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all, are wrung from them by the hard hand of necessity. In the former case, the benefits may be said to be laid out well; in the latter, to little or no purpose.

These observations may possibly throw some light on a subject which hitherto has been almost merely a topic of debate among theologians. This is the true nature and efficacy of the prayers of such persons as are under conviction of sin. Some divines have strongly encouraged, and others utterly discouraged, convicted sinners from praying. Those of the latter class, founding their opinions on the declaration that 'the prayers of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,' observe, that the prayers of convinced sinners cannot be acceptable to God; that they cannot reasonably be expected to be either heard or answered; and that, therefore, it is unjustifiable to advise such sinners, or any sinners whatever, to pray at all.

This subject will hereafter naturally offer itself for discussion, I shall now consider it only so far as my present purpose demands. According to the opinion which I have recited, no man can with any propriety pray for his regeneration. The sinner cannot pray for it, because his prayers are sinful and abominable. The saint cannot pray for it with propriety, because he is already regenerated, and cannot possibly either need or receive it. Thus the greatest blessing ever given to man, and that on which all other blessings depend, cannot be prayed for by him who receives it; and stands, therefore, on a ground totally diverse from that on which all other blessings rest; viz. on such a ground that a man can never ask it for himself.

The prayers of convinced sinners, it is said, are insincere, and therefore abominable to God. In answer to this objection, I observe, that a sinner, whether convinced or not, may undoubtedly pray with insincerity in all instances; but there is no invincible necessity that his prayers should always be insincere, notwithstanding he is a sinner. A sinner may, from a sense of his danger and misery, pray as sincerely to be saved from that danger and misery, as a saint. His disposition, I acknowledge, is still sinful; and his prayers are wholly destitute of moral goodness. But the mere wish to be saved from suffering, is neither sinful nor holy. On the contrary, it is merely the instinctive desire of every percipient being;

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without which he would cease to be a percipient being. That there is any thing hateful to God in this wish, whether expressed in prayer or not, I cannot perceive, nor do I find it declared either by reason, or Revelation. It may, indeed, be united with other desires, and those either virtuous or sinful; according to the prevailing character of the mind in which it exists; and the whole state of the mind may be accordingly denominated virtuous, or sinful. Still this desire is neither morally good, nor morally evil; and therefore neither pleasing nor displeasing, as such, in the sight of God.

That God pities sinners as mere sufferers will not be doubted; otherwise he would not have sent his Son to redeem them from sin and misery. That he pities them more when strongly affected with a sense of their guilt and misery, than when at ease concerning both, will I think be readily believed. The sinner is certainly not less an object of compassion, but much more, when he feels the evils in which he is involved; and I can see no reason why he may not be more an object of divine compassion on that account, as well as of ours. The cries of the sinner for mercy are not therefore in themselves sinful; and there is nothing to make the sinner less, but apparently much to make him more an object of the divine pity.

As the sinner knows that regeneration is the only possible mean of escape and safety, so he may, and plainly will, feel in the same degree the necessity of regeneration to him, as of safety. For regeneration then he will cry with the same ardour and the same freedom from sinfulness in this prayer, considered by itself, as for salvation or deliverance from suffering.

That the prayers of unregenerate men are not virtuous must undoubtedly be admitted; for nothing can be virtuous which does not proceed from a heart good in the evangelical sense. That they are sinful, so far as they are of a moral nature, must also be admitted, at least by me. The declaration of Solomon, that the prayers of the wicked are an abomination,' appears to me, together with others of the like import, to be a description of the prayers of wicked men as they are in their general nature; and not as the mere cries of a suffering creature for mercy. In these, considered by themselves, 1 ee nothing of a sinful nature. They are not indeed objects

of the divine complacency; and the sinner who offers them is clearly an object of the divine anger. But I see no evidence that the prayers of such a sinner may not be objects of the divine benevolence, and regarded by the infinite mind with compassion. To that compassion only are they addressed. The cries of a profligate vagrant in distress render him more properly and more intensely an object of compassion, and more especially entitled to relief, although he is still profligate, from a good man, than he would be were he to continue insensible and hardened under his sufferings, and thus utterly unfitted to have any proper views of his need of relief, or the kindness of his benefactor in furnishing it. I see no reason why God may not regard suffering sinners in a similar manner. That he does in fact thus regard them is, I think, unanswerably evident; regeneration, regularly following such prayers, and being regularly communicated to the subjects of them in the course of God's providence, whenever it exists at all. That this is ordinarily, nay, that it is almost always the fact cannot, I think, be questioned. All sinners under conviction pray; and of such sinners all converts are made. To convinced sinners, crying to God for mercy, regeneration is communicated by the Spirit of God; and we are not, I think, warranted to conclude that it is given to any others. As then the whole number of regenerated persons is formed of those who have been convinced of sin, and who have been diligently employed in prayer while under conviction, it is plain that their prayers are not abominable in such a sense as to prevent the blessing prayed for from descending upon them; and therefore not in such a sense as rationally to discourage them from praying.

