Imágenes de páginas

persons be of different complexions, then the prayer flies up
to God like the hymns of a choir of angels; for God,-that
made body and soul to be one man, and God and man to be
one Christ; and three persons are one God, and his praises
are sung to him by choirs, and the persons are joined in
orders, and the orders into hierarchies, and all, that God
might be served by unions and communities;-loves that his
church should imitate the concords of heaven, and the unions
of God, and that every good man should promote the interests
of his prayers by joining in the communion of saints in the
unions of obedience and charity, with the powers that God
and the laws have ordained.

be an

The sum is this: If the man that makes the prayer, unholy person, his prayer is not the instrument of a blessing, but a curse; but when the sinner begins to repent truly, then his desires begin to be holy. But if they be holy, and just, and good, yet they are without profit and effect, if the prayer be made in schism, or an evil communion, or if it be made without attention, or if the man soon gives over, or if the prayer be not zealous, or if the man be angry. There are very many ways for a good man to become unblessed, and unthriving in his prayers, and he cannot be secure unless he be in the state of grace, and his spirit be quiet, and his mind be attentive, and his society be lawful, and his desires earnest and passionate, and his devotions persevering, lasting till his needs be served or exchanged for another blessing: so that, what Lælius (apud Cicer. de senectute) said concerning old age, "neque in summa inopia levis esse senectus potest, ne sapienti quidem, nec insipienti etiam in summa copia non gravis;" "that a wise man could not bear old age, if it were extremely poor; and yet if it were very rich, it were intolerable to a fool;" we may say concerning our prayers; they are sins and unholy, if a wicked man makes them; and yet if they be made by a good man, they are ineffective, unless they be improved by their proper dispositions. A good man cannot prevail in his prayers, if his desires be cold, and his affections trifling, and his industry soon weary, and his society criminal; and if all these appendages of prayer be observed, yet they will do no good to an evil man; for his prayer that begins in sin, shall end in sorrow.




3. NEXT I am to inquire and consider, What degrees and circumstances of piety are required to make us fit to be intercessors for others, and to pray for them with probable effect? I say with probable effect;' for when the event principally depends upon that which is not within our own election, such as are the lives and actions of others, all that we can consider in this affair is, whether we be persons fit to pray in the behalf of others, that hinder not, but are persons within the limit and possibilities of the present mercy. When the emperor Maximinus was smitten with the wrath of God, and a sore disease, for his cruel persecuting the Christian cause, and putting so many thousand innocent and holy persons to death, and he understood the voice of God and the accents of thunder, and discerned that cruelty was the cause, he revoked their decrees made against the Christians, recalled them from their caves and deserts, their sanctuaries, and retirements, and enjoined them to pray for the life and health of their prince. They did so; and they who could command mountains to remove and were obeyed, they who could do miracles, they who with the key of prayer could open God's four closets, of the womb and the grave, of providence and rain,-could not obtain for their bloody emperor one drop of mercy, but he must die miserable for ever. God would not be entreated for him; and though he loved the prayer because he loved the advocates, yet Maximinus was not worthy to receive the blessing. And it was threatened to the rebellious people of Israel, and by them to all people that should sin grievously against the Lord, God" would break their staff of bread," and even the righteous should not be prevailing intercessors; "Though Noah, Job, or Daniel, were there, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God":" and when Abraham prevailed very far with God in the behalf

a Ezek. xiv. 14



of Sodom, and the five cities of the plain, it had its period: if there had been ten righteous in Sodom, it should have been spared for their sakes; but four only were found, and they only delivered their own souls too; but neither their righteousness, nor Abraham's prayer, prevailed any farther. And we have this case also mentioned in the New Testament: If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death." At his prayer the sinner shall receive pardon; God shall " give him life for them," to him that prays in their behalf that sin, provided it be "not a sin unto death;" for "there is a sin unto death, but I do not say that he shall pray for it:" there his commission expires, and his power is confined. For there are some sins of that state and greatness that God will not pardon. St. Austin in his books' de Sermone Domini in Monte' affirms it, concerning some one single sin of a perfect malice. It was also the opinion of Origen and Athanasius, and is followed by Venerable Bede; and whether the Apostle means a peculiar state of sin, or some one single great crime which also supposes a precedent and a present state of criminal condition; it is such a thing as will hinder our prayers from prevailing in their behalf: we are therefore not encouraged to pray, because they cannot receive the benefit of Christ's intercession, and therefore much less of our advocation, which only can prevail by virtue and participation of his mediation. For whomsoever Christ prays, for them we pray; that is, for all them that are within the covenant of repentance, for all whose actions have not destroyed the very being of religion, who have not renounced their faith, nor voluntarily quit their hopes, nor openly opposed the Spirit of grace, nor grown by a long progress to a resolute and final impiety, nor done injustices greater than sorrow, or restitution, or recompence, or acknowledgment. However, though it may be uncertain and disputed concerning the number of " sins unto death," and therefore to pray, or not to pray, is not matter of duty;-yet it is all one as to the effect, whether we know them or no; for though we intend charity, when we pray for the worst of men,-yet concerning the event God

