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every blessing of the kind in thankful and trustful communion with God.
It is no slight recommendation of habitual prayer, that it brings us so frequently into communion with God, as to form our mind to a truly pious temper. We cannot seek him, from day to day, without feeling the effects of that sacred intercourse which he permits us to hold with him.Our feelings are purified, and our mind is elevated, by the holy converse; goodness appears more lovely in our eyes, and piety of increased value; and the purity and holiness of God seem to spread themselves over our soul, to protect it from the evil and contamination of sin. And let not the youthful imagine that the God who heareth prayer, is not favorably disposed towards them, nor inclined to listen to their prayers. Of what importance in his eye are all the varieties of human condition? And if the monarch and the peasant stand in an equal relation to him, can the mere circumstance of age increase or diminish his condescension and love? No: When the youngest of his children lisps his praise and asks, in artless words, his blessing, he listens with as much condescension and kindness as when an aged Christian adores him in fuller and loftier strains; and far more valuable, in his view, are the simplest expressions of piety springing from the heartthough breathed with the lips of a child-than the elaborate prayers of misplaced eloquence.
And does not habitual prayer aid us in obtaining the most desirable good which can be sought by mortal beings? Is there any one so weak and thoughtless as, whilst he
continually prays to be protected against all disobedience and sinfulness, to make no effort to escape them? We hope and trust that such efforts accompany such prayers: that few or none expose themselves to the displeasure of God by frequent supplications for moral strength, which they attempt in no other way to gain. And we may appeal to the experience of many who have derived, from communion with their heavenly Parent, additions of fortitude and resolution to act as became their religious profession. His grace has proved sufficient for them: and, in all cases, it will be found that our endeavours after good and excellent things, acquire fresh zeal from our pious offices; whilst these, on the other hand, quicken our perceptions of what is good and excellent, and increase our love of it.
But whatever may be the efficacy of prayer, we find it continually recommended in the holy Scriptures, and enjoined upon us as a duty, which we cannot neglect without great injury to ourselves. And it is encouraging to read the kind assurances which God gives of his readiness to hear the supplications of the grateful, the humble, and the contrite heart. Whilst he tells his children of men that he expects to receive from them that sacred homage which is due to the Creator and Governor of the the world-not, indeed, because it is important to himself, but that it may conduce to their improvement and spiritual comfort—he graciously encourages them to approach his throne, to pour out their hearts before him, and to repose their hope in his infinite wisdom and boundless benevolence. And many are the
pious men whom the Scriptures place before us, engaged in this most sacred and edifying of duties. We see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, rapt in holy communion with the Father of their spirits, and making a sabbath for their hearts whilst they worship him. And there are Moses with his prayers and triumphal odes; Deborah and Barak with their eloquent song of thanksgiving; and Hannah supplicating the Lord in the bitterness of her soul, and then adoring him in its thankfulness. What a treasury of devotion opens itself in the Psalms of David! The strains of the royal poet are touched with the fire of devotion; and he guides us in distress, or rejoicing, to the throne of Jehovah. As we read on, we seem to listen to the prayer of his son Solomon, at the dedication of the temple; to Isaiah, to Daniel in the land of captivity, and to all the mighty men on whom God was pleased to bestow the prophetic spirit. We behold our Saviour on the mountain's top and in the retirement of Gethsemane, seeking the presence of his Father, and asking for wisdom and power, or in the sadness of his spirit, resigning himself to the divine will; and his Apostles solemnly devoting themselves to the cause of their Master, and ardently supplicating on their brethren the richest blessings of his kingdom. If we select one example from all these, it shall be that of Jesus. And who will presume to say that prayer is nothing to him, when he sees the Messiah of God withdrawing from the converse of men, and the scenes of his public duty, to the mountain side and other secret places, for the sake of being alone with the Being who graciously sent him forth, and
in his hallowed presence indulging the pious feelings with which his heart was so abundantly replenished? when he hears from his lips the words of thanksgiving, the heart breathed accents of deep resignation and the most affectionate supplications for others, which ever rose on the spirit of devotion to the adorable presence of God? Prayer nothing to him! Weak and mistaken being! Were he to employ it as the expression of his gratitude, and the means of his spiritual strength and solace; were he earnestly to seek some portion of that lovely spirit of piety, which was like the vital air to our Saviour, he would find that it was almost every thing to him, and obliterate the rash expression with the tear of penitence.
Let men debate even to weariness, concerning the uses of prayer, we say of all these examples, that they lend every encouragement to the practice. If the best of men, whom the world has ever known, found in their lives the advantage of a certain habit-such a habit comes recommended to the young, by the force of their example. But when that habit is the habit of prayer-of praise and thanksgiving for the mercies which are ever rich and ever near-of affectionate supplication for the goodness and happiness of those we love of humble entreaty for the wisdom which is profitable to direct, and the pardon which shall blot out the sins we have committed—of resigned submission to the divine will, when sorrow troubles our soul and oppresses our tortured spirit-we feel that example is scarcely necessary to enforce the authority of it; and humbly, but sincerely, desire that the youthful disciples of Jesus
-it is for their benefit particularly that we write-may never entertain a low and unworthy opinion of it, nor rob themselves of its sacred pleasures. Good men lead the way for them, to the footstool of the divine grace; their Saviour stands pre-eminently forward as an example of piety and devotion; and God himself beckons them onward, and says to them, even with parental tenderness and love, "Seek ye my face!"
A forcible sentiment of Milton, it appears in his Eikonoclastes, shall end this paper. "He who wants a prayer to beseech God in his necessity, it is inexpressible how poor he is; far poorer within himself, than all his enemies can make him."
On Weakness of Character.
The author of one of the Gospels, the second, is Mark or John Mark. He was the nephew of Barnabas, and, sometimes, the companion both of him and the Apostle Paul. It was to the house of his mother that the Apostle Peter withdrew, when he escaped from the prison into which Herod had cast him. He became the companion of Paul and Barnabas on the following occasion. These eminent Apostles had been deputed by the Christian church at Antioch, to bear their benevolent contribution to Jerusalem; here they, of course, frequently saw the Evangelist and his mother, and when they departed from the city, on their return to Antioch, he accompanied them.