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thy brethren." What faith he had already was not sufficient to withstand the assaults of his enemy; he was overcome, even to the denying of his Lord; yet his faith, though weak, though far from overcoming the world, still, through Christ's prayer, was upheld from failing utterly. He recovered from his fall, and received a diviner strength; and, when converted, he did indeed strengthen his brethren; and not only his brethren who then were, but by his epistles, preserved for our instruction, he strengthens us also, and will continue to strengthen our children after us, even unto the end of the world.
Let us take then ourselves, (and to how many in the world is the case applicable,) as being such as Peter was when our Lord said these words to him. I do not mean to suppose our love to Christ to be half so warm as his was; much rather, I believe, may we sympathize with the wish of one of the best and wisest men of the fifteenth century, (Wessel of Groningen,)" that we had so much love to Christ in these quiet times as Peter had, even when he cursed and swore, and denied his Master." But I mean the likeness to extend thus far; that we, like Peter, may have become familiar with our Lord's words and life, and may really have conceived a sincere admiration
and love for them. Then it is that we need Christ's prayer for us, that our faith fail not; then it is that Satan will sift us as wheat, will do with us whatever he will, unless Christ's prayer join with our prayer, and Christ's spirit enter into our spirits, to become our bread of life.
"This is the bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever." Easy, most easy, is it to admire and love what is beautiful, and wise, and pure, and holy; nay, it is even unnatural and monstrous not to admire it. But there is something more wanted than this, before we shall copy as well as admire; and in this is the great point of all. It is not enough that we love the character of Christ: who can help loving it? It must be something of a closer and more personal feeling, if I may so speak, that will make him become to us the bread of life; and this feeling will only be gained by prayer. By prayer we speak to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and we speak to him as needing his help and mercy. By prayer we express our sense of the reality of what we have read in the Scriptures; we say, in fact, "Give to me, Lord, my own particular portion in the blessings which the Scripture speaks of.
I love what I read of Christ; but I am so unlike him, that he cannot love me. I love his character; but other feelings often come in much stronger than this love, so that I cannot be said to live in the love of him. What I want, thou, Lord, seest, and thou wilt give it me also; for though I have, as yet, no personal experience in these matters, yet I know that the Scripture says we shall be heard if we pray to thee, and that thou wilt give thy Holy Spirit to them that ask it." It is an awful moment, a turning point often in our character for all eternity, when we first begin, in some such manner as this, to enter into a real communion with God; when our prayers first become,—I do not say sincere, for I should be very sorry to think that they had not been, in many cases, sincere, even from earliest childhood,-but when they first proceed out of an awakened heart, which feels more deeply what itself is, and what is God. It is astonishing how this sort of earnest prayer opens our eyes daily more and more, and strengthens our faith. A natural part of such prayer is confession: we cannot but truly feel our unworthiness when we bring the most high and holy God present, in a manner, before us. We know then-we cannot help knowing-that we are naked.
This calls up before our minds our particular and besetting sins; those disguises of our real character, which self-love is so apt to throw over it, are all torn to pieces then; we see ourselves nearly in the same light as a fair enemy would see us. And this alone, what a mighty point is it to gain! How many of us (and this is the truer, in proportion as we are younger) are kept from day to day, without ever seeing ourselves truly as we are! We think of our faults, only to deny or to excuse them; we dwell with pleasure on our good points, and the rest we are glad to pass over. But in prayer, and when kneeling, really with a sincere heart, before Him to whom all hearts are open, his Spirit, if I may so speak, becomes our own; and we are all open and manifest before our own eyes, as before his. Then we turn to him to save us from this evil which we have discovered: "Lord, forgive me; Lord, help me to strive against my selfishness, my indolence, my pride, my unkindness, my carelessness, my love of pleasure, my lust, my covetousness, my ungodliness!"
Each soul who now hears me, if he could but put himself for an instant into his state when he is sincerely praying, could tell at once,―his heart, whilst I have been naming these several
sins, would answer at once to the touch of that or those particular ones to which he is himself in bondage, "Lord, help me to strive against it; for Jesus Christ's sake, save me from it!" They are but a few words; but how wholesome to the soul when said, as they are said in such prayer, with earnest sincerity! Our attention is drawn just to those very parts in ourselves which most need it at every prayer, the attention is renewed. We cannot help thinking, when we ask God in the evening to strengthen us against such and such a sin, whether we have committed it since we uttered the same prayer in the morning. If we have not, we are encouraged; if we have, we are justly ashamed; and our prayer is the more earnest, that the next day we may be more watchful. Say that we fall again, (for infinite is our frailty,) that our sense of shame is deeper, our fear for the future just so great as to give the enemy of our souls an opportunity of turning it into desperate carelessness: "It is a vain labour to try to mend." Then our familiarity with the Scripture comes in time to tell us, "that if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins ;" and to encourage us to renewed efforts,