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their own souls. And what a dreadful thing is this for a man to perish by his own hands!
3. That they shall be as sure of judgment upon them for their sin, if repentance prevent it not, and cut the thread, as they are of the sacramental bread they eat, and the wine they drink. Death is in the cup to them, and it will go down with the elements into their bowels.
USE. Beware then of unworthy communicating. Profane not the holy things of God by your rash approaches to this ordinance. If the love of the Lord Jesus will not allure you to a conscientious performance of this duty in a holy manner, let the terror of God affright you. Behold life and death is set before you. Venture not on the swordpoint of vengeance, even the vengeance of his temple. O sinner! hold thy hand. Do not wound the Lord of glory, and bring innocent blood on thy head. Owound not your own souls with the wound of an enemy! Provoke not God to give you blood to drink.
Object. 1. We had better bide aback than run such a risk. Ans. If you cannot think on parting with your lusts, but you must either communicate keeping them still, or not at all, then assure yourselves, God will avenge this con. tempt of himself and his Son upon you, and ye shall fall into the hands of the living God through eternity, Luke xix. 27. If ye think of being better disposed afterwards, ye deceive yourselves; for the longer ye keep your sins, it will be the harder to part with them. And who knows if ever your eyes may see another such occasion? But if mind to part with your sins now, and be in earnest for communion with God in that ordinance, then ye will make conscience of, and sincerely endeavour worthy communicating, which will be accepted; for it is a gospel, not a legal fitness, that we urge.
Object. 2. But that terror confounds me when I think of approaching the Lord's table, lest he be provoked to strike me dead on the spot, or I get my damnation sealed. Ans. Satan labours either to make us feed without fear, or else to fear so as we cannot feed. But look ye to God through the vail of the flesh of Christ, and so you will see an atoned and pacified God. If such fear seize thee, then
acknowledge God is just if he should do to you as you fear: but because you need a Saviour, and he has commanded you to accept of him, take him, though with a trembling hand; and having nothing to bring with you, come to get all. Say, Lord, if thou shouldst confound me before all the people, thou art just; but I plead mercy through Christ; and if thou wilt give me thy grace, I am content to be a monument of grace. I have nothing, but I am content to be thy debtor for all. And so you will find a reviving,
I shall only say, 1. Examine yourselves as to your state, your frame, your graces, your wants, &c. and know how matters stand with you. Take a look of your former ways, and turn to the Lord with your whole heart.
2. Put away the strange gods that are among you. Look what sin has been indulged, and let this be the parting time; for one leak will sink the ship, Psal. lxvi. 18. s. Employ Christ for suitable preparation. means, but look to him alone for the blessing.
4. Lastly, Do this work that ye would do if ye were to die on the communion-sabbath. Sacramentum et articulus mortis æquiparantur. In death we go to Christ, in the sacrament he comes to us: And who knows but some of us may get our provision there for another world, either in mercy or in wrath? But happy they who set themselves for dying furniture.
THE NATURE OF PRAYER,
EPH. vi. 18.-Praying always with all prayer and supplica cation in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance, and supplication for all saints.
RAYER is a duty of natural religion, and by God's appointment is one of the chief means by which Christ communicates the benefits of redemption to sinners; and this important duty is enjoined in these words. In which we have,
1. The duty itself, praying. This is recommended and enjoined to all, as ever they would stand, and not be ruined by their spiritual enemies.
2. The amplification of this weighty subject; where no
(1.) The time of it, always, or at every season. We must always be in a praying frame, and miss no season wherein God calls for it, but in every season of prayer be praying,
2 Sam. ix. 7.
(2.) The kinds of prayer, all prayer, i. e. all sorts of prayer, public, private, secret, ordinary, extraordinary, &c. petitioning prayer, for good things, here called prayer in a strict sense; supplicatory prayer, deprecating evils, called supplication.
(3.) The manner of prayer. [1.] It must be in the Spirit; not with the lip, tongue, and memory only, but with the heart, or inward man, or rather by the Spirit of God, with his assistance. [2.] With watchfulness, keeping the soul in a wakerife disposition for it, and in it, that the heart wander not. [3.] With all perseverance, continuing. instant in it, whatever may occur to discourage us.
4. Those we are to pray for, all saints; not only for
ourselves, but others, especially, though not only, for the children of God.
The text affords the following doctrine.
DOCT. Prayer is a duty always necessary to be performed in the several kinds of it, and in the right manner, and in which we are to be conerned, not only for our selves, but for others.'
To discover the nature of prayer, which in our Catechism is said to be an offering up of our desires to God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies,' I will consider the parts of prayer in general, and in particular.
I. Prayer, generally considered, consists of three parts.
1. Petition, or prayer strictly and properly so called, whereby one desires of God the supply of one's wants, begs the good necessary for himself or others, and depre cates evil inflicted or feared. Praying always with all prayer, &c.
2. Confession of sin, Dan. ix. 4. It is so very natural that sinners coming to God to ask mercies should make confession, that it is a very necessary part of the sinner's prayer; and prayer is so called, Neh. ix. 3. And the deeper one is in confession, he readily speeds the better in prayer.
3. Thanksgiving for mercies, Phil. iv. 6. God prevents us with his benefits, we are deep in his debt, ere we come to ask of him; and therefore it is necessary that thanksgiving have a place in our prayers. And it also is called praying,' Luke xviii. 11.
II. Let us consider the parts of prayer in particular, These are,
1. Prayer properly so called, or petition.
2. Confession of our sins.
3. Thanksgiving for mercies.
FIRST, Prayer properly so called, or petition. Here I shall shew,
1. Wherein the formal nature of prayer consists, 2. To whom we are to pray.
3. In whose name we are to pray.
4. By whose assistance acceptable prayer is performed.
5. For whom we must pray.
6. For what we are to pray.
7. How we are to pray, if we would pray rightly and ac ceptably.
8. Whether all such prayers are accepted, heard, &c. FIRST, Wherein does the formal nature of prayer consist? It lies precisely in offering up our desires to God, for things that we need. It is a motion of our hearts towards God, to move him as it were to look favourably on us, Psal. lxii. 8. a pouring out our heart before the Lord; a lifting our soul to him, Psal. xxv. 1. a presenting our supplications to him, as petitioners, Dan. ix. 18.
We command our inferiors, we demand of our equals; we may by some deed of our own lay an obligation on, and some way excite an inclination in, any man, even our supe. rior, to help us; but none of these ways can work with God. What then remains but a religious and submissive offering of our desires to God, for his help, who knows our hearts? And this is what we call prayer. Hence,
1. There may be prayer made to God without words. The desires of the heart offered to God though not clothed with words, is prayer, truly and properly so called, Exod. xiv. 15. Words are not necessary from the nature of prayer, but on the account of ourselves, to affect us the more, and to honour God with our bodies as well as our souls.
2. There can be no prayer, properly so called, without the desires of the heart going out to God. Prayer with out intention, says the Jews, is like a body without a soul. A flourish of the best chosen words, without suitable affections going along with them, is not prayer before the Lord, but the carcase of prayer, wanting the soul and life.
SECONDLY, To whom we are to pray? We are to pray to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and to God only; not to saints, angels, nor any creature whatsoever. For,
1. Prayer is an eminent part of religious worship, Joel ii. 32. and religious worship is only to be given to God, Matth. iv, 10. Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, VOL. III.