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his daily walk in the world, that on a number of occasions when he would exercise faith he cannot, and feels how difficult it is to realize and to trust the promises of God—let him remember that the most eminent believers were once as feeble. The way they attained their present strength is a way open to all who depend on no natural endowments, no accidental advantages, nothing but the sovereign goodness of God inviting his creatures to strength, inviting his suffering creatures to peace, inviting his poor wretched sinners to all the privileges of believers and saints. Now, this is open to every soul here; and therefore if a child of God shall be going on from month to month, or from year to year, complaining that he makes little or no progress, oh, let him be ashamed, let him be ashamed, that he will not enjoy what the good and gracious Father of heaven is waiting to bestow. May God forgive us for that weakness of faith which is dishonorable to him, which is injurious to us, which is absolutely irrational, which has no ground in sense, which is repelled by scripture, which the experience of multitudes forbids us to have. Oh, would to God that even this present narrative might, under his gracious influence, lead us to come to Christ in earnest and perseveringprayer to obtain this blessing. If only this single practical lesson be learnt by any of us this night, we have learnt much. It is easy to learn a theory—Christians, have you not often found it difficult to realize in practice? Whatever be the sources of our weakness, we must not suffer our minds to despond: our business is to persevere in prayer that the Lord will grant us this strength of faith. Bring within your reach all possible and suitable blessings. Our faith is apt to be weak and partial. To obtain this blessing we must get that strength of faith. Our only mode of obtaining it is prayer, and the use of other appointed means.
Our conclusion is inevitable. Oh, that God the Father would fix our minds on that conclusion, and not suffer it to expire in mere ineffective wishes, but bring us to a resolution and strength of purpose, by which we might realize the blessing. Remember that to believe strongly whatever God has promised is our most reason
able and obvious duty. Remember that to believe strongly what God has promised plainly, brings with it abundant comfort and plentiful strength. Remember that to believe strongly what God has promised plainly, honors him as much as the contrary dishonors him. Remember that this is what he will unquestionably at last bestow. On the other hand, unbelief, or a weak and partial faith, which taken the form of unbelief with respect to the particular thing we doubt, is as unnatural as it is unreasonable, is as common as it is wicked; we easily fall into it. Almost every person around us in the world is constantly exercising unbelief, and not faith. It is as mischievous to our own souls as it is offensive to God; and these two contrary Jsets of conclusions, both weighing on our minds, bring us to this strong determination, that we will seek by earnest and effectual prayer this blessing from God. Our Saviour has taught us how to pray—how happy should we be to receive his admonition. He has taught us that " Men ought always to pray and not to faint." A thousand times we may ask for that blessing, and a thousand times we seem to fail; and could you observe the history of those men whose experience has been left on record, you will often see that their eminent grace was the result of many a conflict, in which, unknown to the world, they were wrestling with God in secret. They found no pains too great; they kept their eye on the great attainments before them; they would take no denial, and at last they succeeded. Go you, dear brethren, and do likewise. God is not satisfied till you have this strength of faith, which will introduce you to a thousand and ten thousand blessings, by which you may be as blessed in your own souls, as you may do good to the whole circles of those with whom, in the ordinary habits of life, you are by Divine Providence connected.
ERRATATU M. The date lo Rev. J. Straiten'.' Sermons should have been '18.10' Instead of' 1839.'
London: Published for the Proprietors, by T. GRIFFITHS, Wellington Street, Strand; and Sold by all Booknellert in Town and Country.
Printed by Lowndes and White, Crane Court, Fleet Street.
DELIVERED BY THE REV. J. BURNETT,
2 Tbetaaloniana, iii. 1.—" Finally, brethren, pray for ut, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified."
When we remember, my friends, that the words which I have just read were delivered, not by an ordinary minister of the gospel of Christ to the people of Thessalonica, but by one infallibly inspired to direct the churches, and to minister the gospel of the kingdom, by the spirit of glory and of God, we might feel startled at the request which the text contains, when the apostle calls upon the people to pray for him, "that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified." He had been armed with the most awful and majestic powers that the God of heaven ever committed, either to angels or to men. He had been clothed with the highest authority ever bestowed on an inhabitant of the earth. He had been endowed with the greatest attainments —he had been filled with the spirit of glory and of God—he had been made especially his temple, and he had been made so for the express purpose of laying down, not only by his own testimony, but by the inspired record, the foundations of the church of Christ, for regulating the spiritual economy of heaven till the close of time. Under these circumstances, reasoning according to the wisdom of men, we should be disposed to infer, that the freedom of the gospel of Christ, the wide extension of the knowledge of the Redeemer's name, had been infallibly secured; and yet so humble was this individual, so clothed with the true characteristics of an ambassador of Christ, so conscious rot. i.
of his absolute dependence upon the continued kindness of the God that had clothed him with apostleship, that we find him on this occasion throwing himself on the ordinary basis on which the ministers of the gospel cast themselves, and inviting the prayers of the people. "Brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified."
