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Brother; Gen. xxxii. io. which was ushered in with a most thankful Acknowledgment of God's undeserved Mercies to him, through the whole Course of his Travels; I am not worthy, says he, of the least of all the Mercies, and of all the Truth, which thou hast jewed unto thy Servant ; for with my Staff I passed over this Yordan, and now I am become two Bands. Then follows his Prayer : Deliver me, I pray thee, from the Hand of my Brother, from the Hand of Esau, for I fear him, left he will come and smite me, and the Mother with the Children.
5. And lastly, let our Prayers be joined both with the diligent Use of other lawful Means appointed by God, particularly with Christian Vigilance; Watch and pray, says our Saviour ; Mark xiii. 33. and likewise with an express Intention, to make good Use of the Grace we then pray for, in keeping of God's Commandments, like the Pfalmist, Psal. cxix. 32. I will run the Way of thy Commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my Heart. And Verse 8. of the fame Psalm, I will keep thy Statutes, O forsake me not utterly.
IV. The last Thing I proposed to consider, for explaining the Promise in my Text, and for clearing it from all Imputations, is something relating to God's Grant of our Prayers and Petitions here promised. And it is this ; that God performs this Promise, not only when he grants the very Thing we pray for in kind, but in divers other Cases and Instances, when we are not so sensible of it. For clearing of this, I shall put a Case or two, where God grants not exactly the
Thing we pray for, yet grants what is here
promised; namely, some good Thing or other, which really answers the End and Design of our Prayers. Suppose a Man under Temptation, and fearing his own Lapse or Relapse, should pray for the Removal of the Temptation ; and instead of removing it, God should furnish him with a sufficient Degree of Grace to preserve him from being overcome by it; is not the End of this Prayer fufficiently answered? And this was St. Paul's Case, 2 Cor. xii. 7. Left I should be exalted above Measure, says he, through the Abundance of the Revelations, there was given to me a Thorn in the Flesh, the Messenger of Satan to buffet me, left I should be exalted above measure. For this Thing I befought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me : and he said unto me, My Grace is sufficient for thee : for my Strength is made perfeet in Weakness. We are to consider, that though we short-fighted Creatures see perhaps but one Way of escaping a Danger, and accordingly bend all the Force of our Prayers, that we may compass that; yet it is to be believed, that the infinitely wise God knows of many Ways to answer the same Design; and it is but reasonable, of all those Ways, to leave it to him, to chuse that which he knows will best answer his own Honour, and our Good.
The other Case I shall put is this: Suppose we pray for one thing which we think very good, and instead of that, God gives us another, which is really far better, shall we say that such Prayer has not been answered ? e. g. Suppose a beloved Child is very sick, and the Parents, as is usual, pray for the Recovery of its Health : if instead
of that, God, out of a great Love to that same Child, should think fit to take it to himself into Heaven, is not this granting a much better Thing than was prayed for? And this was the Case of Abijab, the Son of Jeroboam, a good Child in a wicked Family. The Prophet Abijab being consulted whether the Child would live or die, answered thus: The Child shall die, and all Israel Mall mourn for him, and bury him, for be only of Jeroboam Mall come to the Grave, because in bim there is found some good Thing toward the Lord God of Israel
, in the House of Jeroboam, 1 Kings xiv. 12. In general, we may rest satisfied, that if we pray as we ought, and as has been described from the holy Scriptures, and our Prayers are not answered in kind, God has good Reasons for so doing, though unknown to us; and that he will answer the Intent of those Prayers some other Way, that will prove as much, or more to our Happiness and Benefit.
Thus now I have opened up to you the Meaning, with the due Qualifications and Restrictions of this great Gospel Promise: And have from the Context, and other plain Scriptures, cleared it from the Mistakes to which it is obnoxious, when God's Truths are considered by halves. I Ihall conclude with two or three Affertions resulting from this Doctrine, which I desire to leave with you, as very proper to settle your Minds in this matter.
The First is this: If there are any who think this Promise has not been made good to them, let them examine themselves by these Rules which have been laid down from the holy Scriptures for the Explication of it; and they will
find, that God has not been worse than his Promise ; but that the Fault is in themselves, who have not complied with the Conditions required, towards the Accomplishment of it; or else that it is accomplished, though not in Kind, yet in a Way as beneficial for them.
The Second Affertion is this; That all who are destitute of Grace to do their Dutý, neglect Prayer, which is the sure Means of obtaining it: At least do not go about it in the right Way and Manner which I have now described to you, out of the holy Scriptures.
The Third and last Affertion is, That all who continue earnest in Prayer, have obtained likewise the Grace to amend their Lives ; let them therefore diligently improve their Talent, and stir up the Grace of God, which is in them. And if they labour under any spiritual Wants, let them continue instant in Prayer, and not doubt, but that trusting to this Promise of Christ's, they shall at last prevail. So much for the first Encouragement to Prayer, taken from the Promise of God. The other, taken from the Confideration of his Nature, as he is a most loving Father to his own Children, I must refer to another Opportunity.
Now to God, the Hearer of Prayer ; to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be all Praise, Honour, and Glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
V. 9. Or what Man is there of you, whom if
bis Son ask Bread, will be give him a Stone ? V. 10. Or if be ask a Fish, will be give him a
good Gifts unto your Children, how much more
The Third Sermon on this Text.
UR blessed Saviour having at the seventh
Verse of this Chapter, recommended fervent Prayer, as a Duty highly requisite towards the facilitating of all other Duties; for enforcing this his Exhortation, he immediately backs it with two Encouragements taken from the Promises and Nature of God. The first of which I considered at the last Occasion, endeavouring to shew you, that a Grant of Grace doth always attend the due Use of Prayer, if we perform it with those Conditions and Qualifications, which, I lhewed you, were prescribed in the Context, and in some other Passages of holy Scripture.