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more carefully watch over, your own tempers and deportments; that you would endeavour to abound in love more and more, and that you would have one only strife, and that, too, strife of friendship and peace, who can become most eminent in “ the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.” And I would charge you, with reference to the various denominations that are around you, that while, as occasion may require, you maintain with firmness the principles to which you are conscientiously attached, you will leave it to others, for them if they will, to misrepresent, to vituperate, and to denounce; but for yourselves to cherish that “ charity which suffereth long and is kind," which “ beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, and endureth all things." Thus, my hearers, shall we hold a high and a noble course, which will give rapture, and ecstacy, and delight, to Him whose very name and nature is love. O that he would pour out the Spirit of love upon the whole and every part of his universal church, thus to qualify it for his final triumph over the unconverted world, and then for its translation into that high and palmy state of being,
" Where joy, like morning dew, distils,
And all the air is love."
You will observe, further, that in the words of the text there is an exhortation as to the spirit which Christians are to cherish in relation to the public interests and the extension of the truth. While they are to “ do all things without murmurings and disputings," they are to “shine"-for we consider this phrase to be taken not indicatively, but imperatively—they are to “ shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life." The “word," my brethren, which here is noticed, is the revelation which God has granted of his mercy in the gospel of his Son; and which when applied by the agency of his Spirit to the human soul, prepares it for the full enjoyment of everlasting life, for pardon and eternal salvation. Now this “ word" it is the bounden duty of all Christians to hold forth, or display, to persons who are yet unaffected by it; and this not merely by the example of their own personal holiness, but also by the administration of those direot instructions, which are intended to affect the conscience and the heart, turning men “ from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God." This we conceive to be the imperative law imposed upon all those who have been born again.
It has, you are aware, been imagined, and is imagined now by not a few, that the advocacy of the truth of the Gospel, for the purpose of diffusing it in the world, must be regarded as properly the work of those dedicated professionally to the ministry of the Gospel; and that it does not by any means extend to those persons who
occupy the more ordinary and the more retired stations of life. This notion requires, upon every possible occasion, to receive the fullest possible confutation. It may be confuted by the very spirit of the exhortation which is now brought before us. We see, you observe, on turning to the commencement of the epistle, that it is addressed “ To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi," along “ with the bishops and deacons." It may be also confuted by referring to the example of the whole primitive church, which, as we find from the records of the Acts of the Apostles and various parts of the epistles, presented one mass of activity on behalf of the interests of the truth. It may be confuted especially by reminding you of those grand princi
communication of spiritual blessings. Prayer is the only medium through which the blessings of Jehovah can descend upon men, and the globe on which we live. You will remember that on one occasion, (I refer now to the record contained in Ezekiel, xxxvi.) God had announced, with absolute and unconditional firmness, a series of promises, about to be performed in connexion with the destinies of his people; and he says, “ I, the Lord, have spoken it, and I will do it.” But then, mark what follows this unconditional and solemn promise : “ Thus saith the Lord God; I will for this, yet be inquired of"-or prayed to—“ by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock." And every passage to which I have referred to-night, and which it will not be needful for us to repeat now, will just remind us of the invariable principle, that it is as men ask that they receive, as they seek that they find, and as they knock that it is opened unto them.
“ We have not, because we ask not. We ask, and receive not, because we ask amiss."
With regard to ourselves, my brethren, the habit of restraining prayer unques tionably has prevented many, and does prevent many now, the possession of spiritual blessings to their souls. It is for this that in affliction we are not consoled; it is for this that in perplexity we are not guided; it is for this that in temptation we are not protected; it is for this that we are dwarfish when we might have been gigantic ; it is for this that we are barren, when we mighit have been filled with the fruits of righteousness; it is for this that we lie prostrate at the base, when we might be erect on the summit; it is for this that we are degraded, when we might have been exalted and ennobled; it is for this that we exist now as beggars and paupers, when we might be enriched and filled with all the fulness of God.
