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LECTURE L.-Page 273.
On the Lord's Supper-Part II.
LECTURE LI.-Page 289.
On the Lord's Supper-Part III.
Comprising three Discourses, addressed to the
Inhabitants of Hinxworth, introductory to the preceding Lectures.
OF THE DUTY OF PRAYER IN GENERAL.
1 THESSALONIANS, V. 17.
ON a subject of such vast importance as prayer, it is impossible to be too full or explicit. It is a duty that cannot be too much enforced, because the neglect of it exposes us to all the evil and misery, both of this life and the next, and reduces us to a state of savage nature. Even among the most barbarous and unenlightened people upon earth, we find some are not without a sense of their own weakness, and have a dependence on a superior power: not knowing the true God, who attracts the service of his creatures by the delightful call of love and grati
tude, they address themselves, through the less noble principle of fear, to evil spirits, whose power to hurt them, their ignorance and depravity inclines them to dread and worship: but the blessed light of the Gospel being the grand means of obtaining every good we need, hath rescued us from this state of darkness, and taught us the true and only object of prayer and praise. Prayer is the positive act, by which we prove and increase our faith in God-by which we strengthen our hope of endless peace and joy, and every thing valuable; our best support and consolation in this life, and the appointed method of qualifying us for a post of eternal praise and humble dependence hereafter. It is, above all Christian duties, that which we should chiefly cultivate, as being so necessary to a state of trial, want, and imperfection. In the former part of my discourse upon the general duty of prayer I considered it in the following points of view:
As it is the chief means of obtaining the grace of God, that is, his favour, and the aid of his Holy Spirit, without which, we shall not be able to do any thing acceptable to him.
In what remains to complete the subject, upon the enlarged view I have judged proper for your further instruction, I shall proceed at this time to consider,
First, The necessity that seems to be laid
upon us, from our particular situation here, of following the Apostle's advice in the text, of praying always: I shall therefore explain the more general sense in which the words, Pray without ceasing, may be received by us.
Secondly, I shall call your attention to the. subject of our prayers, by instancing the particulars for which we may safely pray; and,
Lastly, I shall dwell upon what relates to the time of prayer, which, in a more particular point of view, concerns the exhortation in the text, of praying continually, or without ceasing; which will lead to several observations, that naturally present themselves on this subject.
It is quite needless to use many words in proving, that, in a state of imperfection, we are unavoidably exposed to continual wants: the experience of every one present will immediately subscribe to this. The natural consequence of our wants is a desire of relief: the conviction of our own insufficiency to obtain it, leads us to look up to a higher power; and the conditions of our success, are proper applications to him. From all these undeniable truths it follows, that, as we are in a continual need of help, and as it can be obtained no other way, so there is a necessity to pray without ceasing. Indeed, such is our dependence upon God, that we are obliged, not only to do every thing for his sake; but also to seek from him the very ability of
doing so; for if He does not assist us, in whom. alone all goodness and power dwells, how is it possible we shall be able to do any thing to please him? One sense, then, of the words to pray without ceasing, is to live under such a constant conviction of our spiritual wants, as to incline us to solicit the very disposition to pray; and, in truth, this happy necessity of having recourse to an infinite Power, under every difficulty, instead of being grievous to us, should be our greatest consolation; for, to be assured that there is ONE, who knoweth all things, and is mighty to save, who hath all things under his dominion, who cannot err, who hath promised, and is faithful to perform—this is enough to support us under the heaviest trials to which our mortal nature is subject; and this will be the never-failing effect, when our faith has triumphed over our weakness, and our enlightened reason disposes us to becoming resignation. If men considered at all, they could not avoid confessing, with the profoundest gratitude, the prodigious favour of being allowed to address God with confidence. What unspeakable happiness might be derived from the gracious privilege of disclosing the secrets of our trembling hearts, and holding conversation with the Majesty on high, with this merciful Benefactor, through the means of prayer! One invaluable character of this duty is, that God himself invites us to