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m Psal, cii. 16, 17: “When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory; he will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.” And remarkable are the words that follow in the next verse, “This shall be written for the generation to come; and the people which shall be created, shall praise the Lord.” Which seems to signify, that this promise should be left on record to encourage some future generation of God's people to pray and cry earnestly for this mercy, to whom he would fulfil the promise, and thereby give them, and great multitudes of others, that should be converted through their prayers, occasion to praise his name. Who knows but that the eneration here spoken of may be this present generation ? One thing mentioned in the character of that future generation, is certainly true concerning the present, viz., that it is destitute; the church of God is in very low, sorrowful and needy circumstances: and if the next thing there supposed, were also verified in us, viz., that we were made sensible of our great calamity, and brought to cry earnestly to God for help, I am persuaded the third would be also verified, viz., that our prayers would be turned into joyful praises, for God's gracious answers to our prayers. It is spoken of as a sign and evidence, that the time to favor Zion is come, when God's servants are brought by their prayerfulness for her restoration, in an eminent manner, to show that they favor her stones and dust, in the 13th and 14th verses of this Psalm : “Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion; for the time to favor her, yea, the set time is come; for thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favor the dust thereof.” God has respect to the o of his saints in all his government of the world; as we may observe by the representation made Rev. viii. at the beginning. There we read of several angels standing before the throne of God, and receiving of him seven trumpets, at the sounding of which, great and mighty changes were to be brought to pass in the world, through many successive ages. But when these angels had received their trumpets, they must stand still, and all must be in silence, not one of them must be allowed to sound, until the prayers of the saints are attended to. The angel of the covenant, as a glorious High Priest, comes and stands at the altar, with much incense, to offer with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar, before the throne; and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascends up with acceptance before God, out of the angel's hand: and then the angels prepare themselves to sound. And God, in the events of every trumpet, remembers those prayers: as appears at last, by the great and glorious things he accomplishes for his church, in the issue of all, in answer to these prayers, in the event of the last trumpet, which brings on the glory of the latter days, when these prayers shall be turned into joyful praises. Rev. xi. 15, 16, 17, “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces and worshipped God, saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come, because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.” Since it is thus, that it is the pleasure of God so to honor his people, as to carry on all the designs of his kingdom in this way, viz., by the prayers of his saints, this gives us great reason to think, that whenever the time comes that God gives an extraordinary spirit of prayer for the promised advancement of his kingdom on earth (which is God's great aim in all preceding providences, and which is the main thing that the spirit of prayer in the saints aims at), then the fulfilling this event is nigh. God, in wonderful grace, is pleased to represent himself as it were at the
command of his people, with regard to mercies of this nature, so as to be ready to bestow them whenever they shall earnestly pray for them: Isa. xlv. 11, “Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask of me concerning things to come, concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands, command ye me.” What God is speaking of in this context, is the restoration of his church; not only a restoration from temporal calamity and an outward captivity, by Cyrus; but also a spiritual restoration and advancement, by God’s commanding the heavens to drop down from above, and the skies to pour down righteousness, and causing the earth to open and bring forth salvation, and righteousness to spring up together, ver. 8. God would have his people ask of him, or inquire of him by earnest prayer, to do this for them; and manifests himself as being at the command of earnest prayers for such a mercy: and a reason why God is so ready to hear such prayers is couched in the words, viz., because it is prayer for his own church, his chosen and beloved people, his sons and daughters, and the work of his hands; and he cannot deny any thing that is asked for their comfort and prosperity. God speaks of himself as standing ready to be gracious to his church, and to appear for its restoration, and only waiting for such an opportunity to bestow this mercy, when he shall hear the cries of his people for it, that he may bestow it in answer to their prayers. Isa. xxx. 18, 19, “Therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious to thee; and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you; for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him. For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem. Thou shalt weep no more; he will be very gracious unto thee, at the voice of thy cry: when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.” The words imply as much as that when God once sees his people much engaged in praying for this mercy, it shall be no longer delayed. Christ desires to hear the voice of his spouse, that is in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs; in a low and obscure state, driven into secret corners: he only waits for this, in order to put an end to her state of affliction, and cause the day to break, and the shadows to flee away. If he once heard her voice in earnest prayer, he would come swiftly over the mountains of separation between him and her, as a roe, or young hart; Sol. Song ii. 14, to the end. When his church is in a low state, and oppressed by her enemies, and cries to