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to their growth in grace. It is in this way usually that the dross and tin are purged from their charac ters, and the heavenly treasure is made to shine. "The trial of their faith is more precious there fore than that of gold that perisheth, that it might be found unto praise and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ."-Here then we discover a good reason why God should delay for a time, and in particular instances for a long time, to answer the requests of his praying people. It is that he may try their faith, prove their love, exhibit them to the created universe in the most lovely attitude, and promote their highest spiritual good..
2. God may delay for a time to hear and answer the prayers of his people, in order to impress upon them more deeply their dependence. A deep and ha bitual sense of this is of the utmost importance to the saints, and may be regarded indeed as one of the first and most efficient principles of the spiritual life. But should God uniformly bestow particular favors in the very time and manner which his people desire, would there be no reason to apprehend that their sense of dependence on him might be diminished, if not lost? Would it not ultimately come to this, that creatures would exalt themselves higher than God; would regard him as their servant, rather than their sovereign; and feel that the blessings they received from him were their own, and of their own procuring ?-It is doubtless important, that God should in many instances delay to answer the requests of his people, that he might the more deeply impress upon them his sovereignty, and their dependence; and shew them effectually that they must come to him for all they need, and be grateful to him for all they receive.
3. God may delay for a time to answer the prayers of his people, that he may by this means excite them to more prayer.-Though prayer is of all services the most delightful, and honourable, and, perhaps important; still, it is one which proud and sinful men are strangely backward to perform. They need to be quickened to it by various motives, and by the continual pressure of their wants. Were the prayers of God's people immediately answered; were their wants at once supplied and their desires gratified; there would be danger at least that prayer with them would be restrained. How many prayers were probably offered up by the Israelites in Egypt, which never would have been offered up, had their first cry for deliverance been heard? And what a spirit of prayer must have been at times excited, in regard to the expected coming of Christ, which never could have been excited, had he made his appearance the moment he was desired? By delaying for a time the requests of his people now, God excites in them a spirit of prayer, and leads them to a humble and persevering practice of this inportant duty. I add,
4. God may delay for a time to answer the requests of his children, that he may the better prepare them to receive his favors.-When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, they were expecting and praying to enter directly into Canaan; but they were far from being prepared to enter there. Had that generation, with all their evil and idolatrous propensities, been ushered directly into Canaan, they would soon have become as corrupt as the Canaanites themselves. And so it is very frequently with Christians now. They pray and plead for a particular favor, when their heavenly Father sees they are not prepared to receive it; and when, should he be
stow it in the manner they desire, it would be a means of injuring if not destroying them. He must first try and prove them with difficulties and delay, and thus prepare them for a blessing. He must so chasten and humble them, promote their experience, and establish their hearts with heavenly grace, that his favors may not lift them up to their own destruction.
The important lesson, friends and brethren, which I hope we may all learn from this discourse, is that suggested by our Saviour in the text;-"We ought always to pray and not to faint." We should learn to be fervent and persevering in our prayers.-We may perhaps have children, relatives, or friends, for whose spiritual welfare we feel sincerely desirous, and for whose conversion we have often prayed. But God has seen fit to delay an answer.-Or we may have felt our need of a general revival of religion; and may have gone to God, day after day, to plead his promises and grace, and to implore that he would visit us with the special influences of his Holy Spirit Still these influences are withholden, and no symptoms of life or motion are witnessed among the spiritually dead. But we ought not to feel under such circumstances as though any strange thing had happened unto us, or allow ourselves to become discouraged and negligent in prayer. This is the way, we have seen, in which God has dealt with his people in other ages, and in respect to other things. He has for wise and holy reasons delayed to answer their requests; and for such reasons, no doubt, he is delaying to answer ours. He is purposing to try our faith, and prove the sincerity and ardor of our love; or to teach us more effectually our dependence, and bring us nearer to himself; or to humble and establish our wayward hearts, and thus prepare us for the
reception of his mercies. Or it may be his purpose. to excite us by these delays to a greater Spirit of prayer, and render us more fervent and faithful in the performance of this duty. We have no reason therefore to be discouraged. We ought ever to pray, and not to faint." We should endeavour to learn those important lessons, which the various discipline of our heavenly Father is fitted to teach us, and continue crying to him with unwearied fervor and perseverance, that he would hear, forgive, and bless. In the instances referred to in this discourse, though he was pleased to delay long, he did not delay for ever. Though centuries intervened between the request and its answer, still it was answered, and in the best time. And though God may for the present delay an answer to our prayers, this is no evidence that our prayers are lost. They may be answered perhaps when we are dead, and descend in blessings upon our surviving families, upon the Church, and upon future generations.
The great object of prayer, which has been in a degree for ages, and more particularly for the last twenty or thirty years, before the Church, is the final triumph and universal prevalence of the religion of: Christ. We find a period promised in our Scriptures,. when Satan shall be bound a thousand years; when all shall know the Lord from the least unto the greatest; and when the earth shall be filled with the glory and love of God as the waters cover the seas. Towards this bright and happy period, the eyes of saints are intently fixed, and their prayers and exertions are unitedly directed. But God has been pleased to delay for a long time a full and satisfactory answer to their humble requests. Not only. years but centuries have passed away, since the
hearts of his people have been turned to this object; thousands of prayer meetings have been held; millions of prayers have been offered up; and probably millions of those who have offered them have gone down to the dust; and yet the full splendor of the Millenial day has not shined. And how much longer our God may think proper to delay-how much longer the earth is to be covered with comparative darkness; the wisest among men cannot pretend to know. But this we know, "We ought always to pray, and not to faint." And this we know, that not one prayer which ever has been, is, or will be, offered up in faith in relation to this object, can be lost. God will hear, he will answer, he will ultimately bestow and bless. Though Millenial glory has been long delayed, it will not be delayed forever. Every thing is conspiring to introduce this glorious consummation of the Church; and in the best, the appointed season, it will be ushered in. When the faith and patience of the saints have been sufficiently tried; when they have fully learned their dependence, and been excited to humble, fervent, persevering, and effectual prayer; when all things are ready for so bright a day, and the Church is prepared to receive her King; then, and not till then, will it be proclaimed as with a voice from heaven, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and Saviour, and he shall reign forever and ever."-In prospect of a result so glorious, let us, my brethren, be quickened to more fervent prayer, and more persevering exertions, in advancing the cause and kingdom of our Redeemer. The God we serve is not slack concerning any of his promises. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one of his words of comfort to his people shall ever pass unful