The apostle, however, must not only be regarded as exercising, on this occasion, feelings of genuine humility, when he overlooks the extraordinary commission he bears, and the extraordinary powers he was appointed to wield, and asks for the prayers of the people; but we must regard him, also, as placing in a just point of light the character of the gospel dispensation. He was aware, that not by the might or the power that man could wield, even when that might and that power came by extraordinary commission from heaven—he was aware that not by the might or the power that man could wield, under any circumstances, did God intend to secure the success of his gospel. He knew that though God appointed the apostles to bring the dead from another world, and to command diseases to fly from those who had been visited by them—he knew that though God had appointed the apostles to bear rule in the church in the administration of his kingdom, he had still reserved in his own power, and in p
his own power exclusively, the grand energy by which the soul is quickened together with Christ, that by grace it might be saved. He looked, therefore, to the fountain whence this energy must spring—he looked to the great source whence spiritual power must still be derived; and whilst he ministered the energies of his apostleship under the commission and the sanction of the God of truth, he still looked through the ordinary channels in which grace was still to be measured out— he still looked through them for the interposition of the power by which God would make his people willing in the day of his power. Thus he, at once, lays before us an expression of his own humility, and a recognition of the peculiar character of the gospel of Christ, as a demonstration of divine power coming direct from God ; and in both of these he at once conveys instruction, and sets us an example.
If, therefore, my friends, we find the apostle of the Gentiles, notwithstanding the authority of his office, and the power by which that office was sustained, casting himself upon the prayers of the people, and connecting the triumphs of the gospel of Christ with the holy breathings of those who had already been made the subjects of its power, much more should we, when we consider our vast inferiority, both in office and powers and endowments, to the great apostle, cast ourselves, and the gospel we proclaim, into the arms of a people presenting in holy desires their fervent breathings to the God of prayer.
With this view of the passage I have just read, let me direct your attention, in the first place, to the nature of Prayer generally. In the second place, to Prayer for Ministers in particular. In the last place, to the Influence of a praying people on the state of the church and the world with regard to the diffusion of the gospel.
In the first place, let me direct your attention to The Subject Of Prayer Generally. "Brethren pray for us," is the request made by the apostle, and is the request which we would still, after his example, continue to make to the people of God. But when we call upon any to pray that the gospel may have free course, and so be abundantly glorified, it is necessary we should state
the views which the word of God gives us of this holy exercise. Prayer is not the offering of an empty form—it is not the words that proceed from a heart untouched—it is not the expression of mere sentiment, or the indication of existing feelings—it is not the creature of unsanctified desire, however fervent that desire may be—it is not the cry of those who wish to see some grand object achieved in connection with the renovation of the world, whilst they rest not on the mediation of a crucified Redeemer, as that mediation is set forth in the word of truth: but Prayer will be found to involve in it certain circumstances, and views, and states of mind, by which those who really pray must always be characterized. We are committing a crime against the dearest interests of an ungodly people, when we are telling them they are able to pray; and that they are the spiritual priesthood on whom God lifts the light of his countenance. We are soothing them in the midst of a state which ought to induce us to sound the loudest, alarm, when we are connecting with them any of the features that belong to the gospel of Christ. We are telling them they have passed within the portals, and are now competent to minister at the altar, when we know they are standing aloof from the glory of God, and of his Son Christ Jesus. We are healing their wounds slightly, and we are daubing them with mortar which has never been tempered. We are saying, " The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we," on their behalf, and we are inviting them to unite in the cry, when we know they are aliens from the common wealth of Israel, if we are telling them they can pray, and that the incense they offer ascends with acceptance before heaven's high throne, if we know they have not tasted that God is gracious. It becomes essential, therefore, to just views of the duty enjoined in the words of the text, to have just views of the exercise of prayer.
Prayer, generally, then, we should say, implies, in the first place, Sincere Desire. There can be no petition acceptable in the sight of a heart searching God that proceeds not from the inward state of the mind with regard to the object of request before Jehovah'a throne. If in any instance we find God commanding us to request a blessing, and if we find we can duly appreciate its value, we are not praying for that blessing, unless we embody in our supplications that sincerity of desire that will give them reality and character in the esteem of Him who sees not as man sees, but who searches the heart and tries the reins of the children of men. There must be, then, the sincerity of desire, there must be the fervour of feeling, there must be the ardour of the mind itself, embodied in the request that seeks a blessing at the footstool of the throne of God.
