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increased anxiety for religious knowledge increased our general devotion ? Has it brought us to the house of God in the spirit of prayer and supplication ? Has it diminished the prevalence of folly, of fashion, of luxury ? Has it given really a higher tone to the feelings and affections of society ? Or, if indeed there be some stricter observance of moral obligations and of outward decorum, is this the result of religious principle, or of the refinement of modern manners ? It is to be feared that with advantages far beyond those of former days, with the means of spreading religious truth along with the diffusion of other knowledge, we are far beneath the standard of real godliness and piety, which distinguished the days of the sainted fathers of our church. The sceptic and the blasphemer did not then find the willing ear, or the careless heart; and the boldness of religion's enemies has only increased, in proportion to the weakness or negligence of her children. But amid the clouds that surround us, we have, as Christians and as churchmen, the means of defence, yea, of victory, within ourselves. The light has lost none of its real brilliance, because we have hidden it for a season under a bushel : it needs but to be allowed to shine forth in its own splendour, and the darkness shall flee. The ordinances of religion are still calculated for the support of the Christian life ; it is the fault of our own selves alone, if, like the Mosaic law to the Jews of old, they become to us statutes that are not good, and ordinances by which we shall not live. Let us not be content, then, to care for none of these things; but let us each, in his own sphere, show forth the truth, and adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. By well-doing we shall put to silence the ignorance of foolish

men.

It is not every Christian that can enter into the combat with the weapons of human learning, and the defences of scriptural research ; but every Christian, be his station ever so humble, or his learning ever so limited, if he will but adopt the truths of the gospel with a lively faith, and live up to the standard of these truths, every Christian will become a good soldier of Jesus Christ; and while, according to the measure of his strength, and the grace given unto him, he wields the sword of the Spirit, and wears the breast-plate of righteousness over his heart, he will have for his defence the shield of faith, and for bis helmet the hope of salvation.

341

SERMON XXIV.

THE DUTY OF PRAYER.

JOHN xvi. 24.

Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may

be full.

It was a strong evidence of the consciousness of guilt, that the first parents of our race, after their sad disobedience to the commands of their Maker, hid themselves from the presence of the Lord, amidst the trees of the garden. They knew that they were naked; they felt that they had lost that innocence which had been their brightest ornament, and the guise in which alone they could stand before their Creator. Intercourse with God was therefore no longer a pleasing privilege, and an agreeable duty : it was rather a task irksome to their hearts, which no longer retained the allegiance of supreme affection to him. And thus it has ever been since that melancholy period, with the descendants of our fallen ancestors. Prayer and praise, the natural means, one would imagine, of expressing the wants and feelings of a created being towards his Creator, are not generally the most gratifying of our employments; nay, they are oftentimes utterly uncongenial to the frame of our minds, and the tone of our feelings. When this is the case, we ought to stand in doubt of ourselves; we ought to fear that all is not right within us, if our hearts seldom entertain the spirit, and our lips seldom utter the language of prayer. Unwillingness, or distaste, or listlessness in devotion, argues, more than any thing, that the heart is estranged from God, and that his service is but imperfectly and insincerely performed. If any man has been truly brought to the knowledge of his own heart, he will readily confess the accuracy of this criterion of the spirituality of the affections, and the influence of divine truth upon the soul : “ If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God; and whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.”

Our blessed Saviour had already given to his disciples a model for their prayers, in that comprehensive form which he delivered in his sermon on the mount. Since the great purposes of his mission were at that time but imperfectly understood, and the doctrine of atonement and redemption by his mediation was not fully developed, he had not instructed them to pray in his name, or in dependence on his intercession. The time was, however, now fast approaching, when he should accomplish the work which his heavenly Father had given him. Before his separation from his disciples, he addressed them in language of the most affectionate tenderness, showing them the great privileges which they should enjoy, of communion with him through the Spirit, though he should soon be removed from bodily intercourse with them; and he clearly pointed out also his own name and merits, as the means whereby their

should be rendered acceptable to his heavenly Father. The Spirit, the Comforter, whom he would send unto them from the Father, would supply his place, as the instructor and guide of his church. All necessary knowledge should be communicated to them by his teaching; and so complete would be the supply of spiritual light, that there should be no need of that personal instruction, which they had so long enjoyed in their intercourse with their Master. “ In that day ye shall ask me nothing; or, more correctly, ye shall inquire nothing of me: ye shall not find any deficiency of knowledge, which my presence with you would be requisite to supply; and then, as if passing on to

prayers

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