« السابقةمتابعة »
should lavish his favours upon those who “ cast off fear and restrain prayer.” Fitness and propriety are, in this case, determined by the disposition of the persons who need his protection and bounty : And if they refuse to acknowledge their dependence, and implore his smiles, their perverseness naturally subjects them to his frowns. Like objects secluded from the rays of the sun, not because he ceases to shine in every direction, but because some gross impenetrable substance intervenes, the emanations of divine goodness, which would otherwise spontaneously shed their salutary influence upon them, are obstructed by their sins. The temper of prayer is an essential qualification for the blessing of God; especially for the renewing and sanctifying influences of his spirit. For this reason, not to excite or increase his willingness to save, “he will be inquired of to do it for us.” Hence it appears, notwithstanding the various cavils, which ignorance and vice have framed, that all the attributes of heaven combine to support and enforce the duty, for which we contend. At the same time, the nature and circumstances of our being obvi. ously require its habitual and fervent performance. What clearer dictate of reason can be imagined, than that creatures, endowed witii understanding, and capable of the knowledge, service, and enjoyment of a holy God ; creatures dependent on him for life, and all its comforts ;" creatures weakened by infirmity and endangered by temptation ; creatures polluted by sin and exposed to punishment, should daily prostrate themselves at his footstool, gratefully recognize his forbearance, and humbly raise their desires to him for pardon, defence, and salvation ?
Add to these considerations the many passages of scripture, in which prayer is expressly commanded, with the various promises and examples of its efficacy, recorded for your encouragement; and every shadow of doubt will vanish from your minds. In theory, at least, you will concede, that far from an irksome, superstitious, or useless task, to “ commit your way to the Lord,” and “ fill your mouths with arguments” before him, is not anly an incumbent and reasonable act of devotion, but an exalted and delightful privilege.
When we contemplate the frailty, imperfection, and guilt, to which we are reduced ; when we recount the variety of sufferings, which threaten our repose ; and when we realize the infinite distance, at which we are
placed from the dread sovereign of the universe, how signal, how undeserved the condescension and grace, which invite us to “come even to his seat !” How cheering the thought, that on all occasions " we have access to the father, through Jesus Christ,” the son of his love ; may repair to him for consolation and relief; unbosom ourselves in his presence without reserve ; and, with a filial confidence, spread our wants, our sorrows, and our fears before him !
II. Do you require additional inducements to a practice, thus visibly adapted to your condition and friendly to your comfort ? Take then, as proposed secondly, a summary view of its advantages in the following particulars.
1. To pray for ourselves manifestly tends both to prevent transgression, and facilitate obedience.
The person, who begins and closes every day of his life with a solemn approach to the father and friend of creation, can hardly be destitute of motives, either to withstand the enticements of iniquity, or to persevere in “well doing.” His responsibility to " the judge of all the earth” is by this mean engrav. ed on his mind. He is led habitually to feel his own insufficiency, and excited to “stay
himself on the rock of ages.” Accordingly, : when he is tempted to evil, the idea of omniscient purity, accompanied with numerous and conclusive arguments for resistance, naturally occurs to his thoughts. He adverts to the penitential confessions and ardent supplications, which he has recently made in the presence of his maker, and which he expects soon to repeat. He sees the ingratitude and presumption of rebelling against so powerful, so wise, so holy, and so good a being. He is convinced that remorse and foreboding fear must attend his future addresses at the throne of grace, should he wilfully transgress the di. vine command. Taught by past experience, that guilt alienates the affections from every moral excellente, and produces aversion to communion and intercourse with heaven, he apprehends the danger of finally losing the disposition, as well as the confidence and benefit of prayer. He therefore repels the intruding temptation ; and with all the ardour of virtuous resolution, exclaims, “ How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God ?!» Thus shielded from the wiles of the deceiver and his emissaries, he progresses continually in the great work, which is given him to do ;
overcomes one spiritual enemy after another ; and “goes from strength to strength,” till he arrives to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”
2. To pray for our connexions and friends, serves to purify domestick and social attachments; and to inspire principles and views, which exalt the ordinary interchange of civility and kindness into religious obedience.
This is a most effectual method of inducing christian forbearance, condescension, and charity, in the treatment of those, with whom we are destined to live and converse. Without it, though we prescribe rules to ourselves, and say to the selfish and angry passions, "hitherto shall ye come, but no further," we may notwithstanding, be transported beyond the bounds of moderation, and involved in the crimes and miseries of unreasonable animosity : With it, religion is made the umpire of our conduct, and the question comes home to our bosom3 ; how can we be unjust or censorious to those, whom we are accuistomed to commend to the guardian care and grace of God ? The many petitions, in which we have plead for mercy in their behalf, will. reict upon our own hearts, and, calling into exercise our ba:evo ent sensibilities, furnish