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prophet's words, “ The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked ?” Who but the all-seeing Jehovah can penetrate its depth, and fully know it? How suitable and how needful then is the wise man's counsel, “ Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.
Watch and guard against being drawn aside, and entangled by things of time and sense. The world, with its benumbing touch, deadens the heart to God. The cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things, are apt to choke the growth of every heavenly principle. It is allowable, and often necessary, to engage in temporal concerns; but we are continually liable to be insensibly drawn from things lawful to things dangerous. The line, which marks the path in which we should go, is a narrow line, and may, through carelessness, be transgressed before we are aware ; and then the steps are short and easy from one sinful indulgence to another, in the rapidly descending road that leadeth to destruction. This consideration adds great weight to the apostolic injunction, “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds." The children of darkness give themselves up to slumber in slothful ease, or sensual indulgence; but let the children of the light not
sleep as do others, but watch and be sober. The more a saint is raised above the world, the nearer will he live to God, and the more precious will Christ be to his soul.
Watch and guard against the temptations of Satan. This subtle enemy possesses a large store of devices; and you are continually exposed to danger from his fair allurements and his fiery darts. And can you remain indifferent and unconcerned ? Surely the animating call of the apostle ought to arouse the mind to repel the insidious and mighty foe. “ Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour; whom resist steadfast in the faith.” With watchfulness, prayer must be united. To watch without praying, or pray without watching, is to resemble a sentinel, who either keeps his post all alert, but neglects to put on his armour; or wears his armour, but slumbers till surprised and overpowered by the enemy. '
Perhaps there is no other duty enjoined in so many clear and urgent commands, and accompanied with so great a variety of animating and impressive promises, as prayer. “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened.” “Be careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” And to show that this was not to be merely occasional, but habitual, it is said, “ Pray without ceasing.” “Continue instant in prayer.” Nor is it without cause that the Scriptures so frequently enforce the observance of this duty, and point out the advantages which flow from it. The vital power of religion cannot be preserved in the soul without prayer. When the spirit of devotion ceases to breathe, every Christian grace will begin to languish, and the best consolations lose their relish. Prayer, therefore, ought to be considered as a duty, which we are conscientiously to perform; and as a privilege, that we are invited freely to enjoy. Prayer loosens the burthen under which the soul groans; and vents the swelling sorrows of the troubled breast. "I cried unto the Lord with my voice, with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication. I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble. When my spirit was over. whelmed within me, then thou knewest my path,” &c. Ps. cxlii, 1, 2, 3. Prayer is that exercise of godliness which fits the saint to fight the good fight of faith. When girded with the whole armour of God, in order to use it with success, he is exhorted to pray always with all
prayer and supplication in the spirit, watching thereunto with all perseverance. Prayer is the opened medium of intercourse between earth and heaven. It is in this way we are admitted to the exalted honour of holding fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.
Are not these powerful motives to unwearied supplication ? Perhaps I may here appeal with good effect to your experience. Have you not found prayer a means suited at once to draw up your affections to heaven, and bring down a measure of heavenly bliss into the soul? Have you not often had the humblest ideas of self, and the highest thoughts of Jesus, while on your knee? Have you not sometimes entered the closet languid and heavy laden, and soon found, in the exercise of devotion, your soul like the chariot of Elijah, in swift and sweet motion towards God? Is it not by earnestly looking at Jesus, that you feel longing desires to be more conformed to his image here, and finally advanced to his glory hereafter? Jacob, by wrestling, had power as a prince with God, and prevailed. And after he had obtained the blessing that he sought, he called that place Peniel, which means presence of God, to perpetuate the remembrance of so distinguishing a favour. In answer to earnest prayer, the penitent malefactor received the full assurance
of acceptance from the lips of our expiring Saviour : “ Verily I say unto thee, this day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” When Paul was severely tried with a thorn in the flesh, buffeted by a messenger of Satan, he says, “ For this I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Such an animating answer encouraged him to say, “ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." Be frequent then at a throne of grace. How much greater is the privilege of access to God, than if you had liberty to go at any hour into the presence of the highest and best monarch on earth. Cry to God, with filial confidence, for the special manifestations of his grace. Wrestle with holy importunity, and you will assuredly win the blessing. Remember the promise, “ Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will do it.” Try, and trust this word. Plead it continually in all your prayers.
3. As a means of endearing the precious Saviour, may be recommended, well-regulated Christian conversation.
Religion does not sternly forbid, or morosely sour the pleasures of sociability. It requires indeed, as might be expected, that we should select