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also, has been pleased to regard, in a favourable and merciful manner, public fasts, not directly appointed by himself. Thus when the Ninevites, alarmed by the prediction of Jonah, kept a day of solemn humiliation and fasting for their sins, God repented of the evil, that he said he would do unto them; and he did it not. In consequence of the fast, also, of the Jews in Shushan, on account of the ruin, threatened to their nation by the malicious fraud of Haman, God accomplished their deliverance in a manner equally wonderful and glorious. Important blessings seem also to have been given, in consequence of the fasts, proclaimed severally by Ezra and Nehemiah. The public services of these days are usually the same with those of the Sabbath. Prayer, particularly, is a prime part of them all. On such days the ancient Churches assembled to acknowledge the goodness of God to them, and to confess and lament their sins against him. In these religious solemnities, they have been followed extensively by the Church in later times. 3. The Morning and Evening of every day, are in a peculiar manner seasons of Prayer. This truth was taught directly by the morning and evening sacrifice, under the Mosaic dispensation. Aaron, and the succeeding High Priests, were commanded, Exod. xxx. 7, to burn incense on the altar of incense every morning. See also Exod. xxxvi. 3.; Exod. xli. ; Levit. vi. 12. In like manner the evening sacrifice and oblation are often mentioned; as in 1 Kings xviii. 29; 2 Kings xvi. 15; Ezra ix.4; and Dan. ix. 21. In conformity to the language of this institution, David declares, that he steadily performed this religious duty every morning and every evening, and also at noon every day. Daniel prayed to his God three times a day. Job also offered sacrifice in the morning. In the same manner, unquestionably, worshipped all the pious men of ancient times. With the Scriptures, the Nature of the case perfectly accords. In the Morning, we are solemnly called upon to remember the protection, which God has extended to us through the night: a season, in which we were wholly unable to protect ourselves. We are required to recollect also, that he has graciously given us the blessing of sleep, and the peace and safety, with which we have rested upon our beds. He, who does not praise God for these indispensable gifts, must be alike ungrateful and stupid. . In the Morning, also, we are about to enter upon the business of the day; and stand, therefore, in absolute need of the Divine protection, favour, and blessing. How wretched should we be, and how useless, unless our food and raiment, our health, and strength, our reason and all our other useful faculties, were continued in our possession' Equally do we need security against temptation and sin, danger and harm. But for all these we are entirely dependent on God alone. In the Evening, we are solemnly obligated to remember with the deepest gratitude the blessings of the day. These are the blessings, which we supplicated in the morning; and which God has been pleased to bestow upon us, notwithstanding our sins. In the Evening, also, we are about to lay ourselves down to sleep. Beside Him, we have no protector; and to Him we must be indebted both for the sleep itself, and for the peace and safety, without which it cannot be enjoyed. Stated and regular seasons are indispensable to the effectual performance of all business. Method, proverbially styled the soul of business, cannot exist without such seasons. Irregularity, which is the prevention, or the ruin, of all valuable efforts, grows of course out of irregular distributions of time. That, which is done at accidental seasons only, is ultimately not done at all. No business demands regularity, and method, more than Prayer. There is in all men, naturally, a strong indisposition to pray. Stated seasons, therefore, returning at regular periods, are peculiarly necessary to preserve this duty in its full vigour. He, who prays at such seasons, will always remember this duty; will form his schemes of life so, as to provide the proper places for performing it; will be reproached by his conscience for neglecting it; will keep alive the spirit of prayer from one season to another, so as to render the practice delightful; and will be preserved, uninterruptedly, in the practice, by the strong influence of habit. He, who prays at accidental seasons only, will first neglect, then hate, and finally desist from, this duty. The Morning and Evening are seasons peculiarly fitted for the Wol. IV. 70
regular returns of prayer. They occurat intervals, perfectly convenient; terminate, successively, our sleep and our labour; are seasons necessarily distinguished; remind us regularly of all that, for which we should pray; and are effectual means of establishing in us immoveable habits of praying. They involve every thing therefore, which can be either asked, or wished, for this interesting purpose. - As these are seasons eminently advantageous for secret prayer; so they are almost the only possible seasons for the united devotion of Families. Then, and then only, are all the members customarily present. Then, the family business is either not begun, or ended; and all are at leisure to employ themselves in the worship of God. Strangers, then, do not intrude; and in this manner prevent the performance of the duty. Every thing, therefore, concurs at these seasons, to promote, and establish, the method, regularity, and habit, which, necessary always, are indispensable where numbers are concerned. 