Page images
PDF
EPUB

What was the prophet Daniel doing when the angel Gabriel was sent to assure him that within a given period the Messiah should come to make atonement for sin, and fulfil the other gracious purposes for the accomplishment of which he had been promised ?-He was praying. “Whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God; yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved : therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision. Seventy days are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy," Daniel ix. 20—24.

What was the whole congregation of Israel doing when Gabriel was sent again to announce to Zacharias that he should have a son, who should be the herald to proclaim the promised Redeemer's advent ?- It was praying. “The whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias : for thy prayer is heard ; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. ..... And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” Luke i. 10–17.

What was Saul of Tarsus doing when, having seen the Lord Jesus in the way to Damascus, and humbled himself before the Saviour, Ananias was sent to restore his sight and guide his steps ?-He was praying. The Lord said to Ananias, “ Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus; for, behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight,” Acts ix. 11, 12.

When messengers came to Peter from Cesarea, to invite him to a new sphere of usefulness, that so he might be the honoured

[merged small][ocr errors]

was the apostle doing ?– He was praying. "I was in the city of Joppa praying ; and in a trance I saw a vision. ..... And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Cesarea unto me. And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting,” Acts xi. 5, 12.

When Peter, after his deliverance by an angel from prison, came to the house of Mary the mother of John, and informed the company assembled there of the miracle that had been wrought on his behalf, what were they doing ?- They were praying. Peter was kept in prison ; “but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him," Acts xii. 5. Anxious for one so beloved, whose life was so important, but whose execution was appointed for the morrow; unable to purchase his release, to influence the heart of the stern tyrant who had decreed his death, or by any human agency to avert the sentence; sorrowful and dejected, they met to pour out united supplications before the Almighty. "And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews. And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying,” Acts xii. 11, 12. .

When the prison at Philippi was shaken, when the feet of the messengers of salvation were suddenly released from the stocks, and the heart of the cruel jailor became docile, submissive, and obedient, what had Paul and Silas been doing ?— They had been praying. This is the introduction to the pleasing portion of the narrative; this was the preparative for their deliverance, and for the conversion of the jailor and his house:-“At midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken ; and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed,” Acts xvi. 25, 26.

And what should we do, if we are in trouble ?-what, if the sorrows or dangers of others occasion anxiety on their behalf ?what, if we desire to receive those rich spiritual blessings, those heavenly donations, which none but God can bestow ?-what, if we long for usefulness in the church of God, or feel compassion for the myriads who are perishing in sin and ignorance? It is written, “ Ask, and it shall be given you,” Matt. vii. 7. May it not often be said, then, “ Ye have not, because ye ask not?" In the cases just mentioned, and in many others recorded both in ancient and in modern history, how evidently was the promise fulfilled, “Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear," Isaiah lxv. 24. True, we do not deserve that God should hearken to us; but he is gracious. True, we cannot plead any worthiness of our own; but we may plead the worthiness of Christ, the righteous One, the Saviour of all who commit themselves to his care and guidance. When Jesus prayed, the Father saw before him his beloved Son, his faithful servant, the object of his highest complacency; and the suppliant was for his own sake heard and accepted. But in this he is alone. All others of the human family are unworthy of the blessings they request, and if they receive them, must be indebted to free mercy. Daniel, therefore, in urging his petition, disclaimed all personal merit, saying, “ We do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies," Dan. ix. 18. But we are authorized to ask for blessings in the Saviour's name. “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name," said he," he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name : ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full,” John xvi. 23, 24. One of the relations he sustains to his people is this; he is their righteousness. As the poet has said :-

Our guilty souls are drown'd in tears,
Till his atoning blood appears ;
Then we awake from deep distress,

And sing, · The Lord our righteousness.” This is in accordance with what God himself declared by his prophet: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness," Jer. xxiii. 5, 6. It is an answer to every objection, arising from our guilt, that Christ died for our sins; and it is a plea which the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will never disregard, that we belong to his righteous Son. Every true believer in him, is a partaker of his righteousness; he is in consequence himself righteous; and “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much," James v. 16. “ Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,” Hebrews iv. 14–16.

[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors]

“I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants," Luke xv. 18, 19.

EVIDENCES OF REGENERATION. READER, solemnly ask your conscience these questions:

First,“ Have I been brought to see that eternal concerns are infinitely important? One of the characteristic marks of those

who are in the flesh,' is great or total carelessness about eternity.- Is this the present frame of my mind? Or am I giving to the realities of the world to come my paramount attention? Have I been brought to feel that, as there is infinite misery to be avoided, and infinite good to be secured hereafter, the pursuit of pleasures—which can exist but for a moment, and the avoidance of evils—which at most can only continue for a season, and perhaps a very short one-should be made to give entire place to the desire of escaping hell, and rising to heaven? And have they given place to this desire ? Have I been brought to feel that even the lawful gratifications of the present state are so worthless when compared with the blessings which eternity presents to our view, that they ought to be sacrificed without a moment's hesitation, should the sacrifice be necessary to secure the latter; and that its unlawful gratifications ought not to be tasted, or even thought of ? Have I, in short, been brought to feel that the salvation of the soul is an object of such tran

scendant importance, that it should attract our supreme, and habitual, and exclusive attention to itself? And does it do this? If this be not the case with me, I am declared, by the Scriptures, to be in the flesh, and cannot of course please God.'”

Secondly, “ Have I been brought to entertain just apprehensions of the things of the Spirit of God? What are my conceptions of the Divine Being? Do I regard him, habitually, as the ever-present Deity-abroad, around, within me; as privy to every deed I perform, every word I speak, every thought wliich arises in the secret recesses of my bosom? Do I contemplate him as a being whose nature is infinitely averse to all kinds, and degrees, of moral pollution? Do I believe that justice, and holiness, and truth, are essential perfections of his character, and that he can no more act in opposition to these attributes than he can cease to exist ? And does this view of his character appear glorious to me? What, again, are the conceptions I form in regard to the law of God? Do I consider it improperly strict, if not unjust, in requiring absolute perfection, and in pronouncing the sentence of condemnation against those who are the subjects of a single unhallowed desire ? Or, am I ready to acknowledge that the law of God is exactly what it should be ? that it ought to extend to the thoughts and intents of the heart? That the evil of sin is so tremendously, so infinitely great, that the justice of God absolutely requires that the least violation of its precepts should expose the transgressor to everlasting destruction ? What, again, are my views of inyself? Do I fancy that I am rich, and increased in goods ? Or, if disposed to admit that there is some defect in my moral constitution, am I reluctant to believe that it has become totally deranged? Do I hesitate to receive the testimony of God concerning the heart of man by nature, that it is evil, only evil, and that continually ? Or, do I unfeignedly believe that the carnal mind is enmity against God'--that the whole of the human family are by nature earthly, sensual, and devilish? What, further, are my views of the way of salvation? Do I indulge the hope of being able to atone for my own sins ?-or, do I see that the free and sovereign grace of God must be the source of all my hopes of mercy ?—that transgression has occasioned so wide, and vast, and apparently so irreparable a breach between man and his Maker, that even the goodness of God, unbounded and infinite as it is, can find no honourable channel through which it may flow to men, but the bitter agonies and death of his Son ? And am I actually building upon this atonement, as the exclusive ground of a sinner's confidence before God ?".

Thirdly, “ Have the views I have been brought to entertain of the things of the Spirit of God, had the effect of drawing out

« PreviousContinue »