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But it may well be considered also as an expression of surprise
The wicked little think where their course will terminate
If the rich man's request had been granted," what reply would his surviving brethren have made so soon as that in the text?'
The hypocrites also often escape detection in this world
Perhaps they were celebrated, after their departure, as eminent saints
We may conceive that their dearest friends, or their associates in holy exercises, may enquire after them in heaven
What surprise and horror must seize them, when they hear of the doom which the heart-searching God has passed upon them!P-] ADDRESS—"KNOW YOU NOT THIS?”
Know you not that this has been so from the beginning of the world?
(Does not the word of God assert, that “ it shall be ill with the wicked?”,
Does not the most authentic history in the world prove it to have been so?"
Does not conscience itself testify that it shall be so still?-1 If you know, do you not consider this?
[Can any thing be more worthy of our consideration?
If we have “but a moment,” should we not improve that moment?
Are we willing to perish in this ignominious and awful manner] Let us live no longer in the neglect of religion
[The gratifications of sense can last but for a little time
n Luke xvi. 23, 27, 28.
• They would most probably have exclaimed, “ Where is he! in hell! lifting up his eyes in torments! Is it really so? We never could have thought it: we had no doubt but that he was happy: he seemed to us as worthy and blameless a character as any: nor had he himself any doubts but that he was going to heaven."
p If a minister is to have those as his “joy and crown of rejoicing," who were truly converted by his ministry, we may, not improperly, suppose a degree of disappointment, if he miss those, concerning whom he had entertained the most sanguine hopes. We may suppose him, upon the first discovery, to say, Where is he! What, he in hell! I often feared that I myself should go thither; but who would have thought that he should?” The Lord grant that this may never be realized by any of us!
9 Isaiah iii. il. Ps. ix. 17.
• Where are now the antediluvian scoffers, the haughty Pharaoh, the treacherous Judas, the worldly-minded Demas, the heretical Hymeneus? &c.
But the consequences of neglecting God will endure for
Surely the care of the soul is the “one thing needful”-)
Nor let us rest in a “form of godliness" without experiencing “its power”
(It will avail us little to deceive our fellow-creaturesThe higher we have been in their estimation, the deeper will be our disgrace
Let us then go to Christ for the remission of past sins
Let us approve ourselves to him in future, as servants that need not be ashamed”—
And labour to be “ sincere and without offence until his coming again”-]
CCCCXV. THE PRAYERS OF UNRECENERATE
Hos. vii. 14. They have not cried unto me with their heart,
when they howled upon their beds. IT is not without reason that prayer has been called by some, The pulse of the soul: for by that more than by any thing else may be discerned the increase or de. clension of our spiritual health. Somewhat like prayer may be offered by the most ungodly in seasons of deep distress: but their supplications differ widely from those which proceed from a penitent and contrite heart. The ten tribes, who, in spite of all the warnings given them, would go to Egypt and Assyria, rather than to God, for help, found themselves taken in the net which God had spread for them. Then they began to call upon God for help: but, the heart-searching God testifics respecting them, that they cried not unto him with their heart when they howled upon their beds.
To shew how common and awful this state is, we shall I. Consider the prayers of unregenerate men
It is confessed such persons often “howl upon their beds's
(In these words two things are to be noticed, nainely, the time, and the manner of their prayers. With respect to the who stay
time, it is too generally found, that they who are not in earnest
till they have lien down “ upon their bed," and then fall asleep in the midst of their devotions. As for praying in the morning, they have no time for that: the concerns of the past, or of the present day have preoccupied their minds; and if they offer two or three cold petitions while they are dressing, it is quite as much as their souls require, or as God deserves. As to the manner, we may interpret the prophet's expression as importing in general, that their prayers are altogether irrational: and indeed, if we take into the account the state of the suppliants as guilty and condemned sinners, and the majesty of him whom they profess to address, their prayers are a most horrid mockery, yea, as unsuitable to the occasion as the “howling' of a dog would be. But the expression may be taken more strictly and literally: for these persons will no: pray with any degree of fervour except in
of great affliction. Perhaps they have suffered some heavy loss, or are in embarrassed circumstances, or have some peculiar guilt upon their conscience, that greatly disturbs them; but even then they have no disposition to spread their case before God; and so they lie down upon their beds as miserable as they can be,“ howling” and whining like dogs, and perhaps wishing that they were dogs, or any thing, rather than rational and accountable beings.]
