Imatges de pÓgina
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THE SAFEGUARD OF PROSPERITY.

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it?" They cannot lose their chief support, whose principal happiness springs from God as their Father, Jesus as their Saviour and Intercessor, and immortality as their future portion. Let the world take away what it will, it cannot take from them a heart that will converse with God as long as the pulse of life shall beat.-Let the world deprive me, may be the language of the Christian, of all its blessings and satisfactions; let it take from me relatives and friends; let it load me with ignominy and suffering, or deprive me of liberty: these things it may do, but it cannot take from me the comforts of prayer; it cannot take away death, that shall dismiss me ere long to nobler worship and better enjoyments above.

§ 25. That which is the solace of adversity, is the Christian's safeguard in prosperity. When earthly comforts and sensible delights surround us, we are tempted to forget, that the time for these things will soon be no longer.-A hedge of roses, or of sweetbriers, may hide the loveliest prospects from bur view; so do the concerns and delights of life hide the sweet regions of immortality. But when we retire from the world, the things unseen again appear before our souls. Then we see the vanity of all below the sun; see that prosperity is but a snare, that would tempt us to destruction. Then we may learn to pray-O save us from the snares we dread! Save us from a world as deceitful as it is attractive! and let not its momentary shadows of happiness deprive us of the everlasting substance! Blessed Jesus! however allured, let us not love a world that murdered thee! nor seek our portion where thou wast but a pilgrim and a stranger!

Thus, whatever be your lot, devotion will lessen its evils, and add to its comforts. The more spiritual and fervent it is, the more gladness will it diffuse through the heart. "Even

the tears of penitential sorrow and contrition, or of sympathy and benevolence, into which a devout person may sometimes be melted, have a sweetness in them not to be expressed, and are more to be desired than the greatest joys of the irreligious."

§ 26. There are other considerations that should endear prayer. Think of its ennobling nature. Christians, even while on earth, belong to a better world.-They and the pious, who are gone to rest, and angels, those bright natives of heaven, are all parts of the same family, of which some

116 THE ENNOBLING TENDENCY OF PRAYER.

have never been separated from their home, others having finished the wandering journey of life have reached it, and the remainder are bound to it, and will soon reach it too. But while a part continues here, prayer is the chief employment in which they can resemble their brethren in glory. Is there not something pleasing in such a reflection: "While I am on my knees I am imitating angels. Devotion, if not by prayer, yet by praise, is the delightful work of the blessed in heaven. I adore the same God as they, bow before the same throne, and claim the same Father. Surrounded with things that hasten to decay, and often engaged with cares and business that must quickly end for ever, I am now, like the host of heaven, occupied by devotion, and doing what I shall do with increasing fervour and delight, when all the other engagements and joys of life perish together, and what I shall still find a source of the purest happiness, ten thousand thousand ages after they are all forgotten." O, how does a knowledge of Jesus and devotion exalt the meanest! We know not indeed what we shall be. Look at a poor but pious labourer, digging a ditch, or mending a hedge, or wearied with the plough, the sickle, or the scythe. Mean as his occupations seem, yet he is sometimes employed as angels delight to be, and worships the same God as they. O how changed will he soon appear! In a very few years death will dismiss him to the rest he seeks. Illiterate now, he shall then obtain such knowledge, that compared with him the wisest men would be but simple babes. Mean now, a wearied, worn-down, withered man, he will then put on a heavenly form, bask with angels in the realms of bliss, and shine as the sun in the kingdom of his Father. Look at a child, occupied with the harmless and healthful amusements of childhood. Has that child learned to pray in sincerity? If he has, though he cannot vie with the hosts of heaven in the perfection of his devotions, he vies with them in this respect, that he engages in the same work as they. Indeed, if we seriously reflect, we may be a wonder to ourselves: to look at the middle-aged and the old engaged in such trifling cares as those of time, and the young in such fleeting amusements, and then to think, these are all immortal creatures; these all may engage, even on earth, in the employments of heaven; and those of them who are found in Jesus, shall soon be translated to the dwell

NO BLESSINGS WHERE PRAYER IS NEGLECTED. 117

ings of the blessed! O, when we do this, we may exclaim, Wonderful are thy works, Lord God Almighty! Unsearchable are the counsels of thy love!

$27. Besides all this, in sincere devotion we claim a still higher connexion. Jesus said, When ye pray, say, Our Father, who art in heaven :-what an encouragement for prayer! Our Father in heaven: the High and Lofty One, who inhabiteth eternity-yet still our Father. Though Jesus's death is the dying believer's only hope, yet, how happily will this intimacy with God tend to tranquillize the soul, when soul and body are about to part. Not in the last hurrying, languishing, distressing hour, in doubt and darkness, wistfully to look around, dreading the solemn scenes just opening on the sight; but, with composure and calmness, to think, I am going to my Father; my Father, to whom, through Jesus, I have so often had access; with whom I have so often conversed with unaffected fervour; who has heard my prayers, and been my guard, my guide, and my strength; who has been with me while I lived on earth, and who now is taking me to live with himself in heaven. Happy are they who, like one that is gone to rest, can say, If I live God will be with me, and if I die I shall be with him. And who are they? not the careless and the formal; but the humble, prayerful, faithful followers of the Lamb; to whom prayer has been as regular as food, and than that more prized.