4. The times, at which we receive our food, are proper seasons of prayer. On food we depend for the continuance of life; and, of course, for the enjoyment of all other temporal good. On this blessing, also, depends in the like manner the continuance of our probation; and, therefore, all our future, spiritual good, so far as it will be gained in the present world. With this good, are inseparably connected, also, those immortal blessings, which God will communicate as its proper reward beyond the grave. Hence the communication of this blessing demands of us peculiar attention, gratitude, and acknowledgments. These, accordingly, the Scriptures require every where at our hands. Every creature of God, say they, is good, if it be received with thanksgiving. They inform us also, that it is sanctified by the Word of God, that is, his express permission to use it, and by Prayer. They further teach us, that God created meats, to be received with thanksgiving by them who believe, and know, the truth. In these passages they teach us, that meats were created for this end, that they should be received by us with thanksgiving; and that, if they are not thus received, the end of their creation is not accomplished; that they are not good, when not thus received; and that they are not sanctified without Prayer. The Scriptures also direct us, that whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, we should do all to the glory of God. But when we receive our food, whatever emotions we may experience within, we cannot glorify God before our fellow-men, except by asking for his blessing upon it, and rendering to him our praise for the bounty, by which it is daily supplied. In conformity with these precepts, David often solemnly praises God for the communication of this blessing to himself; and calls upon all mankind to unite in the praise. The primitive Christians are exhibited by St. Paul as eating, and giving God thanks; or, in other words, as giving God thanks, when they received their food. Our Saviour, the perfect example to all his followers, blessed the food, provided for himself and those around him, to teach us, that it is our duty always to ask that blessing of God upon our own meals, without which they cannot be either useful, or desirable, enjoyments. The same glorious Person, also, gave thanks uniformly to God for the bounties of his Providence, to show us, that we are always to remember, with gratitude and praise, the Divine Goodness in supplying our wants, and in thus prolonging our lives. From this glorious example, and these most reasonable precepts, are derived ample proofs of this important duty, and the most powerful motives to perform invariably, faithfully, and with sincere delight, so desirable a service. The very Heathen were so sensible of the propriety, and obligation, of this duty, as enjoined by the religion of nature, that, to a great extent, they steadily made libations to their gods before their meals, as an acknowledgment of their indebtedness to , them for their daily food. He therefore, who in a Christian country neglects to praise God for his own food, cannot with propriety be called a Heathen. He may with more fitness be | styled an animal. Nay, in some respects, he degrades himself below the brutes. For the or knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib : But he doth not know, nor even consider. 5. Beside these regular Seasons of Prayer, there are many others continually occurring, which can be designated by no general 7,0716.
The times, at which all peculiar blessings are bestowed on us, are times of Prayer. Whenever we are successful in any important concern, and are especially prospered, supported, or comforted: whenever we, or ours, are delivered from trouble or want, pain or sickness: whenever we escape from peculiar temptations; are placed in safety; and furnished with strength, peace, hope, and joy, with the peculiar blessings of Christian fellowship, the rectification of our views, and the improvement of our religious affections, we are especially summoned to the duties of Prayer and thanksgiving. In the same manner is Prayer our especial duty at those seasons, in which we are peculiarly distressed in body or in mind; are in peculiar danger; are exposed peculiarly to temptations; are sick; are bereaved of beloved friends; are threatened with alarming evils; or whenever we find ourselves the subjects of peculiar sloth, reluctance to our duty, or ready to repine at the dispensations of God's Providence, or to distrust his faithfulness, or his mercy. Nor are we less obviously called to the duties of Prayer and Thanksgiving by the peculiar prosperity or distresses, the dangers or deliverances, of our Country. I speak not, here, of this duty, as performed in public. I refer immediately to the performances of the closet. No man can safely, or warrantably, neglect the interests of his country in his secret devotions. As its interests ought ever to be near his heart; so they ought ever to be remembered, when he comes into the presence of God. In the same manner, the great concerns of the Church of God ought continually to be subjects of fervent supplication. If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, saith the Psalmist, let my right hand forget her cunning : if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. All the wants and woes, all the blessings and consolations, of the Church of God should be felt, as the personal concerns of every Christian ; and, as such, should ascend up in his daily devotions before the throne of his Maker. I only add, that both Reason and Revelation have made it our plain duty to pray for all men. At the times also, when we ourselves commence any important business, journey, or other undertaking, which is of particular consequence to our