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SERMON VIII.

THE EFFICACY OF PRAYER.

JEREMIAH xxxiii. 3.

“CALL UNTO ME, AND I WILL ANSWER THEE, AND SHOW THEE

GREAT AND MIGHTY THINGS WHICH THOU KNOWEST NOT."

How feeble is the arm of man when it is uplifted against the Lord and against his people! True indeed the tyrant persecutor can fetter the hands of the faithful servant of the Lord, and thrust him into the inner prison; or he may bury him in a miry dungeon, and bring his life into jeopardy, but he cannot immure his soul! His immortal spirit rises from within the walls of the most dismal dungeon, and enjoys high and holy converse with God; and into the throbbing bosoms of many of his imprisoned ones has the Lord poured down the most abundant consolations ! Daniel rested more peacefully in the den of lions than the mighty sovereign on his bed of down! Paul and Silas too, though wounded by the Roman scourge, and bound fast in the stocks,

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enjoyed holy liberty in prayer, and even cheered the darkress of the night and the outward horrors of their situation with hymns of praise.

Not only so, from those very prisons wherein apostles and prophets have been confined, for the purpose of suppressing their testimony, some of the deepest tones and sweetest strains of inspiration have issued forth; for the conversion of sinners and the comfort and edification of God's people. Six of the Epistles of the apostle Paul were written by “such an one as the prisoner of Jesus Christ;" and the "glorious liberty of the sons of God” was proclaimed by him who was himself “ an ambassador in bonds !"* instance is more remarkable than that of the prophet to whom the consolatory assurance of the text was addressed; by successive kings of Judah, Jeremiah had been imprisoned and persecuted, and his life was embittered by sore troubles; but the word of the Lord continued to visit him “ in the court of the prison;" from the house of his bondage he published a succession of faithful and splendid prophecies, and his captivity was soothed by repeated tokens of the Divine favour. Such words as those before us must have been as a gleam of light shining through the bars of his dungeon ; “ Call unto me, and I will answer

But no

* It will occur to many that the book of all others most blessed in modern times, “Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress," was written to wear away the tedium of prison hours.

thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not:" an exhortation addressed to us as well as to him, and to all the faithful servants of God in succeeding generations ! May they “come to our hearts not in word only, but with power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance !”

Let us consider, I. THE GRACIOUS INVITATION TO PRAYER ; and, II. THE EXCEEDING PRECIOUS

PROMISES ANNEXED TO IT.

I. THE INVITATION TO PRAYER : “ Call unto me !" Few, but important and most consolatory, words! And whence come they? whose voice do we hear inviting us to prayer ? " It is the WORD OF THE LORD, which came unto Jeremiah while he was yet shut up in the court of the prison, saying, Thus saith the Lord, the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it, THE LORD is his name__CALL UNTO ME!" It is the voice of the King of kings and Lord of lordsthe Creator alike of the persecutors and the persecuted : Jehovah, the self-existing, eternal and glorious God: and from his high throne, and from the tabernacle of his holiness does this gracious word proceed! How should every ear be attentive when the Lord Jehovah speaks, and bids his creatures call upon him !

him ! But to whom does he address these words? To the bright ones around his throne? to the angels, the cherubim and seraphim ? No, they have no need to pray, for every want is supplied and every desire anticipated! Is it then to the countless myriads of fallen spirits that this message of mercy is addressed; angels once, but now long since devils accursed ? No: we read of no offer of salvation, no overture of peace to them! It was upon the lonely prophet, in his solitary dungeon, that these gracious words descended, " even as dew upon the mown grass, and as the showers that water the earth.” And it is to us all “who are prisoners of hope,” that the welcome invitation is addressed. To the fallen children of men, to rebel sinners, to those who are as guilty as the evil spirits, does their God direct the invitation, “ Call unto me!" How wonderful it is, that passing by our companions in guilt, the fallen angels, God the holy and the just, should have selected us as the objects of his love, and bid us seek his face ! Even the most faithful among his people are astonished at these tokens of his mercy! In their unconverted days how long did they resist his grace and weary his patience by delay! Often did He call and they would not hear, frequently did He stretch out his hand, but they would not regard it! And since they have been subdued by sovereign grace, and brought nigh by the blood of Jesus, how many proofs have they given of remaining rebellion, obstinacy, and a disposition to go backward, and walk no more with him; they have “grieved the Holy Spirit,” and

quenched” his benign influences—and yet He says, “Call unto me!” Behold the single object of our worship; our only refuge, our only guide and strength and comforter! It is the Lord himself who invites, and to Him alone may we address our supplications; to the eternal God, whom we all have offended, through the infinite merits of his dear Son, and in the strength, and by the influences of God the Holy Ghost. Vain is all other refuge, and insufficient are all other sources of consolation.

“ Our souls must hang only upon God, for our help is from Him.” If we take refuge in our own resources, our own wisdom, our own strength, our own righteousness, these soon prove to be broken reeds, every one of them. To the Lord then let us look, simply and entirely ; He alone can adequately support us; He alone is unchangeable, faithful, and infinitely wise and good; his arm will never fail, nor his word deceive us. But do we inquire in our hearts, when may

I call

upon Him? Mark how wide, how boundless the invitation ! He does not say, “Call unto me" when thou art in trouble, or when other sources of help have been tried and have failed, nor does he in any way limit the exhortation, but he saith, “Call unto me;" implying that at all times, in all places, amidst all the varying circumstances of life, in every state of mind, in sorrow and in joy, when riches abound or when poverty op

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