« VorigeDoorgaan »
vfume it upon your lusts? Can you expect that such self-interested 'prayers will be accepted ? How can they find their way to heaven? 1 God is a spirit, and they who worship him, must worship in spirit and truth. What then is this spirit and truth? I will not suppose you ignorant that it cannot consist in a mere forin of words, in which the heart and affections take no interest, and bear no share. But what äre the motives, what the considerations with which the feelings should be enlivened? Coldness and indifference is excluded from real prayer: A mere longing, however ardent, to supply our own wants, is too mean and sordid a consideration to consecrate our prayers and make them acceptable to God. Notwithstanding you know and feel this to be true ; yet examine well your own heart, and the state of your mind when you pray unto God, or when you profess so to do ; let conscience do its perfect work; smother not its admonitions; resist not its demands; but answer truly to yourself. When temporal want, the loss of some present comfort, or the fear of some calamity, excites you to look unto God for help, are not your affections far more awakened than when you prosper in the enjoyment of these : poor trifles which the world has to bestow ? And is not this an indis· putable proof, that your own interest is too much at the bottom ?
That you have little regard to the honour and glory of God? Is it | not a too plain proof that time and the things of time have more in· fluence on you than those of eternity ? Is it not saying, Lord grant : me the accommodations of the body, whatever may become of those
which belong to the soul ? Do you not neglect those interests which are infinitely important, seeing they shall endure forever, and cleave fast unto those which are but momentary? If you never pray with engaged feelings as though you would be heard, save when you solicit some present good, or the removal of some present evil, can you more plainly declare, that present self-interest bears chief sway in urging you to the duty you profess to discharge? As little as this becomes the Christian name, yet many there are who hardly give any other proof of their sincerity. So long as they go on much to their minds in present things; while Providence smiles on their undertakings, and they meet with no cross events nor calamities which greatly disturb their dreams of repose, they will, for form's sake, hurry over their devotions without interest or concern in what they do ; a mere lifeless formality. But let affictions come near their hearts; let calamities lie heavy on their souls, and they are alive to prayer and supplication ; they cry earnestly unto God for help : Their prayers are not then the empty homage of the lips, but the warm effusions of the heart also.
Too many such Christians it is manifest there are. Are you one of the number? If you arc, let me tell you, your life very illy accords with your profession : You have hardly imbibed the first principles of Christian practice, and the spirit of God presides not over your affections; you live not unto him, but unto yourself; he is scarcely in all your thoughts. So long as you make some great necessity the only occasion on which you really and truly pray unto him, 'do you not seem to think he needs to be informed of your wants before he can relieve them; and solicited and urged by en
treaties before he will be disposed to grant relief?. This you know cannot be the case. Still can you not see abundance of reason for prayer and supplication ? Will not the habitual practice of the duty make you humble and resigned to the allotments of Providence? Will it not inspire you with awe and reverence for the divine majesty, and make you feel your dependence on his power? Will it not tend to keep in mind his immediate presence, that you are surrounded by him, and cannot escape his notice? However small may be the effect of the heartless forms of hypocricy, yet an ever operative and practical reference for the authority of God, and obedi. ence to his holy laws, can never be separated from the daily exercise of fervent devotion ;, they are united in the nature of the thing, and necessarily beget each other. And when thus united in your heart, they will take down the lofty looks of pride; they will, humble you under a sense of your own unworthiness, and the great condescension of God in listening to your requests. They will make you sober and temperate in the enjoyment of present comforts, inasmuch as you will always remember from whom they come, even from him in whom you live and move and have your being ; without whom you could not a moment breathe, nor enjoy a single blessing. Being thus fashioned in the frame and temper of your mind, being conform, ed in your disposition and conduct to the will of God, you become fit for his blessings to be poured down upon you. By your prayers: you alter not the counsels of God; you alter only yourself, and make. it fit and becoming for the immutable God to smile upon and bless you with his favours. See you not then reasons enough for prayer, though you do not expect to inform the all-seeing God, or change any of his eternal ways ? See you not why you should pray, after the example, of him who needed not any thing, having all fullness in himself, saying, not my will but thine be done? See you not why yoa should profit of his instruction who emptied himself of the glory he had before the world was, and came on earth to teach you how to pray accept ably to his Father, saying, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven?
