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with God. . Thou knowest (thou who hast
(any knowledge of this life) that thou canst not go to him with that sweet freedom thou wert wont, after thou hast been but tampering or parlying with any of thy old loves. Oh! do not make so foolish a bargain, as to prejudge the least of thy spiritual comfort for the greatest and longest continued enjoyments of sin, which are base, and but for a seuson.
But wouldst thou grow upwards in this life? Sdly, Have much recourse to Jesus Christ thy head, the spring from whom flow the animal spirits that quicken thy soul. Wouldst thou know more of God? He it is that reveals the Father, and reveals him as his Father; and in him thy Father, and that is the sweet notion of God. Wouldst thou overcome thy lusts further? Our victory is in him, apply his conquest; It'e are more than conquerors, through him that loved us". Wouldst thou be more replenished with graces, and spiritual affections ? His fullness is, for that use, open to us; life, and more life, in him, and for us; this was his business here, he came, that we might have life, and might have it more abundantly.
But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
The heart of a real Christian is really taken off from the world and set heavenwards; yet there is still in this flesh, so much of the flesh hanging to it, as will readily poise all downwards, unless it be often wound up and put in remembrance of these things, , tliat will raise it still to further spirituality. This the apostle doth in this epistle, and particularly in these words.
In which are three things to be considered, 1. A threefold duty recommended. 2. Their mutual relation, that binds them to one another.
3. The reason here used to bind them upon a Christian. 1. A threefold duty recommended, sobriety, d Rom. viii. 37.
e John x, 10.
watchfulness and prayer; and of the three the last is evidently the chief, and is here so meant, the other being recommended as suitable and subservient to it; therefore I shall speak first of it.
1. Prayer. And, truly, to speak, and to hear of it often, were our hearts truly and entirely acquainted with it, would have still new sweetness and usefulness in it. Oh! how great were the advantage of that lively knowledge of it, beyond the exactest definition of it, and knowledge that can discourse most copiously and accurately on the heads of doctrine that concern it.
Prayer is not a smooth expression, or a well contrived form of words; 'not the product of a ready memory, nor rich invention exerting itself in the performance. These may draw a neat picture of it, but still the life is wanting. The motion of the heart Godwards, holy and divine affection, makes · prayer real and lively, and acceptable to the living God, to whom it is presented ; the pouring out of thy heart to him that made it, and therefore hears it, and understands what it speaks, and how it is moved and affected in calling on him. It is not the gilded paper, and good writing of a petition, that prevails with a king, but the moving sense of it; and to the king that discerns the heart, heart sense is the sense of all, and that which he alone regards; be listens to hear what that speaks, and takes all as nothing where that is silent. All other excellence in prayer is but the outside and fashion of it; that is the life of it.
Though prayer precisely taken, is only petition, yet, in its fuller and usual sense, it comprehends the venting our humble sense of vileness and sin, in sincere confession, and the extolling and praising the holy name of our God, his excellency and goodness, with thankful acknowledgment of received mercies. Of these sweet ingredient perfumes is the incense of prayer composed, and by the divine fire of love it ascends unto God; the heart, and all with it: and when the hearts of the saints unite in joint prayer,
the pillar of sweet smoke goes up the greater and fuller. Thus says that song of the spouse, going up from the wilderness, as pillars of smoke perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, and all the powders of the merchant. The word there
The word there signifies straight pillars, like the tallest straightest kind of trees; and, indeed, the sincerity and unfeignedness of prayer makes it go up as a straight pillar, when there is no crookedness in it, but it is tending straight towards heayen, and bowing to no side by the way. Oh! the single and fixed viewing of God, as it, in other ways, is the thing makes all holy and sweet, so particularly does it in this divine work of prayer.
It is true we have to deal with a God, who of himself needs not this our pains either to inform, or excite him ; he fully knows our thoughts before we express them, and our wants before we feel them, or think of them. Nor doth this affection, and gracious bent to do his children good, wax remiss, or admit the least abatement and forgetfulness of them.
