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“and wont to give more than either we desire or « deserve.” This is the plea which faith employs, and the source from whence it derives encouragement.—The prayer implores abundant mercy, for the pardon of sin and a supply of all those blessings of which we stand in need.
How sweet and encouraging a consideration is that which is suggested by the introduction of our collect, that God is “ more ready to hear than
we are to pray!” The blessings which we need, vast and glorious as they are, are not to be wrenched by importunity from a reluctant hand; but the adorable Giver professes Himself to be honoured and pleased by communicating to
Hence He commands us to pray; and how much soever we may have asked and received from Him, He is not satisfied with His own bountiful past communications; but He bids us to ask for more, saying, “ Open thy mouth wide, and "I will fill it.” If we gave credit to this statement, what delight would it afford us in approaching the throne of grace ! How often should we repair thither!
What large requests should we make! And how would our souls be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and our zouth praise Him with joyful lips! The statement is strictly true, for it is confirmed by repeated promises and declarations; and “though “ we believe not, yet He abideth faithful, He “ cannot deny Himself.” He hath assured us, that He “will be very gracious unto us at the “ voice of our cry; and that when He shall hear
it, He will answer us” (Is. xxx. 19); that He, “our heavenly Father, knoweth what things we “ have need of, before we ask Him” (Matt. vi. 8); that He is “nigh unto all them who call upon “ Him to all that call upon Him in truth; that
“ He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him, « that He will hear their cry and will save them." (Ps. cxlv. 18-19.) of the truth of these promises, and of the declaration in the introduction to our collect, we have a striking exemplification in the case of David, who had no sooner confessed his sin than Nathan under Divine direction assured him, even before he could ask for pardon, “ The Lord hath put away thy sin, thou shalt not " die." (2 Sam. xii. 13.) To this the royal penitent refers, when he says, (Ps. xxxii. 5.) “I “ acknowledge my sin unto thee, and my iniquity “ have I not hid: I said, I will confess my trans“ gressions unto the Lord, and so thou forgavest “ the iniquity of my sin.” And then from his own blessed experience he foretells, that succeeding penitents should meet with like success, seeing they would have to do with Him who is “ the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. ” “ For this,” he adds, namely, the pardon of sin, “ shall every one that is godly,” every gracious* person on whom the grace of penitence hath been bestowed, “pray unto thee in a time when thou
, “mayest be found"—" the acceptable time, the
day of salvation.” And such is the whole riod of human life to the broken and contrite heart.
That we are backward to pray is too evident to be denied, and a proof of our folly that is exceedingly humiliating: A needy creature, made up of
. wants, yet reluctant to ask for relief, when it may be freely obtained, and when the donor considers
pehimself to be honoured in bestowing it, is a strange phænomenon of idiotism or insanity. What a stupid irrational creature is fallen man! We will try to point out some of the causes of this backwardness to pray, so soon as we have premised that it is on Christian believers that this sinful backwardness is chargeable. For our collect is adapted to their use exclusively ; and indeed none but they know any thing of prayer, its necessity, nature, or advantages.
*700 Exuberant mercy. See Parkhurst on the Word. The word gracious is used in a passive sense, to describe a recipient of grace, by Dr. Bennett, in his work on “ precon"cojved prayer," and by the judicions looker.
The remaining carnality of our hearts is the grand cause of that reluctance to address the throne of grace of which all believers are conscious and complain. The affections are so occupied about worldly objects that spiritual ones are not duly appreciated. A full vessel can admit no more ; and if more be poured into it, the new infusion must run over the brim and be spilt on the ground. Now, although the mind of a true believer is not full of the world as it was before conversion, yet neither is it intirely emptied of its original contents. So that, though some room is made for the water of life, yet the space for its admission is still scanty. In proportion as worldly desires are suppressed, spiritual ones arise.
From this general cause of backwardness to prayer proceeds an insensibility of our spiritual wants. Our spiritual appetite is kept in a discased state by the unwholesome trash with which we continually load it. Oh! were we fully sensible of our pressing wants, and of the gracious supply which God hath provided for them, our backwardness to pray would be turned into cager desire; we should ask and receive till our joy was complete.
Another cause of this backwardness to pray is unbelief. We give a doubtful and hesitating credit to the repeated declarations of Divine mercy. Hence we expect' to derive but little advantage from prayer. (James i. 5. &c.) We do not realize to ourselves the existence, value, and possibility of enjoying, the blessings of the gospel, for want of that faith which is the substance of
things hoped for, and the evidence of things or not seen.
We regard them either as of small importance, or as being out of our reach, and therefore do not strive to obtain them.
We shall specify but one obstruction more in the duty of prayer, viz. the pride and self-sufficiency of fallen man. This not only precludes us, so far as it prevails, from a discovery of our spiritual wants, but it also raises objections in our minds to the appointed mode of supply. It cannot stoop to receive gratuitously what it cannot ineritoriously obtain. The inscription which appears in large and golden letters on the canopy of the throne of grace, ,
“ WITHOUT MO“ NEY, WITHOUT PRICE, creates offence. How ridiculous a sight is the haughty strut, the stately gait, the affected dignity, of poverty in rags--of starving indigence, which would rather perish than be indebted to the ready bounty of the beneficent when offered for acceptance ! That continual dependance on Divine liberality, in which true humility glories, is opposed by the remaining self-righteousness of our hearts; and hence prayer is restrained.
That God is always prompt to hear and answer prayer, is equally as evident as that we are backward to
“pour out our hearts before Him." “ He waiteth to be gracious.” He not only commands and encourages us to present our suits
before His mercy-seat-He not only promises to comply with our requests, and to fulfil our desires-He not only engages to pardon the imperfections which debase our best supplications, and to listen to the feeblest cry which reaches His ears; but “ He waiteth to be gracious." He stands, as it were, with the blessings of the cross in His hands, watching for the favourable moment in which he may confer them on us in which the “ miserable, wretched, blind, and “ naked" sinner will condescend to receive them from Him. O wonderful grace! rich mercy! Divine compassion --The readiness of God to comply with the requests of His people may be proved by various considerations.
It appears from the existence of that gracious covenant which the Persons of Jehovah have made respecting the redemption and salvation of man. This “covenant is ordered in all things ss and sure," as the Spirit of inspiration hath informed us by the pen of the prophet David. It is “everlasting' both in its origin and continuance. Its blessings, which comprehend all things that a sinner can need, are provided expressly for the use of all those among the fallen sons of Adam who are willing to partake of them. They have been purchased by the blood of Him who is the surety of the covenant, and are placed in His hands to be communicated to all who by faith and prayer apply for them. Now, why was this covenant made? Why, when made, was it revealed? Why has it been confirmed by the solemn oath of the high contracting parties, and by the blood of the Divine Surety? Doth not all this demonstrate that God " is more ready “ to hear than we to pray?” The “exceeding
great and precious promises” of the covenant