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Yes, my dear friend, our prayers seldom please ourselves, and therefore could never be acceptable to, or prevalent with God, were they not put up in the name of Christ, and rendered efficacious by being perfumed with the much incense of his merit, Rev. viii. 3, 4. He is our everliving intercessor, our advocate with the Father, which we know by the many pleas he has thrown into our consciences, that have been sufficient to silence the accusations of cvery enemy. His merits are always sufficient to procure and secure to us every needful blessing; for, if we draw near at a throne of grace under a sense of want, pleading bis merits, the precious promises that are yea and amen in him, and only expecting an answer and a supply for his sake, we are sure to succeed, seeing we are to call upon God for all the things of which we feel our necd; and, having so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son, “Shall he not with him also freely give us all things? for no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” And, that we may be enabled to pray in faith, and according to the will of God, he blesses us with the Spirit of grace and supplication, otherwise we could neither feel our wants, nor know what to pray for as we ought. And how does this blessed Spirit at times bring home the promiscs, enlarge our hearts, and equip us with such life, power and energy, that “the king. dom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force ?” Matt. xi. 12. And because of
this Spirit of prayer it is that Zion, or the church of God, is said to be “terrible as an army with banners,” Cant. vi. 4.
But the comforts that you once enjoyed are gone, and now you are dishonouring the best of fathers by an evil heart of unbeliet. You say, “I wish to acquaint you that at present a very dark cloud surrounds me, so that I cannot pray to the best of beings with that love and reverent awe that I ought to do; and in this darkness I am sometimes tempted to think that my religion is all a delusion, that I have neither part nor lot in the matter, and my rejoicings have only been like that of the stony-ground hearers.” I do not believe that a child of God, after he is called by grace, can ever be in the dark again. I cannot believe this,' say you; for does not the prophet say, “ Who is among you that fearethi the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God,” Isai. 1. 10. The prophet speaks this certainly; but then the person he speaks of is by no means in darkness, in the worst sense of the word; he is neither blinded by the God of this world, in unpardoned guilt, far from God by carnal enmity reigning in his mind, nor shut up in, unbelief. The prophet represents a child of God under the hiding of the Lord's countenance, who is a sound believer, being said to have the fear of God in his heart, to yield the obedience of faith, and to have
an interest in God; “ Let him stay himself upon his God.” Such a person as this is never in the dark in one sense, though he is sometimes in the sense the prophet means, namely, while under the suspension of that light which attends sensible comfort, joy, and peace. Believers are often thus in the dark, and have none of this light, none of the enjoyment of God's love; their peace being often interrupted, though they are children of light, even when this is the case; for, if they do not enjoy comfort, if not joyful, they can see wonderfully into the mystery of iniquity in their own hearts, the cunning craftiness of the adversary, and can clearly discern an empty professor; and this is the shining of the true light. And, though your comforts are withdrawn, that your faith may be tried, and you are in the dark in this respect, yet you can see yourself full of sin, the workings of the old man, the traps and snares of the adversary, and are not without discernment into the meaning of the scriptures: whereas, if you were in darkness in the worst sense, you could not perceive any of these things. And observe, though you are not comfortable, yet God is your God still, and you are exhorted to stay yourself upon liim, and look out and expect fresh visits from him ; for, as sure as he withdraws, so sure he will come again to his people, having loved them with an everlasting love, and therefore will never finally leave nor forsake them.
Yes, but you are tempted to think that your
" rejoicings have only been those of the stonyground hearer.” Here I purpose dwelling a little. The account we have of such is this; “ Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth, and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth; and when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had not root they withered away.” The Saviour's explanation is this; “ But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended,” Matt. xiii.
The stony-ground hearer is a hardened, insensible sinner, who never knew the plague of his own heart, was never taught out of God's law, nor humbled under a sight and sense of his sin, and never knew what a broken and contrite heart meant; for he is said to have no deepness of earth, and therefore the word of God could not take deep root; for, Saint James says, “ Receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls,” Chap. i. 21. This stony-ground hearer's profession was taken up suddenly, for as soon as he heard the word, anon with joy he received it; that is, his natural passions were moved by it; and, his natural affections being thus suddenly wrought upon, he felt uncommon joy, and sprung up instantly into a profession, and into the full assurance of faith, without ever feeling his
unbelief, knowing himself to be a cursed, helldeserving sinner, who had never being quickened to hunger and thirst after righteousness; but, as soon as temptation, persecution, and tribulation came on, directly all his carnal joy withered, and sprung no more. He dropped his profession, went back again into the world, and was no more heard of. This stony-ground hearer represents some of those who followed Christ for the loaves and fishes, who were charmed with the novelty of his preaching and the miracles that he wrought, and therefore became his followers; but, when he came to insist upon heart-work, on eating his flesh and drinking his blood, without which none can have eternal life; when he enforced eternal election, telling them that none could come to him except they were drawn by the Father, &c. immediately all these fell away, and renounced all their profession: “ From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him,” Johin vi: 66. But his real disciples could never thus depart. When Christ asked them, “Will ye also go away?” the answer was, “ Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life,” John vi. 68. And where the word of truth goes with power, to quicken a dead soul to feel his lost estate, and bring him to hunger and thirst after righteousness, such cannot go · back, being “ kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time,” i Peter i. 5. .