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regard. But Oh! what gross hypocrisy is this, if our souls be unconscious of any eagerness to obtain and enjoy what God has promised and what our lips implore! “ Desire is the uneasi“ ness a man finds in himself upon the absence “ of any thing whose present enjoyment carries “ the idea of delight with it.”* Now is such an uneasiness in any measure excited within our souls ? To join in a form of prayer, and to feel the spirit of prayer, are things widely different from each other.
Should an inquiry be started respecting the complex object of those desires which are formed in all the bosoms of God's humble servants, a reference may be made to the “ exceedingly “ great and precious promises' of the Gospel which will solve the question. For the Spirit of God excites hunger and thirst after those blessings which are provided for His people in Jesus Christ. By a comparison therefore of our sensibilities with the provisions of the Gospel, we may ascertain whether - the Spirit maketh in" tercession for us with groanings that cannot “ be uttered,” and whether we are honest in “ soliciting regard to our hearty desires.” Of those various wants, to the relief of which Divine mercy is here inplored, we have a schedule or inventory in the prayers of our church. Let us examine it attentively, and see if they express our “ hearty desires." These, if an epitome of them be required, may all be summed up in a restoration of the favour, the likeness and enjoyment of God.
In soliciting Divine regard to our “ hearty “ desires,” we have strong ground of confidence.
For God Himself is the author of those desires, since “all holy desires proceed from Him.” The blessings we covet are all purchased blessings, for which an adequate price has been paid; so that on all the promissory notes which the treasurer of the bank of heaven has issued to God's humble servants, the words, Value received, are written in legible characters. The communication of those blessings, for which the awakened bosom is athirst, will bring honour to the author of redemption, to the faithfulness of God who hath covenanted to bestow them, and to the grace of His Spirit who hath excited the desire after them. We desire nothing but what is promised to us; and the promises of God are so many bonds, for the fulfilment of which He hath, as it were, pledged to us the honour of all His Divine perfections: and our desires are thefore the claim of a specialty debt and can never be disappointed. The Lord "will fulfil «s the desire of them that fear Him; He also “ will hear their cry and will save them.” (Ps. cxlv. 19.) Qur own experience, and that of a great cloud of witnesses, will prove, that “not “ one thing fails of all the good things which “ the Lord our God hath promised concerning "us: all are come to pass unto us, and not one “ thing hath failed thereof."
The second petition of our collect is of a more specific form, and describes the nature of the blessing which it implores. We beseech « Al« mighty God” to “ stretch forth the right“ hand of His majesty to be our defence against “ all our enemies, through Jesus Christ our « Lord.”
The Gospel which is annexed to our collect, leads to a conclusion that our spiritual enemies
are chiefly intended in it. And, indeed, these will always occupy the chief attention of those worshippers who are humbly engaged in the service of God. For though, in times like those in which we live, we have need to pray mightily for Divine help against our national foes, and though. every Christian has outward enemies from which the shield of Omnipotence alone can defend him, yet these are of inferior importance compared with those which war against his soul, and excite a less degree of anxiety within his breast. It is moreover to be observed that our collect is designed for stated and congregational use, and must therefore refer to a warfare that is never interrupted, and in which all who are required to join in our prayers are perpetually engaged.
Of our spiritual enemies St. Paul has given us a most alarming representation, Eph. vi. 12. He reminds us that we fight not against flesh and blood, “ but against principalities and powers, “ against the rulers of the darkness of this world, « against wicked spirits.” Their nature, number, subtilty, power and malice, are considerations truly formidable. And the object contended for, the salvation of our own souls, is so immensely valuable, that we may well call on “ Almighty
God” to “ stretch forth the right-hand of His " majesty to be our defence against all our " enemies." · That it is only the Almighty power of God that can keep us from sin, will appear if we consider either our enemies or ourselves.
“ First, consider the mighty advantages that our great enemy, the Devil, hath against us. As he is a spirit, he is both powerful and subtle; and both these are whetted by his great malice against us. Long experience also, for above five thou.
Ocked spil of the cipalities
sand years, hath made him very politic in dealing with souls, and in carrying on his own designs and interest. He knows our temper, our passions, and our inclinations; and can chuse and cull out those objects which shall infallibly strike and attact us. He waits those mollia tempora fandi, those easy hours of whispering his suggestions to us when we are most facile and compliant, when we are most easily wrought upon, and made soft to his hands by some foregoing circumstances. And if, after all this, he despairs to prevail upon us us a Dezil, he can quickly shift his shape, and transform himself into an angel of light, and engage our very consciences unto evil. Ile can disguise his temptations into impulses of the ???y Spirit, persuade us that what he prompts us to is our duty, head his fiery darts with Scriptury sentences, wrap up his poison in the leaves of the Bible, and wound our souls by our consciences. And certainly this Devil of light is Now gone abroad into the world with all that power of deceivableness he can, and we cannot but with sad and bleeding hearts observe his too general prevalency and success. And, besides all this, he is continually present with us, follows us up and down wherever we go, and is always at our elbow to prompt us to evil, and at our right-hand to oppose us in that which is good. Hell hath emissaries enough to afford every man a friend for his attendant; and these critically observe every glance of thine eyes, every flash of thy passions, and are presently ready to apply suitable temptations unto thee, and to strike thee in that part of thy soul which is softest and most riclding. And as the Syrians that were sent by Benhadad to the King of Israel, to intercede for *1)watched every word that should fall from
his mouth, that they might lay hold of it to obtain farther favour from him; so these Spies of hell do watch every kind word and every kind look of thine towards sin, and want no skill to improve them, to obtain yet greater matters from thee. Now if God did not appear to deliver us from these subtle wiles and methods of the Devil, how soon would he make fools of the wisest and most experienced Christians !
Secondly, consider the mighty disadvantages that we lie under to oppose the temptations of the Devil; of which though they be many and great, yet I shall name but two, which inay be found even in the best of men.
“ First, our inadvertency and heedlessness, through which we are often surprised into sin, and captivated by the cunning craftiness of our enemies which lie in wait to deceive. How seldom is it that we stand upon our guard, or if we do, that we are completely armed! Sometimes our shield, sometimes our helmet, sometimes our sword of the Spirit is wanting. How seldom is it that we attend all the motions of the enemy! Indeed a Christian should look round about him, for he is every where beset and encompassed round about with enemies; and whilst he is vigilant toward one part, the Devil falsifies his thrust and wounds him in another. But if he cannot wound on the right-hand by presumption, he will try what he can do on the left by despair. If he cannot prevail by his temptations to cause us to neglect and cast off holy duties, he will tempt us to pride ourselves in the well-performing of them. If he cannot make us fall, he will tempt us to be high-minded because we stand, and so make our very standing the occasion of our woeful downfall; and because we are apt to think ourselves better