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PRAYER is a raising up of the heart to God in which ercise we ay our necessities before hini, to beg his grace and every other good gift; it is an act of religion, whereby we acknowledge the supreme power and dominion of God, together with our own weakness and total dependence upon bim. That the duty of prayer is indispensable, follows vidently from the consideration of his sovereign power on the one hand, and of our own weakness on the other.
With God all things are possible. His power is infinite; the heavens were formed by the word of his might-the firmament on high is his work, with all its glorious show! He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength! He removeth the mountains-he shaketh the earth out of its place, and the pillars thereof tremble! He commandeth the sun, and shutteth up the stars as under a seal! He spreadeth out the heavens: he walketh upon the waves of the sea! The noise of his thunder shall strike the earth: he shall destroy and swallow up at once! He shall lay waste the mountains and the hills, and shall make the grass to wither! Yet at his word the wind is still; and with his thought he appease th the deep! The whole world in his sight is as a grain in a balance, or as a drop of the morning dew that falleth upon the earth! He hath measured the waters in the hollow of lus hand: he hath weighed the heavens with his palm! The nations are before him as if they had no being: they are unted to him as vanity and nothing! Who. then, can stand before the face of his wrath? Who shall resist the fierceness of his anger? His indignation is poured out as fire: the rocks are melted by him! Thou art mighty, O Lord thy truth is round about thee! Thine are the heavens, and thine is the earth! The world and the fulnese thereof thou hast founded: great and wonderful are thy works, O King of Ages! Who shall not fear thee and magnify thy naine?
As to our
For our part, we are weak in every respect. present being, an unmeasurable eternity preceded it, which shall as unmeasurably extend after this being shall termi nate. Now in this immense duration, ages shall not be dis cerned much less the years of a man: how insignificant, then, are we in the extent of our life? We are composed of a body and soul; but the very sense we have of existence, involves a conviction of our weakness, inferiority and total dependence. How our body was formed, is profound secret to rs: how it is united to the soul; what the nature of that union is, hath not less in it of mystery. Our breathing itself, that essential operation of human life, is regulated rather for us, than by any inherent power of ours; for the lungs take in air and discharge it alternately, without our interposition; and independently of our mandate or control. If we are conscious of the power of motion, we must also feel that this power frequently exerts itself in direct opposition to our will; nay, that in these very movements which our will can command, the principle of motion is hidden from us; that the will which commands them is, at best, no more than the rebellious, blind, unruly servant of reason; and that reason also, the most exalted faculty of our nature, is in its turn too often impeded by the indisposition of its sluggish companion, the body. But even where the energies of reason are strongest, the widest ex tent of its sphere is most humiliating by its very narrow limits; there being infinitely more objects beyond its comprehension, than are within its reach; and the far greater part of these which it is competent to, being either quite unknown to it, or very inadequately comprehended.
As to the texture of our body, a proc igious number of its organs are so exceedingly delicate, so easily discomposed and yet so essential to our life, that it is a matter of asto hment how we subsist at all. We carry the seeds of g cline within ourselves, and we tend so unceasingly to our dissolution, that independently of disease, and the great variety of exterior accidents so fatal to us, the bare privation of food will effectually ruin the very strongest fraine, though the supply be withheld but for a few days. If we compare our bulk to the magnitude of the globe, we dwindle almost to an atom; if we extend the comparison to the sun, o many thousand times larger than our earth, we diminish
proportionably; but if we wing imagination beyond the planetary system, through the boundless expanse of the firmament, we are absolutely lost-our volume sinks into nothing.
