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thus with every one that is born of the Spirit? Such Objections are the Effect of nothing but Short-fighted. nels and want of Thought!
But tho' Prayer hath Efficacy with God for the obtaining Blessings both Spiritual and Temporal, it is only upon Supposition that it is rightly qualified, i.e. that we ak for proper Things with proper DispofiLions. We see this among ourselves, that all Prayers are not alike. A Man will grant a Favour to a Friend, which he will deny to an Enemy, or to a Stranger; and be it to Friend or Foe, there are some Favours which he will think reasonable, others not so. Even thus it is with God, who as he is good, so he is also wise; tho' he has a Compassion for our Wants, yet he has likewise a Regard to his own Honour. It is fupposed all along in the Argument, that God is the Being to whom our Prayers are to be addressed, and not any Creature ; and therefore concerning the Object of Prayer, I shall say no more than this, that God being made known to us under the Christian Reve. la:ion as three Persons, each acting diftin&tly, and hearing his p:oper Part in the Dispensations of his Providence towards us ; the Father as Creator, the Son as Redeemer, and the Holy Ghost as Sanctifier ; Care hould be taken, that each Perfon has his proper Hopour given him. But for the Matter of our Prayers, and the Disposition with which we ought to pray, they are Subjects of larger Enquiry. Let as confider these Points a liule distinctly. And,
1. As to the Matter of our Prayers ; a Thing is fit for us to ask, which is fit for God to give ; and nothing is fic for him to give, but what is agreeable to the Perfection of his Nature. Therefore, in the firit Place, we should be secure that what we ask is lawful; for, to ask of God unlawful Things, is to ask him to be unjust, which is a Disparagement to his Holinefs. This would be the Case, if a Man should be engaged in unlawful Attempts against his Neighbour, and pray to God for Help; not fo, if any one should be engaged in the like Attempts against him, and he should
pray for Deliverance, even though it mould end in the Destruction of his Enemy. If a Man mak:s his own Destruction necessary to my Safety, I may kill him in my own Defence; and therefore praying for Help in such Cases, is only appealing to God for Justice. I will go farther, and say, that when Iniquiry greatly prevails, it is very consistent with the Character of a good Man to pray that God would interpose, to correct, punish, or even to extirpate wicked Doers, for the Honour of his Laws, and the making his Power and Providence the more visible among Men. For this is only aking God to do an Act, which he himself hath declared he has a Right to do, and will do, whenfoever he thinks fit. There are many Prayers in the Book of Psalms that are penn'd with this Spirit ; and which came so much more properly from the Mouth of David, as he was a publick Person, and food ac the Head of a Commonwealih, that was eltablished upon Temporal Promises. But in there, and in all ocher Matters which concern this Life only, whether it be that we pray for Deliverance from Évil, or for the obtaining of Good, one Caution should never be forgotten, which is, that we do it with perfect Resig. nation to the Will of God. We have an excellent Partern in that Prayer which our Saviour made in the Garden, a little before his Passion, when (as the Hillory reports) his soul was exceeding forrowful even unto Death. O my Father, if it be possible, let this Cup pofs from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt, Matt. xxvi. 38, 39
And to thew us how ne. cessary a Circumstance this is in all Cafes, he hath drawn the Subitance of it into that Prayer which he hath left us for standing Use: Thy Will be done. The Reason is, that in these Things more especially, we knoze not what to pray for as we ought. God is good, and cannot therefore send hurtful Things to good Men, as our Saviour incimates, upon this very Case. If a Eon thall of Bread of any of you that is a Father, will be give him a Stone ? Or it be phill ojk a Fijh, will be for a Fijn give him a Serpent? Or if he ji:all ojk an
E43, will he offer him a Scorpion Luke xi. 11, 12. And yet, should God grant us every Thing we ak (such is our Igno'ance in our own true Good) he would act in this Manner, and do by us what a good Fa. ther canno: do by his Children; he would sometimes give us a Stone for Bread, a Serpent for a Fish, a Scorpion for an Egg. That is good which is so upon the whole, or cur principal (that is, our eternal) interest considered. Bu: in this respect it is many Times necessary that God Mould crossour Inclinations; not to mention that even in the I hings of this World, we are not always the best Judges of our own Interest ; for our most hopeful, and, in the first Instances, the most successful Projects, sometimes fail us in the long Run, and turn upon us to our own Prejudice : In all which Cases the Goodness of God is Mewn, not in giving us what we ask, but in denying it.