But, whatever their prayers be,' " they cry not unto God with their heart"
[View them in their public devotions; they will confessi themselves miserable sinners," and implore mercy for Christ's sake at the hands of God, and desire grace from him that they may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, to the glory of his holy name:" but if they were afterwards told by their minister, that they were miserable and hell-deserving sinners; that nothing but an application of the blood of Christ to their souls could ever save them; and that, to evince the sincerity of their repentance, they must devote themselves unreservedly to God; they would shew by their answers that they neither believed, nor desired, any one of the things, which they had uttered before God.
Enquire, further, into their private prayers, and it will be
Sce this exemplified in David, Ps. xxxii, 3, 4.
found that they are not sincere in any petition that they offer, If, for instance, they were to pray, that they might become true and faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus; and Jesus were to tell them, as he did the rich youth in the gospel, that they must first be deprived of all that they possess in this world, before they can ever be brought to love him supremely; would they reply to him, “ Thy will be done?” Would they not plead for this or that sum,“ Oh, spare it; is it not a little one?” and, when they found that the terms could not be lowered, would they not pray back again their prayers with tenfold more earnestness than they at first uttered them; and sacrifice their hope in Christ rather than their worldly interests?b
Such are the prayers of the unregenerate, if they pray at all: but the greater part of them, except on very particular occasions, do not so much as preserve even an appearance of devotion.]
We shall have a little clearer view of the worthless. ness of such prayers, if we II. Contrast them with those of the regenerate
In every thing that is essential to prayer, the difference may be seen. Particularly they differ in respect of i. Voluntariness
[The wicked will only pray under some heavy calamity, or in the near prospect of death and judgment: all their petitions are extorted by anguish or by terror. The regenerate, on the contrary, go to God willingly and cheerfully as to their father and their friend. We do not mean to say, that the godly never feel backwardness to this duty (for, alas! they too often do) but they do not indulge it; they do not rest satisfied in such a state; they condemn themselves for it as much as an unregenerate person would condemn himself for the grossest sins: and when they are enabled, in any measure, to realize their principles, they account it their sweetest privilege to draw nigh to God, and to pour out their souls before him: they even pant for God as the hart after the water brooks, and “ go to him as to their exceeding joy.d] 2. Constancy
[When the distresses or terrors, that instigated the une godly to prayer, are removed, there is an end of the importunity which was occasioned by them. The persons who for
• Mark x. 21, 22. This shews with what lamentable propriety they speak of " saying their prayers."
c Jer. ïi. 27. Ps. Ixxviii. 34. Isaiah xxvi. 16. d Ps. xlii. 1, 2. & xlii. 4.
e Job xxvii. 10. VOL. IV.
a while seemed melted in the furnace, are no sooner taken out of it, than they return to their wonted coldness and obduracy: But a regenerate person can say, “My heart is fixed, O Lord, my heart is fixed;" “ at evening, and at morning, and at noonday will I pray, and that instantly." There are seasons indeed, when he may, through the corruptions of his heart, be led to relax his diligence: but he can never give over prayer: whether he be in prosperity or adversity, he feels that he is altogether dependent upon God, both for his present and eternal happiness; and therefore he returns again and again to God, in order to maintain fellowship with him, and to receive at his hands the blessings he stands in need of.] 3. Humility
[Persons may use very strong language and express a kind of indignation against themselves in reference to their inward corruptions, while yet they are not truly humbled before God: but true humility consists, not in vehement expressions, but in a tenderness of spirit mixed with self-loathing and selfabhorrence. Of this, an unregenerate man has no conception: yet it is this that constitutes the chief excellence of prayer: and without it our prayers can find ng more acceptance with God, than the howling of a dog. In this view, God himself calls the services of the temple an hateful “noise;"i and declares, that the offering of a lamb with an unhumbled spirit, is as odious in his sight, as the offering of swine's blood, or “the cutting off a dog's neck.”k] INFER
1. How little dependence can be placed on a deathbed repentance!
(Far be it from us to discourage repentance at the last hour. On the contrary, if we behold symptoms of it, we would in the judgment of charity conclude well respecting its issue.
But it is God alone who can perfectly distinguish between the feigned humiliation of Ahab, and the sincere contrition of Peter: and perhaps, where we think we hear the supplications of a Christian, God may hear nothing but the howling of a dog. Repentance, like every Christian grace, must be judged of by its fruits; and if we would have in ourselves, or leave in the minds of surviving friends, an unquestionable evidence of our sincerity, let us repent without delay, and “ bring forth fruits meet for repentance."]
2. What encouragement have all real penitents to call upon
f Ps. Ivii. 7. and lv. 17.
6 Job xlii. 6. Ezek, XX. 43. Matt. xv. 8,9. i Amos y, 23.
k Isaiah lxvi. 3.