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And this is another reason why many Both these parables show that if prayers are not answered. If prayer is prayers are to be successful, they to be answered, it must be persever- must be persevering. There must be a ing. This was taught by the Re- feeling of soul that cannot rest, that deemer in the 18th chapter of Luke. will not cease, until it has obtained “ He spake a parable unto them to the desired blessing. It was in this this end, that men ought always to way that Jacob prayed, when he prepray, and not to faint; saying, I'herevailed with the Angel; he wrestled was in a city a judge, which feared all night; he eaded till the break of not God, neither regarded man: and day. It was in this way that Moses there was a widow in that city; and and Elijah prayed. Moses continued she came unto him, saying, Avenge with hands lifted up in prayer from me of mine adversary. And he would morning till evening. Elijah connot for a while : but afterwards he tinued pleading for rain, while his said within himself, Though I fear servant went to the side of the mounnot God, nor regard man; yet because tain, to look towards the sea, and rethis widow troubleth me, I will turned seven times. If we would avenge her, lest by her continual have our prayers answered, we must coming she weary me. And the imitate the perseverance of these Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge holy men : we must pray without saith. And shall not God avenge ceasing ; we must pray always, and his own elect, which cry day and not faint. night unto him, though he bear long 5. Some pray in vain, because they with them? I tell you that he will are wanting in humility. They are avenge them speedily. Nevertheless haughty towards their fellow-inen, when the Son of man cometh, shall or they are wanting in lowliness tohe find faith on the earth ?" Will wards God. And God has not prohe find men persevering in prayer? mised to bless the proud; his pro
The same lesson is taught by mises are all for the lowly. He another parable in Luke xi. v. 5-13. resisteth the proud, but he giveth “And he said unto them, Which of more grace to the humble. The Sayou shall have a friend, and shall go viour spake a parable on this subject, unto him at midnight, and say unto Luke xviii. 10, saying, “ Two men him, Friend, lend me three loaves; went up into the temple to pray ; for a friend of mine in his journey is the one a Pharisee, and the other a come to me, and I have nothing to publican. The Pharisee stood and set before him? And he from within prayed thus with himself, God, I shall answer and say, Trouble me thank thee that I am not as other .not: the door is now shut, and my men are, extortioners, unjust, adulchildren are with me in bed ; I can- terers, or even as this publican. I not rise and give thee. I say unto fast twice a week, I give tithes of all you, though he will not rise and I
possess. And the publican standgive him, because he is his friend, ing afar off, would not lift up so yet because of his importunity he much as his eyes unto heaven, but will rise and give him as many as he smote upon his breast, saying, God needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, be merciful to me a sinner. I tell and it shall be given you; seek, and you, this man went down to his ye shall find ; knock, and it shall be house justified rather than the other.” opened unto you. For every one
And he concludes the parable with that asketh receiveth ; and he that these words, “ For whosoever exaltseeketh findeth ; and to him that eth himself shall be humbled ; but knocketh it shall be opened. he that humbleth himself shall be son should ask bread of any of you exalted.” There are thousands of that is a father, will he give him a prayers lost for want of humility in stone ? or if he ask a fish, will he for those who offer them. a fish give him a serpent ? or if he 6. Many prayers are unavailing, beshall ask an egg, will he offer him a cause they are not offered in faith: the scorpion ? If ye then, being evil, persons who offer them do not firmly know how to give good gifts unto believe God's word ; they do not place your children : how much more shall full confidence in his promises ; they your heavenly Father give the Holy do not confidently look for the blessSpirit to them that ask him ?” ings for which God has encouraged
them to pray. They pray as if they “ He that turneth away his ear from regarded the promises of God as a hearing the law, even his prayer shall bundle of uncertainties, and as if be an abomination.” Prov. xxviii. 9. they regarded the success of prayer The same doctrine runs through the as utterly doubtful and hazardous. prophets. In the time of Isaiah, the This is dishonouring God: it is in people of Israel were heavily afflicted effeet calling God a liar, And God with divine judgments, and, to turn does not deserve such treatment; nor away the divine displeasure, they is it likely that he answer the brought offerings and sacrifices to prayers of those who thus ques- God, and offered up prayers to Him. tion his truth and faithfulness. God They appear to have held protracted wishes to be trusted ; and those meetings, and made many prayers ; who refuse to trust him, have rea
but all to no purpose.
