« PreviousContinue »
" the day of judgment,”—“. Good Lord, deliver « us."
The comfort which we implore is the relief of our “necessities,” whether temporal or spiritual. Particularly we pray for the Divine presence to support our minds and sanctify our afflictions. If God be with us as He is revealed in His word, through the grace of His Spirit, we cannot despond nor be destitute of consolation. For whatever may be the necessities which we experience, we shall be enabled to believe that, in His good time, they will all be relieved and supplied.
A grand question still remains to be answered. Who are the persons that may expect God's interference on their behalf? Of what descrip, tion are the persons in whose favour the petition of our collect is offered? Are Divine defence and comfort promised to all men? Or (to bring the inquiry within narrower limits) are all those who adopt the form of prayer, and join in the external performance of Divine worship, authorised to expect defence and comfort from God? Surely not. God's faithful people, exclusively, can look up with confidence and implore these blessings. For them, and none but them, is our collect intended. Are we of the blessed number? May we reasonably expect, in all our dangers and necessities, to receive Divine protection and consolation? Perhaps it may be asked, How shall I determine the momentous question, whether I am numbered among the Lord's people or not? To this the reply is easy. The people of God are distinguished by many legible marks; one of which is specified in our collect. God has “ given" to them “an hearty: « desire to pray.” God hath poured out upon them “the spirit of grace and supplication." A spirit of supplication is inseparable from a spirit of grace. It is an invariable effect of Divine influence on the heart. We shall endeavour to shew wherein the spirit of prayer consists, and from whence it is derived.
It consists in a perception of our spiritual wants and necessities, without which the posture of the body and the motion of the lips can be of no avail. Prayer is desire; and desire supposes want. Now all men are spiritually poor, but all are not “ poor in spirit;' and to these the benediction of our Saviour is confined. (Math. v. 3.) We all need pardoning, converting, and sanctifying grace; but all men are not conscious of their needy state. It remains for our consciences to determine, whether we are so convinced of our wants that we feel in ourselves a fervent desire of those blessings which our lips implore.
The spirit of prayer further includes or sup. poses an acquaintance with God's promises to supply our wants, and with the method in which that supply is to be granted. A knowledge of our urgent wants (the want of things which are essential to our comfort and salvation) would produce despondency and inactivity of soul without a knowledge of God in Christ. A perishing wretch, though tormented with the pangs of hunger and apprised of approaching death, would lie down in despair and resign himself up to his fate, if he were situated in the midst of a barren wilderness far from the habi. tations of man or any hope of relief. Bụt let him know that his case is not desperate, and he will exert himself to the utmost for the
purpose of procuring food. He will employ the little strength that remains, however painful the experiment may prove, in crying for help, or in crawling towards the place from which it is expected. “ Blessed are they” and they only, “ who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for “ they shall be filled.”
The spirit of prayer is the promised Spirit of God “making intercession for us with groanings " that cannot be uttered.” Our collect tells us that “an hearty desire to pray" is the gift of God. Every sigh that distends the contrite bosom is of His operation. And He who in. dites our prayers must be fully acquainted with His own meaning in them, and design to answer them. · Let those who are unconscious of any shearty “ desire to pray” tremble for themselves. They have no evidence that they are the Lord's people and interested in His promises. Unless the spirit of grace and supplication is communicated to us, we have no ground to expeet God's “6 defence and comfort.” On the contrary, being without God, we are exposed to every evil temporal and eternal. We are destitute of all solid comfort, and must remain in this state for ever unless God should bestow on us a " bearty desire to pray" for the pardon of our past impiety and a change of heart. · Those favoured persons to whom “ God hath “ given an hearty desire to pray” máy be assured that their labour shall not be in vain. They may meet with many difficulties and discouragements in their approaches to the mercyseat. Their faith may be tried and their hope deferred. Danger may press on them and necessities multiply. But God most assuredly. hears, in every instance, the voice of His own Spirit; and all sincere prayer is His voice, for independent of His inspiration we have no power to pray. God's “ heavenly inspirations and our holy desires are as so many angels of intercourse and commerce between God and us."* God never implants a desire which He doth not mean to accomplish. “ He will fulfil the desire “ of them that fear Him: He also will hear “ their cry and will save them.” If therefore danger should surround us on every side, and threaten instant destruction; if our necessities be more in number than the hairs of our heads, and each of them require Omnipotence for its relief; we may be assured of safety and comfort, if we have learned, through grace, to pour out our hearts before God. The desire to pray is an earnest of the blessing implored the forerunner of success. What the Apostle says of his preaching, we may apply to the Divine purpose respecting the salvation of a sinner, of which an hearty desire to pray is a sure indication given him. It is not yea and nay, but in " Christ it is yea. For all the promises of God si in Him are Yea, and in Him Amen, to the “ glory of God.” (2 Cor. i. 19, 20.).
. O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy ; Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy, that thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal: Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake our Lord. Amen.
and he Scriptuatastrophe human 10
TT is a characteristic of a Christian believer that
he “ looks not at the things which are seen "but at the things which are not seen,” knowing " that the things which are seen are temporal," transitory and of short duration, while - the “ things which are not seen are eternal,” durable and without end. - The Scriptures assert that one principal effect of the fatal catastrophe in Paradise is a total blindness diffused over the human mind. Fallen man has his “ understanding darkened, being alienated «s from the life of God through the ignorance that " is in him, because of the blindness of his heart." And this darkness, in which man is naturally inveloped, is so thick that the star-like glimmer of education and human instruction cannot penetrate it. Nay, the light which is shed on the objects of faith by an external revelation is insufficient to remove it without Divine teaching. The truth of this appears from the radical mistakes which are made, even by men of profound erudition who have the Bible in their hands, on the subject of true religion.