1 John, v. 16.

will take care, and will certainly return thy prayer upon thy own head, though thou didst desire it should water and refresh thy neighbour's dryness; and St. John so expresses it, as if he had left the matter of duty undetermined; because the instances are uncertain; yet the event is certainly none at all, therefore because we are not encouraged to pray, and because it is a "sin unto death;" that is, such a sin that hath no portion in the promises of life, and the state of repentance. But now, suppose the man, for whom we pray, to be capable of mercy, within the covenant of repentance, and not far from the kingdom of heaven; yet,

1. No prayers of others can farther prevail, than to remove this person to the next stage in order to felicity. When St. Monica prayed for her son, she did not pray to God to save him, but to convert him; and when God intended to reward the prayers and alms of Cornelius, he did not do it by giving him a crown, but by sending an apostle to him to make him a Christian; the meaning of which observation is, that we may understand, that as, in the person prayed for, there ought to be the great disposition of being in a savable condition; so there ought also to be all the intermedial aptnesses for just as he is disposed, so can we prevail; and the prayers of a good man first prevail in behalf of a sinner, that he shall be invited, that he shall be reproved,—and then that he shall attend to it, then that he shall have his heart opened, and then that he shall repent: and still a good man's prayers follow him through the several stages of pardon, of sanctification, of restraining graces, of a mighty Providence, of great assistance, of perseverance, and a holy death. No prayers can prevail upon an indisposed person. For the sun himself cannot enlighten a blind eye, nor the soul move a body whose silver cord is loosed, and whose joints are untied by the rudeness and dissolutions of a pertinacious sickness. But then, suppose an eye quick and healthful, or apt to be refreshed with light and a friendly prospect; yet a glow-worm or a diamond, the shells of pearl, or a dead man's candle, are not enough to make him discern the beauties of the world, and to admire the glories of creation. Therefore,

2. As the persons must be capable for whom we pray, so they that pray for others, must be persons extraordinary

in something. 1. If persons be of an extraordinary piety, they are apt to be intercessors for others. This appears in the case of Job: when the wrath of God was kindled against Eliphaz and his two friends, God commanded them to offer a sacrifice, but " my servant Job shall pray for you, for him will I accept:" and it was so in the case of the prevaricating Israelites; God was full of indignation against them, and smote them; "then stood up Phinehas and prayed, and the plague ceased." For this man was a good man, and the spirit of an extraordinary zeal filled him, and he did glory to God in the execution upon Zimri and his fair Midianite. And it was a huge blessing, that was entailed upon the posterity of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; because they had a great religion, a great power with God, and their extraordinary did consist especially in the matter of prayers and devotion; for that was eminent in them, besides their obedience: for so Maimonides tells concerning them, that Abraham first instituted morning-prayer. The affairs of religion had not the same constitution then as now. They worshipped God never but at their memorials, and in places, and seldom times of separation. They bowed their head when they came to a hallowed stone, and upon the top of their staff, and worshipped when they came to a consecrated pillar, but this was seldom; and they knew not the secrets and the privileges of a frequent prayer, of intercourses with God by ejaculations, and the advantages of importunity: and the doctors of the Jews,-that record the prayer of Noah, who in all reason knew the secret best, because he was to teach it to all the world,-yet have transmitted to us but a short prayer of some seven lines long; and this he only said within the ark, in that great danger, once on a day, provoked by his fear, and stirred up by a religion then made actual, in those days of sorrow and penance. But in the descending ages, when God began to reckon a church in Abraham's family; there began to be a new institution of offices, and Abraham appointed that God should be prayed to every morning. Isaac being taught by Abraham, made a law, or at least commended the practice, and adopted it into the religion, that God should be worshipped by decimation or tithing of our goods; and he added an order of prayer to

Chap. xlii. 7, 8.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »