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[SERM. a Pattern of this Practice with Succefs, Pfal. cxlii. 2. In the Day of my Trouble, faith he, I fought the Lord, I poured out my Complaint before him, I fhewed before him my Trouble. Pfal. cxviii. 5. I called unto the Lord in my Diftrefs; the Lord arfwered me, and fet me in a large Place. So when any strong Temptation affaults us, our best Courfe is, to flee unto God for Shelter; after the Example of St. Paul, 2 Cor. xii. 7. When there was given to him a Thorn in the Flesh, a Meffenger of Satan to buffet him, then he befought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from him; and had a gracious Anfwer, My Grace is fufficient for thee.
And befides these, and fuch like external Providences, there are many internal favourable Difpofitions, which call upon us to the fame Exercife of Prayer. Sometimes we have a great Awakening in our Confciences, a great Overflowing of godly Sorrow, Stings of Remorfe from some seasonable Admonition, earnest Defires to draw near to God in Prayer, a great Delight in God: whenever we perceive ourselves to be in any fuch good Temper of Mind, or melting Frame and Difpofition of Heart, let us then ftrike while the Iron is hot; when these favourable Gales blow, then let us hoift our Sails, and make the best of our Voyage to Heaven.
(4.) The Words Ask, Seek, and Knock, import a great Affiduity in Devotion. That we should frequent it very often, both in publick and private; that befides the more folemn Times of it, we fhould accuftom ourselves to many occafional Addreffes, and likewife to pious Eja
141 culations, and habitual mental Prayer; that these holy Breathings, and fetting of God before our Eyes, and imploring his Aid and Affiftance, fhould become as natural as bodily Refpiration; the one being as neceffary for the Prefervation of the fpiritual, as the other is for the Prefervation of the natural Life; that Devotion should be intermixed to fanctify and fweeten all the Cares, and Troubles, and Bufinefs, and even Recreations of Life; that Prayer fhould be the Key to open up the Day, and to lock up the Night, and both to begin and end all our Bufinefs; that our Love, and Fear of God, our Faith, Hope, and Truft in him, should be continually expreffing itself in Confeffions, Supplications, Prayers, and Praifes; and that our Love to our Neighbour too fhould continually be venting itself in Interceffions and Thanksgivings for him, this being the most universal Way whereby we can be beneficial to all Men; in fhort, that, as the Apoftle fays, 1 Theff. v. 17, 18, We should pray without ceafing, and in every Thing give Thanks.
(5.) I fhall name but one Sense more, in which, I understand this Asking, Seeking, and Knocking; and that is, that we use our utmoft Effort and Endeavours to make our Prayers effectual, that is, to obtain what we pray for. This includes a great many holy Exercifes, which I have not now Time to infift upon; fuch as the putting and keeping of ourselves always in a good Frame and Temper for Devotion, the preferving our Minds difentangled from inordinate Cares; not distracted with too much Company and Bufinefs; not polluted with luftful Imaginations;
not difcompofed with Anger; not obstructing the Effect of our Prayers with Malice and Envy; not diffolving our ferious Temper with Gluttony and Drunkenness; not regarding Iniquity in our Heart; not praying for one Thing in our Devotions, and going quite contrary in our Life and Practice; but contriving that fervent Prayers and vigorous Endeavours may go hand in hand together; and then we may promise ourselves, that the Encouragements here interspersed and annexed shall be made good; that if we ask Grace, we shall receive it; if we feek it, we fhall find it; and if we keep knocking, the Door of Grace fhall be opened unto us.
This is the next Thing I fhould have gone upon; and it will be a proper Subject for our next Meditation. I fhall detain you no longer at prefent. Let all them who are defirous to learn Chriftian Duties to Perfection, learn not to depend on their own Strength and Endeavours; but call in the Affiftance of God's Grace by inceffant fervent Prayer, in the Name and through the Mediation of Jefus Chrift, this being the great Secret, whereby our Hearts are fanctified, our Lives amended, and our Souls finally faved. Bleffings of ineftimable Value; which God of his infinite Mercy beftow upon us all, for Jesus Chrift's Sake. To him, &c.
MAT. VII. 7.
Afk, and it shall be given you: feek, and ye fhall find: knock, and it shall be opened unto
V. 8. For every one that afketh, receiveth: and be that feeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.
The Second Sermon on this Text.
AVING entred on these Words at the laft Occafion, I told you they contained' the first concluding Caution which our Saviour gave against such Things as might obstruct the good Effects of this Sermon on the Mount, upon the Lives of his Hearers. For having given fo many Precepts of great Perfection and Difficulty, that his Difciples might not be difcouraged, as being unable of themselves to dif charge fo difficult a Tafk, he puts them in a Way how they might obtain of God Grace fufficient to perform what he required of them ;* namely, by fervent and importunate Prayer, accompanied with vigorous Endeavours after Grace to keep his Commandments.
In the Words I obferved these two Things:
1. The Duty of fervent Prayer, accompanied with vigorous Endeavours after Grace, Ask, Seek, and Knock.
2. Several Encouragements to this Duty, taken from the Promises and Nature of God.
Now having spoke to the first of these, The Duty of Prayer, at the laft Opportunity; I proceed now to the fecond; namely, The Encouragements taken from the Promifes and Nature of God. I begin with the Promises, or rather Promise here repeated and interfperfed, Ask, and it fhall be given you; feek, and ye shall find: knock, and it shall be opened unto you: And that we might not think this Promise was something extraordinary, and that the Return of Prayer was like other miraculous Gifts in thofe Times, our Saviour adds an Affertion, by which we are taught, that the Promise is extended to all who perform the Duty. For every one that asketh, receiveth: and be that feeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. It is a very full Promise of Grace in Return of our fervent and importunate Prayers.
But because Experience doth not fo fully and readily answer what feems to be here promised, for we often afk without receiving; and feek without finding; and knock when it is not opened unto us; therefore there is a great Difficulty to be cleared in the first Place, concerning the Meaning of this Promise; for certainly the Words are not to be understood in the fame Latitude