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be so lowering as to forebode some great calamity ; or in his private concerns let some sudden change arrive to shatter his fortune, or let sickness, and the harbingers of approaching death, show him his frailty; and how ready will he then be to send up prayers from the heart, that Providence would befriend and relieve him ? Religion, my friends, is not a matter of theory and doubt. Its foundations are laid deep in the nature and condition of man. It lays hold of
every man's feelings. In every man's heart and conscience it has many witnesses to its importance and reality.
Let us then neglect no means which may be of avail for procuring the grace and favour of that Divine Providence on which so much depends. Let no duties be overlooked which belong to us as subjects of God: devout worship, and grateful praises for all his blessings, humble trust in his goodness, and implicit submission to his will; and constant and cheerful obedience to his laws. Let us be thankful that God hath clearly made known all that he requires of us in order to be accepted in his sight; and that not only he has revealed the rule of duty, but also hath pointed out to us in the Gospel, the direct method of reconciliation with him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Providence hath condescended to become our instructor in this great article ; hath taught us in what way our sins may be forgiven, our imperfect services be accepted, and an interest in the Divine grace be attained by means of our Redeemer. Inexcusable we must be, if all this offered grace we shall wantonly throw at our feet. In a world so full of vicissitudes and uncertainty, let us take pains to secure to ourselves one resting place; one habitation that cannot be moved. By piety and prayer, by faith, repentance, and a good life, let us seek the friendship of the Most High; so shall he who directeth the steps of man now, conduct our path in such a course as shall bring us in the end to himself.
PSALM lxv. 2.
0 Thou tħat hearest prayer, unto Thee shall all flesh
THE Supreme Being is represented under many
amiable characters in the sacred writings; as the Father of mercies, the God of love, the Author of every good and perfect gift. But there is no character which carries more comfort, or which renders God so properly the object of confidence and trust, as this, of his being the Hearer of Prayer. This view of the Almighty accommodates his perfections to our necessities and wants, and in our present frail and distressed state affords a constant refuge to which we can fly. Unto Thee shall all flesh come. To Thee, shall an indigent world look up for the supply of their wants; to Thee, shall the proudest sinner, at some time or other, be compelled to bow; to Thee, shall the distressed and afflicted have recourse, as to their last relief and hope.
Prayer is a duty essential to natural religion. Wherever the light of nature taught men to acknowledge the being of a God, to that God also it directed them to pray. In the Christian revelation great stress is laid upon this duty, and great encouragement given to it. Our blessed Saviour not only set the
example himself, and enjoined the practice to his followers, but thought it worthy his express instruction to teach them in what manner to pray, and even to put words in their mouth. We are assured that prayers are not in vain ; but that as the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, so his ears are open to their cry; that if we ask aright, we shall receive; if we seek, we shall find; if we knock, it shall be opened to us. It is, indeed, hard to say, whether prayer is to be most properly considered as a duty incumbent on all, or as a privilege allowed to them. But a blessed circumstance it is, that our duty and our privilege thus concur in one; that we are commanded to do what our wants naturally dictate to be done; even to ask what is good from God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not. - In treating of this
subject, it will be proper to consider first, the nature and the subjects of prayer; next, its proper qualifications; and lastly, the advantages and blessings which attend it.
I. The Nature of Prayer supposes, in the first place, that we have a just sense of our own wants and miseries, and of our dependence on God for relief. To be suitably impressed with this sense, we need only think what our present situation is. We live in a world, where every thing around us is dark and uncertain. When we look back on the past, we must remember that there we have met with much disappointment and vanity. When we look forward to the future, all is unknown. We are liable there to many dangers which we cannot foresee; and to many, which we foresee approaching, yet know not how to defend ourselves against them. We are often ignorant what course we can 'steer with safety; nay, so imperfect is our own wisdom, and so great the darkness which covers futurity, that while we imagine that we are in the road to prosperity, we are often rushing blindly into the most fatal evils. Besides these contingencies of life, which make us feel so deeply the necessity of looking up to some more powerful Guide and Protector, there are other circumstances in our state which lead to reflections still more alarming. We know that we are the subjects of a supreme righteous Governor, to whom we are accountable for our conduct. We were sent into this world by his appointment, and we are removed from it at his decree. How soon the call for our removal may be given, none of us know; but this we profess to believe, that upon our going hence we are to be brought into new and unknown habitations, suitable to our behaviour here. Who amongst us can say that he is perfectly ready to appear before his Creator and Judge, and to give an account to him for all the actions of his life? How much do the best of us stand in need of mercy and forgiveness for our offences past, and of direction and assistance from Heaven to guide us in our future way! What reason to dread that if we be left entirely to ourselves we will be in the utmost danger of departing from virtue and from happiness, and of leaving life under the displeasure of Him who is to judge us! - While with this sense of our imperfections, our dangers, and our guilt, we come to the Hearer of Prayer, we must in the next place,