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heart in desire and expectation ? and this is the essence of prayer. Hence it is that salvation is so closely joined with prayer in many places in Scripture. « Thou “Lord art good, and ready to forgive, and plentcous in “ mercy unto all them that call upon theel. “ Ask and “ it shall be given you :-Every one that asketh receiv“ eth.” “Let us come boldly to the throne of Grace, " that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time “ of need.” “ All that call on the name of the Lord “ shall be saved." According to these promises, it is as impossible a man should truly pray, and yet not be savo ed; as that he should truly believe, and not be saved : because genuine faith and prayer are inseparable.
Men may read, repeat, or even frame, prayers, in a formal manner, without the least degree of real holiness. They may sincerely ask for temporal things," that they “ may consume them on their lusts;" or for deliverance from temporal calamities and dangers. They may even pray heartily to be saved from future punishment, and to be made for ever happy, according to their own notions of felicity, without any idea of what happiness consists in. But genuine prayer is the language of humility, and of spiritual desires and expectations: it is the expression of conscious indigence, dependence, and unworthiness; and' of hearty longings after those blessings, which God alone can bestow, and which can only be enjoyed in his favour and presence. .«Lord, thou hast heard the desire 6 of the humble; thou wilt prepare their heart ; thou wilt “ cause thine ear to hear2”-Hence we read of “praying “ in,” or by, “ the Spirit;” praying in the Holy Ghost," and “ worshipping in spirit and truth." “ The sacri“fice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but " the prayer of the upright is his delight 3." Saul, when a Pharisee, may be supposed to have made long prayers : but these were doubtless very different from the earnest supplications which he poured out before the Lord at Damascus, and which were thus noticed, “ For behold "he prayeth." Can it be conceived, that a holy God delighteth in any prayer, which hath nothing holy in its
i Ps. Ixxxvi, 1-7.'' 2 Ps. X. 17.
3 Prov. xv. Si
nature? Yet the humble supplicants, who are most acceptable to him, are most apt to be dissatisfied with themselves, and even to question the sincerity and uprightness of their earnest and fervent prayers.
'The case of Manasseh may illustrate this subject: for none of those, who enter into the spirit and importance of this discussion, will deny that he found mercy by faith in the promised Saviour. The first intimation of any thing hopeful in his case is thus given: “ When he was “ in affliction he besought the Lord his God, and hun“ bled hiinself greatly before the God of his fathers, and “ prayed unto him; and he was intreated of him, and “ heard his supplication.". In the subsequent narrative, his prayer is repeatedly mentioned ; and his sins before he was humbled are strikingly contrasted with his subsequent conduct'. Hence, I apprehend, we may infer with certainty, that acceptable prayer and genuine humiliation always accompany saving faith. “The sacri“ fices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite “heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.".. Hess; ms
If then humility, godly sorrow, hatred of all evil, ingenuous confession, and whatever else belongs to true repentance, with upright desires after salvation from sin, and spiritual prayer, do indeed invariably attend every acting of faith in Christ; that faith must be a holy exercise of a regenerate soul: for surely pone will maintain, that there is not the least symptom of spiritual life, the sinallest degree of holiness, in any of these, or in all of them united! On the other hand, it can scarcely be imagined, that any will deliberately persist in maintaining, that justifying faith so precedes all humiliation, and other spiritual affections, as to be wholly unconnected with them; and that a man is actually justified and at peace with God, before he at all begins to humble himself, bei sorry for his sins, to confess and hate them, or to pray for spiritual blessings ! : This would invert the whole order of Scripture ; and can never be directly and çonsistently growed by a candid and serious disciple of
the Lord Jesus; however he may be led, upon a controversial subject, to drop expressions, make statements, or adopt sentiments, which fairly admit of such an interpretation.—But in fact, the grand difficulty consists in prevailing with men, so far to examine their preconceived opinions, and to question the truth of them; as to bestow the pains requisite for duly weighing the force of those arguments, which from Scripture are brought against them; and either solidly to refute them, at least so as to satisfy their own minds, or candidly to acknowledge that they were mistaken.
The holy Nature of Faith more directly shewn.
