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whatever. Yet these latter (which, although they may be expelled, are not superseded, by the former) compose the only part of the subject which admits of direction or disquisition from a moralist.
Our duty towards God, so far as it is external, is divided into worship and reverence. God is the immediate object of both; and the difference between them is, that the one consists in action, the other in forbearance. When we go to church on the Lord's day, led thither by a sense of duty towards God, we perform an act of worship; when, from the same motive, we rest in a journey upon that day, we discharge a duty of reverence.
Divine worship is made up of adoration, thanksgiving, and prayer.--But, as what we have to offer concerning the two former may be observed of prayer, we shall make that the title of the following chapters, and the direct subject of our consideration,
OF THE DUTY AND OF THE EFFICACY OF
PRAYER, SO FAR AS THE SAME APPEAR FROM THE LIGHT OF NATURE.
WHEN one man desires to obtain any thing of another, he betakes himself to entreaty; and this may be observed of mankind in all ages and countries of the world. Now what is universal, may be called natural; and it seems probable that God, as our supreme governor, should expect that towards himself, which by a natural impulse, or by the irresistible order of our constitution, he has prompted us to pay to every other being on whom we depend.
The same may be said of thanksgiving.
Prayer likewise is necessary to keep up in the minds of mankind a sense of God's agency in the universe, and of their own dependency
Yet, after all, the duty of prayer depends upon its efficacy: for I confess myself unable to conceive, how any man can pray, or be
obliged to pray, who expects nothing from his prayers; but who is persuaded, at the time he utters his request, that it cannot possibly produce the smallest impression upon the being to whom it is addressed, or advantage to himself. Now the efficacy of prayer imports that we obtain something in consequence of praying, which we should not have received without prayer; against all expectation of which, the following objection has been often and seriously alleged ;“ it be most agreeable to perfect wisdom and justice that we should receive what we desire, God, as perfectly wise and just, will
give it to us without asking; if it be not “ agreeable to these attributes of his nature, our entreaties cannot move him to give it
and it were impious to expect that they “ should.” In fewer words, thus : : “ If what “ we request be fit for us, we shall have it “ without praying; if it be not fit for us, we “ cannot obtain it by praying.” This objection admits but of one answer, namely, that it
may be agreeab to perfect wisdom to grant that to our prayers, which it would not have been agreeable to the same wisdom to have given us without praying for. But what virtue, you will ask, is there in prayer,
which should make a favour consistent with wisdom, which would not have been so without it? To this question, which contains the whole difficulty attending the subject, the following possibilities are offered in reply:
1. A favour granted to prayer may be more apt, on that very account, to produce good effects upon the person obliged. It may hold in the Divine bounty, what experience has raised into a proverb in the collation of human benefits, that what is obtained without asking, is oftentimes received without gratitude.
2. It may be consistent with the wisdom of the Deity to withhold his favours till they be asked for, as an expedient to encourage devotion in his rational creation, in order thereby to keep up and circulate a knowledge and sense of their dependency upon
3. Prayer has a natural tendency to amend the petitioner himself; and thus to bring him within the rules which the wisdom of the Deity has prescribed to the dispensation of his favours.
If these, or any other assignable suppositions, serve to remove the apparent repugnancy between the success of prayer and the character of the Deity, it is enough ; for the question with the petitioner is not from which, out of many motives, God may grant his petition, or in what particular manner he is moved by the supplications of his creatures; but whether it be consistent with his nature to be moved at all, and whether there be any conceivable motives which
dispose the Divine Will to grant the petitioner what he wants, in consequence of his praying for it. It is sufficient for the petitioner, that he gain his end. It is not necessary to devotion, perhaps not very consistent with it, that the circuit of causes, by which his prayers prevail, should be known to the petitioner, much less that they should be present to his imagination at the time. All that is necessary is, that there be no impossibility apprehended in the matter.
Thus much must be conceded to the objection: that prayer cannot reasonably be offered to God 'with all the same views, with which we oftentimes address our entreaties to men (views which are not commonly or easily separated from it), viz. to inform them of our wants and desires; to tease them out by importunity; to work upon their indolence or compassion, in order to persuade