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assembly and Church of the first born, which are written in heaven; and to God the judge of all; and to the spirits of just men made perfect; and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant; and to the biood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” The sense of these affecting words must be, that while the moral law is now the same in obligation on the Christian church, as it was anciently on the Jewish; it is presented to the former with different at. tendant circumstances. It is indeed still arrayed in the terrours of Sinai to the sinner: but to the eve of the godly, these terrours are softened by the ample disco. veries made to them, in the gospel; and especially by information of the great sacrifice for sin, and for the full manifestation of life and immortality. To these, by a figure of speech, we are said to have come al. ready, in the possession of those Christian privileges, which are conteinplated as associating us with the departed righteous, with the angelick hosts, with the blessed author of our salvation, and with God him. self. It is on the ground of these higher privileges of Christianity, that St. Paul founded his memorable saying" The law made nothing perfect; but the bringing in of a better hope did.”*
* Heb, vii. 19.
OP THE LORD'S PRAYER.
Foundation of the duty of Prayer.-Introductory Admonition,
-Invocation." Hallowed, &c."-" Thy Kingdom, &c.". “ Thy will, &c.”- Give us, &c. And forgive, &c.”. 16 And lead us noi, &c.” “ But deliver us, &c.”—The Doxology.-Summary. Of the Prayer, as a Form.--Im. provement.
It may be proper to preface the explanation to be now given of the Lord's Prayer, with a few remarks on the subject of prayer in general.
In the wise speech of Elihu in the Book of Job, there is the reason given for gratitude to Almighty God, that he teacheth us “more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven.”* Here is indeed an endowment, for which we cannot be sufficiently thankful to the great Bestower of it; provided it be taken in connexion with the human character, as contemplated by the divine mind. But if we erase from the list of human duties, or rather privileges-the cherishing of the sensibilities which enter into the act of prayer; it is far from being certain, that our 'supe. riour sagacity confers the advantage intimated in the passage quoted; and it is certain, that in very many cases, the pretended preeminence is the cause of the worst evils to which we are liable.
It seems a property of all created intelligence, to be conscious of inherent weakness; dictating dependence on some being possessed of sagacity and power, superiour to any experienced in itself. Agreeably to this we find, that "the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib.” They
know and look to these sources of the supply of their necessities; while they do not know the insecurity of the ground of their dependence. Whereas man is not uninformed of the instability of whatever there may be in nature or in his kind, which can be to him a cause of satisfaction. He is aware of the changes to which it is always liable; and he can understand their causes and their consequences, without possessing over either of them a control. Thus, the sense of weakness is in him a sense of misery; unless it direct him to the great Being, in whom is the only ground of dependence, adequate to the exigencies of his intelligent crea. tures. Where this dependence is felt, and there are consequent aspirations to the adorable object of it, the essence of them comes under the name of prayer, in whatsoever language it may be clothed; and even if it be no more than the desire of the heart.
If there is thus a foundation of the duty of prayer, in the mere sense of our weakness and our depend. ence; more evidently does the same appear, when they are traced to their results, in the incidents to which we are liable in life. For in these, of whatever description they may be, we may perceive reasons for the exercise of the mind in question. In sorrow and under suffering of every sort, and most of all under unmerited calumny, prayer has been found a source of satisfaction; when there has been neither possession nor hope of any other. In this very circumstance, there lies an argument for the duty, precisely the same as that, which, in the vari. Qus objects of nature, is raised from the comparing of their properties with the uses to which they tend. And there is no difference in the two departments; unless on the profane and foolish presumption, that in one of them, there is no scope for the display of the wisdom of the great Creator; although there is résistless evidence of it, in every portion of the other. Were there required any addition of force to the argument; it might be found in the despair attendant on situations of hopeless sorrow; when the wounded heart is cut off from all communion with him, who sends the visitation; which however is not sent, without some moral use to be accom. plished by it. The despair referred to, whether it drive to the act which debars opportunity of repen. tance; or issue in the wasting anguish of mind, which brings down more slowly, but not less surely to the grave; is a proof, that the soul has not found the remedy of its griefs: which must be somewhere, but which can be found in no other way, than by its un. bosoming of its burden to the Supreme Disposer, who does not willingly afflict the children of men; and whose visitations can no otherwise accomplish their uses, than by reuniting thein to himself.
It would be a great mistake to infer, from the encouragement attached to the looking up to God in devotion, in seasons of calamity, that such an exercise of the mind is accommodated to those oc. casions only. Although the resulting benefit may then be especially felt by the parties interested; the subject has an equal bearing on their moral state, in whatever circumstances they may be placed; and therefore is at all times essential to their virtue; and, of course, eventually to their happiness, and to the relations in which they stand to their fellow-crea. tures. If arrogancy, if oppression, and if the abuse of the gifts of heaven to intemperance, in a great variety of ways, be the frequent effect of pros. perity, and that to which it is at all times liable; there cannot be a less call than in adversity, for those tendencies of the mind, which chain it to the throne of God. This would be true, if there were no other reason for it, than the innumerable ways in which sin may be the parent of bodily suffering; although there is a much stronger reason for it in the moral perfection, the hope of attaining to which, is the highest glory of human nature.
Finally, the argument has a solid ground to rest
on, in the property of our nature which carries us beyond the present scene of things, in anticipation of a state expected to succeed. The idea of the connexion between the two states of being can no otherwise be cherished, than through the medium of such exercises of the mind, as elevate it to the great Ordainer of them both. It is a fact which will hardly be denied, that entire disregard of the duties of devotion, if it do not work a disbelief of the doctrine of a future state, is sure of producing the effect of excluding it as much as possible from the contemplation. And yet, while the arrangements of the world are such, as to obtrude it frequently on the attention; there is an inherent feature of the human character, exactly accommodated to the cir. cumstances in which we are thus placed. So that here is an exception from the received position, that every natural endowment of the mind must have its use; unless prayer be a branch of human duty, standing on as stable ground, as any duty which we owe to God or to our neighbour.
The church introduces her notice of the Lord's Prayer, with an admonition to the catecumen, in reference to the immediately preceding subject that he is “not able to do these things of himself, nor to walk in the commandments of God and to serve him, without his special grace; which he must accordingly learn at all times to call for by diligent prayer.” The peculiar importance attached to this intimation, appears in the circumstance, that throughout the catechetical inquiries, this is the only matter in itself instructive, put into the mouth of the catechist; every thing of that sort being confined to the answers made by the catecumen. The introducing of it here, was evidently designed to give a high importance to the act of prayer: which importance is also enhanced, by the requisitions that it be “diligent”-or, interesting to the powers of the mind; and performed “at all times” -or in reference to all the occasions of life; and no consi