« ZurückWeiter »
the prayer, before it can be united to the intercession of the holy Jesus, in which union alone our prayers can be prevailing
“ God heareth not sinners.”_So the blind man in the text, and confidently, “ this we know:" he had reason, indeed, for his confidence; it was a proverbial saying, and every where recorded in their Scriptures, which were read in the synagogues every sabbath-day. “For what is the hope of the hypocrite? (saith Job) Will God hear his cry, when trouble cometh upon him"?" No, he will not. “For if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me,” said David; and so said the Spirit of the Lord by the son of David: “When distress and anguish come upon you, then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find mey.” And Isaiah, "When you spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when you make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of bloodz.” And again, "When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they will offer burnt-offerings and oblations, I will not accept them. For they have loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the Lord will not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sinsa.” Upon these and many other authorities”, it grew into a proverb; “Deus non exaudit peccatores.” It was a known case, and an established rule in religion; "Wicked persons are neither fit to pray for themselves, nor for others.”
Which proposition let us first consider in the sense of that purpose which the blind man spoke it in, and then in the utmost extent of it, as its analogy and equal reason go forth upon us and our necessities. The man was cured of his blindness, and being examined concerning him that did it, named and gloried in his physician : but the spiteful pharisees bid him give glory to God, and defy the minister; for God indeed was good, but he wrought that cure by a wicked hand.-No, says he, this is impossible. If this man were a sinner and a false prophet (for in that instance the accusation was intended), God would not hear his prayer, and work
" Job, xxvi. 9. * Psalm, lxvi. 18. Prov. i 28. 2 Isa. i. 15. a Jer. xiv. 12, 10. b Vide etiam. Psalın, xxxiv. 6. Micah, iii. 4. 1 Pet. jii. 12.
miracles by him in verification of a lie.—A false prophet could not work true miracles: this hath received its diminution, when the case was changed; for at that time, when Christ preached, miracles were the only or the great verification of any new revelation; and, therefore, it proceeding from an almighty God, must needs be the testimony of a Divine truth; and if it could have been brought for a lie, there could not then have been sufficient instruction given to mankind, to prevent their belief of false prophets and lying doctrines. But when Christ proved his doctrine by miracles, that no enemy of his did ever do so great before or after him; then he also told, that, after him, his friends should do greater, and his enemies should do some, but they were fewer, and very inconsiderable; and, therefore, could have in them no unavoidable cause of deception, because they were discovered by a prophecy, and caution was given against them by him that did greater miracles, and yet ought to have been believed, if he had done but one; because against him there had been no caution, but many prophecies creating such expectations concerning him, which he verified by his
So that, in this sense of working miracles, though it was infinitely true that the blind man said, then when he said it, yet after that the case was altered; and sinners, magicians, astrologers, witches, heretics, simoniacs, and wicked persons of other instances, have done miracles, and God hath heard sinners, and wrought his own works by their hands, or suffered the devil to do his works under their pretences; and many, at the day of judgment, shall plead that they have done miracles in Christ's name, and yet they shall be rejected; Christ knows them not, and their portion shall be with dogs, and goats, and unbelievers.
There is, in this case, only this difference; that they who do miracles in opposition to Christ, do them by the power of the devil, to whom it is permitted to do such things, which we think miracles; and that is all one as though they were: but the danger of them is none at all, but to them that will not believe him that did greater miracles, and prophesied of these less, and gave warning of their attending danger, and was confirmed to be a true teacher by voices from heaven, and by the resurrection of his body after a three days' burial: so that to these the proposition still remains
true, “God hears not sinners," God does not work those miracles; but concerning sinning Christians, God, in this sense, and towards the purposes of miracles, does hear them, and hath wrought miracles by them, for they do them “in the name of Christ," and therefore Christ said, “cannot easily speak ill of him ;” and although they either prevaricate in their lives, or in superinduced doctrines, yet, because the miracles are a verification of the religion, not of the opinion, of the power of truth of Christ, not of the veracity of the man, God hath heard such persons many times, whom men have long since, and to this day, called heretics; such were the Novatians and Arians; for, to the heathens they could only prove their religion, by which they stood distinguished from them; but we find not that they wrought miracles among the Christians, or to verify their superstructures and private opinions. But, besides this yet, we may also by such means arrest the forwardness of our judgments and condemnations of persons disagreeing in their opinions from us; for those persons, whose faith God confirmed by miracles, was an entire faith; and although they might have false opinions, or mistaken explications of true opinions, either inartificial or misunderstood, yet we have reason to