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to a ship. If we think slightly, and-without concern, upon any subject, our afsections are in such A case like a ship becalm'd, unmov'd, or at least mov'd very weakly. If we think seriously, our afsections are mov'd. proportionably, either with fear, love, desire, or the like, even as a ship is moved faster or flower, in proportion to the gale of wind it is under the influence of. But if our reflections are so violent and disorderly, as not to be under the government of reason, then they distract and confound the mind, like a ship under the violence of a storm, and so render it indisposed forthe regular and due exercise of any affection or duty whatsoever. Thus I have enquired into the first particular, what prayer is; namely, the act of the mind carried out in desire aster some good not enjoy'd.
Secondly, Who is the proper object of prayer? Note, In this branch of the enquiry, I shall likewise consider prayer in a restrained sense, as it is confined to petition only. So that, by the proper object of prayer, I mean, who we may apply ourselves to for a supply of our wants, with a reasonable hope of success. And, here I shall consider the object of prayer in the largest sense; and accordingly, Lfay, that every being is the proper object of prayer, which hears our petitions, and is posiefs'd with ability to help us; or that can intercede with, and make an interest for us to him who is possess'd with such ability, and who hath a right to. exercise that ability for our good, and also hath a will or disposition to help us, or may be wrought upon, by our prayers, to have such a disposition. I fay, the proper object of prayer, must be one that hears our prayers. And this is most evident; for as the end of prayer, in this casse, is the obtaining the good
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things we pray for, and tho' he whom we pray to hath ability to help us; yet our prayers can not be a proper means to answer that end, except the being we pray to hears those prayers, and so is induced by them to answer them; consequently when we pray to any being which does not hear our petitions, we can have no reasonable ground to hope for success. Again, I fay, that the proper object of prayer must be one that is possess'd with ability to help us, or that can intercede with, and make an interest for us to him who is possess'd of such ability.; And the reason of this is clear, because we can have no rational ground to hope that the end of our prayers will be answer'd, in obtaining the good things prayed for, except the Being we pray to is either invests ed with ability to help us himself, or else can intercede with, and make an interest for us to him who is invested with such ability, there being no just ground to hope for success, if we seek for help where it is not to be had. I fay farther, that the proper object of prayer must not only be possess'd of ability to help us, but also he must be invested with a right to exercise that ability for our good. Thus, for, example, if an Almoner is entrusted with an hundred pounds to give to twenty poor men, and if he hath an express order to give it to some particular men, and to no others; and if another poor man, who has not been nominated, should petition him for some of this money, in this case, the poor man would pray to one who is not the proper object of his prayer; for tho' the Almoner is possess'd. with ability to help him, yet the poor man .can have no reasonable ground to hope for success i. because this Almoner is not to govern himself (in the distribution of this bounty) by the cries or necessities of the poor, but. by -the rule and direction'
given him by his Lord. Lastly, I fay, that the proper object of prayer must be one who hath a will or disposition to help us, or may be wrought upon, by our prayers, to have such a disposition. And the reason of this is evident, because the want of a will or disposition to help us, is as great a bar to our attainment, as the want of power and ability; and consequently, when we know such a disposition cannot be obtained, there can be no rational ground to hope for success. These grounds being laid down, which are undeniably evident in themselves, from hence I raise the following observations.
First, That stocks and stones, and the like, are in no casse the proper objects of prayer, because they are desective and wanting in every thing which is absolutely necessary to make them so. I observe,
Secondly, That our sellow-creatures, mankind* when in proper circumstances, are the proper .objects of prayer, that is, when we can acquaint them with our desires, and when they are possessed with ability to help us, and have a right to exercise that ability for our good, or can use their interest with others that are possessed with such ability; and when we have reason to think, either that they have a disposition to help us, or may be prevailed upon by our prayers to have such a dis.position: I fay, that men, in these circumstances, are the proper objects of prayer, because there is good ground to hope, that, if we are the proper objects of their kindness, our prayers will be accepted, and answered. I observe,
Thirdly, That the souls of men, departed this lise, in all probability, are not the proper objects of prayer. For as we have no just ground to think, either that they hear our prayers, or that they have any power or ability to help us so - , U 3 from. From hence it will follow, that in all probability* they are not proper objects to be pray'd to; because, if we mould address to them, we have no reasonable ground to hope for success. I observe,1
Fourthly, That it is probable good angels are not the proper objects of prayer, at least we have no assurance that they are... For tho' they are all ministering spirits, sent forth to administer to them that shall be heirs of falvation, and so are entrusted with ability to help those they are to minister'to; yet, notwithstanding this, they may not be proper objects to be pray'd to; first, because we do not know, nor can we have any assurance that they hear any of our prayers; and consequently can have no just ground to hope for success, if we pray to them. Secondly, Suppose they do hear our prayers, yet, for ought we know, they may not be at liberty to exercise their ability as they please; but, like the Almoner beforementioned, they may have a particular direction how to employ it; and consequently they maynot be proper to be petition'd to for their help, because, in such a case, they are not to govern themselves in their ministration by our prayers, but by the rule and direction given them by their Lord. I observe,'
Fifthly, It is a question, Whether the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, be the proper object of prayer for all things? For tho' we may pray to him for his intercession, that is, that he would pray to and use his interest with the Father for the obtaining to us those good things which we want, yet, notwithstanding this, he may not be the proper object of prayer for all things. For tho' he is constituted by his Father, to be the Lord, and head of his people, to be the governour and judge of the world; and so may well be supposed to have the full knowledge of us in all circumstances, and a full power to discharge the trust reposed in him, and consequently may both hear our prayers, and have ability and a disposition to help us; yet, notwithstanding this, there may be some things which the Father may not have revealed to, nor put into the hand of our Saviour, but may reserve it to his own will and pleasure. And that this was so in fact, both before and after our Lord's resurrection, is evident from his own words, if his testimony may be believ'd in the case. Thus, Mark xiii. 32. Of that day and hour knoweth no one, no not the angels -which are in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father. Acts i. 7. It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Father hath put in bis [own] power. And tho' the Father hath constituted his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to be the chief minister of his great grace to mankind; yet, notwithstanding this, he may reserve to himself, and to his own will, the disposing, or rather the directing the distribution of .his blessings, and so may reserve to himself the prerogative of being the proper object of prayer in this case. And tho' Christ may be employed in distributing to his people all those things, which they sliall ask of the Father in his name; yet possibly he may not distribute them as his own bounty, and merely according to his own will; but as the bounty, and according to the - will of his heavenly Father. And that this is the case, seems evident from his own words, Lukexi. 13. How much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy spirit to them that ask him? Chap. xii. 32. // is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. John xvi. 23. Verily, verily* 1 fay unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask os the Father, in my name, he will give it you. Matt. xxv. 34. Come ye Messed os my Father, inherit the kingdom preU 4 pared.