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find a susceptibility in its regard, wholly due to them, and immensely interesting to itself. In this way, prayer contributes, to a degree which cannot be limited, to withdraw the soul from sin; to disarm temptations of their fascinating influence; to weaken the power of passion; and to increase the hopes, and means, of resistance. In the same manner, are the views, and emotions, which regard holiness, improved; and resolution, and strength, gained, to make progress in the Divine life.
Thirdiy. Prayer is useful to unregenerated individuals by teaching them, that, so long as they continue in this state, they cannot pray in the manner, required by God.
Unregenerate men, when affected with a deep sense of their guilt, and a solemn concern for their future destiny, universally pray. But all such men, before they have made attempts of this nature, believe, whatever may be their creed, that they can pray with their present disposition, so as at least to satisfy themselves; and, not improbably, so as to be acceptable to God. There is no way, within my knowledge, in which they so effectually unlearn this doctrine, and so entirely give up this belief, as by their own attempts at prayer. The peculiarly clear, dislinct, and affecting views of moral subjects, which I have already mentioned, are of course directed to their prayers, as well, as much, and probably more, than to any other subjects of this nature. Their prayers, in the act of offering them up to God, are seen by them in a light, and with a distinctness and certainty, never, perhaps, experienced in any other case. Amid the anxiety and earnestness, with which awakened sinners pray, they come, without an exception, first to doubt their own ability to pray as they ought; and then, without a doubt, to believe, that their prayers are wholly destitute of evangelical worth : at least, I never knew an exception to this process in any person, who, in this situation, has disclosed his views of the subject to me. Perhaps I ought rather to say, I remember none. This important part of self-knowledge is, I believe, rarely, if at all, acquired in any other way. In this situation, and by these means, sinners, if I mistake not, are chiefly brought to a state of absolute humiliation, and a full conviction of their entire dependence on Christ for holiness and Salvation. Not to be able to pray, so as to be in some degree satisfied, and comforted, by our prayers, is to be poor indeed. This humbled, dependent state of the mind is, as I formerly observed, that, in which the Grace of the Gospel is usually bestowed on men.
Fourthly. Prayer is useful to Individuals, as it teaches them their Dependence on God.
The act of asking for blessings in Prayer, which is its primary employment, brings up forcibly to our view the impossibility of furnishing them to ourselves. The blessings also, for which we ask, are seen to be absolutely necessary for us, and such as none but God can give. They are the result of Infinite Power, Wisdom, and Goodness, alone. Of these interesting truths, the suppliant cannot fail to perceive the clearest evidence, and to experience the strongest impression.
To this sense of dependence on God, our Adoration, in which we recite his glorious perfections in the most solemn manner; our Confession, in which we recount our sins and wants, our infinite need of forgiveness, and our utter insufficiency to supply ourselves with the necessary good; and our Thanksgiving, in which we acknowledge, that all the blessings, enjoyed by us, have come from God only; irresistibly conspire to make large additions. As the God, whose immensely great and glorious Character we humbly and solemnly repeat, is presented to our view as rich in all good; we feel ourselves to be poor, and little, and sinful, and naked, and in want of all things.
Alone, withdrawn from the world, in the immediate presence of JEHOVAH, we cannot but see these things in the strongest light, and by themselves. The eye of the mind is turned solely, and intensely, upon them, and prevented from the obscurity, confusion, and consequent perplexity, which necessarily attend all complicated views. With such apprehensions, we can scarcely fail to feel, in the deepest manner, this most important subject. It becomes the burden of our thoughts, and our language. The value of the blessings themselves, our indebtedness to God for them, our own unworthiness of them all, and the mercy, manifested in bestowing them, unitedly impress them on our hearts with a force peculiar and pre-eminent.
As the pardon of our sins, and the justification, adoption, and Vol. V.
sanctification, of our souls, constitute the means of all other good; so they are scen, felt, and acknowledged, even by the convinced sinner, to be his own, highest, and immediate good. For this good, he will cry with intense earnestness to Him, in whom alone he finds either ability, or disposition, to communicate this invaluable blessing. With deep humiliation, with intense anguish, he casts himself at the foot of the cross, with the prayer of the publican, God be merciful to me a sinner; or with that of the disciples, when the ship, in which they were conveyed, was ready to sink; Lord save me, or I perish! In this situation of the soul, desponding, convinced of its guilt and danger, and feeling the infinite necessity of forgiveness and renovation, God, in all his ordinary Providence, has been graciously pleased to extend mercy to sinners, and to bring them into his Kingdom. This is not done because of any excellency in their prayers, or in their characters; for no such excellency exists; but because they infinitely need his mercy; and also, if I am not deceived, because there is an evident propriety in bestowing it on them, when in this situation, rather than while they are stupid, blind, and hardened in their sins.
