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purpose of procuring food. He will employ the little strength that remains, however painful the experiment may prove, in crying for help, or in crawling towards the place from which it is expected. “ Blessed are they" and they only, “ who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for “ they shall be filled.”
The spirit of prayer is the promised Spirit of God “making intercession for us with groanings “ that cannot be uttered.” Our collect tells us that “an hearty desire to pray” is the gift of God. Every sigh that distends the contrite bosom is of His operation. And He who indites our prayers must be fully acquainted with His own meaning in them, and design to answer them.
Let those who are unconscious of any “hearty “ desire to pray” tremble for themselves. They have no evidence that they are the Lord's people and interested in His promises.
Unless the spirit of grace and supplication is communicated to us, we have no ground to expect God's os defence and comfort. On the contrary, being without God, we are exposed to every evil temporal and eternal. We are destitute of all solid comfort, and must remain in this state for ever unless God should bestow on us a “ bearty desire to pray” for the pardon of our past impiety and a change of heart.
Those favoured persons to whom “ God hath
given an hearty desire to pray” may be assured that their labour shall not be in vain. They may meet with many difficulties and discouragements in their approaches to the mercyseat. Their faith may be tried and their hope deferred. Danger may press on them and necessities multiply.
But God most assuredly.
hears, in every instance, the voice of His own Spirit; and all sincere prayer is His voice, for independent of His inspiration we have no power
God's “heavenly inspirations and our holy desires are as so many angels of intercourse and commerce between God and us."* God never implants a desire which He doth not mean to accomplish. “ He will fulfil the desire " of them that fear Him: He also will hear “ their cry and will save them.” If therefore danger should surround us on every side, and threaten instant destruction; if our necessities be more in number than the hairs of our heads, and each of them require Omnipotence for its relief; we may be assured of safety and comfort, if we have learned, through grace, to pour out our hearts before God. The desire to pray is an earnest of the blessing implored the forerunner of success. What the Apostle says of his preaching, we may apply to the Divine purpose respecting the salvation of a sinner, of which an hearty desire to pray is a sure indication given him. It is “not yea and nay, but in “ Christ it is yea. For all the promises of God “ in Him are Yea, and in Him Amen, to the
glory of God.” (2 Cor. i. 19, 20.)
* Hooker's Eccles. Polity, vol. ii. p. 101. Oxford edition.
THE FOURTII SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy ; Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy, that thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal: Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake our Lord. Amen.
T is a characteristic of a Christian believer that
he “looks not at the things which are seen “ but at the things which are not seen,” knowing " that the things which are seen are temporal, transitory and of short duration, while the
things which are not seen are eternal,” durable and without end.
The Scriptures assert that one principal effect of the fatal catastrophe in Paradise is a total blindness diffused over the human mind. Fallen man has his “ understanding darkened, being alienated “ from the life of God through the ignorance that “ is in him, because of the blindness of his heart." And this darkness, in which man is naturally inveloped, is so thick that the star-like glimmer of education and human instruction cannot penetrate it. Nay, the light which is shed on the objects of faith by an external revelation is insufficient to remove it without Divine teaching. The truth of this appears from the radical mistakes which are made, even by men of profound erudition who have the Bible in their hands, on the subject of true religion.
That the whole conduct of life is required to be under the influence of faith, and that it is so in every real Christian, in every genuine member of our church, is evident from the language both of the Scriptures and of our liturgy. “We walk “ by faith, not by sight.” Now walking is the motion of the whole body from one place towards another; and when applied to the soul it signifies its tendency, the bias of the will and affections towards God or the world. Literally, it is not the exertion of a single member but of the whole body; and metaphorically, it is not an occasional act but the general tenour of the heart and life. If this be true, it follows that the common supposition which makes religion to consist in the performance of certain occasional duties, limited to certain periods, is a most dreadful and fatal delusion. Were a judgment to be formed of true religion from the spirit and conduct of many who profess it, we might compare it to a garment which is made to be worn on certain special occasions. Some persons put it on when they go to church, and throw it off immediately on their return home. Others wear it through the whole sabbath. And some few, perhaps, during the whole week that precedes the administration of the Lord's supper.
But it is evident that the garment does not fit them, that they put it on with reluctance, and are glad to divest themselves of it as an incumbrance. These persons are all equally ignorant of true religion, for religion is a new nature; (2 Cor. v. 17. Gal. vi. 15. Eph. iv. 24. Col. iii. 9, 10.) and our nature cannot be put off and on at pleasure. Sad is his state who has only “the form of Godliness without its
The conduct of every unrenewed man is wholly under the regulation of sense, notwithstanding any occasional acts of religious duty which he may perform. He walks by sight, not by faith. The objects of sense, the pleasures, riches, and honours of the world, are the idols which the natural heart reveres and adores. And supremely to affect these, and to set the affections on any thing which may be classed under either of these divisions, is to give as full proof of an unconverted state as any vicious practice whatever can afford. It is not an occasional act of outward piety which makes a Christian, nor of sin that constitutes an unbeliever. The essence of the fall consists in the alienation of the heart from God and its guilty attachment to the world. The recovery of the heart for God is conversion. Without this no abstinence from outward sin nor acts of homage will avail. God is, by creation, our Father. And though a son abstain from open, violence towards his parent's person, yet alienation of affection is highly criminal; and a preference given to the society and commands of a stranger would be full proof of that alienation. God is our Master. And were a servant to purloin his master's property, though the money were not spent in a brothel or a tavern, the act. of robbery would be justly punishable. We sadly mistake, if we suppose that outward enormities are the only things which are cognizable by the Divine law, or the only provocatives of Divine displeasure. These are foul streams which prove the corruption of the fountain, sour fruit which shews the nature of the tree that produces it. Want of love to God, however it be manifested, is the essence of sin in which its criminality chiefly