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Thirdly, As Jesus Christ is the means of our acceptance. “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done for you,” John xv. 7. “ To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved, "Ephes. i. 6.
Fifthly, The Holy Ghost enables the believer to pray with joy and rejoicing of soul. “ These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy may be full," John xy. 11. “ For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost,” Rom. xiv. 17.
Under the law they who expected a blessing on the sacrifice which they offered to God were to look carefully to two things :
First, To the subject matter of their sacrifice: it was to be what the Lord himself had appointed, not what men's own fancies led them to.
First, The matter of their sacrifice. “ Ye shall offer at your own will a male without blemish of the beeves, &c. But whatsoever hath a blemish that shall ye not offer.” Lev. xxii. 19, 20. Where God required that the matter of their sacrifice should be of the beeves, of the sheep, or of the goats ; if the Jews had offered swine or dogs' flesh, both they and their sacrifice too had been rejected as an abomination: so now, if any
shall use, in praying to God, words or petitions which agree not with the form of sound words expressly laid down in the law and the gospel, they will
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most certainly be rejected, both they and their prayers too.
As for example: If a man shall pray to mere creatures, such as angels or glorified saints; or if he pray to God conjunctly with them, as mediators of intercession; and if he put up prayers for things which are unlawful; God will abominate both the
person and his prayers too, be those prayers never so well composed, according to the rules of art and learning.
Secondly, They were to look carefully to the manner how they offered their sacrifice.
There were many who were found in the first, who, for their sinful neglect in the second, were rejected; witness Isa. i. 11, 12. pose is the multitude of your sacrifices?” &c.
Here it is plain that the Jews did offer such sacrifices as were of God's own appointment; but resting there, and not regarding the manner, (which was, that they should offer, by faith in the Son of God, then to come, of whom those sacrifices were typical, and true repentance, accompanied with a hearty reformation) they and their multiplied sacrifices were rejected.
It is even so this day in England. Many are the prayers and petitions, such as they are, which are offered to God, both by nonconformist and conformists too; but, for want of a saving faith in the Son of God, and evangelical repentance towards God his Father, with a hearty reformation of life and conversation, England, with her vain
oblations, stands fair for an utter rejection from God. And who can, who dares, say that God doth herein deal unjustly, in case he delivers England into the hands of those unmerciful people, of whose fashions and ways England hath of late years grown so foolishly fond? He that reads the history of the Old Testament with due observation will find that it hath been the usual method of God, with the Israelites of old, to plague his professing, hypocritical people by those nations whose idolatries and wicked customs. they grew fond of. And, if it fall out otherwise with England, God must, in a way of absolute sovereignty, step out of the path of his usual methods of providence.
The right manner of praying consists in the sanctified activity of the will and affections, when the Holy Ghost doth work or beget in the soul of the believer a due value of those things contained in the matter of his
prayer. This very thing, if rightly considered, and duly weighed in the balance of a scriptural and an unprejudiced consideration, might fill the face of those men with shame and blushing, and their consciences with terror and amazement, who assume unto themselves a power of imposing on the consciences of people the forms of prayer composed by themselves, or other fallible men like themselves.
I will suppose those forms of prayer, by men imposed, to be authentic and sound as touching
the matter; yet, seeing it belongs to the Holy Ghost, and to him alone, not excluding the Father and the Son, to work the saving graces of the Spirit in the heart, and to stir up and draw forth those graces, by him wrought, into a lively activity upon or towards their proper objects in prayer, I humbly conceive it neither presumption nor uncharitableness to affirm, that all such imposed forms are not the least part of those God-provoking abominations which threaten to lay the land waste.
That person or nation, who wilfully separates between the form and the power of godliness, must expect to be separated from eternal life, if the grace of God in Christ doth not prevent.
Quest. 7. By what arguments may a weak and tempted believer be encouraged to go on with courage and boldness in the duty of prayer, notwithstanding the many difficulties and rubs which lie in his way to discourage and daunt him?
Ans. To this great and necessary question I shall answer in seven particulars.
ARG. 1. First, Let the poor tempted believer consider, and be convinced, that to continue stedfast in prayer to God for whatever he wants is most certainly the believer's duty. “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face evermore.” Psal. cv. 4.
Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thess. v. 17.
ARG. 2. The necessitous condition the poor
believer is in, and the innumerable wants and weaknesses he labours under. To such a one I freely say, If thou hast no want of pardoning mercy for sins past; if thou standest in no-want of renewing grace to help thee against indwelling corruption; if thou meetest with no temptations and trials which are too strong for thine own strength; if thou canst live contentedly and rejoicingly without God; then go on in the neglect of seeking God's face in prayer; otherwise, know that diligence, constancy, and zealous wrestling with God in praying, is the way appointed by God himself in which all thy wants must be supplied.
Arg. 3. The little grace thou hast, if it bę saving, cannot stand still in the approved neglect of prayer,
but it will be restless till it be crowned with perfection.
ARG. 4. God never yet rejected or cast out the prayer
any true believer, though his faith and his other graces were never so weak; but, though he hath for a time hid his face, and seemed to reject the prayers of his children, yet he hath, sooner or later, appeared for their help and deliverance. “ He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer. This shall be written for the generation to come; and the people that shall be created shall praise the Lord.” Psal. cii. 17, 18.
This glorious prayer-hearing God is he who never yet said unto the seed of Jacob, “Seek ye