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DELIVERED BY THE REV. D. WILSON, A.M.
AT ISLINGTON CHURCH, SUNDAY, MARCH 31, 1833.
John, xvi. 24." Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." The life of religion in the soul of and instructing them in the truths man is supported and sustained by concerning his kingdom. He was now prayer. Prayer is that medium of about to leave them, to leave them as access by which we approach to GOD. sheep without a shepherd; to leave It is like the ladder seen by Jacob in them in the midst of a dangerous, and vision, by which the heart of the sin- hating, and ensnaring world: and he ner ascends towards heaven. We leaves them with an earnest solicihave every encouragement to this tude, that whatever they might reduty and privilege in the Scriptures : quire, whatever they might need, we are invited, again and again, to whatever they might feel themselves present with holy boldness and con- deficient in, either for soul or body, fidence, our petitions to the throne of either for this world or the next, grace. All those discoveries which we either for life or death, they were may meet in Scripture, of the need to ask it in prayer. “Hitherto" says of man, of his corruption, and his our Lord, “ have ye asked nothing necessities, and his iniquities, and his in my name: ask, and ye shall lost and ruined state-all are to lead receive, that your joy may be full.” to prayer, all are to stimulate to “I go to prepare a place for you," prayer; all are to drive and urge us now; a new and a living way of acto a throne of grace
cess to the throne of grace is open ; Again: the various discoveries and now God sits upon the throne which the divine word supplies, of of mercy; now all impediments to the glories and blessings of Christ's prayer are removed; all obstacles kingdom— those joys which are at and doubts as to the mode of prayer God's right hand, that inheritance, are gone; now you have boldness of incorruptible and undefiled, and that access there. fadeth not away-all that future bliss Our subject, then, this afternoon, and glory, and joy and happiness is The nature and the encouragement which is reserved in heaven --all are to prayer. May the presence of God, to stimulate and invite to prayer; all then, be with us; may we be inare to be obtained by prayer; all structed, may we be stimulated, may bring us back to the direction of the we be encouraged, to this important text-“ Ask, and ye shall receive, duty, and exalted privilege. that your joy may be full.”
In the first place, I will seek to These words come with peculiar point out to you what is prayer: seinterest to our minds, as forming a condly, what is our encouragement part of our Lord's last directions and to persevere in this duty; and, then, farewell to his disciples. He had thirdly, what will be the effect upon now been for three years teaching our own minds which we may humbly
look for in the habitual pursuit that house of prayer may be made a of it.
den of thieves: that house, in which And first, WHAT IS PRAYER ? God meets his people, for devotion Perhaps there is hardly one truth in and service, if the heart be absent, Scripture, or one point in Christian- if the affections be wandering, if man ity, which is more frequently upon comes without that praying of the our lips, and yet less fully and rightly soul, and the real earnest supplicacomprehended, than this simple ques- tion of the heart, that house is untion—What is prayer?
hallowed and unsanctified to him. And in the first place, What is “ When ye come,” says God, “to not prayer. Prayer, brethren, is pray before me, who hath required not the mere repetition of a form this at your hands, to tread my of words; it is not a mere address courts?” It is but a treading, a trampto God at a certain period, and ling upon the house of God, not an with a certain form ; and, in a cer acceptable offering to his service. tain regular and systematic manner. But, now, What is prayer? Prayer, The Pharisees practised this to a our text says, is “asking.” “Ask, very considerable extent. We have and ye shall receive." It is the askan example of their prayers in the ing for those blessings, whether spiriGospel—“ God, I thank thee, that tual or temporal, which we feel our I am not as other men are.” And need of. In order, then, to constitute yet those prayers were unheard, prayer, we must feel our need of were unanswered, were not accepted; certain blessings: this is the very nay, they were not prayers; they did first pre-requisite for a praying soul. not ascend to the mercy-seat of God: There must be a sense of want; there nay, they brought with them a curse, must be a sense of need. The wise and not a blessing. Our Lord says man says, “ The full soul loatheth an -“They make long prayers; and honeycomb, but to the hungry soul therefore shall they receive a greater every bitter thing is sweet." It is the condemnation :" their very prayers, empty that shall be filled; it is the their very petitions, their very ad-hungry that is to be relieved ; it is dresses to the throne of grace, shall the man deeply impressed with want, rise against them at the last day. deeply sensible of his own necessities,
Again, prayer is not the offering to hungering and thirsting, after righteGOD a meritorious service, which ousness, fully persuaded of his own will, of itself, entitle them to favour. absolute need, that will come to a The Jews in their most corrupt times throne of grace with that praying of were earnest and assiduous, and de the soul. He will come as a starving voted in their prayers, and in their beggar to the rich man's door; he sabbath services ; but what says God will come as a drowning sailor, that to them ?—“ When ye spread forth clings to the rope for safety; he will your hands I will hide mine eyes come as a shipwrecked mariner, that from you ; yea, when ye make many will climb up the lofty rock, amidst prayers I will not hear.” The most the surrounding billows. That man corrupt, the most profligate, the most is engaged in prayer, that man unabandoned men, have in this man- derstands prayer, that man is a supner engaged in prayer.
