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xv. 22,

Luke xviii.

may undoubtedly be accepted, is by conforming our prayers to theirs, whose supplications we know were acceptable ?

4. Whoso cometh unto God with a gift, must bring with him a cheerful heart, because he loveth hilarem datorem, a liberal and frank affection in giving. Devotion and fervency addeth unto prayers the same that alacrity doth unto gifts ; it putteth vigour and life in them.

Prayer proceedeth from want, which being seriously laid to heart, maketh suppliants always importunate; which importunity our Saviour Christ did not only tolerate in the woman of Canaan, but also invite and exhort thereunto, as Matt. the parable of the wicked Judge sheweth. Our fervency &c. sheweth us sincerely affected towards that we crave: but that which must make us capable thereof, is an humble spirit; for God doth load with his grace the lowly, when the proud he sendeth empty away: and therefore to the end that (i. 53.] all generations of the world might know how much it standeth them upon to beware of all lofty and vain conceits when we offer up our supplications before him, he hath in the Gospel both delivered this caveat, and left it by a special chosen parable exemplified. The Pharisee and Publican having presented themselves in one and the same place, the Temple of [xvii.

10–14.) God, for performance of one and the same duty, the duty of prayer, did notwithstanding, in that respect only, so far differ the one from the other, that our Lord's own verdict of them remaineth (as you know) on record, They departed home, the sinful Publican, through humility of prayer, just; the just Pharisee, through pride, sinful. So much better doth he accept of a contrite peccavi, than of an arrogant Deo gratias.

5. Asking is very easy," if that were all God did require : but because there were means which his providence hath appointed for our attainment unto that which we have from him, and those means now and then intricated, such as require deliberation, study, and intention of wit; therefore he which emboldeneth to ask, doth after invocation exact inquisition; a work of difficulty. The baits of sin every where open, ready always to offer themselves; whereas that which is precious, being hid, is not had but by being sought. so Præmia non ad magna prævenitur nisi per magnos la- Bernard. bores;” Straightness and roughness are qualities incident unto every good and perfect way. What booteth it to others

xvi. 16.)

17.]

that we wish them well, and do nothing for them? As little ourselves it must needs avail, if we pray and seek not. To trust to labour without prayer, it argueth impiety and profaneness; it maketh light of the providence of God: and although it be not the intent of a religious mind; yet it is the fault of those men whose religion wanteth light of mature judgment to direct it, when we join with our prayer sloth

fulness and neglect of convenient labour. He which hath Jam. said, “ If any man lack wisdom, let him ask”-hath in like [Prov. sort commanded also to seek wisdom, to search for under

standing as for treasure. To them which did only crave a seat

in the Kingdom of Christ, his answer, as you know, in the [Matt. Gospel was this; To sit at my right hand and left hand in *x. 23.) the seat of glory is not a matter of common gratuity, but of

divine assignment from God. He liked better of him which [xix. 16, enquired, “ Lord, what shall I do that I may be saved ?"

and therefore him he directed the right and ready way, “ Keep the commandments."

6. I noted before unto you certain special qualities belonging unto you that “ ask:" in them that “ seek” there are the

like: which we may observe it is with many as with them of 2 Tim. whom the Apostle speaketh, they “are alway learning, and

never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."
amore non quærunt," saith Bernard ; they seek because they
are curious to know, and not as men desirous to obey. It was

distress and perplexity of mind which made them inquisitive, (Acts

of whom St. Luke in the Acts reporteth, that sought counsel and advice with urgent solicitation; Men and brethren, sith God hath blessed you with the spirit of understanding above others, hide not from miserable persons that which may do them good; give your counsel to them that need and crave

it at your hands, unless we be utterly forlorn; shew us, (Matt. teach us, what we may do and live. That which our vi. 2.) Saviour doth say of prayer in the open streets, of causing

trumpets to be blown before us when we give our alms, and of making our service of God a means to purchase the praise of men, must here be applied to you, who never seek

what they ought, but only when they may be sure to have [Cant. store of lookers on. On my bed,” saith the Canticles,

“ there did I seek whom my soul doth love." When therefore thou resolvest thyself to “ seek," go not out of thy chamber into the streets, but shun that frequency which

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distracteth; single thyself from thyself, if such sequestration may

be attained. When thou seekest, let the love of obedience, the sense and feeling of thy necessity, the eye of singleness and sincere meaning guide thy footsteps, and thou canst not slide.

