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name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost :" or into the belief and profession of, and obedience to, the doctrine taught by Jesus Christ, with the authority of God the Father, and confirmed to be divine, by miraculous works, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. So also Rom. vi. 3,
3 “ Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death ?” that is, they who were baptized into the belief and profession of Christ, and his doctrine, were also, and particularly baptized into the belief of his death, and a profession of an obligation to be conformed to him in sufferings, if need be; and to die to sin, and live to righteousness. And 1 Cor. x. 2, the apostle argues, that the Jewish people were baptized into Moses, in the cloud, and in the sea :" that is, were initiated into an obligation to obey the laws and commandments delivered by him, and to be his disciples.
II. Having now seen in general what it is to do any thing in any one's name, I proceed to show distinctly what it is to ask, or pray for, any thing in the name of Christ. And I apprehend that it may be comprised in the three following particulars.
1. In praying in the name of Christ it is supposed, that the persons who offer those prayers believe in Jesus Christ, and are his disciples, and do sincerely strive and endeavour to act and behave as such.
2. To pray in the name of Christ is to offer prayers to God according to his directions, and in a manner suited to his doctrine or institution,
3. Herein may be also included, that oftentimes we should present our addresses to God, through or by him, as our great high priest, and intercessor with God.
1. In praying in the name of Christ it is supposed, that they who offer prayers believe in Jesus Christ, and are his disciples, and sincerely endeavour to act as such.
It seems that this is necessarily implied, and presupposed For who should think to pray in the name of Christ, who does not believe in bim, and profess to do so ? Who should go to God in the name of Christ, who does not believe him to be a teacher come from God?
It seems to be implied also, as before hinted, that they do strive and endeavour to behave as disciples of Jesus. For the doctrine of Christ being very practical, he who neglects the rules of life delivered by him, is not a christian. He is so in name, but not in deed. And as there are many strict and comprehensive rules of duty enjoined by Christ, so his principles concerning the spiritual nature of God, the great
love of God to us, and the promises of future happiness, all tend to secure and promote holiness of life.
We are led to this observation by the coherence, that is, by some things said by our Lord, in all the places where he speaks of praying in his name, as well as by general considerations, taken from the divine perfection in wisdom and holiness,
So in what follows soon after the text. 6 At that time ye shall ask in my name. And I say not, that I shall pray ibe Father for you.” • This I need not say, though I shall • certainly do it.' • For the Father bimself loveth you, because ye bave loved me, and bave believed that I came out from God.” • A sincere faith in me, and an open pro• fession of my name, without worldly views, from a con• viction of truth, are in themselves very acceptable to God. * And he will approve of you, and bless you, though I were
, • not particularly to interest myself in your favour.'
John xiv. 14, 15, “ If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Ch. xv. 16, 17," - I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go, and bring forth fruit- -that whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another." All which, I think, clearly shows, that together with praying in his name our Lord enjoined, " keeping bis command- . ments,” particularly his commandment of mutual love, and the bearing fruit. And without this he does not assure that their prayers would be answered. And what is said in these texts just cited, is agreeable to 1 John iii. 22, 23, “ And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do the things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, [herein the whole will of God is summed up) that we believe on bis Son Jesus Christ, and love one another.”
And it is a certain maxim, that “ God heareth not sinners. But if any man be a worshipper of God, and does his will, him he heareth," John ix. 31.
This is not said to discourage any. For when sinful men repent, and forsake the evil of their ways, and their doings, they will find favour with God. But when men profess to repent, they should " bring forth fruits meet for repentance," and continue to walk in all God's ordinances, without returning to folly.
2. To pray in the name of Christ is to pray according to his directions, and agreeably to the nature of his institution of religion.
Good men must ask for good things in a right manner. And they who are good and wise are likely to ask for good things. And they will usually perform acts of worship in a right and acceptable manner.
Here I shall mention several particulars taken from our Lord's observations and directions concerning prayer in divers places.
