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here described. Thus we find, that when God had declared, that he would destroy the entire nation of Israel, for their idolatry at Horeb, (Numb. ch. 14.) and again, for their intended violence against Caleb and Joshua, (Deut. ch.9.) yet upon the intercession of Moses, he is said to have forgiven them. In like manner for the sake of ten righteous persons, he would have spared Sodom. (Gen. xviii. 32.) In remembrance of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and for their sakes, he is represented, as being merciful to their posterity. (Gen. xxvi. 24).--He forgave Abimelech also upon the prayer of Abraham, (Gen. xx. 7.) and the friends of Job, upon the solicitation of that patriarch, (Job xlii. 10.):and, what renders these two last instances particularly strong, is, that whilst he declares the purpose of forgiveness, he at the same time expressly prescribes the mediation, by which it was to be obtained. To quote more of the numerous instances, which the Old Testament supplies on this head, must be unnecessary. What has been urged, will enable us to form a true judgment of that extraordinary position, on which Dr. Priestley relies not a little, (Hist. of Cor. vol. 1. p. 156.) viz. that “ the declarations of Divine Mercy are made without reserve or limitation to the truly penitent, through all the books of Scripture, without the most distant hint
of any regard being had to the sufferings or merit of any being whatever.”
Very different indeed were the sentiments of the pious writer referred to in the last number. He not merely admits the contrary of this position to be founded in the facts of revelation; but he maintains the abstract reasonableness of the principle, with a force and feeling, that musť render his remarks upon this head particularly acceptable to the reader. If it be asked, he says, what influence our prayers can have upon the state of others; what benefit they can derive from our intercessions; or whether we can conceive, that God, like weak men, can be persuaded by the importunity of one person to bestow upon another blessings which he would not else have bestowed: the proper answer is to be derived from the consideration, that it is by no means necessary to suppose, that the treatment which beings shall receive, depends, in all cases, solely, on what they are in themselves. This, without doubt, is what the universal Governor, chiefly regards; but it is not all. And though there are some benefits of such a nature, that no means can obtain them for beings who have not certain qualifications, there are other benefits which one being may obtain for another, or for which he may be indebted entirely to the kind offices of his fellow-creatures. An advantage may become
proper to be granted to another, in
consequence of some circumstances he
may or some relations in which he may stand to others, which abstracted from such circumstances and relations, would not have been proper. Nothing more frequently happens in the common course of events.
The whole scheme of nature seems, indeed, to be contrived on purpose in such a manner, as that beings might have it in their power in numberless ways, to bless one another.
And one great end of the precarious and mutually dependent condition of men, appears plainly to be, that they might have room and scope for the exercise of the beneficent affections. From this constitution of things it is, that almost all our happiness is conveyed to us, not immediately from the hands of God, but by the instrumentality of our fellow beings, or through them as the channels of his beneficence, in such a sense, that had it not been for their benevolence and voluntary agency, we should have for ever wanted the blessings we enjoy.
Now with respect to prayer, he asks, Why may not this be one thing that may alter a case, and be a reason with the divine Being for shewing favour? Why by praying for one another, may we not, as in useful to one another. Why may not the uniyersal Father, in consideration of the humble and benevolent intercessions of some of his chil
ways, be dren for others, be pleased often, in the course of his providence, to direct events for the advantage of the persons interceded for, in a manner that otherwise would not have been done? No truly benevolent and pious man (he adds) can help lifting up his heart to the Deity in behalf of his fellow-creatures. No one whose breast is properly warmed with kind wishes to his brethren about him, and who feels within himself earnest desires to do them all possible good, can avoid offering up his kind wishes and desires to the common benefactor and ruler, who knows what is best for every being, and who can make those we love infinitely happy. In reality, (he contends) supplications to the Deity for our friends and kindred, and all in whose welfare we are concerned, are no less natural than supplications for ourselves. Ard are they not (he demands) also reasonable? What is there in them, that is not worthy the most exalted benevolence ? May it not be fit, that a wise and good being should pay a regard to them? And may not the regarding and answering them, and in general, granting blessings to some on account of the virtue of others, be a proper method of encouraging and honouring virtue, and of rewarding the benevolence of beings to one another? Perhaps, (he adds) there may not be a better way of encouraging righteousness in the creation, than by making it as
much as possible the cause of happiness, not only to the agent himself, but to all connected with him: since there is no virtuous being, who would
many circumstances, chuse to be rewarded, with a grant of blessings to his fellow-beings, rather than to himself.
That our prayers for others may be attended with beneficial effects upon their condition, he considers also to be a prevailing sentiment: otherwise wherefore should we feel ourselves impelled to offer them? Our immediate view in praying must be to obtain what we pray for. This, which is true as applied to prayers on our own behalf, must be also true of our supplications for others. We cannot mean, in addressing to the Deity our desires for others, merely to obtain some benefit to ourselves. And this in itself proves, he adds, that the effect of prayer is not merely to be estimated by its tendency to promote our moral and religious improvement.
At the same time, I cannot but lay before the reader the edifying and delightful representation, given by the author, in another place, of the beneficial influence of intercessionary prayer on the mind of him who offers it. “No one can avoid feeling how happy an effect this must have in sweetening our tempers, in reconciling us to all about us, and causing every unfriendly passion to die away within us. We cannot uffer up prayers to God for our fellow-men, without VOL. I.