Imagini ale paginilor

into the presence of God, to pour out our hearts before him in this duty.

(2.) The next grace to be exercised in prayer is, thankfulness, in which respect prayer and praise ought to be joined together: Thus the Psalmist says, Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Zion, and unto thee shall the vow be performed, O thou that hearest prayer, Psal. lxv. 1, 2. That this is a part of prayer has been observed under a foregoing answer; in which we considered the many blessings that we have reason to be thankful for. I shall only add, at present, that it is matter of thankfulness, that we have liberty of access to God, in hope of obtaining mercy from him, as sitting on a throne of grace, who might have been forever banished from his presence, or have been brought before his judgment-seat as criminals, doomed to everlasting destruction.

Moreover, we are to bless him, not only that we have leave to come before him, but have often experienced that he has heard, and answered our prayers, and therein has fulfilled that promise, I said not to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain, Isa. xlv. 19. And that we may be brought into a thankful frame, we ought to consider,

[1] The worth of every mercy; especially those that are spiritual, or accompany salvation; and this we may judge of by the price that was paid for it, which is no less than the blood of Jesus; which the apostle not only styles precious, but speaks of it as infinitely preferable to every thing that is corruptible, 1 Pet. i. 18, 19. And we may, in some measure, take an estimate thereof by the worth and excellency of the soul, and as it is conducive to promote its eternal welfare.

[2.] We are also to consider every saving blessing, as the fruit and result of everlasting love, and as the consequence of God's eternal design, in having chosen those, who are the objects thereof, to salvation in Christ, Jer. xxxi. 3. Eph. i. 3, 4. We must also consider these mercies as discriminating, whereby God distinguishes his people from the world, and herein glorifies the riches of his grace, in those who deserve to have been, for ever, the monuments of his wrath: We might here consider, as an inducement to this grace of thankfulness, the aggravations of the sin of ingratitude.

1st, It is a virtual disowning our obligation to, or dependence on God, from whom we receive all mercies, and a behaving ourselves in such a manner as though we were not beholden to him for them, or could be happy without him; as though we were self-sufficient, and did not look upon him as the fountain of blessedness.

2dly, It is a refusing to give him the glory of his wisdom,

power, goodness, and faithfulness, which are eminently displayed in the blessings that he bestows.

3dly, It is disagreeable to the large expectations we have of those blessings he has reserved for his people, or promised to them, or that hope which he has laid up for them in heaven. Therefore we cannot but conclude that ingratitude argues a person destitute of that holiness which eminently discovers itself in the exercise of the contrary grace: Accordingly the apostle joins these two characters together, when speaking of the vilest of men, whom he styles, unthankful, unholy, 2 Tim. iii. 2.

(3.) Another grace, to be exercised in prayer, is faith. This implies an habitual disposition of soul, proceeding from a principle of regenerating grace, whereby we are led to commit ourselves, and all our concerns, into Christ's hand, depending on his merits and mediation for the supply of all our wants, considering him as having purchased, and as being authorized to apply, all the benefits of the covenant of grace, which are the subject-matter of our supplications to him. More particularly, faith exerts and discovers itself in prayer,

[ocr errors]

[1.] By encouraging the soul, and giving it an holy boldness to draw nigh to God, notwithstanding our great unworthiness. If we are afraid to come into the presence of an holy God, and, destruction from him is a terror to us, if the threatnings he has denounced against sinners, such as we know ourselves to be, discourage us from drawing nigh to him, so that we are ready to say with Job, Therefore am I troubled at his presence; when I consider, I am afraid of him,' Job xxiii. 15. If his almighty power, that can easily sink us into perdition, overwhelms our spirits, and fills us with the utmost distress and confusion, so that we cannot draw nigh to him in prayer, considering him as an absolute God; we are encouraged by faith, to look upon him as our covenant God, and Father in Christ; and then all his divine perfections will afford relief to us. His sin-revenging justice is regarded by faith, as that which is fully satisfied by Christ's obedience and sufferings; and therefore will not demand that satisfaction at our hands, which it has already received from our surety, who was made sin for us' though he knew no sin, 'that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,' 2 Cor. v. 21. His infinite power is no longer looked upon, as engaged to destroy us, but rather to succour us under all our weakness; and therefore, as Job says, He will not plead ' against us with his great power; no, but he will put strength in us,' Job xxiii. 6. We consider it as ready to support us under the heaviest pressures, and so enable us to perform the VOL. IV.

[ocr errors]

T t

[ocr errors]

most difficult duties, and to overcome all our spiritual ene mies, who would be otherwise too strong for us: So that this attribute is so far from discouraging us from drawing nigh to God in prayer, that, by faith, we behold it as delighting to exert and glorify itself, in doing those great things for us which we have in view, when we engage in this duty.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

[2.] Faith discovers itself in prayer, by enabling us to plead, and apply to ourselves, the great and precious promises which God has given to his people in the gospel. As prayer cannot subsist without a promise, so we are enabled, by faith, to apprehend and plead the promises, and to say, Remember the 'word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me 'to hope,' Psal. cxix. 49. And hereby we look upon God as ready to bestow the blessings which he has promised, and his faithfulness as engaged to make them good. Accordingly the Psalmist says,Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications; in thy faithfulness answer me, and in 'thy righteousness,' Psal. cxliii. 1. There is nothing that we want, or ought to pray for, but there are some promises, contained in the word of God, which faith improves and takes encouragement from in this duty: And since what we pray for, respects either temporal, or spiritual, and eternal blessings, these are looked upon by faith as promised; as the apostle says, godliness has the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come, 1 Tim. iv. 18. This might be very largely insisted on, and many instances given hereof, which are contained in scripture; but I shall more especially consider those promises which respect God's enabling us to pray, and his hearing and answering our prayers, which faith lays hold on, and improves, in order to our performing this duty in a right manner.