The Christian, in the same manner, learns with still more clcarness, and stronger affections, his own absolute dependence on his Maker. All his springs of holiness, and happiness, he perceives to be in God. Innumerable sins he discovers lying at his door; many and various lusts remaining in his heart; wants of many kinds, and of great importance, rising up continually to his view; his guilt dreadfully great, and his danger extreme. No being, but God, can remove the evils, from which he suffers, or those which he dreads. None, but God, can supply the blessings, which he feels to be his all.
In the whole of the Christian course, he realizes, in the most affecting manner, his absolute necessity of being enabled by the grace of God to resist temptations, to overcome lust, to vanquish enemies, to subdue sin, and to advance in obedience. Every evil affection he sees capable of being removed, or lessened, by the assistance of God only : and by the same assistance he must be furnished with all his ability to live a holy lise, and to cultivate every virtuous propensity. From God only, he also knows, must be derived his daily hope, support, and consolation; peace of mind, evidence of the love of God, increase in grace, and a patient continuance in well-doing. God only can cleanse his soul, refine and exalt his views, remove his fears, quicken his affections, brighten his hopes, and multiply his joys. All these are blessings, possessed by none beside the Infinite Mind; and gists of none but the Almighty Hand. At the same time, they are blessings, which God is supremely pleased to bestow. His nature is bounty; and giving is his favourite employment.
But he is pleased to be inquired of for all blessings. Ready as he is to bestow, it is his pleasure, that all his rational crcatures should ask. Accordingly he requires all flesh to come to him with their requests; and, for their encouragement, styles himself a God hearing prayer. With these delightful vicws of the Divine Character, and with affecting apprehensions of his own circumstances, every Christian comes to God; and finds in prayer peculiar encouragement, hope, assistance, strength, enjoyment, and universal edification.
Fifthly. Prayer is useful to Individuals, as il furnishes to them the best views of the Divine Character.
Prayer brings home to the mind the Character of God with peculiar advantage in many ways. Some of these have been already mentioned; as being inseparably connected with the subjects, which I have had occasion to consider. Several others I shall now briefly recount. It is impossible, that a suppliant should fail to remember, with peculiar strength and conviction, this Glorious Being as his Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor, his Father, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. These are themes of his prayer, in all the parts of it; and are perpetually recurring. They rise in his adoration, confession, thanksgivings, and petitions. They rise in every profitable form. He cannot think of a want, a sin, or a blessing, without realizing against whom his sins have been committed, by whom his wants must be supplied, and from whom his blessings must flow. He cannot but recal with deep affection the justice of that great Being, whom he has offended; the holiness of Him, whose image he is required to exhibit; the purity of Him, whose all-seeing eye is intent on his sins; the power of Him, by whom he was created, and has been
alway preserved; and the goodness, faithfulness, truth, and mercy, of Him, to whose mercy, truth, and faithfulness, he must be indebted for the forgiveness of his sins, and the performance of all the promises, contained in the Covenant of Grace, and to whose goodness he must owe every future blessing of time and eternity.
In Prayer, God literally draws nigh to him, and he to God. In a sense, he beholds his character in full view; as we distinctly see near objects with the bodily eye. The Divine Perfec. tions are, therefore, realized, and acknowledged ; and not merely, and loosely, proved by argument to our understandings. Like Job, he before had heard of God by the hearing of the ear ; but now his eye seeth him. As his prayers return daily; so his views, returning with them, soon become habitual; and, like other habitual things, become continually stronger and stronger, more and more bright, just, and affecting. The great, glorious, and delightful character, on which he so frequently dwells, is in a sense instamped on his heart; and always realized, and enjoyed. Thus a peace and satisfaction are derived to him from prayer, for which nothing can be a substitute. By prayer, therefore, as a Christian he lives; and lives with holiness and wisdom, daily increasing ; is continually a better man in all the relations of the present life, and a more and more proper candidate for immortal happiness in the world above.
That each of the several things, which I have mentioned as effects flowing from the performance of this duty, is, in an eminent degree, useful to him, who performs it, will be questioned by no sober man. Still more strongly will it be perceived, that all these advantages, united, must be of pre-eminent importance. To be destitute of them must be, in the spiritual sense, to be poor, and wretched, and miserable. All of them, however, exhibit this subject, when considered by themselves, in an imperfect manner. These views, and dispositions, in their connections and consequences, are branched out into others; and then into others still; in such numbers, in so continual a succession, and with such efficacious influence, as to affect with the greatest advantage the whole Christian character, and to reach through every part of the Christian life. Every where their influence is