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lights, with whom there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning." He is in one mind, and who can turn him ? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.” He has infallibly determined when, and where, and upon whom, he will bestow all his favors; and christians have no right to desire, or to ask him to alter any of his determinations respecting themselves or others. And since they never know, beforehand, his determinations respecting the bestowment of any futurę favors, they have no right to ask for any thing which he has not absolutely promised, without unreserved submission to his will. Though he has promised Christ that he will save all those whom he has given him in the covenant of redemption, yet christians have no right to pray absolutely and unconditionally for the salvation of any particular sinner, because they do not know that it is his will to save that particular person. Though they ought to pray for those that are sick, that they may be recovered to health, yet they ought not to pray for this favor absolutely and unconditionally, because they do not know that it is the will of God to grant it. And though they ought to pray for all mankind, that both temporal and spiritual blessings may be bestowed upon them, yet they have no right, in any case, to pray for any public favors, absolutely and unconditionally, because they do not know what public favors God has determined to bestow. Their prayers in all cases, and in respect to all things, ought to be made conditionally and submissively. And whenever they pray conditionally and submissively, they pray that whatever they ask for may not be granted, if God see best to deny them. Christ has set a perfect example of submissive prayer, in his address to his Father, in the garden, respecting his tremendous sufferings on the cross. There he kneeled down and prayed, saying, " Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done." His will was to have God remove the cap from him, if he were pleased to do it; but if not, he prayed that his petition might be denied, and the will of his Father might be done. Christians, at this day, ought always to follow this example in all their prayers for themselves and others, and in respect to every thing they pray for. They have no right to imagine that "all things whatsoever they shall ask in prayer, believing, they shall receive." This promise was given to certain persons for a certain time, and does not belong to them, and they have no right to exercise faith in it.
3. If christians have no right, at this day, to exercise faith in the promise in the text, then they have no right to exercise faith in their own peculiar feelings or impressions. The apostles and primitive christians, who possessed miraculous powers, did
not believe that all things whatsoever they asked in prayer should be granted, because they had peculiar feelings and impressions respecting what they asked; but they believed that whatsoever they asked would be granted, because a divine promise had been given them, that whatever they asked in faith of that promise should be granted. They knew that the promise in the text was made to their faith, and not to their feelings, or peculiar impressions. They did not expect to work a miracle because they had a certain impression that they could work a miracle; but they expected to work a miracle, because they believed in the promise of divine assistance to work a miracle. Since those who possessed miraculous powers had no right to believe that whatever they asked in prayer would be granted, on account of any peculiar impression that it would be granted, it is certainly absurd for christians at this day, who are totally destitute of miraculous powers, to believe that they shall receive whatever they ask in prayer, on account of some peculiar impression which they have that what they ask they shall certainly receive. Though christians, at this day, have no promise that whatever they pray for shall be granted; yet they sometimes have a strong impression on their minds that a certain favor they ardently desire will be bestowed, if they pray for it on the ground of that impression. But since they have no promise to believe in, they have no right to believe in, any impression that what they pray for shall be granted. There is reason to fear that christians, many times, believe in an impression instead of a promise, and confidently expect that God will grant what they are deeply impressed he will grant, if they ask for it. Men are naturally disposed to regard peculiar im
. pressions, and to be influenced by them in their hopes, and fears, and prayers. We sometimes hear of persons having promises come to their minds, and making deep impressions on them. And it is very probable that the promise in the text has come to the minds of many persons, and made deep impressions upon them, and led them to imagine that they really believed the promise, while they only believed the impressions made by it. It is more than possible that some may now recollect certain impressions, which led them to pray for certain favors, in great confidence that they would be granted. But no one has a right to exercise faith in his own peculiar feelings or impressions. There are no promises made to any impressions. All the promises of the gospel are made to some holy exercise or affection, and to nothing in which men are entirely passive.
4. If christians, at this day, have no right to apply the promise in the text to themselves, then those who apply it to themselves are in danger of running into gross errors and delusions. There have been many individuals, among almost all denominations of christians, who have applied the promise to themselves, and have prayed and acted under a supposed influence of it. They have believed that, if they prayed for particular favors, in the belief that the favors would be granted, they should certainly receive them. And they have built their faith in the promise, not upon having supernatural gifts, but upon their having peculiar and uncommon impressions, in respect to the favors they prayed for. Such an application of the text, and of similar passages in the New Testament, has led some to expect what they had no right to expect. It has led them to pray for certain things with an ardent desire and belief that they would be granted. It led Mr. Whitefield confidently to expect what he had no right confidently to expect. He had an amiable, promising little son, whom he ardently desired and prayed might be an eminently useful minister, and he had such strong and agreeable impressions concerning him, that he confidently expected that he would be what he so ardently desired and prayed that he might be. But his son died when he was about four years old, and the event not only disappointed him, but cured him of his error. The misapplication of the promise in the text has led some confidently to expect that a certain man would be their minister, because they had a strong impression and a lively faith that he would be their minister : but they were disappointed. The same groundless faith has led others to expect that a certain man would be ordained in a certain place, on a certain day; but the event did not take place. The misunderstanding and misapplying this text has led some confidently to expect, and publicly to predict that there would be a revival of religion in such and such places, and such and such persons would be converted at such and such particular times; but their hopes and predictions were not realized. The same misapprehension and misapplication of the same promise, have led some to go where they had no right to go, and to do what they had no right to do, and what they afterwards bitterly regretted. These facts are capable of being fully substantiated. And they have taken place, as I said, among almost if not all denominations of christians. Impressions have governed the faith of Quakers, of Congregationalists, of Methodists, of Universalists, and even of Deists. Relly, the father of the Murray. Universalists, professed to be governed in speaking and acting by internal impressions. And Lord Herbert, the father of Deists, professed to be guided by internal impressions. The great adversary endeavored to lead Christ astray, by the misapplication of a promise. And probably this has been, for
ages, his most successful method of leading both sincere and insincere christians into the most absurd and fatal errors and delusions. He first makes certain impressions on their minds, which leads them to misunderstand and misapply promises in their favor. How often does he lead sinners to entertain a false hope, by applying promises made to christians, to themselves! How often does he lead christians to adopt the sentiment, that if they believe a thing to be true, it will make it true; that if they believe a thing to be right, it will make it right; or if they believe an event will happen, it will make it happen. It is easy to see that by this mode of seduction, he can lead mankind into any errors and delusions he pleases. Paul was sensible of this
. diabolical artifice, and cautions the Corinthians against it. He says, “ I am jealous over you with godly jealousy.” “I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” Men are very fond of thinking that if any agreeable impressions are made upon their minds, they must be made by some good spirit. But they ought to remember that impressions may be made by an evil spirit, as well as by a good spirit. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he
may devour.” 5. If no other peculiar promise respecting prayer, was made to those who possessed miraculous powers, but the promise in the text, and other similar promises, then all the other promises made to prayer are applicable to christians at this day. They have a right to exercise faith in the general promise, “ He that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened." They have a right to exercise faith also in innumerable other promises made to the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous. They have all the encouragement to pray in faith of the promises, that they can reasonably desire. God has never said to the seed of Jacob, “ Seek ye me in vain;" but he has assured them, that if they pray aright, they shall always be heard; and either receive what they pray for in particular, or something more for his glory and their good. In order to pray aright, they must pray with a real desire for those things they pray for, and with a cordial submission to the will of God, whether he shall grant or deny their requests. And when they offer up such prayers, they are always his delight, and shall avail much, though they do not obtain the particular things they ask for. And this is all they ought to desire, or do desire, when they pray aright.