But, instead of necessity, on God's part, which cannot be imagined, we shall find that equity, and that singular dignity and utility of it, on our part, which cannot be denied.
1. Equity, That thus the creature signify his homage to, and dependence on, his Creator, for his being and well being ; that he takes all the good he enjoys, or expects, from that sovereign good, declaring himself unworthy, waiting for all upon the terms of free goodness, and acknowledging all to flow from that spring,
2. Dignity, Man was made for communion with God his Maker; it is the excellency of his nature to be capable of this end, the happiness of it to be raised to enjoy it. Now, in nothing more, in this life, is this communion actually and highly enjoyed, than in the exercise of prayer. That he may freely impart his affairs, and estate, and wants, to God, as the most faithful and powerful friend, the richest and
a Cant. iji. 6. • Timeroth from Temer a palm-tree.
most loving father; may use the liberty of a child, telling his father what he stands in need of, and desires; and communing with him with humble confidence, while admitted so frequently into the presence of so great a king.
3. The utility of it. 1. Easing the soul in times of difficulty, when it is pressed with griefs and fears, by giving them vent, and that in so advantageous a way ; emptying them into the bosom of God. The very vent, were it but into the air, gives ease; or speak it to a statue rather than smother it; much more ease then is found, when it is poured into the lap of a confident and sympathizing friend, though unable to help; yet much more of one that can help. And, of all friends, our God is, beyond all comparison the surest, and most affectionate, and most powerful. Soo, both compassion and effectual salvation are expressed, In all their afliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old. And so, resting on his love, power, and gracious promises, the soul quiets itself in God, upon this assurance, that it is not vain to seek him, and that he despiseth not the sighing of the poor
2. The soul is more spiritually affected with its own condition, by laying it open before the Lord; more deeply sensible of sin, and ashamed in his sight, in confessing it before him ; more dilated and enlarged to receive the mercies sued for; as the opening wide of the mouth of the soul that it may be filled" ; more disposed to observe the Lord in answering; and to bless him, and trust on him, upon the renewed experiences of his regard to its distresses and desires.
3. All the graces of the Spirit, in prayer, are stirred and exercised ; and, by exercise, strengthened and increased. Faith, in applying the divine promises, which are the very ground that the soul
b Isa. lxiii. 9. d Psal. xii. 5. e Psal. lxxxi. 10.
goes upon to God; and Hope looking out to their performance ; and Love particularly expressing itself in that sweet converse, and delighting in it, as love doth in the company of the person loved ; thinks all beurs too short in speaking with him : Oh! how the soul is refreshed with freedom of speech with its beloved Lord! And as it delights in that, so it is continually advanced, and grows by each meeting and conference; beholding the excellency of God, and relishing the pure and sublime pleasures that are in near communion with him. 1. Looking upon the Father in the face of Christ, and using him as a mediator in prayer, as still it must, it is drawn to further admiration of that bottomless love, which found that way of agreement, that new and living way of our access, when all was shut up, and we to have been shut out for ever. And then the affectionate expressions of that reflex love, finding that vent in prayer, do kindle higher; and being as it were fanned and blown up, rise to a greater, and higher, and purer flame, and so tend upwards the more strongly. David, as he doth profess his love to God in prayer in his Psalms, so no doubt it grew in the expressing, I will love thee, O Lord my strength, Psal. xviii. 1 ; and Psal cxvi. 1. doth raise an incentive of love out of this very consideration of the correspondence of prayers; I love the Lord because he hath heard, and resolves thereafter upon persistance in that course, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. And as the graces of the Spirit are advanced in prayer by their actings; so for this further reason, because prayer sets the soul particularly near unto God in Jesus Christ. It is then in his presence, and being much with God in this way, it is powerfully assimilated to him by converse with him; as we readily contract their habits with whom we have much intercourse, especially if they be such as we singularly love and respect. Thus the soul is moulded further to the likeness of God, is stamped with brighter characters of him, by being much with him; becomes liker God, more holy and