« ForrigeFortsæt »
essential to the design of this com-[priety to those on whom a man has pendious publication, to treat ex-no kind of dependence; the rich pressly on a subject of such great will rather buy than beg; but he use and importance. The worship, that has no money, and is unable which the Lord requires of us, may to earn any, is likely to be induced be distinguished into adoration, by necessity to the humiliating exthanksgiving, and supplication. pedient of supplicating relief; yet Contemplating the glories of his he can heartily ask for nothing of nature, as displayed in his works, which he is not in want, or which and revealed in his word, we express he feels no desire to obtain; and at our reverential awe of his greatness last, whatever his dependence, indiand majesty, and our admiring love gence, or desires may be, he will not of his infinite excellency, by ador- be disposed to petition any one, ing praises, and by celebrating the whom he considers as totally unable honour and harmony of all his attri- or unwilling to relieve him. Prayer, butes: recollecting our personal therefore, in the most general sense, obligations unto him as our Creator, implies a belief, and contains an providential Benefactor, and Sa- acknowledgment of the being and viour, we express our grateful sense perfections of God, of his preof them in thanksgiving, general sence with us, and of our dependand particular: whilst the desire of ence on him for "life and breath happiness, and love of our fellow- and all things:" it includes a concreatures, joined to a conviction of sciousness, that we are insufficient our weakness and poverty, and a con- for our own happiness; that we fidence in the Lord's goodness and cannot defend ourselves from danmercy, dictate prayers for ourselves gers and calamities, nor secure our and others: and in all these respects lives, health, limbs, senses, mental we render to the Lord the glory due powers, possessions, relatives, &c.; to his name. In speaking, therefore, that we cannot obtain the sure more particularly concerning prayer, supply of all our wants, nor find it is not meant to exclude or over- comfort in life or death; and that look the other parts of divine wor-all our fellow-creatures are unable ship, but rather to consider them to do these things for us. It further as connected with it, and as bearing supposes, that we earnestly desire a proportion in experience to the the things for which we pray; and enlargement of our hearts, "in believe that the Lord is able, and making our requests known unto hope that he is willing, to grant the God." Yet, as prayer is especially request which we present unto him: the employment of poor and helpless" He that cometh unto God, must sinners on earth, and the introduc- believe that he is, and that he is the tion, as it were, to those praises and rewarder of them that diligently thanksgivings which are here anti- seek him" (Heb. xi. 6). It is, cipations of the work and worship therefore, evident, that all, who of heaven, so it may be proper, in deny the particular providential this place to confine our inquires government of God, and so ascribe principally to this part of divine every thing to second causes, indeworship. pendently producing their effects,
Prayer, in its very nature, is the by chance or necessity, as to exclude expression of dependence,indigence, the immediate operation of the desire, and expectation. Petitions Great First Cause, cannot with any can scarcely be offered with pro- propriety of language be said to
pray. Whatever sense they may ability for those things to which we have of their indigence, and what- are exhorted by the word of God ever may be their hopes and desires, and that none of our fellow-creatures they cannot feel a dependence, or can give us any effectual help in this fix their expectations on God; and our deplorable condition. It implies every expression, which seems like sincere and vigorous desires, yea, prayer, is either used by such men hungerings and thirstings after God as a mere expletive without mean- and spiritual blessings, (which caning, or it must be a virtual renun- not be bribed, diverted, or assuaged ciation, in that instance, of their by worldly things), arising from a avowed principles. But we are not deep conviction of mind, that the so much concerned to inquire about declarations of Scripture concerning the prayer that might be offered by a future state, the resurrection of rational creatures, who, however the dead, judgment, heaven and faultless, are in themselves indigent hell, are great realities, compared and dependent, as about that of with which all else is a vanishing fallen and ruined sinners, for such dream and an empty shadow: and we all are. This part of worship, it imports also, that we have a indeed, may be considered as a prevailing persuasion and hope, duty required by the divine law; that notwithstanding our sinfulness for the command" of loving God and helpless misery, the Lord is with all our hearts," &c., certainly ready to bestow eternal blessings on requires all men to seek to him to all who apply for them in the way of make them happy in his favour and his appointment. These disposipresence; and sinners (if allowed tions, or preparations of heart for to hope for such a blessing) must prayer (Psalm x. 17), admit of surely be bound to desire and ask various degrees, but without some for this forfeited felicity; for how measure of them no man is capable could any reasonable being be sup- of praying aright. They who are posed to love God supremely, who wise in their own eyes, cannot be did not desire, and would not re-disposed to ask wisdom of God; the quest, restoration to his favour, Publican's prayer cannot be the lanrenewal to his image, the enjoyment guage of the proud Pharisee's heart; of his love, and the capacity of glo- nor can the