Imatges de pÓgina
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will take care, and will certainly return thy prayer upon thy own head, though thou didst desire it should water and refresh thy neighbour's dryness; and St. John so expresses it, as if he had left the matter of duty undetermined; because the instances are uncertain; yet the event is certainly none at all, therefore because we are not encouraged to pray, and because it is a "sin unto death;" that is, such a sin that hath no portion in the promises of life, and the state of repentance. But now, suppose the man, for whom we pray, to be capable of mercy, within the covenant of repentance, and not far from the kingdom of heaven; yet,

1. No prayers of others can farther prevail, than to remove this person to the next stage in order to felicity. When St. Monica prayed for her son, she did not pray to God to save him, but to convert him; and when God intended to reward the prayers and alms of Cornelius, he did not do it by giving him a crown, but by sending an apostle to him to make him a Christian; the meaning of which observation is, that we may understand, that as, in the person prayed for, there ought to be the great disposition of being in a savable condition; so there ought also to be all the intermedial aptnesses for just as he is disposed, so can we prevail; and the prayers of a good man first prevail in behalf of a sinner, that he shall be invited, that he shall be reproved, and then that he shall attend to it, then that he shall have his heart opened, and then that he shall repent: and still a good man's prayers follow him through the several stages of pardon, of sanctification, of restraining graces, of a mighty Providence, of great assistance, of perseverance, and a holy death. No prayers can prevail upon an indisposed person. For the sun himself cannot enlighten a blind eye, nor the soul move a body whose silver cord is loosed, and whose joints are untied by the rudeness and dissolutions of a pertinacious sickness. But then, suppose an eye quick and healthful, or apt to be refreshed with light and a friendly prospect; yet a glow-worm or a diamond, the shells of pearl, or a dead man's candle, are not enough to make him discern the beauties of the world, and to admire the glories of creation. Therefore,

2. As the persons must be capable for whom we pray, so they that pray for others, must be persons extraordinary

in something. 1. If persons be of an extraordinary piety, they are apt to be intercessors for others. This appears in the case of Job: when the wrath of God was kindled against Eliphaz and his two friends, God commanded them to offer a sacrifice, but " my servant Job shall pray for you, for him will I accept :" and it was so in the case of the prevaricating Israelites; God was full of indignation against them, and smote them; "then stood up Phinehas and prayed, and the plague ceased." For this man was a good man, and the spirit of an extraordinary zeal filled him, and he did glory to God in the execution upon Zimri and his fair Midianite. And it was a huge blessing, that was entailed upon the posterity of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; because they had a great religion, a great power with God, and their extraordinary did consist especially in the matter of prayers and devotion; for that was eminent in them, besides their obedience: for so Maimonides tells concerning them, that Abraham first instituted morning-prayer. The affairs of religion had not the same constitution then as now. They worshipped God never but at their memorials, and in places, and seldom times of separation. They bowed their head when they came to a hallowed stone, and upon the top of their staff, and worshipped when they came to a consecrated pillar, but this was seldom; and they knew not the secrets and the privileges of a frequent prayer, of intercourses with God by ejaculations, and the advantages of importunity : and the doctors of the Jews,-that record the prayer of Noah, who in all reason knew the secret best, because he was to teach it to all the world,-yet have transmitted to us but a short prayer of some seven lines long; and this he only said. within the ark, in that great danger, once on a day, provoked by his fear, and stirred up by a religion then made actual, in those days of sorrow and penance. But in the descending ages, when God began to reckon a church in Abraham's family; there began to be a new institution of offices, and Abraham appointed that God should be prayed to every morning. Isaac being taught by Abraham, made a law, or at least commended the practice, and adopted it into the religion, that God should be worshipped by decimation or tithing of our goods; and he added an order of prayer to e Chap. xlii. 7, 8.

be said in the afternoon; and Jacob, to make up the office complete, added evening-prayer; and God was their God, and they became fit persons to bless, that is, of procuring blessings to their relatives; as appears in the instances of their own families; of the king of Egypt, and the cities of the plain. For a man of an ordinary piety is like Gideon's fleece, wet in its own locks; but it could not water a poor man's garden; but so does a thirsty land drink all the dew of heaven that wets its face, and a greater shower makes no torrent, nor digs so much as a little furrow, that the drills of the water might pass into rivers, or refresh their neighbour's weariness; but when the earth is full, and hath no strange consumptive needs, then at the next time, when God blesses it with a gracious shower, it divides into portions, and sends it abroad in free and equal communications, that all that stand round about, may feel the shower. So is a good man's prayer; his own cup is full, it is crowned with health, and overflows with blessings, and all, that drink of his cup and eat at his table, are refreshed with his joys, and divide with him in his holy portions. And indeed he hath need of a great stock of piety, who is first to provide for his own necessities, and then to give portions to a numerous relation. It is a great matter, that every man needs for himself, the daily expenses of his own infirmities, the unthriving state of his omission of duties, and recessions from perfection, and sometimes the great losses and shipwrecks, the plunderings and burning of his house by a fall into a deadly sin; and most good men are in this condition, that they have enough to do to live, and keep themselves above water; but how few men are able to pay their own debts, and lend great portions to others? The number of those who can effectually intercede for others to great purposes of grace and pardon, are as soon told as the number of wise men, as the gates of a city, or the entries of the river Nilus.

