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highly inexpedient: it is a fruitful source of pride, discouragement, and hypocrisy. But in the confidence of friendship we may unbosom ourselves one to another, and declare, to the abundant edification both of ourselves and others, what God has done for our souls. In seasons of temptation and spiritual trouble, we may by such a communication administer unspeakable comfort to an afflicted brothers. Nor is it necessary that we advert particularly to ourselves: if we give the result of our experience, the effect will be the same. The light we have received should not be hid under a bushel : if we have “freely received, we should freely give."]
s 2 Cor. i. 6.
DCVII. SIN A PREVENTIVE TO THE ACCEPTANCE OF OUR PRAYERS. Ps. Ixvi. 18—20. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord
will not hear me. But verily God hath heard me : he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me!
THE communion of saints is an exalted privilege; and “they who fear the Lord will speak often one to another” upon the subjects which are most interesting to their souls. To magnify the grace of God, and to encourage one another in the ways of holiness, will be delightful to them, and will tend exceedingly to their mutual improvement. Hence David invited his pious brethren to hear the communications which he had to make on this all-important subject: “Come and hear, all ye that fear God! and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.” Then he tells them of God's answers to his prayers; but at the same time informs them, that there was one condition only on which either they or he could hope for the acceptance of their prayers, namely, that they put away all sin without hesitation and without exception: for “ if they regarded iniquity in their heart, the Lord would not hear them.”
From the whole of this communication we see, II. God's abhorrence of sin, when harboured and
indulged“ God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquitya :"
a Hab. i. 13.
though he tolerates it in the world, he will sooner or later manifest his indignation against it. But in none does he abhor it more, than in those who profess themselves his people: according to what is written, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities 6."
To those who live in the commission of it he will not lend an ear
[There are seasons when the most careless persons will call upon God: “In the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save uso:” and “they will pour out a prayer when some heavy chastening is upon themd. " Not that they desire deliverance from sin : it is trouble alone that they are anxious to get rid of; and that removed, they would return with pleasure to their former ways. Such were the Jews in the wilderness: “ When he slew them, then they sought him, and they returned and inquired early after God: and they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their Redeemer. Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues: for their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenante.” But it is in vain for such hypocrites to hope that God will hear their
prayers: for the very " sacrifices of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord?:" and of this God has fully warned us. He has declared, that “though they cry, he will not hear them 8 ;" yea, “ though they cry in his ears, with a loud voiceh;" yea, “though they make many prayers *;" yea, though with their prayers “ they fast, and offer burnt-offerings and oblationsk:" so far from listening to them, he will turn a deaf ear to their petitions, and even laugh at the calamities which they either feel or fear? He will recompense them according to their doings. In the day that he called to them, “they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear: and therefore, as he cried, and they would not hear; so when they cry, he will not hear m."]
Even where sin is not openly indulged, but only harboured in the heart, God will resent it in this way,
[Sin, however secret, is not hidden from him: for He it, under whatever form it may exist, and in the inmost recesses of the heart: “ He searcheth the heart,” and “ weigheth the spirits.” Indeed, hypocrisy is not a whit less hateful to him than open sin. Let us hear the testimony of holy Job: “What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him" ?" Even the most uninstructed of men, who had been born blind, and had had his eyes just recently opened, could say, “ We know that God heareth not sinners ° :” and so self-evident was that truth, that not one of his most subtle and malignant enemies could gainsay or resist it. There is, in fact, a general conviction of it in the consciences of all, insomuch that God himself appealed to his hypocritical adversaries respecting it; “ Shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel ? As I live, saith the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by youP:" Whether “the idol” be in the house or “ in the heart,” it is equally hateful in the sight of God, who " requireth truth in the inward parts 9," and will accept none but “those who worship him in spirit and in truth?."]
b. Amos iii. 2.
c Jer. ii. 27. d Isai, xxvi. 16.
On the other hand, no language can express, II. His condescension to sinners who are truly up
right before him— David, though a sinner of no common stamp, was yet upright before God, as a penitent: for he bitterly bewailed his sins, and sought deliverance from them with his whole heart. There was no iniquity which he desired to hide from God, or to retain within his own bosom. Hence he found acceptance with God, and could bear testimony that God had heard and answered his petitions. And thus, wherever there is a true penitent, we are warranted to assure him, 1. That God will be merciful to his sins
[It is not sin lamented, but sin retained, or “regarded with complacency in the heart,” that will provoke God's indignation against us. A weeping sinner he will receive to mercy, from them:” on the contrary," he will blot out their iniquities as a morning cloud," and “cast all their sins irrecoverably into the very depths of the sea”. -] 2. That he will be gracious to their prayers—
even though his sins may have been of a crimson or a scarlet dye.” Never, from the foundation of the world, was one cast out who sought him with real penitence and faith. Manasseh was, perhaps, of all the children of men, the most criminal ; yet was not even he rejected, when he truly humbled himself before the Lord his Gods. And we are authorized to assure the whole world, that if they seek the Lord with their whole hearts, “ he will not turn away their prayer, nor his mercy
n Job xxvii. 8, 9. o John ix. 31. p Ezek. xx. 3, 31. 9 Ps. li. 6.
r John iv, 24. 8 2 Chron. xxxiii. 12, 13, 19. t Lam. iii. 55, 56.