The prayer of the publican is in my view a clear and strong illustration of the justice of these remarks. There is no proof, nor in my opinion any reason to believe that this man was regenerated. On the contrary, he declares himself in his prayer to God, to be a sinner. As this declaration is put into his mouth by our Saviour, it must I think be considered not only as a sincere declaration, but a correct one; expressing with exactness the precise truth. He was also a convinced sinner; as is evident from his own words, and from the whole tenour of the parable. Yet he was justified rather than the pharisee.' The pharisee came before God with a false ac


count of himself, with a lofty spirit of self-righteousness, and with an unwarrantable contempt for other men, particularly for the publican. The publican came with a strong and full conviction of his sin, and his supreme need of deliverance. With these views, confessing himself to be a sinner merely, he earnestly besought God to have mercy on him. His sense of his character was plainly just; and his prayer, being the result of his feelings, was of course sincere. Thus far I consider him as justified, and no farther. If he was regenerated in consequence of his prayer, and justified in the evangelical sense, the parable becomes completely decisive to my purpose, and furnishes all the encouragment to convinced sinners to pray which can be asked But this I will not at present insist on, because it is not expressly declared; although in my own view it is fairly and rationally inferred from the strain of the parable.

These observations I have made at the present time, because the subject could scarcely fail of occuring to your minds, and because difficulties could scarcely fail of attending it, in the view of some persons at least, which it must be desirable to remove. Allow me, however, to observe, that divines, so far as I may be permitted to judge, have insisted on the metaphysical nature of this and several other subjects in such a manner as rather to perplex than to instruct those who have heard them. To unfold or to limit exactly the agency of moral beings, seems to be a task imperfectly suited to such minds as ours. What the Scriptures have said concerning this subject we know, so far as we understand their meaning. We also know whatever is clearly taught us by experience. Beyond this our investigations seem not to have proceeded very far; and almost all the conclusions derived from reasoning à priori, have failed of satisfying minds not originally bias

sed in their favour.

From this digression, which I hope has not been wholly without use, I now return to the general subject.

When the sinner has come to this state of discernment and feeling, in which his character, danger, and necessity of deliverance are thus realized; and has thus cast himself, as a mere suppliant for mercy, at the footstool of divine grace, God, as has been already observed, gives him a new and virtuous disposition, styled in the Scriptures a new heart;' a right






spirit; an honest and good heart; the good treasure of a good heart;' and by several other names of like import. That act of the Spirit of God by which this disposition is communicated, that is, the act of regenerating man, and the disposition itself which is communicated, I cannot be expected to describe. Neither of these things can in the abstract be known, or even contemplated by such minds as ours. Not a single idea would ever be formed concerning the nature or existence of either, were they not discovered by their effects; or, as they are called in the Gospel their fruits.' It may however be useful to repeat, that what I intend by this disposition is the cause which in the mind of man produces all virtuous affections and volitions; the state in which the mind is universally possessed of a tendency to the evangelical character; or the tendency itself of the mind towards all that which in the character is morally excellent. The existence of this disposition is proved by its effects; and in these only can it be seen. As these are new, and before unknown, it follows irresistibly, that the cause is equally new. This is also abundantly taught by the Scriptures, in which the disposition itself is called a new heart;' the man, who becomes a subject of it, a new creature;' and the life proceeding from it, newness of life.'



The first great effect of this disposition is the exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The convinced sinner, as I have repeatedly observed, deeply feels his own utter inability to atone for his sins, to satisfy the demands of the divine law, and to reconcile himself to God.

All this, however, Christ informs him in the Gospel he is able, willing and faithful to do for him. In this situation, the sinner for the first time confides in these declarations of the Redeemer, and in that moral character which furnishes the evidence of their truth. The scheme of saving himself, either wholly or partially, he has now given up, and is satisfied and delighted to be saved by Christ alone. His self-righteousness, so dear and delightful to him before, he now discerns to be nothing but gross spiritual pride, and so far from being praiseworthy, as to be the foundation of nothing but guilt and shame. Now he quits all designs of exalting and gratifying himself in this work; and becomes highly pleased with exalting Christ by cheerfully rendering to him all the honour of his salvation.

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