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SERMON 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,
Pray to God, in the belief that with him there is power which can give us relief, and goodness which will incline him to give it. Prayer supposes a full persuasion that his Providence rules and governs all; that through all futurity his eye penetrates that there are no events of our life in which he interposes not; that he knows the most secret motions of our hearts; and that to the hearts of all men he has access, by avenues unknown to us, and can turn them according to his pleasure. It supposes at the same 6
time, a firm confidence in the declarations SERMON he has made in his word, that a plan is established for dispensing grace to fallen and guilty mankind, through a great Redeemer. It supposes a humble hope that as he knows our frame and remembers we are dust, he will not reject the supplications of the penitent returning sinner; that he is one who hath no pleasure in our sorrows and distress, but desires the happiness of his creatures, and beholds with complacency the humble and sincere worshipper.
Now these things being supposed, this just sense of our own imperfections and guilt, and this proper impression of the Divine nature, when the soul is in this posture of devotion, breathing forth its sorrows and its wants before its Creator, and imploring from him protection and aid, it cannot but give vent to the high conceptions with which it will then be affected of God's supreme perfection. This of course becomes the foundation of that part of devotion which is styled adoration or praise. As it is the experience of past goodness which warms the heart of the worshipper, and encourages his present Dd 2 suppli
SERMON Supplication, he will naturally be led to a grateful celebration of the mercies of Heaven; whence thanksgiving becomes an essential part of his devotion. As he cannot put up petitions without acknowledging his wants, and as his wants are closely connected with his frailty and ill-deserving, hence the most humble confession of guilt must necessarily enter into Prayer. If there be any terms on which we may expect the Deity to be most propitious; if there be any meritorious Intercessor through whom we may prefer our request to him, this assuredly will be the method which the pious worshipper will choose for addressing the Almighty; and this will be the ground of his praying in the name of Christ, sending up his petitions to God through his beloved Son, whom he heareth always.
Thus it appears that there is a just foundation for Prayer, in all its parts,' naturally laid in the present circumstances of man, and in the relation in which he stands to God. But as petition is the chief and most distinguishing part of prayer, it will be requisite that we consider particularly what those requests are, which are proper
to be offered up to God. These may all SERMON be classed under three heads: first, requests for temporal blessings; next, for spiritual mercies; and lastly, intercessions for the welfare of others.
WITH regard to temporal blessings, though men may lay a restraint upon themselves in the expressions which they utter in Prayer, yet it is much to be suspected, that the inward wishes of their hearts for such blessings are often the most fervent of any. To wish and pray for the advantages of life is not forbidden. Our Saviour hath so far countenanced it, as to command us to pray that God would give us our daily bread; that is, as his words have been always understood, that he would bestow what is necessary for the sustenance and comfort of life. Yet the very sound of the words retrenches every superfluous and extravagant wish. Not for riches and honours, for great advancement or long life, or for numerous and flourishing families, has he given us any encouragement to pray. Foreign are such things to the real improvement, foreign very often
SERMON to the true happiness of man. Foolishly they may be wished for, when the wish accomplished would prove our ruin. Let health and peace, contentment and tranquillity, bound the humble prayer which we send up to Heaven; that God may feed us with food convenient for us; that whatever our outward circumstances are, they may be blessed to us by him, and accompanied with a quiet mind. Even health and peace themselves may not always prove blessings. Sweet and desirable as they seem, God may, at certain times, foresee their tendency to corrupt our hearts, and may, in mercy, reject a prayer for them, which, on our part, may be allowably put up. For the nature of all temporal things is such, that they have not one fixed and stable character, but may be convertible on different occasions either into good or ill; and therefore, some reserve in our wish must always be maintained; and to the wiser judgment of God, it must be left to determine what is fit to be bestowed, and what to be withheld. But this we may lawfully pray, that, as far as to God seems meet, he would make our state comfortable,