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that our apostacy from him has not wholly erased it. But besides this, there must be an internal impression made on the
this goodness unto thy servant. Therfeore now let it please thee to bless the bouse of thy servant, that it may continue forever before thee; for thou, O Lord God, hast spoken it, and with thy blessing let the house of thy servant he blessed forever :" (2 Sam. vii. 25—29.] Here David not only prays God to do that which at the same time he knew and acknowledges God had promised to do; and therefore it was established as firm as the throne of the Almighty, and decreed that it should take place; but he says that this promise of God, making it certain, was the reason, motive, and encouragement to him to make this prayer : “Thou, O Lord, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house. And now, O Lord God, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy serrant ; THEREFORE HATA THY SERVANT FOUND IN HIS HEART TO PRAY THIS PRAYER BEFORE THEE." We bence are warranted to assert that it is reasonable and proper to pray for that which God has promised; and that the certainty that it will be accomplished is a motive and encouragement to pray for it. How greatly then do they err, who think that if every event is made certain by God's decree, there is no reason or encouragement to pray for any thing!
Our Saviour, in the pattern of prayer which he has dictated, directs men to pray that God would bring to pass those events which are already fixed and decreed, and therefore must infallibly take place; “ Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name ; thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” &c.
Christ himself, in the 17th chapter of John, prays for those whom the Father had given to him, that he would keep them through his own name, and that they might be one, as the Father and Son were one; might be kept from the evil in the world, and be sanctified through the truth; that they might be with him in heaven forever, and behold his glory. At the same time he knew that all this was made certain to them; for he had before said, that all that were given to him should come to him, and he would raise them up at the last day; that he would give unto them eternal life, and not one of them should perish, as none should be able to pluck then out of his hands, or his Father's. He prays, “ Father, glorify thy name;" not because this event was uncertain, but to ex. press his earnest desire of that which he knew was decreed, and could not but take place, and his willingness to give up every thing, even his own life to promote this. Again, Christ prays in the following words : " And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory wbich I had with thee before the world was.” The event for which Christ prays in these words was de. creed from eternity, and the decree had been long before published, in the 21 and 110th Psalms: “I will cleclare the decree: The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy foot. stool.” And he had declared the certainty of that for which he here prays, since his incarnation. He had said, that all power in heaven and earth was given unto him; that “ the Father had committed all judgment unto the Son : that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. St. Paul, when speaking of God, often introduces the following words: “To whom be glory forever, Amen;" which is not to be considered as a mere doxolcgy; by which glory is ascribed to God; but it is rather a wish, or desire, that God may be glorified forever ; and the Amen corroborates it: as if he had sail, “ Let it be so; this is the most ardent desire of my soul, including the sum of all my petitions.” Here then the Apostle utters a desire and petition for that which he knew was decreed, and would take place.
The last words of Christ to his church are, “Surely I come quickly.". Upon which promise the following petition of the church, and of every friend of his, is presented to him :" Amen, even so come Lord Jesus.” Here is a petition, in
minds and consciences of men, whereby they may be brought to see the excellency and glory thereof, and their indispensable obligation to yield obedience thereunto.
which all Christians join, praying Christ to do what he has promised; and which therefore was as certain as a declared decree could possibly make it; and the petition is grounded on this promise and decree published by Christ, in which the petitioners express their hearty approbation of the coming of Christ, and earnest desire of this important and happy event. And if it be reasonable thus to pray for an event which is fixed and made certain by an unchangeable decree, and cannot be altered, as in the instance before us ; then it is reasonable and proper to pray for any thing or any event which appears to us desirable and important, though we know God is unchangeable, and that all things and every event are fixed by an unalterable decree.
