« PreviousContinue »
possible for him to change his own nature; or to will and do, in all cases, contrary to his own mind, he could not be relied upon, any more than the changing wind, or the fluctuating ocean. And must man have more power than God Almighty, or else he cannot be a free agent ! Nothing can be more palpably absurd, than to think it a desirable power, and a great privilege, to be able to will and act without all. motive or reason, and contrary to one's own inclination.
3. What has been said may be of service for the correction of some errors, which are probably common, respecting the design and usefulness of prayer. The end of our being required to offer up supplications and intercessions to God, cannot be to inform him of our wants, or to move his pity, or to make any alteration in his purposes. We are not to conceive of Him, as being altogether like ourselves, or our fellow-men. In petitioning to earthly rulers for justice, or to the rich for mercy, and filling our mouth with arguments, we may hope to convince them of the equitableness of our cause, or to make them acquainted with our necessities, or to move their compassion : but none of these effects can reasonably be expected, from the most melting entreaties, or the most clear and ample representations, to the omniscient, immutable Jehovah—the God of all grace. “ He knows what things we have need of before we ask him; his mercy is self-moved, and he is ever in one mind."
But, though informing, moving, or turning Him, ought not to be thought of as the end of prayer to God ; yet there are purposes to be answered by it, which render it our reasonable service. It is designed to alter us; to make us more sensible of our dependance and so prepare us for mercies ; and also to give glory to the Father of lights, as the giver of every good and perfect gift. This last end, at least,
may be subserved by intercessions for others, as well as by supplications for ourselves. And for all these reasons, prayer is not a vain thing : it is our life and by this shall we escape eternal death. “ For,” says the apostle, “ the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him: for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
4. From this subject it may be seen, that it is our highest wisdom, as well as most indispensible duty, in our wills, desires and prayers, to be resigned to the unalterable will, and the unerring counsel of the only wise God. He certainly knows, and we know not, what is best. His designs are always right, and universally good : our wishes are often partial, selfish, and wrong. Had we our requests in all cases, leanness might be sent into our souls; it might be ruinous to ourselves, as well as hurtful to the uni. verse.' Unreserved submission, certainly becomes all creatures, to infinite wisdom. We should pray for what appears desirable to us, provided only it seem good in the sight of God. Indeed, in regard to things expressly revealed to be the Divine will, there is no room for such a proviso or submission. In our desires and prayers for saving grace—for personal holiness, and heavenly happiness, we need not express a willingness to be denied, if it be the will of God; because we know it is not. We know that they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, shall be filled : and that to the poor in spirit, it is the Father's good pleasure to give the kingdom of heaven. When, therefore, we have this spirit, and sincerely desire these blessings, we may ask for them without reserve.
But in regard to temporal comforts, or being saved from temporal evils—in regard to all things about which the purpose of God is not revealed, submission to his unknown will ever become us. This is what reason dictates; and this is what scripture eonstantly inculcates. Many are the precepts enjoining this, and many the examples by which it is enforced. Not to multiply texts, on a point so abundantly taught, and so self-evident, I will only observe, that our Saviour directed his disciples, before they petitioned for daily bread, to pray that the will of God might be done. And that, when he himself was in the bitterest agony, and prayed most earnestly for relief, yet he was all resignation. Father, says he, “if thou be willing, remove this cup from me : nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." Let us bear in remembrance this spirit of our suffering Saviour ; and may the same mind be in us, which was in Him. AMEX,
ON THE ALL-GOVERNING PROVIDENCE OF GOD.
ISAIAH XLV. 7.
I form the light, and create darkness ; I make peace, and create
evil. I the Lord do all these things.
E are apt to be forgetful of our entire dependance upon God, and not to have a proper sense of the operation of his hand, either in the good things we enjoy, or in the evils we suffer. In the day of prosperity we rejoice ; but are not often duly thankful to the great Author of all our blessings. In the day of adversity we are grieved; but seldom consider, as we ought, that the calamities which have befallen us are frowns of heaven. The best, need frequently to be reminded of these things ; though they know them, and are well established in the truth of them.
But I have something further in view at present, than merely stirring up your minds by way of remembrance. It is difficult to know what ought to be believed concerning the divine agency, in many things that are done and suffered under the sun. There may be danger of erring on either hand : of ascribing to the holy Governor of the universe what would be a dishonorable imputation ; as well as of not giving him the glory which is indeed due to his name, as the Creator and Lord of all.
“Whence comes evil ?” is a question which has exceedingly puzzled wise men, in former ages of the world. That a being of perfect holiness, should be the author of sin ; or that a being of infinite goodness should be the original introducer of misery, seems absurd to suppose. And yet, that any thing should come into existence, without an uncreated first cause, appears equally impossible.
From this dilemma, some of the ancient philosophers, who had only the light of nature, were led to believe that there must be two eternal beings, of equal power, and of directly opposite dispositions : One the author of all good; the other the author of all evil. Had they attended more fully to the matter, they might have seen, one would think, that the hypothesis of two necessarily existent, uncontrolable, contending beings, was as great an absurdity as any which it could be invented to avoid.
But, whatever might have been discovered by mere human reason, this, certainly, is a supposition which revelation utterly rejects. The God of the Bible is One, who alone inhabiteth eternity. The blessed and only Potentate—whose hand none can staywhose counsel shall stand-who doeth, in heaven and · earth, and in all deep places, whatsoever He pleaseth. This glory is often given him by inspired holy men; and this he claims to himself in many places of scripture, and very emphatically in the words chosen for our present subject.
These words are part of a prophecy concerning the great conqueror of the Assyrian empire, and deliverer of Israel out of captivity in Babylon ; addressed to him by name, two hundred years before he was born. See ver. 1, of this chapter : “ Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him.” And from ver. 4th to the text. 66 For Jacob my