صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

it; or to quiet conscience, as thinking that God requires it of us as a duty, and is pleased with the bare act of an outward worship. But what is thy heart asking in prayer? What is thy great purpose in it? If it is not for the very thing which God requires thee to ask of him, and wants to give thee, and without which, every thing else he can.give would be no better than a curse to thee; if it is not for thy recovery by Christ out of that depth of sin and misery thou art fallen into; for a right understanding of the will of God, free choice of it, and strength to do it; how often soever thou prayest, whatever thou sayest to him in words, still the spirit of grace and of supplications is not poured upon thee; thou hast not the knowledge, faith, and heart of a Christian !

And if this may be said of those who are not altogether prayerless as to the outward form, what must we think of others who have neither spirit nor form, who seldom or never pray in private, and will not set up the worship of God in their families? Why, verily, that if they believe there is a God, they have no reverence for him in their hearts, and do, in effect, say to him, “ Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” They have not that fear of God which the Scripture tells us is the wisdom of man; and in every house where he is not worshipped, you may write upon the door - The plague is within - the plague of unbelief, the plague of an evil heart, the plague of spiritual blindness ; master and mistress sick of a deadly distemper, under the wrath and curse of Almighty God, and yet without knowledge and feeling of it, or the least desire to have it removed.

But still I must put you in mind what it is that I chiefly aiming at in this discourse; which is to instruct you in the nature and right spirit of prayer, that so you may know what your religious state is, and how you stand affected towards God and heavenly things. And



my design, if it pleases God, is to work conviction in you by this instance, and help you to bring the matter of your salvation to a speedy issue with yourselves; prayer for Christ, for faith in him, or the continuance and increase of it, and acceptance through him to a new state of holiness here, and eternal happiness hereafter, or else all we do in religion is nothing but mistake and dead formality; this is what I would gladly convince you of. Is God's offer of grace, mercy, and peace, by Jesus Christ, our only relief, his whole nature of love manifested to us, the grand blessing he has to bestow upon us, our great hope in life and death ; and are we so indifferent and unconcerned about it, as not to make it the great wish of our souls, and the ground of all our prayers to him? Oh! let us at last be sincere with God, and faithful to ourselves ; let this from henceforth be the language of our hearts : “ If this is praying, we are utter strangers to it. We are not importunate with God in secret for the saving knowledge of Christ, and an assured interest in him. We do not ask of him the light of his Holy Spirit, to teach our hearts to have a right judgment in all things, and joy in his holy comforts. Our comforts are of another kind; and we had rather make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof, and live at ease in the world. If we might have our choice of grace or riches, and durst say

it to God in plain words, we should ask the latter."

Alas! my brethren, what a heart is here, if I have truly exposed it to your view! What blindness and selfdeceit do you live in! How dangerous is your condition ! You are this day a downright unbeliever; the Lord pluck you as a brand out of the fire! Take not one step farther in the road you are in, for it leads to hell and destruction. If it pleases God to dart one ray of heavenly light into your dark, benighted soul, come to him with a true confession, and get this prayer into your heart;



“ Lord, I am in great doubt of my state. I always knew my faith must save me : but unless a foolish trust in thy mercy against thy own word is faith, I see plainly I have

When I presented myself before thee in the form of a supplicant, it was not with a design to draw nigh to thee; I kept myself as much from thee then as at other times ; and I could not ask of thee what thou wantest to give. Without a lie in my mouth, I could not say, Give me a heart to love thee, and devote itself to thy service ; make me a new spiritual man in Christ, passing through the world as a stranger and pilgrim, with my eye steadily fixed upon my heavenly country; for thou, who knowest all things, knowest I did not desire it. Lord, look upon me in mercy. Scatter the thick mists of ignorance and error which hang over me. Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; help my unbelief; Lord, teach me to pray." Blessed be God, he has taught us in few words, but all life and spirit, and full of divine sense and meaning. You know I mean the Lord's prayer, with a brief explanation of which I shall conclude, and cannot have a better wish for you and myself, than that it may be the very prayer of our hearts.

“ And it came to pass, that as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto thein, When ye pray, " say" - with understanding, and full persuasion of the goodness of what you pray for, and truth of desire to obtain it " Our Father" - our common Father, and Lord of our hearts in Jesus Christ,“which art in heaven,"—through thy love our home and inheritance, and the great wish of our souls -“ hallowed be thy name” be thou reverenced, adored, and praised by us, according to thy majesty, and great in our esteem, as thou art in thyself -" thy kingdom come” – let thy kingdom of

righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, come in our souls, and in all the world : that so

thy will may be done in earth as it is in heaven” — by a cheerful

. submission of every creature to all thy commands, and a devout resignation to all thy providences;- "give us this day our daily bread,”—what thou seest to be needful for the support of our bodies, contentment with, and thankfulness for, such things as we have, and grace to cast all our care upon thee; and, especially, give us day by day, and every moment of our being, the bread which cometh down from heaven, and nourisheth to everlasting life,"and forgive us our sins ; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us" - those trespasses of ours,

which are debts to thee, and must be paid to thy sovereign justice, and could only be discharged by the blood of Christ; and, oh! let this great love of thine incline us to forgive all others, and let us not presume to ask forgiveness of thee with any other disposition but to pardon their debts when they cannot pay, and their trespasses against us always —" and lead us not into tempta

– tion" — leave us not to ourselves, for then we must fall by every temptation; assist and strengthen us in all the dangers of our souls; and whatever trials thou sufferest to come upon us, carry us safely through them, and enable us to improve them to our purification -" but deliver us from evil" -- from the power and malice of the deyil, and from the evil of our own hearts “ for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever” — we acknowledge thee to be the great King of heaven and earth; and fly to thy power for succour in all the wants of our souls and bodies ; and whatever we are, do, or receive, ascribe the whole glory of it to thee. Amen. So be it.

Holy Jesus! what a blessed prayer is this! God grant we may all say it in spirit and truth! ¿Lord, teach

[ocr errors]

us to pray from a true ground, the desire of pardon, sanctification, and fitness for heaven. Pour upon us the spirit of grace and of supplications, make this employé ment the joy and comfort of our lives, and accept us in it; through Jesus Christ our Lord and only Saviour.


And it repented the Lord that he made man on the earth, and

it grieved him at his heart. Gen. vi. 6.

Upon hearing these words, you will be ready to ask, How can it be said that God, who is unchangeably blessed and happy in himself, can repent and be grieved, and so, grieved as to be cut, as it were, to the heart ? The answer to which is, that he is here represented as speaking after the manner of men, who know very well what it is to repent when they have brought ruin upon themselves, and to be grieved for the loss of what is most dear to them. And the expressions are used to convey to us a lively notion of the miserable condition into which mankind was fallen, and to make a strong impression of it upon our minds. You should therefore, upon hearing the words, be ready to ask yourselves another question, what that condition was? And when you know it, to proceed still farther, and inquire, whether it is the condition of mankind now, how we came into it, and whether there are any means of deliverance from it? To assist you in these inquiries according to the light of Scripture, will be the business of this discourse. The Lord help me in it; and as they are of the greatest importance to your repentance and conversion, present

« السابقةمتابعة »