7. You see what it is to “ask” and “ seek;" the next is "knock.” There is always in every good thing which we ask, and which we seek, some main wall, some barred gate, some strong impediment or other objecting itself in the way between us and home ; for removal whereof, the help of stronger hands than our own is necessary. As therefore asking hath relation to the want of good things desired, and seeking to the natural ordinary means of attainment thereunto; so knocking is required in regard of hindrances, lets, or impediments, which are doors shut up against us, till such time as it please the goodness of Almighty God to set them open: in the mean while our duty here required is to “knock.” Many are well contented to ask, and not unwilling to undertake some pains in seeking ; but when once they see impediments which flesh and blood doth judge invincible, their hearts are broken. Israel in Egypt, subject to miseries of intolerable servitude, craved with sighs and tears deliverance from that estate, which then they were fully persuaded they could not possibly change, but it must needs be for the better. Being set at liberty to seek the land which God hath promised unto their Fathers, did not seem tedious or irksome unto them: this labour and travail they undertook with great alacrity, never troubled with any doubt, nor dismayed with any fear, till at the length they came to knock at those brazen gates, the bars whereof, as they had no means, so they had no hopes, to break asunder. Mountains on this hand, and the roaring sea before their faces ; then all the forces that Egypt could make, coming with as much rage and fury as could possess the heart of a proud, potent, and cruel tyrant: in these straits, at this instant, Oh that we had been so happy as to die where before we lived a life, though toilsome, yet free from such extremities as now we are fallen into! Is this the milk and honey that hath been so spoken of? Is this the paradise in description whereof so much glossing and deceiving eloquence hath been spent ? have we after four hundred and thirty years left Egypt to come to this? While they are in the midst of their mutinous cogitations, Moses with all instancy beateth, and God with the hand of his omnipotency casteth open the gates before them, maugre even their own infidelity and despair. It was not strange then, nor that they afterwards stood in like repining terms; for till they came to the very brink of the river Jordan, the least cross accident, which lay at any time in their way, was evermore unto them a cause of present recidivation and relapse. They having the land in their possession, being seated in the heart thereof, and all their hardest encounters past, Joshua and the better sort of their Governors, who saw the wonders which God had wrought for the good of that people, had no sooner ended their days, but first one tribe, then another, in the end all, delighted in ease ; fearful to hazard themselves in following the conduct of God, weary of passing so many strait and narrow gates, condescended to ignominious conditions of peace, joined hands with Infidels, forsook him which had been always the Rock of their salvation, and so had none to open unto them, although their occasions of knocking were great afterward, more and greater than before. Concerning Issachar, the words of Jacob, the father of all the Patriarchs, were these ; Issachar, though bonny and strong enough unto any labour, doth couch notwithstanding as an ass under all burdens; he shall think with himself that rest is good, and the land pleasant; he shall in these considerations rather endure the burden and yoke of tribute, than cast himself into hazard of war. We are for the most part all of Issachar's disposition, we account ease cheap, howsoever we buy it. And although we can haply frame ourselves sometimes to “ ask," or endure for a while to “ seek;" yet loath we are to follow a course of life, which shall too often hem us about with those perplexities, the dangers whereof are manifestly great.

8. But of the duties here prescribed of asking, seeking, knocking, thus much may suffice. The promises follow which God hath made.

ii. “ Ask and receive, seek and find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” Promises are made of good things to come; and such, while they are in expectation, have a kind of painfulness with them; but when the time of performance and of present fruition cometh, it bringeth joy.

Gen. xlix. 14, 15.

ii. 30.

Abraham did somewhat rejoice in that which he saw would come, although knowing that many ages and generations must first pass: their exultation far greater, who beheld with their eyes, and embraced in their arms him which had been before the hope of the whole world. • We have found that (John Messias," " have seen the salvation :" “ Behold here the Loke Lamb, of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” John

i. 29.] These are speeches of men not comforted with the hope of that they desire, but rapt with admiration at the view of enjoyed bliss.

As oft therefore as our case is the same with the Prophet David's; or that experience of God's abundant mercy towards us doth wrest from our mouths the same acknowledgments which it did from his, “ I called on the name of the Psal. Lord, and he hath rescued his servant: I was in misery, and 4–8. he saved me: Thou, Lord, hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling:" I have asked and received, sought and found, knocked and it hath been opened unto me: can there less be expected at our hands, than to take the cup of salvation, and bless, magnify, and extol the mercies heaped upon the heads of the sons of men? Are we in the case of them, who as yet do only ask and have not received ? It is but attendance a small time, we shall rejoice then; but how? we shall find, but where? it shall be opened, but with what hand? To all which demands I must answer, 9. Use the words of our Saviour Christ; “ Quid hoc ad (John

xxi. 22.] te ?" what are these things unto us? Is it for us to be made acquainted with the way he hath to bring his counsel and purposes about ? God will not have great things brought to pass, either altogether without means, or by those means altogether which are to our seeming probable and likely. Not without means, lest under colour of repose in God we should nourish at any time in ourselves idleness : not by the mere ability of means gathered together through our own providence, lest prevailing by helps which the common course of nature yieldeth, we should offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving for whatsoever prey we take to the nets which our fingers did weave; than which there cannot be to him more intolerable injury offered. “ Vere et absque dubio, (saith St. Bernard,) hoc quisque est pessimus, quo optimus, si hoc ipsum quo est optimus ascribat sibi;” the more blest,

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