EXPLAINED AND DEFENDED,
SERIES OF SERMONS;
TIMOTHY DWIGHT, S. T. D. LL. D.
LATE PRESIDENT OF YALE COLLEGE.
THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.
IN FOUR VOLUMES.
HARPER AND BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS.
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DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT, ss.
BE it remembered, that on the fifth day of January, in the forty second year of the Independence of the United States of America, Timothy Dwight, and William T. Dwight, both of said District; Administrators of the Rev. Timothy Dwight, now deceased, and late of the said District, have deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof they claim as Administrators as aforesaid, and Proprietors, in the words following, to wit:
Theology; explained and defended, in a Series of Sermons; by Timothy Dwight, T. D., LL. D. late President of Yale college. With a Memoir of the Life the Author,. in five Volumes. Vol. 4.’’
In conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled, " An Act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors arid proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned."
R. I. INGERSOLL,
Clerk of the District of Connecticut.
A true copy of Record, examined and sealed by me.
R. I. INGERSOLL,
Clerk of the District of Connecticut.
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THE ORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.—THE USEFULNESS OF PRAYER TO COMMUNITIES.—ITS EFFICACY IN PROCURING BLESSNGS.— ENCOURAGEMENTS TO PRAYER.
PSALM lxxiii. 28.—It is good for me to draw near unto God.
IN the last discourse, I considered the Usefulness of Prayer to Families. The next thing proposed for discussion was its Usefulness to Communities.
It may be proper to remind my audience, that the usefulness of prayer was originally mentioned as two-fold; consisting,
1. In its immediate influence on the Suppliant ; and,
2. Its Efficacy in procuring Blessings.
It may be proper further to observe, that, next to the Usefulness of prayer, I proposed to examine the Encouragements to this duty. These three subjects will be considered in the present discourse.
In the Text, the Psalmist declares, that it was good for him to draw near to God. If it was good, that is, profitable, for the Psalmist to perform this duty; it must without a question be equally profitable to every other individual, who prays with the same spirit. There was nothing in the character of David, which rendered prayer more beneficial to him, than it may be to others. He prayed frequently, faithfully, and earnestly. All, who pray in the same manner, will find the same benefits. Nor will this usefulness be, in any degree, lessened by the communion of multitudes in this solemn service. On the contrary, it will be increased. The power of sympathy cannot fail to enhance the fervour of prayer, when offered up to God by numerous bodies of mankind. Whatever advantages, then, result from prayer, generally considered, whether offered up in the closet, or in the family, all these will result from the prayer of Communities. Beside these, public prayer is accompanied by several advantages, in a great measure peculiar to itself. Particularly,
I. Public Worship is in a prime degree constituted of Public prayer.
The benefits of public worship I have considered at large in a former discourse. All these benefits are not, I confess, derived solely from Public prayer. They are, however, so connected with it, as, in a remoter sense, to be justly attributable to its proper influence. It seems scarcely probable, that without public prayer, the other ordinances of public worship would be celebrated at all; or the Sabbath at all observed. If we did not feel our dependence upon God for all good, and the absolute necessity
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of deriving, and asking, it from him; there would, apparently, be no motives, of sufficient efficacy to preserve public worship in the world. If public prayer were to cease; the Sabbath, it is to be feared, would be forgotten, and the sanctuary deserted.
These things being admitted, it follows, that all the blessings, above mentioned, are derived from public prayer; not, indeed, immediately ; but ultimately. On their importance I need not now expatiate.
2. Public prayer, above all things, preserves alive a sense of National dependence on God.
The prime mean of preserving in the mind of an individual a sense of his own dependence on his Maker is, confessedly, prayer; as has been shown at large in a preceding discourse. On families, and on nations, its influence is the same. No human emotion has a more advantageous influence on the mind than this. It affects men deeply in all stations and circumstances ; and affects them all happily. It is a feeling, perfectly just; and the only just feeling respecting the subject. It is a feeling of high importance: it is a feeling of the most useful tendency.
On Rulers its influence is that, and only that, which they need to incline them to rule justly and in the fear of God. A ruler, who feels his dependence on his Maker, will be just, of course; because he knows, that God is just, and demands exact justice of him; because he knows, that God is an eye-witness of all his conduct; and because he knows he must give an account of that conduct, and be rewarded according to its nature. If he does that, which is right; he is assured of acceptance: if not; sin, he is equally assured, will lie at his door.
