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of deliberate crimes with the odious pretence of devotion. But that prophets and apostles frequently exhorted the worst of men, both to pray and to abandon their vicious course, is clear beyond the shadow of a doubt. Isa. lv. 6, 7. James iv. 8. When Peter perceived that Simon the sorcerer had neither part nor lot in the matter, but was in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity, he still exhorted him to repent of his wickedness, and pray God that the thought of his heart might be forgiven him. Acts viii. 21. In fact, the universal obligation to the duty of prayer
is so clear, from the numerous and express testimonies of Scripture, that it seems difficult to deny it, without renouncing their authority. Oh that the obligation were more felt, and the duty more conscientiously performed!
ON THE DISPOSITIONS SUITABLE TO PRAYER.
As prayer is a duty confessedly of the highest importance, the qualifications requisite to perform it in a becoming and acceptable manner, should be well considered and understood. There are certain dispositions and tempers which may be called the essential ingredients, the plastic elements of devotion. Where these are wanting, the form of godliness may indeed be assumed, but its power will not be felt, nor its benefits enjoyed. The musician tunes his instrument before he joins the concert; nor is it less necessary, that the soul be attuned and prepared to engage in the solemn exercises of devotion. God is a Spirit, and they who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth. The dispositions necessary to enter upon the duty of prayer in a proper manner, are sincerity, reverence, humility, gratitude, fervour, and patience.
Wherever the gospel comes with power, it gives a right tendency to the mind, by renewing all its powers, by regulating all its motives. He who makes the word of God his only guide, and the glory of God his chief end, whatever imperfections may cleave to him, is a sincere man; he confesses his sins freely, without extenuating; fully, without reserve.. “There is," as a good divine says, no false box in the cabinet of the soul to lock up a darling sin;" he is conscious of guilt, yet in his spirit is no guile. The hypocrite in prayer, has always some sinister object in view, some selfish purpose to accomplish ; he either seeks to raise his credit or increase his possessions: superficial observers, therefore, see not the man, but merely the mask which he wears. Nothing can be more offensive and hateful to God, who requireth truth in the inward part, than hypocrisy. Those grave and odious dissemblers, the ancient Pharisees, gave their alms to be seen, and made their prayers to be heard of men. They were whited sepulchres, saints in show only; their devotion was a solemn mockery of God, because, while they devoured the houses of widows, for a pretence or specious cover, they made long prayers. The real Christian may be deceived, but he is not a deceiver, not a time-server, not a grave-faced, double-tongued hypocrite. There are often strong convictions and serious impressions in the mind, which are utterly ineffectual by being blended with improper motives. This is the character given of the Israelites in the wilderness : “ They remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their Redeemer. Nevertheless, they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant.” Ps. Ixxviii. 35–37. Whatever objects engage and engross the heart, are the real objects of worship. Hence the prophet, speaking of some, who, while they still professed to serve Jehovah, were entirely devoted to their secular schemes and pursuits, says, “ Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag ; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous." Hab. i. 16.
When we approach to God, there ought to be the ingenuousness and simplicity of a child. Let us see to it, that our aims and motives are upright. Setting the Lord always before us, and remembering that all things are naked and open to his eyes, let us renounce the hidden things of dishonesty, and lay aside every pretext and disguise. He who would not gird round him the cloak of the hypocrite, may put on a garment disfigured with too many stripes and patches cut out of the same piece; the apostle, therefore, prays that the Philippians might be sincere and without offence till the day of Jesus Christ. Without perpetual care, the spirit of the world, running in a thousand secret insinuating currents, will glide into the channel of our devotion, and pollute the stream as it flows, or, gathering feculence and impediments, block up
its course. All base and unworthy designs must be entirely cast away, and for ever abandoned, that we may call of the Lord out of a pure heart. The sacrifice of prayer and praise, cannot be acceptable to God, unless there be a readiness to sacrifice sensual passions and selfwill. He who secretly cherishes, or habitually and wilfully commits sin, vainly spends his breath in prayer. Ps. lxvi. 18—20. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy
from me. Reader, if your experience agree with this of the Psalmist, say with him, « Blessed be God !" While you enjoy the evidence that sin is not cherished in the heart, render praise to whom it is due.
Mr. Henry observes on the passage,
" Whatever be the premises, God's glory should always be the conclusion: God hath heard, therefore blessed be God! He hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.' Mark the expressions ; they breathe the most amiable humility, and most admiring thoughts of Divine mercy, While