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are to act, in order to our enjoying the blessings of salvation; and with this rule he has been pleased to connect much stronger and clearer encouragements to the hope of success, than those by which we are influenced in the ordinary concerns of life.
Thus, for example, God has been pleased, in reference to the duty under our consideration, to assume, as one of the titles of his glorious attributes, that of the hearer of prayer, unto whom all flesh should come. This, of itself, is an endearing motive to the practice of this duty, even if no promise were annexed to the performance of it. But here the promise is as clear as the precept: Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you; For every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. But poor, ignorant, and short-sighted man cannot reconcile the omniscience and decrees of God with the efficacy of prayer; and because he cannot reconcile them, he arrogantly concludes that they are irreconcilable. Our blessed Lord, the great pattern of prayer, knew that all events are determined by God, and yet he spent whole nights in this duty. He was well assured of acceptance and aid in the arduous work he had undertaken, and of his exaltation after its accomplishment; he knew that God would not suffer his Holy One to see corruption, but that he should be raised again from the dead, and invested with glory and honour in the heavens ; but, though he knew that all this was ratified in the eternal decrees and purposes of
God the Father, yet he prayed with ardour and fervency that his heavenly Father would glorify him with the glory which he had with him before the world was.
Prayer, then, is not inconsistent with the divine decrees ; it is one of the means leading to their accomplishment. It is a compliance, on our part, with that constitution of things by which the wise and supreme Ruler and Disposer of all events conducts the affairs of the universe; and an harmonizing, so to speak, with the wise order of his
providence. There seems, therefore, to be a radical and gross error in the objection we are considering -an error which is equally contradictory to scripture and to common sense that God hath predetermined the end and not the means. not thus that Paul reasoned, when, a little before his shipwreck, he was informed by an angel, that God had given him the lives of all them that sailed with him. When the vessel, says the sacred historian, was tossed with a tempest, and all hope that we should be saved was taken away, Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Cesar: and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer; for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. Howbeit, we must be cast upon a certain island. When they were actually cast upon
that island, and the seamen were preparing to leave the ship, under a false pretext, and to abandon the passengers to shift for themselves; when they had let down the boat into the sea, Paul said to the centurion, and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship ye cannot be saved. The end here determined was, the preservation of every soul on board : the means indispensable to this end were, that the seamen should remain on board to work the ship, and that every man should use his best endeavours for the preservation of his own life. God had determined to save their lives, and had determined also the means of their safety ; but this did not supersede the necessity of their own exertions.
Now, though it is readily acknowledged, that no human efforts, or diligence in the use of religious means, can contribute in the least degree, meritoriqusly to secure the bestowment of spiritual blessings--for all the promises of the gospel originate in the mercy and grace of God, through Jesus Christ, and are expressive of his unmerited favour towards undeserving objects--yet his appointment of these means gives them indispensable authority over the consciences of all to whom they are made known. In themselves they possess no inherent efficacy. All their virtue is derived from the appointment and promise of Him, who has commanded us to ask, that we may receive, and to seek, that we may find.
Thus have I endeavoured to reply to the usual objections against the efficacy of prayer; and especially to that which proceeds upon the supposition
of its inefficiency to change the purposes of God; whereas its great aim is to change the temper and disposition of our minds, and to produce in us, through the promised influences of divine grace, that preparation of heart which is essentially necessary for our reception of spiritual and heavenly blessings.
I now proceed,
II. To shew the nature of acceptable prayer, or what things are necessary in the person praying, in order to his receiving the blessings which he prays
for.-And, 1. His prayers must be the desires of his heart. It was foretold of our Saviour, the great pattern of this, and of every religious duty, He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, and my God, and the Rock of my salvation. And accordingly we are informed, that in the days of his flesh he offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto Him that was able to save Him from death; and was heard, in that he feared.
This example is not only a pattern and a motive, but a law-having all the force of divine authority. Nor can this view of it be better expressed than in the language of a living, and deservedly esteemed writer. Prayer,” says the author to whom I refer, " is the application of want to Him who alone can relieve it; the voice of sin to Him who alone can pardon it. It is the urgency of poverty, the prostration of humility, the fervency of penitence, the confidence of trust. It is not eloquence, but earnestness; not the definition of want, but the feeling of it; not figures of speech, but compunction of soul. It is the Lord save us, we perish, of drowning Peter; the cry of faith to the ear of mercy.”
2. That our prayers may be acceptable, they must be for such things only as God hath promised to give. This, says the apostle, is the confidence we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.
Matters of the greatest moment and importance, that is, spiritual and heavenly blessings, deserve our chief regard, and should occupy the principal place in our affections. These, therefore, are promised absolutely, without restriction : nor can we be too fervent in our desires of obtaining them. It is otherwise with blessings which are merely of a temporal nature, though the promises relating to them seem; at first view, to be as absolute and unrestricted as those that relate to spiritual and heavenly things.
There are promises, for instance, of health and long life, and every thing necessary to render our passage through this world easy and comfortable. Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left are riches and honour.
There are promises of quiet and composed rest by night. When thou liest down thou shalt not be afraid; yea, thou shalt lie down and thy sleep shall be sweet.
There are promises of success, and a blessing to