With such a sense of his dependence, a ruler will be merciful also; because he knows, that God is merciful, that he loves those who are merciful, and requires mercy of all men, and peculiarly of rulers; because he knows, that mercy and truth uphold the throne of a king, and the office of every other ruler: and because he knows, that, in the end, he himself will infinitely need mercy, that God has pronounced the merciful, blessed, and promised that they shall obtain mercy, and has awfully declared, that he shall have judgment without mercy, who sheweth no mercy.
With this sense of dependence, also, a ruler will be humble. In the sight of God, every man, however high his station, however extensive his power, is merely a worm of the dust, and crushed before the moth. To a being so frail, so feeble, so dependent, pride cannot belong. His own littleness cannot fail to stare him in the face, whenever he remembers, that every thing, which he has, or is, or will be, has been, and must be, solely derived from God; and for its continuance must depend solely on his pleasure. It is impossible for a mind, fraught with these sentiments, not to forget the haughtiness of power, and the splendour of station. At the same time, a ruler thus disposed will ever call to mind, that
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the poor in spirit, the meek, and the humble, are the only persons, to whom good is promised in the Gospel. The haughtiness of man, it is there declared, shall be brought low, and the pride of all human glory shall be stained. It is there declared, that every proud man is an abomination to the Lord, and shall be stubble for the final day.
It is scarcely necessary to observe, how important these attributes are to every ruler, or how beneficial they invariably prove to subjects. With such a character, the ruler cannot fail to be equitable in his laws and administrations, reasonable in his exaction and management of public property, clement in the distribution of justice, conscientious in the performance of every duty, and universally a minister of God for good to his people.
A corresponding influence, equally happy, will the same sense of dependence have on those who are ruled. The same general conscientiousness will prevail in their minds; a scrupulous obedience to all laws, and lawful authority; and a steady attachment to the good order and peace, secured by a wise administration.
Men, formed to sentiments and habits of this nature, are, almost wholly, a different kind of beings from those, to whom such sentiments are unknown. The motives, by which these two classes of men are governed, are totally diverse. Those of the former class are swayed by the fear and love of God, a disposition to obey him, the dictates of conscience, the hope of final approbation, and the dread of final ruin. Those of the latter class are influenced only by present, selfish considerations; and universally inquire how much they shall gain by submission to Government, or how much they shall lose by revolt. The former obey rulers, are just and kind to each other, and perform all the duties owed to their fellow-men, from conscience and principle. The latter, so far as they perform these duties at all, perform them from convenience only. On the former class, full reliance may be uniformly placed. To the latter, no confidence can safely attach, except when their duty and their selfishness coincide. The obedience of the former is voluntary; that of the latter, mercenary and venal.
Between rulers and subjects, governed by this sense of dependence on their Maker, arises, of course, an universal confidence. In a country, thus influenced, the government can therefore easily, and will naturally, be mild and gentle. In every other, it must ultimately be a system of coercion, an administration of force. Society in such a country, is established on sounder principles, is formed with juster views, and assumes a nobler character. It is the society of reason, of friendship, of virtue, of piety. Every thing in the understanding, the heart, and the life, is more accordant with the commands of God, and therefore with truth and rectitude. The bonds, which bind the society together, are stronger,
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the trespasses against human happiness are fewer, and less atrocious; the punishments inflicted by the magistrate are milder, and more rare; and the safety, comfort, and prosperity, enjoyed, are more absolute, uniform, and entire.
Of all these blessings, Prayer, both public and private, is in such a sense the source, that without it they never existed in this corrupt world, and never will exist. Nor will their extent ever fail to be proportioned to the prevalence of this duty.
I have now finished the observations, which I intended, concerning the Usefulness of prayer by its proper Influence on the Suppliant. The next subject, which demands our attention, according to the plan proposed, is its Efficacy in procuring blessings from God.
Every considerate man will see infinite motives inviting him to pray, when he discerns, that prayer will of course make him a wiser and a better man, recommend him to the approbation and favour of God, and prepare him to receive blessings from his hands; when he perceives, that in praying he has become obedient to a high and solemn command, and more attempered to the spirit and character of heaven. These are the most estimable of all blessings: and, as they are blessings of such import in themselves, and extend throughout eternity, their value, it is plain, cannot be measured.
