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not followed, but scorned; the company of the vain and the dissolute is preferred to the fellowship of the righteous; nothing holy is reverenced; and nothing is chosen or beloved, but varieties of sin. What then remains for religious friends, but to look up . to God for conversion, to pray, and hope for better things ? The mourning parents take this course; and having groaned, not a little while, under the vices of their children, and looked in vain for some merciful change of character, in answer to prayer, they say at last, in the bitterness of their souls, especial.. ly if death has shut the door of expectation,
“ Also when we did cry and shout, we have not been regarded.”
Children may, however, sometimes outrun their parents in religious experience, and come first to the knowledge of the truth, and to the faith of the gospel. And, then, what concern is felt to have those, to whom so much is due, partakers of the same grace! The most probable modes of persuasion are employed, and every opportunity of recommending religious truth is studiously embraced. To other means, the most fervent supplication to God for the mercy of renewal is added, though with no apparent success. The last sickness comes, and yet the mind,
unimpressed with the
of the Saviourunawakened by the fear of judgment to come, manifests no relentings towards God. A filial heart is awakened to new distress, on contemplating the danger of one so dear, about to die, without affording any evidence of having obtained mercy. What! shall our parent, our friend, the guide of our youth, perish for ever! The thought is overwhelming! And then what zeal-what solicitude are put forth-what prayers are offered up, with strong crying and tears, that some token of saving grace might in the last-the eleventh hourbe vouchsafed ! If none are given, how applicable to them is the Prophet's complaint-" Also, when we cried and shouted, he shut out our prayers.
Having mentioned some instances of a relative kind, that drew forth the complaint for prayer not regarded ; we shall next advert to cases of direct personal concern, about the spiritual state of our own souls, in which language like that now before us is mournfully expressed. We sometimes hear it from the mouths of persons in the very first stage of religious experience. Yonder is one that was long foolish, disobedient, and deceived; much opposed to true religion ; and without the least concern for eternal
life. It is otherwise with him now; the distress of sin is felt; deliverance from it is earnestly sought; salvation seemeth the one thing needful; and nothing appears so desirable as to attain pardon and peace with God, in the knowledge and belief of the everlasting gospel. But what mean these complaints ? "I cannot believe in the Saviour-I cannot love God I cannot shake off this unbelief, and hope for salvation-I cannot rejoice in Christ Jesus, nor joy in God like a pardoned sinner, or an adopted son !" We ask if these things are really valued ; and if they are, whether prayer is offered up for them, as the gifts of grace? We are told in reply, that prayer has not been restrained. The awakened sinner tells of strivings and wrestlings in the exercise of supplication, which none will put forth but those who feel themselves ready to perish, and are convinced that eternal life depends on their establishment in grace. Each of them says, “I cannot rest without the peace of God; I cannot look to eternity without dismay, till Christ be in: me the hope of glory: I know that all I want must come from God, and from him I ask it with: unfeigned prayer. I say, with Job, “O that I might have my request, and that God:
would grant me the thing that I long for !" but I complain, with Jeremiah, “Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.
This is no imaginary case, nor is it rare. And even in the more advanced stages of the Christian life, are instances not wanting of
persons losing spiritual comfort, and falling into spiritual distress. These had tasted that the Lord was gracious, had rejoiced in his light, and hoped for his salvation. Their peace was like a river, a new song was in their mouth, and their confidence was like the mountains round about Jerusalem, as if never to be removed. But they yielded to temptation, and fell. They became remiss in faith and lukewarm in duty, and lost their first love, and grieved the Holy Spirit, who forsook them; and with Him departed their peace and joy. Then we hear the complaint, that God has forsaken them-that the Saviour is unseen, and the Spirit not felt-and their views of eternity dark and unassured. In this comfortless frạme, we easily recognize the necessary result, and the just rebuke of turning back to folly.
Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee.”
Spiritual comfort, indeed, in some instances, seems to be withdrawn, or the
ability to enjoy it suspended, where no previous declension can be ascertained ; and many cases of this sort, the best “ instructed unto the kingdom of heaven” can but inadequately explain or account for. For, in the spiritual world, as in the natural, it is a mark of great ignorance to imagine all the phenomena explicable by such a shortsighted and short-lived observer as man. The ways of God are unsearchable, and his judgments a great depth. In most instances, however, of comforts lost, the loss was preceded by conscious backslidings, and it is easier to account for the distress, than to apply a remedy. No doubt, to repent and humble ourselves before God, with sincere confession of the fault, is indispensable; and then to sue for renewed tokens of divine mercy. But for a time, with all sincerity in prayer, we may hear the longing penitent complaining that his soul-distress is unremoved, and his cries to God for saying health unregarded.
But, without accumulating cases which extort a complaint like that of Jeremiah in the text, let us proceed to notice an objection to the efficacy of prayer, which such cases are held to constitute. For is it not contradictory to the divine goodness, it is