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NO BLESSINGS WHERE PRAYER IS NEGLECTED. 117 ings of the blessed! O, when we do this, we may exclaim, Wonderful are thy works, Lord God Almighty ! Unsearchable are the counsels of thy love!
$ 27. Besides all this, in sincere devotion we claim a still higher connexion. Jesus said, When ye pray, say, Our Father, who art in heaven :—what an encouragement for prayer! Our Father in heaven : the High and Lofty One, who inhabiteth eternity—yet still our Father. Though Jesus's death is the dying believer's only hope, yet, how happily will this intimacy with God tend to tranquillize the soul, when soul and body are about to part. Not in the last hurrying, languishing, distressing hour, in doubt and darkness, wistfully to look around, dreading the solemn scenes just opening on the sight; but, with composure and calmness, to think, I am going to my Father; my Father, to whom, through Jesus, I have so often had access; with whom I have so often conversed with unaffected fervour; who has heard my prayers, and been my guard, my guide, and my strength; who has been with me while I lived on earth, and who now is taking me to live with himself in heaven. Happy are they who, like one that is gone to rest, can say, If I live God will be with me, and if I die I shall be with him. And who are they? not the careless and the formal; but the humble, prayerful, faithful followers of the Lamb; to whom prayer has been as regular as food, and than that more prized.
$ 28. To these considerations shall I add one more, of a description opposite to the former? God has not promised a single blessing in this world, or the next, to those who do not pray. Indeed, many prayerless persons enjoy numerous temporal mercies ; God makes his sun rise and his rain descend, on the just and on the unjust also; but, irreligion changes even these blessings into curses : the more mercies, the more guilt, because the more ingratitude in slighting the Giver of these mercies. At the great day of account, it will be found a sad thing to have requited God with ingratitude for a hundred blessings, but worse to have done so for a thousand ; dreadful to have wasted one talent, worse to have wasted five. I know of no heavier punishment which God can inflict in this world on the prayerless, who, insensible of his goodness, raise not their hearts to him, than to heap fresh favours on them, and to lengthen out their time for enjoying these fa
118 SAD EFFECTS OF NEGLECTING PRAYER. vours; that thus they may fill up the measure of their iniquities. Search, then, the Bible through, and you will not find one real blessing, that can prove such to a person that continues to live in a prayerless state. Nor can religion possibly exist without prayer. Those words, so encouraging to the Christian, “ Ask, and ye shall receive, "w may strongly imply, that if you ask not, you shall not receive; if you seek not, you shall not find. Many have ascribed their ruin, for time and eternity, to the neglect of prayer. They asked not, and so they did not receive. A poor murderer, who was executed for his crime, in his last moments said, “Oh, if I had gone to prayer that morning when I committed the sin for which I am now to die, O Lord God, I believe thou wouldst have kept back my hands from that sin.”
The writer, who states this fact, mentions another, displaying, not merely the awful effects of neglecting prayer, but the bitter consequences of growing weary of it, because a favourite object was not granted. An aged person, who had been many years a well-esteemed member of the church, at length became a drunkard, and was excommunicated, and died in awful circumstances. Some of his dying words were these : “I often prayed unto God for a mercy, which he still denied me. At length I grew angry at God; whereupon, I grew slack in my acquaintance with the Lord : ever since which he hath dreadfully forsaken me; and I know that now he hath no mercy for me.' "*
§ 29. Such being the value and importance of prayer, it is not strange, that the Christian should at times be tempted to neglect this sacred duty. Perhaps, there are none that have not, more or less, experienced this temptation. Have not you, in the hour of devotion, at times felt some subject or other, perhaps in itself trifling, pressed into your mind, with a liveliness and energy that quite destroyed all the comfort of prayer, and when you rose from your knees this subject vanished, and harassed you no more ? Is it not reasonable to believe, that these suggestions are efforts of the wicked one, labouring hard to disturb the soul in its best moments, and to prevent its obtaining the blessings of prayer? Perhaps, at other times, when unable to pray with the comfort you deşire, this suggestion has been presented to your mind : “ Such (w) Matt. vii. 7, 8.
Mather's Hist. of New Eng. lib. 6.
PRAYER TO BE PRIZED AND IMPROVED.
prayers as yours are worse than nothing: you had better not pray at all, than pray as you do."—Ah, look on this temptation, as one that proceeds from your great enemy. If you ever yield to it, you will soon perceive it answers his designs ; your soul will grow more dead; prayer still more a burthen. Instead of your state mending by this neglect, it will grow worse ; your heart less and less disposed for prayer, and the frame of your mind less and less suited to it. Pray, then, and continue instant in prayer. Pray, though the world with its cares would hinder you. Pray, though the devil with a host of temptations would prevent you. Still pray, and God will hear. And when unable to pray as you would, still pray as you can; and pray for help to pray better.
