Imatges de pÓgina
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desires of the heart which are most acceptable to God, those sighs and groanings which are not uttered, and cannot be expressed in articulate language. So that to have recourse to saints or angels as intercessors, is as vain and unprofitable to men as it is dishonouring to the Son of God, the one and only Mediator between God and man.

In the seventeenth chapter of John, we have an example of the manner in which Christ intercedes for his people. In this his farewell prayer for his disciples, he adverts to the labours in which he had been occupied for the glory of his Father; declares that he was now about to finish the work which he had given him to do; and announces, that he was bidding adieu to the scene of his humiliation, and preparing to enter into his glory. On these grounds he prays to his Father to sanctify and perfect his disciples; to keep them while they remain in the world from the evil; to make them one in their tempers and dispositions, their character, affections, and pursuits; and to cause the love which his Father had shewn towards him to rest iipon them. At the same time he declares that he Jiad manifested to them his glory, and that it was his will that they should be with him where he was from eternity, and whither he was now going, to behold his glory for ever. Every thing, in short, is asked for his apostles, and for all who, in every age, should believe in him, that can contribute to their present safety and happiness, and secure their admission into his glorious presence in heaven. Whatever petitions, therefore, we have to present

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at a throne of grace-whether they be for mercy to pardon, for grace to sanctify, or for strength to enable us to do, or endure the will of God-whether they be for blessings on ourselves, or on our families, our friends, our country--the peace and prosperity of the church, the conversion of sinners, and the universal diffusion of the gospel of Christ, that men may be blessed in him, and all nations call him blessed-whether our prayers be offered up in secret, or in our families, or in the house of God, let them be the desires of our hearts for things agreeable to the will of God. Let them be fervent and persevering, offered up in faith, in a constant dependence on the Spirit of God, that they may be according to the precepts, and grounded on the promises of his holy word. And that they may not only be fervent but effectual, let them be presented in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only Mediator between God and man. .

Now, if these things are necessary in order to the acceptance of our prayers, it need not surprise us if they are often unanswered. We ask, and receive not, because we ask amiss. We draw nigh to God with our mouths, and honour him with our lips, while our hearts are far from him. Instead of prizing as we ought this invaluable privilege; instead of delighting ourselves in God and in converse with our heavenly Father, we must be driven, as it were, into his presence-we must find every other refuge fail us we must feel the burden of our griefs and sorrows too heavy for us to bear—and be compelled, by some personal or domestic trial and affliction

from which he only can deliver us, to pour out our hearts unto him, before we can be made duly sensible of his mercy and compassion, as both able and ready to do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. How many are there whom the sun every day beholds preserved and supported by the power and providence of God, who yet live without him in the world! Who rise in the morning without thanksgiving and prayer, and lie down at night without supplicating his mercy, though they know not but their sleep may be the sleep of death! If prayer be, as it certainly is, the first breath of spiritual life, and that by which it is preserved and invigorated, then to live without prayer is a sure indication of spiritual death, and a prelude, if persisted in, to eternal death. On the other hand, if any one attainment could be safely relied upon as a criterion of a truly regenerated spirit, that of a life of prayer and communion with God, such as has been described, might, perhaps, claim that pre-eminence. Happy they who feel an increasing delight in this greatest of earthly privileges, and who watch thereunto with all

perseverance! But their happiness remains to be described, and will, if it please God, be the subject of our next discourse.

SERMON IX.

ON THE ADVANTAGES OF PRAYER.

JOB, XXI. 15.

And what profit should we have if we pray unto

Him?

In two preceding discourses, we have endeavoured,

I. To reply to some objections which have been urged against the use and efficacy of prayer.

II. To shew the nature of acceptable prayer. And I now proceed,

III. To point out some of the many advantages attending it.

1. The first advantage I shall notice is, its fixing the heart upon God, the true centre of its happi

ness.

A worldly temper, that is, a disposition to prefer worldly pleasures and advantages to the immortal interests of the soul, is natural to man. It infects all the powers and faculties of the soul; the understanding, by blinding it to whatever relates to our eternal welfare and happiness; the will, by making it averse to whatever is really and intrinsically good; and the affections, by disordering and sensualizing them. Men may, indeed, maintain the outward form of devotion, while they are under the influence of a worldly spirit. This was the case with the Jews of old. They were skilled in questions of their law, and proud of their descent from Abraham, but were strangers to the faith of that patriarch ; rigid in respect to days and months, but lax as to the observance of the weightier matters of the law; sabbath after sabbath entering the synagogue, but as often as they heard Moses read, having a veil upon their heart.

The mass of professing Christians in the present day may, in some degree, be likened to that of the Jews in the days of Christ. There was even among them a remnant who worshipped God in spirit and in truth. There was a devout Simeon, who waited for the consolation of Israel-a devout Anna, who departed not from the temple, but served God, with fastings and prayers, night and daya Nathaniel, whom the omniscient eye of the Saviour observed pouring out his heart to God in prayer, under the fig-tree. These, and such like characters, were Israelites indeed. The flame of piety which, in ancient time, God had kindled among his people, was not wholly extinct: some sparks remained among the embers. The mass, however, of the nation, though the form of religion was still maintained, felt nothing of its power, but were dead to spiritual things; dead, not merely like the Gentiles in trespasses and sins, but dead to those truths which were revealed to them; dead to all the benefits of that dispensation, which,

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