Prayer #1 — Prayer for the 2nd Sunday of Advent (BCP 211):
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Prayer #2 — A Prayer for Mission (BCP 100):
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer #3 — “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending” (Charles Wesley):
1. Lo, he comes with clouds descending, once for favored sinners slain; thousand, thousand saints attending swell the triumph of his train. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! God appears on earth to reign.
2. Every eye shall now behold him, robed in dreadful majesty; those who set at naught and sold him, pierced and nailed him to the tree, deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing, shall the true Messiah see.
3. The dear tokens of his passion still his dazzling body bears; cause of endless exultation to his ransomed worshipers; with what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture, gaze we on those glorious scars!
4. Yea, Amen! Let all adore thee, high on thy eternal throne; Savior, take the power and glory, claim the kingdom for thine own. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Everlasting God, come down! (Lyrics & Music)
Thanks to HymnSite.com for providing this public domain midi file and text.
Reading #1 — John Wesley on Matthew 3-4:
Reading #2 — John Wesley on “The Altogether Christian”:
“II. If it be inquired, “What more than this is implied in the being altogether a Christian” I answer, // (I.) 1. First. The love of God. For thus saith his word, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” Such a love is this, as engrosses the whole heart, as rakes up all the affections, as fills the entire capacity of the soul and employs the utmost extent of all its faculties. he that thus loves the Lord his God, his spirit continually “rejoiceth in God his Saviour.” his delight is in the Lord, his Lord and his All, to whom “in everything he giveth thanks. All his desire is unto God, and to the remembrance of his name.” his heart is ever crying out, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” Indeed, what can he desire beside God Not the world, or the things of the world: for he is “crucified to the world, and the world crucified to him.” he is crucified to “the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life.” Yea, he is dead to pride of every kind: for “love is not puffed up” but “he that dwelling in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him,” is less than nothing in his own eyes. // (II.) 2. The Second thing implied in the being altogether a Christian is, the love of our neighbour. For thus said our Lord in the following words, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” If any man ask, “Who is my neighbour” we reply, Every man in the world; every child of his who is the Father of the spirits of all flesh. Nor may we in any wise except our enemies or the enemies of God and their own souls. But every Christian loveth these also as himself, yea, “as Christ loved us.” he that would more fully understand what manner of love this is, may consider St. Paul’s description of it. It is “long-suffering and kind.” It “envieth not.” It is not rash or hasty in judging. It “is not puffed up;” but maketh him that loves, the least, the servant of all. Love “doth not behave itself unseemly,” but becometh “all things to all men.” She “seeketh not her own;” but only the good of others, that they may be saved. “Love is not provoked.” It casteth out wrath, which he who hath is wanting in love. “It thinketh no evil. It rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. It covereth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” // (III.) 3. There is yet one thing more that may be separately considered, though it cannot actually be separate from the preceding, which is implied in the being altogether a Christian; and that is the ground of all, even faith. Very excellent things are spoken of this throughout the oracles of God. “Every one, saith the beloved disciple, “that believeth is born of God.” “To as many as received him, gave he power to become the sons of God. even to them that believe on his name.” And “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” Yea, our Lord himself declares, “He that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life; and cometh not into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.” // 4. But here let no man deceive his own soul. “It is diligently to be noted, the faith which bringeth not forth repentance, and love, and all good works, is not that right living faith, but a dead and devilish one. For, even the devils believe that Christ was born of a virgin: that he wrought all kinds of miracles, declaring himself very God: that, for our sakes, he suffered a most painful death, to redeem us from death everlasting; that he rose again the third day: that he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father and at the end of the world shall come again to judge both the quick and dead. These articles of our faith the devils believe, and so they believe all that is written in the Old and New Testament. And yet for all this faith, they be but devils. They remain still in their damnable estate lacking the very true Christian faith.” [Homily on the Salvation of Man.] // 5. “The right and true Christian faith is (to go on m the words of our own Church), “not only to believe that Holy Scripture and the Articles of our Faith are true, but also to have a sure trust and confidence to be saved from everlasting damnation by Christ. It is a sure trust and confidence which a man hath in God, that, by the merits of Christ, his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God; whereof doth follow a loving heart, to obey his commandments.” // 6. Now, whosoever has this faith, which “purifies the heart” (by the power of God, who dwelleth therein) from “pride, anger, desire, from all unrighteousness” from “all filthiness of flesh and spirit;” which fills it with love stronger than death, both to God and to all mankind; love that doeth the works of God, glorying to spend and to be spent for all men, and that endureth with joy, not only the reproach of Christ, the being mocked, despised, and hated of all men, but whatsoever the wisdom of God permits the malice of men or devils to inflict, –whosoever has this faith thus working by love is not almost only, but altogether, a Christian. // 10. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who now standeth in the midst of us, knoweth, that if any man die without this faith and this love, good it were for him that he had never been born. Awake, then, thou that sleepest, and call upon thy God: call in the day when he may be found. Let him not rest, till he make his “goodness to pass before thee;” till he proclaim unto thee the name of the Lord, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin.” Let no man persuade thee, by vain words, to rest short of this prize of thy high calling. But cry unto him day and night, who, “while we were without strength, died for the ungodly,” until thou knowest in whom thou hast believed, and canst say, “My Lord, and my God!” Remember, “always to pray, and not to faint,” till thou also canst lift up thy hand unto heaven, and declare to him that liveth for ever and ever, “Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee.” // 11. May we all thus experience what it is to be, not almost only; but altogether Christians; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus; knowing we have peace with God through Jesus Christ; rejoicing in hope of the glory of God; and having the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost given unto us!” (from John Wesley, “The Almost Christian” [Sermon 2], II.1-6, 10-11)
Reading #3 — John Wesley on The Judgement/”The Great Assize”:
“Intro. 2. But, as awful as this solemnity is, one far more awful is at hand. For yet a little while, and “we shall all stand before the judgement-seat of Christ.” “For, as I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” And in that day, “every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” // 3. Had all men a deep sense of this, how effectually would it secure the interests of society! For what more forcible motive can be conceived to the practice of genuine morality to a steady pursuit of solid virtue an uniform walking in justice, mercy, and truth What could strengthen our hands in all that is good, and deter us from all evil, like a strong conviction of this, “The Judge standeth at the door;” and we are shortly to stand before him // 4. It may not therefore be improper, or unsuitable to the design of the present assembly, to consider, — I. The chief circumstances which will precede our standing before the judgement-seat of Christ; II. The judgement itself; and, III. A few of the circumstances which will follow it. // I. 1. Let us, in the first place, consider the chief circumstances which will precede our standing before the judgement-seat of Christ… // 2. At the same time, “the Son of Man shall send forth his angels” over all the earth; “and they shall gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:31). And the Lord himself shall come with clouds, in his own glory, and the glory of his Father, with ten thousand of his saints, even myriads of angels, and shall sit upon the throne of his glory. “And before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, and shall set the sheep,” the good, “on his right hand, and the goats,” the wicked, “upon the left” (Matt. 25:31, etc.). Concerning this general assembly it is, that the beloved disciple speaks thus: “I saw the dead,” all that had been dead, “small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened” (a figurative expression, plainly referring to the manner of proceeding among men), “and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Rev. 20:12). 3 // II. These are the chief circumstances which are recorded in the oracles of God, as preceding the general judgement. We are, secondly, to consider the judgement itself, so far as it hath pleased God to reveal it. // 1. The person by whom God will judge the world, is his only-begotten Son, whose “goings forth are from everlasting;” “who is God over all, blessed for ever.” Unto him, being “the outbeaming of his Father’s glory, the express image of his person” (Heb. 1:3), the Father “hath committed all judgement, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:22, 27); because, though he was “in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yet he emptied himself, taking upon him the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6, 7); yea, because, “being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself” yet farther, “becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God hath highly exalted him,” even in his human nature, and “ordained him,” as Man, to try the children of men, “to be the Judge both of the quick and the dead;” both of those who shall be found alive at his coming, and of those who were before gathered to their fathers. 4 // 2. The time, termed by the prophet, “the great and the terrible day,” is usually, in Scripture, styled the day of the Lord. The space from the creation of man upon the earth, to the end of all things, is the day of the sons of men; the time that is now passing over us is properly our day; when this is ended, the day of the Lord will begin. But who can say how long it will continue “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8). And from this very expression, some of the ancient fathers drew that inference, that, what is commonly called the day of judgement would be indeed a thousand years: and it seems they did not go beyond the truth; nay, probably they did not come up to it. For, if we consider the number of persons who are to be judged, and of actions which are to be inquired into, it does not appear that a thousand years will suffice for the transactions of that day; so that it may not improbably comprise several thousand years. But God shall reveal this also in its season. 5 // 5. And every man shall there “give an account of his own works;” yea, a full and true account of all that he ever did while in the body, whether it was good or evil. O what a scene will then be disclosed, in the sight of angels and men! — while not the fabled Rhadamanthus, but the Lord God Almighty, who knoweth all things in heaven and in earth, —
Castigatque, auditque dolos; subigitque fateri Quae quis apud superos, furto laetatus inani, Distulit in seram commissa piacula mortem.
