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opher, was very sensible of the importance of prayer. "Ask, says he, at the hand of God a good mind: and first of all pray unto him for the health of thy spirit; and next for the health of thy body.” When the blood is either accelerated or retarded in its motion, or when the bones are either broken or dislocated, the body is unfitted for every duty and enjoyment. But a disordered mind is much more intolerable, than a disordered body. A man may sustain his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear? When the affections are interrupted, and thrown into tumult and conyulsions, saints are unfitted for thinking, reading, praying, or the performing of any other duty. They are exposed to every temptation from within and from without. They can enjoy no peace nor satisfaction, until their affections are rectified, and their souls return unto God, their only proper rest. Their moral imperfection, therefore, arising from the inconstancy of their holy exercises, perpetually calls upon them to call upon God, for either preventing, or preserving, or restoring mercy. It was a realizing sense of the inconstancy and deceitfulness of their own hearts, which led the ancient saints to give themselves unto prayer for divine instruction, guidance, and influence. This appears from the peculiar modes of expression, which they used in their addresses to God. David
David prays in a strain very singular and striking. “Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins, let them not have dominion over me; then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me,
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Incline
heart unto thy testimonies, and not unto covetousness. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanityOrder my steps in thy word: and let not iniquity have dominion over me. Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity.” In most of these places, David is to be considered as speaking the general language of the Old Testament church; which language is exactly agreeable to that daily petition, which Christ taught his disciples. "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Though an hypocrite will not always call upon God; yet every sincere christian, who realizes the inconstancy and deceitfulness of his own heart, will feel the propriety and necessity of complying with that divine precept, “pray without ceasing."
INFERENCE 9. If the imperfection of saints consists in the inconstancy of their holy exercises; then they are, notwithstanding their imperfection, essentially different from sinners. The present imperfection of saints has led some very ingenious men to imagine, that the comparative difference between saints and sinners is extremely small; and that they will not be treated so very differently in a future state, as is generally supposed. This is the opinion of Mr. Paley, a very ingenious and perspicuous writer. He cannot admit, that the lowest saint will be perfectly blessed, while the best sinner will be perfectly miserable, in a future state. He has conjectured, therefore, that there will be but very little difference between the future and eternal condition of the lowest saint, and that of the most moral and amiable sinner. But if the imperfection of saints in
this life entirely consists in the inconstancy of their holy exercises, then their moral character is essentially different from the moral character of sinners. They have some perfectly holy and benevalent affections, of which all sinners are totally destitute. They need nothing but constancy in their gracious exercises, in order to render them as perfect as Gabriel, or even as their Father who is in heaven. There is, therefore, not merely a gradual, but an essential difference between the saint, who has but one spark of saving grace, and the best sinner on earth, who has nothing but selfish and sinful affections. Upon this ground, the inspired Writers distinguish gracious and graceless persons, by the most opposite appellations, such as the godly and ungodly, the holy and unholy, the righteous and unrighteous, the friends and the enemies of God. But Christ sets the essential difference between saints and sinners in the most plain and intelligible light. He brings the matter to a point, and decides it in the most unequiv, ocal terms. For he absolutely declares, "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad.” And again, “He that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, Verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.” This decision of the supreme and final Judge, puts it beyond doubt that there is an essential difference between every saint and every sinner; and that every saint will be finally and eternally rewarded, while every finally impenitent sinner will be finally and eternally punished.
INFERENCE 10.-Since all saints are imperfect in this life, the world ought not to scruple their sincerity, on account of their inconstancy. Many are ready to call in question the sincerity of saints, because they are not constant and uniform in fulfilling their own engagements, and in obeying the divine commands. But if they are imperfect, it is to be expected, that they will manifest the inconstancy of their right affections, and discover some wrong feelings towards God, and their fellow men. This has always been the case, with respect to the best saints, whose characters are recorded in Scripture. They were not constant and uniform in their obedience to God, but sometimes felt and acted like sinners. The same thing is still to be expected of those, who are now the real, but inconstant friends of God. Though they are inconstant, yet they are sincere; though they have some perfectly wrong, yet they have some perfectly right affections. They really love and obey God, though they fall far short of that perfection in holiness, which they ought to have now, and which they will most certainly attain hereafter. It is, therefore, no less unreasonable, than dangerous, for sinners “to eat up the sins of God's peo. ple,” and build their hopes, as well as form their. cuses upon the criminal defects and imperfections of the excellent of the earth.
INFERENCE Il.--Since all saints are imperfect in the present state, they have abundant reason for humiliation and self-abaşement. . They have been extremely inconstant, inconsistent, and criminal in their. views and feelings. Though they have had some right affections and sincere desires to glorify God; yet they have been as unstable as water, in their good purposes, resolutions and designs. Their imperfections have attended them every day and every where, in all their secular employments, and religious duties. How,ma: ny worldly affections have crept into their hearts, while they have been necessarily engaged in worldly conferns? How much have they been conformed to the
manners and spirit of the world, while they have been called to mix and converse with the men of the world? How often have their remaining corruptions disturbed their thoughts and affections, in the devotions of the closet, of the family, and of the house of God? Could the contrariety and inconsistency of their feelings and conduct be painted to their own view, as they have actually appeared to the Searcher of hearts, they would blush and be ashamed not only of their hours of labor and amusement, but of their most solemn seasons of retirement, meditation, and prayer. Their sins are not only great and numerous, but exceedingly aggravated. They have broken the most sacred and solemn obligations, and greatly injured those whom they ought to have treated with a peculiar affection and regard. Such criminal imperfections call for deep humiliation and self-abasement. They ought to loath and abhor themselves, when they reflect how much they have offended God, how much they have wounded Christ in the house of his friends, how much they have resisted and grieyed the Holy Spirit, how much they have weakened the hands and discouraged the hearts of their fellow-christians, and how much they have robbed themselves of the most solid peace and self-enjoyment. They ought to walk humbly and softly before God every day. They ought to keep their hearts with all diligence, and guard against the assaults of Satan and the snares of the world. They ought to grow
in grace, and forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, to press toward the mark of sinless per. fection,