$28. To these considerations shall I add one more, of a description opposite to the former? God has not promised a single blessing in this world, or the next, to those who do not pray. Indeed, many prayerless persons enjoy numerous temporal mercies; God makes his sun rise and his rain descend, on the just and on the unjust also; but, irreligion changes even these blessings into curses: the more mercies, the more guilt, because the more ingratitude in slighting the Giver of these mercies. At the great day of account, it will be found a sad thing to have requited God with ingratitude for a hundred blessings, but worse to have done so for a thousand; dreadful to have wasted one talent, worse to have wasted five. I know of no heavier punishment which God can inflict in this world on the prayerless, who, insensible of his goodness, raise not their hearts to him, than to heap fresh favours on them, and to lengthen out their time for enjoying these fa

118 vours; that thus they may fill up the measure of their iniquities. Search, then, the Bible through, and you will not find one real blessing, that can prove such to a person that continues to live in a prayerless state. Nor can religion possibly exist without prayer. Those words, so encouraging to the Christian, "Ask, and ye shall receive,"w may strongly imply, that if you ask not, you shall not receive; if you seek not, you shall not find. Many have ascribed their ruin, for time and eternity, to the neglect of prayer. They asked not, and so they did not receive. A poor murderer, who was executed for his crime, in his last moments said, “Oh, if I had gone to prayer that morning when I committed the sin for which I am now to die, O Lord God, I believe thou wouldst have kept back my hands from that sin."

SAD EFFECTS OF NEGLECTING PRAYER.

The writer, who states this fact, mentions another, displaying, not merely the awful effects of neglecting prayer, but the bitter consequences of growing weary of it, because a favourite object was not granted. An aged person, who had been many years a well-esteemed member of the church, at length became a drunkard, and was excommunicated, and died in awful circumstances. Some of his dying words were these: "I often prayed unto God for a mercy, which he still denied me. At length I grew angry at God; whereupon, I grew slack in my acquaintance with the Lord: ever since which he hath dreadfully forsaken me; and I know that now he hath no mercy for me.'"*

§ 29. Such being the value and importance of prayer, it is not strange, that the Christian should at times be tempted to neglect this sacred duty. Perhaps, there are none that have not, more or less, experienced this temptation. Have not you, in the hour of devotion, at times felt some subject or other, perhaps in itself trifling, pressed into your mind, with a liveliness and energy that quite destroyed all the comfort of prayer, and when you rose from your knees this subject vanished, and harassed you no more? Is it not reasonable to believe, that these suggestions are efforts of the wicked one, labouring hard to disturb the soul in its best moments, and to prevent its obtaining the blessings of prayer? Perhaps, at other times, when unable to pray with the comfort you desire, this suggestion has been presented to your mind: "Such

(w) Matt. vii. 7, 8.

Mather's Hist. of New Eng. lib. 6.

PRAYER TO BE PRIZED AND IMPROVED.

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prayers as yours are worse than nothing: you had better not pray at all, than pray as you do."-Ah, look on this temptation, as one that proceeds from your great enemy. If you ever yield to it, you will soon perceive it answers his designs; your soul will grow more dead; prayer still more a burthen. Instead of your state mending by this neglect, it will grow worse; your heart less and less disposed for prayer, and the frame of your mind less and less suited to it. Pray, then, and continue instant in prayer. Pray, though the world with its cares would hinder you. Pray, though the devil with a host of temptations would prevent you. Still pray, and God will hear. And when unable to pray as you would, still pray as you can; and pray for help to pray better.

Pursue this course; cleave to the great Intercessor; and then, in a little while, in a brighter world, prayer shall be changed for endless praise;

"While sweet remembrance calls to mind

"The scenes of mortal care;

"When God, your God, for ever kind,
"Was present to your PRAYER."

CHAPTER VI.

THE CHRISTIAN A PILGRIM UPON EARTH, AND A MEMBER OF THE FAMILY OF GOD.

$1. AN important and pleasing view of the Christian's state

and character, is that of a traveller to a better world.

A pleasing English poet has said,

"Turn, pilgrim, turn, thy cares forego,
"All earth-born care is wrong;

"Man wants but little here below,
"Nor wants that little long."

The Scriptures describe life as a pilgrimage, and the child of God as a traveller to a lasting home. "I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.' "When

(a) Ps. xxxix. 13, 5.

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