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ceptable and successful Prayer, which must be offer'd up with a deep Sense of our Wants, and of our own Inability to supply them; as also with a sirm Reliance upon the Power, Truth, and Faithfulness of him we apply to for the Relief of them. This is to ask in Faith, and a full Assurance of being heard; which adds an Efsicacy, and procures an Answer to our Prayers.
Without this, we shall come wavering in Doubts and Uncertainties; still questioning either his Power or his Willi or both, to help us, which will mar the Success of all our Petitions: For let not that Man think (faith St. James) that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double-minded Man is unstable in all his Ways, and will be unsuccessful in all his Requests; James 1. 7,8.
Thus we fee the Act or Duty of Prayer, which the Church here directs, and the Catechumen promises to offer unto God, in thofe words, And I fray unto God. Bur,
II. What is the particular Matter here directed to be pray'd for? Why that is for Grace to enable him to perform his Vow; J fray unto God to give me his Grace, &c.
By Grace here we are to understand, not any such extraordinary Assistance as may supersede the Use of Means, or render our own Endeavours needless, but a super-added Strength to our natural Faculties, to help our Insirmities, and make our Endeavours effectual: for God's bestowing his Grace, is only his affording some spiritual Aid to our natural Powers, not his creating any new Habit in an instant. He does not now over-power our Faculties, nor influence our Souls by any irresistible Motions of his Holy Spirit; but he graciously seconds our Endeavours, and furthers us with his Blessing in the use of all good Means. And therefore we are requir'd to do our parr, by exerting the utmost of our Abilities; and where they fail, they shall be supply'd, and supported too, by the Succours of Divine Grace. Hence, tho God is said to work all our Works in us and for us, and to work in us to will and to do according to his Good-pleasure; yet we are call'd upon to work out our own Salvation, to signify, that we are to use the natural Powers which God has given us, and to co-operate with him as far as they will reach towards our own Salvation. And when we thus do our best, he will supply what is wanting by the Assistance of his Grace, and crown all our Actions with Success
K 3 and and "Victory. God Almighty delights to bless our Endeavours, and ever meets and encourages them with the desir'd Issue; but he dashes the vain Expectations of the Slothful and Negligent; and an idle superficial asking, instead of a Blessing, brines only a Disappointment and a Curse. Hence our Blessed Saviour joins Watchfulness with Prayer; Watch and fray, faith he, that ye enter not into 1'emjtation, Mat. 26. 41. thereby teaching us, that moral Industry in the use of all good Means, is necessary to procure an Answer, and prevail for the gracious Return of our Prayers. This Lesson we are taught in that divine Form which Christ himself gave to his Disciples; in which tho we are directed to pray for our daily Bread, yet our Labour must accompany our Petitions, or else 'tis but vanity and presumption to expect it. In like manner, tho we are taught to pray against our ghostly Enemies, and to be deliver'd from their Temptations, yet we are bid to resist the Devil before he will fly from us ; and we must strive against Sin in all its Motions and Occasions, or else our striving against it in Prayer will be of no avail.
Our Petitions then for Grace are to be attended with the other great Instruments of Religion, such as Reading, Hearing, Meditating on God's Word, together with all other Exercises of Virtue and a holy Life; without which, the loudest and longest Prayer will sind neither Audience tior Acceptance. I have insisted the more on this, to rectify a dangerous Mistake of some, who fondly imagine that Christ has done all for them, and expects nothing but their Acceptance of what he has done: his Grace is free, fay they, and is not clogg'd with any Conditions; so that 'tis but ask and have, tho they do nothing towards it.
This is a Delusion of Satan, or a false Suggestion of a corrupt and deceitful Heart, and will necessarily deprive such os all Grace and Favour at God's Hand, who harbour or lead their Lives by it; for God requires our Endeavours to go along with our Prayers, and will surely turn the deaf Ear to the latter, where the former are wanting.
Thus you see what is meant here by Grace, and likewise how it is to be pray'd for, in order to the obtaining of it. Eut,
III. For what end is the Catechumen here directed to pray for God's Grace? Thar, our third Particular will inform us: which is, that he may be enabkd to continue in
that that State of Salvation, into which by Baptism he is receiv'd, unto his Life's end: So that 'tis Perseverance, or holding out to the end, that is here made the Subject of our Prayers; which is a matter highly worthy of our Prayers, and likewise absolutely necessary to be pray'd for.
1. I say, Grace to persevere to the end, is a matter highly worthy of our most hearty and affectionate Prayers ; for 'tis this alone that crowns our Actions, and procures for us the promis'd Reward : Wejball reap, saith the Apostle, if we faint not, Gal. 6. 9. If we hold out to the end of Out Christian Race, we shall surely obtain the Prize; but if we faint and tire, we shall reap nothing but Shame and Confusion. We must be faithful unto Death, before we receive the Crown of Life; and 'tis they only, who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for Glory, that shall receive Eternal Life.
The Psalmist tells us of some that start aside like a broken Bow; and of others that reel and stagger like a drunken Man, and seem by their Fickleness and Instability to be at their Wit's end. This kind of Levity and Inconstancy we sind sharply rebuk'd in the Galatians, Chap. 3. Where the Apostle asks, Who had bezvitcb'd them, that they should (tart from the Faith which they had embracd? And why they became so foolish, as having begun in the Spirit, they should end in the Flesh?
