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destructive to multitudes, and lay a foundation for their future ruin; and especially if it has pleased God to bring us under early convictions of sin; so that we have experienced in that age of life, the hopeful beginnings of a work of grace, which is an effect of more than common providence! We ought to take notice, with great thankfulness, of the methods of divine grace, if we have been early led into the knowledge of the first principles of the oracles of God, especially if they have made such an impression on our hearts, that we can say, with good Obadiah, I thy servant, fear the Lord from my youth, 1 Kings xviii. 12.
Again, we are to express our thankfulness for the mercies which we have received in our advanced age, when arrived to a state of manhood; and accordingly are to bless him for directing and ordering our settlement in the world, in those things more especially that relate to our secular callings and employments therein, and the advantages of suitable society in those families in which our lot has been cast, as well as the many instances of divine goodness in our own. We ought also to bless him for succeeding our industry and endeavours used to promote our comfort and happiness in the world, together with that degree of usefulness which it has pleased God to favour us with, therein. We ought also to bless him for carrying us through many difficulties that lay in our way, some of which we have been almost ready to think insurmountable; as also for bringing us under the means of grace, in which the providence of God is more remarkable, in those who have not been favoured with a religious education in their childhood; and more especially if these means have been made effectual to answer the highest and most valuable ends.
There are other mercies which some have reason to bless God for, who are arrived to old age, which is the last stage of life, wherein the frame of nature is declining and hastening apace to a dissolution. These, I say, have reason to be thankful, if they have not, as it were, outlived themselves, wholly lost their memory and judgment, by which means they would have been brought back again, as it were, to the state of childhood, as some have been; or, if old age be not pressed down beyond measure, with pain and bodily diseases, or a multitude of cares and troubles about outward circumstances in the world, which would tend to embitter the small remains of life, which has not much strength of nature to bear up under great troubles, nor can those methods be made use of, whereby others, without much difficulty, are able to extricate themselves out of them: But they, of all others, have most reason to bless God, who can look back on a long series of usefulness, in proportion to the number of years they have lived; so that that pro
mise is fulfilled to them, They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing, Psal. xcii. 14. This is more than a common mercy, and therefore requires a greater degree of thankfulness, when it may be said of them, The hoary head is a crown of glory, being found in the way of righteousness, Prov. xvi. 31. and grace keeps equal pace with age; and they have nothing to do but to wait for a release, from a careful, vain, uneasy life to heaven. Thus concerning the occasions we have for thankfulness in every age of life.
2dly, We are now to consider the reason that we have to be thankful in the various circumstances or conditions of life; particularly,
1st, When we have a great measure of outward prosperity, which is more than many enjoy; which calls for a proportionable degree of thankfulness, especially if it be sanctified and sweetened with a sense of God's special love, so that it is a pledge and earnest of better things reserved for us hereafter. When we have the good things of this life for our conveniency, that our passage through the world may be more easy and comfortable to us; and yet we have ground to hope that this is not our portion, or that we are not like those whom the Psalmist speaks of, and calls the men of the world, who have their portion in this life, Psal. xvii. 14. or, like the rich man in the parable, to whom it was said, Son, remember that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things, Luke xvi. 25. We have reason to bless God when outward prosperity is a means of our glorifying him, and being more serviceable to promote his interest, and not a snare or occasion of sin, when it is not like the prosperity of fools, which has a tendency to destroy them, Prov. i. 32. or when what is said concerning that murmuring generation of men, whom the Psalmist speaks of, that lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert: so that though he gave them their request, he sent leanness into their soul, is not applicable to us, Psal. cvi. 14, 15. Again, when we enjoy the outward blessings of providence, and, at the same time, live above them; so that our hearts are not too much set upon them; but we are willing to part with them, when God is about to deprive us of them, or take us from them; and when outward enjoyments are helps, and not hindrances to us in our way to heaven. These are inducements to the greatest thankfulness, and ought to be acknowledged to the glory of God.
2dly, We have reason to be thankful, though it pleases God to follow us with many afflictions and adverse providences in the world: These are not, indeed, to be reckoned blessings in themselves; nevertheless, they are not inconsistent with a thankful frame of spirit; especially,
1st, When we take occasion from hence to be affected with the vanity, emptiness, and uncertainty of all outward comforts, which perish in the using.
2dly, When afflictive providences have a tendency to humble and make us submissive to the divine will, so that we are hereby led to have a deep sense of sin, the procuring cause thereof. Thus Ephraim speaks of his being chastised by God, and, at the same time, ashamed and confounded, as bearing the reproach of former sins committed by him, Jer. xxxi. 18, 19. or, when those sins, which before prevailed, are hereby prevented, and we enabled to mortify them: Thus the Psalmist says, Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now I have kept thy word, Psal. cxix. 67. And when God is pleased to cause his grace to abound as outward troubles abound. 2 Cor. iv. 16. and when the want of outward mercies makes us see the worth of them, and puts us upon improving every instance of the divine goodness, as a great inducement to thankfulness.
