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 fullness, 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 over measure 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 feeds 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 changs 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 upward, 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.