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of self-denial and eminent devotedness, we may expect that something of these qualities will distinguish him ; but if a great degree of secularity belonged to his early religious asso. ciations, though he may rise superior to them; yet it is more likely that his mode of thinking and of acting will be conformable to a worldly type. In regard to this, as to a thousand things, we may ask, “ Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ?” To expect a body of eminently spiritual Missionaries out of a carnal, selfish, worldly community, is absurd. I admit that excellent individuals will sometimes be found even in a very corrupt church. But I am speaking of such a body of active instruments as is necessary to promote the universal diffusion of the Gospel. The Christian church, I am convinced, is sufficiently numerous to furnish such a corps ; but it is not sufficiently spiritual.
Did the state of spiritual religion, for which we contend, exist, there would be greater regard in the formation of connexions, in the pursuits of business, and the education of families to the interests of the kingdom of Christ, than usually takes place. It would be a common and an honourable thing, to educate and form the character of one or more branches of a family, with a view to carry the Gospel abroad, or to preach it at home, should the love of Christ operate on the hearts of the parties. The first question in thie prosecution of earthly pursuits would not be, how is most money to be gained ? but—how may we be most useful? Religion, instead of being a subordinate object, or one of many considerations, would be regarded as the first and primary subject of regard, to which all other things would be considered as inferior, and to which they would all be rendered tributary.
The influence of this state of religion in the support of Christian Missions, and other benevolent undertakings, is most apparent. While we rejoice in the liberality which actually exists, compared with the state of things formerly,
we ought not to conceal from ourselves, that the amount of what is done, compared with the contributions of primitive believers, is paltry. By far the greater number of wealthy professors do nothing but contribute a little of their surplus income. They can spend hundreds, sometimes thousands a. year in support of the pride of life, giving little more than their neighbours, of very inferior income, and leaving large accumulations of property to their children. Such persons talk of the contributions made by the first disciples as alto. gether so peculiar as to form no precedent to us. They look at the extraordinary contribution made at Manchester, last Summer, which was alike creditable to the zeal and the Christian simplicity of the contributors, shrug up their shoul. ders, and conclude it is all nothing to them, as the people must have been either enormously rich, or enormously fana. tical. I believe they were, neither the one nor the other, but influenced by principles which ought to lead others, instead of censuring them, to go and do likewise.
Surely the language of the New Testament about steward. ship, and laying up treasure on earth, and sacrifices with which God 'is well pleased, was never intended to be restricted to the first ages of Christianity. It is just as much a part of that law which cannot be broken, as the ten commandments; and nothing but the state of religion around, and the low degree of spiritual principle which belongs to iudividuals, can account for the attempts to evade the appli. cation of the precepts of the Gospel on these subjects. Under the present circumstances of Christianity, the man who cannot part freely with his property for Christ's sake, has no satisfactory evidence of the sincerity of his religious profession. Let there be but an approximation on the part of a considerable portion of the Christian church, to the liberality and devotedness of the first believers, and the evangelization of the world will take place specdily.
These observations may convince any impartial reader of the influence, as means, which the state of the church must have on the progress and success of the cause of God in the world. In this, as in many other things, there must be action and re-action. The Holy Spirit sanctifies the church, and blesses the means observed by it for its own benefit. This operates on the world around, excites a spirit of enterprize and exertion ; and that again is blessed by God. The waterers of others are themselves watered in return. Success encourages faith and effort; and additional success rewards that effort. The influence and the enjoyment circulate and multiply; the reward of labour furnishes the means of fresh enterprize, and the very confidence which success inspires, insures fresh conquests, and more glorious triumphs.
Note [BB]. page 115.
On the subject of prayer, and its success with God,
I might have employed much stronger language than I have done in the discourse. As it regards all temporal blessings, the promises of God are either expressed conditionally, or a condition or limitation must be understood. It is different in respect of spiritual things. The only limitations which belong to our asking for spiritual good to ourselves, or to others, are two. In the first place, that the blessing implored is matter of divine promise; and in the second place, that it is asked under those circumstances in which it is reasonable to expect its performance. What is not promised, we have no right to ask or to expect. General promises must be pleaded under those modifications by which their fulfilment was intended to be limited. For example, we must not dictate to God as to time, place, or individuals, when we are imploring Him to bless our efforts, or those of the church generally; as the
disposal of his blessings in those respects he has reserved entirely to himself.
The parable of the importunate widow and the unjust judge, is intended to illustrate the importance of persevering prayer, and the certainty of its ultimate success. Its objeet is to enforce that intense earnestness of faith and desire, which God has engaged to own, and without which our very prayers may be said to secure their own disappointment. From an admirable sermon of Mr. Howe on this subject, I select the following passage as peculiarly deserving of attention.
“We must know that fainting may be either when faith languisheth, or desire. It is faint praying, when we pray as if we cared not whether we prayed or no. The word EKKAKELV rendered faint in our text, is the same with that which elsewhere is rendered weary. Let us not, EKKAKUMEY be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap if we faint not; (Gal. vi. 9.) that is, if ye be not sluggish in the course of well-doing. Take heed therefore of praying the slag. gard's prayer, or at the sluggard's rate. "The desire of the slothful kills him, because his hands refuse to labour.' Prov. xxi. 25. His own desires carry no life in them; they are even death to his very heart: cold things that strike death into the soul, and put no life into it.
" And thus too when faith languisheth, it is faint praying. Let not that man,' says St. James, that is the man who wavers like a wave of the sea, and is driven of the wind and tossed, think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.' (James i. 7.) What! come to God, as if we did not expect to get any this by God! And as if we agreed in the same sense with those profane atheists, and symbolized with those who say, What profit is it, that we have prayed to him or kept his ordinances ? go heartlessly into the divine presence; give way to a cold dull spirit, in the very perform.
ance of the duty; and never look after the success of it when It is over. Such had as good never pray at all, who pray only to keep up a custom, and to make a show; and that they may be able to say when all is over, the duty is done.' Let not such think, they shall receive any thing at the hands of God; such especially who come to him with no expectation, and pray to him as one that cannot save.
“It is to cast infamy npon the great Object of our worship, as if we were only blessing an idol, when we pray to the true living God, as if he were such a one as the idols of the Gentiles are said to be, that have eyes but see not, ears but hear not, and can neither do good nor hurt. It is no wonder if sirch praying signify nothing; for it carries an affront in itself. Every such prayer is an indignity, and an insolent affront put upon the great God, as if the injunction of this duty upon the children of men was either uureasonable and to no purpose, and as a reflection upon the wisdoin of his law, who has commanded us to pray; (inasmuch as that is always unwisely enjoined that hath no end ;) or, as if there were no power in liim to accomplish what we come to him about, though we come according to his own direction. It cannot, I say, but be an affront to God, either way, to come to him with desponding hearts. In the former case, if our desires languish, we are worse than the importunate widow ; in the latter case, if faith languish, we make God worse than the unjust judge.”—Howe's Works, vol. vi. pp. 275, 276.
I have expressed myself strongly on the subject of what is called a particular faith in prayer; but not more strongly than the case requires. I am aware there is a passage of Scrip. ture, which seems to convey the sentiment almost in the language I have censured.—“And Jesus answering saith unto them, have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his