Page images

ticular occasion or circumstances; but the prayer taught by Jesus is suited to the wants and circumstances of all mankind. This is, indeed, a distinguishing feature in all the institutions of the Gospel.

From the beginning of the world, it has so happened, that the ever^ fluctuating tide of time has, in all societies, gradually effected such changes, as to render the laws and rules that were necessary and proper at one period, unnecessary and improper at another. Ceremonies that have, at the time of their institution, appeared the perfection of wisdom, seem in after-times ridiculous and absurd. But though human wisdom must have discovered this, human pride has ever interposed to prevent any use from being made of the discovery; and consequently all laws and ordinances promulged by human

authority authority have been issued as if they were to be in force for ever.

The law of Moses, instituted by God for a particular purpose, was declared to be only for a season, and as introductory to that law of holiness which was to be everlastingly binding. By our Saviour that law of holiness was published; and as it was intended, so it was adapted for every age and every nation. Calculated to endure while the sun shall hold his place in the firmament, while the planets of our system shall continue to run their course around his radiant orb, "Hea"ven and earth shall pass away, but "his words shall never pass away." By no revolutions of time can they be made obsolete, by no changes in the state of society can they be rendered useless. While man continues what he is, a being compounded of soul and body, having appetites' and

passions, passions, intellect and affections capable of being called forth by their proper objects, the institutions of the Gospel shall continue to be effectual.

Such of the precepts of human wisdom as do not in process of time become useless, are, whenever they descend to particulars, circumscribed in their use; for they are adapted to the condition either of the rich or of the poor, of the young or of the old. It is the precepts of Jesus Christ alone that speak to every heart. In prosperity and in adversity, in grief and in joy, in youth and in age, they are still found applicable to the present situation and circumstances; a certain proof that they are founded upon such a knowledge of the nature of man, as could only be obtained by Him who made him. I shall endeavour to illustrate this ycsA. ii. M obserobservation: 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 ten■ . '' '' dency 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 devotion M 2 was

« PreviousContinue »