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all things work together for the advancement of God's glory, and the welfare of his people. Dost thou say,
“ I am troubled on every side; without are fightings, within are fears?” Take the good advice of Zophar: “ If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hand towards God; if iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles. For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be steadfast, and shalt not fear: because thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away.” (Job xi. 13-16.) If thy fears rise anew, and thy foes return to the fierce charge, recollect, that as the chosen tribes, while contending with Amalek, had their standard-bearer and intercessor, with uplifted hands, on the adjoining hill, thou hast still greater encouragement. In all conflicts with sin, Satan, and the world, look steadily to thy great Leader and Advocate, whose hands are lifted up for thee, and through whose grace and help thou shalt come off more than conqueror, and be crowned with unfading glory.
But if the promises of God are illustrated and verified by the wonderful ways of Providence, viewed on a large and lengthened scale, stretching through successive ages; an impression still more forcible will be made by those events which have fallen immediately under our own observation, or come within the range of our personal experience. By a certain law of nature, we are affected with things according to their proximity in time or place; and there are also certain analogies, which seem almost requisite to give a vivid prominence and touching power to the sublime truths and consolations of religion. To resume, for the sake of illustration, a case referred to in the commencement of this section. Suppose you have a kind sympathizing friend, who has often soothed you in sorrow, 'supported you under affliction, or relieved you from embarrassment, and has never once forbidden your access to his door, or turned away his ear from your petitions and complaints. In every new difficulty that meets you, and every new trial that befals you, does not the mind promptly recur to this constant friend? Are not his past favours so many pledges of the affection, to which
you are emboldened to appeal in future necessities? The application and use of this analogy is easy. God has frequently heard your cries, scattered your fears, assuaged your griefs, and supplied your wants. And has he ever probibited your access to him, or turned his ear from your requests, or shut up his bowels of compassion, or withdrawn his helping hand in time of need? No, you reply, it would be as ungrateful for me to say so, as it was in the Israelites to
murmur against God, while the miracles of his power were daily before their eyes, and the manna of heaven was daily rained about their tents. You need then look no farther than to the records of your own experience, for proof both of the truth of God's promise, and of the prevalence of prayer; and should say with the apostle, “ He hath delivered, he doth deliver, in whom I trust that he will yet deliver.”
“ If any be afflicted, let him pray.” This comprehensive precept is suited to all classes, It is no uncommon thing to see persons, on whom the principles of religion have but a very slender hold, flying to this expedient in danger and distress. “Lord, in trouble have they visited thee; they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them.” (Isa. xxvi. 16.) If we may judge from the general sentiments and practice of mankind, supplication to some superior being seems to be the voice of nature in extremity. The mariners in the vessel which conveyed Jonah, when the storm arose, began each man to call upon his god; and many profane people, in similar circumstances, have been known to act the same part, though their prayers have ceased with the tempest, to be resumed only under some new paroxysm of fear. In the minds of such impious men— who can blaspheme in their health, and only pray in their sickness; who
can ridicule religion in their safety, and only have recourse to it in time of danger; who cry to God for deliverance, and never thank him when it comes there are no affinities with the true elements of devotion. The Christian, in adversity, must not think his petitions unheard or unapproved, because they remain for awhile unanswered; nor must suffer fretful impatience to dictate the cry, “Lord, how long?” He who has the times and the seasons in his own power, will neither withhold nor bestow his gifts, but at the moment most conducive to our happiness. We may ask for one thing, and he sends another better suited to us. The blessing comes, but in a form not expected; for God, says Augustine, “ non tribuit quod volumus, at tribuat quod malimus:”-he does not give us what we would have, but what we should have. While a man lives in the exercises of faith and
very crosses and trials prove profitable. However dark his sky, he sees the rainbow of the covenant in the clouds; however painful the strokes of correction to the flesh, he hears the voice of mercy from the rod, and him who hath appointed it; however bitter to the taste the cup which his Father gives him to drink, its contents are found to be medicinal and salutary.
PRAYER IN PROSPERITY.
In the former Section, I have endeavoured to prove the adaptation of prayer to a time of adversity; and indeed, many acknowledge this, who have but a very slight acquaintance with religion. It often happens, that men begin to think of seeking God only when they find. themselves deserted by every creature. But devotion is quite as needful in health as in sickness; when the sun shines, as when the sky blackens, and the storm bursts. It is natural for men to dread adversity, and see nothing but evil in it; while, on the contrary, prosperity is eagerly desired, and all the lurking mischiefs which accompany it are usually overlooked. The passions blind the judgment, and fleeting shadows are mistaken for substantial realities. The truth of this observation is every day made strikingly manifest.