Imatges de pÓgina

the objects around us, or in the history of his dispensations; of referring the blessings we enjoy' to his bounty,and of resorting in'our distresses to his succour; may possibly be more acceptable to the Deity than any visible expressions of devotion whatever. Yet these latter (which, although they may be excelled, are not superseded by the former) compose the only part of the subject which admits of direction or disquisition from a moralist.

Our duty towards God, so far as it is external, is divided into worship and reverence. God is the immediate object of both; and the difference between them is, that the one consists in action, the other in forbearance. to church on the Lord's day, led thither by a fense of duty towards God, we perform an act of worship; when, from the same motive, we rest in a journey upon that day, we discharge a duty of reverence.

Divine worship is made up of adoration, thankfgiving, and prayer. But, as what we have to offer concerning the two former may be observed of prayer, we shall make that the title of the following chapters, and the direct subject of our consideration.

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WHEN one man desires to obtain any thing

of another, he betakes himself to entreaty: and this may be observed of mankind in all ages and countries of the world. Now what is universal, may be called natural; and it seems probable that God, as our fupreme governor, hould expect that towards himself, which by a natural impulse, or by the irresistible order of our constitution, he, has prompted, us to pay to every other being on whom we depend.

The same may be said of thanksgiving.

Prayer likewise is necessary to keep up in the minds of mankind a sense of God's agency in the universe, and of their own dependency upon hiin.

Yet, after all, the duty of prayer depends upon its efficacy : for I confess myself unable to

conceive a fa.

co pray,


conceive how any man can pray, or be obliged

who expects nothing from his prayers ; but who is persuaded, at the time he utters his request, that it cannot possibly produce the smallest impression upon the being to whom it is addreffed, or advantage to himself. Now the efficacy of prayer imports that we obtain something in consequence of praying, which we should not have received without prayer; against all expectation of which, the following objection has been often and seriously alleged- “ If “ it be most agreeable to perfect wisdom and juf* tice that we should receive what we desire, & God, as perfectly wise and just, will give it to

us without asking; if it be not agreeableto these 4 attributes of his nature, our entreaties cannot

move him to give it us, and it were impious

to expect that they should.” In fewer words, thus: “If what we request be fit for us,

we shall have it without praying; if it be not “ fit for us, we cannot obtain it by praying.". This objection admits but of one answer, namelý, that it may be agreeable to perfect wisdom to grant that to our prayers, which it would not have been agreeable to the same wisdom to have given usłwithout praying for. But what virtrie, you will ask, ís-there in prayer, which should make

à favour confiftent with wisdom, which would not have been so without it? To this question, which contains the whole difficulty attending the subject, the following possibilities are offered in reply.

1. A favour granted to prayer may be more apt, on that very account, to produce good effects upon the person obliged. It may

hold in the divine bounty, what experience has raised into a proverb in the collation of human benefits, that what is obtained without afkins; is oftentimes received without gratitude.

2. It may be consistent with the wisdom of the Deity to withhold his favours till they be asked for, as an expedient to encourage devotion in his rational creation, in order thereby to keep up and circulate a knowledge and sense of their dependency upon him.

3. Prayer has a natural tendencỳ to amend the petitioner himself; and thus to bring him within the rules, which the wisdom of the Deity has prescribed to the difpenfation of his favours.

If these, or any other allignable suppositions, serve to remove the apparent repugnancy between the suceess of prayer and the character of the Dei:y, it is enough; for the question with the petitioner is not from which, out of many moVOL. II.




tives, God may grant his petition, or in what particular manner he is moved by the fupplications of his creatures; but whether it be confiftent with his nature to be moved at all, and whether there be any conceivable motives, which may dispose the divine will to grant the petitioner what he wants, in consequence of his praying for it. It is sufficient for the petitioner, that he gain his end. It is not necessary to devotion, perhaps not very consistent with it, that the circuit of causes, by which his prayers prevail, should be known to the petitioner, much less that they should be present to his imagination at the time. All that is necessary is, that there be no impoffiblity apprehended in the matter.

Thus much must be conceded to the objection; that prayer cannot reasonably be offered to God with all the same views, with which we oftentimes address our entreaties to men (views which are not commonly or easily reparated from it), viz. to inform them of our wants or defires ; to tease them out by importunity; to work upon their indolence or compaffion in order to persuade them to do what they oug!t to have done before, or ought not to do

at all.


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