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his holy approbation, by assigning to it a more elevated place among the secondary causes which he is pleased to employ? And must there not be provision made, therefore, in the general principles of his administration, for fulfilling the special promise of his word, 'The Lord is nigh to all that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth?" "
Dr Chalmers takes a view nearly similar. His argument is long, and I must be extremely short in my quotations; but the following, I think, will sufficiently shew the general scope of his doctrine:
Every thing has its philosophy, which is neither more nor less than the rationale, or the true state of that thing. It may perhaps be felt as rather an adventurous expression, when we speak of the philosophy of prayer; nevertheless, it is a subject which, like every other possible object of contemplation, admits of academic treatment. And
"First of all then, let it be observed, that the doctrine of the efficacy of prayer but introduces a new sequence to the notice of the mind; whereas it seems to be quarreled with by philosophy, on the ground that it disturbs and distempers the regularity of all sequences. It may add another law of nature to those which have been formerly observed; but this, surely, may be done without invading on the constancy of nature. The general truth may be preserved, that the same result always follows in the same circumstances, although it should be discovered that prayer is one of those influential circumstances by which the result is liable to be modified. The law of magnetism does not repeal, it does not even interrupt the law of gravitation, although the loadstone should keep the iron weight that is suspended beneath it from falling to the ground. There is still a certain and invariable effect produced in this instance by the action
of two forces, each of which is certain and invariable. There is nothing in this to disturb the actual mechanism of nature, but only to complicate it. Nature, after this discovery, may appear a more complex, but not a more capricious mechanism than before. It may disclose to observation a new train of sequences, which must interfere occasionally with other trains, when it will modify, but in no way derange, the workings of a sure and regular economy. What, then, if prayer, and the fulfilment of prayer, are but the two terms of a sequence, having the effect, like every other effect, to complicate the processes of nature, but not to bring them under the misrule of a fitful and wayward contingency, insomuch that the doctrine of the efficacy of prayer may be no more in conflict than the doctrine of the composition of forces with the steadfastness of nature, and the regularities of a harmonious universe ?"
This is the leading idea, which Dr Chalmers follows out to all its consequences, stating and meeting all the objections which are likely to occur to a philosophical mind. Into this disquisition I cannot follow him here, but must refer the reader to the work itself, which deserves and will repay an attentive perusal.
These quotations will sufficiently shew that the doctrine of prayer, as taught by our most distinguished divines, is not in unison with the views of Mr Combe.
There are, no doubt, limitations to the doctrine. We know that in this world all events proceed apparently by invariable laws; and a rational believer never asks in prayer, that any of these laws should be suspended on his account. He never expects to obtain by prayer alone, that which he knows is made dependent on his own exertions, but after using these exertions, he is justified in petitioning that they may be accompanied with a blessing, and made effectual towards obtaining
the object of his desires. Farther, in every thing relating to external events, the true believer will accompany all his petitions with this reservation, that they be granted only so far as may be consistent with the Divine will. But there is one class of petitions in regard to which no reservation is necessary, because we know beforehand that they are conformable to the Divine will. Such are the petitions in the Lord's Prayer, all of which we know to be such as God has declared his willingness to grant, although he may not grant them to us unless we earnestly and faithfully pray for them. Such are in general all our petitions for the influences and assistance of the Divine Spirit to produce in us an amendment of heart and life. In regard to these, the most express assurances are given, that, if we ask them, we shall not ask them in vain:-"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.' In regard to that illumination of mind, which is of the Spirit, and which is necessary to understand the truths of the Gospel, it is declared, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering: for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord."+
And, again, it is said, "If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him."‡
In regard to spiritual blessings and divine influences,
* Matt. vii. 7, 8.
↑ James, i. 5, 7.
Matt. vii. 11,
it seems to be according to the ordinary procedure of God, that they are granted to those, and to those only, who ask them in prayer. It is the will of God, generally, that they should be granted to all, but it is also his will, that they should be asked for, earnestly desired, fervently prayed for. There may be, and there certainly is, in the first motions of this desire leading to prayer and earnest petition, a kind and merciful interposition of divine influence inclining and disposing us to make such petitions; but this does not hinder, that the petition itself is necessary as in part a procuring cause of that full measure of spiritual influence which is required and finally granted to the believer. Even in the case of St Paul, whose conversion was the effect of a direct miracle, he fasted and prayed in darkness for three days, before Ananias was authorized to baptize him, in token of his having received the Holy Ghost.
The true phrenological view of prayer would seem to be the following: Three faculties have been bestowed on man, which prompt him to worship a Supreme Being, and to pour out his desires to him in prayer. Veneration and Wonder directly dispose us to this, while Hope leads to the expectation and belief that our prayers will not be altogether ineffectual, but that if they are put up in a manner agreeable to the divine will, they may be favourably heard and answered. That these are the legitimate promptings of the feelings now mentioned seems evident from this, that the higher and more perfect the character becomes, the more intense is the desire of the individual to engage in such acts of worship, and to pour out his petitions to God in prayer. It thus appears that this disposition to pray, and to expect an answer to prayer, is "not a factitious feeling," (as Mr Combe expresses it in reference to another
subject) or a mere exuberance of an idle and luxuriant imagination, but is the result of certain primitive faculties of the mind, which owe at once their existence and their functions to the Creator."*
On taking a survey of the other faculties and feelings of the human mind, we may observe, that for all of them there are objects and circumstances prepared in the external world, which exactly meet their several wants and desires. We have feelings of love and attachment, and fellow beings exist, who are the objects of these feelings. We have a desire of offspring, and a love of the young and tender of our species, and children exist to gratify these. We have a feeling and a love of music, and we have the means of producing harmony and melody. We have a sense of grandeur and beauty, and the world is full of objects in which these qualities are conspicuous. For every faculty there is an object, and we find preparation made to gratify, in fitting time and manner, every expectation. And is there to be only one exception to this rule? Is this disposition to prayer, and the expectation of an answer to prayer, the only case where such feelings and expectations are to be deceived and disappointed? Why have we been prompted to pour out our desires to God, and to expect that he will hear and answer us, if all this is a mere delusion? And a delusion it undoubtedly is, unless there is a real answer to prayer,—a putting up of a petition to an intelligent hearer on the one side, and a granting of that petition on the other. It is undoubtedly a delusion, if the only effect of prayer begins and ends in its reflex influence upon our own minds. It is as if we were prompted or commanded to exert our bodily force to lift an object which is immoveable, or which it is altogether beyond our limited strength to stir from its place, and * Combe's System of Phrenology. Second Edition, p. 208.