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speaking, in the preceding chapter, of that most awful and interesting topic, the resurrection. And in the first verse of the chapter before us he anticipates a very natural inquiry to which that comfortable and cheering doctrine would give rise in the breasts of those to whom he was addressing this epistle, with regard to the time when this great event was to take place; “but of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say peace and safety ; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light and the day; we are not of the night, nor of the darkness. Therefore let us not sleep as do others, but let us watch and be sober.” It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which God hath put into his own power. Such knowledge would retard, not promote your salvation. It is your duty rather to stand prepared with your loins girt and your lights burning; and to make a diligent use and improvement of the time which may be allotted you on earth in order to grow in grace.
And in what way, or by what method can this great end be promoted but by constant prayer for divine strength and illumination, that you may see your way clearly through the dangers and difficulties that assail the Christian in every stage of his pilgrimage, and withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Therefore pray without ceasing.
Prayer being the natural as well as appointed medium of communication between God and his creatures, it would seem almost superfluous for me to point out to you the duty and reasonableness of it. Some there are, I doubt not, now before me, who are in the daily habit of experiencing the privileges and sweetness of prayer, and who would not h golden opportunities which it presents for growth in grace and godliness, for ten thousand worlds. It is however to be feared, as well as lamented, that the majority of our congregations have yet to learn that prayer is a duty of the first importance, and which cannot be neglected without open affront to God himself, and the greatest possible danger to their own souls. To such I shall, first, point out the duty of prayer, simply considered : and, secondly, show you to what extent it should be carried.
I. I shall consider the duty of prayer as 'onjoined in the text. “ Pray.”
This will more clearly appear from a transient view of our circumstances as fallen creatures. :
There can be no doubt, that in man's original state of innocence, praise, not prayer, was the delightful language of his intercourse with heaven. This, like a pure unmingled stream, issued forth from unpolluted lips in man's first and happy estate. In paradise, prayer had no place. Our first parents had no sins to lament, no wants that asked a supply, no dangers to guard against, so long as they continued steady in their obedience to the command of their Creator. All was love and affiance. Lord of the creation, and inferior only to God, man expressed his dependence on the hand that sustained him by one continued acknowledgement of praise, which ascended the skies as constantly and naturally as the dews of evening. Sin, alas! too soon defaced this goodly picture, and polluted this fair stream with other ingredients; with the earthly admixture of prayer. For prayer, though so inestimable a jewel, is still, my brethren, of earthly origin and of earthly extraction. Fallen and helpless, and dependent, man, now become subject to death, disease, and innumerable solicitations of want, must drop “ the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,” and sue daily to Almighty grace for the supply of his necessities. Being fallen from innocence and abundance, having contracted guilt, and forfeited his right to all sorts of mercies, prayer is fitted for a lower dispensation ; before which, in Paradise, there was nothing but praise ; and after which, there shall be nothing but that in heaven.
Our condition, then, is a fallen one; and as such, is liable to all the miseries, wants, and infirmities, originally entailed upon sin. And the grand means of alleviating those miseries, supplying those wants, and helping those infirmities, is prayer. This is that mighty wrestling with God; and it shall prevail.
But let not any one imagine, that because prayer is more especially adapted to the wants and infirmities of fallen, degraded man, prayer itself is therefore a degrading employment. Quite the reverse. The example of our Saviour alone is abundantly sufficient to prevent such a surmise. His whole life was a life of prayer. It is true he had no sins to confess. He was holy, undefiled, and separate from sinners. But, by reason of his partaking of our human nature, he had the same natural wants that asked a supply ; he was subject to hunger and thirst; he had the same spiritual trials to contend with, “ being tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin." He prayed, and he prayed both fervently and constantly. The mid-watches of the night, which others devote to sleep, he consecrated to prayer. He prevented the dawning of the day; and the dews of evening increased, not allayed his fer vour. Herein, therefore, is our blessed Lord himself our pattern. He was a man of prayer. And what he so strenuously adopted in his own practice, the same he positively enjoined his followers, and laid it as a duty upon the Church in all after ages. “ Watch and pray," said he, “ lest ye enter into temptation, Pray to your Father in secret, ånd your Father which seeth in secret, shall reward you openly. If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father in heaven give good things to them that ask Him. Ask and ye shall have, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you."