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CHERISHING AND EXERCISING PRAYER. 93 glory. Thus live as a believer. And when a few more suns have risen and set; when a few more days, and weeks, and months have rolled away; when you have suffered a few more of the pains, and enjoyed a few more of the pleasures, of life; your days will be numbered, your time will be no longer, your farewell must be taken of earthly comfort, and your freedom from earthly pain will be complete. Then will you see what you now believe. Death, when it closes your eyes upon this world, will open them on the next; there to see all that is now unseen, to know what is now unknown; there to change faith for sight, and fleeting comforts for eter
nal life. Blessed are those servants that, when the last great & change approaches, are found watching ! Be not slothful, but
a follower of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Persevere, is the direction of the Saviour; and let it animate you to think that perseverance will not long be requisite. Let faith direct your thoughts to future scenes. Like the watchmen on the mountains of Judea, watching the first glimmerings of the moon, let faith look for its returning Lord. In pleasing meditation, let faith descry the events of
other years, and tell us the language of his saints in distant I days. Ah! let it say to us, He comes—one star is blazing
the firmament is catching fire from its flames—He comes the lightning spreads before him—again it spreads and turns midnight darkness into awful day–He comes—the last trumpet speaks him near-He comes—let us go hence ! let us leave this ruined world! this perishing creation! Ah! Saviour, Shepherd, Guardian, Friend, and God! thus wilt thou come!
thus wilt thou visit earth a second time! but we—ah weé must we wait those distant years! Ah no! long ere that time
arrive, all who love thee here now, shall love and adore thee in the dwellings of unfading life.
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE A LIFE OF PRAYER.
$ 1. PRAYER is a sacred privilege. By it the Christian
maintains intercourse with his God and Saviour. Prayer brings down numberless blessings upon man.
It is the breath of the soul. It is the life of religion. A Christian cannot live without it. A corpse maintains for a while the form of man, but the spirit is fled, it is destitute of life. The form of religion may be assumed where the life is wanting. Without prayer it is a dead corpse; the breath, the vital spirit, are wanting. Religion begun leads to prayer. Of every awakened sinner, it may be said, as it was of St. Paul, Behold, he prayeth. Religion strengthens, matures, and lives by prayer; and closes its course below with prayer, when the dying believer breathes out his soul and his desires together with Stephen's petition, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit !
$ 2. Consider the solemnity of prayer. The most solemn change that will ever take place in our situation, is that made by death ; when we at once leave all the scenes of mortality for the more important scenes of eternity ; quit the society of our nearest relatives and dearest friends to enter on the presence of Jesus and of God; and from being inhabitants of this changing world are, in the twinkling of an eye, removed to eternal abodes of unchanging misery or bliss. This is a change whose terrors the wicked must dread; and whose solemnity the righteous must feel. But on earth there is a change which we may justly deem next in solemnity to that of death. It is the change made in our circumstances by prayer ;--often as unthought of as it is solemn. In death, we leave time for eternity; the converse of mortals for the presence of God. In prayer, we leave the business of time for that of eternity, and intercourse with man for intercourse with God. One minute our attention is occupied with those dying creatures, who, like
elves, are hastening to the grave, the next our business is
THE SOLEMN NATURE OF PRAYER.
95 with the great God, who made heaven and earth. To him, though we behold him not, we speak, and are as really in his presence, as if death had dismissed us hence, and our separated spirits stood before him. You would not trifle in a dying hour; and if you feel aright the nature and solemnity of prayer, you will no more trifle in prayer than trifle in death.
Pursue this thought a little further. In prayer you speak to God—that awful God, whom you must shortly meet, with whom you must have a most solemn interview when a few years at most have rolled away;—that God, in whose kingdom you will rejoice ten thousand millions of ages hence, or whose displeasure you will then be lamenting as your bitterest curse. Prayer is not the mere repetition of a few words, uttered by us where none can hear. The faintest whisper of real prayer passes beyond the limits of this world, and goes where we cannot at present fly; it enters the skies, and God hears it.