But then do but consider, what a great engagement this is to a very strict and holy life. If we chance to live in times of an extraordinary trouble, or if our relatives can be capable of great dangers or great sorrows, or if we ourselves would do the noblest friendship in the world, and oblige others by acts of greatest benefit; if we would assist their

souls and work towards their salvation; if we would be public ministers of the greatest usefulness to our country; if we would support kings, and relieve the great necessities of kingdoms; if we would be effective in the stopping of a plague, or in the success of armies;-a great and an exemplar piety, and a zealous and holy prayer, can do all this. "Semper tu hoc facito, ut cogites, id optimum esse, tute ut sis optimus; si id nequeas, saltem ut optimis sis proximus:" 'He that is the best man towards God, is certainly the best minister to his prince or country, and therefore do thou endeavour to be so, and if thou canst not be so, be at least next to the best.' For in that degree in which our religion is great, and our piety exemplar, in the same we can contribute towards the fortune of a kingdom: and when Elijah was taken into heaven, Elisha mourned for him, because it was a loss to Israel: "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and horsemen thereof." But consider how useless thou art, when thou canst not by thy prayers obtain so much mercy, as to prevail for the life of a single trooper, or in a plague beg of God for the life of a poor maidservant; but the ordinary emanations of Providence shall proceed to issue without any arrest, and the sword of the angel shall not be turned aside in one single infliction. Remember, although he is a great and excellent person, that can prevail with God for the interest of others; yet thou, that hast no stock of grace and favour, no interest in the court of Heaven, art but a mean person, extraordinary in nothing; thou art unregarded by God, cheap in the sight of angels, useless to thy prince or country; thou mayest hold thy peace in a time of public danger. For kings never pardon murderers at the intercession of thieves; and if a mean mechanic should beg a reprieve for a condemned traitor, he is ridiculous and impudent so is a vicious advocate, or an ordinary person with God. 'It is well if God will hear him begging for his own pardon, he is not yet disposed to plead for others.

And yet every man that is in the state of grace, every man that can pray without a sinful prayer, may also intercede for others; and it is a duty for all men to do it; all men, I say, who can pray at all acceptably: "I will, therefore, that prayers, and supplications, and intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men ;" and this is a duty

that is prescribed to all them, that are concerned in the duty and in the blessings of prayer; but this is it which I sayif their piety be but ordinary, their prayer can be effectual but in easy purposes, and to smaller degrees; but he,—that would work effectually towards a great deliverance, or in great degrees towards the benefit or ease of any of his relatives, can be confident of his success but in the same degree in which his person is gracious. "There are strange things in heaven;" judgments there are made of things and persons by the measures of religion, and a plain promise produces effects of wonder and miracle; and the changes that are there made, are not effected by passions, and interests, and corporal changes; and the love that is there, is not the same thing that is here; it is more beneficial, more reasonable, more holy, of other designs, and strange productions; and upon that stock it is, that a holy poor man,―that possesses no more (it may be) than a ewe-lamb, that eats of his bread, and drinks of his cup, and is a daughter to him, and is all his temporal portion,-this poor man is ministered to by angels, and attended to by God, and the Holy Spirit makes intercession for him, and Christ joins the man's prayer to his own advocation, and the man by prayer shall save the city, and destroy the fortune of a tyrant-army, even then when God sees it good it should be so: for he will no longer deny him any thing, but when it is no blessing; and when it is otherwise, his prayer is most heard when it is most denied.

2. That we should prevail in intercessions for others, we are to regard and to take care, that as our piety, so also must our offices be extraordinary. He that prays to recover a family from an hereditary curse, or to reverse a sentence of God, to cancel a decree of Heaven gone out against his friend; he that would heal the sick with his prayer, or with his devotion prevail against an army, must not expect such great effects upon a morning or evening collect, or an honest wish put into the recollections of a prayer, or a period put in on purpose. Mamercus, bishop of Vienna, seeing his city and all the diocess in great danger of perishing by an earthquake, instituted great litanies, and solemn supplications, besides the ordinary devotions of his usual hours of prayer; and the church from his example took up the practice, and

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