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be said in the afternoon; and Jacob, to make up the office complete, added evening-prayer; and God was their God, and they became fit persons to bless, that is, of procuring blessings to their relatives; as appears in the instances of their own families ; of the king of Egypt, and the cities of the plain. For a man of an ordinary piety is like Gideon's fleece, wet in its own locks; but it could not water a poor man's garden; but so does a thirsty land drink all the dew of heaven that wets its face, and a greater shower makes no torrent, nor digs so much as a little furrow, that the drills of the water might pass into rivers, or refresh their neighbour's weariness; but when the earth is full, and hath no strange consumptive needs, then at the next time, when God blesses it with a gracious shower, it divides into portions, and sends it abroad in free and equal communications, that all that stand round about, may feel the shower. So is a good man's prayer; his own cup is full, it is crowned with health, and overflows with blessings, and all, that drink of his cup and eat at his table, are refreshed with his joys, and divide with him in his holy portions. And indeed he hath need of a great stock of piety, who is first to provide for his own necessities, and then to give portions to a numerous relation. It is a great matter, that every man needs for himself,—the daily expenses of his own infirmities, the unthriving state of his omission of duties, and recessions from perfection,—and sometimes the great losses and shipwrecks, the plunderings and burning of his house by a fall into a deadly sin; and most good men are in this condition, that they have enough to do to live, and keep themselves above water; but how few men are able to pay
their own debts, and lend great portions to others? The number of those who can effectually intercede for others to great purposes of grace and pardon, are as soon told as the number of wise men, as the gates of a city, or the entries of the river Nilus.
But then do but consider, what a great engagement this is to a very strict and holy life. If we chance to live in times of an extraordinary trouble, or if our relatives can be capable of great dangers or great sorrows, or if we ourselves would do the noblest friendship in the world, and oblige others by acts of greatest benefit; if we would assist their
souls and work towards their salvation ; if we would be public ministers of the greatest usefulness to our country; if we would support kings, and relieve the great necessities of kingdoms; if we would be effective in the stopping of a plague, or in the success of armies;-a great and an exemplar piety, and a zealous and holy prayer, can do all this. “Semper tu hoc facito, ut cogites, id optimum esse, tute ut sis optimus; si id nequeas, saltem ut optimis sis proximus :" • He that is the best man towards God, is certainly the best minister to his prince or country, and therefore do thou endeavour to be so, and if thou canst not be so, be at least next to the best.' For in that degree in which our religion is great, and our piety exemplar, in the same we can contribute towards the fortune of a kingdom: and when Elijah was taken into heaven, Elisha mourned for him, because it was a loss to Israel: “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and horsemen thereof.” But consider how useless thou art, when thou canst not by thy prayers obtain so much mercy, as to prevail for the life of a single trooper, or in a plague beg of God for the life of a poor maidservant; but the ordinary emanations of Providence shall proceed to issue without any arrest, and the sword of the angel shall not be turned aside in one single infliction. Remember, although he is a great and excellent person, that can prevail with God for the interest of others; yet thou, that hast no stock of grace and favour, no interest in the court of Heaven, art but a mean person, extraordinary in nothing; thou art unregarded by God, cheap in the sight of angels, useless to thy prince or country; thou mayest hold thy peace in a time of public danger. For kings never pardon murderers at the intercession of thieves; and if a mean mechanic should beg a reprieve for a condemned traitor, he is ridiculous and impudent: so is a vicious advocate, or an ordinary person with God. It is well if God will hear him begging for his own pardon, he is not yet disposed to plead for others.
And yet every man that is in the state of grace, every man that can pray without a sinful prayer, may also intercede for others; and it is a duty for all men to do it; all men, I say, who can pray at all acceptably: "I will, therefore, that prayers, and supplications, and intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men ;” and this is a duty
that is prescribed to all them, that are concerned in the duty and in the blessings of prayer; but this is it which I say, if their piety be but ordinary, their prayer can be effectual but in easy purposes, and to smaller degrees; but he,--that would work effectually towards a great deliverance, or in great degrees towards the benefit or ease of any of his relatives,-can be confident of his success but in the same degree in which his person is gracious. “There are strange things in heaven;" judgments there are made of things and persons by the measures of religion, and a plain promise produces effects of wonder and miracle; and the changes that are there made, are not effected by passions, and interests, and corporal changes; and the love that is there, is not the same thing that is here; it is more beneficial, more reasonable, more holy, of other designs, and strange productions; and upon that stock it is, that a holy poor man,—that possesses no more (it may be) than a ewe-lamb, that eats of his bread, and drinks of his cup, and is a daughter to him, and is all his temporal portion,—this poor man is ministered to by angels, and attended to by God, and the Holy Spirit makes intercession for him, and Christ joins the man's prayer to his own advocation, and the man by prayer
shall save the city, and destroy the fortune of a tyrant-army, even then when God sees it good it should be so: for he will no longer deny him any thing, but when it is no blessing; and when it is otherwise, his prayer is most heard when it is most denied.