Only premising this; that as for the matter of prayer, we may certainly ask for all good things, both temporal and spiritual, for ourselves and others, for all good men, for the world in general, for those who are in error and ignorance, that they may be enlightened with the knowledge of the truth, and may be saved, and for all who are in authority
We not only may, but we ought to pray to God for our own welfare, and for the welfare of others. We may pray for direction in our affairs, especially in thing's of great moment. So our Lord, before he completed the pumber of his twelve apostles, “ continued a whole night in prayer to God,” Luke vi. 12. We may pray to be preserved from evil, and for wisdom and strength, equal to the difficulties we are exercised with. We may pray for those who have done good unto us, that they may be rewarded by bim who is the only infallible judge of right and wrong. We may pray for those who have injured us, that they may obtain repentance, and be saved. We may pray for our friends and relatives, that they may have all things necessary and conducive to their welfare here and hereafter.
I now proceed to mention distinctly our Lord's directions concerning prayer.
1.) Christians ought to ask for the good things of this Jife, and for deliverance from the evils of it, with moderation of affection and desire, and with submission to the will of God.
This is peculiarly suited to the Christian institution, by which the things of another world have been set in a very clear light. It does not become a christian ardently to desire the great things of this world, but rather to be contented with daily bread, food and raiment, such things as are convenient in the condition and station of life allotted to him. Matt. vi. 33, “ But seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and its righteousness, and all things shall be added unto you.” The good things of this life we are to desire, so far as may be needful ; not to spend upon our lusts, in riot and excess, but to be employed in a sober use, for the support of nature, and fitting us for the service of God, and to give to others, as their need may require.
We are also to desire deliverance from evil, with submission to the will of God, as our Lord did, saying: “ If it be possible, let this cup pass from us. Not our will
, but thine be done.” So, as disciples of Jesus, we ought to pray in such cases, because we know, that God is able to overrule all these things for our good. And that if he do not see fit to prevent the evils we fear from befalling us, he can uphold us, and enable us to bear them with patience, and for his glory.
2.) Another direction of Christ concerning prayer is, that we pray, filled with love to one another, and to all men in
Mark xi. 25, 26, “ And, when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you. For if you do not forgive, , neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.' To the like purpose, Matt, vi. 14, 15.
Matt. v. 44, “ But I say unto you: Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray
for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you.' All this they are prepared for, and are able to perform, who, as before shown, believe in Jesus, and endeavour to act as his disciples.
A christian, in his prayers, ought to be filled with good will to all men, and to desire the same things for others, which he asks for himself. And they who unite together in prayer, ought mutually to desire each other's welfare and prosperity, spiritual and temporal. This may be what our Lord intends, when he says: “ Again, I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth, as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them," Matt. xviii. 19, 20.
3.) Another direction of Christ to his disciples, is, that they should pray with humility.
Luke xviii. 9—14, Our Lord “ spake this parable unto certain, which trusted in themselves, and despised others. Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a pharisee and the other a publican. The pharisee stood and prayed thus with bimself: God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are. And the publican, standing afar off,
would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven; but smote upon his breast, saying: God be merciful to me a sinner. 'I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For every one that exalteth
himself, shall be abased. And he that humbleth bimself, shall be exalted.”
In the application of another parable, our Lord says to · his disciples : “ So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say; We are unprofitable servants. We have done that which was our duty to do,” Luke xvii. 10.
Christ taught his disciples, daily to ask forgiveness of sins. A true disciple of Jesus will confess his sins and failings, and own the defects of his service and obedience; still believing, that God is very good, and that his rewards will exceed the merit of our services.
4.) Another direction of our Lord is, that we pray in faith, with a firm persuasion of God's goodness, and of his readiness to hear and answer, and give the good things we ask for, and stand in need of.
Matt. viii. 9–11, “ Ask, and it shall be given you. Seek, and ye shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asks, receives : and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone ? Or, if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent ? If ye then being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him ?” And to the like purpose exactly in Luke xi. 9—13.
And it is the doctrine of the text. “ And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily I say unto you: whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto
have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."
One reason of this is, that they who pray in Christ's name, or according to his directions, ask for nothing but what is lawful and good, with a view to the glory of God, and with resignation to his will, if they are temporal things. Therefore their prayers are heard, and their petitions are granted. They either receive the good things they ask; or have what is better, strength to practise self-denial and patience, and thereby to glorify God.
However, certainly, it is the design of our Lord, to encourage his disciples to go to God, with a lively persuasion of his goodness. He requires that they should live in this world without anxiety, and depend upon the divine bounty for needful supplies; and not seek them with an importunity which implies a supposition that God would not grant with