But perhaps these enquiries concerning the nature of prayer and the kind of return we are to expect to our petitions, though they may satisfy our reason, yet are less calculated to raise the affections and inspire real devotion, than considerations of a different nature. Look around you then, and ask your own heart one question ; had not that God who made you a right to make it one condition of your being, that you should ask for such things as you need ? Is it not perfectly right that he should lay upon you such a condition? The common sense of all ages of men has proclaimed that it is; and will you deny God his right? If neither reason nor the authority of God are enough to prevail on you, look and see if you cannot find a sufficient motive in gratitude for what you have already received. Have you not been preserved in life amidst many dangers? Have you not escaped from sickness and casualties, by that watchful Providence which guards all things ? Are you not daily receiving good at the hand of the Lord? You can but say you are. He permits you to live in his world, in which are many comforts, notwithstanding a mixture of evil. He every day crowns your life with mercy and loving kind
mess. , He gives you food and raiment. Look to the heavens above and the earth beneath, and see how all is contrived for comfort and enjoyment.
But these are trifes compared with what he has done and is doing for you in the work of his grace. Hopeless were your condition without redeeming love. Eternal misery in the life to come would have been your portion. But now the door is set open, and you may enter into life. Your divine Saviour has gone before, and sends down his Holy Spirit to guide you, if you resist not, in the heavenly road to bliss. A glorious eternity is before you. A never-ending tri. umph awaits you beyond the grave. And all this you are to receive from the same power that gave you life. Can you not then be stimulated by gratitude, under a sense of so many benefits, to be engaged and warm in your acts of devotion? Can you not be earnest when you petition a friend who has done so much for you ? Can you not assuredly feel that he hears you, when he is so perpetually doing you good? And how animating should be the thought, that you are holding convers- with the great King of Heaven! How ennobling the reflection that'he permits and encourages you so to do! Strange that any one pretending to reason, should think the employment grovelling and mean! Yet so it is : So perverse can be the human heart. Would you enjoy the delights attendant on the performance of this duty ? Then go and practise. Without practice it is impossible you should know any thing of the calm serenity, the tranquil joy that it diffuses over the pious soul ; a joy that nothing earthly can disturb; for it is a good thing to sing praises unto God, yea, a joyful and pleasant thing it is to be tvankful.
But supposing you to be duly sensible of this, and tirat you determine to practise accordingly, what will you pray for ? what will you most earnestly desire at God's hand ? Length of days, temporal prosperity, riches and honours? If so, you will be cumbered about much serving, and neglect the one thing needful. You forget our Lord's direction, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. By praying for temporal good, you pray for what it may be inconsistent with God's will to grant :
: But if you ask for spiritual endowments, your prayers will certainly be heard. God has promised, and he will fulfil.' He has said, ask and ye shall receive ; knock and it shall be opened unto you. No one ever yet sincerely prayed for the grace of God, but he received it. No one ever yet earnestly besought of God, humility, patience, and charity, without finding himself strengthened in the exercise of these virtues. No one ever sought true spiritual wisdom but he found; and as in the case of Solomon, by praying for this, which is the main thing, he obtains many others also ; for the Lord blesses his days here on earth with peace and tranquility.-There may be many that say who will shew us any good; Lord lift thre up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thus prayed the 'holy Psalmist; and is this the burden, sum and substance of your prayers? Then are they acceptable to God, and will assuredly draw down a blessing on yoursell.
crucified and buried, arose from the dead, and afterwards appeared alive. We learn from the Acts, that the resurrection of Christ was constantly asserted, and urged with peculiar earnestness, by the first preachers of the Gospel; and in the Epistles it is repeatedly mentioned as a well known and acknowledged fact. The certainty of Christ's resurrection did not rest upon a transient glance, or a single interview with his Apostles ; he conversed with them forty days, which precluded every sort of illusion or mistake ; nor did it depend on these chosen ministers of the Gospel, for he was seen by various other persons, and particularly by five hundred disciples at once ; he ate and drank with many to whom he was known before his crucifixion; and he made Thomas feel the print of the nails by which he had been fastened to the cross, and of the spear with which his side had been pierced, to convince him that he was the same Jesus who had been crucified ; that he had filesh and bones, and was not a spirit....John xx. 26.
