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to be good, ought to be traced up to answered prayer, even in this age when many,
pray, are both zealous and benevolent. It was by men of prayer, that our great plans of usefulness were originated. It is by such men that their great operations are conducted. And it is in answer to the prayers of the church, that the world cannot resist the claims of our great institutions. “ The earth” has, of late, “helped the woman," upon a scale, both of men and money, not to be explained on any other principle. The popularity of our societies has, indeed, great influence in obtaining patronage and support for them. But what first made them popular enough to win their present popularity ?
Our prayers, then, are not unanswered, nor equivocally answered, inasmuch as we have acquired, and are enabled to maintain, many of the best principles and feelings of doctrinal and practical godliness. Unless, therefore, we attach more importance to occasional joyful emotions, than to habitual veneration of the Glorious Gospel and the Eternal Law—than to settled and influential convictions of truth and duty—than to a conscientious regard to the divine will and glory, we can—we ought to say, much of the “ Profit” to be derived from prayer.
When we consider the fearful peril of those who are “far off” from the cross, from the mercy-seat, and from the narrow way; and how many are afar off, we may well say, “ Verily, God hath heard us !” even if we are not yet 80 near to these sources of safety, as to find them sources of “ STRONG CONSOLATION."
Would I exchange places or prospects with the prayerless? If not, I have not prayed in vain.
Our prayers should have for their chief object the continuance and increase of our holy principles and habits.
There is some confusion in our ideas and estimate of real happiness or sensible enjoyment in religion, if we are uncomfortable in our mind, although conscious that no error nor sin could make us happy. Conscience arrayed against
vice, and the heart against legality, constitute a real Christian or a true believer ; and a believer is justified, is adopted, is accepted, and has eternal life. God has expressly and repeatedly said so in his word; and, therefore, we ought to take his word for the fact, instead of praying that his Spirit would exempt us from believing it, by making us feel it; we cannot feel it whilst we do not believe it. The Holy Spirit is not likely to strengthen our hearts, by weakening or setting aside our understanding : He is as unlikely to render reason or revelation useless, as to resign his own place to either of them. He will keep his own place as Head of both, but he will not displace either of them to humour sloth. Were this well understood, we should bend our prayers for comfort, upon the increase of a believing and obedient frame of mind : for whilst this is devotionally cultivated, we are both free and welcome to believe all the promises for ourselves : and they are enough to cheer any heart, that can be satisfied with present grace and futuro glory.
Many, without knowing or intending it, are praying down the use of truth and faith, and yet complaining that God does not answer them!
When the Holy Spirit answers prayer for comfort most sensibly, it is not by presenting new truths to the mind, but by inclining and enabling the mind to understand, and appreciate, and rest on the truth as it is in Jesus.
This is not always obvious to ourselves, when we are most happy in prayer. Indeed, it is well that it is not. It would be a pity if it were! We are better employed then, than in analyzing the elements or the order of our sweet emotions. Truth is, then, God, and God truth —they are so identified. We do not pause to mark any
distinction. The Bible is lost in the God of the Bible, when we realize Him as it has revealed Him.
This $TRONG LIGHT is not, however, frequent nor lasting. It is, therefore, prudent to mark, during the intervals of it, that all that was new in its radiancy, arose, not from any new star of promise, nor from any new rainbow of mercy, nor from any new lamp of providence; but from our “ eyes” being, like those of the prophet's servant, unusually opened to see the glories and defence of the mount of God. The Spirit then wrought mightily by the word, for then we had been deeply pondering and praying over some great truth of the word. We
may have forgotten this now, and even at the time when the enjoyment began. This was, however, the fact before it began ; it must have been so: for what else could we have thought of or prayed over, at the throne of God, but some part of the word of God?
Dr. WARDLAW has well said, that the inward conflict between opposing principles—those of the flesh and those of the Spirit of the old and new man, constitutes the very distinction between the regenerate and the unregenerate. While a sinner continues unregenerate, he may occasionally experience the opposition and remonstrance of conscience : his judgment may, in some things, be fretfully at variance with the inclinations of his heart. But there is a material difference between the constrained approbation of the understanding, and the consent of the will, and complacency of the affections. The unregenerate man can have no love to God—no delight in his law-no desire after fellowship with him or conformity to him. These are the very principles of the new nature ; against which, to the very end, the old will strive--" the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” Freedom, therefore, from this conflict, is not to be a matter of expectation to any child of God, while “ sojourning in the flesh."
We must not, therefore, be surprised to find in ourselves, what all converts have found in themselves ; a law of the flesh, as well as a law of the Spirit: nor must we be afraid to call our loathing of sin and longing for holiness, "the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” They really are so, if we really deem holiness essential to our present happiness, as well as to our future safety.
Were we, then, called upon to draw up a list of the things which would make us really happy, what things would it chiefly include ? It would, of course, include some temporal blessings; such as, an ordinary share of health, a safe medium between poverty and riches, very select circle of judicious friends. Spiritual things would, however, form the chief and most numerous items of such a list. And how readily—even at a glance-we see and fix upon the real elements of true happiness! We feel at no loss to determine, at once, what would make us truly happy. We have no occasion to pause and ask, “ who will show us any good ?” we know, as
were, instinctively, what is really good, however far off we may feel from the experience or the enjoyment of it. Whatever others may deem good or best, we are quite sure that the favour of God, and conformity to the image of God form the chief good. There is neither falsehood nor faltering on our lips, when we declare, that nothing could make us so happy, as such a measure of grace and strength as would enable us to think, and feel, and act at all times, in religion, exactly as we wish to do. We should be so delighted, could we always read and hear the good word of God with lively relish–always pray in the sanctuary and the closet with holy freedom-always communicate at the altar of God with equal hope and humility-always realize a personal interest in the Saviour, and a personal witness of the Spirit, and a personal hold upon the paternal love of God.
This is no pretence; we cannot even conceive of any thing more delightful than a heart that would never wander nor grow cold, a spirit that would never become weary nor
dull, a conscience that would never prevaricate nor warp, a memory
that would never be treacherous nor weak, and a judgment that would never be rash nor partial. Even a good deal of this, would be very gratifying to us ; and all this, we should reckon almost heaven upon earth. O yes ! whoever may see
no beauty" in such a state of mind and emotion toward God and the Lamb, holiness, and eternity -we see nothing so beautiful out of heaven. Such a spirit, in our esteem, has a “form and comeliness," surpassed only by the perfection of unfallen and glorified spirits.
But this is not the state of our minds—alas ! our spirit is almost the reverse of all this. True! and yet the love and longing we feel for such a spirit in religion is a good sign. We were not always so very particular about how we felt towards divine things. This is, to ourselves, a new habit of viewing their claims upon our hearts. There was a time when we did not think that either the service or the salvation of God deserved or demanded so much esteem, and when we should have been any thing but glad to experience such an absorbing sense of their worth.
Well, how came this change of opinion and feeling? who opened our eyes to see such beauty in holiness of heart? I speak now of our sense of its beauty, and desirableness, and necessity : and that is a new sense, both in kind and degree, when compared with our old sentiments on this subject. We neither think nor feel about holiness, as we once and long did. We could not think meanly now, nor feel indifferent, about pureness of heart, or tenderness of conscience, or devotion of spirit. We make, alas, little progress in acquiring them, and but little effort to cultivate them, but we do not despise them at all, nor reckon them fanciful or unnecessary. We may not see the possibility of ever becoming what we thus admire and desire, but neither do we see any possibility of being happy without holiness.
I would not lay any undue stress on this state of mind :