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Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Art thou ready to despair? Thou canst not be in more desperate circumstances than the thief on the cross. Was not his believing prayer, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom," answered ? And how? “To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." (!)
· Nothing in my hands I bring;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.” “ The error of the early Fathers upon the subject of prayer, consisted in their ascription of far too much to man, and far too little to God, in its acceptable service. This appears in a two-fold character. In the first place, they tax the innate powers of man too heavily : they call upon him to repress sin in his own heart, and then to appear before God; whereas, the Scripture every where exhorts us to ask of God to create a clean heart within us, because it is a blessing which He only can impart. But so possessed are they, with this power in man to deal independently with God in the matter of sin, that, in treating upon forgiveness, they become oblivious of the doctrine of the atonement -“We deny that there is any power in man, either to purify his own heart, or to offer to God by his own unassisted effort, the prayer which He will hear and answer.
* “ Doctrinal Errors,” p. 125.
For these, he must be altogether indebted to that Holy Ghost who is also termed in Scripture the Spirit of supplication;' and of whom it is declared, that He 'helpeth the infirmities' of the believer in prayer, Himself making intercession for him *.!"
These passages are very important, as they express in a clear manner an erroneous view of the doctrine of prayer, which has kept but too many from the Throne of Grace. It is, in fact, the devil's grand device, to induce the poor sinner to believe that it is presumption to go before God in prayer, until he has in some measure purified his own heart. Now, as this can only be effected by the power of God, so long as his great enemy can thus keep him from prayer he is but too secure of his prey; while, on the other hand, it has been most expressively said, that
Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.” A desire to receive-a sense of the need of spiritual blessings-is the preparation of the Spirit for the offering of acceptable prayer. Whatsoever is commanded or promised in the Bible, may be asked for, with confidence that such petitions are according to the will of God. Men may at all times, and under any circumstances, come boldly, as needy suppliants, to the Throne of Grace, in the name of Jesus, the ever-living High Priest. To refrain from prayer, is to despise the commands and the promises of the Most High.
And here, if I may do so without violating the
* " Doctrinal Errors,” pp. 120, 121.
sacredness of the memory of one who will be ever held in most tender recollection by his children, I would venture to introduce his earnest exhortation on this subject, given in writing to each of them, upon an occasion when of all others it was likely to make the deepest impression. He thus writes :“ There is, however, one of the duties, and at the same time one of the highest privileges, of this glorious Gospel dispensation, to which I would call your most serious attention the duty and the privilege of prayer.
“ You need not to be told that prayer is not dependent upon words, or, that the mere repetition of words, unaccompanied by the incense of the heart, is not prayer; but that
Prayer is the breathing of a sigh,' &c. Still, independent as the performance of this duty is of form or system-of time or place-yet, to beings composed of matter as well as spirit, some degree of attention to these, though not indispensable, is at least helpful; and I would strongly recommend the morning, before you leave your chambers, and the evening, before you commit yourselves to sleep, as seasons peculiarly appropriate for this exercise. I have found the mere attitude of the body, to be no mean help to a preparation for that state of mind in which alone we can acceptably pray; and I will venture to add, for your encouragement, though under feelings of great self-abasement, and a deep sense of my own unworthiness, that some of the sweetest moments of my life have been spent upon my knees.”
In the progress of this little work, I have been deeply impressed with the extreme importance of an individual examination of the grounds on which we receive and hold opinions on matters of the highest interest ; and of cultivating the habit of a continual reference to the Bible, which alone is the safe, as well as the ultimate, standard of religious truth.
Every serious mind acknowledges the infinitely superior importance of the affairs of the soul and of eternity, to those of time and sense. Shall we, then, receive our religious belief as an unexamined heirloom? Shall we lay aside the charter of our spiritual liberty, satisfied with the knowledge of its name and character only, and, if we may so speak, knowing little beyond its preamble? Shall we rest satisfied, without anxiously inquiring into and ascertaining our individual right to its immunities and its privileges ? Surely, with the simple admission of the immortality of the soul, common sense compels the anxious inquiry after the means of obtaining an im. mortality of bliss—the scriptural inquiry, “ What must I do to be saved ?"
Allow me, then, to entreat you, my fellow-members, to apply to the subject of religion that liberal spirit of free and untrammelled inquiry, which you so successfully employ on subjects of infinitely less moment; feeling assured, as I do, that a prayerful study of the word of God will build you up in that faith once delivered to the saints, and direct you to lay hold on that hope of eternal life which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The cause is not ours; in humble dependence upon the Divine Blessing I address this little tract
to the calm and candid consideration of my fellowmembers in religious profession ; and, in the words of the great Apostle of the Gentiles, “ I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts xx. 32); and may He“ grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith ; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
“ Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church, by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Eph. iii. 16—21.)