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knoweth our frame ; be remembereth that we are duft. And his beauty, which seemed to be his perfection, yet, when the hand of God is on him, it is blafted as a moth-eaten garment; this should teach us humility, and to beware of fin, which provokes God to pour out his heavy judgments upon us. If any be proud of honour, let him remember Nebuchadnezzar and Herod ; or of riches, or of wit and endowments of mind, let him think how soon God can make all these to wither and melt away. Surely every man is vanity.
Ver. 12. Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; bold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a Sojourner, as all my fathers were.] What is this life we cleave so fast to, and are so uneasy to hear of parting with ; what is it but a trance, and a succession of sorrows, a weary tossing and tottering upon the wayes of vanity and misery? No estate or course of life is exempted from the causes of this complaint; the poorer and meaner
meaner sort are troubled with wants, and the richer with the care of what they have, and sometimes with the loss of it; and the middle sort betwixt the two, they partake, in common, of the vexations of both, for their life is spent in care for keeping what they have, and in tur. moil for purchasing more.
Besides a world of miseries and evils that are incident equally to all sorts of men, such as sickness and pain of body, which is both a sharp affliction, and fits close to a man, and which he is least able, either by strength of mind, or by any art or rule, to bear; and this guest does as oft haunt : palaces as poor cottages; as many groans of sick and diseased bodies within filken curtains as in the meaneft. lodging. Neither does godliness exempt the best of men from the sufferings of this life. David, who was both a great man and a good man, did share deeply in these; so that his conclusion still holds true; no instance can be found to infringe it; Surely every man is altogether vanity, Vol. II.
It remains only to inquire, what manner of men they are who are furnifhed with the best helps, and with the most comfortable mitigations of theit trouble, and with the Atrongett additions of support and strength to bear them up under it? And it will certainly be found that godliness alone hath this advanttage. And among the many confolations godly men have under their trouble, this is one, and the chief one, their recourse unto prayer. So here, and Pfal. exlii. 4. 5. Isa. xxxvi. 2. Hezekiah turned bis face towards the wall; he turns his back on all wordly councils and vain helps, and betakes himself to prayer; and prayer brings eafe and fupport, and seasonable deliverance to the godly man; but their forrows shall be multiplied that basten after other gods, Psal. xvi. 4. ; and this all ungodly men do when they are afflicted; they run to other imaginary helps of theit own, and they prove but the multipliers of sorrows, and add to their torment: They are miserable or troublesome comforters ; like unskilful phyficians, that add to the patient's pain, by nauseous, ill chofen, and, it may be, pernicious drugs.
Now, in this prayer of David, we find three things, which are the chief qualifications of all acceptable prayers : the first is, humility. He humbly confeffes his fins, and his own weakness and worthlesness. We are not to put on a ftoical Ainty kind of spirit under our affli&tions, thạt fo we may seem to fhun Womanifh repinings and complaints, lest we run into the other evil, of despising the band of God, but we are to humble our proud hearts, and break our unruly paflions. There is something of this in the nature of affli&tion itself; as in the day-time nien are abroad, but the night draws them home, so in the day of prosperity men run out after vanities and pleasures, and when the dark night of affliction comes, then men should come home, and wisely lay the matter to heart. It is meet we humble our felves under the mighty band of God. It is meet to say unto him, as
Job, xxxiv. 31. I bave been chastifed, or bave borne
If an holy heart be the temple of God, and there-
The second qualification of this prayer is, fervency and importunity, which appears in the elegant grada tion of the words, hear my prayer, my words; if not thạt, yet, give ear to my cry, which is louder, and if that preyail not, yet, bold not thy peace at my tears, which is the loudest of all: So David, elsewhere, calls it the voice of his weeping. Though this gift of tears doth often flow from the natural temper, yet where that temper becomes fpiritual and religious, it proves a fingular instrument of repentance and prayer. But yet tħere may be a very great height of piety and godly affections where tears are wanting ; yea, this defect may proceed from a fingular sublimity of reJigion in their souls, being acted more in the upper region of the intellectual mind, and so not communicating much with the lower' affections, or these expressions of them. We are not to judge of our fpiritual proficiency by the gift of prayer, for the heart may be very spiritually affected, where there is no readiness or volubility of words; the sure measure of our growth is to be had from our holiness, which Itands in this, to see how our hearts are crucified to the world, and how we are poffefled with the love of God, and with ardent longings after union with him,
and dwelling in his presence hereafter, and in being conformed to his will here.
It is the greatest folly imaginable in fome to shed tears for their fins, and within a little while to return to them again"; they think there is some kind of absolution in this way of eafy venting themselves by tears in prayer, and when a new temptation returns, they eafily yield to it. This is lightness and foolishness, like the inconftancy of a woman, who entertains new lovers in her mourning apparel, having expressed much forrow and grief for her former husband.
Now, fervency in prayer hath in it, 1, Attentiveness of mind. If the mind be not present, it is impossible that much of the heart and affections can be there. How shall we think that God fhall hear thefe prayers which we do not hear ourselves? And shall we think them worthy of his acceptance, that are not worthy of our thoughts? Yet we should not leave off prayer because of the wanderings of our hearts in it, for that is the very design of the devil, but still we must continue in it, and amend this fault as much as we can ; by remembering, in the entry, with whom we have to do, by freeing our minds as much as may be, from the entanglements and multiplicity of business, and by labouring to have our thoughts often in heaven; for where the heart is much, it will be ever and anon turning thitherward, without any difficulty:
2dly, Fervency of prayer hath in it an intense bent of the affections, to have our desires'as ardent as can be for the pardon of fin, for the mortifying our lufts and paffions, for the delivering us from the love of ourselves and this present 'world ; and for such fpiritual things to pray often, and to follow it with importunity, that is, to pray fervently, never to rest till an answer come.
The third qualification is faith, Heb. xi. 6. He who comes to God must believe that he is, and that be
is a rewarder of all that diligently seek him. And certainly as he that comes to God must believe this, so he that believes this cannot but come to God; and if he be not presently answered, he that believes makes no haste, he refolves patiently to wait for the Lord, and to go to no other.
Surely there is much to be had in prayer, all good may be obtained, and all evil averted by it, yea, it is a reward to itself. It is the greatest dignity of the creature to be admitted to converse with God; and certainly the soul that is much in prayer, grows in purity, and is raised by prayer to the defpifing of all these things that the world admires, and is in love with, and by a wonderful way is conformed to, the likeness of God.
For I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.] In the law, God recommends strangers to the care and compassion of his people: Now David returns the argument to him, to perfuade him to deal kindly with him ; for I am a stranger with thee, that is, before thee,“ in this world “ wherein thou hast appointed me. to sojourn a few
days, and I betake myself to thy protection in this
strange country ; I seek shelter under the shadow “ of thy wings, therefore have compassion upon me.” He that looks on himself as a stranger, and is fenfible of the darkness both round about him in this wilderness, and also within him, he will often put up that request with David, Psal. cxix. 19. I am a stranger on this earth; hide not thy commandments from me; do not let me lose my way. And as we should use this argument to persuade God to look down upon us, so likewise to persuade ourselves to send up our hearts and desires to him. What is the joy of our life, but the thoughts of that other life, our home, before us? And, certainly, he that lives much in these thoughts, set him where you will here, he is not much pleased nor displeased; but if his Father call him home, that word gives him his heart's desire..