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though imperfect and merely introductory, might have given them life.
The character of the great body of the Jewish nation, in this respect, but too closely resembles our own in the present day. Nominal Christians will still exclaim, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these. There are many who would be thought to have a mighty regard for our holy religion, who either from ignorance of what it really is, or from the enmity of their hearts to what it really requires of those who sincerely embrace it, satisfy themselves with a mere outward form of religion, and with vague declamations against infidelity, chiefly because they conceive that infidelity is connected, as it certainly is, with disaffection and disloyalty to the state. Yet these very persons who declaim against infidelity, are many of them infidels in practice. They know nothing, and care nothing, about what Christianity really is ; and the moment they are brought into contact with those who both understand and practise it, they are literally not at home; they are out of their proper element, and their mode of defending Christianity is instantly changed. Those who practise the duties of personal and family religion, and adorn it by a life and conversation becoming the gospel, are denounced as canting hypocrites; and ere we are aware, we find ourselves encompassed with enemies on every hand. Where, in such a world as this, can the Christian find rest? Where, but in God, whose favour is life, and whose loving kindness is better than life. Thou wilt keep him, O Lord, in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed upon thee ; because he trusteth in thee. Must not prayer, then, be highly advantageous, which familiarizes the mind with heavenly objects; which draws off the affections from the vanities, follies, and vices of the world, and fixes the heart upon God, the true centre of its happiness?
2. Prayer, by fixing the heart on God, prepares it for the reception of his richest blessings.
As it is in itself the highest privilege of our nature, so the benefits of it are of the highest order. As God is himself the only source of all good-of all wisdom, and of all strength—of all honour, happiness, and glory; so, whatever of these we have, or hope to enjoy, must wholly depend on his sovereign will and pleasure. It is, however, a law of the divine government, that spiritual blessings should be connected with prayer to God, and with the acknowledgment of our dependence upon him. The life of heaven is spoken of as seeing Goddwelling with him—beholding his face continually. No inhabitant of heaven is insensible to the presence of God, but holds constant intercourse with him in the exercise of dependence and gratitude, adoration and praise: and the perfection of religion on earth consists in partaking of the same benefits, and exercising the same affections. And of what immense value and infinite importance are those benefits ? All worldly blessings were but a small matter for him to bestow-were but a drop of the bucket, or the dust of the balance. He gives
freely infinite blessings—eternal life, eternal happiness, the full and everlasting enjoyment of himself —an exceeding great and eternal weight of glory. These are blessings worthy of God to give, and worthy of rational, intelligent, immortal beings, redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, to receive: and all these are communicated through the medium of prayer. To prayer, such as it was the object of our last discourse to explain, the ear of God is ever open, and every blessing is conceded which the imagination of man can conceive, and greater far than the tongue of man can express. By prayer, repentance is quickened into life, and faith puts forth its energy in laying hold on the mercy set before it : deliverance from innumerable sins, from their power as well as from their
punishment, is obtained: light is conveyed to the mind, peace to the conscience, and purity to the affections: the will is brought into subjection to the will of God, and fresh supplies of grace and strength are constantly derived from the fulness which is in Christ, to make us strong for conflict, for suffering, or for service. It is the first breath of spiritual life, the best criterion of health or sickness, vigour or debility. Every grace revives or languishes, according as prayer is cultivated or neglected. And hence the great contest between the enemy of our salvation, and our own hearts, is in reference to prayer. And to this our Saviour alludes, when he says, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. If we succeed here, if we continue instant in prayer, watching thereunto with all perseverance, the grace of God will be sufficient for us, his strength will be made perfect in our weakness, and we shall come off more than conquerors, through Him that loved us, and gave himself for us.
3. The benefit of prayer is particularly felt in the hour of affliction and distress, and in the immediate prospect of death.
On this branch of our subject it is unnecessary to enlarge, after what has been advanced in the two preceding discourses. To pain, sickness and sorrows of various kinds, all men are more or less liable: it must, therefore, be the wisdom of all, to secure those divine consolations which God, as we have seen, has connected with this important duty, or, rather, invaluable privilege. And as it is appointed for all men once to die, so nothing is more certain, than that wealth and friends and natural fortitude will not avail us in that trying moment. To groan under the burden of a weak dying body, and to feel the agonies of a wounded spirit at the same time—to spend the day in bitterness, and the night in remorse—this is wretchedness in the extreme. But to have peace with God, when the body languishes with pain; to have strong consolation and good hope, as the anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, just as it is launching forth into the ocean of eternity; this is peculiar to such as have felt and acted as those who believe, that of all the calamities that can be endured, a sense of unpardoned sin is the greatest; who have fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before them;
who have sought for glory and honour and immortality; and have continued instant in prayer, and watched thereunto with all perseverance and supplication.-“ For such to leave this world, is," as one expresses it, “ to change their place, but not their company. They conversed, and walked with God on earth, and angels attended them; and they shall dwell for ever with God and angels in heaven.”
In what has been said, we have had an eye chiefly to secret prayer. But in order to give a full and satisfactory answer to the question in the text, we shall consider man in his social, as well as his individual capacity.
Mankind are the family of one great Master. By one hand they are upheld; from one source they derive all their mercies. It is, therefore, fit and
proper that they recognize, in their collective, as well as in their individual capacity, their common dependence upon their Maker and Preserver, and present their joint acknowledgments for that common goodness in which they share. It was on this principle, a principle of what is called natural religion, a feeling deeply rooted in the human mind, that the heathen nations built temples, in which they might present public prayers and sacrifices to conciliate the favour, or avert the displeasure of the gods.—The society of Christians, the household of faith, are members of one body. They have one God, one Saviour, one faith, one baptism. By uniting together in acts of adoration and praise, their faith and hope and charity are confirmed, enlivened, invigorated.--As, under the Mosaic dis