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twenty dollars. I was now able to give the boy his two dollars, which I did most cheerfully."
So uniformly did this assistance come, just when it was most needed, and through so long a series of years was it continued, that the old steward, instead of desponding, got into the habit of saying, when any great difficulty occurred, “Now we shall have reason again to admire the manner in which God will come to our aid.”
This institution has become one of the largest and most useful in Europe. It frequently has from 2700 to 3000 pupils, and when I visited it in 1836, it was, in all respects, one of the most delightful schools I saw in the whole progress of my tour. Franke also instituted a bible press to furnish bibles cheap for the poor. This press has issued over two millions of copies of the whole Bible, and more than a million of the New Testament. He also established a large apothecary's shop, for furnishing medicines to the poor, which is still in active operation; and a benevolent bookstore, which is now the largest in Germany. So much for the faith and the prayers of one man!
If any one can believe that such a long series of answers to prayer can be accounted for on the ground of accidental coincidences, such a man would scarcely be persuaded, though one should rise from the dead.
May every Christian expect such answers to prayer, as those which we find in the lives of Stilling and Franke?Yes, every Christian who lives and feels as Stilling and Franke lived and felt, may expect such answers to prayer as Stilling and Franke had. God is no respecter of persons, and he regards every individual exactly according to the state of his heart
. In every case, whenever the conditions are complied with, the promises are always fulfilled. These conditions are a right state of heart, entire devotedness to God, disinterested love to man, and unwavering confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ. These feelings must not be transient and fitful, but they must constitute the very habit of the mind. Without a full compliance with these conditions, confidence in prayer is presumption, it is not faith. A Universalist once said of a very benevolent evangelical neighbor of his, who was greatly prospered in his worldly affairs, “I do believe the Lord sometimes prospers those who give away money; for there is Col. M., the more he
gives away the richer he grows; but it would not work with ine at all." The Universalist was right; it would not work with him as it did with Col. M. And why not? Because he had not Col. M.'s single-hearted piety, and entire devotedness to God. It is not a state of mind which can be called up for a particular exigency, and continued only while that exigency lasts ; if it is not ihe habit of the mind it does not exist at all.
But are not the promises absolute to believing prayer? And may we not of a sudden lay claim to the promises, though desiitute of a devotional habit? The first dawnings of a right state of heart may lay claim to the promises; but we can have no evidence in respect to ourselves that we have a right state of heart, except as the result of habitual devotion. The promises are indeed absolute, but the Bible is written for beings who are supposed to have common sense, and who are bound to use that common sense in its interpretation. Our Saviour says, All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. But the drunkard who is destitute of money, would that others should give him rum; is it therefore his duty, when he has money, to give rum to others? This would be doing precisely as he would be done by, but would it be obeying the Saviour's precept? Let common sense answer. Jesus says, Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Is it therefore your duty to give your money to any profligate who may ask you for it? Again I say,
let common sense answer. Our Saviour says, When thou prayest enter into thy closet and shut thy doon. But if a man has no closet, or if his closet has no door, can he not pray? And must he never pray in public ?
In none of the above cases is there any limitation expressed, but such limitations as common sense demands, are always to be understood ; and so are they to be understood in the promises relating to prayer. No promises that are given to prayer will subject God's omniscience to man's shortsightedness, or take the control of the world out of God's hand and place it in the hands of the poor mortal who prays.
It is always to be understood that the thing asked for, is a proper thing to be asked for, that it is asked for in a right spirit, and for the purpose of being applied to a right object, and always in entire submission to the will of God. Ye ask
and receive not because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
But may we always, in every case, when our prayer is acceptable, expect the very thing which we ask for?
The mother of Augustine was a woman of devoted piety, but her son was a youth of wild and dissipated habits. She prayed earnestly and long for his conversion, but apparently without success. At length he resolved to visit Rome. She, supposing that the temptations of that abandoned city would be his ruin, most earnestly begged of God to thwart his purpose. She felt a quiet assurance that God had heard her prayer, and that her desire would be granted ; but to her amazement her son went to Rome. There he fell in with Christian society, and was converted. His mother then acknowledged that, though the particular thing she asked for was withholden, yet the deep desire of her heart, the desire which had prompted all her prayers, was granted. What was the fault in the prayers of this woman? Simply an ignorance of the means which God would use for her son's conversion, a thing she could not have known without special revelation. She prayed according to the knowledge which she had, and God answered her according to the desire of her heart.
