Page images
PDF
EPUB

observation by some remarks upon the duty of prayer, and the rules laid down by our Saviour with regard to the performance of that important duty.

The worship of the Supreme Being was a natural consequence of a belief in his existence. In the heathen world, where that belief degenerated into the most absurd superstition and idolatry, the worship was as impure as the faith in which it originated. Many of the gods adored by the pagans were believed to delight in cruelty and all manner of wickedness; and this led their deluded votaries to imagine that they should obtain the favour of beings more powerful than themselves by the practice of similar vices. Thieves, and drunkards, and liars, had each their several patrons in the pantheon of heathen divinities. The evident tendency

dency of such unhallowed worship was to make people more and more vicious, and to harden them in their iniquities.

Through Abraham and his descendants, God had in mercy preserved the knowledge of the Divine unity and of the purity and moral perfection of the Divine character. The God of Israel was worshipped as a God of holiness. He was represented as not hearing sinners, but as lending a willing ear to the prayer of the just, and the destitute. But though the Jews knew and acknowledged this, many amongst them deceived themselves into an opinion, that they should be accepted of God if they strictly observed all the outward forms of their religion, and paid a minute attention to all its rites and ceremonies. Nor was this their only^ motive. An appearance of devotio

[ocr errors]

was then the fashion. They who sought popularity prayed; but they prayed that they might be seen of men! "Verily, verily," said our blessed Lord, "they have their reward!" Their reward they certainly had* They desired popularity, arid they obtained it; but it became a snare for their souls!

Our Saviour, whose doctrines are not only directed against all actual transgression, but against all those corruptions of the heart which are the sources of self-deception, as well as of hypocrisy, while he pointed out the abuse of prayer, described in most explicit terms its advantages. "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. "opened. For what man is there of "you, whom if his son ask bread will "he give him a stone? or if he ask "a fish will he give him a serpent? "If ye, being evil, know how to give "good gifts to your children, how "much more shall your Father which "is in heaven give good things to "them which ask him! Therefore," (observe, I pray you, the force of this connecting adverb, as it evidently implies, that on no other terms can we expect our prayers to be heard,) "Therefore, all things "whatsoever ye would that men "should do to you, do ye even so to "them; for this is the law and the "prophets."

The difficulty of acting thus is denoted in the passage immediately following, where this line of conduct is described, metaphorically, as the path which leads to life, M strait and

"narrow;" "narrow;" in opposition to that pride and uncharitableness, described as the wide gate and broad way that leadeth to destruction.

Pride and selfishness are represented throughout the Scriptures as the great enemies of our salvation: humility and benevolence as the genuine offspring of a true and lively faith. All the institutions of the Gospel offer us assistance in combating the former, and tend to implant and cherish the latter in our hearts. Prayer had by the Pharisees been so far perverted, as to have become a mean of augmenting the spirit of pride and selfimportance. It was by Jesus Christ erected into a barrier against the incroachment of each sinful passion; and by its operation in purifying the affections, to render us heirs of the kingdom of God.

The direct instructions which our i Saviour

« PreviousContinue »