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may be seen in the broad statement of his own reluctance to be saved, or in that of the deceitfulness and treachery of the heart. Of the danger accruing from these, he is warned as distinctly as possible. It would hardly be important, then, to extend these iletails. Whenever the experience of a change in the heart of the sinner is marked and distinct, he is usually able to date it from the time in which he felt able to relinquish all hold on himself or the world. And it is then he can most clearly discover that all his previous detention from hope consisted in a defect here.
I must again entreat you to think no more of the many trials which seem to accompany all your exertions. You ought to be able to ascertain their true meaning; and to see in them an additional reason for an immediate and unqualified surrender to Jesus Christ. And then you will observe that they have been over-ruled as instruments of conferring on you a greater knowledge of yourself and God.
The idea that so many evil thoughts come into your mind, is indeed painful. But these do not necessarily prove your desires to be false and unacceptable. The best of Christians have reasons to mourn over this. And you are
to discriminate between tempting thoughts to which your inclination assents, and those which arise in opposition to your will, and which you prayerfully endeavour to repress. Should you ever have reason to indulge the hope of the Christian, you will not cease to lament your depravity. And now, while the great issue is pending, you are not to expect that Satan will relinquish his hold, without a vigorous effort to retain you. The rejoicing of Heaven over a renewed soul is answered by the malignant groans of Hell at the loss of a victim. Reply to every discouraging suggestion of the adversary by the Word of God. So did the redeemer himself. And whenever those discouragements are suggested by the Scriptures, recollect that it is by detached and mutilated sentences. It was so, too, in the temptation of Christ. *
Abide by his example every
such trial. ; I will conclude this letter by remarking that a serious Inquirer, who was much tried by evil
* In this instance, the quotation of Satan—" He shall give his Angels charge concerning thee,” is imperfect. It wants the adjunct, -"In all thy ways:" that is, in the ways of one " dwelling in the secret place of the Most High.” He shall indeed be kept "in all his ways''--for these imply a cordial obedience to the will of Jehovah : departing from which, with any hope of safety, would be tempting God.
thoughts, once told me that he never failed in his efforts to discard them, when he carefully pondered over the fifty first Psalm. There is, indeed, much in it to occupy your reflections, and to present as subjects of prayer. Farewell,
Yours, as ever, &c.
Difficulties in prayer—Causes—Mistake respecting the nature of prayer
Confusion in the mind of the Inquirer-False anticipations in prayer ---Perplexity from our ignorance of the person addressed—Directions in prayer-The duty of describing personal trials-Habit of attention-Remedy for wandering thoughts-Application of special promises-Scriptural examples-Seasons for Prayer-Ejaculatory desires-FormsDoes God "ever withhold his Grace, for a season, to try the sinner ?" -Answered.
MY DEAR SIR,
You are right when you say, that “no class of difficulties seems more serious to the Inquirer than those relating to the duty of prayer." Easy as it may have appeared, formerly, to offer a petition to the throne of grace, his disappointment is frequently as complete as that which he experiences in reading the Scriptures. The discovery which he may make in
the first attempt to pray, is mortifying and distressing: and it ought to be humbling, too. He sees that the utterance of a form of words, and the posture of supplication, on which he would have once depended, may be a very different thing from that exercise of heart which is carried on near the mercy-seat. He looks back with astonishment, to those unmeaning acts of outward devotion, with which he had once satisfied his conscience, and for which he expected, in return, the favour of his God. He sees that there was a something wanting of which he had not thought; and which he now labours to obtain. Perhaps there is no discovery more striking to the mind of the awakened sinner than this. And certainly none more alarming to his fears.
And all the general directions which he receives on the subject, appear either inapplicable to his own case, or wholly impracticable for him. In a strait of this kind, advice is often thrown away, al-. though given by the lips of prudence and piety. All representations of divine mercy are ineffectual. To others, he conceives, they may be suitable; but not to himself. And to every thing of the kind, he opposes the palpable evidence of his utter incompetency to ex
press any thing but empty sounds, which reach no further than the atmosphere above him. Let us endeavour to account for this: One of the first causes which occur to us,
is that of a mistake respecting the nature of prayer. So confident was he in the attribute of mercy, that he believed any application which might be made, infallibly successful. To the bare expressions of prayer he had attributed a sovereign influence; without any reference to the state of the heart of the petitioner, or to a sense of his personal wants. He makes the experiment in the first hour of his alarm. And he ends it, as might have been expected, with a sensation of disappointment. Now, the whole reason of this failure may be summed up in a single word—ignorance: Ignorance of what he was doing—of the character of his God-or of the nature of the object desired. Had this man sat down for a moment; and reflected on these things, be assured, the tenour of his prayer would have been very different from what it was. Instead of asking for an undefined something-instead of looking for what he did not understand, he would have seen the necessity of praying—" enlighten thou mine eyes!” He might have seen the