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And O how exactly doth the word here used set forth the condition of a weak believer!
How many are those infirmities and weaknesses, those loads and weights of sin and affliction, under which the poor believer very often feels himself ready to sink, and from which he finds himself no way able to deliver himself! Now comes the Holy Ghost in the time of greatest need, and puts under the poor sinking believer the shoulder of his own omnipotence, and bears him up so that he despairs not. And not only so, but he leads the poor thirsting needy soul to the never-failing and inexhaustible storehouse of the promises of God's everlasting covenant of grace; directing the believer's thoughts to those promises which best suit his present condition, quickening the believer inwardly, and teaching him how to improve and plead those promises in prayer, in the name of Christ, in whom all those promises are Yea, and Amen. 2 Cor. i. 20.
O, happy and for ever blessed souls, who are always accompanied with such a teacher, with such a comforter! How contemptible in their eyes are all the painted forms of prayer prepared by men for those who have not the spirit of Christ!
Fourthly, Time was when thou hadst no good motion at all in thee. So witnesseth the spirit of God by Paul, Rom. vi. 20.“ For when ye were the servants of sin ye were free from righteousness. That is, ye were altogether destitute of
any saving grace, and were not at all subject to the law of righteousness, but were bond-slaves to sin and satan.
But now, since the work of regeneration hath passed on thee, behold there is a twofold nature striving for headship and mastery in thee; and these two differing natures in thee is an invincible argument that thou hast saving grace in thee, as well as corrupt nature. “ For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh,” Gal. v. 17.
Object. 2. I have prayed much and often, but God hears me not, &c.
Answ. In three particulars.
First, There may be some corruption or other which is secretly indulged; and while it is so do not wonder that God hides his face from thee. Isa. lix. 1, 2;
56 Behold the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither is his ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your
sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me," Psal. Ixvi. 18.
Secondly, God gives a deaf ear to thy prayers to stir up that little grace in thee, and to make thee cry louder to God. « The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord; but the prayer of the upright is his delight." A nurse or tender mother many times withdraws and hides herself from the child she dearly loves, to make
the child the more fond of the nurse, or mother. “ In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer," Isa. liv. 8.
Thirdly, God may deny thee comfort for a long time, and yet give thee strength in the inward man to wait on God in the way of duty, and dependance; the which if God give thee it is a far greater blessing and mercy to thee than if he should give thee the comfort thou fain wouldst have: for in waiting on God, by faith and patience, thou dost glorify God, and wilt be sure to , speed well for thyself in the end. “ But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint,” Isa. xl. 31.
“Who is there among you that feareth the Lord, and obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay himself upon his God,” Isa. 1. 10. Thus to wait on God in prayer, resting on his promise, even when clouds and darkness seem to be round about him, is a sure and convincing argument that thou art a child of promise. “Who against hope believed in hope,” &c. “ He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” " Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed
if we believe on him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,” Rom. iv.
Object. 3. I am afraid my prayer is but hypocrisy.
Answ. In two particulars.
First, Dost thou pray out of an ill design? First, To carry on a trade of sinning the better? Secondly, To be esteemed religious and holy? Thirdly, In hopes to merit salvation by it?
If these things be thy motive to prayer, thou mayest justly suspect thyself; if otherwise, happy art thou. “ And therefore will the Lord wait that he may be gracious unto you,
and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy on you; for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him,” Isai. xxx. 18.
Secondly, Thy fearing that thy praying is but hypocrisy is an evidence that thy heart is upright with God; for none are less concerned in suspecting or fearing the unsoundness of their hearts than the grossest hypocrites. “ Happy is he that feareth alway; but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.” It is the property of uprightness in heart to be attended often with fears and jealousies, that all is not right within.
Object. 4. I am so distressed and distracted with roving thoughts in prayer, especially atheistical and blasphemous thoughts against God, the holy scriptures, and all that is sacred, that my very flesh even sweats and trembles to think of it: surely the praying which is mixed with such
thoughts can be no other than abominable to God.
Answ. In three things.
First, Thy case and condition, I am sensible by experience, are very bitter and afflictive, on account of those hideous and blasphemous thoughts. But for thy comfort know, Secondly, That such thoughts as are so disturbing and distracting to thee are from the devil, and the remains of the old Adam's nature; and to their account such thoughts will be charged by God, but not to thine.
Under the law, no sin worthy of death was to be found in the virgin, in case she cried out for help, Deut. xxii. 27. So the soul that is betrothed to the man Christ Jesus, God's own Son, when satan, the grand enemy of God and his salvation, makes a forcible entry upon him by his infernal temptations; be they blasphemy, or whatever else he has to complain of; may rest assured that God will never charge that blasphemy upon him, but upon the devil, his and God's enemy.
Take this for a sure and an infallible rule in divinity, viz. That that sin, be it what it may, which is thy burden, and which thou dost abhor and loath, shall never hinder thy being accepted of God, or thy going to heaven when thou diest.
Thirdly, That principle within thee which hates and resists those horrid and vile thoughts that crowd in upon thee, be they either darted or injected into