But to many minds, the hope of being actually answered, and directly, blessed with good, of some extraneous kind, not inwrought in the personal character, and distinct from personal improvement and distant fruition, is .usually a still more powerful persuasive to prayer. Some persons would be moved by this consideration, who would imperfectly feel the other, great and obvious as it appears. It is also a consideration founded in truth and reality; and for both reasons, merits a place in this system of discourses.
If I am not deceived, the following observations will place it in a convincing light.
1. From the influence, which prayer has naturally on the suppliant, there is no small probability, that God will grant blessings in answer to the petitions of those, who faithfully perform this duty.
From the observations, made in a former discourse concerning the influence, which prayer has on the suppliant, it is evident, that by the faithful performance of this duty he is, in all respects, made a fitter recipient of blessings, than he can be otherwise. No rational doubt can be entertained, that God will bestow his blessings on such, as are thus fitted to receive them, rather than on such, as are not. It is evidently proper, that he should regard with compassion and kindness, and that he should communicate good to, those, who felt their dependence on him; acknowledged his sufficiency, and disposition, to supply their wants, humbly besought his mercy; realized their own undeserving character; and were grateful to him for every blessing, which they received; when
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with equal propriety he would refuse the same blessings to men, who felt no dependence but on themselves; who were too indifferent, too lazy, or too proud, to ask ; who questioned his right to require, and their own obligation to perform, this duty; or who were too ungrateful to acknowledge their own indebtedness to him for the mercies, which they received, or his goodness in bestowing them. Were God to pursue any other course of administrations, it is difficult to conceive how he could act as a moral governor, and secure, without coercion, the obedience of his subjects.
2. The instances are numerous, in which blessings are actually given in answer to prayer.
I am well aware of the objection, which lies against this doctrine. It may, I am sensible, be always said in reply, that we know not whether the same blessings would not have descended, if prayers had not been offered up for them. Without the aid of Revelation, I acknowledge, this cannot be known with certainty: since he, who gives blessings, is the only being, who originally knows the reason, for which he gives them. Still, from the course of providence merely, the probability is strong, that the blessings in question are given, only in answer to prayer. In support of this assertion I observe, that blessings have in many instances been given, after fervent prayers have ascended to God, when none but God could have contributed to their existence; when they were utterly unattainable by any human efforts ; after all such efforts had been made without success; after all hope of obtaining them, except by prayer, had vanished; and when, Give us help, from trouble, for vain is the help of man, had become the only language, seriously thought of by those who were concerned. Of such instances I could easily mention a considerable number. Many more, there is every reason to believe, are remarked by every observing, religious man. Many more still would, I doubt not, have been remarked, if religious men were more observant, and prayer were more continually and faithfully performed.
It will be said still, that even these blessings might have been given, had they not been supplicated. To this suggestion of possibility the proper answer is, "They might not." We know they were not given without prayer; and have not a shadow of reason to conclude, that, if they had not been prayed for, they would ever have been given. The suggestion, therefore, is useless to the purpose for which it is made.
But the complete proof lies in this; that certain blessings are not given to men, who do not pray; and those, blessings of the highest importance. Such are Peace of conscience, Joy in the Holy Ghost, the Hope, which maketh not ashamed, Increase of grace, and Final perseverance in piety. These are the best of all blessings: and these are never found by those, who do not pray. They are also blessings, which none but God can give. As therefore,
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they are given to those only, who pray; so they are plainly given as an answer to prayer.
At the same time, I am bound, as an inhabitant of New-England, solemnly to declare, that, were there no other instances to be found in any other country, the blessings, communicated to this, would furnish ample satisfaction concerning this subject to every sober, much more, to every pious, man. Among these, the destruction of the French armament under the Duke D'anville, in the year 1746, ought to be remembered with gratitude, and admiration, by every inhabitant of this Country. This fleet consisted of forty ships of war; was destined for the destruction of New-England; was of sufficient force to render that destruction, in the ordinary progress of things, certain; sailed from Chebucto, in Nova-Scotia, for this purpose; and was entirely destroyed, on the night following a general fast throughout New-England, by a terrible tempest. Impious men, who regard not the work of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands, and who for that reason are finally destroyed, may refuse to give God the glory of this most merciful interposition. But our Ancestors had, and it is to be hoped their descendants ever will have, both piety and good sense, sufficient to ascribe to Jehovah the greatness and the power, and the victory, and the majesty; and to bless the Lord God of Israel for ever and ever.
