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account, in scripture, of God's owning and encouraging his people, so long as they have kept close to him; and of his visiting their iniquities with a rod, when backsliding from him; and, indeed, whatever we read concerning the providences of God towards particular believers in the Old or New Testament, the same may be observed therein, which is of very great use for our direction in prayer; and accordingly their experiences are recorded for our instruction, and their necessities, that we may know what to pray for, as far as there is an agree ment between the account we have of them, and what we find in ourselves.
2. The word of God, as it is a rule of faith, contains those great doctrines, without the knowledge whereof, we cannot pray aright. Thus we have an account in scripture, not only of the Being and perfections of God, which may be known by the light of nature, but of those glorious truths which cannot be known but by divine revelation: And,
(1.) Of the personal glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; of the Father's giving all spiritual blessings to his people, in and through a Mediator; and the Son is considered as invested in this office and character, and, as God incarnate procuring for us, by his obedience and death, forgiveness of sins, and a right to eternal life. We have also an account of the Holy Ghost, as being a divine person, and therefore equal with the Father and Son; yet as subservient to them in his method of acting, as the application of redemption attains the end of the purchase thereof, in like manner as the purchase of it was a means to bring about that purpose and grace which was given us in Christ before the world began, 2 Tim. i. 9. These doctrines are necessary to direct us in those things which respect the distinct glory which we are to give to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and the method in which we are to hope for the blessings which we ask for in prayer. Thus the apostle, speaking of this duty, supposes that we are acquainted with this doctrine, when he says, Through him, that is, Christ, we have an access by one Spirit unto the Father, Eph. ii. 18.
(2.) In the word of God, we have not only an account of the works of nature and providence, or God's being the Creator and Governor of the world, which we have some knowledge of, in a method of reasoning from the divine perfections; but we have an account therein of those works which have an immediate reference to our salvation, and that special providence in which God expresses a greater regard to the heirs of salvation than to all the world besides: When we draw nigh to God in prayer, we are not barely to consider him as the God to whom we owe our being, as men, but our well-being as christians,
delivered from that ruin which we brought on ourselves, by our apostacy from him; and also, what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward, who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, chap. i. 18, 19. as the apostle expresses it in that affectionate prayer put up for the church at Ephesus. And when we survey the works of providence, we are not barely to think of God as the Governor of the world in general, but to consider what have been those special acts of providence, by which he has governed man before and since the fall, and to consider the first covenant as made with him in innocency; and the covenant of grace, as being a dispensation of grace, established in and with Christ, as the Head of the elect, in order to their being delivered from that state of sin and misery into which they had brought themselves. These doctrines will be of use for our direction in prayer, as hereby we are led to acknowledge our fallen state, what we were by nature, and what we should have been, had we been left in that state; and hereby we are also led to adore the riches of God's grace, as he brings the greatest good to his saints out of the greatest evil.
(3.) The word of God gives us a distinct account of the offices in which Christ is invested, as they are suited to the necessities of his people, which is a means for our direction con❤ cerning what we are to ask for, with a particular relation to each of them, and the hope we have that he will grant our request. As he is appointed by the Father, to be our High Priest, to make atonement for sin; our Advocate, to plead our cause; our Prophet, to lead us in the way of salvation; and our King, to subdue us to himself, and defend us from the assaults of our spiritual enemies. So we are, in our prayers, to improve these discoveries which we have thereof, as a means to direct us in those things which are the subject-matter both of prayer and praise.
4. The word of God is of use for our direction in prayer, as we have an account therein of those duties which are to be performed by us as men, or christians, in every condition of life, and in all those relations which we stand in to one another. As for that which is matter of duty in general, or that obedience which we owe to God, this cannot be performed but by his assistance; which is humbly to be asked in prayer: And accordingly we are to say as one does, Lord, work in me that which thou requirest, and then require what thou pleasest. Here we might shew how all the duties which God has commanded, may be of use to direct us in prayer: that hereby we may be led to apply ourselves to him, that he would enable us to perform them; and all the sins forbidden in scripture, may
be of use to instruct us what to deprecate, when we pray that God would keep us from our own iniquities, and what we are to confess before him, and implore the forgiveness of; and all those commands which respect instituted worship, viz. our attendance on the ordinances, or the exercise of various graces therein, in the whole course of our conversation: These are of use for our direction in prayer, as hereby we know what to ask for, with relation thereunto; and particularly as to what concerns the advantage we hope to receive, under the means of grace, whenever we draw nigh to God in the way which he has appointed.
5. As the word of God contains many promises and predictions, together with their accomplishment, for the encouragement of our faith and hope in prayer, it is of use to direct us in the performance of this duty. As for the predictions that are fulfilled, so far as they respect the blessings which God designed to bestow on his church, they are equivalent to promises, and we are to take occasion from thence, to adore and magnify his faithfulness; and hope that whatever remains to be done for us, or his people in general, shall, in like manner, have its accomplishment, which will afford matter of encouragement to us in addressing ourselves to him for it.
