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attend us in our worldly callings and occupations. Thou shalt eat the labour of thy hands : happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee, The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in, There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. And blessed shall be thy basket and thy store, and all the work of thine hands.
There are promises of an entail of blessings on the families of the righteous. The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him; and his righteousness unto children's children,
I might enumerate many other temporal blessa ings which are promised to the righteous--all of which are summed up in this general and comprehensive one, What is good the Lord will give.
If long life be for their good, he will lengthen out their days in the land of the living: if not, he will gather them unto their fathers, and take them away from the evil to come.
If riches be for their good, he will not only confer them, but give them a heart to enjoy them: not, indeed, as those who have their portion in this life enjoy them, but by making them eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, and fathers to the poor, and causing them to know, in their happy experience, that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
If poverty be for their good, He who knows what is in their hearts, and what temptations and dangers they might otherwise be exposed to, will place them in that poor and humble state in which their Saviour himself appeared upon earth-which he honoured by assuming it; to which, when sanctified, so many precious promises are annexed; and in which, by far the greater number of his faithful followers have been found in every period of the church.
Thus, while we cannot be too earnest in our desires for grace and glory, as including every spiritual and heavenly blessing, it behoves us, in our petitions for things pertaining to the present life, to possess a resigned and submissive mind—a willingness to have our requests delayed or refused, as our heavenly Father may see to be most for his glory, and our own good.
3. That our prayers may be acceptable, they must be fervent and persevering.
The bare existence of a desire of the benefits we pray for, is not enough. Our desire should in some measure correspond to the value and importance of the blessings which we solicit. We may be said to speak a prayer, when we repeat a lifeless form: but we do not actually pray, unless we offer
the desires of our hearts to Him to whom they are known, and in that way which he himself hath commanded. Nor let us, on the other hand, imagine that our prayers will be immediately answered, because we may have enjoyed great fervour and freedom of speech, when expressing our wants before him. It is good that a man wait, and quietly hope for the salvation of the Lord, as he neither grants nor denies any thing which is not accurately weighed and measured. He may delay to answer our prayers for various reasons. We may not have given him the glory of his former mercies ; or he may intend to let patience have its perfect work; which it can only have, when we have learned to wait upon him in the way of his judgments, and to say with Job, though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.
An answer may likewise be refused, because, though we pray, we do not use the other means which God hath appointed for obtaining the blessing. Thus, when the Israelites were disheartened at the perilous situation in which they were placed, when pursued by Pharoah and his host, and refused to march forward, Moses offered up an earnest prayer to God in their behalf. And what answer did he receive? The Lord said unto him, Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward. And then he ordered him to lift up his rod, and stretch it over the sea, and divide it, that they might go through the midst thereof on dry ground.
Thus, in like manner, Hezekiah, when sick, prayed unto God, and was assured that his
prayers for the restoration of his health were heard. But in what manner were they answered ? It was by directing him to a proper remedy, and by the blessing of God in the use of it. So likewise, with respect to spiritual and heavenly blessings. Do we pray for the Spirit of God to begin, or to carry on the work of sanctification in our hearts? We must avoid that kind of reading, and those places of resort, whose direct and immediate tendency is to
inflame the corrupt passions of our nature, and to indispose the mind for things that are spiritual and heavenly. “ The children of the pure and holy God,” says a pious writer, “ should feed on the bread of their Father's house, and not on the husks of the prodigal. They should delight themselves in God, and in the place where his honour dwelleth. They should read and meditate on his holy word, be faithful in self-examination, and exercise themselves daily in keeping their consciences void of offence towards God and towards man."
There are other qualifications necessary to the acceptance of our prayers; such as, praying in faith, praying in the Spirit, and praying in the name of Christ. But, that I may not again make too large a demand upon your attention, I shall defer the consideration of what remains of the subject till it please God, if it seem good in his sight, to favour us with another opportunity of addressing you on this most interesting, and most important of all subjects. Meanwhile may the Lord follow with his blessing what has now been said, and incline your hearts to seek him while he
may be found, and to call upon him while he is near. Consider what I say, and the Lord give you understanding in all things, and to his name be the praise and glory. AMEN.
ON THE NATURE OF ACCEPTABLE PRAYER.
JOB, XXI. 15.
And what profit should we have if we pray unto
Such is the language in which Job represents the profane libertines of his day, as expressing their contempt of religion, and of those who reminded them of its sacred duties. In replying to the question in the text, on a former occasion, it was proposed,
I. To advert to some objections that have been urged against the duty of prayer.
II. To explain the nature of acceptable prayer.
III. To point out some of the most important advantages attending it.
Having finished the first head of discourse, I entered on the consideration of the second To shew the nature of acceptable prayer, or what things are necessary in the person praying, in order to obtain his requests.-We mentioned,
1. That his prayers must be the desires of his heart.