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piety. Compare Luke 2: 25. Acts 2: 5. 8:2. 'Aro with the genitive means on account of, or because of. See Math. 18: 7. Luke 19: 3. Accordingly the meaning of the text is, he was heard on account of his piety. The passage indeed proves that his prayer was heard and accepted, but it does not prove that the particular thing asked for was granted.
Against this interpretation of our Saviour's prayer there are innumerable objections, both of a critical and moral nature.
1. It is by no means the obvious interpretation. No one, on first reading the passage, would ever imagine that Christ was praying to be saved from dying in the garden. Something else besides the narrative must put this idea into the reader's mind, or he would never have it.
2. It is contrary to the terms employed in the narrative. According to Mark 14: 35, Christ prayed, Father, if it be possible let this hour pass from me. Now, hour is the word generally used to signify the time of his death on the cross, as may be seen by consulting the following passages : John 7:30. 8: 20. 12: 23, 27. 13:1. 17: 1. Luke 22 : 53. He prayed to be spared, if possible, the agonies of the atoning death. He was heard and answered by receiving strength to bear all that was laid upon him. Luke 22:43.
3. The second time Jesus went away to pray he said, My Father, if it be not possible that this cup pass from me except I drink it, thy will be done, Mait. 26 : 42. According to the interpretation we are considering, the meaning of this petition, divested of its figurative language, must be, My Father, if it be not possible for me to survive this agony in the garden, if it be thy will that I never reach the cross, thy will be done. Can any one suppose
that Christ, as the words thus understood must imply, very nearly relinquished all hope of ever reaching the cross, concluded it was his Father's will that he should die in the garden, and composed himself to resignation ?
4. The expressions which Christ uses, Father, if it be possible, let it be so-if it be not possible, thy will be done, not as I will, but as thou wilt, show that he was praying for what he scarcely expected would be literally granted. The petition is changed from the first form, as if lie were sure that could not be granted. The progress of thought in the successive petitions, given by the different Evangelists, is a de
cisive proof, to any one who will attentively consider it, that our interpretation is the correct one. But why should our Saviour pray for what he did not expect to get?
In all points, Christ was tried as we are, though without sin, Heb. 4: 15, 16. This was one great object of his coming into the world, that he might feel just as we feel under our severest and heaviest trials, that we may have the comfort of knowing that he has perfect sympathy with us in our greatest distresses, Heb. 2: 16, 18.
Now we often feel, in our heaviest trials, precisely as our Saviour must have felt in view of the cross, if our interpretation of these passages is correct. The father, when he sees his only child about to be torn from him by death, when all human hope is past, still cries out in agony, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me ; but with sweet submission adds, but if it be not possible, if this cup may not pass from me except I drink it, thy will be done. He prays to be spared the blow if possible; it is a 'relief to him thus to pour out his heart in prayer, his heart would break if he were not permitted to do it. The particular thing asked for cannot be granted, but his prayer is heard and it is answered by giving him strength to bear the pangs from which he cannot be delivered. With such a prayer God is not offended ; he is pleased with it. And what a relief it is thus to give utterance to our grief, and feel that we are pouring our sorrows into the ear of a kind-hearted Father, who would grant what we desire if it could be done consistently with our good, 10 feel that our blessed Saviour had the same intenseness of suffering and found the same mode of relief!
But what encouragement have we to pray, and how do we know our prayers are answered, if we receive not the very things we petition for? We know that our prayers are answered by the calm, sweet, submissive state of mind which acceptable prayer always produces. The Christian knows when God accepts and answers his prayer; for he feels the answer in the depths of his soul, and is sweetly at rest.
Supposing we should petition the Legislature of Ohio for onethous and acres of land in the north-west part of the State, for the benefit of an institution in Cincinnati, like that of Franke in Halle. "The Legislature reply that this land is too distant for our inspection and care, and the profits of it exceedingly precarious ; but they will give us in lieu of it,
twenty thousand dollars worth of real estate in Cincinnati, directly under our own eye, and the profits of which are certain and immediately available. Should we feel that the Legislature had denied our request? Would it diminish our confidence in them? Would it make us despair of the efficacy of petitioning?
The obedient and affectionate child just recovering from a fever, feels a strong appetite, and asks his father with proper feelings, and in a proper manner for a particular article of food, which the father knows (though the child does not) to be injurious. The father kindly receives the request, and in answer to it, gives a wholesome kind of food which the child gratefully accepts. In such a case, does the father feel, and does the child feel that the request was unavailing? Is not the thing really desired granted, though the particular thing asked for is withholden? The child's hunger is satisfied, and satisfied too in answer to his request; his health is promoted, and both father and son are happy, the one in giving, the other in receiving a blessing.