“To what son to expect their prayers to be purpose is the multitude of your sarejected. We are taught most crifices unto me, saith the Lord ? plainly, that if we would have Bring no vain oblations ; answers to our prayers, we must incense is an abomination unto me; pray in faith. We are taught this the new moons and sabbaths, and the by the Apostle James. Speaking of calling of assemblies I cannot away wisdom, he says; “ If any of you with ; it is iniquity, even the solemn Jack wisdom, let him ask of God, meeting. And when ye spread forth that giveth to all men liberally, and your hands I will hide mine eyes upbraideth not; and it shall be given from you: yea, when ye make many him. But let him_ask in faith, prayers, I will not hear.” How is nothing wavering. For he that wa- this? Had not God appointed these vereth is like a wave of the sea, driven things? Why then does he despise with the wind and tossed. For let them? The reason is stated in the not that man think he shall receive next words : “ Your hands are full of any thing of the Lord.”
blood. Wash you, make you clean; We are taught the same lesson by put away the evil of your doings the Saviour, in Mark xi. 24, “ What- from before mine eyes ; cease to do soever things ye desire when ye pray, evil, learn to do well ; seek judgbelieve that ye shall receive them, ment, relieve the oppresse 1, judge and ye shall have them.” It is right the fatherless, plead for the widow. that we should have a promise from If ye be willing and obedient, ye God, before we expert a blessing; but shalleat thegood of the land ; butif ye when God has given a promise, we refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured should believe infinitely: we ought with the sword; for the mouth of not to encourage a distrustful, un- the Lord hath spoken it.” Isa. i. believing thought of God for a single 11, 20. It was much the same with moment. We must pray in faith, if the people of Israel in the days of we would not pray in vain.
Zechariah. “ Thus speaketh the 7. If men would have answers to Lord of Hosts : Execute true judgtheir prayers, they must obey God in ment, and show mercy, and compas, all things. They must be righteous, sion every man to his brother : and holy men. They must indulge in no oppress not the widow, nor the fasin; they must neglect no duty. therless, the stranger, nor the poor; God has not promised to hear the and let none of you imagine evil prayers of the wicked; it is the against his brother in your heart. prayers of the righteous,--the pray- But they refused to hearken, and ers of those who fear him, who shrunk from the yoke, and stopped love him, and do his will, that their ears that they could not hear, God has engaged to hear. The Yea, they made their hearts as an Psalmist understood this, hence he adamant stone, lest they should hear said, “If I regard iniquity in my the law, and the words which the heart, the Lord will not hear my Lord of Hosts hath sent in his spirit prayer.” Psalm lxvi. 18. This by the former prophets : therefore principle was understood by Solomon
came a great wrath from the Lord of also ; hence he says, “The sacrifice Hosts. Therefore it came to pass, of the wicked is an abomination to that as the Lord cried, and they the Lord, but the prayer of the up- would not hear; so they cried, and I right is his delight.” Prov. xv. 8. would not hear, saith the Lord.”.
Zech. vii. 9, 13. At the time the those things which are pleasing in his Redeemer was upon earth, this prin- sight, we have no authority to exciple appears to have become a com- pect answers to our prayers. This mon proverb. This appears from doctrine may be called a legal docthe words of the man who was born trine, but it is a doctrine of the blind and had received his sight from Scriptures; it is the doctrine both of Jesus. The Pharisees represented the Old and New Testaments; it is Christ as a sinner, and they said, inculcated not only by the an"We know not whence he is. The cient prophets, but by Christ and his man answered, Why herein is a Apostles too. And whether men marvellous thing, that ye know not call it legal or evangelical, it is still from whence he is, and yet he hath true. It we hide any iniquity in opened mine eyes. Now we know our heart; if we cherish any unchathat God heareth not sinners; but if ritableness towards our fellow-men; any man be a worshipper of God, and if we neglect to study God's will, or doeth his will, him he heareth." if when God's will is made known to John ix. 30, 31. The Redeemer us, we refuse to act in accordance himself makes the success of men's with it, our prayers can be of no prayers to depend on their attention avail. It is the plain and uniform to his words, and on their obedience to doctrine of the Scriptures, that if we his precepts. If men would be heard would have the things for which we when they pray to be forgiven, he re- pray, we must not only be believers quires them to forgive their fellow- in Christ, but sincere, good men.
