Page images
PDF
EPUB

SERVANT

house. And now, O Lord God, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant; THEREFORE HATH THY FOUND IN HIS HEART TO PRAY THIS PRAYER BEFORE THEE." We hence are warranted to affert that it is reasonable and proper to pray for that which God has promised; and that the certainty that it will be accomplished is a motive and encouragement to pray for it. How greatly then do they err who think that if every event is made certain by God's decree, there is no reason or encouragement to pray for any thing!

Our Saviour, in the pattern of prayer which he has dictated, directs men to pray that God would bring to pass those events which were already fixed and decreed, and therefore must infallibly take place: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done,&c.

Christ himself, in the 17th chapter of john, prays for those whom the Father had given to him, that he would keep them through his own name, and that they might be one, as the Father and Son were one; might be kept from the evil in the world, and be sanctified through the truth; that they might be with him in heaven forever, and behold his glory. At the fame time he knew that all this was made certain to them; for he had before faid, that all that were given to him should come to him, and he would raise them up at the laft day; that he would give unto them eternal life, and not one of them should perish, as none should be able to pluck them out of his hands, or his Father's. He prays, “ Father, glorify thy name;" not because this event was uncertain, but to express his earnest desire of that which he knew was decreed, and could not but take place, and his willingness to give up every thing, even his own life, to promote this. Again, Chvit prays in the following words: “ And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." The event for which Christ prays in these words was decreed Tt

from tant,

from eternity, and the decree had been long before published, in the ad and 11 oth Pfalms: “I will declare the decree: The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Ak of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermoft parts of the earth for thy possession. Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” And he had declared the certainty of that for which he here prays, since his incarnation. He had said, that all power in heaven and earth was given unto him ; that “the Father had committed all judgment unto the Son; that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. St. Paul, when speaking of God, often introduces the following words: « To whom be glory forever, Amen;" which is not to be considered as a mere doxology, by which glory is ascribed to God; but it is rather a wish, or desire, that God may be glorified forever; and the Amen corroborates it: as if he had said, “Let it be fo;, this is the most ardent desire of my soul, including the sum of all my petitions.” Here then the Apostle utters a desire and petition for that which he knew was decreed, and would take place. The last words of Christ to his church

are, Surely I come quickly." Upon which promise the following petition of the church, and of every friend of his, is presented to him: “ Amen, even so come Lord Jesus.' Here is a petition, in which all Christians join, praying Christ to do what he has promised; and which therefore was as certain as a declared decree could possibly make it : and the petition is grounded on this promise and decree published by Christ, in which the petitioners express their hearty approbation of the coming of Christ, and earnest desire of this important and happy event. And if it be reasonable thus to pray for an event which is fixed and made certain by an unchangeable decree, and cannot be altered, as in the instance, before us; Then 'it is reasonable and proper to pray for any thing or any event which appears to us desirable and impor

૮૮

tant, though we know God is unchangeable, and that all things and every event are fixed by an unalterable decree.

The apostle John says, “ And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us. And if we know that he heareth us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him :" [1 John v. 14, 15.] To ask for any thing according to his will, is to ask for those things which it is agreeable to his will to grant ; and this is to be known only by what he has revealed. When we ask him to do what he has declared he will do, then we know we ask for that which is according to his will ; and confequently, that we have our peti tions. But it will be asked, What are these things? I answer, That God will glorify himself in all things, and make the brightest display of his perfections and character forever ; that he will promote and effect the greatest poflible good of the universe ; that he will make his church and kingdom perfectly happy and glorious forever ; that he will accomplish all his designs and predictions, and fulfil all his promises to his church and people; and cause all things to work for the good of those who love him ; and give his Holy Spirit to all who ask him. These, I think, must be the things we ask, when we know that we pray for any thing according to the will of God, and consequently know that he heareth us, and that we have the petitions that we desired of him. But in all these instances we ask for that which God has faid he will do, that is, has decreed that he will do them. And as it has been said before, if a decree in these instances does not render it unreasonable or improper to pray for their accomplishment; then, if God has decreed whatsoever comes to pass, this is not in the least inconsistent with our praying for whatever appears to us desirable and good, and may not be contrary to the will of God to grant. But here it must be observa ed, that when we ask for any particular things or events which, though it may not be contrary to the will of

God

[ocr errors]

God to grant, yet he has in no way revealed that it is his will to grant our petitions ; when we ask for any such thing, we must do it with an express or implicit reserve-If it be according to the will of God. Otherwise, or if it be not according to his will, we must withdraw our petition, and not desire to have it granted. Refignation to the will of God, whatever it may be, in all such instances, is eflential to the pious petitions of benevolent friend of God. And by thus referring to the will of God, and refigning to that, desiring it may be done in all cases, whatever petitions we may make, we do refer to the decrees of God, by which he has determined what he will do in every particular instance; for his will and his decrees are in this cafe one and the fame, being fixed and unchangeable.

Fourtbly. It is not only proper and important that the worshippers of God thould express their desires of those things which they want, in praying for them ; but were this not true, and were not asking for them the means and way of obtaining them ; yet the pious friends of God would esteem it a privilege and enjoyment to be allowed and invited, “by prayer and fupplication, with thanksgiving, to make known their requests unto him.” To them prayer is not a task, from which they would be glad to be excused, but they practise it with pleafure. They have great support, enjoyment and happiness in casting their cares upon God, and expressing the desires of their hearts to him. While others restrain prayer before God, and fay, What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have if we pray unto hiin?" the benevolent friend of God would pray, were it only for the enjoyment which he has in the exercise ; and says in his heart, “I will call upon God as long as I live.” And though he is certain that God is un, changeable, and that nothing is done, or will come to pass, which is not foreordained by him, this does not tend to prevent or in the least abate the pleasure and enjoyment he has in making known his requests to God,

or

or his desire constantly to practise it : but this truth gives him support and confolation, and increases his delight in calling upon God, and renders it more defirable and pleasant unto him: yea, were not this a truth, he could not find any reason for making his requests known to him, or any delight in doing it; and would not have any encouragement, or even dare, to ask for any thing, as has been observed and shewn.

And now this matter is to be left to the judgment of every one who will attend to it. It is hoped that it ap. pears evident, beyond all dispute, from the light in which this subject has been now fet, that the doctrine of God's decreeing whatsoever comes to pass is not only consistent with all the exercises of true piety, but is the proper foundation for this, and is suited to excite and

promote these exercifes ; and that there can be no real piety which is not consistent with this truth.

IMPROVEMENT OF THE SUBJECT. 1. It appears from what has been said on this 'subject, that they who are in their hearts opposed to this doctrine of the decrees of God, are strangers to true piety, and do not fear before God. Though they may have exercises which they call and think to be piety and real religion, and it may have an appearance of it to others; yet it has nothing of the real nature of true piety, but is enmity and opposition to the true God. They may think they love God, and are speaking for him, and to his honour, and in favour of religion, while they are ftrenuously opposing this doctrine, as dishonourable to God, and destructive to all virtue and true religion : but they are deceived, and are really opposing and difhonouring the true God, and denying and renouncing that truth which is the only foundation of true piety.

This will, without doubt, be thought very uncharitable by many, as it condemns a great part of profeffing Christians, as destitute of true piety, and not real Christians. But is it the office of charity to give up the

truth

« PreviousContinue »