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Alas! what a degeneracy is here, from their illustrious progenitor, in the present generation, of "the praying seed of Jacob!" Gen. xxxii. 24-28. Hos. xii. 3-5. What a departure from " the simplicity that is in Christ!" 2 Cor. xi. 3. Surely, if the regenerated child of God, (and it is of such only I speak) did but attend more to divine teaching, and less to human reasoning, (Gal. i. 15, 16.) the fallacy of such principles would be as glaring, as if written with a sun-beam. For if the sense of our own nothingness, induced (as it is intended to induce) a right apprehension of the Lord's all-sufficiency, and a feeling consciousness of the one, inclined the soul to lean the more upon the other; never would a child of God," who had begun in the spirit, seek to be made perfect in the flesh." Gal. iii. 3. And indeed, independent of all other considerations, the thing itself testifies its own folly. For how is it possible, for one man to have any just apprehensions of what passeth in the mind of another man? And if he knows not his feelings, how shall he frame his prayers? Much less, how shall he give him, what is the sole prerogative of the Lord alone to give, (and without which, there can be no life in prayer)" the Spirit of grace and of supplication?" Zech. xii. 10. Very sure I am, as it concerns myself, if all the men upon earth, yea, and if joined by all the angels in heaven, were to meet together in one synod, to compose a form of prayer for my soul, even for a single day of my life, so as to say for me all I had to say, and to tell the Lord all I had to unbosom before him, they would fail in the attempt. In relation to public ordinances, and means of grace, perhaps general wants may be formed upon general expressions. And indeed, that comprehensive prayer taught by the Lord himself, and intended for general use, sufficiently confirms its authority. That one precept he hath left, saith as much, ye pray, say, our Father," &c. Luke xi. 2.
But it should be remembered, that this is the Lord's prayer, and not man's. And what comes from the Lord, will lead to the Lord. But when the regenerated child of God (and it is of such only I speak) is alone with the Lord, or encircled amidst his little family, who but the Lord can give the spirit of prayer in such hallowed seasons? For my own part, I should consider every book, but the Lord's book, rather an interruption than a help to lead to the throne of grace. Were I to use the best pre-composed prayers of others upon these occasions, I should be for ever apprehensive of somewhat contained in them unsuited to my case and circumstances; somewhat which I could not say, and somewhat omitted which I ought to say; so that after all, many a sorrow would be left untold; many a petition forgotten, and often the throne of grace departed from without the particular acknowledgment of past mercies, and the earnest application for future blessings. And can any regenerated child of God (and it is of such only I speak) find comfort in such visits to the mercy-seat? Is not this the very state the apostle describes of the "spirit of bondage again to fear, and not the spirit of adoption?" Rom. viii. 15. Precious Lord Jesus, keep thy people from such frames! Thou knowest our nature by thine own! And very blessedly is it said of thee," that we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." And therefore we are commanded "to come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb. iv. 15, 16.
What saith the child of God, I mean the regenerated child of God, (for let it be all along remembered, through the whole of this little work, that it is of such only I speak) what saith he to this statement? In all instances where the Lord is bringing his people "by a
right way to a city of habitation," (Ps. cvii. 7.) he is opening to them more familiarly an acquaintance with himself. He brings them into deeper views also of themselves, and "the plague of their own heart," I Kings viii. 38. He doth by them, as he did by Israel of old, when " leading them forty years in the wilderness, to humble them, and to prove them, and to shew them what was in their heart," Deut. viii. 2. He leads them, as he did the prophet, into "the chambers of imagery," in the corruption of human nature; and as the Lord takes them through the different apartments of it, and opens to their astonished view the workings of evil within, and of which they were before unconscious; the Lord speaks to them, as he did to the prophet, and saith, "Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these!" Ezek. viii. throughout.
Unawakened, unregenerated, carnal men, who have the form and not the power of godliness, they know nothing of those heart-searching discoveries made by the Holy Ghost; they have never attended the lectures of the Spirit; they have never been called to the knowledge of his divine anatomy, nor felt his dissecting knife: hence, they know nothing of that fire of God's word, "which is quick and powerful, sharper than any twoedged sword; piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart," Heb. iv. 12. And from this ignorance of themselves, and of their own indwelling sin, such men talk of progressive holiness, and according to their own view are walking upon the stilts of human perfection; and not unfrequently thank God "that they are not as other men are," Luke xviii. 11. But the regenerated child of God, (and it is of such only I speak) daily exercised as he is with the conflicts of flesh and spirit, and the transgressions which are in his own heart; and in which, as
appears to him at times, there are growing imperfections; he groans, as Paul did (twenty years after his conversion) and exclaims, in similar language, "Oh! wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" Gal. v. 17. Psalm xxxvi. 1. Rom. vii. 18. to the end. Let the regenerated child of God say, (for of such only I speak) whether, with such convictions on his mind, and more especially when their poignancy is most sensibly felt, any words but his own words, issuing from the abundance of the heart, would suit him at the mercy-seat? Could he, in such seasons, go before the Lord in the pre-composed prayers of other men? and would such forms of expression give vent to his full soul? Oh! how true are those sayings of old, "the heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy," Prov. xiv. 10.
Moreover, it is altogether as unscriptural, as it is unprofitable, to seek the Lord's face, but in the Lord's strength. "When thou saidst, seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, thy face, Lord, will I seek," Psalm xxvii. 8. There is no coming unto the Lord, but by the Lord, John xiv. 6. "No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him," John vi. 44. And this corresponds to what the Lord hath said, by the prophet, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee," Jer. xxxi. 3. And that the divine agency of God the Holy Ghost must be known and felt, in conjunction with the drawings of the Father, and the comings to the Son; we find this sweet prayer given to the church, "Draw me, (said she) we will run after thee," Song i. 4. And hence, all over the word of God, wherever grace and faith are in lively exercise among the regenerated children of God, (and it is of such only I speak) we discover the goings forth of the soul in acts of the most earnest prayer. "O send out thy light and thy truth; let them lead me, let them bring me unto thy holy hill,
and when ye turn
and to thy tabernacle: then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God, my God!" Psalm xliii. 3, 4. See also Ps. iv. 6, 7. Isa. xliv. 1, 7, 8, 9, 12. Ps. xliii. throughout, &c. And the gracious answers of the Lord to those awakened cries of the soul, which are also scattered, more or less, all over the bible, most plainly shew how much the life of prayer depends upon this communion between the Lord and his people. "He will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer. Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, this is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, to the left," Isaiah xxx. 18-21. And in that lovely scripture, where the Lord, adopting the figure of some little one put to bed in the dark, and awaking out of sleep and finding himself alone, cries for his mother; so the Lord, comforting his people in their dark seasons, saith, "then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, here I am!" Isa. Ixiii. 9. See also Isa. xliii. 1-4. James iv. 8. Ps. i. 15. But without those awakenings of the Holy Ghost, the drawings of the Father, and the consciousness of being come to the Lord Jesus, and in the strength of the Lord Jesus; all prayer (if it can be called prayer) will be dull work at the mercy-seat.
But we must not stop here. So great and indispensable are those acts of the Lord upon the souls of his people, for the purpose of communion, that, under the authority of scripture, I venture to assert, there never was, neither in the very nature of things can there ever be, a single prayer, truly spiritual, which can come up before God, unless that prayer is first formed in the heart from God. I am well aware that this assertion will expose me to the displeasure both of the professor and profane; but none of these things move me. Nay, I find cause to bless the Lord when reproaches, on such