This is a historical fact. Let us now suppose an example. A pious man in the city of Erfurt, in the reign of Maximilian, mourns over the corruptions of the church, and most earnestly longs for a reformation. He prays day and night, that the emperor may be converted, and feels that his prayer is accepted, and that his request will be granted. A charity student at law in the University, the son of a poor miner in a neighboring village, is walking with a friend that evening, when a sudden flash of lightning throws them both to the ground. He recovers, but finds that his friend is dead. This awful visitation is the means of his conversion to God, and he resolves on the spot to devole his whole life to the service of Christ in the ministry of the gospel. Is this an answer to the good man's prayers ? Ile is praying for the conversion of the emperor as a means of reforming the church; but this young charity student is Martin Luther, a man whom God has qualified to do more for the reformation of his church than twenty such emperors as Maximilian could have done, had they been converted ever so thoroughly. We do not know, and we cannot always know, what are the best means
which God can employ for the accomplishment of his work; but we do know the great ends he has to accomplish, and while we are praying sincerely and acceptably for Him to set in motion a particular instrumentality, towards the accomplishment of these purposes, he may in answer to our prayers set in motion another which is a thousand times more efficient.
But does not the Holy Spirit sometimes excite in Christians a particular desire for a particular object ? and incite them to pray for it with a full belief that this particular object will be gained ?
Such cases unquestionably may occur, and if we may trust the experience of Christians, they have occurred not unfrequently. In such cases, the desire is undoubtedly excited in order to lead Christians to pray more, and more earnestly, and thus prepare them for the reception of the particular blessing implored. The mistake consists in supposing that all acceptable prayer is of this distinctive characier, and that this is the only prayer which deserves the name of the prayer of faith.
Some people talk and reason as if they supposed two or three Christians might, if they were only holy enough, go into a particular town, and there pray that every individual in that town might be immediately converted, and fully believe that their prayer would be literally answered, and that in consequence of this prayer and this faith, every individual in that town would be immediately converted, and that the only reason why the whole world is not thus converted at the present time, is, that Christians are not holy enough, or do not pray and believe in just this manner.
l'his idea, it appears to me, is unscriptural and fanatical. If this be the correct idea of prayer, our Lord Jesus Christ, while he was upon earth, had holiness enough and faith enough to pray the whole world into the kingdom of heaven instantaneously, if it had been the will of God that the world should be so converted : and surely, he was not wanting in the exercise of prayer, rising up a great while before day and praying, and sometimes spending whole nights in prayer to God; and it is but reasonable to suppose that he often prayed for those for whom he came to suffer and die, and for whom he was continually laboring. And undoubtedly, too, his prayers were heard, for he said to his Father, “ I know that thou always hearest me."
There are several instances in the Bible, where acceptable prayer has been offered, and God has heard and answered it, and yet the particular thing asked for has not been granted,
Gen. 17: 18—21. Abraham prays that Ishmael may inherit the promises which God had given him; God accepts the prayer, and tells him that it is accepted ; and yet adheres to his previous determination that Sarah shall have a son who shall be the heir of the promises, and this, when it occurred, gave Abraham greater joy than if he had received the very thing he asked for.
Gen. 18: 16-33. Abraham intercedes for Lot. Who can read this narrative and not believe, that Abraham's intercession, though the thing he asked for was withholden, was both acceptable to God and profitable to himself?
2 Cor. 12: 7, 9. Paul prayed that a particular annoyance might be removed. What it was he does not inform us, and it is idle for us to conjecture. His prayer was accepted, the annoyance was not removed, but he had strength given him to bear it, and turn it to good account; so that he gloried in the very infirmity which had before troubled him, and from which he had thrice prayed to be delivered. He now feels it far better to have the infirmity, with the grace of God in enabling him to bear it, so that the power of Christ might be manifested in him.
The case of our Saviour is very remarkable, and well worthy our attention. Math. 26 : 394-42. Mark 14: 35. Luke 22 : 42. It was not the mere agony of crucifixion that our Saviour so much dreaded, but the untold, unulterable sorrow, connected with the hidings of his father's face from him in that dreadful hour, and the other sufferings connected with his death as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. When the hour approached, his human nature sunk, and he earnestly desired, if any other way were possible, he might be spared the agony.
Some have contended that Jesus feared he should die of his
agony in the garden before he came to the cross, and he prayed to be saved from dying there ; and the particular thing asked for was granted. In support of this interpretation, Heb. 5: 7, he was heard in that he feared, is quoted. The expression in the original is, απο της ευλαβειας, and ευλαβεια in the New Testament does not mean dread of death, but it signifies Godly fear, (as it is translated in Heb. 12: 28,) or