3. The Scriptures put this subject out of doubt by declaring directly, that blessings are given to mankind in answer to prayer.
To prevent any misapprehension concerning the views, now to be exhibited of this subject, I observe, that I do not consider prayer as meriting, in any case, the blessings, which are given to the suppliant. All blessings are bestowed upon man by the unmerited mercy of God: as is unanswerably evident from the fact, that men universally are sinners ; and deserve, of course, nothing but punishment.
Nor do I intend, that the prayers of men change, at all the views, dispositions, or purposes of God. The Father of lights, from whom cometh down every good and perfect gift, is without variableness, or shadow of turning. No suppliant, therefore, is encouraged to pray by an expectation, or a possibility, of producing the least change in the glorious Object of his prayers.
But I intend, that prayer is, in this sense, the means of procuring blessings: viz, that without prayer the blessings would never be obtained.
In the immutable counsels of God it is established, that there shall be an inseparable connexion between humble, faithful prayer, and the blessings, needed by the suppliant. Prayer is, therefore, as regular, nay, more regular, a cause of blessings, than ploughing and sowing, rain and sunshine, are of the harvest.
In support of this position, I shall now allege several passages of Scripture, sufficient, in my view, to establish the doctrine beyond reasonable debate.
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The only condition, upon which mankind receive any blessings, is given us by our Saviour in that remarkable passage : Ask, and ye shall receive; Seek, and ye shall flnd; Knock, and it shall be opened to you. For, every one that asketh receiveth ; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. As asking is here made the condition of receiving; it is plain, that, if we perform not this condition, we are assured, that we shall not receive.
Again. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. John xvi. 23. Here the promise is unlimited, as to the good, which is asked; and absolute, as to the certainty of receiving it. More cannot be expressed, nor desired. Again. Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him. 1 John iii. 22. Quotations of this nature need not be multiplied.
As proof, that prayer is not offered up in vain, I allege Isaiah xlv. 19. I said not to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain. In this passage, God declares, that it was no part of his declarations to Israel, that they sought him, or prayed to him, in vain. Of consequence, it was no part of his counsels with respect to that people. But the counsels of God towards his people, in the different ages of the world, are in substance the same. It is now as true, as it was when this prophecy was uttered, that they never seek, that they never pray, in vain.
The prevailing power of prayer is directly, as well as strongly, asserted by St. James. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Is any sick, says the same apostle, let him call for the Elders of the Church; and let them pray over him. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick; and the Lord shall raise him up. If he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
To illustrate all these declarations, St. James adduces the example of Elijah; who, although a frail man, like others, prayed earnestly, that it might not rain, and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. These great effects, it is to be remembered, were consequences of the prayers of a single man.
After the glorious prediction, communicated to Ezekiel concerning the return of the Jews to their own land in the latter days; a prediction delivered in absolute terms by God himself; the same great Being declares, Yet for all this will I be inquired of, that is, prayed to, by the house of Israel, to do it for them. Absolute as the promises of these vast blessings were, still the blessings were to be given, only in answer to the prayers of the recipients.
Among the divine promises concerning the Millennial happiness, this is a remarkable one. My house shall be called a house of
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prayer for all people. From this great fact will arise, inseparably, the happiness itself. Without such an universal spirit of prayer, as is here predicted, the peculiar blessings of that singular period would never exist: for then, as in all preceding periods, the only ordinance of God concerning this subject will be, ask and ye shall receive.
From all these passages it is, I think, unanswerably evident, that prayer is entirely efficacious to procure blessings from God.
It ought here to be further observed, that we are not to expect any thing in answer to our prayers, which is not agreeable to the will of God. Nor ought we to wish any thing, which is not of this nature, to be given to us: for nothing else will prove a blessing. Whatever is right, and proper to be done, is a part of the divine will.
Nor ought we to expect the very same kinds, or measures, of good, for which we pray. Often, these would not be good for us: or if good for us at all, they would not be so at the times, and in the manger, in which we ask for them. Good will always be given in answer to our prayers; but it will be real good; such as God sees to be good; and not such as we erroneously may imagine to be of this nature.
