Imatges de pÓgina
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that may assault and hurt the body, and to return thanks for the innumerable instances in which these benefits have been received,-to present prayer and thanksgiving for all sorts and conditions of men, but especially for all who are delegated by the Ruler of heaven and earth to exercise civil dominion, or to minister in spiritual matters.

That Prayer may be heard, it must spring from the heart, and be uttered in faith, humility, truth, zeal, and perseverance; it must be couched in language reverend, well-considered, expressive of our religious belief, and as scriptural as possible; and still, if it be all this, it will be defective and unavailable, unless the Holy Ghost be sought (and if he be sought he will assuredly be found of us) to sanctify the deed, and to pour into our souls that Spirit of Prayer,—to produce that humble and contrite heart,-which is one of the choicest blessings imparted by his purifying and invigorating influence.

5. Prayer, if it be of the proper description, humble, fervent, faithful, proceeding from a sound mind and a devout heart, tempered by the chastening power of the Spirit of grace and supplication, confident with regard to spiritual mercies, diffident with respect to temporal ones, addressed through Jesus Christ to God the Father;-if it be thus according to the divine will, it will naturally be accompanied, whether in public, in the congregation, or in private in our closets, by such outward signs and postures as best indicate the inward affections which inspire our address, and the reverence and awe with which we stand in the immediate presence of the Omnipotent. And this propriety of posture, which is

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dictated by nature, is also matter of scriptural precept and example.

§ 6. Invocation, or calling upon God, may be considered more particularly as it resolves itself into the acts of petition, of thanksgiving, and of praise,— which latter, though necessarily accompanying all acts of adoration, may yet be exercised alone, and seems therefore to demand a separate notice.

In the first part-Petition-we either supplicate for spiritual or temporal mercies-for divine assistance in our probationary course, for pardon of our sins, for that peace of God which passeth understanding-for such earthly advantages and comforts as may seem xpedient for us, may enable us to serve God, and to fulfil our social obligations, with greater ability, and benefit to others; or we deprecate evils, especially those greatest evils which can befall us, the wrath of God, and the judgments of his hand, a rigid sentence according to our deserts, and the infliction of punishment due to our transgression,-the being denied by our divine Lord and Master, and the withdrawing of his Holy Spirit, the Guide and Comforter of our souls ; temptation to sin,-a hardened heart,-and a deathbed of remorse and terror: we pray also that we may avoid those comparatively lesser ills, sickness, sorrow, and affliction, a painful and languishing fra me of body, and adverse fortune in our worldly pursuits and lawful callings.

Entreaty for positive benefits, and for deliverance from evil, must properly proceed from a sincere and *practical sense of our own weakness, deficiency, and unworthiness, and of the power, perfection, and pa

faith in God the Father, as the Fountain of all goodness,-in God the Son, as our Mediator and Intercessor,—and in God the Holy Ghost as the Comforter, and the Inspirer of every good thought, and the Sanctifier of our wishes and our prayers; it implies a pious trust in the veracity and fidelity of God, that he will perform his promises, recorded in the Gospel, of giving remission of sins to all who repent and believe in his only-begotten Son, and such spiritual and temporal blessings, as they really need, to all who ask for them in the name of Jesus; it implies a belief that God is actually the bestower of every good thing, according to his own free will and pleasure, that they come not by chance, and are not to be obtained by human diligence and wisdom, without the divine blessing or permission;-that God is willing to grant his people all things necessary to their preservation and true happiness. If prayer and supplication be not made in faith, they are deficient in that condition upon which alone they can be accepted; for it is faith alone which embraces the Gospel promises, which assures us that they who seek shall find, that they who ask shall have the assistance of which they stand in need.

§ 7. In the act of thanksgiving, we should render to God humble and hearty acknowledgements for all that he has done for us in our creation, in calling us into existence, enduing us with many excellent faculties, and making us capable of immortality,-in our preservation from helpless infancy to the present day, amidst innumerable manifest and hidden dangers, amidst the changes and chances of this mortal life,in keeping us under his protection, unceasingly observed by the watchful eye, and guarded by the out

stretched arm of Providence ;-in our redemption from a state of misery and condemnation into which sin had plunged the human race; and this, by the mysterious scheme developed in the incarnation, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension of his onlybegotten Son;-in affording us the means of grace by which we participate in the privileges of the Christian dispensation, and are fitted for the enjoyment of a future life, in which the hopes of glory, that we are here permitted to entertain shall be abundantly realized.

The expression of gratitude must spring from the conviction that we owe every thing to the bounty of the Sovereign of the universe, that we are entirely dependant upon him for every breath we draw, and for every good thing which we possess, that to his free gift and unmerited favour we are indebted for all the inestimable privileges of our vocation, and that it is to his infinite mercy we must ascribe our hopes of salvation from eternal death. Our thanksgiving must, therefore, be fervent and sincere, as our cause for gratitude is unspeakably important;-it must be continual, as the mercies of heaven are daily and hourly showered down upon us.

§ 8. Prayer is to be made for other men as well as for ourselves,-intercession and thanksgiving, with respect to the same subjects which demand them on our own account. We are required to love our neighbour as ourselves; and we cannot afford a stronger proof of such charity, or more effectually cherish this virtue in our hearts, than by associating our fellow-creatures with ourselves in the petitions we offer up to the Father of all for the blessings of the present and a future

mankind, and our consequent obligations as brethren one of another. But it does not follow that prayer is to be made for the dead, for those who having passed their day of trial, and having already entered on a state irrevocably fixed by the decree of the Omnipotent, cannot be benefited by our prayers. Nor is invocation of the dead to be permitted: there is no authority for it in the Scriptures, as in the case of intercession of the living for the living; and to invoke those who are invisible, and of whose habitation we have no certain knowledge, either audibly with the voice or internally with the mind, supposes them to be capable either of hearing the prayers of all who call upon them though they be in heaven and we on earth, though many may address them at the same time, and from places far distant from each other, or of knowing the secrets of the hearts-the faith and sincerity-of their supplicants. But omnipresence and omniscience, which are here necessarily implied, are attributes of God alone, and not to be ascribed to any created being without blasphemous impiety. We are not to pray to angels and saints, but to thank God that he has been pleased to make them the instruments of good; beseeching him to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be made -partakers of his heavenly kingdom.

§ 9. Praise is the rendering to God the honour due unto his name in consideration of his glorious majesty and attributes. It is properly the ascription of every title conveying an idea of that which is great, good, and glorious, in an infinite and perfect sense, to the one sublime and incomprehensible God, in three coessential Persons, to bless his holy name and his

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