Suppose you could discern the glory and majesty of him who is invisible, how would you pray then! While looking up to the throne of his glory, small would seem the value of the universe in comparison of his love! Then what would earth and time appear! The sun, the moon, and stars glowing in the sky, would vanish into nothing compared with him who fixed them there! With eyes fixed on heaven, and hearts sinking to the earth, overwhelmed with astonishment and rapture, might we view the glory of that God whom we must shortly meet. The splendours of eternal day might delight, the rewards of blessed spirits enrapture, the astonished soul, but what would be the feelings these excited, compared with those, springing from the view of his majesty, whose presence is the source of that glory, and the spring of that happiness ! What would be your thoughts and feelings could you gain a glimpse of his Majesty! Would you see the sun? ah, no! the sun would shine unseen. Would you look upon the earth? ah, no! its bustles and its tumults, its pleasures and its sorrows, would pass unnoticed by.
Suppose then, whenever you pray, you could quit the earth for a short time, and enter the presence of this holy God, and after pouring out your desires and thanksgivings before him, could return to this world,—how solemnly would you enter his presence, how fervently, yet with what awe, call
his WATCHFUL CARE NECESSARY FOR PRAYER.
96 name and bow at his footstool, and with what a thoughtful serious mind would you return from these interviews to the business of life! O consider, you have now as really in prayer to speak to God as you would then--as really to go into his presence, though clouds and darkness, and the veil of mortality, hide him froin your view.
Another consideration that should add solemnity to prayer is, that it cannot be an indifferent thing. You cannot rise up from your knees as you knelt down. You have either gained a blessing or incurred guilt. If offered through Jesnis, in sincerity, the continuance of former blessings, or the bestowment of new ones, is surely obtained. But if it be a formal lip-service, it is a mockery of the divine Majesty. When you rise from prayer you must rise possessing the favour, or labouring under the displeasure, of the Almighty.
§ 3. To have such impressions as these on your mind in the hour of prayer, is of no little moment; for fervent prayer, though the most inestimable of privileges, is often a difficult duty. To repeat a few lifeless words is indeed an easy thing, but to pray in sincerity a very different one. To push the world aside; to place ourselves as in the presence of God; surrounded by earthly things to forget all that is earthly; and far from heavenly scenes to have our hearts engaged among them; to bow down as before the throne of the Most High; to address an invisible God as if he were visible; to have our thoughts, our hearts, our desires engaged in his service, and thus to hold communion with him ;—this is effectual fervent prayer, but this is no easy thing. Address the blessed God as in his immediate presence, pray to him, praise him, as if he were visible, and this is communion with him ; but words repeated without thought, offend God, and bring no blessings down upon the thoughtless creature that utters them.
§ 4. The subjects of prayer should chiefly be those blessings which respect God's glory and our own eternal welfare. The blessed Jesus has taught this in that form which he gave as a pattern for the devotions of his followers. The first three petitions respect the divine glory : “ Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Thus he teaches us that this is the subject which should lie nearest to our hearts, and take the lead in our
THE SUBJECTS OF PRAYER.
prayers. He introduces only one petition for earthly good, and that the most limited possible, “Give us this day our daily bread." Bread is what he tells us to implore, and that for but one day at a time.
Earthly blessings should not be a leading subject in prayer. It is true you may pray for them, and for deliverance from temporal evils; for the most eminent saints did so. But for every thing of this kind you should pray with resignation and submission, leaving the subject after all to God; for time is short, and earthly good of little importance to one who has to live for ever. Besides, our own blindness should teach the necessity of praying humbly and conditionally for what we may deem earthly blessings. God sees more than we see, and he may see that the very objects we most importunately desire, might be a source of ruin here or destruction hereafter, Rachel said, Give me children or I die! God granted her desires; she had children given her, and died through the grant. God may see the objects we desire would be a bitter curse; the troubles we deprecate our greatest blessing. Life, that desired object, the sorest of evils; death, that dreaded foe, the best of friends. We may desire life for ourselves or others, when we might see storms of affliction too heavy to be borne arising, and therefore send death to lay our bodies in the grave, that silent abode, over which the tempests of life may pass, but which they never reach; and to conduct our spirits to that world, where
" Pains, and groans, and griefs, and fears,
* And death itself shall die." For spiritual blessings you may pray without apprehension of asking amiss. For them you may go boldly to the throne of grace. These are blessings, which it is for the glory of God to bestow, and for the good of man to receive. These are of everlasting importance, and everlasting worth. Whatever trifles others pray for, when your heart rises to heaven, in solemn devotion, let your petitions chiefly relate to the glory of God and the honour of Christ. Pray that you may understand clearly, and believe firmly, the invaluable gospel; that you may discern the infinite evil of sin, and comprehend the love of Christ ; that you may be cleansed from all sin in his atoning blood ; that with full confidence you may rest your eternal all on him, as on the Rock of ages; that you may