In his discourse on the vine It deserves to be observed that those and the branches, he says, “If ye individuals mentioned in the Sacred abide in me, and my words abide in Scriptures, whose prayers were reyou, ye shall ask what ye will, and markably answered by God, were it shall be done unto you.” Here persons of decided and singular piety. the success of our prayers is made to This was the case with Abraham. It depend, first, on our abiding in Christ; seems as if God could scarcely deny on our continuing stedfast in our him anything. When he pleaded for purpose and endeavour to please God; Sodum and Gomorrah, God acceded and, secondly, on our having and to every thing he requested or pro. retaining such a knowledge of posed. But Abraham was a man of Christ's words, as will enable us to singular devotedness to God. He know what things they are which believed every thing that God said, will please God. All is made to de- however strange; he confidently expend on our endeavouring to under- pected whatever God promised, stand and to do the will of God. The however difficult the fulfilment of the same principle is laid down by the promise might seem ; and he did Apostle James. The man who is whatever God commanded, however double-minded and unstable in his painful, or perilous, obedience might ways, he would have to look for be. He left his native country, fornothing in answer to his prayers. sook his father's house, and suffered “Let not that man think that he the loss of all things for the sake of shall receive anything of the Lord.” God. At God's command he went i. 7. The prayer which he says out as a pilgrim, not knowing whither prevails with God, is the prayer of he went; and such was his readiness the obedient. “ The effectual, fer- to obey God, that when God tried vent prayer of a righteous man him, by directing him to offer up his availeth much."
The only son, the child of promise, the Apostle John puts this principle in a very son through whom God had deplainer and fuller light still, if pos- clared that all the families of the sible. “Beloved, if our heart con- earth should be blessed, he prepared demn us not, then have we confi- to make the sacrifice without a murdence towards God : and whatsoever mur. I cannot wonder that Abrawe ask we receive of him, because we ham had such power with God, when keep his commandments, and do those God had such power with Abraham, things which are pleasing in his sight.” I cannot wonder that God should be 1 John iii. 21, 22,
so liberal with Abraham, when If, then, we do not study God's Abraham so heartily and so uniformlaw, and keep his commandments, ly gave up his all to God. and endeavour at all times to do Mosės had great power with God; his prayers appear to have been irre- death. But these also were persons sistible. How strangely did he hold of no common degree of holy deback the arm of vengeance, uplifted votedness to God. They had forsaken to destroy the rebellious Israelites! all for Christ, and were daily risking How wonderfully did his pleadings their lives for their love to the Saviour. prevail over Amalek! But Moses Poverty, reproaches, persecutions, also was a man of peculiar piety. death, were as nothing in their estiHe was a faithful, obedient man. mation, for the love they had to the He was the meekest man on the face Saviour and his cause. And they of the earth, and he appears to have were full of love to each other. They been exemplary in other respects as were of one heart and one soul, well. He began by a remark- neither said any of them that aught able exercise of self-denial. When of the things which he possessed was he was come to years, he refused to his own; but they had all things be called the son of Pharoah's daugh- common. Selfishness and earthliness ter; choosing rather to suffer aftlic- were gone; their souls were filled tion with the people of God, than to with love to God and love to man; enjoy the pleasures of sin for a sea- and their sole business was, in obedison ; esteeming the reproach of God's ence to the will of God, to promote people greater riches than the trea- each other's welfare, and to bring sures in Egypt. There is but one a guilty world to God. Is it any fault recorded of him from this period, wonder that the prayers of such peothat I recollect, and that was speak- ple as these should be answered ? ing unadvisedly when so grievously We sometimes pray for pentecostal tried and harrassed with the rebel- seasons : let us be pentecostal Chrisliousness and unreasonableness of the tians, and we shall not pray for PenChildren of Israel. Can we wonder tecostal seasons in vain. at the prevalence of the prayers of a And here is another great cause man like this?
why the prayers which are offered Elijah was another whose prayers up by professors of religion at the were exceedingly powerful; God present day, are so seldom answered; opened and shut the windows of professors are wanting in piety, in Heaven in answer to his prayers.- holy devotedness to God. They do But Elijah also was a very holy, not keep God's commandments, and zealous, and faithful man. Though do those things which are pleasing in he lived in times of great degene- his sight. They do things which racy, in the midst of a general apos- God has expressly forbidden, and tacy, he still maintained his in- they leave undone things which God tegrity. He pleaded for truth and has expressly commanded. A great righteousness, when the masses of many of the commandments of Christ his countrymen were running head- appear to be almost altogether forlong into evil ; and he carried his gotten by the great majority of prorebukes and warnings into the very fessors, or if they are not forgotten, palace, and assailed idolatry and they appear to be awfully disregardprofligacy in the highest places, and ed. I will give you a number of in the highest personages in the instances of precepts which are thus land. He risked his all for God. overlooked or disregarded. Daniel appears to have had great
CHRISTIAN PRECEPTS, power with God in prayer, but Daniel, too, was a man of peculiar sanctity.