3dly, We have reason to be thankful under afflictions, when we have a comfortable hope that they are evidences of our being God's children, interested in his special love, Heb. xii. 7. so that we have ground to conclude, that he is hereby training us up, and making us more meet for the heavenly inheritance, so that we can say with the apostle, Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 2 Cor. iv. 17.
[2.] We are to express our thankfulness for those mercies which we call relative, or for the blessings that others enjoy, in whose welfare we are more immediately concerned. As it is the duty of every one to desire the good of all men; so we ought to bless God for the mercies bestowed on others as well as ourselves. The relation we stand in to others, is either more general or extensive, and, in this respect, it may include in it all mankind; and accordingly we are to be thankful for the mercies which our fellow-creatures receive from the hand of God, inasmuch as hereby the divine perfections are magnified: And, as for those who receive the blessings that accompany salvation, the ends of Christ's death, and the dispensation of the gospel, are hereby attained; and whatever mercies God bestows on others, we bless him for them, as taking encouragement to hope that he will bestow the same blessings upon us, when we stand in need of them.
As for those who are related to us in the bonds of nature, or as members of the family to which we belong, for whose welfare we are more immediately concerned, we may, in some measure, reckon the mercies they enjoy, our own, and therefore should be induced to bless God, and be thankful for them, as well as for those which we receive in our persons.-P D
There is also another relation, which is more large and extensive, namely, that which we stand in to all the members of Christ's mystical body, whom the apostle calls the household of faith, Gal. vi. 10. and, as such, supposes them to be entitled to our more special regard: Accordingly we are to express our thankfulness to God, in prayer, for all the mercies they receive, especially those that are of a spiritual nature; inasmuch as herein Christ is glorified, and his interest advanced, which ought to be dearer to us than any thing that relates to our own private or personal interest, as the Psalmist speaks of his preferring Jerusalem's welfare above his chief joy, Psal. cxxxvii. 6. And that which farther inclines us to do this, is, because we hope that we shall be made partakers of the same blessings, whereby others will have occasion to bless God on our behalf. Thus concerning the inducements we have to thankfulness for blessings received, either by ourselves or others.
I shall conclude this head by considering, that thankfulness, which ought to be a great ingredient in prayer, is always to be accompanied with the exercise of other graces, whereby we are disposed to adore and magnify the divine perfections that are displayed in the distribution of those favours which we bless him for; together with an humble sense of our own unworthiness of the least of those mercies which we enjoy, and an earnest desire that we may be enabled, not only to do this in words, but to express our thankfulness to him by such a frame of spirit as is agreeable thereto.
There are two things more, contained in the answer we have been explaining, without the due consideration whereof, the duty of prayer would be very imperfectly handled, namely, its being an offering up of our desires to God in the name of Christ, and by the help of the Spirit: But since these are particularly insisted on in some following answers, I have purposely waved the consideration of them at present.
QUEST. CLXXIX. Are we to pray unto God only?
ANSW. God only being able to search the hearts, hear the requests, pardon the sins, and only to be believed in, and worshipped with religious worship, prayer, which is a special part thereof, is to be made by all to him alone, and to none other.
QUEST. CLXXX. What is it to pray in the name of Christ? ANSW. To pray in the name of Christ is in obedience to his command, and in confidence on his promises to ask mercy
for his sake, not by bare mentioning of his name, but by drawing our encouragement to pray, and our boldness, strength, and hope of acceptance in prayer, from Christ and his mediation.
QUEST. CLXXXI. Why are we to pray in the name of Christ? ANSW. The sinfulness of man, and his distance from God by reason thereof, being so great as that we can have no access into his presence without a Mediator; and there being none in heaven or earth appointed to, or fit for that glorious work, but Christ alone; we are to pray in no other name but his only.
N these answers we have a farther explication of what is briefly laid down in the last; and that, more especially, as to what respects the object of prayer; and the method prescribed in the gospel, relating to our drawing nigh to God, through a mediator, which is called praying in the name of Christ; together with the reason hereof.
I. It is observed, that prayer is to be made to God alone, and to none other. This appears,
1. Because it is an act of religious worship, which is due to none but God; as our Saviour says, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve, Matt. iv. 10.This can be denied by none who are, in any measure, acquainted either with natural or revealed religion; in which we are obliged to extol, adore, and admire those divine perfections which are displayed in the works of nature and grace, and to seek that help from him, and those supplies of grace that we stand in need of to make us completely blessed, which supposes him to be infinitely perfect and all-sufficient. Now to ascribe this divine glory to a creature, either directly, or by consequence, is, in effect, to say that he is equal with God, and thereby to rob him of that glory that is due to him alone, to seek that from the creature, that none but God can give, or to ascribe any of the perfections of the divine nature to it, is the highest affront that can be offered to the divine Majesty. Now as prayer without adoration and invocation, is destitute of those ingredients which render it an act of religious worship; so to address ourselves, in such a way, to any one but God, is an instance of such profaneness and idolatry, as is not to be mentioned without the greatest detestation.
2. Prayer is to be made only to God, inasmuch as he only is able to search the heart, which is a glory peculiar to himself, in which he is distinguished from all creatures, 1 Kings viii. 39. Acts i. 24. It is the heart that is principally to be regarded in