[O’er these drear realms stern Rhadamanthus reigns, Detects each artful villain, and constrains To own the crimes long veil’d from human sight: In vain! Now all stand forth in hated light.]
Nor will all the actions alone of every child of man be then brought to open view, but all their words; seeing “every idle word which men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgement” (Matt. 12:36, 37); so that “by thy words,” as well as works, “thou shalt be justified; and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Will not God then bring to light every circumstance also that accompanied every word or action, and if not altered the nature, yet lessened or increased the goodness or badness, of them And how easy is this to him who is “about our bed, and about our path, and spieth out all our ways!” We know “the darkness is no darkness to him, but the night shineth as the day.” 8 // 6. Yea, he will bring to light, not the hidden works of darkness only, but the very thoughts and intents of the heart. And what marvel For he “searcheth the reins, and understandeth all our thoughts.” “All things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” “Hell and destruction are before him without a covering. How much more the hearts of the children of men!” // 7. And in that day shall be discovered every inward working of every human soul; every appetite, passion, inclination, affection, with the various combinations of them, with every temper and disposition that constitute the whole complex character of each individual. So shall it be clearly and infallibly seen, who was righteous, and who unrighteous; and in what degree every action, or person, or character was either good or evil. // 8. “Then the King will say to them upon his right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father. For I was hungry, and ye gave Me meat; thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in; naked, and ye clothed me.” In like manner, all the good they did upon earth will be recited before men and angels; whatsoever they had done, either in word or deed, in the name, or for the sake, of the Lord Jesus. All their good desires, intentions, thoughts, all their holy dispositions, will also be then remembered; and it will appear, that though they were unknown or forgotten among men, yet God noted them in his book. All their sufferings likewise for the name of Jesus, and for the testimony of a good conscience, will be displayed unto their praise from the righteous Judge, their honor before saints and angels, and the increase of that “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” // 9. But will their evil deeds too (since, if we take in his whole life, there is not a man on earth who liveth and sinneth, not), will these be remembered in that day, and mentioned in the great congregation Many believe they will not; and ask, “Would not this imply, that their sufferings were not at an end, even when life ended — seeing they would still have sorrow, and shame, and confusion of face to endure.” They ask farther, “How can this be reconciled with God’s declaration by the Prophet, — `If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all My statutes, and do that which is lawful and right; all his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be once mentioned unto him’ (Ezek. 18:21, 22). How is it consistent with the promise which God has made to all who accept of the gospel covenant, `I will forgive their iniquities, and remember their sin no more’ (Jer. 31:34) Or, as the Apostle expresses it, `I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more'” (Heb. 8:12). // 10. It may be answered, It is apparently and absolutely necessary, for the full display of the glory of God; for the clear and perfect manifestation of his wisdom, justice, power, and mercy, toward the heirs of salvation; that all the circumstances of their life should be placed in open view, together with all their tempers, and all the desires, thoughts, and intents of their hearts: otherwise, how would it appear out of what a depth of sin and misery the grace of God had delivered them And, indeed, if the whole lives of all the children of men were not manifestly discovered, the whole amazing contexture of divine providence could not be manifested; nor should we yet be able, in a thousand instances, “to justify the ways of God to man.” Unless our Lord’s words were fulfilled in their utmost sense, without any restriction or limitation,” There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; or hid, that shall not be known” (Matt. 10: 26); abundance of God’s dispensations under the sun would still appear without their reasons. And then only when God hath brought to light all the hidden things of darkness, whosoever were the actors therein, will it be seen that wise and good were all his ways; that he saw through the thick cloud, and governed all things by the wise counsel of his own will; that nothing was left to chance or the caprice of men, but God disposed all strongly and sweetly, and wrought all into one connected chain of justice, mercy, and truth. 