« PreviousContinue »
And the spirit of this duty is kept alive by the conviction, on the one hand, that we are altogether undone without Him, and on the other, that He is both willing and able to “ supply all our need out of his riches in glory through Christ Jesus.” The second is seeking after the promised good. This is a stronger expression than the former, and rises higher in the scale of duty. It intimates diligence, earnestness, a sense of the value of the blessing desired, and the vigorous application of all our powers to find it. Men seek after that which is of real worth, or which they account as such ; and this is the case with prayer. The desire of the soul, and the conviction of the understanding, concur to teach the tongue, and thus we may adopt the maxim of our Saviour; “ Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” And wherever this apprehension of the infinite worth of the blessing of God is formed, there will be the diligent use of Christian ordinances. Something must be allowed for previous circumstances, and perhaps for connections in life; but the piety of the individual is at best highly questionable, whose attendance on public worship is seldom, and who cautiously avoids every exercise of social devotion which is not performed on the Sabbath-day. “To the hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet;" and he “ that hungers and thirsts after righteousness,” will embrace every possible opportunity of obtaining it.
But the third and last expression is stronger than either of the preceding; “ knock, and it shall be opened.” The allusion is to a man standing at the door and knocking, either for admission or relief. Sin has shut us out of heaven; and by prayer we seek to enter again. The term denotes vigour, perseverance, unfainting energy, and strong expectation. The Saviour employs it to intimate his earnest desire to dwell in our hearts. " Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open
the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Now these various expressions applied to prayer, intend the same thing, and are designed to teach us humility, watchfulness, fervour, and diligence, in all our approaches to God. Let us, therefore, proceed to consider,
Secondly. A few of our obligations to this holy duty. Observe, the divine command,-ask, seek, knock, and you shall succeed. It is the absolute duty of man, “ to pray, and not faint;t for the Saviour delivered a parable to this end. One apostle bids us to "pray without ceasing;” I and another enquires, “Is any among you afflicted ?” And then adds, “ let him pray.” S The pious example of holy men in all ages, likewise proclaims its necessity and importance. Never would our forefathers have preserved their integrity, or have been such “bright and burning lights” to succeeding generations, had they not been much in the mount of communion with God. Observe the conduct of David: “ Evening, and morning, and at noon-day, will I pray and cry aloud; and he shall hear my voice.”And of Daniel : “ Now when he knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber towards Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”|| No sooner was Saul of Tarsus convinced of sin, than " he prayed.” But the most perfect pattern yet remains to be adduced. He who came forth from the Father” to be at once an example of every celestial and benignant virtue, and a sacrifice for our sins on the cross, constantly offered up supplications to heaven. “ He went out into a mountain, and continued all night in prayer to God.” Ah! how little do they resemble the blessed Redeemer, who, whatever be
# 1 Thess. v. 17.
• Rev. iii. 20.
+ Luke xviii. 1.
their zeal for public worship and external duties, yet neglect to hold fellowship with God. If such be your character, I affectionately entreat you to consider, whether you can justify yourselves in acting so contrary to the rules of Scripture, and the practice of Him “who hath left us an example, that we should follow his steps."
But prayer is not an arbitrary,—it is a reasonable service. Take it in its lowest view—the light of nature; and it appears both natural and necessary. It is founded on the relation between God as a Creator, and man as created by Him. And ought not every rational being to adore his Maker, and confess his dependance ? Ought he not to give thanks for favours conferred, and to seek with filial affection the supplies which he constantly needs? Surely, but for the inveterate depravity and corruption of the heart, there would be no occasion to enforce this duty; the simple recollection of our daily necessities, would be sufficient in itself to constrain us to implore relief. But considered in our moral capacity, degraded and enslaved by sin, what a multitude of affecting motives urge us to its performance! And while I cannot now enter particularly on their consideration, yet this may be plainly aflirmed, that every individual who is brought to a proper sense of the purity of the law of God, and of his own want of conformity to it, will highly value the throne of grace, and frequently approach it, that he may obtain the remission of his sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified.”
Thirdly. Let us specify some of the motives by which it is enforced. I mention first its necessity. The beauty and life of religion consists in particulars: a general regard to outward duties will leave us short of heaven. Every man must give an account of himself unto God;" and there will be no indiscriminate acquittal or condemnation on that day. We should, therefore, like the royal penitent, enter
into the private detail now: “ I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” And dangerous is their mistake, who flatter themselves with the hope of mercy, although they neglect those serious and important transactions, to which the closet should bear continual witness. Besides, its great importance in preparing the mind for the duties of the sanctuary, and the family, is a powerful inducement to private prayer; and its beneficial influence upon our spirit, in every secular engagement, is also a strong recommendation to public devotion. If divine worship with the people of God promote good impressions on the mind, the solitary prostration of the soul will be a most happy means of cherishing them. Another motive arises from the maintenance of the power of religion within us. It will be impossible to preserve it with vigour, unless we ask, and seek, and knock, for strength at the door of supply. The corruptions of our heart will be too strong for the principle of grace to subdue, by any means which exclude prayer for divine assistance. Moreover, the pleasure of walking with God is a powerful incentive to its cultivation; and the man who does not value this privilege, must be grovelling indeed! But I cannot enlarge ; and will, therefore, only add, that the truth of our religion may be justly suspected, if prayer be not cultivated. Can they be “the friends of God” who never converse with Him, or visit Him, or welcome Him to their hearts? This is an enquiry of the utmost importance; and I earnestly request you not to dismiss it with indiffer
The sentiment may be unpalatable; it is nevertheless true, that you cannot live to God here, nor dwell with Him hereafter, if this duty be not your delight. I now proceed to consider,
II. THE ENCOURAGEMENT WHICH THE TEXT AF
“ For every one that asketh, receiveth ; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened."
Here our Lord repeats the declaration made in the preceding verse, respecting the efficacy of prayer; and then proceeds to illustrate and confirm it, by a most instructive and affecting reference to parental tenderness.
" What man is there of you, whom, if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?” Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give good things to them that ask him ?” From these words, let us observe the promise itself, and the abundant fulness which it ensures.
First. The promise itself. Nothing can be more intelligible than the language of our Lord. And he repeats it to show us, that prayer is never offered in vain. But “ he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are but dust:" and hence He condescends to demonstrate, as it were, the truth of his own word. Some of
Some of my hearers are parents; and I appeal to you this morning in confirmation of the sentiment before us. Are you accustomed to disappoint and deny your children when, impelled by nature, they come to your feet for their necessary food? Do you give them, in such cases, “ a stone or a scorpion ?" Do you offer them that which is hurtful rather than nutritious, and poisonous rather than salutary? No; it is impossible. Parental affection forbids it. Perhaps many of you have been anxious,-improperly anxious, respecting their support; and returning from your daily toil, you have ministered to them a portion of what your honest labour has procured ; and have satisfied their hunger, however you have denied yourselves. The affectionate parent never loves to eat his morsel alone. He feels the earnest and expressive look of the little. lovely infant, whose tongue is unable to tell his wants, and he