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justice, and grant the petitions of his people because he loves them, and compassionates their distresses. If God delay, it is
, but to try his people, whether they can trust Him or not. Earnestness and continuance in prayer afford much evidence of the Christian character, and may be taken by the Christian himself as an evidence of the goodness of his cause, and of the certainty of his being answered in due time. “ Your Father in heaven will give good things to them that ask Him.”
Some iinportant reflections are suggested by such a subject as we have now attended to.
First, Cautions and distinctions are necessary in the application of the subject to our own experience : and this we shall find to be an important article in the improvement. What can be more grateful to our feelings than an assurance that our prayers shall be answered ! what a stimulus to a devout and prayerful spirit! But then, is it not necessary to ascertain whether there is no exposedness to some deception on the subject of prayer ?
We must therefore endeavor to distinguish between what God has promised, and what we merely desire. We may desire a great many things, and be very fervent in prayer for them, which things God has never promised, nor even intimated that it is His pleasure to give them. To apply our subject to such a course of prayer, would be only to deceive ourselves, and wrong the divine government. The confidence to which we are called by the word of Scripture we have considered must be on strong ground; this strong ground can only be God's immutable word: but it does not follow, that all we desire, and may be disposed to pray for, is thus founded and assured; indeed, it rather intimates that there is much not possessing this warrant ; nor can our strong desires be any ground of dependence whatever. Moses earnestly desired that he might go over and see and possess the promised land : and really he had much reason to expect this indulgence; he had been the instrument of bringing the holy tribes out of Egypt, and across the Red Sea, and through the wilderness. He had shared with Israel in all their afflictions, and it seemed but
reason that he should lead them into the long promised inheritance. Moses made it the subject of fervent supplication; he besought the LORD, and said, "O LORD GOD, thou hast begun to show thy servant thy greatness and thy mighty hand; for what god is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might. I pray thee let me go over and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain and Lebanon." But the LORD would not hear him, and said, "Let it suffice thee: speak no more unto me of this matter." GOD had told Moses this before; but he flattered himself that by earnest prayer he should prevail with GOD against His word: but, brethren, it is of no use to pray in face of God's word; we must have some divine warrant for our prayers, or we shall pray in vain. Even the great apostle, St. Paul, was denied in the thing he sought; "The thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him." "For this thing I besought the LORD thrice, that it might depart from me. But the LORD would not remove it; He only assured bim of support under the trial, but as to the trial itself he must endure it.
You see then, Christians, that strong desires expressed in frequent fervent prayer, are no criteria of God's promises. A man may say that he is inclined to believe this or that—or, that he is firmly persuaded that such and such things will take place. But all this inclination to believe-all this persuasion and confidence have no foundation but in the man's passions; he cannot show one promise in Gon's book on which to fix his trust. But there must be some rule by which to ascertain what is the mind and will of God, or there can be no prayer of faithnothing of that assurance our subject exhibits; "Every one that asketh receiveth, and every one that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." The prayer of faith is heaven-inspired, and leans on God's promise. Now if you go to God with some spiritual case, say, with your mind burdened with a sense of guilt, seeking pardon through CHRIST, you have something to rest your faith and prayer upon. The Bible abounds with promises made directly to penitent sinners;
"Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Look unto me all ye ends of the earth, and be ye saved; I am GOD, beside me there is no Saviour. Whosoever shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved;" and a thousand other passages. Now a sin-burdened and soul-distressed sinner may pray upon these promises as confidently as if God had spoken them to the suppliant by name; there can be no reason for the shadow of doubt. "GOD will give good things to them that ask Him."
Take any other spiritual concern to GoD, with the heart purged of all individual self-love, all fleshly appetite, and you will be equally sure of success. Do you need guidance and direction in the management of your affairs, and in the regulation of your moral conduct? here is the promise; "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of GoD, and it shall be given him." Go to GOD with this promise, and a clean heart emptied of all fleshly wisdom, teachable as a little child, and you may be fervent, for you must be successful.
'Are you in any trouble, trouble that has come upon you in the way of righteousness-trouble, too, which has been occasioned by your attachment to righteousness, as sure as there is a RIGHTEOUS GOD IN HEAVEN, you will see your way out; for He hath said, "The just shall come out of trouble-the righteous shall hold on his way-light is sown for the righteous-no weapon formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that riseth against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn." Think of Joseph, what God did for him in His providence, and brought him out into a wealthy place. Think of the devout Jew, who sat in the king's gate. Think of Nehemiah; and of the poor man of whom David speaks: "This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles."
In all the common concerns of life make God your counsellor and your confidant; intrust Him with your secrets: be spiritual in your desires, simple in your views, and fervent in prayer, and He who hath promised will also perform; He cannot deny himself. Men who receive not, ask amiss with
sinful lusts : let not such a man think that he shall obtain any thing of the LORD.
Secondly, The subject furnishes a source of encouragement. We are in the hands of a FATHER, OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, whose wisdom and goodness, as manifested by Him, must exceed all that can be done for us by earthly parents. God will give good things to them that ask Him. Let us then come boldly to a throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. My brethren, if the subject before us do not teach the certain success of fervent prayer offered in faith, then there is no meaning in language! And if the promises of God are made under so many conditions, with so many nice distinctions, as to leave no certain rule by which a man can lay hold of them, then it would seem as if the whole system of promise was a flattering deception. But it cannot be so ; the word of God's promise is plain,the sentiment easy to be understood; all is to be taken in the common grammatical sense of the language, and then nothing less is intended than this,--that all who call upon God with a pure heart shall be heard of Him. God may delay to answer, He will preserve the prerogative of timing His answers to Himself; hence he enjoins repeated and long continued knocking : and this injunction more than intimates, that after fervent and enduring application, the prayer shall be returned in an answer
, of peace. “Shall not God avenge His own elect that cry day and night unto Him, though he bear long with them.”
Finally, What does this subject suggest to prayerless men, or to men who pray only in a formal way, and that only occa. sionally? What does the subject say to such? Does it not show them their forlorn and friendless condition ? No Father in heaven ; at least, no one with whom they have any intercourse. Formal and sensual men can have no idea of what prayer is. What men of the world do in cases of difficulty, and in times of trouble, I cannot imagine : to go from one creature to another for advice and help, is but the round of folly, and the way of despair. It has been declared, that too great thoughtfulness on religion sinks men into a desponding state of mind, and accounts for many of the suicides committed in our day. I am willing to admit that there is a religious melancholy sitting on the brow of some devotees. But wbat man was ever left to commit so rash an act who held fast to the mercy-seat, and made the throne of grace his refuge. Sin has driven thousands of its votaries into despair, and suicide has ended their mad career. And tens of thousands of others, has this same enemy thrown into a deep sleep: but the Christian can bear testimony to the strong hold he has found in fervent prayer! Truly my soul waiteth upon God, from Him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, I shall not be greatly moved. Trust in Him at all times : ye people, pour out your hearts before Him. God is a
God is a refuge for us. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the SALVATION OF THE LORD. • What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God.”
ON KEEPING THE HEART.
BY THE REV. GEORGE OTIS,
(Now transcribed for this work from the author's manuscript, and presented by his brother.]
Proverbs iv. 23.-" Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life,
The mind and the affections are strongly drawn toward the contemplation of outward objects, by curiosity: but religion directs our regard to the state of the soul; to the region within, where thought begins, and the passions rise. Whatever has rule within this secluded, dark chamber, determines our character and our destiny. If Jehovah be our guide, his power will there be found in merciful operation upon our