pliant at the throne of grace. Nor, lastly, is prayer a mere attendance at the house of prayer. Yea,
(To be continued.)
SERMON BY THE REV. D. WILSON, A. M.
Again, in order to pray, we must be 1 “ Ask, and ye shall receive." Prayer, sensible that Christ, and Christ alone, then, is the means of receiving all can supply our wants. While the those blessings, and all those mercies, heart looks not to him, while the which as undone, and lost, and ruined affections are fixed on this world, sinners we need and require. It is while we are seeking to serve God that, indeed, which God has been and Mammon, there will be no earn- pleased to appoint for the communiest and hearty prayer. We must be cation of every mercy, and of every first convinced that earthly pursuits blessing from his throne of grace. are but empty toys, are but physi- Had it pleased infinite wisdom, those cians of no value—that Christ, and blessings might have been communiChrist alone, by his power, by his cated through a medium of provi. grace, by his spirit will supply all dence, as we receive our life, as we our wants and necessities that he receive our health, as we receive our can and will do, exceedingly abund- daily food. Or had it otherwise been ant, above all that we can ask or agreeable to the infinite wisdom of think.
God, they might have been supplied And then, finally, when we pray in a miraculous manner; they might we are to wait in confident expecta- have been supplied independently ot' tion of receiving. There can be no all means, and all instruments : but acceptable prayer without faith. Our God, in his infinite wisdom, has been Lord tells us, “ Whatsoever ye shall pleased to appoint that all spiritual ask in prayer, believing, ye shall re- blessings should be communicated in ceive.” Faith is the great requisite answer to prayer. “Yet for this,” for prayer. “He that cometh to God, he says, when he promises a blessing, must believe that he is, and that he is “ Yet for this will I be enquired of a rewarder of them that diligently by the house of Israel, to do it for seek him.” And that faith must be them.” There is the promise, there kept in exercise: God will not inva- is the blessing in store, there are riably and immediately answer prayer. the heavenly riches reserved for you : “It is good for a man that he hope, now ask for them; now pray for them; and quietly wait for the salvation of now come to my footstool; now apGoD:" and, therefore, the Psalmist proach to my throne of grace, and says, “Wait on the Lord, be of good you shall have them. Just as in nacourage, and he shall strengthen thine ture; the clouds above us are swellheart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” ing, and full of the riches of refresh
But, secondly, WHAT IS OUR ENCOU- | ing showers, which are to descend at RAGEMENT TO PERSEVERE IN PRAYER ? the Divine bidding, and water the VOL. V.
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earth, and make it fruitful, filling our , in man; he will not cast his pearls hearts with joy and gladness : so, the before swine ; he will not give to blessings of mercy; so the rich clouds those who will not value the boon; of grace, are laid up, as it were, he will not bestow his blessings upon stored up; received in the heavenly those who will not receive them. But garner above, ready to be rained | let the soul be quickened in prayer, down, to be bestowed, to be supplied, and those blessings must and shall be to be abundantly furnished to the granted ; for “He that spared not his waiting soul, to the praying heart, to own son, but delivered him up for us him who is earnest and constant in all, shall he not with him freely give supplicating for them. When the us all things ?” spirit is bestowed, when the spirit of We come, then, in the third and grace and supplication is vouchsafed last place to consider. What it is then does the cloud, as it were, de- WE MAY HUMBLY LOOK FOR IN OUR scend in a shower; then do the dews Own SOULS FROM THE FULFILMENT OF of Divine grace fall, then is the THIS IMPORTANT DUTY OF PRAYER. pallid, and parched, and dead heart | We have seen the nature of the of man watered and refreshed. duty; we have seen the encourage
But this result does not always im- ment to its performance : now in the mediately follow upon prayer: the third and last place, what will be the blessings are promised, and they are result? What will be the effect upon promised in answer to prayer, but our own minds, arising from its conthey do not necessarily and imme stant and habitual performance. diately follow upon that praying and! Our text tells us,—“Ask, and ye supplication. Man is cold, and dead, shall receive, that your joy may be and formal, and heartless in his pe-full.” This expression implies, that titions; there is a backwardness in at the present moment, the joy of the prayer; there is an unwillingness to disciples was not full; we are told pray; there is a disinclination to in the context, on the contrary, that pray; there is a sluggishness and they were in a state of sorrow: “Ye