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you do. It will prepare you for a happy eternity. You are not lavishing away your time, or misemploying it by prayer. It was a saying of Dr. Donne's, "that the only time he saved, or employed to the best purpose, he spent in piety, in prayer, and in doing good." I answer your plea of business, by the experience of a devout man who said, "when I have hastened over the duties of God's worship, out of a too eager desire to follow my worldly business, I did many times meet with some secret cross in my affairs; whereas when I took my ordinary time, God did make my other business to succeed the better, or else my mind was brought to a quiet submission to the divine will." No business in the world brings such unspeakable gain as private prayer does. He that prays will do all well besides. What are you labouring for? the good things of this life? Remember, then, that devotion "procures," as Barrow observes, "wealth, inestimably precious, pleasure infinitely satisfactory, honour incomparably noble above all that this world can afford." Look at David, Daniel, and St. Paul, men the most constant in devotion, and yet unweariedly engaged, and manifestly blessed in their seve ral stations.
Another man will tell us, I FIND NO BENEFIT FROM PRAYER.—I have prayed, and seem no better for it, nay, rather worse. If you feel more of your guilt and sinfulness, that of itself is an advantage, and should bring you more to the Saviour. This is a vain excuse.Shall the minister give up preaching because his congregation seem to receive no immediate benefit? Shall the husbandman, because the seed just sown in one part of his field has not directly sprung up, not sow the remainder of the field. Let this objection lead you not to neglect your prayers, but to examine their character.
We know that true prayer is attended with the greatest benefits. One devout person would sometimes say to her friends, "I would not be hired out of my closet for a thousand worlds."
Some venture to say, I AM TOO WICKED TO PRAY.— “The sacrifices of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord." Is it my duty to pray while unregenerate? But he who thinks that he shall get rid of the duty of prayer, on account of his wickedness, does not only confess, but aggravate his guilt and his condemnation. You must not, indeed, come with the same wicked mind with which you committed your sins; but go grieved and penitent; and the sooner you go, the better. The ploughing of the wicked, all they do, is sin: and yet even a wordly man would not therefore justify them in being idle. Your neglect of prayer is perhaps the very cause of your wickedness. Begin to seek the grace of prayer, and God will give you grace to amend. It is your duty, though unregenerate, to pray, and to pray especially for a new heart. When God had promised the new heart, and the new Spirit to the Jews, he adds, "I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them." Ezek. xxxvi, 26, 37. Who more wicked than Simon Magus? and yet the Apostle calls on him to repent and pray to God. Acts viii, 21. Your guilt should bring you to the Saviour, and not keep you from him. Will not the sick man desire to see the Physician? Is keeping at a distance, and contemptuous and negligent conduct in an offender as likely to gain the favour of him that is offended, as a humble and meek confession of fault, and entreaty for pardon?— All the practice and conduct of man, all your own experience, all the confessions of sin, and all the petitions for mercy which are recorded in the Bible, testify against
such an idea. If your confession of wickedness be the real feeling of your heart, you see it is the very reasonthat you should immediately begin to meditate on your sad condition, to repent and seek God's mercy in prayer. But if it be not the feeling of your heart, this excuse for neglecting prayer needs no answer.
There are others who seem to think that all exhortations to prayer savour of LEGALITY. We are to be saved by believing, and not by working.-But how gross is the mistake of such. While you account prayer to be a mere task, or a meritorious labour, you totally mistake its nature. It is a privilege and a blessing bestowed on all the children of God. We are not, it is true, saved by our prayers, but by Christ; yet we shall never be saved without prayer, for the spirit of prayer is a part of our salvation, and your living in neglect of prayer, is a positive proof, whatever your notions or fancies may be, whatever your doctrinal sentiments, that you have none of the Spirit of adoption, and do not belong to Christ. Nay, a disregard of prayer shews that you have none of the real feeling of evangelical truth, which, working by love, ever influences the soul to seek the presence of him we love.
Is there not, at the bottom of all these objections, a reason of this kind, I DISLIKE PRAYER.-It puts a restraint upon all my ways. It compels me to think of that which I had rather forget.-But what are you thus owning yourself to be? It is the character of the wicked, God is not in all his thoughts; they dislike to retain God in their knowledge. Ah! remember, at one time or other, all flesh must come before God; he now sits on a throne of grace, when you may obtain mercy; he will hereafter sit on a throne of judgment, where he
will for ever condemn those who have not sought and found grace to help in time of need.
This neglect of prayer is the fault of many, but there is a generation who are righteous in their own eyes, Who TRUST IN THEIR PRAYERS.-They reason, little as they think it, on the supposition that for every prayer they make, God is, as it were, so much in debt to them, and thus that by the multitude of their prayers they deserve heaven. This is a common but a strange mistake. What merit can there be in begging and seeking that, which if we obtain, lays us under increased obligation ? Israel of old followed after the law of righteousness, but did not attain it, "because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law." Is not this too much your case? Be not mistaken; prayer is good as the means of obtaining grace; it is not good in the way of meriting any thing from God. It is not good in the way even of disposing God to give. He is even ready to give abundantly unto us, "more ready to hear than we are to pray, and wont to give more than either we desire or deserve." But it is good, as it is pursuing the plan which God has appointed for obtaining his blessings;-it is good, as it is the way in which he bestows them. Renounce, then, your own righteousness, and thus humbly and believingly seek, and you shall find.
If you did but know the true character of your fancied righteousness, you would say with Isaiah, all our righteousness are as filthy rags, as a rejected garment. You would enter into the feelings of the excellent Bishop Beveridge, who declares,* "I know not how it is with others, but for my own part I do not remember, neither do I believe, that I ever prayed in my life time, with
See Beveridge's Private Thoughts, a most useful practical Book for the young Christian.
that reverence, or heard with that attention, or did any other work, with that pure and single eye, as I ought to have done." Or, as he says in another place, "I do not only betray the inbred venom of my heart, by poisoning my common actions, but even my most religious performances also, with sin. I cannot pray, but I sin; I cannot hear or preach a sermon, but I sin; I cannot give an alms, or receive the sacrament, but I sin. Nay, I cannot so much as confess my sins, but my very con- . fessions are still aggravations of them; my repentance needs to be repented of; my tears want washing; and the very washing of my tears needs still to be washed over again with the blood of my Redeemer. Thus not only the worst of my sins, but even the best of my duties speak me a child of Adam. Insomuch that whenever I reflect on my past actions, methinks I cannot but look on my whole life, from the time of my conception to this very moment, to be but as one continued act of sin."
With these feelings, you would be sensible, at once, that Jesus Christ is the only and complete Saviour of sinners, and that it is only by his obedience many are made righteous. Instead of trusting in your prayers, you would mourn over their imperfections, and be led to trust simply, wholly, and entirely in Christ and him crucified. An old writer, Scudder, observes, "God uses, when he is overcome by prayer," (alluding to Jacob, Gen. xxxii, 28.) "to work in them that do overcome, some sense of weakness, to let them know that they prevail with him in prayer, not by any strength of their own, nor by any worthiness of their prayers, when they have prayed best, but from the goodness of God's free grace, from the worthiness of Christ's intercession, by whom they offer up their prayers, and from the truth of his pro