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giance to the Captain of Salvation, contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, and continue firm and immovable at the post of duty, even in the last extremity? Shall he not endure suffering without a murmur, seeing he waits for a crown of glory, which fadeth not away? It must indeed be acknowledged, that good men have their misgivings and fears; and even those ancient worthies, whom we are called to imitate, were sometimes perplexed, though not in despair,-cast down, though not destroyed. The Psalmist, under many disasters, thus complains: O God, thou hast cast us off, thou hast scattered us, thou hast been displeased; 0 turn thyself to us again. Thou hast shewed thy people hard things; thou hast made them to drink the wine of astonishment. (Ps.lx. 1, 3, 12.) But he goes on to plead with God, and cries, Give us help from trouble, for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly; for he it is that shall tread down our enemies. Thus we see, when human help fails, heavenly hope remains; when self-dependence sinks, spiritual confidence rises. Piety is the source of true magnanimity. Saints may have to drink the wine of astonishment, but they know where to find the wine of consolation; and drawing it by prayer in plentiful and seasonable supplies, are refreshed and inspired with new energy. This is not the only instance in which the Psalm that begins with mourning and complaint, goes on to supplication and prayer, and ends in triumph and praise. “The desire of sacred communion,” says Archbishop Leighton, “grows with its exercise. Every encouragement therefore is held out to us, since pleasure and profit conspire to recommend it. Prayer then I must consider both as the Christian's palladium, and as a present reward.”
3. Prayer promotes gentleness and resignation.
All the graces of the Christian have an obvious relation to each other, and a mutual influence. One cannot be impaired or improved, without impairing or improving all the rest. Courage, without gentleness, degenerates into rashness; and fortitude, without resignation, verges upon obstinacy. The exercise of prayer assuages the tumultuous emotions of the heart. Malignant passions and morose tempers should be allowed no place in the Christian; but when they do rise, what is the most effectual method of subduing them? Undoubtedly prayer. When we lie humbled before God, we shall be disposed to repress every feeling of arrogance and overbearing insolence towards men. A devout mind is the best mould in which amiable manners can be formed. In trying circumstances, it is difficult to keep the heart free from anxiety; and anxiety, if long entertained, will claim a right to perpetual residence. This gloomy inmate, with sullen dolorous voice, is always proclaiming bad news, and prognosticating dreadful times. Her countenance bespeaks famine and plague, and her hands one while plant briars and thorns, and another conjure up, as with the waving of a magic wand, fiends and furies, in all places and situations. The readiest way to get rid of this pest, is to fly immediately to a throne of grace. Anxiety seldom accompanies us there, or, at any rate, cannot stay long. Instead of her, comes, mild as a morning without clouds after a stormy night, the soft and placid grace of resignation. Then, without repining over the past, or peevishly predicting the future, we shall be able to address the Father of mercies, and say, " Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.” Hence, when the Apostle exhorts us to be careful, or anxious for nothing, he adds, “but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." The more the saint is exercised in devotion, the more are 'faith and love, courage and fortitude, gentleness and resignation, with all the fair train of graces and virtues which attend them, illustriously displayed. It is
impossible to breathe, if I may so speak, the air of heaven, and bask in the sunshine of the Divine presence, without bringing back some perfume and superadded beauty. “ When one who holds communion with the skies,
Has fill’d his urn where these bright waters rise; And once more mingles with us meaner things, 'Tis e'en as if an angel shook his wings : Immortal fragrance fills the circuit wide, And tells us whence his treasures were supplied." The spiritual and personal benefit received from prayer, is not matter of speculation, but of experience.
“ Before our Maker, strange as it may seem, we can use a freedom of communication, which cannot be exercised towards any created being. We know that he is already acquainted with whatever we have experienced, done, or suffered, either within or without the mind. We know, that he is infinitely removed from all the partialities and prejudices, from all those cold, unkind, and contemptuous sentiments, which are so generally cherished by our fellow-creatures. We know that he will not betray us; but, however unworthy we have been, will regard us, if sincere and penitent, with kindness and mercy. We approach him, therefore, with a freedom, a confidence of communication, which can be used towards no other being in the universe. Besides, God is nearer to all men, than any man to another. If we are willing to choose him as our friend, he is infinitely the nearest, the best, the most affectionate of all friends. With Him, therefore, a communion can, and does exist, which no creature can hold with a fellow-creature.
Prayer brings home to the mind the character of God, with peculiar advantage, in many ways. It is impossible that a supplicant should fail to remember, with peculiar strength and conviction, this glorious Being, as his Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor, his Father, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. These are themes of his prayer, in all the parts of it, and are perpetually recurring. They rise in his adoration, confession, thanksgivings, and petitions. They rise in every profitable form. He cannot think of a want, a sin, or a blessing, without realizing against whom his sins have been committed, by whom his wants must be supplied, and from whom his blessings must flov."*
2. Prayer facilitates the performance of our active duties.
Christ commands us to work while it is day, because the night cometh, when no man can work. What his word teaches, his example enforces. All the servants of God have their talents given to occupy, their stations to fill
* Dr. Dwight.