him, he will swiftly fly to her relief, as birds fly at the cry of their young, Isa. xxxi. 5. Yea, when that glorious day comes, that I am speaking of, before they call, he will answer them, and while they are yet speaking, he will hear ; and in answer to their prayers, he will make the wolf and the lamb feed together, &c., Isa. lxv.24, 25. When the spouse prays for the effusion of the Holy Spirit, and the coming of Christ, by granting the tokens of his spiritual presence in his church, saying, Cant. iv. 16, Jiwake, O north wind, and come, thou south, blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out ; let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits; there seems to be an immediate answer to her prayer, in the next words, in abundant communications of the Spirit, and bestowment of spiritual blessings; I am come into my garden, any sister, my spouse; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice ; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk. Eat, Ofriends ; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved. Scripture instances and examples of success in prayer give great encouragement to pray for this mercy. Most of the remarkable deliverances and restorations of the church of God, that we have account of in the Scripture, were in answer to prayer. So was the redemption of the church of God from the E tian bondage, Exod. ii. 23, and iii. 7. The great restoration of the church in the latter day, is often spoken of as resembled by this; as in Isa. lxiv. 1–4, xi. 11, 15, 16, xliii. 2, 3, 16–19, li. 10, 11, 15, lyiii. 11, 12, 13, Zech. x. 10, 11, Hos. ii. 14, 15. It was in answer to prayer, that the sun stood still over Gibeon, and the moon in the valley Aijalon, and God's people obtained that great victory over their enemies; in which wonderful miracle, God seemed to have some respect to a future more glorious event to be accomplished for the Christian church, in the day of her victory over her enemies, in the latter days; even that event foretold, Isa. lx. 20, “Thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw itself.” It was in answer to prayer, that God delivered his church from the mighty host of the Assyrians, in Hezekiah's time; which dispensation is abundantly made use of, as a type of the great things God will do for the Christian church in the latter days, in the prophecies of Isaiah. The restoration of the church of God from the Babylonish captivity, as abundantly appears both by Scripture prophecies and histories, was in answer to extraordinary prayer; see Jer. xxix. 10–14, and l 4, 5, Dan. ix. throughout, Ezra, viii. 21, &c., Neh. i. 4, to the end, iv. 4, 5, and chap. ix. throughout. This restoration of the Jewish church, after the destruction of Babylon, is evidently a type of the glorious restoration of the Christian church, after the destruction of the kingdom of Antichrist; which (as all know) is abundantly spoken of in the Revelation of St. John, as the antitype of Babylon. Samson, out of weakness, received strength to pull down Dagon's temple, through prayer. So the people of God, in the latter days, will out of weakness be made strong, and will become the instruments of pulling down the kingdom of Satan, by rayer. p *. Spirit of God was poured out upon Christ himself, in answer to prayer: Luke iii. 21, 22, “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove, upon him; and a voice came from heaven which said, Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased.” The Spirit descends on the church of Christ, the same way in this respect, that it descended on the Head of the church. The greatest effusion of the Spirit that ever yet has been, even that which was in the primitive times of the Christian church, which began in Jerusalem on the day of pentecost, was in answer to extraordinary prayer. When the disciples were gathered together to their Lord, a little before his ascension, he commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which (saith he) ye have heard of me,” i.e., the promise of the Holy Ghost, Acts i. 4. What they had their hearts upon was the restoration of the kingdom to Israel: Lord (say they), wilt thou, at this time, restore again the kingdom to Israel? ver, 6. And according to Christ's direction after his ascension, they returned to Jerusalem, and continued in united fervent prayer and supplication. It seems they spent their time in it from day to day, without ceasing; until the Spirit came down in a wonderful manner upon them, and that work was begun which never ceased, until the world was turned upside down, and all the chief nations of it were converted to Christianity. And that glorious deliverance and advancement of the Christian church, that was in the days of Constantine the Great, followed the extraordinary cries of the church to God, as the matter is represented in Rev. vi., at the opening of the fifth seal. The church in her suffering state is represented crying with a loud voice, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge, and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” And the opening of the next seal brings on that mighty revolution, in the days of Constantine, compared to those great changes that shall be at the end of the world. Wol. III. 58
As there is so great and manifold reason from the word of God, to think that if a spirit of earnest prayer for that great effusion of the Spirit of God which I am speaking of, prevailed in the Christian church, the mercy would be soon granted; so those that are engaged in such prayer might expect the first benefit. God will come to those that are seeking him and waiting for him, Isa. xxv. 9, and xxvi. 8. When Christ came in the flesh, he was first revealed to them who were “waiting for the consolation of Israel, and looking for redemption in Jerusalem,” Luke i. 25, 38. And in that great outpouring of the Spirit that was, in the days of the apostles, attended with such glorious effects among Jews and Gentiles, the Spirit came down first on those that were engaged in united, earnest prayer for it. A special blessing is promised to them that love and pray for the prosperity of the church of God, Psal. cxxii. 6: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall prosper that love thee.”
7. We are presented with many motives in the dispensation of divine Providence, at this day, to excite us to be much in prayer for this mercy.
