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said, and inconsistent with the truth of the promises, that cases of prayer not heard, should ever occur? Now, we fully admit the extent of the promise; for who can open the inspired volume without perceiving the most urgent commands to pray, and the full assurance that is given on the part of God, that prayer to him shall not be disregarded ? We read many such promises as the following :-“ Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me." “ He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him, he also will hear their cry, and will save them.”
“ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. For if ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him ?”
Surely these promises establish it beyond controversy, that prayer is agreeable to the divine will; and that the divine goodness is engaged in faithfulness to answer prayer. Nor will the complaint in the text militate against these views, if
the following considerations be duly estimated.
I. Although our prayers were never, in a single instance, directly answered in this world, yet is prayer not in vain, for to pray, is a commanded duty; and to the dependent creature it can never be unprofitable to obey a divine command. Prayer, in its very nature, tends to mortify sin, to compose our minds into a frame of devout. dependence on Almighty power, and to maintain in us sentiments of habitual trust, and rejoicing confidence in the beneficent Being, whom we approach in the persuasion of his ineffable goodness and mercy. We rise from the act of prayer with hearts sensibly enlarged, with hope re-animated, and with patience, fortitude, and resolution consciously increased. And what is instrumental in promoting such a frame of spirit is not in vain.
And besides those present advantages which result from prayer, though not directly answered, we ought not to conclude our prayers to be shut out, and unregarded, until we shall have entered the invisible world; for there it may be seen, what fruits of blessedness have sprung from petitions
sown with tears on earth, and what vast and important results were connected with those seemingly neglected prayers which were offered up amid the trials of time. Complain not, then, of ineffectual prayer, until the veil that hides the eternal state be drawn aside. Wait those disclosures, and it will doubtless be found, that marvellous effects followed from your supplications, and that never a devotional tear fell unnoticed to the ground. Ye prayed for the salvation of friends, perhaps ? what though they died, and gave no certain signs of grace ; the prayer of duty was not unprofitable to yourselves; and ye Ķnow not, till ye enter eternity, what your prayers may have availed for others; and in the mean time, ye may well commit them to a merciful Creator in humble hope. If prayer be not answered in this world, we are going onward to another; and until we find no benefits from prayer awaiting us there, let us not wound our own peace, nor reflect on the divine goodness by a rash conclusion that we have cried to God in vain.
II. Though prayer be not immediately answered, it may nevertheless be answered at some after period, even in the present
world. The glory of God, the arrangements of Providence, and our own good, may render delay expedient ; but delay is not denial. Our cause may be in de pendence, and if not decided against us, there is room for hope. And « if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” To be sincere, importunate, and persevering, become us; and not less becomes us the expectation of a favourable issue. When our Lord spake a parable, that men should pray always and not faint, he proposes the example of a poor widow persevering in her solicitations for justice, until even an unjust judge granted her suit, because of her often coming. “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them ?” God, then, may bear long, and yet have an answer in reserve. Ye long for the knowledge of salvation, and cry unto him for the grace of pardon, for greater faith, and fuller victory over the enemies of your peace; ye mourn in Zion-and do, as it were, bedew the throne of grace with tears of penitential grief; yet no answer comes, and it seems to you as if ye did seek His face in vain. Think not so; for they who sow in
tears shall reap in joy. “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him,"—the fruits of his godly sorrow and praying exercises, Continue instant in prayer : The blessing though deferred for the present, is deferred only to the time when it shall be for you more expedient to receive, and for God more glorious to bestow it.
III. The thing we ask may be inconsistent with the rectitude of the divine Sovereignty, and on that account must necessarily be denied. God is a merci. ful Father ; but he is not like those weak and unwise parents among men, who suffer themselves to be swayed by every wayward fancy of their children ; who want fortitude to withstand childish importunity; and against their better judgment, indulge them in every wish they express, without regarding the good or evil that shall result from the indulgence.
Let us not suppose the Sovereign of the universe changeable or unwise : All his purposes are from everlasting, consummately holy and good, comprehending in their extent the events of ages, and the arrange