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individual who is seeking the salvation of his soul, to have some two or three decided, established, wellascertained Christian friends, and to make it a point, in every case of difficulty or distress, of opposition from without or of perplexity within, consulting with them upon terms of Christian association, and to be guarded, very guarded, how any course is pursued in relation to the concerns of his own soul, his intercourse with others, his conformity to the world, which has upon it the mark of a real Christian friend's disapprobation. “Bear ye one another's burdens,” is the exhortation of Scripture, and thus fulfil the law of Christ. Even the reproofs of a Christian friend are aids in the great work of religion, which are of incalculable importance; and though for the time they may be borne with difficulty, the advantage will inevitably be seen; for the wise man tells us, that the reproofs of instruction are the way of life. In fine, my friends, there is no single circumstance in the wide circle of religious communication from which the individual engaged in the great work of religion may not derive instruction and advancement. The sympathy, the experience, the advice, the reproof of friends, all conspire to aid the cause he has in hand. By a kind of instinctive application, he may make the cares, the views, the feelings of those by whom he is surrounded, his own to take advantage of. From their dangers he may learn the means of safety, and may avoid the difficulties which have marred their happiness and usefulness. From their backsliding he may learn the necessity of continual watchfulness and prayer, and the stern inflexibility of purpose essential to his salvation; from their haltings he may learn the infinite importance of
growing in grace. From their victories over themselves, and over opposition and persecution, he may learn the deep importance of a holy courage, and a fervour undismayed. The fortitude which he sees in others, the patience which he observes, the resignation he notes, the calm endurance of trial he remarks, may, by an easy effort, be transplanted, as it were, into his own bosom, and made to grow and flourish there in all their richness and luxuriance. He may take the faith and hope, the comfort and the joy of those in whose sweet communion he is familiarized, and make them all his own; and even from their sorrows he derives a refined and lovely interest and sensibility. And thus he may learn the rare and difficult science of regulating his conduct on the living model of the Gospel, as it stands out conspicuous in the conduct of the real children of God. It is under these considerations, my friends, that every individual engaged in the great work of religion has the aid of the sympathy, the experience, the counsel of the children of God; and I ask you if that is not a great work which can find a friend in every regenerated heart, and make that friend, when found, an auxiliary to personal piety, and a helper in the way to heaven?
But there is still one point under this head which I have purposely left till now.
The individual engaged in the great work of religion not only has the aid of the king's resources, but the aid of his prayers. Prayer has about it a mysterious energy. The peculiarities of its operations are among those secret things which belong unto the Lord our God. The duty is revealed, plainly and distinctly revealed. How it avails with God, is not for us to inquire. God is immutable, and the purposes of his providence or grace can neither fail nor be altered; and yet within the scope of those purposes the prayers of his people have their mysterious operations. Founded upon the direct attestations of the Scriptures, it may be said without hyperbole, that prayer moves the hand which moves the world; and in God's own language it is written, “that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” When Jacob wrestled with the angel of the covenant till he obtained the blessing, on that singular ground his name was changed to Israel, because he had power with God and prevailed. The intercession of Moses oft times stayed, as it were, the hand of God, as it was outstretched to bring ruin upon the rebellious people. And when we descend to A postolic times, the great apostle of the Gentiles, favoured as he was with peculiar manifestations of the presence of God, knew and acknowledged the benefit to be derived from the living intercessions of the people of God. Brethren, says he, in one place, “Pray for us;" in another, “Finally, brethren, pray, and that the word of God may have free course, and be glorified;" and in his noble dissertation on the enemies and the arms of Christianity, contained in Ephesians, 6th chapter, he thus sublimely carries the subject from them to himself:-“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds; that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”*
And in one of the circumstances of the deepest distress in which the same apostle was involved, because the honour and glory of God was concerned, he thus comforts himself amidst the tribulation by faith in the favourable issue:-“For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” +
But I need not carry out this subject. If, in his pilgrimage of life; if, in the discharge of the duties of his apostleship, Paul knew and felt the benefits of the prayers of those who had access to the throne of God, and knew the benefit so well as to seek it with earnestness and supplication; of how much more abundant aid may prayer be the instrument in the case of those who now are engaged in the great work of their salvation. The children of God, by whom I mean real converted Christians, are those who have access to the ear of the omnipotent Lord of heaven and of earth, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself takes their prayers, and sprinkling them with the cleansing efficacy of his own precious blood, presents them before the mercy seat, and himself pleads the cause.
And in nothing can the children of God bestow a richer boon, than in pouring out their souls in
prayer for those whom they love, and whose salvation is dear to them as the apple of the eye.
If there is an individual here pursuing through evil, and through good report, through ridicule and persecution and reproach, the great work of religion, let him
seek, as among the encouragements of his pilgrim way, not only the experience, not only the sympathy, not only the counsel, but the prayers of the people of God. If they are the children of God, they will give them. Silver and gold they may have none; worldly affluence or estimation they may have none; but if they have access to a throne of grace, they have more to give than gold, or silver refined and purified. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers.
Take encouragement, ye who are engaged in the great work of religion, for even if unasked, you are not forgotten by those whose prayers are set forth as the incense, and the lifting up of whose hands is an acceptable sacrifice. If in the unfortunate predicament of having no religious, devoted Christian friends, who, with you, may present your case at a throne of mercy; there are nevertheless those who present the character you bear whenever they approach the mercy seat. What a great, inconceivably great work is this; what encouragement for you to press boldly towards the mark, when you consider that, like the perpetual fire upon the altar of old, which threw its ceaseless volumes towards the upper sanctuary of God, there goes up, from the hearts of God's people, one ceaseless cloud of incense, and that one request which, by prayer and supplication, is ever made known unto God, is, that on you, you who are engaged in this great work, he would pour out the spirit of his grace; such prayers as Christians make, are recorded in the Scriptures. “May the God of peace,” prays Paul for the Hebrews—“ may the God of peace, that