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stretched arm of Providence ;-in our redemption from a state of misery and condemnation into which sin had plunged the human race; and this, by the mysterious scheme developed in the incarnation, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension of his onlybegotten Son ;-in affording us the means of grace by which we participate in the privileges of the Christian dispensation, and are fitted for the enjoyment of a future life, in which the hopes of glory, that we are here permitted to entertain shall be abundantly realized.
The expression of gratitude must spring from the conviction that we owe every thing to the bounty of the Sovereign of the universe, that we are entirely dependant upon him for every breath we draw, and for every good thing which we possess, that to his free gift and unmerited favour we are indebted for all the inestimable privileges of our vocation, and that it is to his infinite mercy we must ascribe our hopes of salvation from eternal death. Our thanksgiving must, therefore, be fervent and sincere, as our cause for gratitude is unspeakably important;-it must be continual, as the mercies of heaven are daily and hourly showered down upon us.
§8. Prayer is to be made for other men as well as for ourselves,-intercession and thanksgiving, with respect to the same subjects which demand them on our own account. We are required to love our neighbour as ourselves; and we cannot afford a stronger proof of such charity, or more effectually cherish this virtue in our hearts, than by associating our fellow-creatures with ourselves in the petitions we offer up to the Father of all for the blessings of the present and a future life. We thus acknowledge our relationship to all
mankind, and our consequent obligations as brethren one of another. But it does not follow that prayer is to be made for the dead, for those who having passed their day of trial, and having already entered on a state irrevocably fixed by the decree of the Omnipotent, cannot be benefited by our prayers. Nor is invocation of the dead to be permitted: there is no authority for it in the Scriptures, as in the case of intercession of the living for the living; and to invoke those who are invisible, and of whose habitation we have no certain knowledge, either audibly with the voice or internally with the mind, supposes them to be capable either of hearing the prayers of all who call upon them though they be in heaven and we on earth, though many may address them at the same time, and from places far distant from each other, or of knowing the secrets of the hearts-the faith and sincerity—of their supplicants. But omnipresence and omniscience, which are here necessarily implied, are attributes of God alone, and not to be ascribed to any created being without blasphemous impiety. We are not to pray to angels and saints, but to thank God that he has been pleased to make them the instruments of good; beseeching him to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be made -partakers of his heavenly kingdom.
§ 9. Praise is the rendering to God the honour due unto his name in consideration of his glorious majesty and attributes. It is properly the ascription of every title conveying an idea of that which is great, good, and glorious, in an infinite and perfect sense, to the one sublime and incomprehensible God, in three coessential Persons, to bless his holy name and his
word, and to sing to his glory in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. It is the salutary duty of mau on earth -it is a reasonable and becoming service-and must constitute a part of all our addresses, whether in public or in private, to Him who has so great a claim upon our adoration; but it will constitute, according to the word of Revelation, the delightful employment of the blessed, who shall be admitted to a nearer contemplation of the divine perfections, throughout the endless ages of eternity.
§ 10. Prayer is a duty not to be neglected with im. punity, for it is enforced by a positive command: a command which God has been pleased also to accompany with gracious promises that he will hear those who call upon him faithfully, with the assurance that the efficacy of prayer is very great, and that it is a sacrifice well-pleasing in his sight.
From the exercise of prayer, whether in behalf of ourselves or others, we shall, therefore, derive the certain benefit of raising our hearts to God, and thus strengthening our habits of devotion; we shall gain a knowledge of our real spiritual condition, from the inclination or disinclination we feel to this holy exercise;
-we shall profit by the access to grace, which we obtain as Christians, and by the salutary communication to which we are admitted as the sons of God;—we shall obey the positive command of God, a command given entirely for our advantage, for the Deity can receive no increase of happiness or honour from our service; we shali procure, if we duly ask, whatever is good for us, and avert whatever is really injurious, -for though God knows what we require without ask. ing, nay our very thoughts long before, and often
withholds for the present what we seek,-chastening us with a rod of mercy,—we are sure that if we obey his commands, he will fulfil his promises; if we love him and praise him in all his dispensations, however inscrutable, trusting the result to him in patience, submission, and cheerful hope, all things will eventu. ally work together for our good. Not only does the revealed will of God, but common gratitude require the constant exercise of prayer. To neglect it, is ingratitude of the deepest dye: for we thus virtually deny that God is the author of good and the averter of evil, that he is our Helper and Defender, our Redeemer, our Sanctifier-in short, that he is the LORD our God.
Matt. xxii. 37, 38. Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great Commandment. John iv. 23, 24. But the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in Spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Exod. xx. 4. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Rom. i. 20, 21. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world' are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Ps. xci. 14, 15. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. 1 John iii. 22. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.