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" time of need.”_" All that call on the name of “the Lord shall be saved." According to these promises, it is as impossible a man should truly pray, and yet not be saved; as that he should truly believe, and not be saved: because genuine faith and prayer are inseparable.
Men may read, repeat, or even frame, prayers, in a formal manner, without the least degree of real holiness. They may sincerely ask for temporal things, " that they may consume them on " their lusts;" or for deliverance from temporal calamities and dangers. They may even pray heartily to be saved from future punishment, and to be made for ever happy, according to their own notions of felicity, without any idea of what happiness consists in. But genuine prayer is the language of humility, and of spiritual desires and expectations: it is the expression of conscious indigence, dependence, and unworthiness; and of hearty longings after those blessings, which God alone can bestow, and which can only be enjoyed in his favour and presence.
“Lord, thou hast "heard the desire of the humble; thou wilt pre
pare their heart; thou wilt cause thine ear to “ hear.""_Hence we read of “ praying in,” or by, “the Spirit;" " praying in the Holy Ghost," and " worshiping in spirit and truth.” "The sacri« fice of the wicked is an abomination to the " Lord: but the prayer of the upright is his de
» Ps. x. 17.
“ light." Saul, when a Pharisee, may be
supposed to have made long prayers: but these were doubtless very different from the earnest supplications which he poured out before the Lord at Damascus, and which were thus noticed, “ For “ behold he prayeth.” Can it be conceived, that a holy God delighteth in any prayer, which hath nothing holy in its nature? Yet the humble supplicants, who are most acceptable to him, are most apt to be dissatisfied with themselves, and even to question the sincerity and uprightness of their earnest and fervent prayers.
The case of Manasseh may illustrate this subject: for none of those, who enter into the spirit and importance of this discussion, will deny that he found mercy by faith in the promised Saviour. The first intimation of any thing hopeful in his case is thus given : “ When he was in affliction he
besought the Lord his God, and humbled him"self greatly before the God of his fathers, and
prayed unto him; and he was intreated of him, “ and heard his supplication.” In the subsequent narrative, his prayer is repeatedly mentioned; and his sins before he was humbled are strikingly contrasted with his subsequent conduct. Hence, I apprehend, we may infer with certainty, that ac• ceptable prayer and genuine humiliation always accompany saving faith. “ The sacrifices of God
are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, "O God, thou wilt not despise.”
If then humility, godly sorrow, hatred of all evil, ingenuous confession, and whatever else belongs to true repentance, with upright desires after salvation from sin, and spiritual prayer, do indeed invariably attend every acting of faith in Christ; that faith must be a holy exercise of a regenerate soul: for surely none will maintain, that there is not the least symptom of spiritual life, the smallest degree of holiness, in any of these, or in all of them united! On the other hand, it can scarcely be imagined, that any will deliberately persist in maintaining, that justifying faith so precedes all humiliation, and other spiritual affections, as to be wholly unconnected with them; and that a man is actually justified and at peace with God, before he at all begins to humble himself, to be sorry for his sins, to confess and hate them, or to pray for spiritual blessings! This would invert the whole order of Scripture; and can never be directly and consistently avowed by a candid and serious disciple of the Lord Jesus; however he may be led, upon a controversial subject, to drop expressions, make statements, or adopt sentiments, which fairly admit of such an interpretation.-But in fact, the grand difficulty consists in prevailing with men, so far: to examine their preconceived opinions, and to question the truth of them; as, to bestow the
pains requisite for duly weighing the force of those arguments, which from Scripture are brought against them; and either solidly to refute them, (at least so as to satisfy their own minds,) or candidly to acknowledge that they were mistaken.
The holy nature of Faith more directly shewn,
The holiness of saving faith may not only be inferred from its Author, its source, and its con: comitants; but likewise from a careful consideration of its peculiar nature.
The apostle exhorts christians to “ build up “themselves in their most holy faith.”” Should it be urged, that he meant the doctrine of faith, and not faith itself; we enquire, how a most holy doctrine can be received in a right manner by a faith not at all holy? We read of those, who “ held” (or imprisoned) “ the truth in unrighteousness ;" _" because they liked not to retain God in their “knowledge:?
:?" and if this were the effect of man's carnal enmity against God, in respect of those truths which are discoverable by reason; what must be the opposition of the same principle to the message of the gospel ?-When the assent of the understanding is compelled, by invincible evidence, to the real doctrine of the cross, the most determined resistance is excited: but in general men contrive to cast a shade over that part of truth which most offends them; and by
i Jude 20.
2 Rom. i. 18-28.