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then he has a spiritual end in view. He is seeking to augment the general amount of good. And if he does it not in highest ways, he does it in some ways; and such a man may truly be said to have his riches added unto him. They are, in the use he makes of them, added to his spiritual nature. They really form, beautify, and build up the structure of the soul. And they prepare him for the kingdom of heaven on high. But if he only doats upon them as riches, and hoards them

up,

and sees them not in their connection with the good of mankind, then instead of being in any good sense added unto him, they are only a curse to him; and they will make him fall short of the kingdom of heaven.

Such is the true order of Providence in respect to earthly and heavenly riches. How much is there to be thankful for, and what an unusually clear light is thus shed upon one of the darkest and saddest problems of the world! Who has not reason to be grateful for his existence, and for the ability conferred upon him to enrich his interior nature with every possible perfection and delight, and to gather around him to all eternity, the beauties and glories of the angelic world?

27

CHAPTER XIX.

DIVINE PROVIDENCE IN ANSWER TO PRAYER.

The Scriptural authors support the opinion that the Deity causes that to come to pass which is prayed for with firm faith. "God heareth the prayer of the faithful.' The effects which they ascribe to prayer are not mere natural consequences of the act of prayer

the heart of the person who prays; they are positive, external effects, which have no visible connection with the prayer itself. This doctrine they teach by precepts, and confirm by circumstantial histories.” John Casper Lavater.

“More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend ?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.” — Tennyson.

We approach, now, a subject of the most interior and sacred nature, and one which we shall contemplate with the intensest satisfaction. We desire to put off the shoes from our feet, for the place is holy. And yet we must be consistent with the plan of this work, which is to present the rationale of every subject we are called to consider; more especially, perhaps, those subjects that are most interior, for it is here that reason so frequently fails, for the want of that solid support which is longed for in the externals of the mind, and a secret scepticism is engendered in the natural man while all faith is cherished in the spiritual. Thus there is a conflict and dissatisfaction, even where none is expressed. It is an age too, when the philoso

phy of all things pertaining to religion is imperatively demanded.

What, then, is the real nature, philosophy, and effect of prayer? Many questions are continually asked concerning this subject, some of which are the following: How can God be affected by our prayers? Is not God unchangeable? And if prayer

has

any effect at all, is it not all with man, in changing his dispositions, and putting him in a right frame of mind ? Can we expect any thing directly from God, by asking, which we should not obtain without asking? Does He not always know the things we are in need of, without our telling Him, and before we ask Him? These are questions which have disturbed many minds, and caused this subject of prayer to be enveloped in a great obscurity, and much diminished its importance and practice.

In approaching this subject, therefore, it were well to inquire first — What is meant by the unchangeableness of God? He is unchangeable in respect to always acting according to immutable and everlasting laws: but what if one of those laws is this very law of asking and receiving? What if He has made it a condition, in the constitution of the universe, that certain desires shall exist on the part of man, in order to the receipt of certain blessings? Now, nothing is more evident than that such is the case such is the kind of a universe we live in.

The truth is, God wills to have his children realize that their highest happiness consists in their seeking Him, and the blessings that flow from Him. He desires that they shall acknowledge the Divine Source,- that they shall not be inflated with self-conceit, — well knowing that such a state of selfdependence and self-sufficiency is most inimical to the peace and welfare of humanity And for this purpose, He has made the condition of our receiving certain blessings, this act or posture of the mind which we denominate prayer. But there is nothing arbitrary in it. It cannot be said that these blessings

might have been bestowed without prayer, but that God has annexed this condition to their reception in order to draw and attach us to Him. They could not be bestowed without prayer. This desire on the part of man is the necessary cause of their reception. The law only operates by the desire. And both the state of dependence—the gratitude and religious effects, and the receipt of the blessings, are alike bound up in this divine system of necessary operation.

But again, we may now not only understand that this is the law of asking and receiving, but we may understand how it is that God exists in his own laws, and in fact only answers what He himself has caused to exist in the form of a desire. It should ever be remembered, for the clear understanding of this subject, that in all true and effectual prayer, it is God himself who inspires these desires in us towards Him. Do not all holy desires, all pure aspirations, all goodness and truth, come from God? God then has not only made it a law that we shall desire towards Him for certain blessings, but He himself comes into our hearts at such times to create those desires, and to give us a certain intuition of the things to be prayed for, and which He designs to bestow : or in other words, it is God himself who prays in us; according to the words of an apostle : :-“ Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should

pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Rom. 8: 26.) Now, this being the case, how easy it is to understand how God can answer prayer! He responds to his own desires. He inflows into the human heart, and touches its pure aspirations, excites its holy desires, all in accordance with his own will, and of course answers what He himself has caused to be asked. It is in this sense that it is written —“If ye abide in me,

words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John, 15: 7.) The reason is, because in such a state of mind nothing is asked but what is in accordance with the Divine Will, and it is the Divine

and my

itself that inspires those desires. It is well observed by Swedenborg-"The Lord gives man to ask, and what to ask; but still the Lord wills that man should first ask, to the end that he may do it as from himself, and thus that it should be appropriated to him: otherwise, if the petition itself were not from the Lord, it would not be said in those places, that they should receive whatsoever they asked.” A. R. 376.

The truth is, there is a continual circulation of the Divine Spirit, from heaven to earth, and from earth to heaven, and to the Throne and Centre of the universe. It is very much like the circulation of the element of water. It ascends in silent and invisible vapors from the earth and ocean, and is thence condensed, and dispersed in light and fleecy clouds through the atmosphere, and from thence descends in refreshing showers to the earth and ocean from whence it arose. So it is with the circulation of the Divine Spirit. God himself is the Author of all holy desires, and from thence they take their rise in the human heart, and ascend again to Him who gave them, and return with blessings to the thirsty soul. Now it would be manifestly improper to say that we will not pray, God knows what we stand in need of, and is unchangeable, and therefore nothing that we can do can alter his determinate purpose. The truth is, this round of circulation from God to man, and from man to God, and thence to man again, is a part of the unchangeableness; it is the system established; and the earth and ocean itself might as well say, supposing it endued with rationality,—“I will not send up my vapors; God knows I am in need of rain ; therefore I will roll on here withouì a thought of any thing but myself.” Now, the only difference is, man has free-will; and his aspirations and prayers go up with a willing heart; but still like ascending dews and vapors from the earth; and they descend to him again-yea, as saith the Psalmist“ He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass; as showers that water the earth; -as the “dew of heaven,” and the “small rain upon the tender herb.”

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