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tell ! not a single duty can be described and enforced, but one or another exerts all his ingenuity to invent excuses for its neglect ; and raise objections either against its fitness, or utility, or both. . : Such, though nothing can be more reasonable in itself considered, or more salutary in its operations and effects on the human character, is peculiarly the case with prayer. Urge the many arguments, which evince its importance, and, beside the more trite and insignifi. cant pleas, which carry their own refutation with them, you will be told, that viewing God, as omniscient, unchangeable, infinitely wise and good, there can be little or no foun. dation for any thing of the kind. If he be omniscient, so they argue, he must know all our wants, without any enumeration of them on our part : If he be unchangeable, no im portunities, of which we are capable, will induce him to alter his purpose : If he be infinitely wise, he is certainly the best judge respecting the time and manner of bestowing favour ; and if he be infinitely good, he will, of course, be disposed to administer seasonable relief to his necessitous, dependent crea- . tures. Where then is the propriety of formal
addresses to the Almighty ? “And what profit should we have, if we pray unto him ?” . ; Persons, who can thus deliberately oppose the clearest dictates of reason and scripture, are, perhaps, beyond the hope of amendment ; and to attempt it might be labour lost. This, however, is not the case with the generality of mankind. Multitudes are rather perplexed, than convinced, by these impious sophists. To them, at least, an essential service may be rendered, by placing the subject in a rational and just point of light.
I propose therefore, first, to make some brief observations, tending to obviate the preceding objections, and illustrate the nature and obligation of prayer : Secondly, to give a sum. mary view of its various advantages : and then, thirdly, to conclude the whole by enforcing its uniform and devout practice, in all its branches. . - I. “ Prayer is an offering up of our des sires to God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.” It is intended, not to inform him of our necessities ; not to persuade him to reverse his determinations ; not to dictate the mode, or the period of his interpositions in
our behalf ; nor yet to inspire him with sentiments of benevolence and compassion, to which he is now a stranger. It operates on ourselves, and is manifestly adapted to meliorate our disposition and behaviour; to preserve, in our bosoms a lively sense of our dependent and guilty state ; to excite and increase our “ trust in the Lord Jehovah, in whom is everlasting strength,” and “ with whom is forgiveness and plenteous redemption;" to call forth our activity and zeal in his service ; to render us patient, submissive, and content. ed under his allotments; and thus to qualify us for the reception and improvement of his mercy.
Such being the end of prayer to God, that he is omniscient ; that “ he knows what things we have need of, before we ask him;" that he is perfectly acquainted with the inmost recesses of our souls, and always discerns the sincerity with which we call on his name, far from proving an impediment, ought in justice to become a powerful incentive to the practice. To the mind impressed with a due conviction of its own weakness, and consequent need of divine aid and support, how consolatory the idea of approaching an all-sufficient helper, who sees and commiserates our infirmities, and will not despise the humble aspirations of the broken heart ! Were we reduced to the necessity of soliciting assistance from man, should we not do it with increased alacrity and boldness, if assured, that neither our circumstances, nor our intentions would be misapprehended ? Since, then, we are fully apprized, that no mistake of this sort can be incident to our heavenly father ; since all that is requisite to his acceptance and benediction is integrity of heart; and since to inspire this is the tendency and aim of prayer, how many and how conclusive are the reasons, which hence result for its constant exercise ? .'
The same conclusion flows, with. equal ștrength of evidence, from the immutability of God. He has declared the righteous to be objects of his favour; the wicked of his displeasure ; and never will he “ alter the thing which has gone out of his lips.” If, therefore, we would enjoy his approbation and blessing, instead of expecting him to recede from his word, and “ deny himself,” a' change must be produced in us. We must imbibe the spirit and display the purity of his children. To accomplish a purpose, at once, so desirable and necessary, nothing can be more conducive than frequent prayer. This serves to
remove from us the iniquities, which “ separate between us and our God,” and to generate and cherish those devout affections and virtuous habits, which are always pleasing and acceptable in his sight. This, therefore, is a proper and indispensable mean of acquiring and improving that “ holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” . The importance of prayer is no less demonstratively proved from the divine wisdom and goodness. These, in conjunction, whilst they insure the faithful from every destructive ill, invite the whole race of Adam, in persuasive accents, to "taste and see that God is gracious.” Can a stronger motive to habitual prayer and praise be conceived, than the animating truth, that the beneficent parent of angels and men, not only sees what is best for us, but encourages us to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need ?" It is true, indeed, that by the benignity of his nature, independent of our wishes, he is in clined to do us good ; and will perform what is fit and proper, though we should not request it. We are nevertheless to remember, that it can be neither fit, nor proper, that he