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twenty thousand dollars worth of real estate in Cincinnati, directly under our own eye, and the profits of which are certain and immediately available. Should we feel that the Legislature had denied our request? Would it diminish our confidence in them? Would it make us despair of the efficacy of petitioning?
The obedient and affectionate child just recovering from a fever, feels a strong appetite, and asks his father with proper feelings, and in a proper manner for a particular article of food, which the father knows (though the child does not) to be injurious. The father kindly receives the request, and in answer to it, gives a wholesome kind of food which the child gratefully accepts. In such a case, does the father feel, and does the child feel that the request was unavailing? Is not the thing really desired granted, though the particular thing asked for is withholden? The child's hunger is satisfied, and satisfied too in answer to his request; his health is promoted, and both father and son are happy, the one in giving, the other in receiving a blessing.
Acceptable prayer, and even the prayer of faith, does not always imply a perfectly definite conception in the mind in respect to the object of prayer, at least, not a conception which the petitioner is able clearly to embody in words. Indeed the devotional Christian, in his highest state of devotion often has desires in his heart too big for expression, pulsations towards God which surpass the mind's conception. Like Paul, he hears words unutterable, (2 Cor. 12: 4.)
Observe carefully the words in Rom. 8: 26, 27; Likewise the spirit also helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the Saints, according to the will of God." There are times when. we know not ourselves how to pray. The spirit within us intercedes for us. But is it with definite thoughts and full expressions? No, but with sighings unutterable. With feelings which no language can express, no mind clearly comprehend. But is not this praying in vain? beating the air? What pray when we ourselves do not clearly comprehend our own prayer? Is not this an absurdity? No, for God, he who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the
spirit in those ecstatic moments, even though we may not, for the spirit maketh intercession for us according to the will of God.
It was in reference to such a state of devotional feeling as this, that I once heard Dr. Payson of Portland say, that he pitied the Christian who never had desires in prayer which he could not clothe in language.
Another passage worthy of notice in this connexion is 1 John 5: 14, 15. "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he heareth us. And if we know that he hear us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions we desired of him." The Apostle here affirms that, if we ask anything according to the will of God, he heareth us. If we know this, then we know that, though we may make mistakes both in the matter and manner of our petitions, yet God will so hear us that we shall receive what we in our inmost heart really and deeply desired, though it be not the very thing that was in our mind and upon our tongue while engaged in prayer. The Holy Spirit breathes into us a devotional life, and in the excitement of it, we pray according to the knowledge we have, and God accepts the prayer, not in proportion to our knowledge, but in proportion to our devotional feeling, which may far exceed our knowledge. We have the same kind of assistance in prayer that we have in preaching. In preaching, the Holy Spirit does not furnish us with words nor with arguments, but excites us to a right state of feeling, and then we speak and argue according to our knowledge of language and reasoning. So it is in prayer. This erroneous idea respecting the prayer of faith seems to have arisen from interpreting passages peculiar to the Apostles' circumstances, and properly applicable to them only, as though they were of universal application. That there are promises peculiar to the Apostles no one can doubt. Such are those which direct them not to premeditate as to what they shall say when they are brought before magistrates, because the Holy Ghost shall teach them how and what they shall speak. Mark 13: 11. Matt. 10: 19. Luke 12 11. 21: 14. That the same law of interpretation applies to the promises in John 14: 13, 14. 15: 7. 16: 23, 24, is evident from the context. The promise in Matt. 18: 19, 20, is shown from its connexion to be limited to the Apostles in the execution of their apostolic office.
There is also a special faith in respect to the working of miracles, to which special promises are given. Matt. 17:
The same kind of faith also is alluded to in Matt. 21: 18-22. Mark 11: 12-26.
In respect to this passage, however, an objection has been started which deserves attention. It has been said that the duty of forgiveness being inculcated (Matt. 11: 25, 26,) proves that the promise is a general one, and does not refer to the faith of working miracles. The objection would be valid, if it could be shown that it was not the duty of the disciples to forgive, when they prayed for the faith of miracles; but if it was the duty of the disciples to forgive when they prayed for this kind of faith, as well as at other times, then this exhortation is altogether in place; though the faith of miracles is the particular faith alluded to.
Again it has been asked, What is the faith of miracles? is it anything else than faith in God? The faith of miracles is indeed faith in God, but it is faith in God for a specific. purpose, directed to a specific end. I believe thousands of Christians now living have real faith in God—but have they the faith of miracles? can they repeat the mighty works of Christ and his apostles, or do they imagine that they can?
Faith in God generally, as it should be exercised by all Christians, is described in Heb. 11: 6; but the faith of miracles is a specific confidence, that God will enable us, for his glory, to perform a specific act, independently of the common laws of nature-an exercise of mind certainly very different from the general confidence, however strong it may be, that God is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. No one could safely venture to undertake to work a miracle without this specific belief; but it is not at all necessary for the proper discharge of the ordinary duties of a Christian life.
When the Holy Spirit really prompts Christians to ask for a specific object, for the purpose of preparing them for its reception, the exercise of mind is really the same as that which was required for the working of miracles, and is equally certain of being specifically responded to. Christians, and especially those who are highly devotional, not unfrequently are favored with such exercises; and they are often desirable. But the simple-hearted and devotional Christian
SECOND SERIES, VOL IX., NO. III.
is not to be distressed because his faith does not always partake of this specific character; nor is the boisterous and bold to lift up himself and talk saucily to God, because he imagines himself to have this kind of faith. But the question occurs, why are we required to pray at all? Surely God needs no information as to our wants or necessities, and nothing that we can say can induce him to change any of his purposes, or make him any more desirous to promote his own glory, or the best interests of his creatures, than he now is. A Persian fable may help to illustrate this point. "One day as I was in the bath (says the fable) a friend put into my hand a piece of scented clay. I took it and said to it, art thou musk or ambergris? for I am charmed with thy perfume. It answered, I was a despicable piece of clay, but I was sometime in the company of the rose-the sweet quality of my companion was communicated to me, otherwise I should be only a bit of clay as I appear to be." The same idea is illustrated by 2nd Corinthians 3: 18. We are required to pray that our souls may be brought into contact with our God and Saviour, that his sympathies and feelings may flow into our hearts and transform us into his image, that we may thus be fit to receive the blessings that he gives, and learn to value them.
God neither converts nor sanctifies us by the direct exertion of his physical omnipotence; but by shedding abroad his love in our hearts, and as it were magnetizing our souls with his own unspeakable affection.
Moreover, the very existence of God would become a matter of indifference, if not of absolute scepticism, if our blessings were not to be sought and obtained by prayer. It is when we go to God as our Father, that we feel that he exists; and the mere philosopher, who barely proves the existence of God from the works of nature, has done very little towards convincing our hearts that God is, much less that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
While Stilling was at Strasburg, he was surrounded with sceptics and atheists, who advanced many arguments that he felt himself incapable of answering; but the tempter found nothing in him. These thoughts were in his heart, "He who so obviously hears the prayers of men, and guides their destiny so wonderfully and visibly, must beyond dispute be the true God, and his doctrine the word of God. Now, I have
always adored and worshiped Jesus Christ as my God and Saviour; he has heard me in the hour of need, and wonderfully supported and succored me; consequently Jesus Christ is incontestibly the true God; his doctrine the word of God, and his religion, so as he has instituted it, the true religion."
The arguing Christian may easily be ensnared by the sophistry of infidels, but the praying Christian never.
The same principle applies also to prayer for others, and intercessory prayer has additional benefits. Whenever we pray for others, we become deeply interested in them; and we cannot long pray for them without loving them. The Christian who is in the habit of praying for his enemies, finds no difficulty in obeying the precept of Christ which requires him to love them; but the prayerless person will find even the duty of forgiveness a very hard one.
It is a glorious privilege to be workers together with God in the great work of promoting the salvation of mankind, and that none may be deprived of a participation in so precious a privilege, the most efficient instrumentality is one in which all can unite, the poorest as well as the richest, the weakest as well as the strongest; the instrumentality of prayer. The poor, deserted, unfriended widow, feeble and helpless and dependent on charity for her daily bread, can lend a helping hand to the progress of God's chariot as really as Paul or Luther.
With two reflections we close our remarks on this interesting topic.
1. What a rich privilege the Christian has in prayer! The Christian, I mean, whose walk is consistent, whose devotion is uniform, who lives by the faith of the Son of God; for nothing short of this uniformly consistent life gives one a firm hold on the promises. The Christian who lives usually as the world live, cannot, when his exigencies seem to require it, suddenly work himself up into a spirit of prayer, any more than the man whose physical energies have been weakened and his health impaired by a long course of indolence and dissipation, can suddenly become healthy and vigorous, when placed in circumstances of distress and peril. My Christian friends, if you are not now in a condition which gives you firm hold on the promises, let not this day pass without a resolute effort in the strength of Christ, to plant plant your feet on this high ground of Christian confidence, and to maintain