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lubly God has fixed the connexion between our pray. ing and his hearing, the more we are bound and encouraged to pray. After God had promised his people in Babylon, that he would restore them to their former prosperity, he expressly said, "I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.” But who can imagine, that God's promise to bless his people in answer to prayer; should destroy the propriety or the energy of their prayers for promised blessings?
IMPROVEMENT. 1. If it be the design of prayer to move God to bestow temporal and spiritual favors; then there is a propriety in praying for others as well as for ourselves. We find intercession to be much inculcated in the word of God. The Psalmist calls upon saints to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem;" that is, for the general prosperity of the church. Paul represents intercession as the first and principal branch of prayer. “I exhort therefore that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.” And James enjoins the duty of intercesssion upon every christian. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another.” Those, who possess universal benevolence, find a peculiar pleasure in praying for others. And it
from Scripture, that the most eminent saints have always been the most remarkable intercessors at the throne of divine grace. But were it not the design of prayer to
. move God to shew mercy, there would be no propriety nor importance in praying for any but ourselves. If, as many pious divines have taught, the only pur
prayer is to prepare ourselves to receive or to be denied divine favors, then there seems to be no ground or reason to pray for the temporal or spiritual
good of our fellow men. Our prayers can have no tendency to prepare them for either the smiles or frowns of heaven. If we pray for their outward prosperity; this can have no tendency to prepare them for the reception of external blessings. If we pray for their deliverance from outward evils, this can have no tendency to prepare them for the removal of afflictions. If we pray for their right improvement of divine favors or divine judgments; this can have no tendency to inspire their hearts with either gratitude or submission. Indeed, our prayers for others can answer no other purpose, than that of moving the Deity to do them good. Take away this design of intercession, and it ceases to have any meaning, and to answer any yaluable end. But if, as we have shown, it be the proper design of prayer to move the Deity to bestow favors; then the effectual fervent prayers of the righteous may have a powerful tendency to draw down divine bless sings upon others, as well as upon themselves. Upon this ground, intercession appears to be as proper and important, as any other branch of prayer.
2. We are led to conclude, from what has been said upon this subject, that we have as fair an opportunity of obtaining divine favors, as if God were to form his determinations, at the time we present our petitions. Many imagine, that it is a great discouragement to prayer, that God has determined from all eternity, what he will grant and what he will deny tothe children of men. But it appears from what has been said, that our prayers may have all the influence now, in procuring divine favors, that they could have, if God were now to form his purposes respecting us. For he actually formed his eternal purposes in the full view of all our prayers, and gave them all the weight they deserved. It is as strictly true, therefore, that our
prayers move him to grant us favors, as if he determined to grant them, at the time of our praying. Hence we have as fair an opportunity of prevailing upon the Deity to grant us any particular future blessings, as if we knew he had yet to form his purpose of granting or denying it. This may be easily and clearly illustrated. Suppose two men are condemned to die. Supposé à certain day is set for each of them to plead for pardon before the king. Suppose each criminal has a friend, who unknown to him, goes to the king before the day appointed, and states his case exactly as it is, and offers all the reasons for his being pardoned, that can be offered. And suppose the king, upon hearing the pleas made in favor of each criminal, absolutely determines to pardon one, and to execute the other. Let me now ask, Can these fixed determinations of the king bé any disadvantage to the criminals, when they actually make their own pleas before him on the day appointed? Thus God foresaw from eternity all his suppliants, and all their supplications, and gave them all the weight that an infinitely wise and benevolent Being ought to give them. Their prayers, therefore, avail as much as it is possible they should avail, wére God to form his determinations, at the time they stand praying before him. But here perhaps, it may be said, there is no occasion of their praying at all, if God foresaw their prayers from eternity and fixed his purposes in connexion with them. The answer to this is easy. When God determines to do any thing one way, he equally determines not to do it another way. When he determines to bring about any event by prayer, he equally determines not to bring about that event without prayer. Thus when he determined to deliver his people from the Babylon. ish captivity, in answer to the prayers of Daniel, Ezra,
Nehemiah, and other pious Israelites; he equally determined not to deliver them, if he were not inquired of by those good men to do it for them. Indeed, the energy of prayer properly consists in moving God to execute those purposes, which were formed in connexion with prayer. In some cases, God has revealed not only his purposes, but also revealed, that they are to be accomplished in answer to prayer. In all such cases, prayers are as necessary as any other appointed means, of accomplishing the divine purposes. And though in most cases, God has not revealed his purposes, nor whether they are to be accomplished by prayer; yet if some of his unrevealed purposes are connected with
prayer, the accomplishment of these particular purposes as much depends upon prayer, as upon any other means or second causes. Hence it appears, that every person may do as much to obtain temporal and eternal blessings, by sincere and submissive prayer, as if God had not, from eternity, absolutely determined when, and where, and to bestow his favors. Even importunity, ardor, and perseverance in prayer, are as proper and as influential . in order to obtain any divine blessing, on supposition of God's immutability, as they could be on supposition of his being now at liberty to alter his past purposes, or to form his determinations anew. And since this is the case, we have all the encouragement to pray for divine favors, that rational, dependent, ill-deserving creatures can reasonably desire, or can possibly enjoy. For God has determined, from eternity, to hear every prayer that ought to be heard.
3. We learn from what has been said, the propriety of praying for future, as well as for present blessings. If it were the sole design of prayer, to prepare our own hearts for the reception of divine favors, there could
be no propriety in praying for any far distant good to be bestowed upon ourselves or upon others. But if it be the proper design of addressing the throne of divine
grace, to move the compassion of God; then we may pray for future mercies with as much propriety as for present relief, and our prayers may be of as much avail to draw, down divine favors upon the world, hundreds and thousands of years hence, as at this day. There is great reason to believe, that the prayers of good men, in all ages, have had a mighty influence in moving, God to bestow great and extensive blessings upon future generations of mankind. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, no doubt, prayed, that God would put their future posterity into the possession of the land of promise. All the while the Jews were in Babylon, those who were Israelites indeed, no doubt, incessantly prayed for their restoration to their native country, at the period predicted. All good men frona Adam to Simeon, undoubtedly prayed for the fulfilment of the first promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. In all these instances, the prayers of holy men were not lost, but had great influence in procuring long desired and far distant blessings. Our Savior taught his disciples to pray for the future enlargement of his kingdom, saying, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” God intends to send the gospel to the ends of the earth, and bring all nations into his kingdom. And we may presume, that the fervent prayers of myriads of pious christians, will avail much to bring about this great and desirable event. If prayer be designed to move God to bestow mercy, then it may be as proper and as important, to pray for the prosperity of the church and the happiness of mankind to the remotest ages, as to pray for any present temporal or spiritual good. As the prayers of our pious