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“ And the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.”

Gen. xxiv. 12.—This passage is curious as an instance of prayer for a special sign in what might be considered a mere matter of chance.

The servant whom Abrabam had sent to choose out a wife for his son Isaac, prayed thus : “ Let it come to pass that the damsel to whom I shall say, let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink, and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also, let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac.” ... It fell out as he had prayed ; and in verse 26 we read, “ And the man bowed down his head and worshipped the Lord ; " as if to thank him for having thus answered his prayer. It is worthy of remark that almost the first act performed by the apostles after the ascension of Christ was the election of a new apostle in the room of Judas, by lot, when they prayed that God would shew whether of the two (Barnabas or Matthias) he had chosen ; and they deemed Matthias appointed by God in answer to this prayer, although the means employed were what we should call mere chance. See Acts i.

Gen. xxxii. 9, 12.-Jacob, fearful of the anger of Esau, prayed to the God of his Fathers thus : “ Deliver me from the hand of my brother," yet did he not neglect to use the means suggested by worldly prudence, for he sent him rich presents to appease him. Here we are taught the true and Christian course of action when endangered by the violent passions of others. Pray for the assistance and protection of God our heavenly Father, and do all that prudence can point out to lessen or obviate the danger. Jacob acted in a similar manner when his heart failed within him at the thought of parting with his beloved son Benjamin, (Gen. xliii. 1-15.) and he thus ended his directions to his other sons. " And God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” Which means, I think, this— Bitter, as such bereavements would be, yet I must resign myself to the will of God, and solace myself with the consciousness that I have done all that prudence or piety could suggest for their safety.

These instances fully show that the patriarchs, those ancient and honoured servants of God, used prayer as something more than a spiritual communion with the Father of spirits, that they both hoped for and obtained temporal benefits in answer to their prayers.

Exod. vii. 8, and ix. 28, 29.- In the account given of the plagues inflicted on Pharaoh, and the several changes wrought in his heart, and consequent remission of the punishment, I would remark, that in two instances of the plague of frogs and that of hail, Moses says, “that he will intreat the Lord, and the plague shall cease :” thus expressing himself either from a previous assurance of being heard, or, as is more probable, from a conviction that God would hear his prayer -- the word · shall,' simply meaning futurity;' as again, in the plague of Aies (viii. 28.) it is translated, “ And Moses said, Behold, I go out from thee, and I will intreat the Lord that the swarms of fies may depart,” &c., and he went out and his prayer was heard. Exactly JULY, 1842.

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similar is the account of the removal of the locusts—prayer being in all these cases the appointed means for the obtaining of a temporal benefit for others.

Exod. xv. 25.--" Moses cried unto the Lord, and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet."

Exod. xvii. 4.–At Rephidim, “ Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, What shall I do unto this people; they be almost ready to stone me?" To this prayer for direction, as for the previous one, the Lord gave Moses an answer, and water came out of the rock when Moses struck it, and the people drank of it. Here we see, that although Moses was a prophet, so especially favoured of God, that none other ever enjoyed such intimate communion with him, yet even by him was prayer used as the appointed means of obtaining instruction to enable him to perform fully the duties of guide and leader to the stiffnecked and murmuring Israelites ; and the words, in the last prayer, are remarkable, for they show, that in this case the prayer was in consequence of the fears which he entertained for his own life, as St. Paul in an analogous case (2 Cor. i. 8—11.) expresses his hope, that he may be delivered through the prayers of the Corinthians.

As Moses thus prayed for himself, we find he prayed no less for the temporal benefit of the Israelites :

Exod. xxxii. 9.- After they had made to themselves a god of the molten calf, he interceded for them before God, “ Turn from thy fierce wrath and repent of this evil against thy people;” so again at Taberah, (Numb. xi.) the people cried unto Moses, and when Moses prayed unto the Lord, the fire was quenched.

Numb. xiv, 13.–So when all the Israelites were terrified at the false account of the spies, and still hankered after the flesh-pots of Egypt, and the Lord was angry with the people for their weakness of faith, Moses interceded on their behalf ; and, although they were punished by being forbidden to enter into the promised land, yet the Lord said, “ I have pardoned according to thy word,” for the nation was not destroyed.