Acceptable prayer, and even the prayer of faith, does not always imply a perfectly definite conception in the mind in respect to the object of prayer, at least, not a conception which the petitioner is able clearly to embody in words. ' Indeed the devotional Christian, in his highest state of devotion often has desires in his heart too big for expression, pulsations towards God which surpass the mind's conception. Like Paul, he hears words unutterable, (2 Cor. 12 :4.)
Observe carefully the words in Rom. 8:26, 27; “Likewise the spirit also helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the Saints, according to the will of God." There are times when we know not ourselves how to pray. The spirit within us intercedes for us. But is it with definite thoughts and full expressions ? No, but with sighings unutterable. With feelings which no language can express, no mind clearly comprehend. But is not this praying in vain ? beating the air ? What! pray when we ourselves do not clearly comprehend our own prayer? Is not this an absurdity? No, for God, he who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the
spirit in those ecstatic moments, even though we may not, for the spirit maketh intercession for us according to the will of God.
It was in reference to such a state of devotional feeling as this, that I once heard Dr. Payson of Portland say, that he pitied the Christian who never had desires in prayer which he could not clothe in language.
Another passage worthy of notice in this connexion is 1 John 5 : 14, 15. "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he heareth us.
And if we know that he hear us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions we desired of him." The Apostle here affirms that, if we ask any. thing according to the will of God, he heareth us. If we know this, then we know that, though we may make mistakes boih in the matter and manner of our petitions, yet God will so hear us that we shall receive what we in our inmost heart really and deeply desired, though it be not the very thing that was in our mind and upon our tongue while engaged in prayer. The Holy Spirit breathes. into us a devotional life, and in the excitement of it, we pray according to the knowledge we have, and God accepts the prayer, not in proportion to our knowledge, but in proportion to our devotional feeling, which may far exceed our knowledge.
We have the same kind of assistance in prayer tll have in preaching. In preaching, the Holy Spirit does not furnish us with words nor with arguments, but excites us to a right state of feeling, and then we speak and argue according to our knowledge of language and reasoning. So it is in prayer. This erroneous idea respecting the prayer of faith seems to have arisen from interpreting passages peculiar to the Apostles' circumstances, and properly applicable to them only, as though they were of universal application. That there are promises peculiar to the Apostles no one can doubt. Such are ihose which direct them not to premeditate as to what they shall say when they are brought before magistrates, because the Holy Ghost shall teach them how and what they shall speak. Mark 13: 11. Matt. 10: 19. Luke 12: 11. 21: 14. That ibe same law of interpretation applies to the promises in John 14:13, 14. 15: 7. 16: 23, 24, is evident from the context. The promise in Matt. 18: 19, 20, is shown from its connexion to be limited to the Apostles in the execution of their apostolic office.
There is also a special faith in respect to the working of miracles, to which special promises are given. Matt. 17: 14–21.
The same kind of faith also is alluded to in Matt. 21 : 18–22. Mark 11 : 12-26.
In respect to this passage, however, an objection has been started which deserves attention. It has been said that the duty of forgiveness being inculcated (Matt. 11: 25, 26,) proves that the promise is a general one, and does not refer to the faith of working miracles. The objection would be valid, if it could be shown that it was not the duty of the disciples to forgive, when they prayed for the faith of miracles; but if it was the duty of the disciples to forgive when they prayed for this kind of faith, as well as at other times, then this exhortation is altogether in place; though the faith of miracles is the particular faith alluded to.
Again it has been asked, What is the faith of miracles ? is it anything else than faith in God? The faith of miracles is indeed faith in God, but it is faith in God for a specific purpose, directed to a specific end. I believe thousands of Christians now living have real faith in God—but have they the faith of miracles? can they repeat the mighty works of Christ and his apostles, or do they imagine that they can?
Faith in God generally, as it shonld be exercised by all Christians, is described in Heb. 11: 6; but the faith of miracles is a specific confidence, that God will enable us, for his glory, to perform a specific act, independently of the common laws of nature-an exercise of mind certainly very different from the general confidence, however strong it may be, that God is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. No one could safely venture to undertake to work a miracle without this specific belief; but it is not at all necessary for the proper discharge of the ordinary duties of a Christian life.
When the Holy Spirit really prompts Christians to ask for a specific object, for the purpose of preparing thein for its reception, the exercise of mind is really the same as that which was required for the working of miracles, and is equally certain of being s ecifically responded to. Christians, and especially those who are bighly devotional, not unfrequently are favored with such exercises; and they are often desirable. But the simple-hearted and devotional Christian
SECOND SERIES, VOL. II., NO. III.