« AnteriorContinuar »
the Apostate, as inveterate an enemy as Christianity ever had. He saw the manifest good effects which the regular public instruction and public worship had upon the Christians in his age, and therefore recommended it to his heathen high priest to imitate the practice of the Christians, by appointing the philosophers give stated weekly lectures for the instruction of the heathen people, and in support of paganism. This appeared to him the most probable method to restore the credit and influence of the heathen religion, which had fallen into contempt and decay. Thus we have the testimony of the keenest enemy of Christianity, in favor of the advantages flowing from regular assemblies for public worship and public instruction.
ADVANTAGES OF PRAYER.
When we take the most general view of prayer, we cannot help descerning the usefulness and advantages of it. When we consider that mankind in their present state, are deeply immersed in the business or enjoyments of the world; that external objects are perpetually striking upon their senses, playing before their imaginations, and making impressions upon their hearts, it evidently appears to be an unspeakable advantage to them to have regular and stated seasons of recalling their minds from the numberless avocations of a vain world, and fixing them upon God, and spiritual things. The surest method of counterworking the impressions made on the soul by that crowd of worldly thoughts which pass through it, is to banish them entirely for some time, and lay it open by prayer and contemplation to the impressions of those heavenly and eternal objects, which, by their greatness, importance, and excellence, will engage and command attention. And, indeed, without proper seasons allotted to retirement and devotion, and frequently recurring, we are in the greatest danger imaginable of being under the full and uncontrolled power of those vain and perishing objects, which surround us in the world, and which are perpetually engaging the attention of our minds, and soliciting the love and affection of our hearts. Our Saviour takes notice of this, as one great advantage of prayer, that it is a preservative against the temptations of the world. “Pray,' says he, that ye enter not into temptation.'
Now prayer has a natural tendency, in a great variety of ways, to break the force of those temptations to which we are necessarily exposed in life. It keeps alive in our minds an habitual sense of our danger, disposes us to keep a watchful eye
on those things from which our danger arises, and puts us in a proper posture for resistance and defence. It turns away our attention from those objects which raise impure desires and guilty passions in our bosoms. It calls up such a lively sense of the Divine presence, as must check the first risings of irregular inclinations, and fill us with dread and shame of thinking, saying, or doing any thing unworthy of those who aim at the approbation and favor of the great Judge of all. It presents the Divine perfections to our view, and inspires us with an abborrence of every thing that would render us unlike to them. Whenever therefore we are assaulted with a temptation to gratify any impure or violent appetite or passion, let us accustom ourselves to stop till we have lifted our hearts to God in sincere and fervent prayer, that he may assist us in the conflict and give us the victory, and we shall soon feel the violence of the temptation abated; that we are enabled to exert a hidden strength, and for the present, to obtain an entire mastery over it.
2. Prayer puts us into the best frame and situation of mind for receiving the influences of heavenly light and grace. It promotes a certain softness and tenderness of heart, which renders the soul easily susceptible of the impressions of spiritual and divine objects. The soul, when duly softened and humbled by prayer, feels and sees in quite another