I. All persons have abundant encouragement to pray to God.
This was originally proposed as a distinct head of discourse. I have chosen to introduce it in this form, because it grows so naturally out of the two preceding heads; and because it has, of necessity, been anticipated in the consideration of them. The usefulness of prayer by its own proper influence, and by its efficacy in procuring blessings from God, are prime Encouragements to the performance of this duty.
The certain prospect of becoming better, wiser, more lovely in the sight of God, and more fitted to receive blessings from his hands, and of actually gaining the blessings by known, limited, and easy efforts, is a combination of the highest and noblest motives, which can influence a rational being. To every suppliant these motives are continually presented. They are
presented by God himself: they are established by his undeceiving declarations: they are obvious to our own reason: they are, therefore, real: and ought plainly to have their full influence on every reasoning mind. The good in view is the greatest good. Nay, there is no other real good. It is good, in certain reversion for every suppliant.
In support of this scheme, may be alleged, as full evidence, the numerous examples, in which these great consequences of prayer hive actually existed; examples, faithfully recorded in the Scriptures for our encouragement in this duty.
Abimelech received an entire deliverance from the distresses, in which his family were involved, as an answer to the prayer of Abraham.
As an answer to the prayers of Abraham also, God assured him, that, if ten righteous men should be found in the cities of the plain, he would spare those cities ; and not consign them to the punishment, which their sins had so eminently deserved.
In answer to the prayer of Job, God forgave the sin and folly of his three friends, in not speaking of him the thing which was right.
At the prayer of Moses, the Israelites were not only delivered from many other evils, but preserved, also, from utter extinction.
At the prayer of Gideon, the dew fell on the ground, and not on the fleece ; and again on the fleece, and not on the ground; that he might know the will of God; and be satisfied, that he acted under a divine commission.
At the prayer of Samuel, the Lord thundered on the army of the Philistines, and wrought a great salvation for Israel.
At the prayer of Hezekiah, his life was lengthened fifteen years.
In answer to the prayer of Daniel, Gabriel was sent from the highest heavens, to explain the wonderful and distressing vision, disclosed to him concerning future times.
As an answer to the prayers of Cornelius, an Angel was sent to direct him to send for Peter, who should teach him words, whereby he, and all his house, should be saved.
The Apostles lived on prayer; and received, continually, many great, and wonderful blessings, as immediate answers to their prayers.
To these and other examples of the same nature recorded in the Scriptures, may be added the commands, parables, and promises, which every where enjoin, explain, and enforce, this great duty.
To all these things may, also, be added the perfect example of the Lord Jesus Christ; who in the days of his flesh offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto Him that was able to save him from death; and was heard in that he feared: or, as the Greek may well be rendered, on account of his piety. This example unites all motives. It is a perfect pattern to us; as being perfectly conformed to the will of God. It is a clear proof, that no being in a dependent state, however excellent, is exempted from this duty, or from the universal law of God’s providence, which connects blessings only with prayer. If God would have blessed any being without prayer; he certainly would have blessed Christ. As certainly, Christ, had such been the fact, would not have prayed, since his prayers, in that case, would have been a vain and useless service. The will of his Father he certainly knew; and prayed, only because it was agreeable to his
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will. Accordingly, his prayers were heard, and always heard. This example, also, has the entire force of a command; and is invested with divine authority. If, then, we obey and follow him in this great duty ; we shall do that, which is right in the sight of God, as he did; shall be accepted for his sake, as he was accepted; and shall be rewarded and blessed as he was.
In these things, thus combined, there is plainly all possible encouragement to pray, and to continue steadfast in prayer. The Father of all mercies regards us in this institution as his children; prepares us by this duty most happily to realize his character as the Giver of every good and perfect gift; and fits us in the best manner also to receive his blessings, when they are bestowed. He forms us to the spirit and conduct of children; and is Himself ready to give good things of all kinds to us, when we thus ask him. In our petitions, we learn the nature and value of his blessings; our own absolute need of them; and his unspeakable goodness in furnishing them for our enjoyment. We learn to depend on him; to trust in him; and to exercise towards him unceasing love, reverence, gratitude, and praise. At the same time, we are assured, that we shall never ask in vain.
