« PrécédentContinuer »
as bad as others. Such insinuations and reproaches will not keep back a resolved and experienced Christian from the throne of grace; but they have often checked a weak and fluctuating believer; and even the echo of the world's harsh speeches, 'may cause a temporary tremor and alarm in his misgiving heart. The fear of incurring the charge of hypocrisy is sometimes excited by addresses from the pulpit. While a minister is faithfully attempting to arouse the formalist, and unmask the dissembler, describing the false professor (to use a comparison of Mr. Flavell's) as more resembling the moon than the sun, having little light, less heat, and many changes, the weak believer applies to himself what was meant for another. Yes, says he, I am the man ; and surely it had been better for me never to have attempted to pray, than to stand convicted of hypocrisy: the world may justly point at me with contempt; and pious people be ashamed
While such thoughts are brooding in the mind, he is almost afraid to bow his knees, lest he should play the hypocrite. Let me warn you against this dangerous temptation. Beware that the clamour of the world do not deter you from pursuing the plain path of duty. Suffer not the arch enemy to get an advantage over you, by a stratagem which he has so often successfully employed. And while you hear haunts you.
the word preached, be careful to make a right application of it. There is little danger of hypocrisy where it is feared. But it is the imputation of this detestable character which
What if I should be branded as a close deceiver ? How can I bear to be sneeringly numbered with the saints, and classed with canting fanatics? What if my old acquaintance should, with affected gravity, commend me for minding my prayers, and tip their polished and pointed shafts in the bitterest irony? Remember, that the imputation of hypocrisy never yet made any man a hypocrite ; and it is of little consequence what men say or think of us, compared with the judgment of God. He who will hearken to the world's counsel, must take the world's course. The carnal mind being enmity against God, it is no subject of surprise that it should be disgusted with the exercises of vital religion. Hence the staunch devotee of the world shuns the society of the pious, as an uncongenial atmosphere, saying,
Mine be the friend, less frequent in his prayers,
Now, if you wish and resolve to please such men, you should sit down and count the cost, and calculate all the consequences; for they will be found to include rebellion against God, and the incurring of his displeasure.
2. Sometimes a Christian may fear, that by prayer he shall run into the sin of presumption.
You read the descriptions given of the glory and majesty with which the most high God is arrayed, and of angels and happy spirits bowing with profound reverence and awe at his footstool; you call to mind Nadab and Abihu, smitten with terrible judgments for their unhallowed bolduess, in polluting the service of Jehovah ; and then exclaim, Who am I, that I should take his sacred name on my lips? Or it may be, you have heard the right dispositions and qualifications of an acceptable worshipper described in such a manner, as seemed to present a perfect contrast to your own heart; and while the vivid picture stirred a desire after resemblance, it was mixed with something nearly a-kin to despondency. Happy they, you silently said, whose minds are dissolved in penitential tenderness, endued with freedom and confidence, and warmed with gratitude and holy love! To them, indeed, prayer is a medium of intercourse with heaven; but as for me, why should I think such a privilege belongs to me? I have no gifts for prayer; I cannot order my speech, by reason of darkness : as soon might I calm the troubled sea, as keep my thoughts steady and composed. Had I the powers and graces of a Moses or a Samuel, a David or a Daniel, I might breathe out my supplications in their language, and their manner.
It must be granted, that as the gift of prayer is desirable, so it is, in a greater number of cases than is usually imagined, attainable. In this, however, there is a considerable diversity, even among the children of God.
“ The gift of prayer,” says Bishop Wilkins,“ is such a readiness and faculty, proceeding from the Spirit of God, whereby a man is enabled upon all occasions, in a fitting manner, to express and to enlarge the desires of his heart in this duty. Unto the attaining of this gift, in its true latitude and fulness, there are three sorts of ingredients required : -1. Something to be infused by the Spirit of God. 2. Some natural endowments and abilities. 3. Something to be acquired or gotten by our own industry.” But a comparative deficiency in this gift should not operate as a discouragement. The rich endowments of the Spirit are not necessary to engage in devotion. The Almighty Father, whom we address, is full of compassion ; and it is not fine sentiments or fluent speech, which win his approbation. He knows both our wants and our weaknesses; and the lisping child shall not seek and ask in vain : while we need not dread reproach from men, we have still less cause to
fear a repulse from heaven, so long as sincerity predominates in the mind. Tertullian, speaking of the public prayers of the primitive Christians, says, “ That looking up to heaven, they spread abroad their hands, because innocent; uncovered their heads, because not ashamed; and without a monitor, because they prayed from the heart.”
Do you still ask, Is it not presumptuous for me to pray? Is it not better that it should be omitted altogether, rather than be ill performed? Beware you do not, under colour of avoiding one danger, fall upon another far worse. God has enjoined prayer in his own word, by the most plain, direct, and solemn commands; these you read, and hear, and know. To neglect any duty from the plea of wanting gifts, is not to escape, but to incur the charge of presumption; it is, if I may use paradoxical language, only mock humility, and bold timidity, which can lead to such a conduct. A servant who should entirely neglect his master's express orders, and then give as a reason for so doing, that he was afraid he could not perform the work so well as his fellow-servants, or as well as he himself desired, would be severely and justly blamed. While we find imperfection in the discharge of every duty, sufficient to humble us, we must take heed that we be not discouraged. The Emperor Augustus said