« 이전계속 »
us, should be continually on our minds as a motive for continual watchfulness, and a source of the greatest comfort. Thou God seest me, should be written on the walls of our closet, or, rather deeply engraven on our hearts. Before an earthly superior, we are careful and circumspect in all our expressions and actions : how careful then should we be when we approach unto one, who, though he is our Father, is yet the KING OF KINGS, and the LORD OF LORDS! “If an angel in all his heavenly brightness were to be with us, surely our hearts would feel awed by his glorious presence. How much more then should it affect us, and fill us with a holy fear to think, •I am with God : he is present in the room with me, that God is now about me whose glory stains and sullies the beauty, and extinguishes the light of angels !
Rush not hastily, then, into the presence of God. Pause for a few moments. Meditate on his character. Consider his goodness, he is our Father: consider his greatness, he is in heaven.
Recollect THE GLORIOUS WHOM YOU ADDRESS.-He is in heaven, and we are upon earth. It is with reflections of this kind, that David begins many of his Psalms. Thus he says in the 104th Psalm, “O Lord, my God, thou art very great, thou art clothed with majesty and honour. Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment, who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain, who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters, who maketh the clouds his chariot, who walketh upon the wings of the wind." These recollections of his majesty are calculated, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, to bring your mind to a state of solemnity and devotional feeling. But lest this view of his awful grandeur should discourage you,
Recollect HIS WONDERFUL GRACE AND MERCY. How he endears himself to you by characters of the utmost tenderness, compassion, and love. " Thy Maker is thine husband, the Lord of hosts is his name." Isa. liv, 5. Return, saith the Lord, for I am married to you. Jer. iii, 12-14. What affectionate wife will not rejoice in an opportunity of meeting a kind and faithful husband ! What child, in a proper state of mind, will not willingly run to the arms of a tender father inviting it to come to him! It is our want of faith and love that makes our prayers a task and a burden. How often God invites us to pray, how much he promises, in order to encourage us to come to him with a holy boldness and confidence, freely and unreservedly! We need not fear to ask, when God himself commands us to do so.
Sect. III.-On the subjects to be mentioned in Prayer.
“ The feeling of our wants,” says Mrs. More, “the confession of our sins, the acknowledgment of our dependence, the renunciation of ourselves, the supplicatior: for mercy, the application to the fountain opened for sin, the cordial entreaty for the aid of the Spirit, the relinquishment of our own will, resolutions of better obedience, petitions that those resolutions may be directed and sanctified ; these are the subjects in which the supplicant should be engaged, by which his thoughts should be absorbed.”
Prayer being the expression of the heart's desire to God, we should, with all simplicity and sincerity, open our hearts unto him. When you retire to your devotions, lay aside all artifice, all needless form, all distracting anxiety, and express your desires with the utmost plainness of speech.
Consider before you begin, what are those sins, which, , if you were now on the point of death, would weigh most on your conscience, confess them, enlarge upon their circumstances and aggravations, bewail them, and plead for pardon through the blood of Christ.-What BLESSING is there that you would desire above all other things if you were sure to have your wish ? Whatever it be, whether it be the supply of earthly wants, or pardon, grace, peace, or heaven itself-ask and ye shall have. What are those MERCIES and comforts which others have not, but you are now enjoying ? and what are those which you could least of all spare ? give hearty and unfeigned thanks for the possession of these. Consider the WANTS OF YOUR FRIENDS, your immediate relatives and your acquaintance, and intercede for them. In short, make known your present sins, wants, desires, and mercies, and empty the very thoughts of your heart in the most easy and obvious expressions. “Lord, save me, or I perish ; Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me: God be merciful to me a sinner;" coming from a full heart, are of prevailing weight and inportance; while the most eloquent form of words, which is the mere expression of the lips, is utterly unavailing. Thus you may see that there need not be any difficulty for the poorest and most unlearned to express their desires in prayer. And do you complain of indisposition and unwillingness to set about the duty ? go to the footstool of mercy, confess, in broken sighs and groans, even this indiposition of heart, cast this care upon God, and he will either remove it, or accept those broken sighs, and unexpressed wishes of the heart, which mark the unfeigned desire to find his favour, and to love and serve him. The great thing is to have the heart right with God; then there will be no difficulty in finding
matter for prayer. What the heart feels, the mouth will express; and the varying temptations and circumstances of life will thus afford great variety in your prayers. Dwell, therefore, chiefly on those things which you are most deeply affected with, which are warmest in your own hearts.
Prayer for TEMPORAL BLESSINGS should ever be mingled with expressions of entire and unfeigned submission to the will of God. To ask for them thus is not improper, but perfectly right, for many of the highest saints have done so, and it may please God in this way to impart those temporal good things which we need. Hannah asks for children, and God hears her prayer. Hezekiah asks for health, and his sickness is removed. Paul prays for the Father of Publius sick of a fever, and he is healed. Acts xxviii, 8. Nay, Asa is blamed because in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians. 2 Chron. xvi, 12. Only see to it that
your desires are purified from all carnal ends, and sanctified to the glory of God, that is, that you desire to serve him more through the things which you request. This makes the end of the prayer spiritual.
Prayer for SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS, for pardon, peace, holiness, love, the favour of God, and the glory of heaven, calls for great earnestness. Take no denial. Say, like Jacob, I will not let thee go except thou bless 'me. Gen. xxxii, 26. Be importunate with your God. The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. Yet it is possible to desire even spiritual things for merely carnal ends, as with the notion of meriting heaven by them, for human applause, &c. And it is too true, that not only the formalist, but a really devout man in general, may thus sometimes make a carnal prayer even when asking for spiritual things. Indeed,
every prayer that we offer up needs divine forgiveness, and the Saviour's mediation.
Sect. IV.-On Forms of Prayer.
Forms of Prayer are in themselves not only lawful, (Luke xi, 2.) but often, even in private, expedient and advantageous. They are a help by which a child may be trained to walk alone; the staff by which weak Christians may, through the divine blessing, be supported ; or the strong, occasionally, when labouring un. der present deadness, or indisposition, be much assisted.
The necessity for forms of prayer must therefore be left to the cases and consciences of individuals. Let it be remembered, that it is not forms of prayer, nor the want of them, that makes real devotion ; but the grace of God in Christ Jesus. It is confessed, that many not only do not use forms, but would be straitened in the use of them. Surely Christians ought to have wisdom and charity neither to censure, nor to speak disdainfully of those who in earnest seek communion with God, either in the use of forms or without them. “ The graces of prayer,” says Bennett, “ faith, love, humility, contrition, resignation, holy desires, and devout affections, are the life and soul of prayer, and much more to be regarded than this or that mode of outward performance."
Bishop Wilkins, after allowing the use of forms for the young and weaker Christian, both in the family and the closet, and giving him a caution as to the necessity of being “ narrowly watchful over his own heart, for fear of that lip service and formality to which, in such cases, we are more especially exposed,” adds as follows : “ But, for any one so to sit down and satisfy himself with this book prayer, or prescribed form, as to go no farther,