But there must not only be sincere desire in real and scriptural prayer— there must also be Believing Expectation of the blessiny for which we supplicate. The prayer of the man who doubts—the prayer of the heart that wavers, is a prayer that refuses to give God glory by confiding in the promise he has made. If we ask of God, and doubt his willingness to bestow—if we ask of God, and disbelieve the testimony on which we profess to ground our plea, the state of our minds is belying the request of our lips; we are offering what is in utter inconsistency with the condition of our hearts: and thus the inner and the outward man are at positive and direct warfare; thus are unbelief and professed conviction conflicting at the throne of God, whilst the man who is the subject of the conflict professes to be a petitioner at his footstool. There must be, therefore, a believing expectation of the blessing we desire, associated with the request that expresses the desire we feel.
Again, there must not only be believing expectation of the blessing, but there must be some ground on which this believing expectation rests; and that ground is the belief of the testimony of God concerning his Son Jesus Christ. If I throw any qualification around the testimony of God concerning his Son—if I have any mental reservation when I express my belief of that testimony, I am casting a cloud over the brilliancy of discovery which God has associated with the testimony that forms the basis of his kingdom; I am casting a reflection on the integrity and moral glory of all his attributes. Besides, if we believe not the
gospel of Christ, as it has been revealed as the foundation of our approach to God, we must be selecting some way of our own. One is sincere, and he conceives that to be enough: the confidence which he places in the sufficiency of this sincerity actually sets aside the whole administration of the gospel. Another believes his character is good, and he deems this a sufficient plea for expecting an answer of peace to his prayers. This is only substituting the character of the petitioner for the merits and the glory of the great Advocate for sinners at the right hand of God. Another believes that because he has attended the ordinances of worship he can offer prayer: he is a keeper of the sabbath, he meets when the assemblies unite together to offer common supplication to a common God in the name of a common mediator; but still his mind is destitute of the spiritually renewing power which gives the image of God, and which gives the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Now, this individual conceiving that these observances may furnish a ground, on which he can lift his voice as a supplicant before God, is actually setting aside the great substance of the gospel for the external means by which we approach its glory and its power. All the ordinances connected with the gospel are only so many avenues into the immediate presence of the Saviour's glory; but they are to be regarded in no other point of light. They are the ways of access to the Majesty of heaven; but they are not the objects of the affections of those who would travel into his presence. If we have found ourselves approaching some high destination—if some lofty achievement is in our eye—if we are found on the wing of ardent expectation, hastening, or professedly hastening, to that object; and if our minds are more alive to the scenery around us, to the approaches to the object we profess to regard as the grand point to which every thing is tending; are we not proving to a demonstration that we have lost the end in the means—that we have forgotten the great, the ultimate object of our desire, in the intervening medium through which we are passing to the professed enjoyment of it? So it is with regard to the gospel
of Christ. Never upon any occasion can we rest in the ordinances of the gospel, and say, that we are glorying in the Lord Jesus, and in him alone. When the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians on baptism, and to the Hebrews on laying on of hands, we find him in both cases making Christ the grand and prominent object he had in view. And to the church at Corinth, when he has gone over the names of Cephas and Apollos, and the baptisms by which individuals had listed themselves under the name of men, who had ministered to them on those institutions, he says, " I am determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." He regarded, in this instance, the conduct of some of the Corinthians as setting the ordinances above the design of their appointment; and therefore he comes forward, and with holy boldness he bounds over them all, and plants himself as a devout admirer at the foot of Calvary, that he may sing to the glory of the Saviour. This is the way we should all approach the Redeemer; the believing expectation of those who would really pray must rest upon enlightened views, and fixed convictions, of what Christ has done, and what he has undertaken yet to accomplish for the salvation of his people.
But, again, prayer must not only consist in sincere desire, in believing expectation; but it must consist, also, in the offering up of spiritual desires influenced by the Spirit of God. There must not only be sincere desire, there must not only be believing expectation, but there must be the desires over which the Spirit of God exercises a holy and sanctifying presidency. If we are offering only the convictions of logic founded upon arguments, and convictions of philosophy derived from a survey of facts, and an induction of particulars drawn from the generalities of revelation, whatever may be the fixed character of that conviction so founded, and derived from such sources, these convictions are not connected with the influence of the Spirit of truth, and form no part of that believing expectation of divine benefits of which we have been speaking. There must be, if we would really offer the prayer of faith, the influence of the Spirit of
truth. "If any man has not the Spirit