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how overwhelming must it be to remember, that every prayer and sermon, that the Gospel itself and all the blessings which it contains, although so frequently offered hy God with infinite kindness, were only despised, neglected, and forgotten! But the lamp is now gone out; the oil expended; and the door shut. Nothing, therefore, remains to the infatuated votary of sense and sin, but the blackness of darkness for ever!
THE ORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.
THE NATURE, SEASONS,
OBLIGATIONS OF PRAYER.
THESSALONIANS v. 17.
Pray without ceasing.
The preceding discourse was occupied by considerations on the two first of those Means of Grace, which were formerly mentioned; viz. The Preaching and Hearing of the Gospel, and the Reading of the Scriptures and other Religious Books. I shall now proceed to the examination of the third of those Means; viz. Prayer.
In this examination I shall depart from the scheme, which was pursued in the preceding discourse ; and shall consider the subject generally ; under the following heads :
1. The Nature, and,
1. I shall briefly consider the Nature of Prayer.
Prayer, according to the language of the Westminster Cateehism, is the Offering up of our desires to God for things agreeable to his Will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and a thankful acknowledgment of his mercies. This definition is undoubtedly just. Yet it is in a degree defective. Prayer is an act of worship, consisting of four great parts ; Adoration, Confession, Petition, and Thanks. Giving.
The first of these, Adoration, consists in solemnly reciting the character of God; and in reverentially ascribing to him the glory, due to his name for the infinite perfections, which he pos. sesses, and for all the inanifestations, which he has made of himself in his Word, and in his works.
The second, Confession, demands no comment.
The third, Petition, is both by Reason and Revelation confined to things, which are agreeable to the Will of God. His Will involves whatever is right, and good : and nothing, which is not agreeable to it, is in reality desirable.
Thanks-Giving, the last of these subjects, is so generally, and so well, understood, as to need no explanation at the present time.
All these are to be offered up to God'in the name of Christ, in obedience to his express command. Unless they are so offered, they cannot, under the Christian dispensation, be accepted.
JI. The principal Seasons of Prayer are the following. 1. The Sabbath.
On this holy Day, we are required to devote ourselves to this duty in a peculiar manner. A prime part of the religious sera vice, to which it is destined, consists of Prayer. For this reason, the sanctuary is appropriately styled the house of prayer. Thus God says in Isaiah, I will make them joyful in my house of prayer; and again, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people. These promises immediately respect Christian na. tions; and teach in the clearest manner the proper destination of the house of God, and of the day, upon which, especially, it is occupied by religious assemblies. The Jewish Church worshipped in this manner on their Sabbath; and the primitive Christian Church on the Lord's Day. These examples have been followed, in every age of Christianity, by those, who, in any country, have worn the Christian name.
Nor is the Sabbath a season of public prayer only. It is equally to be employed in private prayer. On this sacred day, God has required a peculiar attention to all our religious duties; at home, as well as in the Sanctuary. Every advantage for this purpose is furnished by this heavenly season. The consecration of this holy day by the Fourth Command, by his own resting upon the first Sabbath, and by the Resurrection of the Redeemer; the celebration of it by the Church in all the ages of time; the blessing, originally annexed to it; and the sanctification, acquired, and increased, in the minds of many millions of the human race, all unite to designate it as being pre-eminently the season of prayer. With these affecting views of the Sabbath, all others conspire. On this day, mankind assemble in the house of God as brethren, and as children of the same Divine Parent, to worship their Creator; to learn his holy Will; and to obtain a title to endless life. Here, with one united voice they confess their sins before him. Hither they come, to acknowledge their dependence on him for the communication of every blessing, and the fulfilment of every hope. Here, they stand as mere suppliants for mercy; for the forgiveness of their sins, and the renovation of their souls. Hither they come, to be employed only in religious thoughts, affections, and pursuits; to act as spiritual and immortal beings; and to appear as candidates for everlasting life. Here, the Word of God is presented to them as a Law, immutable and eternal, which they have violated, and by which they are condemned ; as the news, and means, of restoration to safety, hope, and life; as the manifestation of his character, and our own; and as the tidings of a future resurrection, judgment, and immortality. Hither they come, on this sacred day, into the immediate presence of God, as the reconcileable Father of mankind; infinitely great, venerable, and lovely, in his character. Here, they behold the Saviour in all his peculiar glory and beauty, his transcendent compassion and self-denial. His condescension and humiliation, his preaching and miracles, his sufferings and death, his resurrection and exaltation, are here presented in his Word and Ordinances, pencilled by the hand of JEHOVAH.
This holy season is the day, appointed by God himself, as a perpetual Festival, for the commemoration of these glorious things; especially of the Creation and Redemption of mankind; and of the Divine perfections, manifested in these wonderful works. As such a festival it is regarded, and acknowledged, by all, who assemble for his worship.
To all these things, the strong power of sympathy lends an interest, a solemnity, a capacity for affecting the soul, unrivalled in its nature, and attainable in no other situation.
As on the Sabbath these things are eminently felt in the House of God; so the spirit, imbibed here, is extended to every thing of the same nature, when contemplated in our own dwellings. Thither we carry the feelings, originated in the sanctuary; and there we prolong the views, which the Sabbath has already inspired. In both places, therefore, we are furnished with advantages for praying fervently, and acceptably, at this happy season, which obviously make the Sabbath by way of distinction the Day of Prayer.
2. Such Occasional Days, as are warranted by the Word of God; and appointed by the rulers of mankind, for public worship, are, also, important seasons of Prayer.
Public annual Festivals for national thanksgiving, and public days of national humiliation and prayer, were enjoined by God upon
the Israelites; the only nation, to whom, as such, he ever gave
laws and institutions. The institutions and laws of Moses are binding on us no farther, than as they are applicable to our circumstances. Political and ceremonial branches of this system are not, and cannot be, applicable to the state of any modern, or Christian, nation. They are, therefore, abrogated; as we are amply assured in the Scriptures themselves. But these national thanksgivings, and fasts, are no less applicable to the state of other nations, than to that of the Israelites. For, all nations, equally with them, have sins to be confessed and lamented, and blessings to be remembered and acknowledged. God,