Imatges de pÓgina



of real, though of less, moment. Abraham prayed for Sodom; and if ten righteous persons could have been found in it, God would have spared that guilty city. Abraham's servant, sent to obtain a suitable wife for Isaac, prayed to God for direction, and was guided to the lovely Rebecca. Jacob alarmed at Esau's approach, in his distress prayed to God, and prevailed, and Esau became his friend. Moses prayed that the plagues might be removed from Egypt, and they were removed; again and again he implored mercy for stubborn and backsliding Israel, and Israel was spared, even when God had proposed to exterminate the guilty race.d Hannah, insulted by a rival wife, prayed to the friend of the distressed; he answered her prayer, and she became the mother of Samuel.é When Israel was oppressed by the Philistines, Samuel prayed, and those invaders were scattered and fled. "Elijah," doubtless to correct and reform a murderous, idolatrous nation, "prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it rained not on the earth for the space of three years and six months; and he prayed again, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit." On another occasion, when vindicating the honours of his God, he prayed, and fire descended from hea ven, and consumed the sacrifice he was offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the water that was in the trench around the altar; while the astonished idolatrous multitude cried out "The Lord he is God, the Lord he is God." zekiah, near to death, prayed, and fifteen years were added to his life. His country was invaded by Sennacherib's apparently irresistible army; he prayed; and in one night an angel, from the Lord, destroyed one hundred and eighty-five thousand of that mighty host. Daniel and his companions, threatened with destruction, because none could tell Nebuchadnezzar his prophetic dream, prayed, and the dream and the explanation were discovered to him. Jonah, amid the swellings of the deep, prayed, and was delivered from his dismal prison.m Nineveh, warned by Jonah of impending ruin, prayed, and God turned "the half-descending stroke aside." The apostles, threatened by their enemies, prayed that" with all boldness" they might "speak the word;" the (a) Gen. xviii. (b) Gen. xxiv. (c) Gen. xxxii. (d) Exod. viii. ch. xxxii. &c. (e) 1 Sam. i. (g) James v. 17, 18.

1 Kings xviii.
(1) Dan. ii.

(f) 1 Sam. vii.


(i) 2 Chron. xxxii. Isa. xxxviii. (k) Isa. xxxvii.

(m) Jonah ii.

(n) Jonah iv.



place where they were assembled was shaken, they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and spake with the boldness they desired. Peter was imprisoned by Herod. The church of God prayed without ceasing for his deliverance, and their prayer was more powerful than chains, and bars, and bolts, and prison doors, and military guards. While they prayed, God heard. An angel descended, and liberated Peter, and he himself became to those who were praying for him the messenger of his own deliverance.P Cornelius, the devout Gentile, prayed, and an apostle was divinely instructed to go and preach the gospel to him. Paul and Silas were imprisoned at Philippi; shut in the inner prison, and fast in the stocks. They prayed, and an earthquake shook the prison to its foundations; and all its doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. Such are some of the memorable instances of the success of prayer recorded in the sacred pages. Truly, when viewing them, we may exclaim, “Prayer moves the hand that moves the world."

§ 21. Few that are acquainted with the grace of God, are unacquainted with the efficacy of prayer. Mr. Baxter ob(9) Acts x. (r) Acts xvi. *This great and good man, in his Life and Times, relates various instances of the success of prayer, and among them the following:

(0) Acts iv. 29-31.

(p) Acts xii.

Richard Cook, a pious man, during Mr. Baxter's residence at Kidderminster, I went to live in the next house to him. After some time he was seized with melancholy, which ended in madness. The most skilful help was obtained, but all in vain. While he was in this state, some pious persons wished to meet to fast and pray in behalf of the sufferer; but Mr. Baxter in this instance discouraged them, as he apprehended the case to be hopeless, and thought they would expose prayer to contempt in the eyes of worldly persons, when they saw it unsuccessful. When ten or a dozen years of affliction had passed over Richard Cook, some of the pious men referred to would no longer be dissuaded, but would fast and pray at his house. They continued this practice once a fortnight for several months; at length the sufferer began to amend, his health and reason returned, and, says Mr. Baxter, "is now as well almost as ever he was, and so hath continued for a considerable time." Baxter's Life and Times, fol. p. 81.