heartlessness, and indifference to the now therefore have sorrow: but I will duty; and therefore do we wonder see you again, and your heart shall rethat prayer is not answered ? Do we joice, and your joy no man taketh from wonder that the refreshing shower of you.” This was a season of very pecuDivine grace is withheld ? No_“You liar sorrow and grief to the disciples ; have not, because you ask not; you their Lord was about to depart; their have not, because you ask amiss." | Saviour was leaving them; they would Man goes to his closet for prayer, and be left as orphans in the world: he carries the world with him there ; He who had guided and attended, and and he carries his business with him watched over them, would leave them to the throne of grace; and he carries as sheep without a shepherd. And yet family, and domestic, and social affec- we find that they did enjoy the fulfiltions and engagements to the footstool ment of this promise. We are told, of mercy : and prayer is obstructed, that the disciples were “ filled with prayer is restrained, and no answer is joy and with the Holy Ghost." We granted. But the fault is not above, the find that they could sing hymns, even deficiency is not in Jehovah; he has an in the very recesses of their prison; abundant supply; he can do more for we find that they could rejoice, even us than we are worthy to ask or to in the very midst of sorrow; sorrowthink. With God there is no restraint, ing, yet always rejoicing; possessing and no unrighteousness; the fault is a joy which the world could neither
give nor take away. Whence then burden upon him who careth for him: then did this arise? Whence did this and there he approaches, and tells joy proceed ? From the very same out his wants, and makes known his source that joy comes to the praying sorrows, and unburdens his heart; and and seeking heart in every age. lays open his wants; wants that he Prayer fills the Christian with joy : could not tell to the dearest friend; it fills him with joy, because he is difficulties that he was afraid to comthus holding the holiest intercourse municate to the very wife of his bowith the best of friends. There is no- som: but there he carries them all; thing, as to this world, which pro- there he lays them out before his duces a more pure and sincere joy, God. And is this not a joy? Christhan the social intercourses of life. tian brethren did you never feel it? Man meets with a congenial spirit, and Did you never know it? Did you he feels a joy and a happiness, and a never experience it? Did you never pleasure in that individual's society, carry your sorrowing and burdened which nothing in this world can be heart to a throne of grace, and were compared with. And, in like manner, you not privileged, were you not redo the Christian, whose soul has been lieved ? were you not sustained ? and raised, who has been brought into were you not filled with joy in that union and contact with his God. season? What so joyful, what so happy, what. And then lastly, it is a means of so pleasant as those seasons spent in joy; because prayer is a foretaste of intercourse with his God? Christ the Saviour's presence above. That is, meets him at the throne of grace ; | the most near and intimate connecbis Saviour joins him at the footstool tion with that Saviour whose preof mercy; and there he holds inter- sence we long to behold; but which course with his Lord and Saviour; at present we behold only in faith. and there he tells out his wants, and It gives him some foretaste, some his difficulties and sorrows, and re- anticipation of that season, when he ceives out of his fulness, grace for shall behold him face to face; when grace. Christ communicates himself he shall no more need prayer, no to the praying soul; he says to him— more need supplication; no more be “I am thy salvation :” he makes all required to approach the footstool of his goodness to pass before him; he grace, but shall “see Him as he is,” fills him with joy and peace in be- shall “know Him as He is known.” lieving. Thus the Psalmist of old; The Lamb in the midst of the fold his soul, he said, “ followeth hard after shall keep him and lead him unto God;" one day in his courts was living fountains of water. better than a thousand; because there Are there any here present that he had been taught of God, there he are living without prayer ?-without, met him, whom not having seen he | I mean, spiritualand heartfelt prayer: loved.
are there any here who have not preAgain, prayer produces joy, because sented one petition to the throne of the Christian there lays his burden at grace, which proceeded from the the footstool of his God. He goes to bottom of their hearts? Alas, breththe throne of grace oppressed, over-ren, what is your religion worth withwhelmed, discouraged ; filled, per-| out prayer? Can there be life, can haps, with grief and fear, and doubt, there be any spiritual feeling withand despondency; and there he carries out prayer? No; as well might this bis burden, and there he rolls off that body be supposed to exist without