The apostle John says, " And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he beareth us. And if we know that he heareth us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him:” (1 John v. 14, 15.) To ask for any thing according to his will, is to ask for those things which it is agreeable to his will to grant; and this is to be known only by what he has revealed. When we ask him to do what he has declared he will do, then we know we ask for that which is according to his will; and consequently that we have our petitions. But it will be asked, What are these things? I answer, that God will glorify himself in all things, and make the brightest display of his perfections and character forever; that he will promote and effect the greatest possible good of the universe; that he will make his church and kingdom perfectly happy and glorious forever ; that he will accomplish all his designs and predictions, and fulfil all his promises to his church and people: and cause all things to work for the good of those who love him; and give his holy Spirit to all who ask him. These, I think, must be the things we ask, when we know that we pray for any thing according to the will of God, and consequently know that he heareth us, and that we have the petitions that we desired of him. But in all these instances we ask for that which God has said he will do, that is, has decreed that he will do them. And as it has been said before, if a decree in these instances does not render it unreasonable or improper to pray for their accomplishment; then, if God has decreed whatsoever comes 10 pass, this is not in the least inconsistent with our praying for whatever appears to us desirable and good, and may not be contrary to the will of God to grant. But here it must be observed, that when we ask for any particular things or events which, though it may not be contrary to the will of God to grant, yet he has in no way revealed that it is his will to grant our petitions; when we ask for any such thing, we must do it with an express or implicit reserve-If it be according to the will of God. Otherwise, or if it be not according to his will, we must withdraw our petition, and not desire to have it granted. Resignation to the will of God, whatever it may be, in all such instances, is essential to the pious petitions of a benevolent friend of God. And by thus referring to the will of God, and resigning to that, desiring it may be done in all cases, whatever pe. titions we may make, we do refer to the decrees of God, by which he has deter. mined what he will do in every particular instance; for his will and his decrees are in this case one and the same, being fixed and unchangeable.
Fourthly. It is not only proper and important that the worshippers of God should express their desires of those things which they want, in praying for them; but were this not true, and were not asking for them the means and way of oba taining them; yet the pious friends of God would esteem it a privilege and enjoy. ment to be allowed and invited, “ by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, to inake known their requests unto him.” To them prayer is not a task, from which they would be glad to be excused, but they practise it with pleasure. They have great support, enjoyment and liappiness, in casting their cares upon God, and expressing the desires of their hearts to him. While others restrain Vol. IV.
2. It is farther supposed, that the will of man is naturally averse, and disinclined, to obey the divine commands, which is the result of our fall aud apostacy from God; and, through the corruption of our nature, we are prone to say, Who is lord over us, Psal. xii. 4. and, What is the Almighty, that we should serve him, Job xxi. 15. This is the source of all that opposition which the heart of man expresses against the laws of God, while sinners entertain a fixed resolution to give laws to them.. selves; and, on the other hand, are wholly inclined to do the will of the Aesh and of the Devil: This the apostle calls fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; while at the same time, they walk according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience, Eph. ii. 2, 3. * This will of the flesh is agreeable to the dictates of Satan, by whom it is content to be kept in perpetual bondage; his suggestions are agreeable to the corruption of nature; whereas, the command of God being contrary to it, as containing in them the signatures of his holiness, are grievous and burdensome to fallen man; the law is spiritual, and therefore it cannot be agreeable to those who are carnal, and, as it were sold under sin. And this discovers itself,
(1.) In that, sinful man is determined to do, not what is lawful, but what is pleasing to himself, not considering what he ought to do, as being accountable to God, the judge of all for his behaviour in this world; but whether it is agreeable to his own inclinations, and affords some present delight to his carnal appetite.
(2.) As for Satan, he uses his utmost endeavours to strength. en these resolutions, and increase the depravity and corruption
prayer before God, and say, “ What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have if we pray unto him?” the benevolent friend of God would pray, were it only for the enjoyment which he has in the exercise ; and says in his heart," I will call upon God as long as I live. And though he is certain that God is unchangeable, and that nothing is done, or will come to pass, which is not foreordained by him, this does not tend to prevent or in the least abate the pleasure and enjoyment he lius in making known his requests to God, or his desire constantly to practise it: but this truth gives him support and consolation, and increases his delight in calling upon God, and renders it more desirable and pleasant unto him: yea, were not this a truth, he could not find any reason for making his requesis known to him, or any delight in doing it : and would not have any encouragement, or even dare, to ask for any thing, as has been observed and shewn.
