are careless and irreverent in our prayers,
drawing nigh to God with our lips while our hearts
are far fi-om Him ; whenever we pray hypocritically —
confessing our sins, for instance, and asking God's
merciful forgiveness of them, while in truth we love
these sins and intend to indulge ourselves in them ;
or beseeching God to "lead us not into temptation,"
while we ourselves wilfully and knowingly expose
ourselves to such temptation ; whenever, entering
into tlie courts of the Lord's house, we arc unmindful
of God's great presence, and permit our thoughts to

» Matt, xii, 86. 87.


wander idly to vain and worldly matters, though out-
wardly we are joining in the worship of the Almighty;
whenever we take part in singing praises to God in the
congregation without any serious thought of what we
are about; whenever, again, we allow ourselves to
speak sneeringly and contemptuously of God's Word,
of His Church, or of religion generally — in all such
ways we may break this third commandment, and,
doing so, we shall be guilty in the sight of God.

4. A reverent observance of the Lord's Day is also
enjoined on us by God.

This only can be said which may apply to every
one, viz., Sunday is God's day — a day to be used in
God's service, and to God's honor and glory. Worldly
lusiness is to be wholly and entirely banished from

A canon of our Church in the United States says :
" All persons within this Church shall celebrate and
keep the Lord's Day, commonly called Sunday, in
hearing the Word of God read and taught, in private
and public prayer, in other exercises of devotion, and
in acts of charity, using all godly and sober conversa-
tion."^ Evidently, the more time that can be given to
communion with God, the greater strength and re-
freshment the soul will be likely to receive. The more
that this world is shut out, and the more that our
thoughts are fixed on high and heavenly things, the
larger increase of Divine grace will be obtained by us.
Let every one endeavor so to spend his Sunday, and
so to keep God's day holy, that at the close of it he
may be able to lie down to rest " with the answer of
a good conscience towards God," and with the power

1 Digest, Tit 1, "Canon 18.

96 OUR vows.

of blessing God for that grace which has enabled him
to turn the past day to good account.

But since one part of the Sunday's duty (which in
no ordinary circumstances whatever may be omitted)
is the assembling ourselves together for public worship,
let some few words of advice be given about our be-
havior in Church.

First, let none indulge that slovenly and ungodly
habit of coming late into church. What an amazing
carelessness and indifference, and what insolence to-
wards God, do persons exhibit by being habitually late
in their attendance at church ! What an important
part of the service, too, do they miss by such idleness !
That which they should join in more than in any thing
else, viz., the humble confession of their sins ; that
which should be most precious to them, viz., God's
loving message of pardon and forgiveness to all the
penitent and faithful,— the comfort of these, through
their tardiness, they lose. A poor beginning this, in-
deed, in preparation for the coming service. More-
over, Avhat an unseemly noise and disturbance is al-
ways caused by persons coming late into church !
What a hindrance is it to the prayers of other people I
What an interruption to the general devotion of the
congregation ; whereby, be it remembered, God is

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Online LibraryRichard LowndesOur vows : a work to be read in preparation for baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist → online text (page 6 of 8)