The early Christians had much power with God in prayer. swer to their prayers the Holy Ghost
Aiming at God's Glory. came down upon them like a mighty 1. One command of God is this : rushing wind, filling the place in “ Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, which they were assembled, and rest- or whatsoever ye do, do all to the ing visibly and powerfully upon each glory of God."' 1. Cor. x. 31. But of them, On other occasions God how few appear to regard this rule. opened the prison doors in answer to Can we look at the way in which their prayers, and delivered the Apos- multitudes of professors live, the tles from the dungeon, and from luxuries in which they indulge, with,
WHICII ARE GENERALLY NEGLECTED
out fearing that the glory of God two shillings in the pound, and yet, is forgotten by them, and that it is without making any restitution, or the glory and pleasure of the flesh labouring after any reconciliation which they seek.
with their brethren, they go on prayLove to our Neighbour.
ing, singing, preaching, and contri
buting to what are called charitable 2. Another command of God is and religious institutions, as if all this: “ Thou shalt love thy neigh- were right. bour as thyself.” Luke x. 27. Bu
Law-suits. how seldom do we meet with professors who act in agreement with 4. Another precept of Christ rethis command! What multitudes quires us, when people go to law of professors do we see possessing with us, or make complaints against abundance of this world's good, and us, to endeavour to settle the matter yet suffering their neighbours to pine as soon as possible, and to do any away in want and wretchedness.- thing, to settle the matter, that we What numbers there are who clothe can do consistently with a good conthemselves in the costliest garments, science. Agree with thine adverbuild magnificent houses, store sary quickly, whiles thou art in the them with needless furniture, hang way with him ; lest at any time the the walls of their rooms with pic- adversary, deliver thee to the judge, tures, and indulge themselves in and the judge deliver thee to the daily luxuries, while their neigh- officer, and thou be cast into prison. bours have not the means of procur- Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt ing a decent garment to cover them, by no means come out thence, till or of earning bread sufficient for thou
hast paid the uttermost themselves and their children. What farthing.” Matt. v. 25, 26. Yet how multitudes in lower circumstances few act on this plan? How common indulge themselves in things needless it is for professors to allow people to or hurtful, while their neighbours go to law with them, and to hold out are perishing for lack of things need- against their adversaries as long as ful. Nay, more, they live in extrava- they can, without ever attempting gance while millions of their neigh- to subdue their adversaries by reason bours have neither bibles, schools, and kindness, and bring the dispute nor teachers, to assist them in obtain- to a peaceful and comfortable end? ing a knowledge of God and of reli
Oaths. gion. Is this loving their neighbours as themselves ?
5. Another precept of Christ Restitution, Sc.
requires us not to swear. Again,
ye have heard that it hath been said 3. Another command of Christ re- by them of old time, Thou shalt not quires us, before we present our forswear thyself, but shalt perform prayers or thanksgivings to God, and unto the Lord thine oaths : but I say before we contribute of our property unto you, Swear not at all : neither to pious or charitable institutions, to by heaven; for it is God's throne : pay our debts, to restore to our nor by the earth; for it is his footbrother whatever is his, to acknow- stool : neither by Jerusalem ; for it ledge whatever wrong we have done is the city of the great King. Neither him, and make the fullest restitution shalt thou swear by thy head, because in our power. The words of the pre- thou canst not make one hair white cept are these :
“ Therefore, if thou or black. But let your communibring thy gift to the altar, and there cation be, Yea, yea ; Nay, nay : for rememberest that thy brother hath whatsoever is more than these cometh ought against thee ; leave there thy of evil.” Matt. v. 33, 37. And yet gift before the altar, and go thy way; how few there are of those who profirst be reconciled to thy brother, fess to be followers of Christ, who and then come and offer thy gift.' hesitate to swear. If the GovernMatt. v. 23, 24. But how few regard ment order them to swear, they will this precept! Professors live at vari- take oaths by thousands, and some ance with professors, they slander will even take oaths when Governone another, live in people's debt, ment forbids them to be taken. The fail-in business, and pay only ten or professors who refuse to take oaths