The amiable and pious Mrs. Rowe is stated, on respectable authority, to have had a sister distinguished for early loveliness, of whose death the following remarkable account was given by Mrs. Rowe:

"It was in my sister's death,' said Mrs. Rowe, when giving the account, that my father was to be tried; but it was I that was taken sick, and when the physicians let them know my great danger, this dear sister came to me with a visible concern, and earnestly besought me to tell her whether I was ready and willing to die; for she was afraid I should die, and she could not comfortably part with me but to go to Christ; she hoped, therefore, that my interest in him was comfortable and clear. I earnestly turned to her, and said, "Why, sister, do they think me in such hazard? I must confess to you that my distress would be great, on account of my soul, if I thought my death were now coming; for I have not that full assurance of my interest in Christ, which I have always begged of God I might have before he pleases to call me hence." No sooner had she heard me say this, than she fell, as in agony, on her knees by my bedside, and in a manner inexpressible for fervour and humility, besought the Lord, that if her father must have the grief of burying



serves on this subject, "How many times have I known the prayer of faith to save the sick, when all physicians have given them up for dead! It hath been my own case more than once or twice, or ten times; when means have all failed, yet have I been relieved by the prevalency of fervent prayer.'

[ocr errors]

§ 22. The willingness of the Father to hear prayer, and the intercession of Christ in behalf of his followers, combine to illustrate the value of this sacred exercise. The Lord said, "At that day ye shall ask in my name, and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me."s As much as to say, If I did not intercede at all for you, yet such is the Father's great love to you, that he will grant you what you ask in my name. But though this is the case, still the Saviour

one of his children, it might be her! for through his free grace, and to the glory of it, she could joyfully profess before him her assured hope of her interest in his everlasting mercy, through Jesus Christ! wherefore she could willingly surrender herself to die, if it might please God to grant her sister a further space for making her calling and election sure. Having prayed thus, in a transport the most surprising and astonishing to me,' said Mrs. Rowe, she earnestly kissed me and left the room, without giving me time or power to answer her a word; and what is almost incredible to relate, from that hour or two I grew better and recovered, but she took to her bed and died in a few days.'

This statement is contained in a letter from Mr Benjamin Coleman, a minister at Boston, New England, to Dr. Watts: the letter is dated May, 1739. He states, that after the conversation in which Mrs. Rowe related this remarkable event, he wrote down the particulars, and kept the record by him. In a subsequent letter he refers to it, as a story from Mrs. Rowe's own mouth.Watts's Life, prefixed to the third volume of his Practical Works, pp. 99-101. A few years ago, the writer of these pages heard the following narrative related by the late Mr. John Deacon of Leicester. A Mr. Kingsford being engaged in fishing with nets, spent several hours in the water: the consequence was, an attack of illness, and such a loss of the use of his limbs, that he was no longer able to walk. Medical aid was resorted to in vain; at length, as a last resource, he determined to visit Bath, for the benefit of the waters. He went. After arriving there, he sent his servant to make some inquiries respecting the bath; and while the servant was gone, his mind became peculiarly engaged in religious meditation. He thought of God, possessed of the same power as ever; he thought of the Lord Jesus, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. From meditation his mind was drawn out into a peculiarly devout prayer. When he began praying, he was a cripple, unable to move across the room without a crutch; but when he concluded, he seemed to himself as if he could walk. With doubt and apprehension he made the trial-he found his prayer was answered-he could walk-the use of his limbs was restored; and laying aside his crutch he actually went out into the street, where he walked and met his servant, who was coming back, having attended to the errand on which he had sent him.