Numb. xxi. 7.--Another instance occurs, when the fiery serpents destroyed the people; but here it is not merely said, that Moses prayed, and the plague was stayed, but the answer to his prayer was, that means of cure were offered to each sufferer, if he would only turn and look on the serpent that was raised up in the camp. The Israelites were placed like those who now hear the word of God preached unto them. If the dying Israelite still forgot the past mercies of his God, and heard with a sceptic ear that he would be cured if he only turned and looked upon the serpent, he died in his sins, and the prayers of Moses availed him nought; so now, although a man may have the means of grace presented to him, through the prayers of others, yet is he not saved inerely by their prayers. He himself must receive what is offered, or uncured, he will die, steeped in the venom of sin. It may be here remarked, that in one respect our prayers must differ from those of Moses; he could know the effect of his prayers ; we cannot: his faith was rewarded by knowledge; our faith must generally remain faith to the end-but this is no reason against the practice of prayer, and so we shall find many examples of such petitions in the New Testament,

Before referring to those most interesting and instructive chapters of the blessings and curses that would follow obedience or disobedi.

mercies was thought right by Moses.

Deut. ii.-Although God had expressly said, “Thou shalt not go over Jordan, yet had Moses ventured to pray, “ Let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan." It is true that God did not grant bis request, yet can it be imagined, that Moses could have been so ignorant of the character and providence of God as to offer a prayer that was wrong in principle, or if such had been the case, that no reproof or no instruction would have been given by God, that a similar error might be avoided by others? We should rather learn to pray always, and “ to believe verily that God will listen to our voice through Christ, and verily do the thing he pleaseth thereupon."* (Compare David's conduct 2 Sam. xii. 5.)

The failure too of this prayer strengthens the lessons taught us by Moses' usual habit of praying for aid or deliverance from danger, for it shows that he prayed, not knowing that his prayer would be heard or not, but trusting in the mercy and wisdom of God. But if there were no other arguments than those which may be drawn from that most solemn and impressive chapter in Deuteronomy, where Moses, with almost his dying breath, sets before the people the promises, and the threatenings, the good, and evil, and that other equally solemn prayer of Solomon,t approved by God, it could easily be proved that the inference that prayer is useless, because God cannot change, is an inference built on the shifting sand of the human intellect, ever tossed to and fro by the waves of passion, prejudice, and ignorance, and not on the sure rock of the Bible, on which alone can we rest our knowledge of, and faith in God.

Here, beyond all question, is declared, that such an inference is

said of God at one time must be true at all times. Circumstances affect not his attributes, and if prayer must vow be useless, so useless must it have been three thousand years ago. If prayer then produced effects, so may it now produce them, although man cannot explain in what way, as indeed it is impossible he can, for he cannot find out God how much less can he understand his ways. Solemn and eternal is the truth; “ My ways are not your ways, saith the Lord, nor my thoughts your thoughts."

In both these chapters then, are rewards and punishments, held out to the Jews as the consequences of their piety or wickedness. They are painted in the most glowing colours, and the slightest knowledge of the Jewish history, is sufficient to convince us that they were fulfilled. Now, if these consequences are not to be traced to the mere course of nature, not mere effects, resulting from causes foreordered and arranged, but effects that cannot be accounted for by any human logic, and attributable, to what with our imperfect knowledge we must term a change in God's providence, consequent on certain changes in the conduct of the Jewish people, then at once the inference of the uselessness of prayer from the unchangeableness of the Deity, falls to the ground.

* Coleridge's Literary Remains, i. 37 + See 2 Chron. vii. 1. “And when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory

Sorrifices and the olory of the Lord alled the house."