believe their faith to be entire; for that which God would have the heathen to believe, and to that purpose proved it by a miracle himself intended to accept, first to a holy life, and then to glory. The false opinion should burn, and themselves escape. One thing more is here very considerable, that in this very instance of working miracles, God was so very careful not to hear sinners or permit sinners, till he had prevented all dangers to good and innocent persons, that the case of Christ and his apostles working miracles, was so clearly separated and remarked by the finger of God, and distinguished from the impostures and pretences of all the many antichrists that appeared in Palestine, Cyprus, Crete, Syria, and the vicinage, that there were but very few Christians, that, with hearty persuasions, fell away from Christ, Oārtó TIC TOUS ÅTÒ Xploto peradidáčele, said Galen, “ It is not easy to teach anew him that hath been taught by Christ:” and St. Austin tells a story of an unbelieving man, that, being troubled that his wife was a Christian, went to the oracle to ask by what means he should alter her persuasion;
but he was answered, “it could never be done, he might as well imprint characters upon the face of a torrent, or a rapid river, or himself fly in the air, as alter the persuasion of a hearty and an honest Christian;" I would to God it were so now in all instances, and that it were so hard to draw men from the severities of a holy life, as of old they could be cozened, disputed, or forced out of their faith. Some men are vexed with hypocrisy, and then their hypocrisy was punished with infidelity and a wretchless spirit. Demas, and Simon Magus, and Ecebolius, and the lapsed confessors, are instances of human craft or human weakness; but they are scarce a number that are remarked, in ancient story, to have fallen from Christianity by direct persuasions, or the efficacy of abusing arguments and discourses. The reason of it is the truth in the text: God did so avoid hearing sinners in this affair, that he never permitted them to do any niracles, so as to do any mischief to the souls of good men; and therefore it is said, the enemies of Christ came “in the power of signs and wonders, able to deceive (if it were possible) even the very elect;" but that was not possible; without their faults it could not be; the elect were sufficiently strengthened, and the evidence of Christ's being heard of God, and that none of his enemies were heard of God to any dangerous effect, was so great, that if any Christian had apostatized or fallen away by direct persuasion, it was like the sin of a falling angel, of so direct a malice, that he never could repent, and God never would pardon him, as St. Paul twice remarks in his Epistle to the Hebrews. The result of this discourse is the first sense and explication of the words, “God heareth not sinners,” viz. in that in which they are sinners: a sinner in his manners may be heard in his prayer, in order to the confirmation of his faith ; but if he be a sinner in his faith, God hears him not at all in that wherein he sins; for God is truth, and cannot confirm a lie, and whenever he permitted the devil to do it, he secured the interest of his elect, that is, of all that believe in him and love him, “lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting.”
2. That which yet concerns us more nearly is, that “God heareth not sinners;" that is, if we be not good men, our prayers will do us no good: we shall be in the condition of them that never pray at all. The prayers of a wicked man
are like the breath of corrupted lungs; God turns away from such unwholesome breathings. But that I may reduce this necessary doctrine to a method, I shall consider that there are some persons whose prayers are sins, and some others whose prayers are ineffectual : some are such who do not pray lawfully; they sin when they pray, while they remain in that state and evil condition; others are such who do not obtain what they pray for, and yet their prayer is not a direct sin : the prayer of the first is a direct abomination, the prayer of the second is hindered; the first is corrupted by a direct state of sin, the latter by some intervening imperfection and unhandsome circumstance of action; and in proportion to these, it is required, 1. that he be in a state and possibility of acceptation; and, 2. that the prayer itself be in a proper disposition. 1. Therefore we shall consider, what are those conditions, which are required in every person that prays, the want of which makes the prayer to be a sin? 2. What are the conditions of a good man's prayer, the absence of which makes that even his prayer return empty ? 3. What degrees and circumstances of piety are required to make a man fit to be an intercessor for others, both with holiness in himself and effect to them he prays for? And, 4. as an appendix to these considerations, I shall add the proper indices and signification, by which we may make a judgment whether God hath heard our prayers or no.
1. Whosoever prays to God while he is in a state or in the affection to sin, his prayer is an abomination to God. This was a truth so believed by all nations of the world, that in all religions they ever appointed baptisms and ceremonial expiations, to cleanse the persons, before they presented themselves in their holy offices. “Deorum templa cum adire disponitis, ab omni vos labe puros, lautos, castissimosque præstatis,” said Arnobius to the gentiles : “When you address yourselves to the temples of your God, you keep yourselves chaste, and clean, and spotless.” They washed their hands and wore white garments, they refused to touch a dead body, they avoided a spot upon their clothes as they avoided a wound upon their head, μη καθαρώ γάρ καθαρού εφάπτεσθαι μη ου θεμιτόν ή. That was the religious ground they went upon ; "an impure thing ought not to touch that