Pursue this course; cleave to the great Intercessor; and then, in a little while, in a brighter world, prayer shall be changed for endless praise ;
“ While sweet remembrance calls to mind
“The scenes of mortal care ;
“Was present to your PRAYER."
THE CHRISTIAN A PILGRIM UPON EARTH, AND A MEMBER
OF THE FAMILY OF GOD.
§ 1. AN important and pleasing view of the Christian's state
A and character, is that of a traveller to a better world. A pleasing English poet has said,
Turn, pilgrim, turn, thy cares forego,
“Nor wants that little long." The Scriptures describe life as a pilgrimage, and the child of God as a traveller to a lasting home. “I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.”a “ When
(a) Ps, xxxix, 13, 5.
120 THE CHRISTIAN A PILGRIM UPON EARTH. a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return.''b The aged patriarch, Jacob, said, “ The days of the years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty years : few and evil have the days of the years of my life been.” Of him, and those who lived much longer than he, it is said, that they “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth; they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city.”d
Cherish the views these holy men professed. You, if a Christian indeed, are but a traveller here. Childhood and 1 youth, said Solomon, are vanity, and so are manhood and declining age. They are all parts of the same little journey, of which some may, and others must, be near its close. In. fancy, childhood, youth, manhood, and age, succeed each other so rapidly, that many scarcely reflect they are in one, before they find themselves advanced to another. Trifling do fifteen, twenty, thirty years appear to those who can look backward on them, and equally trifling would seventy, eighty, or an hundred seem when gone for ever. A poor man, who had spent more than seventy years on earth, once observed to me, that his time seemed but like two or three weeks. Yes, life is a pilgrimage, and short is the passage from the cradle to the tomb : some find it a longer, some a shorter, but all a short and hasty journey. It is hasty, though its haste be unperceived. A traveller in a packet, driven by steam and tide down the smooth surface of the Thames, may indulge the illusion that all he sees on shore, the trees, the spires, the villages, are in rapid motion, hurrying away; but it is he who moves, and all on shore is still. Thus, even when least sensible of the speed with which you go, are you advancing with sure and rapid haste to the eternal world. Think when you lie down, think when you rise up, think when you walk, and think when you rest, I am but a traveller here. Amid the cares of life, remember these are but the cares of a journey; amid its pleasures, these are but the comforts of an inn.' This world is not my world; for I am but a traveller here.
Would you deepen the impression,
$ 2. Think of those who are gone. The great and noble, who once turned the world upside down—what are they? where
(6) Job xvi. 22. (c) Gen. xlvii. 9. (d) Heb. xi. 13–15.
121 Are they now? Those who abounded in riches, or revelled in pleasures—where are they? and what is theirs ? The moment that they breathed their last, riches, pleasures, pomps, and honours, vanished all. “ Those lying vanities of life; that ever-tempting, ever-cheating train," what are they to those whose journey to eternity is finished ? Their life is ended; that valued life is valued no longer. What one day they would not have resigned for the world, the next is snatched from them, and they are consigned over to the dark and dusty grave. What is then to them the value of all they once most loved and prized ? And what, O my soul ! will soon be the value to thee, of all that is now most dear below? It is but a moment since they were warm with life, gay with hopes and pleasures, or perplexed with plans and cares, and now all these are finished for ever. Then they were like me, and soon must I follow them, and be on an equality once more.
$ 3. Think of the living : look at the multitudes that crowd a populous town, or busy city; and when evening comes, consider that all the nunibers you have seen in the day, in forty or fifty years, a very few perhaps a little more, but the most part a great deal less, will have left this world for ever, and be for ever fixed in another. All their business brought to an eternal close. All their transient griefs and joys eternally ended. No longer traversing the streets, hurried with cares, and distracted with business; no longer concerned about the varying changes and commotions of the world, about the nations that rise or that fall; but silent in the dust. Think, that could you revisit those now crowded streets when one hundred years are passed, if no new generation arose, you would find them entirely deserted; not a single passenger in them, nor an inhabitant in the houses; but the streets, where a blade of grass is never seen, then covered with it; the houses falling into ruin ; many of them already in the dust; the birds of the desert building their nests in the deserted rooms; and foxes, half hid with grass and nettles, peeping through the shattered windows. The houses of divine worship ail forsaken; every preacher gone from his pulpit; every crowded congregation vanished and forgotten in the dust; and all as silent as the midst of an Arabian desert, or as the