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tions of feeling and tenderness, infuses those sentiments of gratitude and joy, enkindles those sparks of desire and affection, from which arise, the purest, the sweetest, the sublimest devotions. Hence God, of old, promised “ to pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications.” (Zec, xii. 10.) While you are assured, that the God of Israel is unchangeable in himself, and faithful to his promises, have you not reason both to seek and expect the rich and plenteous effusions of his grace? You may be burdened with sins, and shackled with cares; but is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? The worshippers of Baal cried all day long to their idol, yet obtained no answer; while you bring your sacrifice to the true God, fear not but a fire shall descend from heaven to consume it. The Psalmist cried, Quicken thou me, that I may call upon thy name. It may be, you complain of a dull heart; you bring it to the word, but it feels not; you carry it to the sanctuary, but it moves not. Is this dulness a cause of grief and mourning to you? Do you long and labour to mount heavenward, and yet struggle in vain, as a bird which has its pinions bound? Let not the enemy tempt you to despair. Never grow weary of waiting upon God; continue instant in prayer; look to him who can give new life both to the soul, and to all the services in which it is engaged. Honour the Holy Spirit with the fullest confidence, by daily seeking the guidance, succour, strength, and consolation, which He only can impart.* Under a consciousness of our weakness, ignorance, backslidings, and sins, how much encouragement is derived from this source ! « Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God.” (Rom. viii. 26, 27.) And Oh!
* Dr. Estlin, in the General Prayer Book, published by him a few years ago, says,
“ It will be observed, that in the following forms of devotion, no petitions are presented for the assistance of the Holy Spirit.” Such a declaration cannot fail to suit the taste and judgment of all who have been trained in the school of Socinus. But yet, the Doctor
says, no objection can be made to earnest supplication for the assistance of God." It seems there is a divine energy, exerted according to general laws, and without respect of persons. Can such a meagre and cold system furnish any aliment or vital warmth to the devout Christian? Is there any thing in it congenial to the mind which has been imbued with the language and spirit of the New Testament? After glancing over the vapid pages of such writers as Dr. Estlin, it is really refreshing to read Mr. Robert Hall's tract on the Holy Spirit, where rigorous intellect and exquisite taste are combined with glowing piety.
beware that you do not slight and neglect the powerful and quickening visitations of the heavenly Comforter! And here I would appeal to you in the impressive language of an 'excellent writer*—“ You have sometimes found, instead of a reluctance to pray, a powerful impulse to that exercise; so that you felt as if you could do nothing else. Have you always complied with these motions, and suffered nothing but the claims of absolute necessity to divert you from pouring out your hearts at a throne of grace? The Spirit is said to make intercession for saints, with groanings which cannot be uttered: when you felt these ineffable longings after God, have you indulged them to the utmost? Have you spread every sail, launched forth into the deep of the divine perfections and promises, and possessed yourself, as much as possible, of the fulness of God?”
4. We have encouragement to prayer, in the whole history of the church. From the beginning, God has had a people in the world, and his power and grace have signally appeared in answering their supplications. History has recorded the discoveries of science, and blazoned the achievements of valour, but left unnoticed the exploits of prayer; yet, all that
* Mr. Hall.
sages have taught, or heroes done, falls far short of what saints have accomplished, by their holy confidence and importunity, patience and perseverance, in this duty. As Jacob, like a prince, had power with God, and prevailed, every true Israelite inherits the same high privilege. Believers, being born from above, possess a princely dignity; and while royal blood runs in their veins, ardent devotion burns in their hearts, and breathes from their hips. Volumes might be written, full of the curses averted and the blessings procured, the deliverances wrought and the victories gained, in answer to prayer. This powerful antidote has counteracted the infernal poison of the old serpent, and preserved the soul in health, amidst the most deadly infection of surrounding wickedness. This key has unlocked the treasury of the King of kings, and given free access to the choicest mercies and the richest stores. This weapon has laid the strongest towers and fortresses in the dust, vanquished mighty armies, and even made the heavy artillery of hell recoil upon the sons of malice and injustice, who employed it. The prayer of Moses divided the sea, and that of Joshua rolled back the stream of Jordan, and arrested the course of the sun. The prayer of Daniel opened the secrets of Nebuchadnezzar's heart, and shut the mouths of hungry lions in the
sealed den. The prayer of Elijah stopped and opened the bottles of heaven, while the prayers of the church broke the chains of Peter, and liberated him from his prison guards. And, above all, prayer,” says Gurnall, “ hath often taken hold of the Almighty, when on his full march in judgment against a nation, and hath put him to a merciful retreat." Read, I intreat you, the sacred history with attention, and learn what prayer can do, from what it has done. Say not, these extraordinary instances yield no comfort to us. Though it would be culpable in us, placed in circumstances so different, to put up such petitions as some of those above referred to, yet, it is remarkable, that the apostle James animates all saints to earnest prayer, by introducing the case of Elijah. (James v. 17, 18.) It has been observed, that the most memorable answers to prayer, under the Old Testament, regarded temporal, but under the New Testament, spiritual blessings. The dispensation of the Gospel, in this respect, stands on higher ground, and is encircled with purer elements, than any which preceded; yet we are not forbidden to ask for temporal blessings, though it should always be done with submission, and in subservience to things of greater value. Those who have eyed the hand of God, have often seen their petitions fulfilled in events, which at first appeared unfavourable;