There is much in Providence to show us our need of it, and put us on desiring it. The great outward calamities, in which the world is involved; and particularly the bloody war that embroils and wastes the nations of Christendom, and in which our nation has so great a share, may well make all that believe God's word, and love mankind, earnestly long and pray for that day, when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the nations shall beat their swords into ploughshares, &c. But especially do the spiritual calamities and miseries of the present time, show our great need of that blessed effusion of God's Spirit: there having been, for so long a time, so great a withholding of the Spirit, from the greater part of the Christian world, and such dismal consequences of it, in the great decay of vital piety, and the exceeding prevalence of infidelity, heresy, and all manner of vice and wickedness; and especially in our land and nation; of which a most affecting account has lately been published in a pamphlet printed in London, and reprinted in Scotland, entitled “ Britain's Remembrancer;” by which it seems that luxury, and wickedness of almost every kind, is well nigh come to the utmost extremity in the nation; and if vice should continue to prevail and increase for one generation more, as it has the generation past, it looks as though the nation could hardly continue in being, but must sink under the weight of its own corruption and wickedness. And the state of things in the other parts of the British dominions, besides England, is very deplorable. The church of Scotland has very much lost her glory, greatly departing from her ancient purity, and excellent order; and has .#. been bleeding with great and manifold wounds, occasioned by their divisions and hot contentions. And there are frequent complaints from thence, by those that lament the corruptions of that land, of sin and wickedness, of innumerable kinds, abounding and prevailing of late, among all ranks and sorts of men there. And how lamentable is the moral and religious state of these American colonies; of New England in particular ! How much is that kind of religion that was professed and much experienced and practised, in the first, and apparently the best times of New England, grown and growing out of credit! What fierce and violent contentions have been of late among ministers and people, about things of a religious nature! How much is the gospel ministry grown into contempt' And the work of the ministry, in many respects, laid under uncommon difficulties, and even in danger of sinking amongst us! How many of our congregations and churches rending in pieces ! Church discipline weakened, and ordinances less and less regarded ! What wild and extravagant notions, gross delusions of the devil, and strange practices have prevailed, and do still revail, in o places, under a pretext of extraordinary purity, spirituality, #. and zeal against formality, usurpation, and conformity to the world! How strong and deeply rooted and general are the prejudices that prevailagainst vital religion and the power of godliness, and almost everything that appertains to it, or tends to it! How apparently are the hearts of people, everywhere, uncommonly shut up against all means and endeavors to awaken sinners and revive religion' Vice and immorality, of all kinds, withal increasing and unusually prevailing ! May not an attentive view and consideration of such a state of things well influence the people that favor the dust of Zion, to earnestness in their cries to God for a general outpouring of his Spirit, which only can be an effectual remedy for these evils Besides the things that have been mentioned, the fresh attempts made by the antichristian powers against the Protestant interest, in their late endeavors to restore a Popish government in Great Britain, the chief bulwark of the Protestant cause; as also the persecution lately revived against the Protestants in France, may well give occasion to the people of God, to renewed and extraordinary earnestness in their prayers to him, for the fulfilment of the promised downfall of Antichrist, and that liberty and glory of his church that shall follow. As there is much in the present state of things to show us our great need of his mercy, and to cause us to desire it; so there is very much to convince us that God alone can bestow it, and show us our entire and absolute dependence on him for it. The insufficiency of human abilities to bring to pass any such happy change in the world as is foretold, or to afford any remedy to mankind, from such miseries as have been mentioned, does now remarkably appear. Those observations of the apostle, 1 Cor. i., “The world by wisdom knows not God, and God makes foolish the wisdom of this world,” never were verified to such a degree as they are now. Great discoveries have been made in the arts and sciences, and never was human learning carried to such a height, as in the present age; and yet never did the cause of religion and virtue run so low in nations professing the true religion. Never was an age wherein so many learned and elaborate treatises have been written, in proof of the truth and divinity of the Christian religion; yet never were there so many infidels, among those that were brought up under the light of the gospel. It is an age, as is supposed, of great light, freedom of thought, and discovery of truth in matters of religion, and detection of the weakness and bigotry of our ancestors, and of the folly and absurdity of the notions of those that were accounted eminent divines in former generations; which notions, it is imagined, did destroy the very foundations of virtue and religion, and enervate all precepts of morality, and in effect annul all difference between virtue and vice; and yet vice and wickedness did never so prevail, like an overflowing deluge. It is an age wherein those mean and stinprinciples (as they are called) of our forefathers, which (as is supposed) de... religion, and led to unworthy thoughts of God, are very much discarded, and grown out of credit, and supposed more free, noble and generous thoughts of the nature of religion, and of the Christian scheme, are entertained, but yet never was an age, wherein religion in general was so much despised and trampled on, and Jesus Christ and God Almighty so blasphemed and treated with open, daring contempt. The exceeding weakness of mankind, and their insufficiency in themselves for the bringing to pass any thing great and good in the world, with regard to its moral and spiritual state, remarkably appears in many things that have attended and followed the extraordinary religious commotion, that has lately