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splendour to attract and dazzle the senses. Yet by how many is this mere lip service, this bodily exercise, this solemn shew and parade, deemed quite sufficient to answer the claims of conscience, and render the King of kings propitious. Alas! they put the outward signs of piety for the thing signified, and present to God the dead carcase instead of the living sacrifice of devotion. It is of the utmost consequence, to be cautioned against mistakes not less dangerous than common. Prayer is the breathing forth of our desires, the pouring out of our hearts, the lifting up of our souls to God, with a trust grounded upon the merits and mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not the dull employ of memory, nor the wild work of fancy, nor the winged flight of genius; but it is the spiritual exercise and sublime elevation of man's immortal part, when touched with an unction and quickened by a power from above. The Scriptures speak of our seeking God, looking to God, drawing nigh to God, pleading with God, and taking hold of his covenant. Who can be at a loss to understand the meaning of these expressions? Unquestionably they are but different forms of language to denote the same thing; and while they correctly describe the nature of prayer, they convey distinct and intelligible intimations of the benefits which result from it.
To be duly and profitably engaged in devotion, we must have just and consistent views of God. The understanding, illumined and expanded with heavenly light, sees the adorable attributes and perfections of Jehovah, the Former and Preserver of all things. For want of this knowledge, many of the pagans pay divine honours to the sun, moon, and stars, while others bow down to dumb senseless idols, even images of stone and wood, graven by art and human device. Ignorance of the spotless purity and awful justice of God, has led some philosophic sages to think, that nothing is required of us but simple adoration ; as if we were innocent creatures, and had no need of an atonement or an advocate; on the other hand, ignorance of the goodness and mercy of God has frequently driven the dupes of superstition to join with their supplications the most rigorous and painful self-inflicted tortures, as the supposed means of turning away divine wrath. It is only when we see the perfections of God exhibited in the clear light of scripture, and shining through the glorious work of redemption, that we can rightly direct our prayers to him.
Nor is it enough to know God, unless we have also that faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. This principle is essential to devotion. Loose sceptics and profane scoffers are near relatives, and generally dwell together. To assert that infidelity is unfavourable to devotion, is saying far too little, for the baneful soil destroys the very roots and seeds of devotion. How awkward, incongruous, and self-contradictory, is the attempt of the hardened sceptic to pray, may be seen in the language which one of this tribe has recently left on record:
O God, I ask pothing in the world from thee; for if thou dost not exist, the course of things is necessary in itself; or if thou dost, it is necessary by thy decree: I hope for a reward from thee in another world, if there be one; although all I do in this world I do for myself.*" Without faith, says Paul, it is impossible to please God; for he that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Not a single step can be taken in approach towards God, where faith is wholly wanting ; for, how can they call on him on whom they have not believed, and how can they believe on him of whom they have not heard? If knowledge reveals God as seated upon a throne of grace, and faith leads us to his footstool, holy affection renders our address importunate, and our homage acceptable.
It is impossible to enter fully into the import and design of prayer, without a deep knowledge of the nature of man. We are placed in that rank of being, which has angels above and beasts below it. Man is a rational, accountable, guilty, necessitous, and dependent creature.
When we consider ourselves as rational créatures, it must surely be admitted that God justly claims adoration from us. This part of worship is common to men and angels. In the fair regions of immortal bliss, cherubim and seraphim do continually cry, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts! heaven and earth are full of the majesty of thy glory. And though we are but feeble worms of the dust, yet are we required to magnify and exalt that God, who fills immensity, and give him the honour and praise due to his name.
Considered as guilty and depraved creatures, another part of prayer, to which we must attend, is confession of sin. We must confess our fallen, corrupt, and ruined state, as the children of a revolted parent; owning that we were born in sin, and shapen in iniquity. It becomes us to acknowledge before the Lord, all our follies, wanderings, and crimes, - the levity of the mind, the stubbornness of the will, the fickleness of our purposes, and the carnality of our affections. Moreover, it is right, after looking within, to look around, and confess our
immoderate attachment to the world, our fretfulness and discontent, idle wishes and eager but unhallowed expectations, intermingled with repinings and murmurings against Providence. And that we may be humbled, abashed, and laid in the very dust, let us think both of the number and aggravated nature of our sins. Besides those which have affected or injured our fellow-creatures, let us keep steadily in view, which we are too prone to overlook and forget, such as have been committed directly against God. What neglect of his word, what coldness and distraction in his service, what ingratitude, what perverseness, what rebellion. And surely confession ought to be with a lowly mind, a tender conscience, and a broken contrite heart!
It is a necessary and important part of prayer to present our petitions to God. The great Jehovah allows and invites us to approach his Mercy-seat, and spread all our wants before him. We should labour to become fully acquainted with our state and condition, our weakness, infirmities, and necessities. Our humble suit may comprise every thing which is needful, both for the body and the soul, for the life that now is, and for that which is to
In asking however for temporal things, we must carefully guard against selfish aims, and sinful emotions and passions. Relief in