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This altar then makes thy groans golden groans, thy tears golden tears, and thy prayers golden prayers, in the eye of that God thou comest to.
BENEFIT OF PRAYER. Pray often; for prayer is a shield for the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan.
Look yonder ! Ah, methinks mine eyes do see
Prayer is as the pitcher that fetcheth water from the brook, therewith to water the herbs : break the pitcher and it will fetch no water, and for want of water the garden withers.
The godly have found all other places, the throne of grace excepted, empty, and places that hold no water. They have been at mount Sinai for help, but could find nothing there but fire and darkness, but thunder and lightning, but earthquakes and trembling, and a voice of killing words.
They have sought for grace by their own performances; but, alas, they have yielded them nothing but wind and confusion : not a performance, not a duty, not an act in any part of religious worship, but they, looking upon it in the glass of the Lord, do find it specked and defective.
They have sought for grace by their resolutions, their vows, their purposes, and the like; but alas, they all do as the other, discover that they have been very imperfectly managed, and so are such as can by no means help them
They have gone to their tears, their sorrow, pentance, if perhaps they might find some help there; but all has fled away like the early dew.
They have gone to God as the great Creator, and have beheld how wonderful his works have been; they have looked to the heavens above, to the earth beneath, and to all their ornaments; but neither have these, nor what is of them, yielded grace to those that had sensible want thereof.
They have gone with these pitchers to their fountains, and have returned empty and ashamed; they found no water, no river of water of life.
Paul, not finding it in the law, despairs to find it in any thing else below, but presently betakes himself to look for it where he had not yet found it: he looked for it by Jesus Christ, who is the throne of grace, where he found it, and rejoiced in hope of the glory of God.
O, when a God of grace is upon a throne of grace, and a poor
sinner stands by and begs for grace, and that in the name of a gracious Christ, in and by the help of the Spirit of grace, can it be otherwise but such a sinner must obtain mercy
grace to help in time of need?
All the sorrow that is mixed with our Christianity proceeds, as the procuring cause, from ourselves, not from the throne of grace ; for that is the place where our tears are wiped away, and also where we hang up our crutches : the streams thereof are pure and clear, not muddy nor frozen, but warm and delightful, and they make glad the city of God.
DISCOURAGEMENTS IN PRAYER. There is an aptness in those that come to the throne of grace, to cast every degree of faith away that carries not in it self-evidence of its own being and nature, thinking that if it be faith, it must be known to the soul; yea, if it be
faith, it will do so and so-even so as the highest degree of faith will do : when, alas, faith is sometimes in a calm, sometimes up, and sometimes down, and sometimes in conflict with sin, death, and the devil. Faith now has but little time to speak peace to the conscience; it is now struggling for life, it is now fighting with angels, with infernals; all it can do now, is to cry, groan, sweat, fear, fight, and gasp for life.
I know what it is to go to God for mercy, and stand all the while through fear afar off, being possessed with this, Will not God now smite me at once to the ground for my sins? David thought something so when he said as he prayed, “Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me."
None know, but those that have them, what turns and returns, what coming on and going off, there are in the spirit of a man that indeed is awakened, and that stands awakened before the glorious Majesty in prayer.
It is a great matter, in praying to God, not to go too far, nor come too short ; and a man is very apt to do one or the other. The Pharisee went so far, he was too bold; he came into the temple' making such a ruffle with his own excellencies, there was in his thoughts no need of a Mediator..
It has been the custom of praying men to keep their distance, and not to be rudely bold in rushing into the presence of the holy and heavenly Majesty, especially if they have been sensible of their own vileness and sins, as the prodigal, the lepers, and the poor publican were. Yea, Peter himself, when upon a time he perceived more than commonly he did of the majesty of Jesus his Lord, what doth he do ? He fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
Oh, when men see God and themselves, it fills them
with holy fear of the greatness of the majesty of God, as well as with love to, and desire after, his mercy.
What is poor sorry man, poor dust and ashes, that he should crowd up, and go jostlingly into the presence of the great God ?
For my part, I find it one of the hardest things that I can put my soul upon, even to come to God, when warmly sensible that I am a sinner, for a share in grace, in mercy. Oh, methinks it seems to me as if the whole face of the heavens were set against me. Yea, the very thought of God, strikes me through ; I cannot bear up, I cannot stand before him ; I cannot but with a thousand tears say, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Ezra 9:15.
At another time, when my heart is more hard and stupid, and when his terror doth not make me afraid, then I can come before him and ask mercy at his hand, and scarce be sensible of sin or grace, or that indeed I am before God. But above all, they are the rare times, when I can go to God as the publican, sensible of his glorious majesty, sensible of my misery, and bear up, and affectionately cry,
God be merciful to me a sinner.”
At certain times the most godly man in the world may be hard put to it by the sin that dwelleth in him; yea, so hard put to it, that there can be no way to save himself from a fall, but by imploring heaven and the throne of grace for help. This is called the needy-time, the time when the wayfaring man that knocked at David's door shall knock at ours; or when we are got into the sieve into which Satan did get Peter; or when those fists are about our ears that were about Paul's; and when that thorn pricks us that Paul said was in his flesh. But why, or how comes it to pass, that the godly are so hard put to it at these times, but because there is in them—that is, in their flesh-no good thing, but consequently all aptness to close
in with the devil and his suggestions, to the overthrow of the soul ?
But now, here we are presented with a throne of grace, unto which, as David says, we must continually resort; and that is the way to obtain relief and to find help in time of need.
DISCOURAGEMENTS TO PRAYER REMOVED.
QUERY. What would you have a poor creature do, that cannot tell how to pray ?
ANSWER. Thou canst not, thou complainest, pray; canst thou see thy misery? Hath God showed thee that thou art by nature under the curse of his law ? If so, do not mistake. I know thou dost groan, and that most bitterly; I am persuaded thou canst scarcely be found doing any thing in thy calling. But prayer breaks from thy heart. Have not thy groans gone up to heaven from every corner of thy house? I know it is thus: and so also doth thine own sorrowful heart witness thy tears and thy forgetfulness of thy calling. Is not thy heart so full of desires after the things of another world, that many times thou dost even forget the things of this world ? _Prithee, read this scripture : Job 23: 12.
QUERY. Yea, but when I go in secret, and intend to pour out my soul before God, I can scarce say any thing at all.
ANSWER. Ah, sweet soul, it is not thy words that God so much regards, that he will not mind thee except thou comest before him with some eloquent oration. His
is on the brokenness of thy heart; and that it is which makes the compassions of the Lord run over : “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
The stopping of thy words may arise from overmuch trouble in thy heart. David was so troubled sometimes that he could not speak. But this may comfort all such sorrowful hearts as thine, that though thou canst not
Riches of Bunyan,