Imatges de pÓgina
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But suppose there existed a prince, who was known by his subjects to act, of his own accord, always and invariably for the best; the situation of a petitioner, who solicited a favour or pardon from such a prince, would sufficiently resemble burs : and the question with him, as with us, would be, whether, the character of the prince being considered, there remained any chance that he should obtain from him by prayer, what he would not have received without it. I do not conceive, that the character of such a prince would necessarily exclude the effect of his subjects' prayers; for, when that prince reflected, that the earnestness and humility of the supplication had generated in the suppliant a frame of mind, upon which the pardon or favour asked would produce a permanent and active sense of gratitude; that the granting of it to prayer would put others upon praying to him, and by that means preserve the love and submission of his subjects, upon which love and submiffion their own happiness, as well as his glory, depended; that, beside that the memory of the particular kindness would be heightened and prolonged by the anxiety with which it had been sued for, prayer had in other respects so disposed and prepared the mind of the petitioner, as to


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render capable of future services him who before was unqualified for any: might not that prince, I say, although he proceeded upon no other considerations than the strict rectitude and expediency of the measure, grant a favour or pardon to this man, which he did not grant to another, who was too proud, too lazy, or too busy, too indifferent whether he received it or not, or too insensible of the sovereign's absolute power to give or to withhold it, ever to ask for it; or even to the philofopher, who, from an opinion of the fruitlessness of all addreres to a prince of the character which he had formed to himself, refused in his own example, and discouraged in others, all outward returns of gratitude, acknowledgments of duty, or application to the sovereign's mercy or bounty ; the diiuse of which (seeing affections do not long fublilt which are never expressed) was followed by a decay of loyalty and zeal among his fubjects, and threatened to end in a forgetfulneis of his rights, and a contempt

of his authority? These, together with other aflignable confiderations, and some perhaps inferutable, and even inconceivable by the persons upon whoin his wil was to be exercised, might pass in the inind of the prince, and move his counsels; wiiilit rcting, in the mean time, dwelt

in the petitioner's thoughts but a sense of his own grief and wante ; of the power and goodness from which alone he was to look for relief; and of his obligation to endeavour, by future obedience, to render that person propitious to his happiness, in whose hands, and at the difa posal of whose mercy, he found himself to be.

The objection to prayer supposes, that a perfectly wise being must necessarily be inexorable : but where is the proof, that inexorability is any part of perfect wisdom; especially of that wifdom, which is explained to consist in bringing about the most beneficial ends by the wisest means?

The objection likewise assumes another principle, which is attended with considerable difficulty and obscurity, namely, that upon every. occasion there is one, and only one, mode of acting for the beft; and that the divine will is necessarily determined and confined to that mode : both which positions presume a knowledge of universal nature, much beyond what we are capable of attaining. Indeed, when we apply to the divine nature such expressions as these,“ God must always do what is right," “ God cannot, “ from the moral perfection and necessity of his nature, act otherwise than for the best,” we D 3


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ought to apply them with much indeterminateness and referve; or rather, we ought to confefs, that there is something in the subject out of the reach of our apprehension : for, in our apprehension, to be under a necessity of acting according to any rule, is inconsistent with free agency; and it makes no difference, which we can understand, whether the necessity be internal or external, or that the rule is the rule of perfeet rectitude.

But efficacy is ascribed to prayer without the proof, we are told, which can alone in such a. subject produce conviction, the confirmation of experience. Concerning the appeal to experience, I shall content myself with this remark, that if

prayer vere suffered to disturb the order of second causes appointed in the universe too much, or to produce its effect with the same regularity that they do, it would introduce a change into human affairs, which in some important respects would be evidently for the worse. Who, for example, would labour, if his neces fities could le fupplied with equal certainty by prayer ? ) low few would contain within any bounds of moderation those passions and pleasures, which at present are checked only by difease or the dread of it, if prayer would infal

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libly restore health ? In short, if the efficacy of prayer were so constant and observable as to be relied upon before-hand, it is ealy to foresee that the conduct of mankind would, in proportion to that reliance, become careless and disorderly. It is possible in the nature of things, that our prayers may,


many instances, be efficacious, and yet our experience of their efficacy be dubious and obscure. Therefore, if the light of nature instruct us by any other arguments to hope for elect from prayer; still more, if the scriptures authorize these hopes by promises of acceptance; it seems not a sufficient reason for calling in question the reality of such effects, that our obfervations of them are ambiguous : especially since it appears probable, that this very ambiguity is necellary to the happiness and Tafety of human life.

But some, whose objections do not exclude all prayer, are offended with the mode of prayer in use amongst us, and with many of the subjects, which are almost universally introduced into public worship, and recommended to private devotion. To pray for particular favours by name,' is to dictate, it has been said, to divine wisdom and goodness: to intercede for D4


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