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cipated from revelation, may prepare his mind for a juster view of what is called RATIONAL CHRISTIANITY.
NO. VIII.-ON THE CONSISTENCY OF PRAYER
WITH THE DIVINE IMMUTABILITY.
Page 10. (b)-See Price's Dissertations—2d.
pp. 209, 210. There are some observations of this excellent and serious writer upon the nature of prayer, which are not only so valuable in themselves, but with some extension admit so direct a bearing upon the subject before us, that I cannot resist the desire I feel of laying them before the reader. In answer to the objection derived from the unchangeableness of God, and the conclusion thence deduced that prayer cannot make any alteration in the Deity, or cause him to bestow any blessings which he would not have bestowed without it; this reply is made. If it be in itself proper, that we should humbly apply to God for the mercies we need from him, it must also be proper, that a regard should be paid to such applications; and that there should be a different treatment of those who make them, and those who do not. Το
this as implying changeableness changeableness in the
in the Deity, would be extremely absurd: for the unchangeableness of God, when considered in relation to the exertion of his attributes in the govern
ment of the world, consists, not in always acting in the same manner, however cases and circumstances may alter; but in always doing what is right, and in adapting his treatment of his intelligent creatures to the variation of their actions, characters and dispositions. If prayer then makes an alteration in the case of the
supplicant, as being the discharge of an indispensible duty; what would in truth infer changeableness in God, would be, not his regarding and answering it, but his not doing this. Hence it is manifest, that the notice which he may be pleased to take of our prayers by granting us blessings in answer to them, is not to be considered as a yielding to importunity, but as an instance of rectitude in suiting his dealings with us to our conduct. Nor does it imply that he is backward to do us good, and therefore wants to be solicited to it: but merely that there are certain conditions, on the performance of which the effects of his goodness to us are suspended: that there is something to be done by us before we can be proper objects of his favour; or before it can be fit and consistent with the measures of the divine government to grant us particular benefits. Accordingly, to the species of objection alluded to in page 10, (namely, that our own worthiness or unworthiness, and the determined will of God, must determine how we are to be treated, absolutely, and so as to render prayer
altogether unnecessary,) the answer is obvious, that before prayer we may be unworthy; and that
prayer may be the very thing that makes us worthy: the act of prayer being itself the very condition, the very circumstance in our characters, that contributes to render us the
proper objects of divine regard, and the neglect of it being that which disqualifies us for receiving blessings.
Mr. Wollaston, in his Religion of Nature, (pp. 115, 116.) expresses the same ideas with his usual exact, and (I may here particularly say) mathematical, precision. « The respect or relation, (he observes,) which lies between God, considered as an unchangeable being, and one that is humble, and supplicates, and endeavours to qualify himself for mercy, cannot be the same with that, which lies between the same unchangeable God, and one that is obstinate, and will not supplicate,* or endeavour to qualify himself: that is, the same thing, or being, cannot respect opposite and contradictory characters in the same manner.y It is not in short
Πως αν δουη τω προς τας ορμας αυτεξεσιω μη αιτεντι ο διδοναι πεφυκως Θεος. Ηierocl.
+ This position he exhibits thus, in language which will be intelligible to mathematicians only. “ The ratio of G to M+q, is different from that of G to M-q: and yet G remains unaltered.” To the opponents of the argument, this formula of its exposition will no doubt afforel that by our supplications we can pretend to pros duce any alteration in the Deity, but by an alteration in ourselves we may alter the relation or respect lying between him and us."
The beautiful language of Mrs. Barbauld, upon this subject, I cannot prevail upon myself to leave unnoticed. Having observed upon that high toned philosophy, which would pronounce prayer to be the weak effort of an infirm mind to alter the order of nature and the decrees of provi, dence, in which it rather becomes the wise man to acquiesce with a manly resignation; this elegant writer proceeds to state, that they who cannot boast of such philosophy, may plead the example of him, who prayed, though with meek submission, that the cup of bitterness might pass from him; and who, as the moment of separation approached, interceded for his friends and followers with all the anxiety of affectionate tenderness. But (she adds) we will venture to say, that practically there is no such philosophy.-If
prayer were not enjoined for the perfection, it would be permitted to the weakness of our nature. We should be betrayed into it, if we thought it sin; and pious ejaculations would
ground rather of jocularity than of conviction. For of men capable of maintaining a contrary opinion, there can be no great hazard in pronouncing, that they are not mathema. ticians.
escape our lips, though we were obliged to pre. face them with, God forgive me for praying ! To those (she says) who press the objection, that we cannot see in what manner our prayers can be answered, consistently with the government of the world according to general laws; it may be sufficient to say, that prayer, being made almost an instinct of our nature, it cannot be supposed but that, like all other instincts it has its use: but that no idea can be less philosophical, than one which implies, that the existence of a God who governs the world, should make no difference in our conduct; and few things less probable, than that the child-like submission which bows to the will of a father, should be exactly similar in feature to the stubborn patience which bends under the yoke of necessity. Remarks on Wakefield's Enquiry, p. 11--14. See also the excellent remarks of Doctor Percival to the same purport, cited in the Appendix to these volumes.
NO. IX.-ON THE GRANTING OF THE DIVINE FOR
GIVENESS THROUGH A MEDIATOR OR INTER
PAGE 12. ()-See H. Taylor's Ben. Mord. 5th Letter: in which, a number of instances are adduced from the Old Testament, to shew that God's dealing with his creatures is of the nature