But how weak soever we be in the order of nature, we are, beyond all comparison, weaker in the order of grace that is, with regard to the great end of our being-the ernal enjoyment of God in the next life, as the reward of fidelity to him in this. It is what the Scripture strongly aculcates:- We have nothing that we did not receive: we are not sufficient to think any thing of ourselves, as of our selves, but our sufficiency is from God.-2 Cor., iii. Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above; coming down from the Father of lights.-James, i. 17. It is Ood who worketh in us both to will and to accomplish.-Phil., ii Without me, says Christ, you can do nothing.— John, xv. Neither he that planteth is any thing, nor he that watereth, but he that giveth the increase.-1 Cor. Which, with a great number of other passages of the same import, fully evince that the only rational ground of our confidence is in the allpowerful help of God; which, therefore, with all humility and earnestness, we are bound to implore: particularly as is further manifested by his sacred word, that being surrounded by the most formidable enemies, we are unequal to a contest with them, much less to a victory; and that divine grace is manifestly annexed to our fervor in begging for it, though in no respect due to us, but a free, invaluable gift of God's most tender munificence. Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth, &c. If you ask the Father any thing in my name, he will give it to you: you have not, because you ask not. We ought always to pray, and not to faint. And as Christ assures us, that we bw not the day nor the hour; we are cautioned by him one watchful, praying at all times. The inspired writera enforce the same lesson: St. Paul will have us lift up pure hands at all times; he desires that we pray without ceasing; which he declares to be the will of God. St. Peter, St. James, St. John, speak to the same purpose. David exhorts as to call in the day of our trouble upon God, who will deliver us. Job inculcates this duty. Tobias desires his to bless God at all times. and beg of God to direct him
But this duty is not only recommended by their advice It is still strikingly urged by their practice. Christ was most assiduous in it, though we are fully convinced he needed not prayer for himself. He frequently retired in the intervals of his labor, to pass whole hours, sometimes whole nights in prayer; convincing us, by his own example, how necessary prayer is; and exciting our fervor to the frequent e of it. His most illustrious servants, both before and ince the gospel, had this recourse to him on all occasions but particularly in difficulties and trials. We see that the apostles gave themselves up continually to prayer: that when they were preparing for the descent of the Holy Ghost, they remained with one accord in it. When they were about to elect St. Mathias, or to choose the seven deacons, or to send St. Paul and Barnabas to preach, or to undertake any thing of consequence, they earnestly besought the Almighty to enlighten them, and to interpose in their behalf: so sensible were they of their own weakness, and of the consequent necessity of this important exercise. Now Burely no one can think that we ourselves are in less need of it, or that the obstacles to our salvation are fewer, or our spiritual enemies less formidable than theirs. Let us, then, hesitate no longer; our all is at stake; without prayer it is impossible to be saved; nor if we pray as we should do, is it possible to be lost-God's own promise is our security. Let not only morning and evening have their stated devo tions, but let our thoughts, words, and actions be constantly directed to God; in general, by their moral rectitude, as in particular, by devout aspirations, and a constant attention to his presence. To derive all the advantage from prayer which God has annexed to it, it should be performed in the state of grace. This condition is strongly laid down both in the Old and New Testament; for the prayer of thore who wilfully persist in mortal sin, is odious to him-he turns away from it-it is an abomination in his sight. If our conscience upbraid us with the guilt of mortal sin, prayer, however, is still necessary for us: it is indeed our only resource. But in praying for the grace of our conversion, and implor ing the mercy of God, we must forsake our evil ways, and accompany our petition with the most serious efforts at mendment. Let us pray with attention, with earnestness, with perseverance: for God likes to be importuned, and
will certainly grant to the assiduous petitioner what he will as certainly refuse to those who ask remissly. Let us, in our prayers, seek first the kingdom of God and his justice: we may also solicit him for temporal favors, provided he shall see that what we are soliciting be conducive to our salvation.
Finally, let our prayer be humble, that is, void of all presumption upon our cwn merits, and grounded solely, with unshaken confidence, upon the merits of Christ: thus shall we infallibly obtain all that is truly desirable. To pray with the greater advantage, it is of the utmost impor tance to reflect seriously every day upon some great truth of the Christian religion, and upon the actual state of our own souls, with regard to the faults we are most inclined to, or the virtues whereof we are mos. in need. Without such reflection, and review of interior, joined with an earnest recourse to the Fountain of all sanctity, to the Giver of every good gift, if it is not morauy impossible to succeed in the business of salvation, it is at least extremely difficult to effect that great object. It is, therefore, a delusion of the most dangerous kind, to persuade ourselves that mental prayer is a work of mere supererogation, requisite for those only whose particular state of life engages them in the practice of religious perfection; for to be saved is every man's concern; it is that one thing necessary, the loss of which no possible advantage can compensate; and whose attainment by the most strenuous exertions, must be deemed still very cheaply purchased. We are deeply interested in forming to ourselves a just notion of this concern, and in preferring it, in our estimation, to every other that may come in competition with it; yet without frequent and serious consideration, such practical preponderance in our esteem is not to be expected. As well may toilsome perseverance in the pursuit of glory or gain, be looked for in the apathy of the idiot, as the animated practice of the gospel, among those who do not weigh its incentives. Medi tation is not such a task as indolence is apt to insinuate. The same sort of attention which the trader gives to his commerce, the mechanic to the rules of his art, or the scholar to his improvement, will be amply sufficient for meditation; and the most simple manner of meditation is, perhaps, the very best The abject may be any pions