1st, There are promises of the Spirit's assistance to enable us to pray. This the apostle calls his making intercession for us, according to the will of God, in Rom. viii. 27. And our Saviour says, in Luke xii. 13. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? 2dly, There are other promises that respect God's hearing and answering prayer. Thus it is said, in Psal. lxxxvi. 7. In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee; for thou wilt answer me: And elsewhere in Psal. cii. 17. God will regard the prayer of the destitute and not despise their prayer. This is considered as being of a very large extent: Thus our Saviour says, in John xvi. 23. Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name, he will give it you: And in chap. xv. 7. If ye abide in me, and words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you: Which universal expressions of


[ocr errors]

God's giving believers what they will, are to be understood of his granting their lawful and regular desires; and, indeed, faith will never ask any thing but what tends to the glory of God, and that with an entire submission to his will; though it is far otherwise with respect to those prayers that are not put up in faith.

Moreover God has promised to hear and answer all kinds of prayer, provided they proceed from this grace; particularly, united prayers in the assemblies of his saints, as he says to Solomon, after the dedication of the temple, in 2 Chron. vii. 15. Mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place; and those prayers that are put up to God in families, where a small number are joined together; though it be but two or three, Christ has promised to be in the midst of them, xviii. 20. not only to assist them in this duty, but to give them what they ask for. There are also promises made to secret prayer: Thus when our Saviour encourages his people to pray to their Father, which is in secret, he tells them, My Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly, chap. vi. 6.

Here it will be enquired, whether it be necessary in order to our praying by faith, that we be assured, at all times, that our prayer shall be heard.

To this it may be answered,

1st, That it is not our duty to believe that every prayer shall be heard; for God heareth not sinners, that is, those who are under the reigning power of sin, and consequently are destitute of the grace of faith; nor will he hear those prayers that proceed from feigned lips: Thus it is said, If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me, Psal. lxvi. 18.

2dly, It is not the duty of those who have the truth of grace, to believe that their prayer shall be heard, when, by reason of their infirmity, or the weakness of their faith, they ask for that which is unlawful, and not redounding to the glory of God and their real good.

3dly, If what we pray for may be for the glory of God, and redound to our advantage; yet it is not our duty to determine, with too great peremptoriness, that he will certainly grant what we ask for, immediately, or in that particular way which we desire; since he may answer prayer, and yet do it in his own time and way.

4thly, It is not our duty to believe assuredly, that God will give us all those temporal blessings that we ask for; especially if they be not absolutely necessary for us, since he may answer such-like prayers in value, though not in kind, and so give spiritual blessings, instead of those temporal ones, which we pray for; in which case none will say, that he is

unfaithful to his promise, though we have not those blessings in kind that we desire: Therefore it is our duty, and the great concern of faith in prayer, to be assured, that as God knows what is best for us, so he will make good his promises, in such a way, that we shall have no reason to conclude ourselves to have been disappointed, or that we have asked in faith, but have not obtained.

I am sensible that there is a difficulty in the mode of expression used by the apostle James, in chap. i 6, 7. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering; for let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord: By which, the apostle does not intend, that he who doubts whether his prayer shall be answered, cannot be said, in any sense, to pray in faith; for, as assurance of our salvation is not of the essence of faith, so that faith cannot subsist without it; in like manner assurance, or a firm persuasion that the very thing we ask shall be given, is not such an essential ingredient in prayer, as that we should determine, that for want of it, we shall receive nothing that is good from the Lord. Therefore, I conceive, that the apostle, by wavering in this text, rather respects our being in doubt about the object of faith; or else our not being stedfast in the grace of faith, but praying with hypocrisy, as he illustrates it by the similitude taken from a wave driven with the wind; which sometimes moves one way, at other times the contrary; and he farther explains it, when he says, in ver. 8. a double-minded man, is unstable in all his ways; so that the person, whom he describes as wavering is the same with a double-minded man, or an hypocrite: Such an one cannot ask in faith; therefore the apostle does not hereby intend that no one can exercise this grace in prayer, but he that has a full assurance that his prayer shall be answered, in that particular way and manner as he expects.

Obj. 1. It is objected by some, that they have no faith; therefore since this grace must be exercised in prayer, they are very often discouraged from performing the duty of prayer.

Answ. That though the want of a prepared frame of spirit, for any duty affords matter of humiliation, yet it is no excuse for the neglect thereof; and as for prayer in particular, we are to wait on God therein, for a prepared frame of spirit, that by this means, we may draw nigh to him in a right manner, as well as for a gracious answer from him.

[2.] If we cannot bring glory to God by a fiducial pleading of the promises, or applying them to ourselves; we must endeavour to glorify him by confessing our guilt and unworthiness, and acknowledging that all our help is in him. [3.] It is possible for us to have some acts of faith in prayer,

« ÎnapoiContinuă »