sensual, avaricious, or rifying him? ambitious, sincerely request the Nevertheless, prayer is here mortification of their favourite pasconsidered especially as a means of sions, or the renewal of their souls grace, to which we are directed and to the Divine image, unless some encouraged by the gospel. It is contrary influence hath begun to therefore, in this sense, an expres- change their judgment and disposion of our entire dependence on the sitions. Hence arises that diffiunmerited mercy of God, as justly culty which men generally expericondemned transgressors, for par- ence about prayer, and the need don, acceptance, and all things they have of forms and helps, even pertaining to eternal salvation. It in their most secret retirement; for, springs from " poverty of spirit," in this case, such forms are often a or a humble consciousness that we vain effort to teach a man to pray are "wretched, and miserable, and for those blessings which are diamepoor, and blind, and naked" (Rev.trically opposite to the prevailing iii. 17, 18); that we have neither dispositions and inclinations of his wisdom, righteousness, holiness, heart. The starving wretch, whose strength, or any disposition and urgent wants have overcome his
men neglect prayer or are unable to pray aright, except by the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
reluctancy to beg, needs only en- a carnal mind, alienation from God, couragement, and words flow spon- contempt of spiritual blessings, and taneously from his genuine desires unbelief, are the sole reasons why of relief; but the rich man who should choose to act the beggar, must learn his part, and how to perform it, by rule, study, and prac- But when we consider how great, tice. The fears, hopes, and desires glorious, and holy the Lord is, and of the condemned criminal inspire how guilty and vile we are; the him with an energetic, though per- question seems not so much to be, haps rude eloquence, when allowed whether the sinner ought to pray; to supplicate the clemency of his as whether he may come with his prince; and even the little child supplications into the presence of finds apt words to ask his parent his offended Sovereign? The humfor food, and to complain of cold ble and self-abased will not doubt or pain. Why then cannot men but that the permission given to a find language, when they would rebellious worm, to present a petibeseech the Lord to give them the tion for pardon and salvation to the blessings promised in his word? glorious God, is an act of grace; Because the state of their hearts is and indeed it is always looked upon so contrary to those blessings, that as such, when a prince receives a pethey feel no want or desire of them. tition from a rebel under a deserved Did experience prove, that the sentence of condemnation. But the Lord uniformly conferred health, Scripture places this matter in a long life, wealth, success, honour, much stronger light: for the whole &c., on all that prayed for them, legal constitution concerning the men would generally get over their sanctuary, the veil, the priesthood, reluctancy to this humiliating ser- and high-priesthood, the sacrifices, vice, (notwithstanding their natural burning of incense, &c., and especiindependence of spirit), and find ally the great day of atonement no difficulty in framing pertinent, (on which alone even the high-priest earnest, and importunate petitions might enter within the veil to the for things so suited to their carnal mercy-seat, with the blood of the sinminds. Yet they find themselves offerings, and the smoke of the franot only reluctant, but strangely at grant incense), were most evidently a loss, when they would pray for designed to show what intervening spiritual gifts: wherefore? because obstacles must be removed, before they are not congenial to the desires the God of infinite justice and holiof their hearts. When our Lord ness could, consistently with his on earth" went about doing good," glory, permit sinners to approach they who felt their miseries, and him, even on a throne of grace, to earnestly desired relief, expecting present their humble supplications it from his power and love, applied for pardon and reconciliation. to him with suitable and energetic And, though under the New Testapetitions: but others were more ment we are invited" to come ready to say with the unclean spirit, boldly to the throne of grace, to "What have I to do with thee, obtain mercy," &c.; yet we have Jesus;" or to "entreat him," with no access except by "the new and the Gadarenes, "to depart out of living way, which Jesus hath contheir coasts," than to cry after him, secrated for us, through the veil, Jesus, thou Son of David, have that is to say his flesh," given as a mercy upon me!" Pride, therefore, sacrifice for sin (Heb. iv. 16; x. 19
-22): and by his high-priesthood, invitations of the gospel supersede which is the substance of all those the necessity of inquiring, who MAY ancient shadows. Whilst therefore come in this new and living way? 8T we speak of the encouragemennts" Let him that is athirst come, and given to the vilest of sinners, even whosoever will let him come.' "The
