« PrécédentContinuer »
and the history of the church, down to this day, clearly proves, that sincere, humble, believing, and ardent prayers, are not lost. They still fetch water in the desert, from the smitten rock, and bread from above, more precious than manna; still they open a way through seas of tribulation, stop the mouths of lions, quench the violence of fire, and turn to flight the armies of the aliens.
THE CHIEF ADVANTAGES TO BE DERIVED FROM PRAYER.
If the cause of piety and devotion necesarily deprived us of many emoluments and pleasures, and su
and subjected us to heavy losses and painful trials, we ought still to pursue it. Conscience sitting at the helm, and steering by the bright pole-star of hope, or rather, by the unvarying compass of the Divine Word, we should bear up against the billows and tempests, always advancing toward the destined shore for which we are bound the desired haven of eternal rest. But the man of piety has generally a decided advantage over the mere man of the world even in this life. He who puts present interest in the place of conscience, shifting his sails to every wind, and gliding on the surface of every current, has not learned to estimate consequences. True religion has been caricatured and grossly calumniated; but those who know any thing of her, will own that she has a mild majesty in her aspect, and a rich dowry in her hand; and as her commands are all just, so her daily communications are all generous. The wicked are represented as saying, “ What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?" But those who ridicule prayer are strangers to it; some having only heard of it, while others have just seen its sober mien, or worn its empty form, or muttered its language without meaning. A carnal mind can neither understand nor relish spiritaal things. Men who are engrossed and stupified by the low and despicable pursuits of the world, can have no more idea of the dignity, solid comfort, and delicious sweetness of prayer, than a herd of swine can receive pleasure from the lectures of a philosopher. But the Christian has learned, by experience, that it is not a vain thing to serve God, for he has tasted that he is gracious. Not satisfied with the outward ceremonies of religion, he has embraced its substance, and inhaled its vital spirit. I shall proceed to point out some of the benefits which attend the exercise of humble, earnest, unwearied prayer.
1. Prayer improves our graces.
The graces of the Christian are the peculiar properties of the new man, the fair features of the Saviour's image, the precious ripening fruits of the Holy Spirit. Wherever these are
found, they give a lustre to the character; and the character, thus adorned, reflects an honour upon religion in the world. And be it remembered, that the Christian graces must be daily polished to make them shine, and the fruits of the Spirit daily cultivated to make them grow. Among the means to be used for this end, prayer is indispensable.
1. Prayer invigorates faith, and enlivens love. It is indeed needful to believe, or we cannot
pray; for never yet was there an acceptable petition shot to heaven, but from the bow of faith. Alas! how often is the Christian's faith relaxed and enfeebled, and how necessary is prayer as the means by which it is to be new strung. In the first steps of his approach to God, the Christian often drags on heavily; but the very motion itself gives both warmth and energy; for as bodily exercise, by clearing away acrid humours, sharpening the appetite, and quickening the powers of digestion, imparts health and strength to the frame; so spiritual exercise, by removing a load of obstructions, and quickening the digestion of our heavenly food, imparts health and vigour to the soul. Faith and love may be distinguished, but cannot be separated; they dwell together, and mutually assist each other. Faith, says Paul, worketh by love, and we may add, the energy of both is maintained by prayer. While we
are pleading the promises, we become more deeply interested in them; and, on the other hand, let the Christian cease to pray, and his faith immediately declines, his love abates, his zeal cools. All our graces depend both for their existence and growth on the agency of the Holy Spirit; and there is an intimate connexion between this agency, and prayer. Let us not vainly expect God to break the order of means, and the operation of causes, which are appointed by his own infinite wisdom and sovereign will; for as soon might we expect a plant to grow without water, or a fire to burn without fresh fuel, or a body to live without air, as that the life and power of religion can be continued in the heart, without constant prayer and supplication. And does not experience evince, that faith and love are often revived and reinvigorated in the very acts and exercises of devotion?
2. Prayer raises courage, and confirms fortitude.
A feeble, timid, dastardly spirit, is always besieged with a host of fears. He that has to pass through strange countries, must be prepared to meet hardships; and the brave warrior sees it necessary to stand to his colours, and keep his allotted place, in the fiercest conflict. And shall not the soldier of Christ, who follows the standard of the Cross, and swears alle