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AND PRESERVED BY PRAYER. 213 such ; but supplication actually and truly proceeding from the heart.- Prayer may be solemn without being sincere. Every decency, every propriety, every visible mark and token of prayer may be present, yet the heart not engaged.This is the requisite which must make prayer availing; this is the requisite indeed, which must make it that, which the Scripture means, whenever it speaks of prayer. Every outward act of worship, without this participation of the heart, fails, not becayse men do not pray sincerely, but because, in Scripture sense, they do not pray at
If these qualities of internal seriousness and impression belong to prayer, whenever prayer is mentioned in Scripture, they seem more peculiarly essential, in a case and for a blessing, purely and strictly spiritual. We must pray with the Spirit, at least when we pray for spiritual suc
212 THE SPIRIT'S AID TO BE SOUGIIT ted ; that with this aid and assistance sin may be successfully encountered, and such a course of du: ty maintained, as may render us accepted in Christ : and farther, that to impart the above de scribed assistance is one of the ends of Christ's coming, and one of the operations of his love towards mankind :-if, I say, these propositions be doctrinally true, then follow from them these three practical rules : first, that we are to pray sincerely, earnestly, and incessantly, for this at. sistance; secondly, that by so doing, we are to obtain it; thirdly, that being obtained, we are ! yield ourselves to its agency, to be obedient to 15 dictates.
First: We are to pray sincerely, earnestly, and incessantly for this assistance. A fundameti | tal, and as it seems to me, an unsurmountable text, upon this head, is our Saviour's declaration “ If ye, being evil,' know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall you Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to the that ask him ?” This declaration, beside expres. sing (which was its primary object,) God's bene nant, prompt, and merciful disposition towaros us; which here, as in other places, our Saviou. compares with the disposition of a parent towaros his children. Beside this, the text undoubted, assumes the fact of there being a Holy Spirit, or its being the gift of God, of its being given to them that ask him ; that these things are all re alities : a real spiritual assistance, really given, and given to prayer.
c. But let it be wel that whensoever the Scripture speaks of prayer, whensoever it uses that term, or other terms equr valent to it, it means prayer, sincere and earncy in the full and proper sense of these words, p.a) er proceeding from the heart and soul. It does not mean any particular form of words whatever it does not mean any service of the lips, any bla terance or pronunciation of prayer, merely **
Furthermore, there is good authority in Scripture, which it would carry us too widely from our subject to state at present, for persevering in prayer, even when long unsuccessful. Perseverance in successful prayer is one of the doctrines and of the lessons of the New Testament.
But again ; we must pray for the Spirit ear. nestly; I mean with a degree of earnestness, proportioned to the magnitunde of the request. The earnestness, with which we pray, will always be in proportion to our sense, knowledge, and consciousness of the importance of the thing which we ask. This consciousness is the source and principle of earnestness in prayer; and in this, I fear, we are greatly deficient. We do not pos. sess or feel it in the manner, in which we ought; and we are deficient upon the subject of spiritual assistance most particularly. I fear, that many understand and reflect little upon the importance of what they are about, upon the exceedingly great consequence of what they are asking, when they pray to God, as we do in our liturgy, " to
Inciple of earneosciousness is the thing which
* Luke xi. 13,
red in us, who live under the influence and direction of the Holy Spirit. By this Holy Spirit we have that assistance, which the law could not impart, and without which, as a mere rule, though ever so good and right a rule, it was weak and insufhcient, forasmuch as it had not force or strength sufficient to produce obedience in those who acknowledge its authority.
To communicate this so much wanted assistance was one end and effect of Christ's coming. So it is intimated by St. Paul, “ what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did :" that is, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, namely, sending him by reason or an account of gin, condemned sin in the flesh ; vouchsafed, that is, spiritual aid and ability, by which aid and ability sin, and the power of sin, might be effectually opposed, encountered, and repelled.
SERMON XXVIII. THE AID OF THE SPIRIT TO BE SOUGHT AND PRE
SERVED BY PRAYER.
(PART III.) O wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me
from the body of this death ?—Rom. vii. 24.
If it be doctrinally true, that man in his ordinary state, in that state, at least, in which great numbers find themselves, is in a deplorable condition, a condition which ought to be a subject to him of great and better lamentation, viz. that his moral powers are ineffectual for his duty ; able, perhaps, on most occasions, to perceive and to approve of the rule of right ; able, perhaps, to will it ; able, perhaps, to set on foot unsuccessful, frustrated, and defeated endeavours after that will, but by no means able to pursue or execute it : if it be also true, that strength and assistance may and can be communicated to this feeble nature, and that it is by the action of the Ho. ly Spirit upon the soul, that it is so communica
lany, as the spirit of God vess of our minuty the ses it, are deaa Plure most significa way, more: that is ing sinsand tires and trespascotly expres
214 THE SPIRIT'S AID TO BE SOUGHT cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspi. ration of his Holy Spirit ;'_" to make clean our hearts within us;” not to take his Holy Spir. it from us : to give us increase of grace; to grant that his Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts.”
These are momentous petitions, little as we may perceive, or think, or account of them, at the time. It has been truly said, that we are hardly ever certain of praying aright, except when we pray for the Spirit of God. When we pray for temporal blessings, we do not know, though God does, whether we ask what is really for our good: when we ask for the assistance and sanctification of God's Spirit in the work and war fare of religion, we ask for that, which by its very nature is good and which, without our great faull, will be good to us.
