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with vain hopes, or lay on us an unprofitable and useless duty, so we may be also sure, that He would not have commanded us to pray for particular blessings, unless He really designed to hear our prayers; and, unless the course of the world were really so guided by Him, as that any part of its machinery might, without detriment to the rest, be altered, or delayed, at any moment, for the performance of these His solemn engagements, and the advantage of those, whom He delights to favour.

But, further, there are other ways of accounting for the admitted facts, that the same calamities, or the same blessings, do often, in this world, overtake the sinner and the righteous; and that our prayers, even when those prayers are offered for things manifestly advantageous, are often, to all appearance, allowed to return without an answer. For, first, the first of these facts may, in many instances, arise from the two-fold effect which the same outward dispensations, whether of prosperity or adversity, are known to have, according as the persons, to whom they are sent, are good, or evil. The same misfortune, which punishes the wicked, or brings him to a knowledge of the error of his ways, may show forth the faith and the patience of the virtuous man; and be, in his case, as in the case of Job, the beginning and occasion of far greater happiness afterwards.

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The same prosperity, whether of mind, or body, or estate, which enables the pious Christian to show forth more widely his good works before men, to the glory of their Heavenly Father; which empowers him to convert the sinner, to strengthen the weak, to comfort the afflicted, and to contribute to the happiness and virtue of all around him, and to augment his own future weight of reward and glory, these very same advantages, when committed to one, by whom their proper use is unknown, may be so far from blessings, even in the present life, that they may be among the greatest and most terrible judgements, which the justice of God can inflict on His most obstinate adversaries. How many cases are there before our eyes, and how many more may there be which the eyes of men cannot discover, in which the greatest seeming benefits of fortune have been thus turned to the confusion of their envied owners; in which health and strength have done nothing else, than lead their possessors into lust, or violence, or drunkenness; and into all those dreadful consequences, which follow from unbridled passion; -in which wealth and power have been changed into so many instruments of torture, whereby the proud or covetous man has made his own life, and the lives of all around him, more thoroughly and conspicuously miserable; in which learning and talent have

served to show more clearly to the affrighted conscience the hatefulness of that conduct, which its clearest dictates condemned; and of which, too well for our present repose, but too faintly for our lasting amendment, it points out the dismal consequences! Many, very many, are there, whose outward condition is the object of envy to half mankind, who would give up all their dazzling splendours, for a single night of sweet sleep, or a single day of quiet conscience; whose exaltation, above the rest of mankind, is, in truth, only a part of their chastisement; whose desires have been granted, and leanness sent withal into their souls; and who have been set in high and slippery places, that their wretchedness might be so much the more visible to others, or, at any rate, more keenly perceptible to themselves.

Secondly, But though it be true that those national calamities, which we are taught in Scripture to consider as the punishment of sin in this life, must, from their very nature, extend to all; that no visible exception is made in favour of God's servants; and that the destructive and distressing effects of a flood, a fire, a famine, or a pestilence, be not taught to spare the good amid the general havoc, and to turn aside from the dwellings of those whose doors are marked with the blood of the covenant; yet is there another way of explaining these sweep

ing inflictions; if we reflect, that, though the few, who, by comparison, are called righteous, are certainly less sinners than some of their neighbours, yet is there no man on earth who can plead his virtues as a reason that he should escape the common lot; no single saint is so holy as not himself to merit punishment, and punishment far more severe than even the bitterest of those visitations, to which, in this world, either saints or sinners are liable. To a good man, who really searches his conduct diligently, the astonishment probably will be, not that he suffers as much as his neighbours, but that neither he nor his neighbours suffer more; and he will be so far from expecting not to bear his part in the afflictions, which are accomplished in the present world, that he will never cease to glorify God, who, knowing his many sins, has not thought of a yet more exemplary and conspicuous punishment.

But, lastly, the complaint, which is so commonly urged as a discouragement to all our expectations of deliverance by God's hand from worldly afflictions, — namely, that prayer is not answered by Him; that we ask and receive not, even when we cannot be said to ask amiss; this complaint may be met by two questions, of which either the one or the other may well perplex the murmurer against Providence. First, whether our prayers have been really such as God

was likely to approve? and, secondly, whether we have been really thankful for the benefits which we have already received from Him ? Those prayers, which only God has promised to hear, are such as are made in faith, with fervour, patience, and a deep repentance. It is what we ask for, believing, and nothing wavering, that we are to expect to receive. We must cry to God with earnestness; or else He will shut His ears: - we must wait patiently on the Lord; and, like the widow in the parable, entreat our Judge day by day; or He will not avenge our cause we must purify our minds, as well as our lips, and rend our hearts by repentance, before He, who searcheth the heart will receive the offering of our lips. Compare these qualifications of prayer with the short and tame and cold and insincere devotions, which we are too apt to offer to the throne of grace; and I am greatly mistaken, if, far from complaining that our prayers are not heard, we shall not find reason to doubt whether we have ever prayed at all.

But however coldly we have prayed, or however we may have neglected prayer, we have all received protection; and all may find, if we do not shut our eyes to the truth, abundant reasons of thankfulness in the past dispensations of Providence. Have we been thus thankful? have we ever thanked God for His mercies, with the warmth and sincerity, which those mercies

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