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النشر الإلكتروني

Here is one praying, according to the apostle's advice, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, Eph. vi. 18; like a true beggar, from a sense of what he wants, and with earnest desire to obtain what he asks for. And God denies him nothing. He will give him the Holy Spirit and all spiritual blessings, much more certainly than an earthly parent would give bread to a hungry child that asks it of him; and all things shall work together for his good. His will to ask, is the earnest of his obtaining, and a security put into his hands for the performance of all God's promises. We can be as sure, as we are that God is true, that whatever we ask according to his will, he heareth us, and will grant all our petitions, 1 John, v. 14. Think what kind of life can be more happy and pleasant than this, to have that very end in view for ourselves which God has for us, and to know we shall not fail of it; to desire and long only for what we should, and to be infallibly assured that we shall have it. But then know of a truth, that if we have this great end in view, the salvation of our souls according to Christ and his Gospel, and if the desire of our hearts is after it, in a state of prayer and earnest supplication,

II. It must be the Spirit's work in us.-- The Spirit of God works in us a knowledge and conviction of our lost estate and want of Christ; and then prayer follows

; upon it, and is preserved in vigour and exercise by his continual abode with us. As we believe, so we pray; and if there is no prizing of Christ, nor desire of his benefits, we never pray according to the will of God. And, therefore, to make way for the Spirit of prayer in us, our sin must be laid open to us, especially the great sin of not seeking after, cleaving to, and loving God; our wills must be turned to him for pardon and deliverance from it, Christ must be precious to us, and our hearts set upon

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the joys and glories of another life. But now what hard work is here for man, naturally turned from God, denying his sin, and as full of pride as corruption, bowed down to the earth, fond of his present state, and for the most part wishing only for such poor comforts as it can afford him! Here then the Spirit begins with us, and lays the foundation of prayer in the sense of our guilt, misery, danger, and inability to help ourselves ; in turning our hearts against the evil that is in us, and stirring us up to seek after those good things, which God freely offers, and is ready to give us. And it is for want of this sense and feeling, for want of knowing what we are and what we should be, and how little we can do for ourselves, that so many never come to that first prayer of an awakened

Lord, I am ignorant and unbelieving; a poor, sinful, weak creature; and must be undone without help; Lord, have mercy upon me.”

Let not this discourage you, my brethren, nor keep you from ever attempting to break through the difficulties which lie in your way, because of yourselves you have neither understanding to discern, nor the will to desire what God has made known to you for your everlasting benefit. Say not, as the children of Israel did when they came to the borders of the promised land, and should immediately have taken possession of it —“We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey, and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless, the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled and very great; and moreover, we saw the children of Anak there - men of gigantic strength and stature, difficulties upon difficulties, never to be surmounted,” Num. xiii. 27, 28. And so they all, except two faithful, undaunted men, perished in the wilderness.

Say not thou, therefore, “ Returning to the love and fear of God, and salvation by Jesus Christ, is a desirable

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thing, but hard to be attained; we are slow to apprehend it, and have no wills to embrace it; flesh and blood has got possession of us, and we know not how to break loose from it, or turn our thoughts from earth to heaven, from the world to God.” But consider with thyself that.

. this is a great salvation, the greatest benefit that God can bestow upon thee, and must be attained, let the difficulties in the way to it be what they will; either this, or damnation. Consider, that what is impossible with men, is both possible and easy with God; that it is be who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure, i.e. his goodness inclines him to work all in us, and he takes pleasure in doing it, and can both turn thy heart to the salvation thou wantest, and thy whole heart into a prayer for it. And if this is not done, it is because we refuse his mercy, and resolve to run all hazards rather than submit to a change of our state. But whenever we give way to the Spirit's work, and find ourselves undone without help, and that there is no help any where for us but in the love and power of God, we shall as naturally turn to him for it, as we look to him for rain and fruitful seasons; and be ten times more earnest with him for a blessing upon our souls, than ever we were, in the depth of our hearts, for any kind of outward prosperity, and think prayer an easy condition of obtaining it. We shall then look on him whom our sins have pierced, as it is here said the Jews will do, at the same time that the spirit of grace and supplications is poured

upon them.

When the veil is taken from our hearts, and we have a clear sight of sin, and of Christ crucified for it, and of the great goodness of God in giving him to die for us, we shall be very loth to go without our share of it, and strive hard for a blessing as Jacob did ; and it will then be with us all as it was with St. Paul, when God struck him to the earth with a light from heaven-“Behold, he

, prayeth!" Doubtless he was no stranger to the act of prayer, and had been many times, if not daily, upon his knees. But all the while he prayed in darkness ; whereas now his soul was at stake; he was a convinced man ; pardon of his sin, and the knowledge of Christ, must be had; and for these he now prayed so earnestly and fervently, and with such a different sense of things upon his mind, as that it might be said he had never prayed before.

And as the Holy Spirit thus brings us to a state of true earnest prayer, by convincing every one of us of our want of help, and of the greatness of Christ's salvation, and stirring us up to call on the name of the Lord for it, so he maintains and keeps it up in us by his continual presence; not only giving us the grace of devotion, but directing us in it, and helping our infirmities; because, as the apostle says, Rom. viii. 26. “ we know not," in many cases," what we should pray for as we ought;" and without the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, and supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, we should be as backward to this work, and unable to perform it aright, as any other part of our religion. So necessary is it that the spirit of grace and of supplications should be poured upon us; or grace to see the greatness of Christ's salvation, and our want of it, and a spirit and will to pray heartily for it. Which brings me to show,

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III. That in the want of this spirit, we can have no proof of a work of grace upon our hearts. A hearty desire to pray, implies knowledge and belief, and is grace begun, stirring, and working in us; a sign that we understand our wants, and prize and seek after the good things of Christ, and all spiritual blessings. Prayer is the very breath by which a regenerate man lives; the pulse of his heart beats strong with it; and it conveys health and nourishment to his soul. On the other hand, where there is no relish for prayer, or actual exercise of it, all is darkness and unbelief, sin is unfelt and unfeared, Christ slighted, his peace undesired, and we live without God in the world. And take notice, that what I say is not meant of what is called the gift of praying by the Spirit, or a ready conception and free utterance in prayer, as if I thought this a necessary proof, or any certain proof at all, of a work of grace; neither do I undervalue it in

a those who have it. But the bent of the heart, choice of Christ, and preference of him to all the world - the inward true desire of the mind and will to partake of his benefits, and be filled with his graces — this is prayer, continual prayer in the sight of God; is heard of him, though a word be not spoken; but, nevertheless, will break out and show itself in the outward exercise, in a daily waiting upon him in private, and a diligent observance of the times and seasons of public worship.

There may be, and doubtless are, different degrees of this spirit in different persons, according to the different measures of their faith ; neither is the disposition and will to pray always at the same height in any. Alas! the best have but too much occasion to complain of their being cold and 'unaffected in their addresses to God; and it is their grief and trouble when they are so. But what they do ask in the first place, whenever they pray, and would always ask with the greatest earnestness of desire, is to know Christ, to be established in the faith, to love God, and improve in all manner of holiness, according to his Gospel. And this is required of all, as a necessary proof of a work of grace in their hearts. It is not coming to church on Sabbath-days, or oftener, or observing a daily method of devotion, which will afford us any proof in the case.

We may do this because we have been taught

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