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all prayer, are offended with the mode of prayer in use amongst us, and with
of the subjects which are almost universally introduced into public worship, and recommended to private devotion. To pray for particular favours by name, is to dictate, it has been said, to Divine wisdom and goodness; to intercede for others, especially for whole nations and empires, is still worse; it is to presume that we possess such an interest with the Deity, as to be able, by our applications, to bend the most important of his counsels; and that the happiness of others, and even the prosperity of communities, is to depend upon this interest, and upon our choice. Now, how unequal soever our knowledge of the Divine economy may be to the solution of this difliculty, which requires perhaps a comprehension of the entire plan, and of all the ends, of God's moral government, to explain satisfactorily, we can understand one thing concerning it: that it is, after all, nothing more than the making of one man the instrument of happiness and misery to another; .which is perfectly of a piece with the course and order that obtain, and which we must believe were intended to obtain, in human affairs. Why may we not
be assisted by the prayers of other men,
who are beholden for our support to their labour? Why may not our happiness be made in some cases to depend upon the interces. sion, as it certainly does in
many upon the good offices, of our neighbours? The happiness and misery of great numbers we see oftentimes at the disposal of one man's choice, or liable to be much affected by his conduct: what greater difficulty is there in supposing, that the
of an individual may avert a calamity from multitudes, or be accepted to the benefit of whole communities?
OF THE DUTY AND EFFICACY OF PRAYER
AS REPRESENTED IN SCRIPTURE.
The reader will have observed, that the reflections stated in the preceding chapter, whatever truth and weight they may be allowed to contain, rise many of them no higher than to negative arguments in favour of the propriety of addressing prayer to God.
that the efficacy of prayers is not inconsistent with the attributes of the Deity, does not prove
prayers are actually efficacious : and in the want of that unequivocal testimony, which experience alone could afford to this point (but which we do not possess, and have seen good reason why we are not to expect), the light of nature leaves us to controverted probabilities, drawn from the impulse by which mankind have been almost universally prompted to devotion, and from some beneficial purposes, which, it is conceived, may be better answered by the audience of prayer than by any other mode of communicating the same blessings. The revelations which we deem authentic, completely supply this defect of natural religion. They require prayer to God as a duty; and they contain positive assurance of its efficacy and acceptance. We could have no reasonable motive for the exercise of out believing that it may avail to the relief of our wants. This belief can only be founded, either in a sensible experience of the effect of prayer, or in promises of acceptance signified by Divine authority. Our knowledge would have come to us in the former way, less capable indeed of doubt, but subjected to the abuses and inconveniences briefly described above; in the latter way, that is, by authorised significations of God's general disposition to hear and answer the devout supplications of his creatures, we are encouraged to pray, but not to place such a dependence upon prayer as might relax other obligations, or confound the order of events and of human expectations.
The Scriptures not only affirm the propriety of prayer in general, but furnish
precepts or examples which justify some topics and some modes of prayer that have been thought exceptionable. And as the whole subject rests so much upon the foundation of Scripture, I shall put down at length texts applicable to the five following heads : to the duty and efficacy of prayer
in general; of prayer for particular favours by name ; for public national blessings; of intercession for others; of the repetition of unsuccessful prayers.
1. Texts enjoining prayer in general : “ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and
ye shall find :-If ye, being evil, know how " to give good gifts unto your children, “ how much more shall your Father, which “is in heaven, give good things to them
“ that ask him!"_“ Watch ye, therefore, “ and pray always, that ye may
be account“ed worthy to escape all those things that “ shall come to pass, and to stand before 66 the Son of man.”—“ Serving the Lord, ,
rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation,
continuing instant in prayer.' “ careful for nothing, but in every thing by
prayer and supplication, with thanksgiv
ing, let your requests be made known unto “ God.”_"I will, therefore, that men pray
every where, lifting up holy hands without 56 wrath and doubting.”—“ Pray without “ ceasing.” Matt. vii. 7. 11; Luke xxi. 36; Rom. xii. 12 ; Philipp. iv. 6; 1 Thess. v. 17; 1 Tim. ii. 8. Add to these, that Christ's reproof of the ostentation and prolixity of pharisaical prayers, and his recommendation to his disciples, of retirement and simplicity in theirs, together with his dictating a particular form of prayer, all presuppose prayer to be an acceptable and availing service.
2. Examples of prayer for particular favours by name : “ For this thing” (to wit, some bodily infirmity, which he calls. thorn given him in the flesh”) “ I besought “ the Lord thrice, that it might depart from “ me.”—“ Night and day praying exceed