Scrupulous Minds are apt to give themselves great Disturbances for want of observing this necessary Cauzion. When Things press hard, it is natural for us to look out for Help; and if we are religiously disposed, we thall as naturally have Recourse to God, as to him in whom all our Hopes must center. Thus far all is well. But if, from our Unsuccessfulness in Prayer (as we may esteem it) we draw Inferences in Disparagement of our Virtues, and conclude, that because God answereth not our Requests in the particular Way we desire, therefore we have done something or other to forfeit bis Favour and Blefling, we reason extremely ill. To assure his Heart before God, every Man hath a proper Rule, which is to compare his Behaviour with ihe Law of God; and tho' he may be partial to himself in many Cases, yet, if he is conscious of nothing but common Failings, and stands clear of all wilful habitual Sins, such a Knowledge of his general State as this will always be a much better Reason for him to hope well, than the Unsuccessfulness of his Prayers can be to despair; because if a Man is ever so good, it will not thence follow, that he is not to be exercised with Afiliations. Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,
and scourgeth every Son abbom be receiveth, Heb. xii. 6. We are accustomed to call our Prayers unsuccessful, when we are disappointed of the particular Things we ask by Prayer. But though they are unsuccessfub in thai Point, they may not be so upon the whole ; for though God granteth not that Thing, he may grant us tomething that is better, and he will not be the less, but the more good for so doing. This World only considered, it is a good thing to be delivered from great Trials ; but if we carry our Views to the rexs, it is a much better Thing to obtain that Help and Asistance from God, which will enable us to bear them patiently
When religious Scruples bave laid fast hold upon the Mind, it is a hard Matter to shake them off
j especially, if (which is frequently the Case) they fall in with a melancholy Constitution of Body. And therefore, to prevent Mistakes of this kind, I think it would generally be a good Rule, as much as is poffable, to avoid Particularities in our Prayers. I have great Authority for this Advice. Chrift hath taught us to pray for our daily Bread, which is only aking fuch a Supply of temporal good Things, as God shall fee fit for us, so long as it Thall please him to conti. nue us in this World, which is the least we can ask, if we pray at all. But should it come into any one's Mind to pray for Wealth, or Honour, or Power, he would do it without Warrant either from Scripture or good Sense, and there would be no End of Men's Doubts and Fears, if they should make an Elimate of their Interest with God by their Success in such Prayers as these. Not that these are not very good Things, when Men have Virtue and Discretion to use them well; but it is an Offence to common Decency to take upon ourselves to be our own Carvers, and to direct God in what Way he is to provide for us. The Reason of the Care is the same as to the Evils of Life ; for we know no more what it is proper for us to suffer, than what it is fit for us to have ; and therefore here too, general Requests, to the Purpose of what we find in
the Lord's Prayer, lead us not into Temptation, but deliver us from Evil, will be for the most Part beft; and I believe that a wise and a good Man would be no more inclined to be earneft with God for the Removal of this or that particular AMiction which he suffers, than to be urgent for the obtaining any particular Blerfing which he may desire, if it were not that it is much harder to bear Pain, than it is to suffer Want in Things which are not necessary for us.
It is our Impatience that makes us run out into Particularities; which is our Infirmicy: And I am not the more afraid to call it so, because we have our Saviour's Example for it, in asking that the Cup (by which he meant the Sufferings that he was to bear for our Sake:) might pass from him ; for he was a Man, and had the common Feelings of Human Nature. But if we will take our Saviour's Example, let us take it throughout, and we shall fill be right; that is, let us never fresume to ask of God Deliverance from Amictions (how hard soever they may be for Flesh and Blood to bear) but with this Reserve, secret or express. ed, Nevertheless, not my Will, but thine be done.
In a few Words : The single Thing which we may absolutely ak of God, because we may be absolutely fecure it is not unfit for him to give, is the Grace of bis Spirit ro aliit us in well.doing. And this is what our Saviour intimates to us in the Passage before cired, where having first thewn us our Ignorance as to tempo. ral Good, by the Comparison of a Son's aking a Stone for Bread, a Serpent for a Fish, &c. he directs in the Conclusion, to that which we may ask of God with full Assurance not to fail. If ye then being evil know how to give good Gifts unto your Children, how much micre Jkall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ofk it? He does not say, that because a Father will give his son Bread, or a Fish, or an Egg, therefore God will do so 100 ; but he says, that God will give his Holy Spirit, which is equivalent to all the Gifts of his Providence put together; which will always be good and profi:acle for us, though she Blero