Page images
PDF
EPUB

Having laid before you thefe few confiderations for the refreshment of your minds, the confirmation of your faith, and the encouragement of your practice, in the obfervance of the day of our Lord's refurrection as the holy fabbath, I proceed

Secondly, to confider the manner in which this appropri ated and fanctified time ought to be employed.

Let it be here obferved, we are allowed as great a portion of the twenty four hours of the Lord's day for reft by fleep, refreshment by food, taking care of our cattle, &c. as on other days. We are allowed alfo all the works of neceffity, fuch as defending ourselves against thieves, robbers and enemies, extinguishing fires, failing in the open feas, keeping furnaces in blast, &c. Befides thefe, the works justly implied in the term mercy ought to be performed on this day, fuch as vifiting the fick, adminiftering to their comfort, and reliev ing the diftreffes of the poor. All these and more than can be enumerated are works of mercy. It is the duty of Phyficians, Surgeons, and all the train of that line to visit their patients and go when called, but I apprehend they ought not to tarry from public worship more than what evident neceffity requires.

Thefe allowances being made, which could be easily ef tablished from feripture and reafon, but I prefume they are perfectly obvious to the judgment, confcience, and feelings of every chriftian. Therefore I país on to the plain duties of fanctifying the Lord's day.

St. John was in the Spirit on this day. We fhall underfand it at prefent, a fpiritual and holy frame of mind, in

D

practical performance of relative duties between one reafona ble creature and another, completes the whole fum of natu ral religion.

The relation of a rational creature, capable of feeling its existence and dependence upon its Creator, upholder, and benefactor, muft surely acknowledge this dependent existence, and be under obligations of gratitude, fupplication and praife.

But divine revelation far farpaffes all that natural religion can dictate, and herein we have not only enjoined the obligating nature of prayer, but infallible directions refpecting it and its object, the manner in which it ought to be performed, and, the motives and encouragements to the fame.

It is not only a duty, but an high honor conferred upon the creature by pofitive inftitution, and it is an aftonishing priviledge, in the wondrous condefcenfion of heaven, granted to finners. To bow before the majesty of God, to acknowledge our dependence upon him, to make known our wants, and offer up the defires of our hearts to him, is an honor, dignity, and glory conferred upon the human race, tranfcending their conception and their praise.

However wonderful it may be, as all that flows from God is wonders, the commandment ought to be embraced with profound adoration; "Pray without ceafing, pray always "with all prayer and fupplication." The import of these precepts will hereafter be explained.

The beft definition or defeription of prayer is in beautiful fimplicity given in our chatechifm, "The offering up our de"fires to God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name

"of Chrift." In other words, prayer is an expreffion of the heart, fenfible of our wants, acknowledging our dependence upon God, and in faith of his infinite fufficiency, through Christ Jefus to fupply the fame.

In thefe days of gofpel light, no chriftian will dare to object against the duty of prayer, becaufe God is omnificient and im mutable. Prayer was never defigned to inform God of any thing of which he was ignorant. The thought difrobes the divine character, mutilates his omnifciency, and fuch a depreciation implicates blafphemy. Neither is prayer intended to move God to change. He is the Lord who changeth not. But its intention is to encrease our own knowledge in various refpects, and that we ourselves fhould be moved and changed; brought near to God, humbled in his fight, conformed to his pleafure, and thus rendered meet for the reception of bleffings. Wherefore the whole effect of prayer is to be on ourselves; and its nature is to declare the glory of God, to fhew forth his perfections, and to raise the creature to become an object of bleflings.

God has fixed a fpecial conflitution and rule for the conduct of his rational creatures in this world, and given a fure revelation of the fame. A part of this establishment is, that his people fhould feel his fulness, be fenfible of their own wants, and apply to him in fincerity of heart, agreeably to the manRer of his direction, by fervent prayer and fupplication for all things neceffary for them. Before God delivered the children of Ifrael out of Egypt, they were brought to feel their evil cafe, and to cry unto him because of their, hard bondage. In the fame manner previous to that great deliverance brought for them at the red fea, when the fea was in front and the Egyptian army on their rear, and all things portended their immediate destruction. in this tremendious fituation, they prayed

and cried unto the Lord, and God quickly fent them relief, and they foon faw their enemies overwhelmed in the fea. Thus the defciples of Jefus when in a dreadful ftorm, the ship covered with waves and just ready to fink, in this diftress, they prayed faying, "Lord, fave us, we perifh." The winds and waves were checked and there was a great calm. The woman of Canaan before the obtained healing for her daughter, came to the feet of Jefus, and in carneft fupplication cried, "Lord help me." The prpdigal fon becomes fenfible of his wants, bows before his father, confeffes his mifconduct and requests the lowest ftation benath his roof, in orderto his obtaining mercy.

Hezekiah when the fentence of death had been passed upon him, turned his face towards the wall, wept and prayed unto the Lord; his prayers were heard, his life spared and fifteen years were added to his days.

Innumerable are the inftances to fhew that prayer is the conftitution of God in refpect to finful men, for their obtaining favours and blefings. The Pfalmift fo ftrongly illuftrates this point, that he declares its origin is in the nature of God, and he enters it in his book as a part of the divine character. "He is a prayer hearing God, and to him all flesh shall come."

In our text, every motive, argument, and encouragement are combined to imprefs upon the hearts of chriftians the high importance and abfolute neceflity of this duty. «The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." In thefe words the apoftle not only exhorts to prayer in general, but to extraordinary prayers in fpecial cafes. "Is any among "you afflicted, let him pray Is any fick among you, let "him fend for the elders, (or prefbyters) of the church, and "let them pray over hin." After this he gives them dif

tinguishing commandment, " To pray one for another that they might be healed." Thus let perfons feel a due fenfibility of their wants, a proper dependence upon God, and offer up the defires of their hearts in the way of his ordination, and they have certain grounds of affured hope that their believing wishes will not be disappointed.

In this apoftolic affertion refpe&ting prayer, three things ought to command the attention of chriftians.

Firft, the nature of prayer, it ought to be effectual, fervent. Secondly, the qualification of the person, " a righteous man.”

Thirdly, the effect of the addreffes, they avail much.

A few observations on each member of the text will terminate the fubject.

The first observation in the text, regards the nature of prayer, it is to be effectual, fervent. In the original there is but one word expreffing this quality. It is too ftrong to be expreffed by any English term, hence our tranflators chose two. The word effectual was rather an unhappy selection, because it seems to impofe a tautology on the fentence. What is effectual availeth much. No other idea can be communicated hereby, than that which is effectual is prevalent. The only English term expreffive of the original, long fince introduced for the enrichment of our language is derived from it, the word ener getical. "The energetical prayer of a righteous man availeth "much." The term fignifies that which is in-wrought, importing the efficacy or influence of the Holy Ghoft powerfully exciting fuch a prayer in the heart. Hence a right and ac

E

« PreviousContinue »