The holiness of saving faith may not only be inferred from its Author, its source, and its concomitants; but likewise from a careful consideration of its peculiar nature.
The apostle exhorts Christians to " build up them“ selves in their most holy faith,” Should it be urged, that he meant the doctrine of faith, and not faith itself; we enquire, how a most holy doctrine can be received in a right manner by a faith not at all holy? We read of those, who " held” (or imprisoned) “ the truth in un“ righteousness;"_“ because they liked not to retain " God in their knowledge 2:” and if this were the effect of man's carnal enmity against God, in respect of those truths which are discoverable by reason; what must be the opposition of the same principle to the offensive message of the gospel ? ----When the assent of the under standing is compelled, by invincible evidence, to the reat doctrine of the cross, the most determined resistance is excited: but in general men contrive to cast a shade over that part of truth which most offends them; and by
1 Jude 20.
2 Rom. i. 18-28m
an abuse of the other parts, they stifle their convictions, and quiet themselves in a worldly course of life. This is especially effected by partial and unscriptural views of the gospel; and thus many evangelical professors “ hold the truth in unrighteousness,” in the inost awful sense imaginable.
Christianity, as stated in the Scriptures, displays the glorious justice and holiness of God, in connexion with the odiousness and desert of sin, and the sinner's tre. mendous danger of everlasting misery; more clearly than any other discovery ever made of the divine perfections and government; though in harmony with the most endearing and encouraging displays of love and mercy to the vilest of sinners. But if every thing be kept out of sight, or very slightly noticed, except the displays of infinite and everlasting love and mercy; unregenerate men may embrace this mutilated gospel with an unholy faith, and so encourage themselves in sin by the confident expectation of impunity. It will, however, still be undeniable, that the most holy doctrine of primitive christianity, can never be cordially embraced, except by a holy faith.
St James carefully distinguishes a cordial consent to the true gospel from a dead faith: for saving faith is living and operative; and by it we receive the truths of revelation with cordial satisfaction and correspondent affections, as relating to our own situation, character, and everlasting interests. “. Being warned of God," and “ believing the truth," " we are moved with fear;" we perceive ourselves in danger of the wrath to come, and allow that we deserve it; we submit to the righteousness of God, reverence his authority, and implore his mercy; we discover the appointed refuge and flee to it; we perceive the suitableness of his salvation to honour his justice and law, as well as to glorify his grace; and this very circumstance, which offends the proud and carnal mind, renders it doubly precious to all those who have “ received the love of the truth, that they may be “ saved.”
The apostle Paul speaks of the faith of God's elect;" and Peter addresses those " who had obtained like pre“ cious faitht. And thus he gives to faith the same epithet, which he annexes to the promises of God, and even to Christ himself:-precious faith ;--precious promises ; -a precious Saviour: surely then it must be a holy faith, which embraces, and seeks the performance of holy promises, and cordially welcomes a holy Saviour ?
Let us, however, more closely examine that peculiar act or exercise of faith, by which we become interested in Christ and his 'salvation; and enquire whether it be carnal or spiritual in its specifick nature.-" That which " is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit: there is no middle term between them.-Whatsoever is born of the flesh is carnal: and the apostle declares that " the carnal mind is en“ mity against God;" and that “ they who are in the “ flesh cannot please God.” Hence we before inferred that the faith of an unregenerate man cannot please God: and here let it be carefully noted, that there is no alternative; but saving faith is either holy or unholy, and not something of a middle nature, which is neither holy nor unholy.
True faith simply credits the divine testimony, in those points, which most offend and oppose the pride and lusts of the human heart: and thus “ he that be“ lieveth hath set to his seal that God is true;" while unbelief makes God a liar. Faith owns as the Son of God, as the Lord from heaven, as God manifested in the flesh, that Jesus, whom unbelieving Jews crucified, and whom all unbelievers crucify afresh; and views him as now risen from the dead, reigning in glory, the Ruler and Judge of the whole world, Omnipotent to save and to destroy.-Faith embraces, the doctrine of the cross with cordial approbation, as the wisdom and power of God unto salvation; while it is foolishness to those that perish.–Faith submits to God's righteousness, allows
1 Tit. 1, 1, 2,
2 Pet, i, s.