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pounded it; but we meet with them no where, but in the Catalogues of the Hereticks : No certainly, to pray alivays, and not to faint, doth imply a quite different Thing, of which I shall give an Account in the following Particulars.
First, These Words import, that we should be always in a praying Temper, in such a Dispo. sition of Mind, that we always carry about us, and have within us the necessary Requisites of hearty Prayer ; that is to say, a firm Belief of God and his Providence, a lively Sense of our own Sinfulness, and Weakness, and manifold Necessities; and an entire, humble, constant Dependance upon the Divine Goodness for the Supply of them. In such a Frame of Soul as this, I take that Spirit of Prayer and Supplication, mentioned in the Scriptures, to confift.
Secondly, To pray always, likewise imports, That upon every solemn Occasion, we should actually address ourselves to God, seeking Help from him in all the Straits and Difficulties we happen into ; rendring our Acknowledgments for every Good that arrives to us in our Lives; and imploring his Protection, his Guidance, his Blessing upon us, in every Work of Moment that we go about.
Thirdly, it imports farther, that we should, at least, twice every Day, either in publick, or in private, offer up the Sacrifice of Prayer and Praise in a solemn manner unto God. Less than this (I think) this Phrase of Praying always, as likewise that other Expression of St. Paul, that we should pray without ceasing : Less 1 Thelf. than this, I say, they cannot signifie ; but so 17
how much more, I now enquire not. It is, indeed, very probable, as Interpreters have noted, that these Expressions are borrowed from, and have respect to the daily Sacrifices among the Jews. Every Day twice (that is to say, in the Morning and in the Evening) by the Appointment of God, was offer'd up a Sacrifice in the Temple; to which the Devout People resorted: Which Sacrifice is in Scripture, called by the Name of the continual Sacrifice; the daily Sacrifice; the never-ceasing Sacrifice; and this in Contra-diftinction to the occasional Sacrifices, which pious Persons used to bring thither. If now this be a true Account of these Expressions, we cannot be said to pray always, to pray without ceafing, to pray continally
, unless we do, at least, twice every Day, in the Morning, and in the Evening, offer up our folemn Sacrifice of Prayer to God.
But, Fourihly, To pray always, and not to faint, implies great Earnestness and Importunity in our Prayers : It imports, that we should not faintly Address to God, but with Affection and Fervour; with a deep Sense of our Sins, and of our Wants; and a serious and fixed Attention to what we are about; and with very ardent Desires, and hungring and thirsting after that Grace, or that Pardon, or that Blessing that
we pray for. And this is that kind of Prayer, Ch.5.16. which St:James styles, The effeétual fervent Prayer
of a righteous Man, which, he faith, availeth much. Lastly
, To pray always, and not to faint, imports Continuance and Perseverance in our Pray. ers. That we do not pray by Fits and Starts, and then intermit our Devotion, but con
ftantly keep up the Fervour of our Minds towards God: Not giving over our Prayers, tho' we have not a Return of them so soon as we expect; but continuing instant in Prayer, as Rom. 12. the Apostle speaks, and watching thereunto with the
Eph.6.18. all Perseverance.
These are the chief Things which are comprized in this Command of our Saviour. Now to recommend the Practice hereof to you, and to offer some Arguments, to persuade every one thus to pray always, and not to faint, is that which I design in the remaining Part of this Discourse.
I do not know how it comes to pass, that Men have generally so great an Aversion to this Duty of Prayer. They are very hardly got to it; they are glad of any Pretence in the World to be excused from it. And when they do come to perform their Devotions, (which, among many, is not oftner than the Laws or Customs of the Country oblige them to) how soon are they weary of them! How little do they attend to the Businefs they are about! As if indeed Prayer was one of the greatest Burthens that God could lay upon Human Nature. Whereas in Truth, if our Lufts and Passion's were out of the way, and Men could be brought to give themselves the Liberty of confidering Things equally; we should be convinced that there is no Work that a Man can apply himself to; no Action that he can perform, to which there are greater Invitations, greater
Motives; nay, I was going to say, greater Temptations of all sorts, than to this of Prayer.
Suppose one would set himself to perfuade any of us to the Practice of some particular thing which he hath a Mind to recommend to us;
what more effectual Method could he take for the carrying of his Point, than to lay before us the common Heads of Arguments, by which all Mankind are prevailed upon to undertake any Business or Action ? And then to convince us, that the Thing he would persuade us to, is recommendable upon all these Accounts. As for Instance, That it is a Thing fit, and decent, and reasonable to be done. Nay, 'tis a Thing we are oblig'd in Duty to do, even so far oblig'd, that we act against our Natures, if we do it not; nor have we any just Exception against it; it is the most easie Thing in the World; it will put us to no manaer of Trouble, or Pains, of SelfDenial, So far from that, that it is very pleasant and delightful. And not only so, but al. so highly creditable and honourable. And, which is the Top of all, the Benefits and Advantages we shall receive from it, are extremely great in all Respects. If now, I say, a Man can make all these Things good of the Point he would persuade us to, sure all the World must account us out of our Wits, if we do not follow his Advice.
Yet all these Things, it may be evidently made to appear, are true of Prayer, and that too in a higher Degree than of most Things in the World. What therefore can be desired in this Exercise to recommend the Practice thereof to us, that it hath not? And what must be concluded of us, it, notwithstanding
all this, we continue obftinate in our Neglects of it? Give me leave to speak a little to these several Particulars.
First of all ; Doth it recommend any Thing to our Practice that is fit, and decent, and reafonable to be done? Then certainly we must needs think ourselves obliged to the constant Practice of this point we are speaking of. For there is nothing that doth more become us;
any Thing more undecent, or more unreasonable, than the Neglect of it.
Ís it not fit that the Sovereign Lord of us, and of the World, should be acknowledged by us? That we, who do continually depend upon him, should ever and anon be looking up to him, and expressing that Dependance? Is it not fit that we, who every Moment experience a Thousand Instances of his Kindness, partake of a Thousand Mercies and Favours of his, and must perish the next Minute, unless they be continued to us; Is it not highly fit and reasonable (I say) that we should take notice, at least, of these Things to this our Benefactor ?
We should think it very ill Manners to pass by our Prince, or even any of our Betters, without salúting them, or some way or other testifying oựr Respect to them, tho' they had no way particularly obliged us: But if we were beholden to them for our daily Bread; to come into their Presence without taking Notice of them, or their Bounty to us, would be intolerable. How much more intolerable therefore must it be, to pass by God Almighty Day after Day; nay, to be in his Prefence