Immagini della pagina


the land, in prayer for our country and for “ the “ church of God that is among us;” according to what each person, after serious and careful deliberation, deems most conducive to our permanent advantage. For we are fully satisfied that such supplications will be answered, not according to the opinions of this or the other class of men, but in the manner which infinite wisdom sees to be the best for us. We proceed therefore to consider,

III. The prevalency of acceptable prayer, according to the Scriptures.

The speculations of reasoning men have deluded vast numbers into a persuasion, that God, (if indeed they allow that there is a God!) having established certain regulations, which they call the laws of nature, leaves the affairs of the universe, at least in ordinary circumstances, to take their own course, without any special interposition: and consequently that the opinion of religious persons, concerning the prevalency of prayer, implies à vain and groundless expectation; as if God would suspend or change these laws continually, at the desire of his worshippers, and to serve their selfish purposes. Thus, they not only exclude the Creator from the government of the world and the care of his creatures, by a refined species of practical Atheism, and bring forward a sentiment diametrically opposite to all revealed


religion, as if they vainly expected by a single objection to subvert the whole system; but they likewise perplex many pious persons, and give Satan an opportunity of discouraging their prayers, because they cannot explain in what manner they are availing!

The Scriptures, however, do not call us to explain, or comprehend, the ways of God, but to believe, adore, and obey. Not a sparrow falls to the ground, not a hair from our heads, without him: and he hath ten thousand ways of influencing and governing the combination and coincidence of causes and effects, without altering by miracle their regular course. “ He doeth what “ he will in the armies of heaven and among the "inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his “hand, or say to him, What doest thou?" lle is the First Mover in every event, by whatever, subordinate agent it is performed. All creature's are his instruments: but he works by them according to the nature of each. He accomplishes his purposes by the instrumentality of voluntary agents, without in the least interfering with their free agency; and whilst each follows the inclination of his own heart, they do no more than " what his hand and his counsel determiner! " before to be done.'” If they act from holy principles, and willingly obey his commandments, he accepts and recompenses their services: but it

* Acts, iv. 27, 28,


they be influenced by corrupt passions to break his righteous law, they receive the punishment due to their crimes, while “his counsel still stands, and he does all his pleasure.'”

When Joshua was appointed to lead the host of Israel against Amalek, Moses engaged in prayer for success in the battle: and the prayer of Moses was at least as efficacious as the courage and conduct of Joshua. In this sense, therefore, “The “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avail“eth much:” not by inducing the Lord to alter his plan; but as an appointed means of accomplishing that plan, in a way honourable to his name, instructive and encouraging to his people, and convincing to every spectator. For when the Lord thus evidently answers the prayers of his servants, who can but say, “ Truly there is a reward for the “righteous! Truly there is a God that judgeth “the earth!”

The whole gospel is manifestly suited to excite the expectation of an answer, to all the prayers, which we present before God according to his revealed will. Waiting on him, in the humble posture of supplicants, powerfully tends to bring all holy affections into lively exercise, and to prepare the soul for the suitable reception and due improvement of the blessings thus desired and sought. The answer of prayer likewise exceedingly promotes the increase of faith; it inspires

'Gen. I. 20. Is. x. 5—7. 15–19. xlvi. 9–11.


and strengthens hope and patience; it enlivens love, and gratitude, and holy joy; and it excites cheerful diligence in self-denying services. That, which is given in answer to the united and fervent supplications of numbers, “ abounds in many thanksgivings unto God:” and when probabilities seem against our success or deliverance, and yet we do succeed, and are delivered according to our earnest and persevering requests; we receive the clearest and deepest conviction imaginable of the reality and importance of true religion.

It is needless to insist particularly on the examples, recorded in Scripture, of the prevalence of prayer. Consider Abraham interceding for Sodom, and closing his petitions before the Lord ceased to grant them. Jacob wrestling, weeping, making supplication, and saying, “ I will not let “thee go, except thou bless me:”” when the Angel (“ even the Lord God of Hosts,') at length answered, “Thy name shall be no more calledJacob “ but Israel; for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.""Moses “standing in the breach” to turn away the wrath of God from Israel, while He says, Let me " alone, that I may destroy them in a moment." And David's short ejaculation, “ O Lord, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness !”—The time would fail to speak of Samuel, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Elijalı, Hezekiah, Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra, and

Gen. xxxii. 24–30. Hos. xii. 4, 5,

[ocr errors]

Nehemiah, and of the apostles, and the church in the New Testainent. What shall we then say to these things, if we do not unreservedly admit, that the prayer of faith is exceedingly powerful, and that nothing can withstand its efficacy?

But if the prayer of an individual frequently proved so prevalent: what may we not hope from the united, fervent, and persevering supplications of many thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, could the whole body of real christians be excited to concur in the present emergency ?-—“ Again I “say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on “ earth, as touching any thing they shall ask, it " shall be done for them by my Father who is in “heaven.” Surely these words of our blessed Saviour, viewed in connexion with the scriptura) declarations and examples already considered, authorize us to form great expectations, when we thus agree together in “ making our requests “ known unto God !”

Prayer has indeed already prevailed: and our protection hitherto, in so wonderful a manner, amidst the shock of nations, should be regarded as an encouraging exhortation to “pray always and “not faint;” and to be more earnest and enlarged in our petitions. Some, however, may be discouraged from this duty by an error in judgment, connected with deep humility. “Who am I, that my prayers should be of any avail, in preserving the nation from desolating judgments, or the church from persecution ? My former heinous

« IndietroContinua »