The promises which are contained in scripture, are also a motive and inducement to prayer. These are a declaration of God's will to give the blessings, which he sees necessary for us, and therefore are of great use in order to our performing this duty aright. Thus God gives an intimation of the great things that he will do for, or bestow upon his people, when he says, in Jer xxxi. 33. I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people and there are many expressions of the like nature, which contain the form of a promise. But besides these, there are others which are equivalent to, and may be applied by us in like manner as though they were laid down in the same form, as the promises generally are; as,
(1.) When God is said, in his word, to be able to do his people good, or bestow some particular blessings upon them, this gives them ground to conclude, that he will do it, or that his power shall be engaged in their behalf: Thus God is said, in Jude, ver. 24. to be able to keep them from falling, and to present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceed ing joy. And elsewhere it is said, 2 Cor. ix. 8. that God is able to make all grace abound towards his people, that they al ways having all-sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: This is the same as though it had been said, that he would do this for them.
(2.) When God is said to glorify any of his perfections in giv
ing those blessings that his people want, this is also equivalent to a promise: Thus, in Exod. xxxiv. 4, 6. when the Lord passed by before Moses, and proclaimed the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, &c. it is the same as though he had said that he would shew mercy to them, since the design thereof is to encourage them to hope for it.
(3.) Whatever blessings are said to be purchased by Christ as our Redeemer, or prayed for by him as our Advocate, these may be included in the number of promised blessings; for they will certainly be applied by him, who will not lose what he has purchased by his blood, and is never denied what he asks for.
(4.) The universal experience of believers, relating to the blessings that accompany salvation, contains the nature, though not the form, of a promise; and therefore, when this is recorded in scripture, for the encouragement of others, in all succeeding ages, it is as much to be applied by us when we are in like circumstances as though it were more directly promised to us: Thus when God's faithful servants are said, 1 Pet. i. 5. to be kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation; or, when the Psalmist says, in Psal. xxxvii. 25. I have been young, and now am old; yet have Inot seen the righteous forsaken, nor Ais seed begging bread; these, and such-like expressions, are to be applied by us as promises.
(5.) That which is proposed to us, or which we are to have in view, as the end of our attending on ordinances, is equivalent to a promise; and accordingly, when we are commanded or encouraged to hope and pray for any spiritual blessings, when waiting upon God therein, in such a way as he requires, it is the same thing as though he had said, that he would give us those blessings. If a believer is thirsty, and encouraged to come to the waters; or if he wants grace or peace, and is told that these are to be attained in ordinances, the bare intimation that we are to seek these blessings in such a way is equivalent to a promise.
(6.) God's seeing our distress or knowing our wants, is sometimes to be understood in scripture, as containing the nature of a promise, relating to the supply thereof: Thus our Saviour tells his disciples, in Matt. vi. 32. Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things; which is the same as though he had told them, that God had promised or designed to bestow those outward blessings upon them: And when he designed, or promised to deliver his people out of the bondage, in which they were in Egypt, he says, I have surely seen the affliction of my people: I know their sorrows, &c. Exod. iii. 7. Thus concerning the manner in which the promises are laid down in scripture.
We shall now consider how they are to be made use of in order to our direction and encouragement in prayer. And here it may be observed, that the promises either respect out ward, or spiritual blessings, both of which we are to pray for: Thus the apostle says, in 1 Tim. iv. 8. Godliness has the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come; the former respects the temporal dispensations of providence; the latter, grace and glory, or the things that accompany salvation.
[1.] We shall consider the promises that respect temporal or outward blessings which we are obliged to pray for, as we stand in need of them. These are of various kinds;
1st, There are promises of health and strength, whereby our passage through this world may be made easy and comforta ble, and we better enabled to glorify God therein: Thus it is said, in Prov. iii. 7, 8. Fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. And in Psal. ciii. 5. Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; 80 that thy youth is renewed like the eagles.
2dly, There are promises of food and raiment, or the necessary provisions and conveniences of life, in Psal. xxxvii. 3. Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. And in Deut. x. 18. He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.
3dly, There are promises of comfort and peace in our dwellings, in Job v. 24. Thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall 'be in peace; and thou shalt visit thy habitation, and shalt not sin. And, in Psal. xci. 10. There shall no evil befal thee, nei
ther shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.' And in Psal. cxxi. 8. The Lord shalt preserve thy going out, and · thy coming in, from this time forth and forevermore.'
4thly, There are promises of quiet and composed rest by night, on our beds, in Job xi. 18, 19. Thou shalt take thy rest in safety: Also thou shalt lie down, and none shall make thee afraid. And in Prov. iii. 24. When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid; yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.
5thly, There are promises of success, and a blessing to attend us in our worldly callings, in Psal. cxxviii. 2. Thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. And in Deut. xxviii. 4, 5, 12. Blessed 'shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, 'the fruit of thy cattle, and the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the 'heaven to give the rain unto thy land, in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: And thou shalt lend unto