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which this privilege of addressing the Almighty bestows. We may ask, and not receive, because we ask amiss. We may, in our supplications to the Giver of all good, debase prayer by connecting it with objects which occupy the desires of our corrupt hearts; and which, if granted, would only tend to evil. We may, instead of that adoration of the divine wisdom, which produces confidence in the divine government, and implicit submission to the divine will, attempt to instruct Omniscience. We may, in acknowledging the power of God, desire that power to be exerted to destroy those we hate or fear; and in returning thanks to him for his mercies, like the Pharisee in the Temple, rejoice that we are more righteous than our neighbours, and desire the Searcher of hearts to notice how much more strictly than others we observe his commandments. But all this only proves, that prayer, like every other privilege, may be so perverted as to be rendered ineffectual.
Prayer, to be consistent with its avowed intention, should be clothed in humility; that humility comprised in the few fervent words of the publican, who durst not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, “ God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Not only in this fine parable, but on other occasions recorded by the apostles, Christ has given us distinct and positive instructions for the regulation of prayer. “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the syna
gogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” Our Saviour has, moreover, left us that comprehensive form of prayer, emphatically called The Lord's Prayer, which he deemed all-sufficient for our necessities.
The heart of a sincere Christian ought to be perpetually offering up a silent prayer, either of praise, thanksgiving, or supplication, to the throne of grace. There is scarcely an event or action of daily life, scarcely an object in nature that will not be found capable of exciting it. Those who are in the habit of recognizing and contemplating God in his works will necessarily feel a desire to pour forth a strain of praise and thanksgiving for the bounties he has every where scattered around them; while those who through faith rely upon him for support, will as naturally call on him for aid in time of trouble or difficulty.
The beneficial effects of prayer extend yet farther. When we thus hold commune with God, we not only contemplate the perfections of
his nature, but obtain just and salutary notions of
The consciousness of our wants and weaknesses, our sins and imperfections, our continual need of pardon and assistance-a consciousness with which the heart must inevitably be impressed in considering what is expected of ụs by Him who has vouchsafed to instruct us in our duty-must not only annihilate, for the moment, every emotion of pride and self-esteem, but increase the operation of every benevolent affection.
We are taught to forgive our enemies, as we hope to be forgiven by the God of mercies; and to love our brethren of mankind as God has loved us. In the exercise of prayer, those affections are excited which we are commanded to exhibit in action, and consequently they must, by habitual devotion, be rendered the permanent disposition of our hearts.
CHAPTER XV. Friendship and Love-- Disappointments in Love - Dangerous Fallacies — Matrimonial Disappointments - How originating
- Best Remedy for them-Improvident Marriages. When treating of Fortitude, and enumerating some of the trials of life that put it to the proof, I might very appropriately have included those disappointments of the affections, which must be allowed to test Fortitude in no common degree. I prefer, however, devoting to the subject a separate chapter.
Of the nature of female friendships in general, I have spoken elsewhere, and ventured to assign a reason for their imputed instability. The nature of male friendships I am not going to investigate ; that being both out of my province and my power. I shall only hazard a few remarks applicable alike to the friendships of both sexes, that is to say, during an early period of life; endeavouring, at the same time, to point out, that independant of any actual fault in either of the parties concerned, the basis upon which they were founded, may have been such as to preclude all chance of their stability.
In early youth, while the attention has as yet
been more directed to the objects of affection, than to those which improve the judgment, the heart, oyerflowing with sympathy, gives to every casual intimacy the name of friendship. With that captivating name a thousand delightful images are associated; and, in the contemplation of these, the ardent heart experiences all the tender emotions of the most perfectly constituted friendship. What the individual is, upon whom this affection is lavished, signifies little; it is the sentiment itself which is the true object of it; and those qualities which even the immature judgment deems essential, are created without difficulty by the power of the imagination. There is little likelihood that such friendships should be permanent. The sympathies in which they originate are of a very transient nature; and the judgment, as it ripens, reveals the painful truth, namely, that the qualities with which the magic of fancy invested the friend, had no real existence.
When early friendships do survive this test, and that of comparison, which an extended intercourse with the world is sure to institute, they will be found to exceed every attachment formed in after years, both in fervour and constancy. When they do not, however, which I maintain is most common, vexation, regret, and, too often, resentment, will take the place of the disappointed affections, or, at best, a degree of apathy or despondency very unfavourable to the disposition and character in the outset of life; for it is not