from the first moment that they feast of divine love is provided, desire mercy to present their pray- "all things are ready;" and the ers before the throne of grace; and messengers of salvation are not only and whilst we determine, that prayer commanded to invite all they meet is a part of the worship required of with, but even "to compel them us by the Divine law, and therefore to come in," by every argument, an universal duty, we should never persuasion, expostulation, and enforget, that it is a most surprising couragement they can devise, for instance of the Lord's condescension these are the means by which the and compassion, and one of the Holy Spirit produces the willing most valuable privileges, that we mind, and gives the praying heart. are allowed to make our requests The very appointment of this way known unto him, with well-grounded of applying is a complete encouragehopes of acceptance; for those ment to all who feel desires after the actions may be our indispensable blessings of the gospel, and are willduty, which through our guilt and ing to become humble supplicants pollution it may yet be totally for them: as it implies that the Lord improper for the Lord to accept at purposes to bestow them as free our hands (Isaiah i. 11—15). gifts on indigent beggars, and not In order to encourage the prayers on those who would buy, earn, or of sinners, the Lord displays his deserve them: for prayer is the very glory on a throne of grace; here he language of poverty and distress, "waits to be gracious," and to which guilt alone hath brought on dispense pardons and every blessing any part of the rational creation of to all who ask for them, by faith in God. Every general command or Jesus Christ. Had he been revealed exhortation therefore to pray, is an merely as seated on a throne of glory, encouragement to all who desire sustaining the character of a righte- to pray; and whatever guilt they ous Lawgiver, and an impartial have contracted, or in whatever Judge, a kind friend to the obedient, depths of temptation and misery but a terrible avenger of the rebel- they are plunged, it says to them, lious: it might well have been said," Be of good comfort, arise, he "Jehovah reigneth, let the people calleth thee." Such general extremble;" but as he hath made hortations abound in Scripture ; himself known on a mercy-seat, as they are often addressed to the "God in Christ, reconciling the vilest transgressors, and are comworld unto himself;" so it may be monly connected with absolute said, "the Lord reigneth, let the promises; "for every one that earth rejoice." The whole plan of asketh receiveth," &c. (Isa. lv. 7,8; the gospel, as it relates to the person, Jer. xxix. 11—13; xxxiii. 3; Ezek. righteousness, atonement, and me- xxxvi. 25-27, 37; Zech. xii. 10; diation of Emmanuel, is evidently Matt. vii. 7-11; John iv. 10; Acts intended to give encouragement to viii. 22). These promises do not the trembling sinner, to seek mercy indeed engage that God will hear from the God and Father of the the prayers of the formal, the hypoLord Jesus Christ. The general critical, or the impenitent, who may
(like the unclean spirit) pray very their sins had cast them, whenever sincerely, "torment me not," and they were brought to cry unto him, yet hate true religion as much as and say, "O Lord, I beseech thee, ever. Such prayers of the wicked deliver my soul."
are "an abomination to the Lord :" If then the vilest sinner, from the but when the vilest transgressor is first moment when he desires to so far humbled and softened, as to pray, is warranted to come, with pray from his heart for mercy and humble hope of being heard and grace, and all the blessings of salva- answered; the same considerations tion as "the gift of God through should much more enlarge the exJesus Christ;" he begins "to offer pectations, and confirm the confithe prayer of the upright, in which dence of those who "continue" (or the Lord delighteth" (Prov. xv. 8, persist) " in prayer" from day to 9). These assurances are confirmed day; pleading, with persevering by the examples of Scripture: when importunity, all the promises, in the Manasseh, vile as he had been, Redeemer's name, and earnestly began to humble himself, and pray seeking for that wisdom, strength, to the Lord, he was not upbraided grace, and consolation, which may with his abominable crimes, but mer-enable them to live to the glory of cifully accepted, pardoned, and deli-God, as well as for the pardon and vered (2 Chron. xxxiii). When it salvation of their souls. "We have could be said of persecuting Saul, not, because we ask not;" we are "behold he prayeth!" no further straitened in ourselves, not in the doubt remained of his acceptance Lord; and did we more enlarge or and reconciliation. The Publican, multiply our requests, with greater who loathed himself as much as the fervency and importunity, we should Pharisee disdained him, and who, be enabled to exchange many of our not daring to come near, or "to lift complaints for joyful praises. This up his eyes unto heaven, smote upon our experience in a great degree his breast, and said, God be merci- evinces, if we be indeed experiful to me, a sinner," went down to mentally acquainted with the life of his house justified rather than he faith and prayer: for who can deny who deemed it presumption in such that his inward supports and coma wretch to pray. Even the short forts, his strength to resist temppetition of the almost expiring thief, tation and to endure labour and Lord, remember me, when thou suffering, have borne some proporcomest into thy kingdom," received tion to his frequency and fervency in an immediate answer, full of aston-prayer?
ishing grace. Nor is there one Indeed, the word of God contains
instance upon record, of a single the most energetic language on this prayer being rejected, except for the subject; declaring, that "the effechypocrisy, wickedness, and unbelief, tual fervent prayer of a righteous with which it was presented. To man availeth much:" and the only all these encouragements we may righteous men on earth are penitent, add the frequent commendations believing sinners (Matt. xviii. 19; bestowed on importunity, frequency, Mark xi. 24; John xiv. 13, 14; xv. and fervency in prayer (Luke xviii. 7, 16; xvi. 24; Eph. iii. 20; James 1-13); and the testimony of all i. 5-7; v. 15–18; 1 John iii. 22; the servants of God to his readiness v. 14, 15). Many curious questions to hear and save them, from the have been started on this subject; most tremendous depths, into which for "vain man would be wise :"