ePub 版

suddenly awakened. The novelty and the vividness of their views and impressions of eternal things may occasion some mistakes and improprieties in harmonizing religion properly with secular and relative life. But what we excuse, we are not to commend. If one duty defrauds or kills another, it is a robber or a murderer. The wise man tells us every thing is beautiful in its season; and Paul enjoins us to do every thing decently and in order. But, under the sanction of such a supposed authority as our text, we have known religious servants who have risen above their masters, and lectured and reproved them-We have known men who have left their callings, and rushed into offices for which they were not designed--We have known females, who, instead of being keepers at home, have neglected their husbands and children to gad about after favourite preachers-We have known orthodox professors, who have broken out into every kind of rudeness and rancour, under a notion of being faithful and valiant for the Truth. Disputants have contended earnestly for the faith, with pens dipped in gall and tongues set on fire of hell-Persecutors have killed others, to do God service; and the priest, with the crucifix, has urged the dragoon not to do the work of the Lord deceitfully, or keep back his sword from shedding of blood!

The decision may be improved by applying it in two cases. First, in judging ourselves. And here the leaning should be to the side of severity. Let us be satisfied with nothing short of the real power of religion. Whatever we depend upon, while we are strangers to this, will be more than uselessit will issue in the most dreadful disappointment. It is better to err on the side of caution than of self-security. According to our Saviour, the delusion accompanies some to the very door of heaven: they knock, with confidence that they shall be admitted; and are surprised and confounded when they

hear from within, I know you not whence ye are. Do not place your religion in attending on Divine ordinances; or in a mere belief of the truth; or in some outward reformation; or in some particular course of duty to which you may have inducements that render it easy. Search and try your ways. See whether you have given God your whole heart, and can sacrifice every bosom-lust. See whether your religion has any thing in it above the efficiency of natural principles-whether it is flesh or Spirit; whether you are under the Law, or under grace. Examine yourselves. If believers-Does your faith work by love? And do you love in word and in tongue, or in deed and in truth? If penitents-Have you said, with Ephraim, What have I any more to do with idols? If worshippers-Do you only draw nigh to Him with the mouth and honour Him with your lips, while your heart is far from him? If hearers-Has the Gospel come to you, not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance?

Secondly. In judging others. And here the leaning should be to candour. We should beware how we deny this power to a fellow-professor, without just evidence. It is always a difficult thing to decide the degree of another's religion. Men differ exceedingly, even in their natural temperament. How sanguine is one! How phlegmatical is another! Some are constitutionally bold and forward; others are equally timid and retreating. Is it to be supposed, that all these will shew their piety precisely in the same manner? We often ascribe to a religious ardour, what is the effect of a liveliness and volubility of temper. Hence, when we meet with an individual who is always speaking on religious topics, we are apt to consider him a zealous soul; and to suppose that all this talkativeness results from pious principle. Whereas, it is more than probable, if we followed him through life, we should find him as

eager on secular occasions as on religion. On the other hand, when we meet with a man who shrinks from notice, and is backward to speak of Divine things, and especially of his own experience; we frequently set him down, as one who is not fervent in Spirit, serving the Lord. But may not this man be very much the same in all other cases? And if so, should we not do him injustice, by judging of his state in religion by the slowness of his speech, and the hesitation of his temper, and the tardiness of his conduct, which constitute a caret in his whole life? Judge not after the outward appearance; but judge righteous judgment.

Again. If you have reason to conclude, that a fellow Christian has this Divine reality; let it satisfy you. Love and esteem him, though he differs from your opinions; and walks not with you in the outward order of the Gospel. What is the chaff to the wheat? I love those Scriptures which inspire us with a zeal, not to make proselytes to a party, but converts to the Saviour-which tend to unite the truly pious to each other, and embattle them against the common foe-which diminish those inferior things that bigots are always magnifying ; and attach supreme importance to those that infinitely deserve it-" For the Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." "For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God."

AUG. 8.-"Lord, teach us to pray."

Luke xi. 1.

THIS was the language of one of his disciples, as soon as he had heard him pray in a certain place.

He did not interrupt our Lord in the exercise; but when he had ceased, he said, wishing to resemble him, "Lord, teach us to pray.'


It was well in him, not only to attach importance to prayer, and to feel his own ignorance and insufficiency in the performance; but to address one, who is always able and willing to hear and help us. None teaches like Him. Four ways he teaches to pray. First. By his Word. A form or model-why not both ?—was immediately given these disciples-" He said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil"-The Scripture at large has many instructions how we are to pray. In one place we are told to pray without ceasing-In another, to come boldly to the Throne of GraceIn another, to let our words be few-In another, to ask in faith, nothing wavering-In another, to ask in the Name of Jesus-"If ye shall ask any thing in my Name, I will do it."

Secondly. By his example. Whoever lives without prayer, he did not. His example has the force of a law; and "he that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk even as he walked." As to place he prayed in the Wilderness, and he prayed in the Garden. As to time-we read of his rising up early in the morning to pray; and praying in the evening; and continuing all night in prayer. As to observation-he prayed privately, alone, and with his disciples, and in public. As to cases-he prayed when he was baptised; and has taught us to sanctify all ordinances and duties by prayer. When going to send forth his Apostles, he prayed, to teach us to engage in no enterprize, relying on our own

wisdom and strength. When he was transfigured, he prayed, to teach us how to escape the snares of glory and greatness. With strong crying and tears he made supplication, when he was sore amazed and very heavy, to teach us, if afflicted, to pray. To teach us to love our enemies, when they pierced his hands and his feet, he prayed-"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing." And to teach us how to finish our course, he dies, praying-"Into thy hands I commit my spirit."

Thirdly. By his providence. Ah! Christians, this may explain many a dispensation that has made you tremble and grieve. "I will go, and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face in their affliction, they will seek me early"-That is-I will teach them to pray. What did Absalom, when he wished for an interview with Joab, who, when sent for, refused to come? Go, said he to his servant, and set his corn on fire-and then he will soon come. And so it fell out. And, speedily and eagerly approaching him, Why hast thou done this? says Joab. Absalom replies-Not because I designed to injure thee; but I wanted to converse with thee; and my messengers were refused. So, when you are lifeless in prayer, and backward in the exercise, and disregard the invitation, "Seek ye my face;" some fiery trial consumes or threatens some of your possessions or comforts; and, alarmed and perplexed, then you anxiously say unto God, "Do not condemn me: shew me wherefore Thou contendest with me." You then also want succour and consolation; and therefore pray, "Let thy lovingkindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.' How many of the prayers of God's people in the Scripture were, both in their reality and excellency too, the offspring of those measures by which the Lord not only chastened, but taught them.


Fourthly. By his Spirit. What means "praying

« 上一頁繼續 »