And, my brethren, with regard to the well-being of others, the same habit on the part of the professing Church, has, undoubtedly, prevented the communication of spiritual blessings to them. I myself, protest most solemnly, as an individual minister of the Gospel, against that niode of speculation which has argued as to the reason why there has been such a scanty amount of blessings distributed upon the nations of the earth, and has finally taken to itself a repose by imputing it to the sovereignty of God. Why, my brethren, from any such speculations or conclusions as these, it becomes us, looking to the principle of man's obligation, to trace the want of benevolence and candour, in no secondary measure to the habit of restraining prayer before God. My brethren, we need not wonder, that as we have smitten only thrice and then stayed, that the arm of the Lord's deliverance has not put forth its utmost power. We need not wonder that, in our families, some who are the dearest to us according to the flesh, are yet alienated from the life of God, and bringing us down by their conduct with sorrow to the grave. We need not wonder, that, in the sanctuaries where we worship, the minister closes the Book, and descends from the pulpit, exclaiming with regard to so many, “I have laboured in vain ; I have spent my strength for nought.” We need not wonder that our land of privilege, and of Bibles, and of freedom, is stained by crimes unutterable in their number and in aggravation. We need not wonder that antichrist, and the false prophet, and the man of sin, and the gigantic dominion of heathenism, hold the millions of our species beneath their worse than Egyptian bondage. We need not wonder, that there no light shines amid the darkness that there no glory blazes amid the ruin
that there no rose blossoins in the wild and desolate wilderness, and that multitudes of men at every moment of time (and ah, how many since this se, vice cominenced !) have felt the fulfilment of the catastrophe, crowding and rushing onward to the brink of the precipice, and there sinking, exclaiming each one as he is lost for ever, “ No man cared for my soul."
It is, my hearers, in the name of a world whose miseries you would not prolong, and whose emancipation you would be instrumental in fulfilling, that we exhort you against the habit of restraining prayer before God. Let the Holy Spirit touch us as a pentecostal fire, pervading the heart of youth and the head of the aged, touching all ranks and classes of the servants of the Lord, like that visitation; and then new-born souls will “fly as a cloud," and “as doves into their windows;" then we shall have advance instead of imbecility, and revival instead of languor; and the Gospel will hold on its march of majesty until it shall reach the goal of universal dominion, and sway the sceptre of triumphant grace over a free and renovated world.
But again, this habit of restraining prayer before God, besides preventing the communication of spiritual blessings, exposes positively to the judicial wrath of God. My Christian friends, it is a solemn thought for us to know, that we, in our modified mode of restraining prayer, cannot by reason of that habit, however mitigated, escape the chastisement of his hand. If our immortal spirits are placed beyond the reach of danger-and if we, by the appointment of his own purposes, and the efficacy of the Redeemer's blood, and the sealing gift of the Spirit, are to be prevented from going down to the pit of eternal darkness—yet we must be content to suffer much of temporal chastisement and infliction, as the result of our habit of impropriety and imperfection and the practical result would be well, if oftentimes, instead of placing your afflictions to the account of the sovereignty or mastery of God's government, you would ascribe them to the just visitation which he fixes on you by reason of your restraining prayer before him, amongst other inconsistencies of the Christian life, when he visits their iniquities with a rod, and their transgressions with stripes : and thus, my hearers, with regard to those who are guilty of restraining prayer, in the more terrible extent we have opened before you, it will be remembered that there are inflictions which will press upon the soul, not in the partial judgments of time, but in the tremendous outpouring of all the vials of eternal punishment and ruin. 1 speak to men who have restrained prayer by omitting it altogether: and I tell them, as the great evil now impending over their condition, that if they live and die without the spirit of prayer, they will descend into a state of unchanging existence, where it will be found one of the worst and most agonizing torments, that they will pray, and pray in vain.