As the enemies of Christ had been peculiarly careful to guard against any fraud or deception, and as they were fully sensible, that the resurection, if real and generally believed, would have a great influence upon the minds of men, it is impossible not to suppose that they examined into it with the most anxious diligence, and most jealous ininuteness; and as they did not dare to contradict it themselves, or even venture to produce the soldiers whom they had suborned for the purpose of asserting that the body of Jesus was stolen out of the grave by night, we must conclude, that they found it attested by a weight of evidence which no authority could suppress, norany art invalidate. Upon these grounds we believe that “ Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature ; wherewith he ascended into heaven."
As the resurrection of Christ was foretold by David, so also was his ascension : Thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men.... Ps. Ixviii. 18. which passage refers to the ascension of our Saviour in heaven, to his triumph over sin and death, and to his sending the glorious gifts of the spirit to the sons of men. Christ himself alsopredicted his ascension.--Go unto my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father....John xx. 17. That Christ really ascended into heaven with the same body with which he lived, and died, and rose again, is declared by St. Mark and by St. Luke, both in his Gospel, and in the Acts of the Apostles; but it will be sufficient to transcribe the account from St. Luke's Gospel : And he led out his Apostles as far as Bethany : and he lifted uff his hands, and blessed them; while he blessed them, he was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And there he sitteth. The sitting of Christ at the right hand of God is foretold in the Old Testament and asserted in the New : The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool....Psalm cx. 1. Christ applied this passage to himself....Matt. xxij. 42, &c. and it is quoted by St Paul, as describing the superiority of Christ to all created beings : To which of the angels said he at any time, Sir thou on my right hand, till I make thine cnemies thy footstool ?...Heb. i. 13.
Christ himself expressly foretold his sitting at the right hand of God, Hereafter shall the Son of Man sit at the right hand of the power of God....Luke xxii. 69. By the metaphorical expression of situing at. the right hand of God, which is applied in scripture to none but Christ, we are to understand the honour and dignity to which he was exalted after his ascension into heaven : Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels, and authorities, and powers, being made subject unto kim...i Peter üii. 22. until he return to judge all men at the last day.
The second advent of Christ, and the purpose for which he is to come are clearly foretold in /scripture : I go to prepare a place for. you ; I will come again and receive you unto myself....John xiv. 3. and 28~ This same Jesus, which is taken un from you into heaven, shall 80 come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven....Acts i. 11.
-The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God.... Thess. iv. 16.-. Him the heavens must receive till the final restitution of all things..., Acts iii. 21.-Far God hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he raised him from the dead...Acts xvii. 30.--When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, aud all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall sepan, rate them from one another as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.... Mat. XXV. 31, 32.—Then we shall appear before the judgment seat of Christ ; that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hash done, whether it be good or bad....2 Cor. v. 10. — The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the. Son; that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father....John v. 22. . The day of the Lord shall come, in which the heave ens shall pass a vay with a great noise and ihe elements shall melt with fervent heat....2 Pet. iii. 20. In short, no doctrine is more clear and express, and fundamental in the word of God, than that of a general, judgment at the end of the world, when the state of our trial and probation shall be finished, which will be a proper season for the diss, tribution of public justice, for rewarding all those with eternal life, who by patient continuance in well doing, seck for glory and honour, and immorlality, and for rendering to them that obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish... Rom. ii. 7. I shall therefore conclude
my observations upon
this article with that most excellent inference of St. Peter; Secing then that all these shings shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for, and hastena ing, unto the coming of the day of God....2 Pet. üi. 11, 12.
CASTELLIO'S TRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE.
THE Prophets, when under the immediate inspiration of God's Spirit, and made to behold future things, were naturally. transported into the use of a language highly figurative and full of bold