2. From these considerations I urge, anew, the folly, and sin, of those, who neglect prayer.
Prayer is the avenue to all good, temporal and eternal; and to us the only avenue. He who will not pray, therefore, shuts up the only passage, which has been opened for him by God to the attainment of happiness. It may be alleged here, but it will be alleged to no purpose, that multitudes, who do not pray, are as prosperous as those, who do. An oxis pampered, but it is only for the slaughter. The enjoyments of this life are never blessings to him, that does not pray. If they are merely means of luxury, hardness of heart, and grossness of life, he, who enjoys them, will only treasure up wrath against the day of wrath. On the part of God, indeed, they are always kindly given; but on the part of the recipient, they are regularly abused by being made incentives to sin. They are, therefore, curses to him by his own perversion; and are styled blessings, only by an abuse of language.
Without prayer there is no virtue; no piety; no obedience to God. The commencement of piety in Saul of Tarsus, was thus announced by the HOLY GHOST: Behold he prayeth. But without piety there is no blessing reserved for man. He may, indeed, be rich, and great, and luxurious; may be clothed in purple and fine linen; and may fare sumptuously every day. Such was the condition of the rich man in the parable. But at the end of a short life,. he lifted up his eyes in hell, being in torment; and found, that he had received all his good things in this life.
What excuse, then, can be devised for the neglect of prayer? Is it a hard service? Be it so. Is not the reward sufficiently great
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to retribute the toil ? Good in hand, of every kind which is real and desirable, and good to come inestimable and endless, are certainly deserving of any labour, or suffering, which men can undergo. However severe may be the labour of performing the duty, the compensation is certainly ample and complete.
But is it more severe than the daily toil of laborious men ? This you yourselves see cheerfully undergone, merely for the common gains of avarice, by millions, who do not, and cannot know, that those gains will be good at all. To every sincere suppliant all things work together for good. How vast the difference in these rewards!
Is it harder than profane swearing and cursing? In them, as in prayer, all the labour which exists, exists only in the utterance of words : and multitudes in these evil practises expend much more time, and breath, than is demanded in prayer. All these, also, labour in vain, and spend their strength for nought. Nay, what is infinitely worse, they labour only to be poor, and wretched, and miserable.
But is it hard at all? Is it a hard condition, for the attainment of all good, to ask it; and, above all things, to ask it of the infinitely blessed and bountiful God?
It has been, and undoubtedly will be again, objected by multitudes, some of them probably in this audience, that they cannot pray. Let me ask those, who make this objection, have you tried? tried, I mean, in earnest? You will be obliged to answer in the negative. You have never seriously attempted to perform this duty. Whence then do you know, that you cannot pray? How do you know, that God will not willingly do for you whatever you find it impossible, or difficult, to do for yourselves ? He is infinitely willing to give, in answer to your prayers. Whence have you learned, that he is not equally willing to befriend you in your attempts to pray?
The truth is, you do not choose to make such attempts. You have wants endlessly numerous, and incalculably important. They might be supplied: but you will not ask God to supply them. You have souls of infinite value. They might be saved: but you will not ask God to save them. You are sinners, and exposed to perdition. From these tremendous evils you might be delivered: but will not ask God to deliver you. You are made candidates for Heaven; and might be received into that glorious world of everlasting joy. Rather than pray, you choose to perish.
All blessings are opened for your enjoyment. The condition on which you may obtain them all, is to ask. No sacrifice, expense, or loss, is demanded of you. None will be incurred. On the contrary, praying is in itself unspeakable gain, and solid pleasure; higher, more rational, more unmingled pleasure, than you ever found, or ever will find, in sin. The condition, therefore,
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is a gainful condition of a reward without bounds, and without end. What, then, is your conduct, but supreme and unmingled folly?
Fools, saith Solomon, despise wisdom and instruction, and hate knowledge. This wisdom, of supreme import, has been taught to you a thousand times. Hitherto you have despised and hated
it. The evil of neglecting prayer has been often urged on you; but hitherto it has been urged in vain. Hitherto you have deceived yourselves with the folly of believing, that God will bless you, while you refuse to pray to him: in other words, that he will bless you, in direct contradiction to his own express declarations. What specimen of folly can be greater! That you should be thus deceived, with your present character, is not strange: since the Scriptures inform us, that it is the nature of folly to be deceitful. That you should think yourselves right in these views, and in the conduct which grows out of them, is as little strange: for, persons of this character, according to the same divine testimony, usually think themselves right. But let me remind you from the same sacred book, that Fools die for want of wisdom. In your present course, you are in the road to death. For want of wisdom, only, do you continue in it a single day. Should the same folly be prolonged: the period is not distant, when you will die for ever.