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is dangerous, and often proves fatal. It is said of one of the primitive fathers, that the worldly felicity he most esteemed and envied was, to have conversed with our Saviour in person, and to have heard Paul preach: but there is great reason to doubt, whether a man immersed in the world could profit even by these advantages. Demas was long the companion and attendant of Paul, and yet the apostle says of him, Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world. Many of those who followed Christ, and heard his divine discourses, forsook him for the like reason: and one of his apostles, who shared with a few the inestimable privilege of his private conversation and friendship, betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver. Warned by these examples, let such as have reason to suspect that the world has been gaining upon their hearts in the by-past year, begin this with a determined resolution of subduing it, in His strength who hath overcome the world, and will enable us also to overcome it. The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word. The love of money is the root of all evil.
Let us watch against building our hopes on general truths and promises, without any evidence of our interest in them. That God is merciful, is a truth often repeated in scripture, and confirmed by the most gracious promises. Were he not so, such guilty creatures as we are could have no hope of salvation. But let us not deceive ourselves. The scriptures no where assert that God is merciful to sin continued in, but to sin repented of and forsaken. Except ye repent, says the blessed Jesus, whose lips never uttered a harsh or unmeaning word-Except ye repent, ye shall perish. If any of us then have built our hope of salvation on such a deceitful basis in the time that is past, let us do so no more; for God will not violate his covenant, nor will he shew himself merciful, to the utter exclusion of his other attributes of perfect holiness, purity, and justice. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, says our blessed Saviour, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ; but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.
Let us then watch against these, and all other delusive hopes. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. And what is the purport of this speech and knowledge, but this-that time is given us to prepare for eternity ? Prepare, then, to meet your God-prepare now, for you have no hold on hereafter-prepare to-day, for you know not what shall be on to-morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
ON THE NATURE OF ACCEPTABLE PRAYER.
JOB, XXI. 15.
And what profit should we have if we pray unto
is supposed to be a competent judge of a science which he has not studied, or of an art which he has not learned. Nothing, however, is more common, than for men to pretend to judge of religion, and of the duties which it enjoins, who are ignorant of their nature, and strangers to the joys and consolations that they impart.
In the words of our text, Job represents the profane libertines of his day as assuming the character of superior wisdom, and asking, with an air of supercilious arrogance, What profit should we have if we pray unto God?
As men of this description are, perhaps, as numerous at present as they were in the days of Job, we ought, each of us, to be ready to give a reason of the hope that is in us. We ought to examine for ourselves, and to be able to point out to others, as occasions may require, the immoveable foundations on which our faith is built. This much our religion requires of us; and every exercise of this
kind is highly conducive to our own spiritual improvement. It tends to establish us more firmly in the faith, to make us more valiant for the truth, better prepared to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, and to form just and accurate notions on subjects of vital importance and general obligation ; such as that to which the question in the text directly refers, What profit should we have if we pray unto God? In replying to this question, we shall,
I. Advert to some objections which have been urged against the duty of
prayer. II. We shall endeavour to shew the nature of acceptable prayer. And, ,
III. To point out some of the most important advantages attending it.
I. We are to advert to the objections which have been urged against the use and efficacy of prayer.-And,
1. It has been asked, Does not the omniscient God know our wants and desires much better than we do ourselves ? And if he does know them, will not his infinite wisdom and goodness prompt him to give us whatever is proper to be given, and to withhold whatever is not, whether we pray to him or not?
In answer to this objection against the utility of prayer, it is readily admitted, that our heavenly Father knows what things we stand in need of before we ask him ; but we deny that his wisdom and goodness afford us equal encouragement to hope
that he will give us what we want, whether we pray to him or not. For what is prayer ? Is it not an acknowledgement of our dependence upon God, for life, and breath, and all things ? And does not every created being depend upon its Creator every moment of its existence ? Every intelligent creature is, therefore, under the strongest possible obligations to acknowledge his dependence upon his Creator, in whatever manner he hath thought fit to appoint. If, under the pretence of reverencing him, we scruple not to disobey him ; if we will not deign to acknowledge our dependence upon God, may he not justly leave us to reap the fruit of our own folly and obstinacy? Self-sufficiency is not the property of any created being; nor can any, not even the highest created intelligence, affect to be independent on the Creator, without betraying a criminal disposition of heart. If God, then, does not think it derogatory either to his wisdom or goodness, that we should spread our wants before him, let not guilty and erring creatures presume to erect themselves as judges of what is consistent with the attributes of Him whose ways are unsearchable, and whose judgments are past finding out. But, if prayer be considered, as it certainly ought to be considered, as a constant memorial of our dependence upon God; if he has not promised to those who want that they shall receive, but to those who ask; nor to those who stand at the door of mercy, that it shall be opened unto them, but to those who knock ; then prayer, instead of being represented as intended to inform