[There is no want so great, but he will supply it; no concern so small, but he will take the charge of it, and order it for our good. We may go into his presence as to a loving Father, assured, that “we may ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us." Even the sigh, “the cry, the very breathing" of desire will be understood by him, and come up
with acceptance before him'; and, as in David's case, our prayers shall be turned into songs of praise and thanksgiving ----] ADDRESS1. Beware of harbouring any secret lust
[Sin is deceitful; and our treacherous hearts are ever ready to put a favourable construction upon it. But God can discern it, under whatever garb it may be disguised, and by whatever name it may be distinguished. It may be amongst " the things which are highly esteemed amongst men: but it will still be an abomination in the sight of God.” It may be something as dear to us as a right eye, or as necessary, in our apprehension, as a right hand: but it must be put away, however painful the separation may be : for, if it be spared and retained, it will destroy both body and soul in hell. I must entreat you, therefore, to examine carefully the state of your souls, and with the utmost diligence to
purge out the old leaven” that defiles them. The Jews were wont, at the time of the passover, to sweep their houses with incredible care, lest one atom of leaven should be left in any corner or recess: and this affords a good example to us in relation to our souls. Yet I would not have you rest satisfied with any endeavours of your own; but beg of God to search and try you, and to see if there be
in the way everlasting: for, as a single leak will sink a ship, so a single lust, unmortified and unsubdued, will sink the soul into everlasting perdition. Oh, think with yourselves, how awful it will be in the last day to cry unto your God, and not be heard! to stand imploring him, “Lord, Lord, open unto us;" and to receive for answer that terrible sentence, “ Depart from me, ye who wrought iniquity!” May God avert from all of you this fearful doom! and may you all be approved of him at last, as “ Israelites indeed, in whom was no guile!”]
2. Improve, while you may, the manifold grace of God
[A throne of
ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us. God assumes to himself the very title of “a God that heareth prayer.” And he bids us to open our mouths wide, that he may fill them, Moreover, we have an Advocate with the Father, even the Lord Jesus Christ himself,” “ whom the Father heareth always ;" and who has so loved us, as to "give himself a propitiation for our sins.” O, what might we not receive, if only we were upright before God! for "the prayer of the upright is his delight.
Suppose now at this time we had all been really praying to God, in the very spirit of the prayers which we have offered; what blessings would not be flowing down into our souls, even as showers of blessings,” as God himself has promised! Verily, if our eyes were opened to see what was passing, we should behold Almighty God taking loads of guilt from multitudes amongst us, and casting it all into the very depths of the sea. We should see the Holy Spirit resting on the heads of all, as on the day of Pentecost, for the purpose of enlightening, comforting, and sanctifying our souls. We should see angels ascending and descending upon us, in order to receive from God, and execute for us, their several commissions adapted to our necessities. I do not hesitate to say, that, if we had all been as much in earnest in our prayers as our words have given reason to expect, this very place would resemble the temple of old, when the glory of God so filled it, that the priests could no longer abide there to minister before the Lord. Yes, our souls would be too full for humanity to sustain it. Dear Brethren, why should we not behold at least a measure of this sacred effusion, and taste a measure of this heavenly grace? God is willing to renew the Pentecostal scenes, if only we were in a state to receive them. It is in ourselves that we are straitened: we are not straitened in our God: he is as able as ever, yea, and as willing too, " to do exeeding abundantly for us, above all that we can ask or think.” Truly, if we were even one half as earnest as we have professed to be, he would fill every hungry soul, and replenish every sorrowful soul, with his richest communications of grace and peace. Let us arise and call upon our God: and let not
prayer go forth out of feigned lips.” And let us remember, for our comfort, that it is not the existence of sin in the soul that will prevent the acceptance of our prayers, (for who then would ever be heard ?) but the indulgence of it. Seek truly to have the whole body of sin mortified within you: seek to be "pure, as God is pure," and "holy, as God is holy." Then will God delight himself in you; and you, according to your measure, shall “ be filled with all the fulness of your God.”]