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disproportioned their Strength was to so difficult a Task. And therefore it was necessary, before he concluded that excellent Discourse of Christian Duties, to put them in a way how they might be enabled to perform them; and that was by directing them to the Exercise of Prayer, that Key which opens up all the Treasures of Grace, whereby they might be enabled to yield a suitable Obedience to the many excellent Precepts he had given them. And herein especially consists the Advantage of the Christian Morals, beyond the Morals of the Heathen. They had all the great Talks of Duty to undergo, only by their own Strength, Care, and Endeavours, which was a very discouraging, comfortless Business; but we Christians are taught where there is supply enough of Grace to be had ; and that it is in the Hands of a gracious, merciful' Father, who, by virtue of the Mediation of his Son Jesus Christ, will grant it to us upon our diligent and fervent asking for it by prayer.
This is the great Secret, how Christians may come to be Men of much better Lives than any of the Heathen were. It is not that they are naturally of better Parts, or more industrious; but that they are aflisted in an extraordinary Manner, by the Spirit of God, with all Grace necessary to enable them to do what he requires of them; and not only to do it, but to do it with abundance of Pleasure and Satisfaction. So much for the Occasion of this Discourse of Prayer.
2. I go on next to the Duty it self, where I am to consider the Nature and Exercises of the Duty of Prayer. As to the Nature of it,
it is an intent Application of the Mind to God; and comprehends the whole Commerce which our Souls have with him; whether to pay our Homage and Adorations to him ; or to thank him for all his Mercies and Favours; or to address to him for any Mercies and Favours to our selves or others. But that Part of it, which is chiefly aimed at in this Place, is the begging of Grace, whereby we may be enabled and affifted to discharge the great Duties which he requires
Now to speak of Prayer with this View, we are to consider these Two Things.
1. The Necessity of Grace, to enable us to do our Duty.
2. The Fitness of Prayer towards the obtain ing of Grace.
1. As to the First, The Neceflity of the Grace of God, to enable us to do our Duty: This Necessity rises partly from the great Cors ruption of our Natures, which are now exceedingly unfitted and indisposed of themselves to do any Good; and partly from the Excellency of the Duties, which do very much surpass our Strength, in this State of corrupt Nature, and require the divine Aid and Assistance, to put us in a right Frame and Disposition for them. When I speak of the Corruption of our Natures, I mean, not only their original Corruption, which in this degenerate State we bring into the World with us; but the actual Corruption, which by so many repeated Acts of Sin, and evil Habits consequent thereon, does very much encrease the original One, so that we are now become sevenfold more the Children of Satan than we were before. It is impossible to tell you, besides the
Guilt of Sin, what an Incapacity and Impotency as to the favoury Sense and Understanding of all Good, and what an Aversion from it, this has brought into our Natures, that it requires a great Effort of divine Assistance to make us apprehend and relish, and put in Practice, those noble Duties which are enjoined us. For remedy whereof, there is a sweet and powerful Operation of the Holy Spirit, which excites our own Endeavours, and co-operates with them in the Use of the proper Means, and qualifies and enables us to do our Duty. I say in the Use of proper Means; for tho', no doubt, God can work Miracles in Grace, as well as in Nature, yet it is much more probable that he rarely works in either by the Way of Miracle ; at least he does not encourage us to expect that Way of Working, but ties us up to the Use of Means, and in the Use of them, and not otherwise, allows us to expect his divine Aid and Assistance. But that I may not digress from the Subject we have in Hand, I shall not now consider any other Means of Grace, but only Prayer ; and therefore proceed,
2. To thew the Fitness of Prayer towards the obtaining of Grace. If we consider either where Grace is to be had; or what are the right Difpositions for alking and receiving it ; or what is the Nature of God, and his Love toward poor Sinners ; on all these Accounts, we shall find Prayer a most proper Means for obtaining this great Gift of Grace, or the holy Spirit, whereby we may be enabled to do God's Will.
(1.) First, If we consider where Grace is to be had ; it is a Treasure in the Hands of God himself . It is not like Silver or Gold, to be
dug with hard Labour out of the Bowels of the Earth. If
ask all the Creatures, they will all tell you, it is not in me. Now if it be only in the Hands of God, what so proper Way have we to come at it, as by addressing to him for it, through the Mediation and Interceffion of Jesus Christ?
Ye will say perhaps, why might not God give us at once a sufficient Stock of Grace, enough to enable us to stand upon our own Legs, and to trade upon our own Account, that we may not have Occasion to trouble him continually with new Prayers for what we need ? It is natural enough for foolish Men to argue at this rate. But if we consider our own Unfitness to manage such a Stock, tho’ it were put into our Hands; or God's delight in the frequency of our Addresses; or the continual Benefits derived to us, by this our continual waiting on God in Prayer, we shall be of another Opinion. As to our Unfitness, we are like young Children that cannot go alone without Help ; or at best, like foolish young Men, easily seduced with idle Company, if we had not both the Authority and good Counsel of a wise Father to keep us right. With all our Stock of Grace, we should quickly prove like the Prodigal in the Parable ; if we had our Portion put into our own Hands, it would not be long before we squandered it away, and left our Father's House, and reduced our selves to the greatest Degree of Want and Misery. It is therefore much better Conduct, that this precious Gift of Grace be in our Father's Keeping; and that he dispense it to us, as we have Occasion, and that in order thereto,
we make frequent Applications to him. For we are much mistaken if we think the frequency of our Addresses to God is any way troublesome or displeasing to him. It is so far from it, that the most loving Father or Mother upon Earth is not so well pleased with the Company and Conversation of the most dutiful Child, as God is with the Prayers of his Children, and their Applications to him for a Supply of all their Wants. But the chief Reason of all for this Conduct, is taken from the great Benefits to our own Souls, by our frequent drawing near to God in Prayer. For as we are apt to imbibe a strong Tincture from the Humour and Principles of the Persons with whom we converse much; so it is in our frequent Prayers and Addresses to Almighty God, that we wear off our earthly, and acquire an heavenly Temper of Mind; we learn to delight our selves in God, and advance in his Love; we taste and see that God is good; worldly Things grow more unsavoury, and Devotion more and more sweet and pleasant; by Degrees we are acquainted upon Earth with the Joys of Heaven, and long to be there; we grow afraid of every Thing that
may unfit and indispose us for thất blessed State of Devotion here, or the more perfect Enjoyment of God hereafter. Whenever our Hearts and Minds are any way dull or out of Temper, we learn to run to God, and to give them a new Edge and Whet at Prayer ; so that by that Means our Life upon Earth becomes a right Apprenticeship for Heaven, and we accustom our selves to the fame Exercises and Employments here, in which we thall be taken up to all