« PreviousContinue »
Sweets of Life would soon grow fat, insipid, and nauseous; were it not for a mixture of Sharp and Bitter, that quicken, and raise the Taste of them to us. This Observation, applied to the Benefits we ask at God's Hands, shews his Delays in granting, to be for our Advantage. Because, the longer we need them, the more sensible we are that we need them; and the more comfort we take in them, when we have them. Nor is this all; But even our Expectations are placed to Account; provided we behave our selves in them as we ought. For he hath condescended
Prov. xix. 170 to call himself the Good-Man's Debtor : And he is the only Debtor, who loves to be perpetually called upon for Payment; who rewards Importunity with larger Intereit. And this is our Case, that we do not only relish what he gives the better for staying, but the longer we wait, the more bountifully he gives at last.
What other Reasons foever have usually been, or may be alledged on this Occasion, will, if I mistake not, be easily reducible to These Two. And therefore I only add a few Cautions, necessary to be taken along with us, and so Conclude.
Now First, When I affirm the Delays we have been considering, to tend to our Good, I desire it may be understood of our Spiritual Good: The Advancement of our Virtue here, and the Addition to our Reward hereafter. Which are indeed so properly the Good of a Man, and of a Christian, that nothing else deserves that Title, excepting so far forth, as it is some way Subservient to, and helps to promote, these great Ends.
Secondly, The requiring this Importunity in Prayer must not be so interpreted, as if God could take any delight in it, for its own fake, but he values it for the Effects it produces in Us. He is not like those haughty Eastern Monarchs, who take a Pride to see
a number of poor depending Creatures lye proftrate at their Foot. He is not to be conquered by many, or cajoled by fair Words: But he will have us Pray, and persevere in it, purely for our own Benefit. He hath inade it a Condition of obtaining our Requests, because it will certainly bring our Minds to such a frame, as Religion is designed to make them of. For Prayer hath a vast Influence upon the Dispositions and' Actions of Men. We cannot be frequent and serious in it, without becoming better. And we cannot leave it off, or grow cold or formal in it, without degenerating and growing worse, in the general Course of our Lives. Nor is it any Change, which our Prayers make in God, but the Change they make in our selves, which is the Cause of our Success. For he is unchangeably determined to grant, or not to grant, according as Men do, or do not, perform the Conditions he hath fixed for granting. All therefore depends upon Our Qualifications, and Fitness to receive that, which he is always ready to give, when we are duly qualified. And nothing hath so direct a tendency to render us proper Objects of his Mercy, (that is, truly good Men) as frequent and fervent Prayer.
Lastly, It is necessary we consider the true Use and End of such Prayer. It is to beg of God, that he will do for us, that which we cannot do for our selves; but then this supposes, that we should do all that we can for our felves, and depend upon Him for the rest. A Man, who, for the purpose, asks of God his daily Bread, without using his own Industry to get it, by such lawful Methods, as Providence hath put into his Hands ; does not make the right use of Prayer. And He, that begs not to be led into Temptation, without watching and striving, and shunning the occasions of Sin ; does not so properly worship God, as mock him. Let Us do Our
parts, and then we are fit to ask, that God would, and may be very confident that he will, do His.
But, since our own Endeavours are made a Condition of Success in this Affair, to ask new Graces, without improving those we have already, is vain and impious. We acknowledge indeed, in the Collect for this Day, that we are not able of our selves to help or keep our selves : but this is no ground for our presu. ming, that God will help or keep Them, who take no care at all to do what they are enabled, though They are not able to do the whole, that is neceffary for this purpose. For He that made us without our concurrence, will not save us without it. And we must work out our own Salvation with fear and trembling, if we would be heard in those Prayers, which entreat Him to work in us both to will, and to do of bis good pleasure.
The Third Sunday in Lent.
stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence against all our Enemies, through Jesus Chrift our Lord. Amen.
The E PIST L E.
Ephes. v. I.