Another instance of blessings communicated in answer to prayer, occurs in the remarkable protection of the New England states, in the year 1746. A French armament of forty ships of war, under the duke d'Anville, was fitted out for the destruction of those states. The force appeared sufficient to render that destruction certain. This fleet sailed from Chebucto in Nova Scotia for this purpose. In this season of extremity the descendants of the pious puritans sought help of God, and on the night following a general fast throughout New England, this formidable fleet was entirely destroyed by a terrible tempest. (s) John xvi. 26, 27.

Saint's Rest, p. 2. c. 6.


pleads as the advocate of his friends.


"We have an advocate "Seeing then

with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."" "Through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father."

What strong encouragement for prayer! The eternal Father willing to hear our requests, the Son of God, by his intercession, adding weight to every devout petition, and efficacy to every suitable desire; to all this the aids of the divine Spirit are added. How precious is prayer thus sanctioned! How wonderful the love of God that gives us such encouragement !

§ 23. You may discern the worth of devotion by glancing at its happy effects upon the truly devout. Prayer promotes their piety, is their solace in affliction, their safeguard in prosperity. True devotion trains the soul for heaven; it raises the Christian's views and desires above the grovelling objects of a dying world. When the soul is elevated in fervent prayer, it flies over earth and time, and seeks something more worthy of its affection than any sublunary object. Then, for a few happy moments, the Christian looks down on earth, and deems its sufferings and its joys equally trifling, and equally unworthy of regard. A frail, unstable world is not, then, the world for him. All beneath the sun is too mean and worthless for the soul, that is engaged in contemplating the glories of its future home, and in communing with its heavenly friends. Life appears but a dream, and time itself but a little insignificant span, when in the season of devotion the heart sinks or exults in the view of eternity. Objects that, at other times, we may eagerly pursue, then appear so sunk in value, that we may almost wonder why we should have ever attached importance to them, while we fear lest, when the elevations of devotion are passed, we should be as infatuated again. The contentions and bustles of jarring nations, important as the world may think them, then seem very unimportant to those who can say, My soul, thou art not of this world, what are these to thee?

Thus prayer raises the soul above the world, and endows

t) 1 John ii. 1.

(u) Heb. iv. 14-16.

(v) Eph. ii. 18.



the humble worshipper with steady fortitude to press onward to heaven, though ten thousand dangers should beset the way. In prayer

"His hand the Christian fastens on the skies,
"And bids earth roll, nor feels its idle whirl.'

The feeling cherished by prayer, that God is our Father, necessarily produces this effect. When cheered with the view of Omnipotence engaged for him, the Christian can say to enemies, the fiercest and most mighty, "Do your utmost, you are but wretched mortals; my Father can in an instant disconcert all your schemes, baffle your plans, and make your power weakness, and your bodies dust; and if he do not this, it is because he permits you to go on, that you may work his sovereign will. I fear you not. He laughs at your puny power, and I am secure in his omnipotence." So martyrs thought, so martyrs acted. The vivifying prospect of the kingdom of God, which cheers the moments of devotion, may make us blind to every obstacle, and lead us to press onward like men, who see no dangers though beset all round with them, because they see nothing but that one object, on which their eyes are intently fixed. A thought or a glimpse of his native land, his friends and his home, may urge the mariner, worn out with fatigue, and resigning himself and his vessel to the rage of the tempest, to contend with the waves, and to struggle for safety with greater ardour than ever. So in devotion, the dispirited and downcast soul is often fired with new fervour, and strengthened with new vigour, to press on to the kingdom of Jesus, though earth and hell should unite their fiercest opposition.

§ 24. The Christian finds prayer a solace in the day of adversity, while he casts his burthen on the Lord. So sweetly an afflicted child leans his head upon his mother's bosom, and half forgets his sorrows. Happy are they that, in the hour of affliction, can go to God as their tenderest friend, and open all their sorrows to him. The afflicted find their calamities lightened, when they can pour the tale of their sorrows into the ear of a compassionate friend. So it is a relief to the really pious, to tell theirs to their compassionate God, and to resign themselves to his disposal, saying, "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord." "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink

« AnteriorContinua »