And now this matter is to be left to the judgment of every one who will at. tend to it. It is hoped that it appears evident, beyond all dispute, from the light in which this subject has been now sát, that the doctrine of God's decreeing whatsoever comes to pass is not only consistent with all the exercises of true piety, but is the proper foundation for this, and is suited to excite and promote these exercises; and that there can be no real piety which is not consistent with this truth.
of our nature; and, for this end, daily presents objects to our imaginations, that are agreeable to the desires of the flesh; and these are received with pleasure and delight, whereby a snare is laid for the ruin of the soul, so that it becomes more and more alienated from the life of God; and not only indifferent, as to matters of religion, but utterly averse to them. This is the reason of all the dishonour that is brought to God in the world; whereby it appears, that his will is not done therein, as it ought to be.
Moreover, as the will of man sets itself against the com. manding will of God, so it expresses the same aversion to his providential will; which is not said indeed, to be done, but it ought to be submitted to, by us. We are as much inclined to find fault with what God does in the world, as we are to rebel against his law. This appears in our being discontented and uneasy with the allotments of providence, especially when we are under the afflicting hand of God; whereby we are apt to charge him as dealing hardly with us, because we have not those opportunities, we desire, to fulfil the lusts of the Aesh, or some check is given to our corrupt appetites or inclinations. How ready are we to complain of injuries done us, as though God were obliged to give us whatever we would have, how contrary soever it may be to our real good and advantage, as well as his own glory! Of this we have many instances, in the perverse behaviour of the children of Israel in the wilderness, who were frequently complaining of the hardships they endured; and, by their murmuring against God, provoked him to send those terrible judgments which, as they might have foreseen, would be the consequence thereof. This is the most unreasonable behaviour towards him, who has a right to do what he will with his own, and directly contrary to that temper of mind which the gospel suggests; whereby we are taught, in whatsoever state or condition of life we are, therewith to be contented. It is, in both these respects, that we are instructed, in this petition, to pray, that the will of the Lord may be done. Which leads us to consider,
II. The subject-matter of what we are taught to pray for in this petition, when we say, Thy will be done. And,
1. With respect to God's commanding will, we are to pray, that he would incline and enable us to yield obedience to it; and accordingly,
(1.) We are to be earnest with him, that he would remove the ignorance and blindness of our minds, that we may see a beauty and glory in every thing that he commands; for, next to the Sovereignty of God, which is the first motive hereunto, the excellency of what he commands is to be considered as an inducement to obedience. Therefore we are to be convinced,
that his law is holy, his commanament holy, just, and good, Rom. vii. 12. or, that duty and interest are herein inseparably connected, so that the one can never be secured without the other. This is the work of the Spirit of God, when he directs and leads us in the way wherein we ought to walk.
(2.) We are to pray, that God would take away the obstinacy and perverseness of our wills, that our obedience may be matter of choice, and performed with delight, otherwise it cannot be pleasing to him; and accordingly we are to pray,
[1.] That it may be performed with the utmost sincerity, as approving ourselves not to men, but God, who searcheth the heart; and that it may proceed from a principle of spiritual life and grace, and be done with a single eye, to his glory, whose we are, and whom we desire to serve.
[2.] We are to pray, that our obedience may arise from a filial fear of God, and a love to him, and not barely a dread of punishment, or fear of his wrath, as the consequence of our rebellion against him; or from a mercenary frame of spirit, that looks at nothing farther than some advantages which we expect to receive from him; and that it may also proceed from a sense of gratitude for the many benefits which we receive from him, whereby we are, as it were, constrained to do his will.
[3.] This obedience ought to be universal, with respect to the matter thereof, and constant, with respect to our perseverance therein.
We are not to choose to obey some of the divine commands, and refuse others; or to perform those duties which are most easy, and reject those that are difficult; or to obey the will of God, so far as it comports with our secular interest, and indent with him to be excused in those things that are inconsistent therewith: but we must leave it to him alone, to prescribe the matter of duty, and express an entire compliance therewith, whatsoever it be that he requires. Thus the Psalmist says, Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto all thy commandments, Psal. cxix. 6.
Moreover, this obedience must be constant, without our growing cold and indifferent therein, or desisting from it, according as our condition in the world is altered, as though we had nothing to do with God and religion, but when we are under some pressing difficulties ; for that is to set our faces heaven-ward for a time, and afterwards to draw back unto perdition.
(2.) We are to pray that God would enable us to submit to his disposing will, as being satisfied that all the dispensations of his providence are right; and accordingly to say, with David, Here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good to him, 2.Sam. Xv, 26. This consists,