This then being a matter of such vast consequence to us, our Eternal Happiness and Salvation intirely depending upon our holding out to the end; it highly concerns us to pray for Grace to be enabled so to do.
2. Again, as this is a matter highly worthy of our Prayers, so our Prayers are absolutely necessary to the obtaining of it: for besides our natural Weakness, we are beset with so many and such strong Temptations, that without the assistance of Divine Grace 'twill be impossible for us to persevere, which we are therefore to call for by diligent Prayer. Our Saviour pray'd that St. Peter's Faith might not fail, which was greatly in danger by the Siftings and Assaults of Satan: And ours would daily and hourly fail too, without the continual Succours and Supplies of Divine Grace; and therefore we have continual need to pray, that we may be kept by the Power of God through Faith unto Salvation, i 'Pet. r. 5. So that Perseverance is a Virtue, which not only deserves, but needs our earnest and fervent Prayers. Again,
K 4 Lastly,
Lastly, As Prayer is the most necessary, so is it the most natural and proper means of obtaining this Grace: for it betokens that Humility and Dependence upon God, which highly tends to the Succels of our Petitions; it shews a Senlc of our own Inability, for no Man will seek to another for that which he knows or thinks he can do for himself Moreover, 'tis an Acknowledgment of the insinite Power, Fulness, and Sufficiency of God to help us, and likewise of his Readiness to do it; which will powerfully engage him to do that for us, which we cannot do for ourselves.
Indeed, Prayer is the ordinary way and means of obtaining all that at God's hand, which may be necessary or convenient for us: hence some have styl'd it, The Key that opens to us the Gates of Heaven; others, the Wing upon which the Soul mounts up thither, and returns loaden with all necessary Blessings. 'Tis the means which God himself has appointed to that end, and therefore he will not fail to bless it: Call upon me, faith he, in the time of Trouble, and I will hear thee, and thou JJjalt praise me; Psal. lo. Open thy Month wide and I will sill it.
He has made Prayer the Condition of all his Blessings; and therefore we sind him declaring to the Israelites, That tho he had promis'd to bestow upon them many Mercys and Blessings, yet hcexpe&eded to be fought unto, and to be calf A upon for them 3 Ezek. 56. 27, 37.
For this reason it is that our Church directs all that are by Baptism admitted into it, to pray to God, as for all other Blessings, so especially for Grace to continue in his Ways to their Lives end: If any of you lack Wisdom (faith St. James) that is, Grace or Wisdom to persevere, for so Wisdom must be understood in that place 5 let him askit of God, who giveth to all Men liberally, and upbrai deth not, and it shall be given unto him $ James 1. 5.
Where we have abundant Encouragement to address for this Grace, from the happy Issue and Succels of our Petitions: It shall be given unto us. God Almighty is never wanting to the hearty Desires and Endeavours of his People ; and if we are not wanting to ourselves, we cannot miss of Grace sufficient for us: he is ever ready to hear and answer our Requests, and to bless our Endeavours with the deilr'd Issue.
Wherefore let us not forget to pray daily unto God to give us Grace, to continue stedfast in our Christian Course to our Lives end. Thus are we here taught to pray for
ourselves: and elsewhere we are call'd upon to make our Prayers to Almighty God in the behalf of every Child who is baptiz'd, that he may lead the rest of his Life according to that beginning.
To this end,,let us frequently and seriously consider both the Danger of Apostafy, and the Happiness of Perseverance.
For the sirst; Unexpressibly great is the Danger of Apostasy or revolting from God, who has threaten'd all such Back-sliders with Eternal Destruftion from the 'Presence of the Lord, and the Glory of his Power. Setter had it been (faith St. Peter) not to have known the Ways of Righteousness, than having known them, to turn from the holy Commandment; i Pet. 2. a1. Such will be glad at the last Day, to change places in Hell with a Turk or an Insidel, who will sind a more eafy and tolerable Doom than thofe persidious Renegadoes ; such Baseness will heat the Furnace seven times hotter, and prepare thofe flaming Ingredients of Wrath, that will heighten and increase their Damnation.
But as the Doom and Danger of Apostates is unspeakable, so the Happiness of found persevering Christians is inconceivable : To him that overcometh (faith the Spirits will I give to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God; Rev. 2. 7. They that overcome the Difficulties of Christianity, and hold on the Profession of it in Sincerity to the end, shall be restor'd to a far better Paradise than that which our sirst Parents lost; where the Tree of Life will render not only their Persons immortal, but their Bliss indefeasible: there will be no Serpent to beguile them, no Cherubims to guard the Way to the Tree of Life, nor any flaming Sword to drive or keep them from it: but contrariwise, as there is nothing7 to bereave them of their Innocency, so neither can any thing hinder or impair their Happiness: Insomuch that if we are Faithful to the Death, we shall be sure to receive a Crown ot Life ; a Crown that can neither be forfeited nor eclips d but shall sit for ever on our Heads, and shine there wita a bright and never-fading Lustre. .„
In a word, They that persevere in the Ways of Virtue to the end, shall be crown'd at last with endless Glory and Felicity.