1. Since then God E ye sberefore followers of God, es dear Cbildren,
hath been so good to
you (See Chap. iv. 32.) conlider your relation to, and let that provoke you to a resemblance of, Him. 2. And walk in love, as Christ also barb loved
and 2. Let your Love too bath given bimself for us, an offering, and a Sacrifice to be like that of Christ's God for a sweet smelling favour.
to us, who was content
to become a Sacrifice, by which God was atoned for our faults.
3. But for unclean 3. But fornication and uncleanness, or covetou sness, and inordinate Lufts, be let it not be once named among you, as becometb so far from practising, Saints; as to abhor the very mention of them, for 1o, as Chriftians, you ought to do.
4. The like Caution 4. Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jeftyou should use with re- ing, wbicb are not convenient ; but ratber giving of gard to fcurrilous and tbanks. obscene talk, a thing by no means agreeable to your Character. But let your Mirth be express'd in Thankfgiving, or (as St. Jerome) in graceful and becoming Discourse.
5. For this ye know, ibat no wboremonger, nor unclear person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, barb any inberitance in obe Kingdom of Cbrift and of God,
6. Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things comerb ibe wrath of God upon tbe
children of disobedience. 7. Do not therefore
7 Be not ye iberefore partakers with them. share in the guilt of such Men, by giving them any Approbation or Countenance, much less by committing the fame Sins.
8. For, consider, how 8. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light your Circumstances are in tbe Lord; walk as children of light. changed from a State of Ignorance, to one of clear Knowledge, in Jesus and his Gospel; and let your Practice be such as becomes this Knowledge.
9. (For all manner 9. ( For the fruit of the spirit is in all goodness, and of Goodness, &c. are righteousness, and truib, ) the Effects, which the Grace of the Holy Spirit is expected to produce in your Minds and Conversations.)
10. Thus it is, that 10. Proving wbat is acceptable unto the Lord, you must study and shew your knowledge and good liking of, that which our Lord hath declared he likes.
11. And have nothing 11. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works to do with the Wick- of darkness, but rather reprove them, edness of the ignorant Heathen, but use all fitting means of putting it to shame.
12. For indeed the 12. For it is a same even to speak of those tbings wbicb very Mysteries of their are done of them in secret. Religion are so vile, as not to be told without offence to modeft Ears.
13. But the Light of 13. But all things that are reproved are made manifeft the Gospel discovers and by the ligbt, for whatsoever doth make manifeft is light. exposes them; for this is the nature and business of Light, to detect the things which Darkness would conceal.
14. Wherefore be saith, Awake thou that seepft, and 14. So that to this arise from obe dead, and Christ shall give tbee ligbi. good Effect may not un
fitly be applied those Passages of the Prophet (Ifai. xxvi. 19. lx. 1.) which describe the Coming and Kingdom of Christ, as means of raising Men from Death, rouzing them from Sleep, and bringing them out of a thick Night of Error, and Ignorance, and Vice, into the bright Shine of Knowledge and Virtue.
Cb. iv. 31, 32..
HE Chapter next before had concluded with an
Exhortation to Meekness, and Charity, and Pardon of Injuries; enforced with a Motive, taken from the Remembrance of God's
* Gospel for 22d Goodness in forgiving us. This Argu- Sunday after Tri
nity. ment will offer itself to our Consideration * hereafter. The Obligation we lie under to imitate such Goodness, is, in the beginning of this Chapter, farther urged, from the Relation, which already is, and consequently, the Resemblance there ought to be, between God and Us, considered in the Capacity of Father and Children. The force of that Consideration hath been formerly treated of. To Another, which backs it here, I shall speak Epif. for: Sunday very briefly, and then proceed to some other Particulars, intended to make the principal Subject of my prefent Discourse.
Not content then with the single Example of God the Father's Love in forgiving, the Apostle proposes for our Pattern, that also of God the Son, in offering himself a Sacrifice, thereby to purchase this Forgiveness for us. And what were We, that so mnarvellous an Instance of Kindness and Condescension should be exhibited in our Favour? And what was He, that He should vouchsafe that Favour? We Creatures, Sinners, Enemies, Rebels; He our Creator, our Lawgiver, our Benefactor, our Lord. We consequently had all the Unworthiness, He all the Provocation, that habitual Disobedience, and Ingratitude, and Ob