9 // 11. And in the discovery of the divine perfections, the righteous will rejoice with joy unspeakable; far from feeling any painful sorrow or shame, for any of those past transgressions which were long since blotted out as a cloud, washed away by the blood of the Lamb. It will be abundantly sufficient for them, that all the transgressions which they had committed shall not be once mentioned unto them to their disadvantaged that their sins, and transgressions, and iniquities shall be remembered no more to their condemnation. This is the plain meaning of the promise; and this all the children of God shall find true, to their everlasting comfort. // 12. After the righteous are judged, the King will turn to them upon his left hand; and they shall also be judged, every man according to his works. But not only their outward works will be brought into the account, but all the evil words which they have ever spoken; yea, all the evil desires, affections, tempers, which have, or have had, a place in their souls; and all the evil thoughts or designs which were ever cherished in their hearts. The joyful sentence of acquittal will then be pronounced Upon those upon the right hand; the dreadful sentence of condemnation upon those on the left; both of which must remain fixed and unmovable as the throne of God.” (from John Wesley, “The Great Assize” [Sermon 15], Intro.2-4, I.2, II.1-2, 5-12)
Reading #4 — John Wesley on “Salvation by Faith”:
“‘By Grace are ye saved through faith.’ Ephesians 2.8 // II. What salvation it is, which is through this faith, is the Second thing to be considered. // 2. Ye are saved (to comprise all in one word) from sin. This is the salvation which is through faith. This is that great salvation foretold by the angel, before God brought his First-begotten into the world: “Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.” And neither here, nor in other parts of holy writ, is there any limitation or restriction. All his people, or, as it is elsewhere expressed, “all that believe in him,” he will save from all their sins; from original and actual, past and present sin, “of the flesh and of the spirit.” Through faith that is in him, they are saved both from the guilt and from the power of it. // 3. First. From the guilt of all past sin: for, whereas all the world is guilty before God, insomuch that should he “be extreme to mark what is done amiss, there is none that could abide it;” and whereas, “by the law is” only “the knowledge of sin,” but no deliverance from it, so that, “by” fulfilling “the deeds of the law, no flesh can be justified in his sight”: now, “the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, is manifested unto all that believe.” Now, “they are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.” “Him God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for (or by) the remission of the sins that are past.” Now hath Christ taken away “the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” he hath “blotted out the handwriting that was against us, taking it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” “There is therefore no condemnation now to them which” believe “in Christ Jesus.” // 4. And being saved from guilt, they are saved from fear. Not indeed from a filial fear of offending; but from all servile fear; from that fear which hath torment; from fear of punishment; from fear of the wrath of God, whom they now no longer regard as a severe Master, but as an indulgent Father. “They have not received again the spirit of bondage, but the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, Abba, Father: the Spirit itself also bearing witness with their spirits, that they are the children of God.” They are also saved from the fear, though not from the possibility, of falling away from the grace of God, and coming short of the great and precious promises. Thus have they “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. They rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts, through the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them.” And hereby they are persuaded (though perhaps not at all times, nor with the same fullness of persuasion), that “neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate them from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” // 5. Again: through this faith they are saved from the power of sin, as well as from the guilt of it. So the Apostle declares, “Ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not” (1 John 3:5ff.). Again, “Little children, let no man deceive you. he that committeth sin is of the devil. Whosoever believeth is born of God. And whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” Once more: “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1 John 5:18). // 6. he that is, by faith, born of God sinneth not (1.) by any habitual sin; for all habitual sin is sin reigning: But sin cannot reign in any that believeth. Nor (2.) by any wilful sin: for his will, while he abideth in the faith, is utterly set against all sin, and abhorreth it as deadly poison. Nor (3.) By any sinful desire; for he continually desireth the holy and perfect will of God. and any tendency to an unholy desire, he by the grace of God, stifleth in the birth. Nor (4.) Doth he sin by infirmities, whether in act, word, or thought; for his infirmities have no concurrence of his will; and without this they are not properly sins. Thus, “he that is born of God doth not commit sin”: and though he cannot say he hath not sinned, yet now “he sinneth not.” (from John Wesley, “Salvation by Faith” [Sermon 1], II.2-6)
Covenant Group Guidelines:
1. What was your devotional life like this week? How did God use the Scriptures in your life? What prayers or readings were significant for you?
2. When did you feel closest to Christ this week?
3. How did you fail Christ as his disciple this week?
4. What story could you share of growth and faithfulness in following Jesus?
5. How could we best pray for you regarding your walk with Christ as his faithful follower?