Wealth, power, and honour, are predicted as the consequences of righteous conduct, and misery, want, and slavery, as those of unrighteousness. Nor can it be said, these are the effects of God's universal moral laws, that a nation, acting rightly from right motives, must be happy and prosperous, and a nation acting unjustly must be weak. True it is that national virtue will produce national happiness, and national vice, national misery, but on a reference to the words themselves, we shall see that blessings and curses are predicted, which can in no possible way be the effect, humanly speaking, of men's actions. Look at 2 Cbron. i. 12, “ And it shall come to pass if thou shalt diligently hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth,” and after recounting various blessings (compare Levit. xxvi. 4.), Moses continues, “ The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give thee rain in his due season,” and the opposite threat (v. 23), “ the heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron;" and again, in Solomon's prayer,* (1 Kings viji. 38), “ When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee, if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them, then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance.” That these particular denunciations were fulfilled, we see in the case of the famine for three years, on account of Saul's wickedness in slaying the Gibeonites (2 Sam. xxi. 1.) ; again, Elijah said unto Ahab, “ As the Lord God of Israel liveth before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” i Kings xvii. 1. It would be easy to fill a volume with an account of the fulfilment of these blessings and curses, but it will be sufficient to mention Daniel's words in the bitterness of the captivity, “ As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us : yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand thy truth. Therefore hath the Lord. watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us” Dan. ix. 13, 14: and without hesitation, we may say, that inasmuch as these consequences are quite out of the category of cause and effect, as we understand the words, that is, effect linked to cause by the laws of nature, as when water wets, fire warms, or any other of the thousand examples that occur ; therefore, they can only be attributed to the fact, that God has revealed to man by precept, and by example, that prayer is to be made to bim for benefits temporal, as well as spiritual that prayer is to be petitionary, as well as a means of communion with God, while we fully admit, that the way in which prayer acts, is inexplicable to us now: and, as the heathen philosopher Simonides said, when asked what God was, . The more he thought of God, the less could he explain his nature, yet did he believe that he really was ;' so we must humbly yield our assent to that which we cannot explain, if we find it clearly revealed in the only source whence we can draw right notions respecting God.

* Compare especially Jehoshaphat's prayer for aid against the Moabites and Ammonites, 2 Chron. xx. in which he gives as the reason of his prayer, the prayer of Solomon at the dedi. cation of the Temple, which had been approved of by God.

We will proceed to give a few more instances from the Jewish history:

Joshua, just before his death, solemnly assured the Jews, that their success would depend on their obedience to God (xxiii. 5); and accordingly, we find it recorded, “ that the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and therefore they served Chushanrish. athaim, till they cried unto the Lord, and Othniel was raised up as their deliverer.” Judges iji. 5–9.

So also were Ebud, Shamgar, Deborah, and Barak, appointed by God to deliver them when they prayed. But most marked is the account of Jepthah (Judges xi. 1). The Jews writhing under the cruel bondage of the Philistines, cried unto the Lord, but to try their faith and the sincerity of their repentance, he listened not, but sent them to their false gods. They, however, prayed the more earnestly, and then Jepthah was raised up, who trusted not in his own power, but made his vow in these words, “ If thou shalt, without fail, deliver the children of Ammon into my hands," &c.f

The conduct of David, in the illness of his child—that child, the offspring of bis sinful intercourse with Uriah's wife-that child, whose death had been directly foretold by Nathan, proves, in the clearest manner, what that sincere but erring servant of God thought as to petitionary prayer, and this is best given in his own touching words:* • While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live, but now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not come to me.”

David had been assured, that his sin was pardoned, but still with a singular reliance on God's mercy, he prays for a further remission of the temporal punishment, which was to be inflicted on him by the death of his beloved child. It is true that, in this instance, the prayer was not granted, but can we suppose, that not the least warning would have been given by God against the error of petitionary prayer, if such prayer had been erroneous ; or could a fond mother, bending over the sick bed of a loved daughter, have said, as was once said to me, I prayed not for her life, for such prayer would have been wrong; I prayed only for resignation to bear her loss,' if she had called to mind this most impressive story. God forbid that erroneous logic should ever quell those prayers, which the holiest and most

* See also 1 Samuel i. 9-12; xii. 19. 1 Kings xiii. 6. 2 Kings xix. 5, 6. + In him, as in all good men was fulfilled the primeval prophecy, “it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his beel," but fulfilled only partially, for by Christ alone was the power of evil, the head of the serpent trampled underfoot. All others had fallen under the power of sin by their own wickedness, he alone stainless, suffered the punishment inflicted on humanity, but ascended on high, carrying captivity captive.

Compare also Hezekiah's prayer for a longer life. 2 Kings xx. 146, which God answered by the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, “ I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears; behold I will heal thee." But even here the intermediate means were used, for he was recovered by the application of the “lump of figs.” What can be a plainer lesson than this— Do all that human prudence and skill can do, and pray to God for success.'

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