« 前へ次へ »
disuse or infrequency of that exercise among a great proportion of mankind. Of the millions that people the earth, how many live altogether in prayerless impiety? A still greater number, alienated from Jehovah, through the ignorance that is in them, with guilty earnestness invoke their idol-gods. Among the heathen, a tribe or nation will sometimes hardly furnish a true suppliant. And in happier parts of the earth, where God is known, and the formalities of worship are not neglected, how few seem really to call upon God with unfeigned desire, and with persevering importunity of intercession ?
The insincere, indeed, are without spiritual approach to God, because their hearts are far from him. They assume the attitude, and speak the language of prayer, but there is no access given them, for none is sought. Will an earthly prince grant audience to subjects, who, he knows, really mean nothing in seeking to be solemnly introduced to him ? Man may trifle with man, but the Omniscient will not impair the glory of his majesty, by giving manifestation of himself to the formalist and the insincere. None but true suppliants have access unto God; and of all mankind who
prayer, those only reach the throne of
who are sin
cere, contrite, and believing. Need it be remarked, that of this description of worshippers, the world at large does not furnish a numerous company; or, if collectively a great number, as we believe them to be, yet how few, if contrasted with those of an opposite character ?
But even among that little company who stand round the throne of a prayerhearing God, sincere in heart, and intense in supplication, why is there on some an aspect of doubtful suspense ? and what mean those expressions of deploring complaint that are sometimes heard ? Is it not the voice of a true suppliant is it not the voice of a prophet of God, that we hear saying in the text,-“ Also, when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer ?” Nor is such language peculiar to Jeremiah. “ I cry unto thee,” said Job, “ and thou dost not hear me: I stand up, and thou regardest me not. Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard ; I cry aloud, but there is no judgment.” “ Why art thou so far from helping me,” said the Psalmist, 6 and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the day-time, but thou hearest me not; and in the night-season I am not silent. Will the Lord cast off for
ever, and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever?
for ever? Doth his promises fail for evermore ?”
Without multiplying quotations, these are sufficient to show, that the complaint in the text has not been confined to the prophet of Anathoth; for others of God's people have had this, in addition to other griefs, that their Maker seemed to shut out their prayer from his favourable regards. And we need not to travel back to ancient times for instances; for at this very day, we have occasion to know more than one pious afflicted individual, that have to speak the language of Jeremiah, and say." Also, when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.” And this may happen either with respect to public or private, relative or personal distress.
Jeremiah's was a public grief. And like him, there are some that take a deep and generous interest in the good of the community to which they belong; and who, aware that the vices and the irreligion of a people, must draw down judgments from heaven upon them, are tenderly solicitous to avert those judgments, by leading men to repentance and faith ; exhorting them early and late to return from their evil ways, and
counselling them, with affectionate earnestness, instead of multiplying provocations against God, by importunate prayer, to be seech him not to mark iniquity against them for retributive visitations. But it may happen, as in Jeremiah's time, the more men are counselled to break off their sins by repentance, they despise the counsel, and wax worse and worse. A season of forbearance is granted them, and "space to repent;" but offended heaven, finding no repentance, at length makes bare the arm of righteous vengeance, and visits general sin with outpoured vials of general calamity. The judgments of heaven are abroad, nor will the wrath be stayed for human intercession. Yet he who has a heart of flesh in him, though consenting to the justice of the Almighty, will commiserate the distress around him, and, as the Prophet did before the impending desolations of Jerusalem, will pray for suspension or mitigation of the general ruin ; though even mercy itself may, in such circumstances, refuse to relent, and shut out the most urgent prayer.
Or to take a more limited view, (for we fear such a generous concern for one's country on a religious account, is, in our times, a rare thing,--so rare, that it hardly obtains credence when it is professed ; and in gene
ral, if other interests prosper, the interests of religion are little regarded, and the judgments of God little feared for the neglect of them; for religion and patriotism are not commonly deemed by us to have a necessary, or even a desirable connexion :) Yet are our natural affections not so vitiated by selfishness, but that the sympathies of kindred operate uncontracted, and with power, in the scenes of domestic life. Perhaps an affectionate parent, after long indulging the fondest anticipations of the future fortunes of an endeared child, sees the darling object fall a prey to some dire disease. At such a time, who would not think of God? who would not, raise a suppliant eye to heaven? who would not plead for life? But the hour is come-the last pulse futters--the last accents were faintly audible--the spirit hath fled, and now the weeping father or mother will say, our hopes were vain-means have deceived us even prayer has failed. Also, when we did cry and shout, he hath shut out our prayers,” nor granted us the thing for which we pled.
Or perhaps the children of godly parents prove degenerate and evil to excess. Early instructions are forgotten; piqus example is