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and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have 'we given thee.” (1 Chron. xxix. 10— 14.) What a benign grace does piety add to dignity! What a beneficial influence does it give to power! The hand which holds a sceptre, cannot be better employed, than when lifted up to heaven in supplication. Gustavus, king of Sweden, the hero of the age, and the great supporter of the protestant interest in Germany, was remarkable for prefacing all his victories with prayer. “ The greater the army of prayer is (he would say), the greater and more certain shall be the victory; he that prays diligently, hath already in part overthrown the enemy."
Devotion sets a new edge on the blunted faculties and feelings of the mind. A dull and heartless frame can never long oppress one who waits at the divine Mercy-seat, and rekindles the best sentiments of the soul at the eternal fountain of light and love! And, besides, it is in this way that we gain some glimpses and anticipations of that future bliss, which is unmingled with sin and sorrow.
III. The habitual exercise of prayer, prepares us to make a right use of prosperity.
Who gives you power to get wealth, and why was it given? Doubtless, that it might be used in doing good. It surely requires no long arguments to prove that your property, influence, and time, are all talents, for the use of which you are responsible. If, then, you prosper in the world, you are not to lay up your treasure for the gratification of pride and avarice, but to lay it out in the cause of charity. « In order to do all the good in my power, I will get all I can, save all I can, and give all I can.' If I mistake not, the original author, zealous advocate, and bright exemplar of this simple, appropriate, and benevolent maxim, was the well-known John Wesley. The pretensions to piety, which are not accompanied with good works, are but the refined modes or specious masks assumed by selfishness. Cornelius, the Roman centurion, was a devout man, and it is said, “his prayers and his alms ascended for a memorial before God.” We cannot hold intimate communion with God, without being in some measure transformed into his moral likeness; and the brightest of all his perfections is love. Those Christians, who occupy superior stations and distinguished talents, are called and qualified to be eminently useful. By acts of public and private beneficence; by relief and assistance to the poor and destitute; by a system of well-regulated efforts to educate and ameliorate the children of the labouring class; and by lending their countenance, pecuniary contribution, and personal aid, to extend the truths and promote the interests of Christianity, they may be the agents and instruments, in effecting a measure of good, and diffusing a measure of human happiness, which it is not easy to calculate. Now we need only turn to the contemplation of those who have been the fathers and chief movers of those excellent institutions, which have so signally alleviated the miseries, and augmented the comforts of mankind, to see the connexion of devotion and benevolence. The greatest and the most successful philanthropists have been the men imbued with the principles and spirit of Christian piety. And who, that glows with love to God, can be coldly indifferent to the welfare of his fellow-men? What privations will be thought too painful, what sacrifices too costly, if they increase the means of doing good to immortal souls? Surely every time we pray for the conversion of the impenitent, we should be reminded of the duty of joining our exertions with our supplications.
SOME persons of a philosophical taste, or perhaps, to speak more correctly, of a sceptical turn, who dare not directly deny the reality of religion, represent it in such vague and indefinite terms, as something so refined and ethereal, as to be beyond the reach or apprehension of the vulgar. They consider forms and seasons of prayer, as the mere machinery of devotion, which, however necessary to the mass of mankind, are rather cumbersome than useful to themselves. There are other persons in the opposite extreme, who can form no idea of religion, or religious duties, but of something external and palpable, something more conversant with the senses than the mind; a certain frame-work, which requires only a decent adjustment, and is complete for the hour. When such people wish to repel any friendly hint, or suggestion of Christian counsel, it is common for them to cry,
" We cannot be
always at our prayers "-a trite saying, by which more is meant than meets the ear.
If once on the Lord's-day they go to public worship, this is thought enough till the chime of the church bells announces the return of the day; and it would be deemed a most grievous and intolerable rigour and austerity, to demand any thing more of them. There is nothing like this drudgery and wearinesss in the service of real Christians. “ Far from the Sabbath being a dull and heavy day to them, the expectation of it cheers them, amid the cares and labours of the preceding week; they greet its arrival with pleasure, and see its departure with regret. The religious exercises of the closet and of the family, during other days, only stay their longing a little for the day of sacred rest; as the inferior games of the Greeks served as reliefs, during the interval between one Olympiad and another."*
We find, in Scripture, some expressions with reference to prayer, which require to be limited or explained. When we are commanded to pray always, to continue instant in prayer, and to pray without ceasing, the continual act is certainly not here intended, because that would be absolutely impossible. What then are we to understand by such language? That' we
* See Burnside's Religion of Mankind.