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the truth of every word which we utter before him, and challenge his omniscience to take cogni. zance, whether what we say doth not express the real sentiments and desires of our hearts. I say the desires of our hearts ; for these, and not the language in which we clothe them, are our prayers to God. Nay, the better the words are which we use in prayer, the more insolent is the profanation, if they are not animated by the desires which they ought to express. Too many are apt to imagine, that they have succeeded well in the exercises of devotion, if they have been able to address God by his proper titles, and to recollect those words indited by the Spirit of God, in which holy men of old expressed their desires, and which they committed to writing for the use of the church. But they do not consider, that the very end for which those accepted prayers were recor: ded, was, to regulate our hearts instead of directing our lips ; and that it is our most immediate business, when such petitions occur to our minds, to try our hearts by them, that we may truly feel what they express, before we adventure to present them to God.
It is the character of hypocrites, whom God abhorreth, that they “ draw near to him with their mouths, and honour him with their lips, while their hearts are far from him.” This is to add abuse and insult to all their other sins; and those prayers which have proceeded from feignce
lips, will, in the great day of judgement, stop the mouths of transgressors more effectually, than all the other offences with which they shall be found chargeable.
The articles of a man's belief may not always be present to his mind; or at least the practical inferences which may justly be drawn from them, may not be all so obvious as to command his uniform attention. To counteract indeed a plain and positive law, is such flagrant rebellion as admits of no excuse : and yet even in this case, the sinner may pretend to plead, in alleviation of his crime, that the law appeared to him so strict and rigorous, that he could not bring his mind to consent to its demands.
But what evasion can a man find for contradicting his own prayers ? Or what shall he be able to answer, when God shall say to him, “ Out of thine own mouth do I condemn thee, thou wicked servant ?” Every request which we make to God, is not only an explicit declaration that we highly esteem, and ardently desire the benefits we ask, but likewise implies an obligation on our part, to put ourselves in the way of receiving what we ask, and to use all the means in our own power to obtain it. When therefore we do not endeavour to obtain the blessings which we ask, we plainly declare that we do not heartily desire them. And by asking what we do not desire to obtain, we make it evident that we are presum
tuous dissemblers, who use greater freedom with the all-perfect Being, than we dare to use with any of our fellow mortals, who is possessed of sufficient power to resent snch unworthy and abusive treatment.
I have just now read to you a prayer of the Royal Psalmist, which none of us, I suppose, will hesitate to adopt. It consists of two distinct petitions; the one respecting the spiritual, the other the temporal prosperity of the people over which the providence of God had placed him. And it will readily occur to you, that both these important interests of the nation to which we belong, are recommended to our attention in the royal proclamation which hath brought us together this day. What I propose in the following discourse is to make a few remarks,
First, On the matter of David's prayer.
Secondly, On the order observed in the petitions contained in it.
Thirdly, On the temper of mind with which this prayer appears to have been accompanied. I will then shew what is incumbent on those who address the same requests to God, in order to prove the uprightness of their hearts, and that they sincerely wish to obtain what they ask.
I begin with the matter of David's prayer : "Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion : build thou the walls of Jerusalem.”
The first of these petitions hath an obvious re
ference to the tribes of Isreal, considered in their spiritual state, as a religious community, or the true church of God. To those who are acquainted with the language of Scripture, it will not be needful to prove, that this is the common acceptation of the term Zion, when it is used in distinction from Jerusalem. Zion was the unalterable station of the tabernacle, the city of David, and the emblem of that spiritual kingdom which David's Son and Lord was to erect in future times. The blessing prayed for by the Psalmist is, that it would please God to do good unto Zion.
This short, but comprehensive request, in the mouth of a British and Protestant Christian, includes more particulars than the limits of one discourse will permit me to enumerate, I shall select a few leading petitions, in which all who come under this description will cordially unite; namely, That God, of his infinite mercy, may establish and perpetuate what his own right hand wrought for us in the days of our fathers, at the two illustrious æras of the reformation from Popery, and what is justly styled the Glorious Revolution : That the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified in these lands, as long as the sun and moon endure : That the great truths of the gospel of Christ may be faithfully published, and sucessfully defended, both against the attacks of open enemies, and the secret artifices of those who lie in wait to deceive : That
the ordinances of religion may not only be dispensed in purity, but may be accompanied with power, and rendered effectual for the conviction of sinners, and for building up saints in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation : That the wickedness of the wicked may come to an end, and the just be established : That the spirit of division may cease, and that the whole multitude of believers may be of one heart and one soul,
following after the things which make for peace, and things whereby one may edify another.” In fine, that our Zion may be a “ quiet habitation, and a tabernacle that shall not be taken down, none of the stakes whereof shall be removed, neither any of the cords broken: that God may appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks to her, and be himself the glory in the midst of her;" “ Clothing her priests with righteousness, that all her saints may shout aloud for joy.” In these, and such particulars, consisteth the good of Zion. “Christ loved his church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; that it might be holy and without blemish.” For this end he lived, and for this end he died, “ That he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."