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well as his comforts, are in the hand of God; and as nothing is left to chance, all is under the direction of Infinite Wisdom. He knows what is really good for us, and when it will be best bestowed. Faith, in the exercise of prayer, sees this; and experience hath set a seal to it. Ps. xl. 1, “ I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” We have a fine example of this spirit in the poor Syro-Phenician woman, who intreated Christ to heal her daughter. Neither the apparent coldness, nor the neglect, nor the repulse she met, abated her importunity; and her suit was finally crowned with success. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thy heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord.
THE ENCOURAGEMENTS TO PRAYER.
The nature of man is so averse to spiritual duties, that we need many arguments to persuade, and many incitements to stimulate us. It is by a supernatural impulse, that the mind rises towards God; and without a perpetual renewal of strength, its ascent cannot be maintained. Difficulties discourage, trifles divert, cares burden, and temptations entangle us. 'In the sublime exercises of devotion, the Christian by the greatest efforts makes but small progress, and by the least remissness he sensibly loses ground. While he resolutely stems the tide, his advance is slow; but when he furls his sails which should catch the breeze, and rests upon his oars, he is rapidly carried back by the strong torrent of nature. We are exhorted therefore to continue instant in prayer. Encouragements to prayer may be drawn from the suitableness and certainty of the divine promise, the effectual intercession of Christ, the assured assistance of the Holy Spirit, and the whole history of the church.
1. We shall notice the suitableness and certainty of the divine promises, with reference to this branch of religious duty.
Though we have forsaken the only fountain of happiness, and wandered in the paths of folly and delusion, our heavenly Father has not cut us off and consigned us to endless woe; but has opened a way for our return to him. And knowing our frame, with all the doubts which perplex, the fears which alarm, the sins which defile, the sorrows which oppress, and the infirmities which distract the mind, is He pleased to represent himself as “exalted to shew mercy, and waiting to be gracious.” Though the distance between a Holy God and rebellious creatures is immense, there is no impassable wall, or great gulph fixed, to cause an eternal separation. The penitent soul, warmed with desire, and winged with faith, has the privilege of approaching that glorious Being, whom prostrate angels adore. He has not said to the seed of Jacob, seek ye my face in vain. Had God, only in oue solitary passage of the inspired volume, declared himself to be the hearer of prayer, such a word ought to be sufficient, and would be of more value than the collected treasures of the earth. But it is remarkable, that wherever we are commanded to pray, corresponding encouragements are annexed. The precepts and the promises are scarcely ever found apart, but inseparably joined.
" Draw nigh to me, and I will draw nigh to you. Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock aud it shall be opened.” Nor can we justly complain that the promises are either too few in their number, or too general and irfdefinite in their nature. These fair stars, if I may so speak, are thickly set in the firmament of divine revelation, though in some places their lustre is more brilliant than in others. If you say, What has God promised? we might reply, What has he not promised? Whatever is proper for him to bestow, and for us to receive-whatever is necessary or useful to man—whatever is required for the body or the soul, in this world, or that which is to come, is included in the ample scope of God's promises. He will give grace and glory, and no good thing will be withhold from them that walk uprightly. It is a point of great consequence that our prayers should be regulated by the will of God; and unless this be the case, we shall ask amiss. The two disciples, who prompted their mother to solicit from Christ the favour of sitting one on his right-hand and the other on his left in his kingdom, met with a rebuke rather than a compliance. There is a wide difference between the prayers of faith and the motions of self-will and infidelity. The promises are therefore peculiarly suitable to us, as they shew us what we need and what we are authorised to expect. 1 John v. 14. And this is the confidence, " that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us."
Again, the certainty of the promises is a great encouragement to prayer.
If men give us reason to expect favours from them, we are too often disappointed, through their falsehood, fickleness, or inability. Sometimes they promise what they do not mean to perform; at other times their minds change, and the engagement of yesterday is broken to-day; and when their words are sincere and their intentions remain fixed and unaltered, unforeseen circumstances arise, the necessary means are wanting, or the opportunity confidently anticipated never comes. But do the promises of Jehovah miscarry from any of these causes ? He is a God of truth; without iniquity; and not one good word that he hath spoken can fail. He is immutable, for with Him there is no variableness, neither shadow of a turn. Bars of brass may be dissolved, and rocks of adamant broken; but His firm indissoluble purposes are linked in the compact chain of Providence, which upholds the vast universe. Whatsoever his infinite wisdom determines, his almighty power accomplishes; and he says, “ My council