« ZurückWeiter »
accept, and glorify all who come unto him through his beloved Son; and to bless the means which are employed to lead men to do so. It is the church's business to preach the Gospel, to publish the word of God, and to give the most extensive currency to Heaven's proclamation of pardon and eternal life, through the sacrifice of the cross. We know that this is not all that is necessary to bring the world to God; but it is all that belongs to us, or that we are capable of doing. In prayer we recognize the necessity of that spiritual power, which must be combined with outward means, in order to secure the end. We appeal to God to do his part, to appear for the glory of his own name, and to testify his approbation of the means of his own appointment. It is the admission of man's impotency, and the recognition of God's omnipotence. It is the proper junction of the visible and the invisible things of God.
Were the Gospel to make progress in the world, without prayer being made unceasingly by the church of Christ, the strictly spiritual nature of the divine system would not be apparent, or gradually disappear. Did it win its way without this holy exercise, it would come to be regarded merely as a system of means, wisely adapted to the circumstances, and addressed to the reasonings of men, the success of which depended chiefly on the exertions of its promulgators, and on the dispositions or acuteness of its hearers. There would then be room for glorying in men, and for glorying in the flesh. But when in connexion
with a faithful statement of the Gospel, we acknowledge that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him; that he cannot know them because they are spiritually discerned ;" and call upon
God to arise for the glory of his own name, and to attest the words of the Spirit, by the Spirit's demonstration and power-we are then in a posture which it will be for the divine glory to bless.
Other means seem to argue something of the creature's power, and to present the creature's importance. Prayer presents the Creator as he alone, from whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things. In the contribution of property, in the employment of talent, and in the sacrifice of life to promote the divine cause, we feel as if we were something; and when important results arise from these causes, we are in danger of ascribing to them, and to ourselves in connexion with them, a power to which they are not entitled. But when we are made to feel, that they may all be expended in vain, unless God shall bless; and that they will be expended in vain, if they are not the offspring of right principles and holy aims, we are thrown upon circumstances which compel us to give glory to God, from whom every good and every perfect gift cometh down, It is then, that he who planteth, and he who watereth, appear indeed to be nothing; and God who giveth the increase to be all.
In the next place, as all acceptable and successful prayer must be founded on some promise or engagement of God, the earnestness with which we plead with God in prayer for a blessing upon his own work, is the exercise of that principle which is the established medium of all heavenly communication - I mean the principle of faith. This principle. connects us as really with the spiritualities of the christian dispensation, as does the visual faculty with the visible creation; as does the organ of hearing with the melody or the terror of sound, or any other of our bodily faculties with the things to which they correspond. With faith is connected salvation, with faith is connected preservation and happiness,-and with faith is connected eternal life. This connexion is not variable or conditional, but certain; God having most solemnly engaged thus to treat all those whose faith is reposed in bimself, or in the testimony of his word.
Such I believe to be the connexion between the prayer of faith, and the blessings promised by God. The idea of a particular faith in prayer, which is explained to mean-believe that you shall obtain what you ask, and you shall obtain it, is an absurdity, which can only lead to extravagance, or wretched disappointment. But to believe that we shall obtain what God has promised to bestow, and to ask in the assured confidence of this, is not only no absurdity, but absolutely necessary to insure success. Prayer on any other principle, it would be unworthy of God to own. It is thep the
avowal of distrust and want of confidence in his goodness, his faithfulness, or his power.
But when we ask in the faith of his own declarations, not doubting but that they shall be performed, we give glory to God, and bring down upon ourselves, or others, the exercise of that liberality with which he does not upbraid.
Supposing then for the present that God has promised to bless his own word, and to hear the prayers of his people to this effect, that the whole earth may be filled with his glory, the firm belief of these things ought to lead, and will lead to earnest prayer; and the exercise of prayer on these principles, cannot fail to ensure success, if there be any certainty in the declarations of Scripture. But, alas! the manner in which prayer
is generally attended to in reference to such things, shews how little power these principles have upon our minds. The promises of God are looked at as vague and indeterminate in their meaning, and uncertain as to their fulfilment; and the language of doubt and hesitation, if not of actual unbelief, is presented to God. May we not say with the apostle James to these double-minded, undecided persons-let not such think that they shall receive any thing from God.
On the other hand, look at the use which the primitive believers made of this great instrument of power with God. The first prayer of the christian church, in its associated capacity, which is recorded, was in reference to the spread of the Gospel, and the answer with which it was followed,
is recorded also. After recounting the treatment which the apostles experienced from thc rulers of their countrymen, the historian informs us, they assembled the church and reported what had been done. With one accord, he tells us, they lifted up their voice to God; and after acknowledging his power and supremacy, and reminding him of his engagements, they said—“And now, Lord, behold their threatenings : and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.”
Mark the answer which they received ;—"And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”+ But this was not all the answer,--the effects which followed also belong to it; — “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own : but they had all things common.
And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.”I
Perhaps I shall be told, that this was in the age of miracles, and was itself of a miraculous character. I grant that it was so in part. But the principle and the spirit of the prayer, the holy
* Acts iv, 29, 30.
+ Ib. iy. 31.
# Ib. iv. 32, 33.