2. That we should prevail in intercessions for others, we are to regard and to take care, that as our piety, so also must our offices be extraordinary. He that prays to recover a family from an hereditary curse, or to reverse a sentence of God, to cancel a decree of Heaven gone out against his friend; he that would heal the sick with his prayer, or with his devotion prevail against an army, must not expect such great effects upon a morning or evening collect, or an honest wish put into the recollections of a prayer, or a period put in on purpose. Mamercus, bishop of Vienna, seeing his city and all the diocess in great danger of perishing by an earthquake, instituted great litanies, and solemn supplications, besides the ordinary devotions of bis usual hours of prayer; and the church from his example took up the practice, and
translated it into an anniversary solemnity, and upon St. Mark's day did solemnly intercede with God to divert or prevent his judgments falling upon the people, “majoribus litaniis," so they are called; with the more solemn supplications they did pray unto God in behalf of their people. And this hath in it the same consideration, that is in every great necessity; for it is a great thing for a man to be so gracious with God as to be able to prevail for himself and his friend, for himself and his relatives; and therefore in these cases, as in all great needs, it is the way of prudence and security, that we use all those greater offices, which God hath appointed as instruments of importunity, and arguments of hope, and acts of prevailing, and means of great effect and advocation : such as are, separating days for solemn prayer, all the degrees of violence and earnest address, fasting and prayer, alms and prayer, acts of repentance and prayer, praying together in public with united hearts, and, above all, praying in the susception and communication of the holy sacrament; the effects and admirable issues of which we know not, and perceive not; we lose because we desire not, and choose to lose many great blessings rather than purchase them with the frequent commemoration of that sacrifice, which was offered up for all the needs of mankind, , and for obtaining all favours and graces to the catholic church. Evxñs dikalaç oủk ảvýkoos Jeòs,“ God never refuses to hear a holy prayer ;” and our prayers can never be so holy, as when they are offered up in the union of Christ's sacrifice : for Christ, by that sacrifice, reconciled God and the world ; and because our needs continue, therefore we are commanded to continue the memory, and to represent to God that which was done to satisfy all our needs: then we receive Christ; we are, after a secret and mysterious, but most real and admirable manner, made all one with Christ; and if God giving us his Son could not butówith him give us all things else,' how shall he refuse our persons, when we are united to his person, when our souls are joined to his soul, our body nourished by his body, and our souls sanctified by his blood, and clothed with his robes, and marked with his character, and sealed with his Spirit, and renewed with holy vows, and consigned to all his glories, and adopted to his inheritance? when we represent his death, and pray in virtue
of his passion, and imitate his intercession, and do that which God commands, and offer him in our manner that which he essentially loves; can it be that either any thing should be more prevalent, or that God can possibly deny such addresses and such importunities? Try it often, and let all things else be answerable, and you cannot have greater reason for your confidence. Do not all the Christians in the world, that understand religion, desire to have the holy sacrament when they die; when they are to make their great appearance before God, and to receive their great consignation to their eternal sentence, good or bad? And if then be their greatest needs, that is their greatest advantage, and instrument of acceptation. Therefore if you have a great need to be served, or a great charity to serve, and a great pity to minister, and a dear friend in a sorrow, take Christ along in thy prayers: in all thy ways thou canst, take hiin; take him in affection, and take him in a solemnity; take him by obedience, and receive him in the sacrament; and if thou then offerest up thy prayers, and makest thy needs known; if thou nor thy friend be not relieved; if thy party be not prevalent, and the war be not appeased, or the plague be not cured, or the enemy taken off, there is something else in it: but thy prayer is good and pleasing to God, and dressed with circumstances of advantage, and thy person is apt to be an intercessor, and thou hast done all that thou canst; the event must be left to God; and the secret reasons of the denial, either thou shalt find in time, or thou mayest trust with God, who certainly does it with the greatest wisdom and the greatest charity. I have in this thing only one caution to insert; viz.
That in our importunity and extraordinary offices for others, we must not make our accounts by multitude of words, and long prayers, but by the measures of the spirit, by the holiness of the soul, and the justness of the desire, and the usefulness of the request, and its order to God's glory, and its place in the order of providence, and the sincerity of our heart, and the charity of our wishes, and the perseverance of our advocation. There are some (as Tertullian observes), “Qui loquacitatem facundiam existimant, et impudentiam constantiam deputant;" “ they are praters and they are impudent, and they call that constancy and impor