« PreviousContinue »
him his disciples, and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles.” From this statement I infer, that the night, passed by our Lord in prayer, was preparatory to the office which he was about to execute. And surely an important office it was; important to him ; important to his religion ; important to the whole world. Vor let it be said, that our Lord, after all, in one instance at least, was unfortunate in his choice. Of the twelve one was a traitor. That choice was not error.
A remarkable prophecy was to be fulfilled, and other
purposes were to be answered, of which we cannot now speak particularly. “I know,” says our Lord, " whom I have chosen.” But let us confine ourselves to our observation. It was a momentous choice: it was a decision of great consequence; and it was accordingly, on our Lord's part, preceded by prayer; not only so, but by a night spent in prayer.
“ He continued all night in prayer to God;” or, if you would rather so render it, in a house, set apart for prayer to God. Here, therefore, we have an example given us, which we both can imitate, and ought to imitate. Nothing of singular importance-nothing of extraordinary moment, either to ourselves or others, ought to be resolved upon, or undertaken, without prayer to God—without previous devotion. It is a natural operation of piety to carry the mind to God, whenever any thing presses and weighs upon it. They, who feel not this tendency, have reason to accuse and suspect themselves of want of piety. Moreover, we have for it the direct example of our Lord himself. I believe also, I may add, that we have the example and practice of good men, in all ages of the world.
Again ; we find our Lord resorting to prayer in his
last extremity; and with an earnestness, I had almost said, a vehemence of devotion, proportioned to the occasion. The terms in which the evangelists describe our Lord's devotion in the garden of Gethsemane, the evening preceding his death, are the strongest terms that could be used. As soon as he came to the place, he bid his disciples pray,
When he was at the place, he said unto them, “ Pray that ye enter not into temptation.” This did not content him : this was not enough for the state and sufferings of his mind. He parted even from them. He withdrew about a stone's cast, and kneeled down. Hear how his struggle in prayer
is described. Three times he came to his disciples, and returned again to prayer; thrice he kneeled down, at a distance from them, repeating the same words. Being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly: drops of sweat fell from his body, as if it had been great drops of blood; yet in all this, throughout the whole scene, the constant conclusion of his prayer was, will, but thine be done.” It was the greatest occasion that ever was: and the earnestness of our Lord's prayer, the devotion of his soul, corresponded with it. Scenes of deep distress await us all. It is in vain to expect to pass through the world without falling into them. We have, in our Lord's example, a model for our behaviour, in the most severe and most trying of these occasions. Afflicted, yet resigned; grieved and wounded, yet submissive; not insensible of our sufferings, but increasing the ardour and fervency of our prayer in proportion to the pain and acuteness of our feelings !
But whatever may be the fortune of our lives, one great extremity, at least, the hour of approaching death, is certainly to be passed through. What ought then
" Not my
to occupy us? what can then support us? Prayer. Prayer, with our blessed Lord himself, was a refuge from the storm ; almost every word he uttered, during that tremendous scene, was prayer: prayer the most earnest, the most urgent; repeated, continued, proceeding from the recesses of his soul; private, solitary : prayer for deliverance; prayer for strength; above every thing, prayer for resignation.
THE STIRRING OF CONSCIENCE.
EPHESIANS II. 1.
And you hath he quichened who were dead in tres
passes and sins.
The quickening or stirring of conscience within us, is sometimes the first sign of a renewed and regenerated soul. There have been disputes concerning this principle of conscience, its origin, nature, extent; but all sides agree in one thing, namely, that it may be dead for a time in the human breast without any energy or activity whatsoever.
The causes of this torpor and deadness, or rather the circumstances under which it is found, have been often assigned. In many cases, I am afraid, it takes place so early in life, that the person can hardly be said to have ever known what the remonstrances and admonitions of conscience were. His conscience may be said to be dead-born. He remembers not the time when he found any check concerning any action which he set himself to do. If there was any pleasure or gratification in view; if there was any thing to be got by the action; that was all he considered about it: its being right and its being wrong formed no part of his deliberation, nor was he put upon asking this question by any thing which he felt within him. This state of complete depravity is the effect of a totally neglected education, and of being at the same time thrown, when very young, amongst profligate examples.
Neither of these causes is sufficient to produce the effect by itself; but both causes, acting in conjunction, may produce it. If good
If good principles have been early instilled by means of a virtuous, or any thing like a virtuous education, there will be some conscience left, there will be a conscience perceived, let the person so brought up fall into what society or amongst what examples he may. His conscience may not carry him safe through these dangers, may not have preserved him from vice and wickedness (that is a different question); but a conscience will be there, will be felt.
Again : Let the education, that is, any precise and particular instruction, have been ever so much or so culpably neglected, yet let even that rude uninstructed mind come amongst examples of goodness, or even keep clear of dissolute and profligate examples, and conscience will be hears!. Examples themselves are education ; good and virtuous examples the best of all education ; even innocent and harmless society will produce (or, however, suffer) the natural growth and production of conscience in minds the most ignorant. But when a mind, perfectly ignorant, uninstructed, and uneducated, falls at first into debauched and profligate society, then it is possible that conscience may never spring up-its influence over the heart may never have a commencement. This cruel case can never happen but in the instance of parents who are wicked themselves, and undesignedly perhaps, but very effectually, communicate their wickedness betimes to their children; or in the instance of children deprived from the beginning of a parent's care, and not only so, but from the beginning also thrown into bad hands, and into