« PoprzedniaDalej »
daily bread." The advancement of his kingdom, both of grace and glory, the sanctification of his name, the accomplishment of his will, the pardon of our sins, our conversion, our eternal salvation, the “ meat which remaineth to eternal life”—these ought to be, without doubt, the first objects of our desires. Add to these also, “ the meat which perisheth,” temporal advantages, but always with submission, in subordination, and provided they do no not interfere with the one thing needful.” The worldling says, • Lord, give me riches, give me honour, glory, reputation, prosperity ;' and he asks nothing more. But the believer says, Our Father who art in heaven, sanctify me; render me humble, patient, merciful, just, believing; fit me for the inheritance of the saints in light. And, after that, grant me, according to thy good pleasure, some portion of temporal enjoyments; but, O my God! if the interest of my
soul demands it, let me be poor, afflicted, tempted; let me drink the cup of sorrow to the dregs : not my will, but thine be done.' Such is the extent of the objects which our prayers should embrace, and such the order we should observe in our petitions.
3. The manner in which we should pray, is the third lesson which is taught by this history. We must exercise faith. “ If any of you lack wisdom,” says St. James, “ let him ask it of God, but let him ask in faith, nothing wavering; for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” Thus the Saviour often asked of those who came to him for aid, “Believest thou that I can do this ?” And to this
grace his blessings were attributed, “ Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace.” But it is not a barren, a historic, a dead faith, that is required : with this our
prayers may only increase our guilt. Like this mo• ther, we must be humble. What is a mortal who
prays ? A sinner bent down under the weight of his transgressions, and who, without the infinite mercy of God, could not appear before him; a poor man who solicits alms; a sick man who asks for health ; often a dead man, a corrupted corpse that implores resurrection and life. And shall such beings fail to be humble? Go, proud pharisees, present elsewhere your boasted virtues! there is no grace, no justification for
in the treasures of the divine mercies. They are open only for the humble publican who confesses his sins, who smites upon his breast, and dares scarcely look up to heaven. These are opened for that prodigal who groans over his vileness, his degradation, his guilt, and who esteems himself happy to be placed among the hired servants of his father. These are opened only for those who say with the Canaanitish woman, “Give me but one crumb of the bread which falleth from thy table ;"> or with Jacob, “ I am less than the least of all thy mercies."
We must be fervent and persevering. The soul of him who prays should thirst for God; should desir his mercies with that lively ardour with which the traveller longs for the cooling stream in the dry and barren land. If God delays, we should wait for him. Is it for us to assign to him the times and seasons ? When for reasons infinitely wise and good, he defers answering our requests, shall we cease to elevate our hearts to him? His delays are intended to make us feel more sensibly his supreme power, or our unworthiness, or to save us from presumption, or to make us more value the blessing that is delayed; or to try us, and invigorate our graces. See the examples of the saints in all ages. See this Canaanitish woman : she perseveres, notwithstanding apparent repulses, and secures the blessing.
4. The efficacy of prayer is another lesson that she teaches us. I have not time to show you how the perfections, the promises, the engagements of God, assure us of its benefit; nor to present the examples of its efficacy from the beginning of the world to the Canaanitish woman, and from her to us. Wo to those who cannot add their own experience as a proof that the blessings of God are bestowed upon those who humbly worship him in spirit and in truth! Prayer averts from us the evils which threaten us, breaks our fetters, subdues our corruptions, renders us victorious over temptations through Jesus Christ. Prayer impresses on us a filial fear, a holy love to the best of fathers; renders us watchful and circumspect; weakens, destroys our vicious habits; weans us from this world, and causes our soul to take its flight towards heaven; procures for us the richest blessings ; secures the protection of God for ourselves, our children, our friends; makes us hapру
in life, and triumphant in death. Who then will not bless God, who has connected such favours with the most consolatory and honourable of duties?
5. It is also the most easy of duties when the heart is in a proper frame, and when suitable dispositions are excited. This is the last instruction given us by this history. We may say of this duty as Moses does of the law: " It is not far from thee, nor high above thee, but nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” When the apostles said to the Redeemer, “ Lord, teach us to pray,” he prescribed to them neither sublime knowledge nor laboured expressions, nor words full of pomp, nor periods arranged with art. No; but he replied to them, “ When you pray, say, Our Father who art in heaven;" that is, think of God, speak to him in prayer as to a father, spread before him your wants, , and expect his favours.
See then in this Canaanitish woman the art of prayer. It is simply the emotion, the
groan, the desire of the heart: it is an elevation of the soul to God. To direct our heart to God, to feel our necessities, the weight of our guilt; to desire deliverance from Christ; to cry, “Lord, have mercy upon me—help me!” This is all that is necessary to form a prayer. And does not every thing around us at once assist and urge to this duty? In looking up to the heavens, is it difficult to say in our heart, “ There dwell my Creator, my Redeemer; there is the country of the believer; let my conversation be in heaven.” In considering the earth, so mutable and unsatisfying, is it difficult to cry, “ Lord, detach my
heart from all that is perishable; turn away my eyes from beholding vanity ?" In reflecting upon the sacred bonds which unite us to mankind, is it difficult to cry, “ Heavenly Father, console the afflicted, enlighten the blind, shed down thy blessings upon thy children?” In entering into the temple, is it difficult to cry, “Lord, create in me a clean heart, and renew a right within me. Let my prayers and praises mingle with those of the church universal; with those of angels and glorified saints ?" In lying down in the evening, is it difficult to adore Him who may make us find in sleep the image of death, death itself; to say to him, “I commit my soul into thy hands; in thy paternal bosom I would slumber?"
In rising in the morning, is it difficult to render our first homages to Him, to whom we are indebted for every thing; to thank him for the life he yet continues, to devote ourselves anew to him, and to consecrate to his glory and your salvation the day that you owe to his love? In seating yourselves at the table, is it difficult to recall for an instant Him who supplies our returning wants, and opens our hearts to the sweet sentiments of gratitude? In beginning, continuing, terminating our labours, is it difficult to say, "O God, without whom all efforts are unavailing, bless my studies, my commerce, my occupations?" In the midst of the distractions of the world, would it interrupt our pleasures or diminish their, vivacity, to purify, to sanctify, to ennoble them, by: the tender remembrance of our Benefactor, by some effusions of love, by the flight of the heart to him? Thus every thing can animate us, worms of the dust! God permits, God orders us to speak to him. The access to the throne of mercy is open; he continually calls us; he requires only the voice of the heart. Oh! there is no difficulty in prayer, except that which results from the coldness and ingratitude and unbelief of our hearts. Did we feel like the Canaanitish woman, we should easily find words to express our sorrows, or to utter our joys.
And now, my brethren, in what manner ought we to conclude this discourse? Shall we cry,
peo: ple, great is your faith!" or shall we weep at our neglect of our duties? Judge yourselves which is the most proper termination. Are there none of you who never pray? Are there none of you who pray but seldom? Covered with guilt, you seek not for deliverance." Encompassed by the mercies of God, you live without thinking of him. And of