But secondly, We must obtain it. God is propitious. You hear that he has promised it to prayer, to prayer really and truly such, to prayer, viz: issuing from the heart and soul; for no other is ever meant. We are suppliants to our Maker for various and continual blessings; for health, for ease, it may be, for prosperity and success. There is, as hath already been observed some degree uncertainty in all these cases, whether we ass what is fit and proper to be granted; or even what, if granted, would do us good. There is this, likewise, farther to be observed, that they are what, if such be the pleasure of God, we can do without. But how incapable we are of doing without God's Spirit; of proceeding in our spirit ual course upon our own strength and our own resources; of finally accomplishing the work salvation without it; the strong description, whi is given by St. Paul, may convince us, if our own experience had not convinced us before. Many of ns, a large majority of us, either require, or have required, a great change, a moral regener. tion. This is to be effectuated by the aid of God Spirit. Vitiated hearts will not change themselves;
AND PRESERVED BY PRAYER. 215 not easily, not frequently, not naturally, perhaps, not possibly. Yet" without holiness no man shall see God." How then are the upholy to become boly? Holiness is a thing of the heart and soul. It is not a few forced, constrained actions, though good as actions which constitute holiness. It must reside within us; it is a disposition of soul. To acquire, therefore, that which is not yet acquired; to change that which is not yet changed; to go to the root of the malady; to cleanse and purify the inside of the cup, the foulness of our mind, is a work for the Spirit of God within us. Nay, more; many, as the scripture most significantly expresses it, are dead in sins and trespasses, not only committing sins and trespasses, but dead in them: that is, as insensible of their condition under them, as a dead man is insensible of his condition, Where this is the case, the sinner must, in the first instance, be roused and quickened to a sense of his condition ; of his danger, his fate; in a word, he must, by some means or other, be brought to feel a strong compunction. This is also an office for the Spirit of God. “You hath he quickened, who were dead in traspasses and sins."* "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”+ Whether, there. fore, we be amongst the dead in sin ; or whether we be of the number of those, with whom, accorda ing to St Paul's description, to will is present, but to perform that which is good they find not; who, though they approve the law of God, nay de
fore, we give thee li arise from the Awake.
swers of alter approve the good the presenta
memberivity to the ce, are neverth is, in the ans
light in it, after the inward man, that is, in the an-
1 1. v. 14
pot easily, not frequently, not naturally, perhaps, not possibly. Yet “ without holiness no man shall see God." How then are the unholy to become holy? Holiness is a thing of the heart and soul. It is not a few forced, constrained actions, though good as actions which constitute holiness. It must reside within us; it is a disposition of soul. To acquire, therefore, that which is not yet acquired; to change that which is not yet changed; to go to the root of the malady: to cleanse and purify the inside of the cup, the foulness of our inind, is a work for the Spirit of God within us. Nay, more; many, as the scripture most significantly expresses it, are dead in sins and trespasses, not only committing sins and trespasses, but dead in them: that is, as insensible of their condition under them, as a dead man is insensible of his condition, Where this is the case, the sinner must, in the first instance, be roused and quickened to a sense of his condition; of his danger, his fate ; in a word, he must, by some means or other, be brought to feel a strong compunction. This is also an office for the Spirit of God. " You hath he quickened, who were dead in traspasses and sins."* " Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.'t Whether, there. fore, we be amongst the dead in sin ; or whether we be of the number of those, with whom, according to St Paul's description, to will is present, but to perform that which is good they find not; who, though they approve the law of God, nay delight in it, after the inward man, that is, in the answers of their conscience, are nevertheless brought into captivity to the law of sin, which is in their members ; carnal, sold under sin ; doing what they allow not, what they hate; doing not the good which they would, but the evil which they would not: which ever of these be our wretched estate, for such the Apostle pronounces it to be, the grace and influence of God's Spirit must be Eph. ji, 1.
| Id. v. 15
216 THE SPIRIT'S AID TO BE SOUGHT obtained, in order to rescue and deliver us from it, and the sense of this want and of this necessity lies at the root of our devotions, when directed to this object.
To those, who are in a better state than what has been here described, little need be said, be: cause the very supposition of their being in a better state includes that earnest and devout application by prayer for the continual aid, presence, and in-dwelling of God's Holy Spirit, which we state to be a duty of the Christian religion.
But thirdly: T'he assistance of God's Spirit be ing obtained, we are to yield ourselves to its direction; to consult, attend, and listen to its die tates, suggested to us through the admonitions or our conscience. The terms of Scripture represent the Spirit of God, as an assisting, not forcing, power; as not suspending our own powers, but enabling them; as imparting strength and faculty for our religious work, if we will use them; but whether we will use them or not, still depending upon ourselves. Agreeably hereunto St. Paul, you have heard, asserts, that there is no condem, nation to them, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. T'he promise is not to them who have the Spirit, but to them who walk after the Spirit. To walk after the flesh, is to follow where. ever the impulses of sensuality and selfishness lead us; which is a voluntary act. To walk a.. ter the Spirit, is steadily and resolutely to obey good motions within us, whatever they cost us which also is a voluntary act. All the language of this remarkable chapter* proceeds in the same strain ; namely, that after the Spirit of God given, it remains and rests with ourselves whethe er we avail ourselves of it or not. “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh ye shall live.” It is through the Spirit that we are enabled to mortify the deeds of the flesh. Bu still, whether we mortify them or not, is our act;
AND PRESERVED BY PRAYER. 217
St Paul* represents the gift and possession of
are debtors;” our obligation, our duty imposed upon us by this gift of the Spirit, is no longer to live after the flesh; but, on the contrary, througl, the Spirit so given, to do that, which, without it, we could not have done, to “mortify the deeds of the body.” Thus following the suggestions of the Spirit, ye shall live: for “as many as are led
* Rom. vii.
* Rom. viii.