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Brother; Gen. xxxii. 10. which was ushered in with a most thankful Acknowledgment of God's undeserved Mercies to him, through the whole Course of his Travels; I am not worthy, fays he, of the leaft of all the Mercies, and of all the Truth, which thou haft fhewed unto thy Servant; for with my Staff I paffed over this Jordan, and now I am become two Bands. Then follows his Prayer: Deliver me, I pray thee, from the Hand of my Brother, from the Hand of Efau, for I fear him, left he will come and fmite me, and the Mother with the Children.
5. And lastly, let our Prayers be joined both with the diligent Ufe of other lawful Means appointed by God, particularly with Chriftian Vigilance; Watch and pray, fays our Saviour Mark xiii. 33. and likewife with an exprefs Intention, to make good Ufe of the Grace we then pray for, in keeping of God's Commandments, like the Pfalmift, Pfal. cxix. 32. I will run the Way of thy Commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my Heart. And Verfe 8. of the fame Pfalm, I will keep thy Statutes, O forfake me not utterly.
IV. The last Thing I propofed to confider, for explaining the Promife in my Text, and for clearing it from all Imputations, is fomething relating to God's Grant of our Prayers and Petitions here promised. And it is this; that God performs this Promife, not only when he grants the very Thing we pray for in kind, but in divers other Cafes and Inftances, when we are not fo fenfible of it. For clearing of this, I fhall put a Cafe or two, where God grants not exactly the
[SERM. Thing we pray for, yet grants what is here promifed; namely, fome good Thing or other, which really answers the End and Design of our Prayers. Suppofe a Man under Temptation, and fearing his own Lapfe or Relapfe, fhould pray for the Removal of the Temptation; and inftead of removing it, God should furnish him with a fufficient Degree of Grace to preserve him from being overcome by it; is not the End of this Prayer fufficiently answered? And this was St. Paul's Cafe, 2 Cor. xii. 7. Left I should be exalted above Measure, fays he, through the Abundance of the Revelations, there was given to me a Thorn in the Fleft, the Messenger of Satan to buffet me, left I should be exalted above meafure. For this Thing I befought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me: and he faid unto me, My Grace is fufficient for thee: for my Strength is made perfect in Weakness. We are to confider, that though we fhort-fighted Creatures fee perhaps but one Way of escaping a Danger, and accordingly bend all the Force of our Prayers, that we may compass that; yet it is to be believed,. that the infinitely wife God knows of many Ways to answer the fame Defign; and it is but reasonable, of all thofe Ways, to leave it to him, to chufe that which he knows will best anfwer his own Honour, and our Good.
The other Cafe I fhall put is this: Suppofe we pray for one thing which we think very good, and instead of that, God gives us another, which is really far better, fhall we fay that fuch Prayer has not been anfwered? e. g. Suppose a beloved Child is very fick, and the Parents, as is ufual, pray for the Recovery of its Health: if inftead
of that, God, out of a great Love to that fame Child, fhould think fit to take it to himself into Heaven, is not this granting a much better Thing than was prayed for? And this was the Cafe of Abijab, the Son of Jeroboam, a good Child in a wicked Family. The Prophet Ahijah being confulted whether the Child would live or die, anfwered thus: The Child fhall die, and all Ifrael fhall mourn for him, and bury him, for he only of Jeroboam fhall come to the Grave, because in him there is found fome good Thing toward the Lord God of Ifrael, in the House of Jeroboam, 1 Kings xiv. 12. In general, we may reft fatisfied, that if we pray as we ought, and as has been described from the holy Scriptures, and our Prayers are not answered in kind, God has good Reasons for fo doing, though unknown to us; and that he will answer the Intent of those Prayers fome other Way, that will prove as much, or more to our Happiness and Benefit.
Thus now I have opened up to you the Meaning, with the due Qualifications and Restrictions of this great Gospel Promife: And have from the Context, and other plain Scriptures, cleared it from the Miftakes to which it is obnoxious, when God's Truths are confidered by halves. I fhall conclude with two or three Affertions refulting from this Doctrine, which I defire to leave with you, as very proper to settle your Minds in this matter.
The First is this: If there are any who think this Promife has not been made good to them, let them examine themselves by these Rules which have been laid down from the holy Scriptures for the Explication of it; and they will
find, that God has not been worse than his Promise; but that the Fault is in themfelves, who have not complied with the Conditions required, towards the Accomplishment of it; or else that it is accomplished, though not in Kind, yet in a Way as beneficial for them.
The Second Affertion is this; That all who are deftitute of Grace to do their Duty, neglect Prayer, which is the fure Means of obtaining it: At least do not go about it in the right Way and Manner which I have now described to you, out of the holy Scriptures.
The Third and last Affertion is, That all who continue earnest in Prayer, have obtained likewife the Grace to amend their Lives; let them therefore diligently improve their Talent, and ftir up the Grace of God, which is in them. And if they labour under any fpiritual Wants, let them continue inftant in Prayer, and not doubt, but that trufting to this Promife of Chrift's, they fhall at last prevail. So much for the firft Encouragement to Prayer, taken from the Promife of God. The other, taken from the Confideration of his Nature, as he is a most loving Father to his own Children, I muft refer to another Opportunity.
Now to God, the Hearer of Prayer; to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghoft, be all Praise, Honour, and Glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
MAT. VII. 9.
V. 9. Or what Man is there of you, whom if bis Son afk Bread, will be give him a Stone? V. 1o. Or if he afk a Fish, will be give him a Serpent?
V. 11. If ye then being evil, know how to give good Gifts unto your Children, how much more fball your Father which is in Heaven give good things to them that ask him?
The Third Sermon on this Text.
UR bleffed Saviour having at the feventh Verse of this Chapter, recommended fervent Prayer, as a Duty highly requifite towards the facilitating of all other Duties; for enforcing this his Exhortation, he immediately backs it with two Encouragements taken from the Promifes and Nature of God. The first of which I confidered at the laft Occafion, endeavouring to fhew you, that a Grant of Grace doth always attend the due Ufe of Prayer, if we perform it with those Conditions and Qualifications, which, I fhewed you, were prefcribed in the Context, and in fome other Paffages of holy Scripture.