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CHAPTER V.

Means of Promoting Soul Prosperity.

SECTION 1.

FERVENT, FREQUENT, AND PERSEVERING PRAYER.

It is by prayer that we hold communion with God, it is one principal mean of enjoying fellowship with hin. But there can be no communion with the adorable Creator where there is no likeness to him ; nor any acceptable prayer, which is not offered through Jesus Christ and in his name only. There must be divine life in the soul, before we can feel any real enjoyment in approaching the throne of grace. “ The sun shines," says an excellent old writer, “ upon a stone wall as well as upon man, but a stone wall has no communion with the sun." All bodies tend towards their proper centre. Rivers run into the sea, fire ascends towards the

sun;

both seek their original source, or common centre.

“ So a soul that's born of God,

Pants to view his lovely face;
Upwards tends to his abode,

To rest in his embrace."

This communion with God by prayer and suppli

man.

cation, shows the great excellence of the soul of

He is capable of a much higher life, and more exalted happiness, than any other creature in this lower world. Even the natural sun is not so excellent a being, in all its meridian splendour, as the soul of man: and to be renewed by grace, and brought into communion with God, at his divine footstool, to feel our interest in him, and to know that all his perfections are employed to perfect our conformity to his image, are sweet anticipations of heaven. The soul that truly lives in daily fellowship with God, enjoys more than it can express; that soul can bear testimony that such a life is the most noble, exalted, and glorious life in the whole world.

This sweet enjoyment, however, cannot be realized without prayer. These beginnings of heaven are not to be expected in any other way. It is by believing prayer that we " dwell in God, and God in us." Where there is no prayer, there is no divine life ; and, consequently, no such happiness. “The more all pray, the more all prosper.” Nothing can appear more true, if the nature of prayer be rightly understood. It is the offering up the desire of the soul to God by faith in the blessed Jesus. “Bodily exercise profiteth little;" it is not the mere form of prayer, or of godliness, that will avail any thing. Here the Pharisees of old erred, and the Papists still err exceedingly. A whole life of supplications with the lips merely, will not bring the soul one step nearer to heaven.

My son, give me thine heart.” How important is this requisition! When it is believingly complied with, the soul breathes out its

desires after God, and “prays with the spirit, and with the understanding."

Let me not, however, be misunderstood. There should be hours of prayer. The morning and evening are scriptural seasons for devotion; and then every christian should retire from the world, and offer up his thanksgivings and intercessions, out of his own heart, to him who never said to the seed of Jacob, seek “ye my face in vain.” Where these spiritual exercises are omitted, there cannot be soul prosperity. O Lord,” said David, “thou art my God, early will I seek thee.”

Yet good men have often to complain of the dulness of their devotions. Sad experience testifies that this is too true. Prayer is often lifeless, and freezes on the lips ; and the people of God rise from their knees, smiting their breasts, and crying, “ Lord, can this be prayer ?” “ God be merciful to me a sinner.” Were we more watchful, did we live nearer to God, we should doubtless have more comfort at the throne of grace; but the cares and troubles of this world sometimes force themselves upon us, in those seasons when we most desire to be free from them, and we may say with the poet,

They break our duty, Lord to thee,

And hurry us away.” Satan is a great enemy to spiritual prayer; and he is most apt to employ his agency, and throw his fiery darts, when the christian is on his knees, endeavouring to commune with God. He is too often successful, and prevents our communion with God, by tempting us to neglect prayer, or by telling us that we never pray aright. At other times he at

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tempts to foster our pride, that he niay draw us into the same condemnation with himself.

Prayer is the application of want to him who alone can relieve it; the voice of a convinced sinner to him who alone can pardon sin. It is the urgency of poverty, the prostration of humility, the fervency of penitence, the confidence of trust. It is not eloquence but earnestness; not the definition of helplessness, but the feeling of it; not figures of speech, but compunction of soul. It is the “ Lord, save us, we perish," of drowning Peter; the cry of faith to the ear of mercy.”

We do not pray to inform God of our wants, but to express our sense of the wants which he already knows.' It is by asking and seeking that we may expect to find. We often murmur that we receive not the things that we ask, and at the same time are not aware that we ask amiss. We forget that the same mercy by which all our blessings are granted, withholds what would be hurtful to us, were we to receive it. Things good in themselves may not be good for us. A spirit of resignation is the proper disposition to prepare us for receiving mercies, or for having them denied. A loyal subject resigns to the will of his sovereign; but the impenitent mind is ready to revolt when opposed by the sovereign's will. This seditious principle is the infallible characteristic of an unrenewed mind.

God has often a better way of hearing our requests than by granting them. Happy for us that our heavenly Father knows best, and what is best for us, and acts upon that knowledge.

We should endeavour to render our private devotions effectual remedies for our own particular sins. Prayer against sin in general is too indefinite to reach the individual case. We must bring it home to our hearts, else we may be confessing another man's sins, and overlooking our own. If we have any predominant fault, we should pray and watch particularly against that fault. God, for our sakes, may require our importunity in prayer to bring our hearts into that frame which is suitable for beggars at the door of mercy.

We are apt to be reluctant and weary in our devotions. This reminds us of the remark of a certain great political wit, who apologized for his late attendance in Parliament, by his being “ detained while a party of soldiers were dragging a volunteer to his duty.” We are apt to make many excuses, and have often need to say, “ My soul cleaveth to the dust, quicken thou me according to thy word.”

REFLECTION.

Pause, my soul, and reflect. Dost thou by prayer hold and keep up communion with God.? Alas! what know I of walking with him, and of that joy and peace which are found in believing? What do I know of dwelling in his presence all the day long ? Alas! how seldom can I say, “ My meditation is sweet !

But unless my soul be 'united to Christ by faith, how can I have divine fellowship? Lord, I would believe, “ O help my unbelief!” May I be “ joined to the Lord, and be one spirit.” Let me remember that communion with God lies not in a flaming profession, nor in a mere discharge of christian duties,

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