It is but seldom that the revelation of the Word of God, draws aside the curtain that conceals the habitation of lost spirits in hell ; but there is one instance where that curtain is drawn aside; not by the hands of prophets or apostles, but by the hand of Him who was the Master of both: and he expounds, my brethren, the following awful fact for the warning and the alarm of others. A rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and who fared sumptuously every day, died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment. He saw Lazarus, a beggar he had once despised, in the bosom of
Abraham, in the Paradise of God. He prayed-and it was for himself. “ Father Abraham, I beseech thee, send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame:" and the poor request was denied. He prayed again and it was for others : “I pray thee, therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house, for I have five brethren, that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment:" “ They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them." Nay, father Abraham"—as if rising to a maddening agony—“Nay, father Abraham ; but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.” “ Verily, I say unto thee, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will
I they be persuaded though one rise from the dead." It was denied-and the spirit was lost for ever. Ah, in this vast assembly, how many are to be found in danger of encountering the horrors of that world, of the inhabitants of which, it will be said, that they do pray in vain. You will go and stand before yonder judgment-seat, and cry and pray for mercy there ; but the voice from the throne will proclaim, “It is too late!" The attendant angels will repeat, “ It is too late!" Conscience will utter its melancholy whisper within, “ It is too late!" The fiend will shout, in the arch mockery of hell, as he rushes to seize his victim in his grasp, “ It is too late !" The spirit will shriek as it descends, “ It is too late!" And the caverns of Tophet will re-echo and reverberate in ceaseless reiterations through eternity, “ It is too late! It is too late!" Who can dwell with the devouring fire, or with the everlasting burnings? O then, my hearers, remember that you must not restrain prayer before God.
My brethren, we have now attempted to exhibit to you those general principles to which we have adverted, as legitimately to be deduced from the statement of this portion of the Word of God. We have reminded you that the employment of prayer is to be directed to God, as its only exclusive object ; and that God has rendered it a matter of positive and universal obligation, We have reminded you, that he is guilty of restraining prayer before God, who altogether omits prayer—who engages but seldom in prayer—who excludes from supplication those matters which are properly the objects of prayer—and who does not cherish the spirit of importunity in prayer. And we have reminded you, that the habit of restraining prayer before him, cannot be indulged with impunity, that it prevents always the enjoyment of spiritual blessings both by ourselves and by others; and that it ex poses especially to the judicial wrath of God.
I trust, my Christian brethren, to whom I would address myself once more in approaching the conclusion of our address, that the subject which has been dedicated to your welfare, will not be offered to you in vain; and as, without exception, shame and confusion of face belong to us, because, to some extent, at least, we have restrained prayer before God, that to-night we will renew our vows, and retire to our chambers, and there beseech God, as his best boon to us, to pour upon us the spirit of prayer; and resolve, my brethren, in the language of the prophet, that “for Zion's sake we will not hold our peace," in prayer--that “for Jerusalem's sake we will not hold our peace," in prayer, “ until the righteousness thereof go forth as the brightness, and his salvation as a lamp that burneth.” No; we will take the censer that contains the blood of prepitiation ; we will draw aside the veil that separates us from the holiest of all; we will enter and stand in the presence of the shekinah, before the burning glory of Jehovah, and there sprinkling that blood upon the mercy-seat, and holding it before us that wo die not, stand with an unwearied and with an unfainting, cry, "We will not, we will not, we will not let thee go except thou bless us;" waiting until, from that shrine and that pavilion of glory, the voice shall answer,
“ Ye have prevailed; as I live, the whole earth shall be filled with my glory; the mystery of God which he spake to his prophets, soon, soon shall be finished.”
And yet, my hearers, there are many now present, who have no title to the character of Christians, and to whom I would dedicate another word of exhor tation before I close. My hearers, I tremble to think, that I am now in the presence of a person who never prayed ; a sinnér born to die; a sinner whose breath is in bis nostrils; a sinner who, by one stroke of his Judge, might be swept from probation to eternal doom. A sinner who never prayed! Where is he? Is it you—is it you—is it you, who never prayed? Suppose you were to stand forth; what a sight would it be! O sinner, we call upon you to pray now : go to the footstool, and say, “God be merciful to me a sinner." Is it uttered? Then utter it again, “ God be merciful to me a sinner.” Is it repeated? Then repeat it again—“God be interciful to me a sinner.” Saints, pray for the praying sinner—"God be merciful unto him a sinner.” And the voice of united supplication will be heard ; joy will be felt in the bosoms of the angels : a greater than the angels will look down, as he did upou Saul of Tarsus, and, with the ecstacy of a satisfied travail, will exclaim, “Behold he prayeth :” and the sigh of that sinner's petition will be heard ; that sinner's transgressions shall be pardoned; that sinner's person shall be accepted; that sinner's soul shall be saved. Thus may God, by his Spirit, descend, and preserve us from the habit of restraining prayer before him. Amen.