Imatges de pÓgina
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others, especially for whole nations and empires, is Nill worlę ; it is to presume that we possess such an interest with the Deity, as to be able, by our applications, to bend the most important of his counsels; and that the happiness of others, and even the properity of communities, is to depend upon this interest and upon our choice. Now, how unequal soever our knowledge of the divine economy may be to the solution of this difficulty, which requires perhaps a comprehension of the entire plan, and of all the ends of God's moral government, to explain fatisfactorily, we can understand one thing concerning it, that it is, after all, nothing more than thę making of one man the instrument of happiness and misery to another ; which is perfectly of a piece with the course and order that obtain, and which we must believe were intended to obtain, in human affairs. Why may we not be assisted by the prayers of other men, who are beholden for our support to their las bour? Why may not our happiness be made in some cases to depend upon the intercession, as it certainly does in many upon the good offices, of pur neighbours ? The happiness and misery of great numbers we see oftentimes at the disposal

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of one man's choice, or liable to be much af, fected by his conduct: what greater difficulty is there in supposing, that the prayers of an indi. vidual may avert a calamity from multitudes, or be accepted to the benefit of whole communities?

CHAP

CH A P. III.

OF THE DUTY AND EFFICACY OF PRAYER,

AS REPRESENTED IN SCRIPTURE.

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HE reader will have observed, that the

reflections stated in the preceding chapter, whatever truth and weight they may be allowed to contain, rise many of them no higher than to negative arguments in favour of the propriety of addressing prayer to God. To prove that the efficacy of

prayers is not inconsistent with the attributes of the Deity, does not prove that prayers are actually efficacious; and in the want of that unequivocal testimony, which experience alone could afford to this point (but which we do not possess, and have seen good reason why we are not to expect) the light of nature leaves us to controverted probabilities, drawn from the impulse hy which mankind have been almost universally promp ed to di votion, and from some beneficial purposes, which, it is conceived, may be better answered by the audience of prayer,

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than by any other mode of communicating the same blellings. The revelations which we deem authentic, completely supply this defect of natural religion. They require prayer to God as a duty; and they contain positive assurances of its efficacy and acceptance. We could have no reasonable motive for the exercife of prayer, without believing that it may avail to the relief of our wants. This belief can only be founded, either in a sensible experience of the effect of prayer, or in promises of acceptance signified by divine authority, Our knowledge would have come to ns in the former way, less capable, indeed, of doubt, but subjected to the abuses and inconveniences briefly described above: in the latter way,

that is, by authorized significations of God's general disposition to hear and answer the devout supplications of his creatures, we are encouraged to pray, but not to place such a de pendence upon prayer, as might relax other obligations, or confound the order of events and of human expectations.

The scriptures not only affirm the propriety of prayer in general, but furnish precepts or examples which justify some topics and some modes of prayer that have been thought exceptionable.

And And as the whole subject rests so much upon the foundation of scripture, I shall put down at length texts applicable to the five following heads; to the duty and efficacy of prayer in general; of

prayer for particular favours by name ; for public national blessings; of intercession for others; of the repetition of unsuccefl

ful prayers.

1. Texts enjoining prayer in general : “ Ask “ and it shall be given you, seck and ye

shall find -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?” “Watch ye “ therefore, and pray always, that ye may be "accounted worthy to escape all those things that “ shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son « of man.

“ Serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing instans in prayer.” “ Be careful for nothing, but in

every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” “ I will, therefore, that men pray

every where, lifting up holy hands without " wrath and doubting.” “ Pray without ceasing." Matt. vii. 7. 11. Luke xxi. 36. Rom. xii. 12.

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