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vi. 14, 15, that our prayers are not ac. cepted, nor our pardon sealed in hea. ven, until such time as we forgive mer their trespasses; and certainly, we can never be welcome or worthy guests at this heavenly feast, where Jesus the Sa. viour of Penitents and the Prince of Peace is spiritually present, unless our repentance reconcile us to God, and our charity to all mankind. . And this charity of the heart, in forgiving injuries, must likewise show itselfin relieving the wants and necessities of the poor. We read that when this Sa. crament was administered in the days of the apostles, large collections of monies were gathered for the maintenance of the poor, 1 Cor. xvi, 1,2. And Theodoret obseryes, that Theodosius the emperor, when his time came to offer, arose, and presented his oblations with his own hands. It was not determined how much every man should give, but all menwere exhorted and enjoined to offer something, according to their ability; which if any neglected, the fathers censured them asunworthy Communicants. And to be sure, nothing within our power can so effectually recomiend our devo.
tions as this offering of Charity. While Cornelius was fasting and praying, we read that an Angel from Heaven was dispatched to bim with this happy message: Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God, Acts x. 4. He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again, Prov. xix. 17. Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to comimunicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may luy hold on eternal life, 1 Tim. vi. 17, 18, 19. Do ye not know, that they who minister about holy things, live of the sacrifice ; and they who wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord also or. dained, that they who preach the gospel, should live of the gospel, 1 Cor. ix. 13, 14, If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your worldly things? Ver. 11. But we may complain with Basil, that we know some who will “ fast and pray, sigh and groan, yea, and do all acts of religion which cost them nothing, but
will not give one farthing to the Poor: What benefit is there, saith he, of all the rest of their Devotion?" Basil, Homil. in Matt. xix.
When the Communicant has thus far advanced towards the altar, in his Ex-, amination, Repentance, &c. he must not forget another excellent preparative belonging to this duty of communicating worthily,which, although it be not mentioned in our Church Catechism, is yet implied as a necessary part of oar Sacra. mental Preparation; thatis, Prayer pri. vate and public; a duty upon which all our present and future blessings depend. Matt, vii. 7, 8, and 21, 22. Indeed so near a relation has the duty of Prayer with this Sacrament, that all the blessings therein promised are only in return to our prayer; and no doubt but that man, who makes a conscientious practice of this duty in his closet, and at church, can never be unprepared for this Sacrament,norwant a title to God's peculiar blessing: For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers, 1 Pet.iii. 12. The constant exercise of Prayer is the best method to get the mastery over all our
evilinclinations, and overall our vicious habits. It preserves a lively sense of God and religion in our minds, and fortifies us against the temptations that assault us. It spiritualizes our nature, raises our souls above the world, and by sanctifying the calamities of this life, effectually supports us under them. It leads us gradually to the perfection of a Christian life, and preserves that union between God and our souls, which feeds our spiritual life with grace. Without it, we pretend in vain to discharge the Christian duties incumbenton us, or to prosper in our temporal affairs, which must haveGod's blessing to crown them with success. Andas prayer, in general, has these blessings attending it, give me leave to suggest to you, under this head, that those public prayers and devotions which we offer to God in our churches, are not only more acceptable to him, but also much more advantageous to ourselves. They cannot but be more acceptable to God, because thereby his glory is much more considerably advanced in the world than by our private devotions. By these outward signs, we publicly declare to all the world, the inward regard which we have for the Divine perfections; and hereby, we let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father, which is in heaven, Matt. v. 16.
There is no duty in Scripture more frequently commanded, none more earnestly pressed upon us, than this of public prayer. We have the example of all good men, in all ages, for it, and of Christ himself, who was daily in the temple and in the synagogues ; and, no doubt, he frequented those places at the usual hours of prayer, because then he had the fairest opportunity, from those public assemblies, to instruct and to exhort to faith and repentance. 2dly, We may expect greater success to our requests, when we join in the public prayers of our church, than from our private prayers, because our Saviour has promised to such assemblies his immediate presence ; that where two or three are gathered together in his name there will he be in the midst of them, Matt, xviii. 20. This he hath no where said of private prayer, though both are good, nay, both are necessary for the beginning and ending of a Christian lite; and it