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urge the most persuasive exhortations, to inspire our respective flocks with the love, and devote them to the practice, of prayer?
But if Religion itself be, in fact, nothing more than " an holy worship," which we offer unto God, to declare his blessings, and exalt his Majesty, or to solicit his assistance and obtain his mercy; if its several ordinances are prescribed to make of each of its professors a man of prayer j if, as hath been already observed, a Christian, who does not pray, is without God, without Religion, and without hope—what a monster must a Pastor be, a Minister of that blessed Religion, if he himself is not a man of prayer; if he does not know the use of it—that is to say, if he prays only with his mouth, without attention, without any sentiment of piety, and even with so little reverence, that his prayer is rather an insult offered to God, than the homage of Religion, paid to his Supreme Majesty? If, my Reverend Brethren, you do not feel this truth, how ought you, and how ought I myself to lament, in having to address such Ministers, and such Pastors, of the Church? In order then, to our mutual edification, and to animate us, individually, to the practice of a duty so consolatory in the discharge of our obligations, and so inseparable from them, I will beg your attention, whilst I expatiate on the necessity and advantages of frequent and devout prayer.
Yes, we who are Ministers, who are Pastors of
the flock, we have need continually of the support of prayer. The greater our intercourse with the world, the more we are exposed to its allurements. When we appear in it, we ought to appear clothed with more virtue, more holiness, than the rest of those among whom we live. It is difficult to a Minister, if the practice of prayer have not established him stedfast and immoveable in goodness, to be incessantly in the midst of the corruption of the world, and not be caught in its snares. He carries thither an heart, void of those profound sentiments of religion, which the practice of prayer can alone inscribe upon it, and filled with all those ideas, which make the world seem amiable, and which, in our opinion, justify the abuse of it. And although decorum should restrain him within certain bounds, yet, if he is influenced only by a regard to men, and the decency of appearance, which his calling requires, the world no longer respects him as a Christian Minister, no longer perceives in him, the engaging piety, the holy dignity, which bespeak a Pastor of the flock.
But allowing that, in our intercourse with men, we are "defended from all adversity which may "happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts "which may assault and hurt the soul," and that a sense of the danger to which we are exposed, did not exact of us a constant application to God in prayer, which is, alone, capable of enabling us to support the dignity, and the holiness of the minis*
try—is not our consecration to the sanctuary, a state entirely consecrated to prayer? We are the mediators between God and men—the public intercessors, either to turn away his wrath, which their sins perpetually provoke, or to suspend the scourge, and avert the calamities, which those sins prepare. They call for our ministry and our intercessions; they suppose us to have an interest with God, and access to him; but what interest, what access can we have, if the use of prayer have never united us to him? How shall we intercede for them, if we have not been accustomed to intercede for ourselves? How shall we be mediators between God and our flocks, if God knows us not; if the neglect of prayer has disqualified us from representing to him, the wants of his creatures— prayer, which possesses the power of softening his wrath, and, of moving him to compassion, at the Very moment when his punishments are hanging over the souls entrusted to us?
Although, in the general course of Providence, and in the ordinary distribution of his grace, God attaches the salvation of the flock to unremitted vigilance in the Pastor: the blessing awaiting his labours, is dependant on his prayers. They arc the means to be employed, to obtain for men those holy dispositions, which render the ordinances of the Gospel efficacious: not one of the functions which we eicercise, ought to be performed without previous prayer, and a secret address to the Author and Source of all the gifts and graces, which the Minister distributes in his name. Does he administer the Sacrament of Baptism, at the font? He should supplicate the Almighty, that that child, being born again and made regenerate, should die unto sin, and live unto righteousness? Does he attend his flock to the Lord's Table, and distribute the sacred elements, representing the body and blood of their Redeemer; how ought his prayers to go up before God, that not one, by an unworthy receiving, may forfeit the efficacy of that heavenly Ordinance? Is he called to visit the sick, or attend the dying? Upon such affecting occasions, let him pour out his soul in the most fervent supplications, that he may disarm the severity of his awful Judge, in whose presence that soul may soon appear, and may prevail with the God of all mercy, to receive him into his heavenly habitations. Go through the several* functions of the ministry, and see what good can be expected to result from them in the hands of a Minister, who does not accompany them with a spirit of prayer.
Having shewn the necessity, I now proceed to the advantages, arising from the practice of it.
Our calling subjects us to the danger of living habitually, in the transgression of many duties, we may consider as not essential, and of neglecting to have recourse to prayer—the only support which Religion offers—to awaken us from that stupefaction. Thus we become liable, either to profane holy things, or to use them in a way displeasing to God, who, by consequence, alienates from us his grace, and increases our weakness: for the conscientious observance of our several obligations, either strengthens our faith and piety, or aggravates our corruption and wretchedness.
In the second place, the pastoral duties, when we would discharge them with fidelity, are sometimes attended with trouble and vexation. Would we fulfil them with edification to our flock, and satisfaction to our Judge, our time must not be at our own disposal; the engagement into which we have entered, is sacred; it leaves us no longer our own, but dedicated to the service of our respective parishes. We labour, indeed, not infrequently for men insensible of our kindness: we, sometimes, excite the aversion, and provoke the hatred, of the very persons, for whose salvation, we are so solicitous. We then grow weary, seeing neither the end, nor the advantage, of our vocation; we no longer exert ourselves with the same zeal; self-love, not being encouraged by success, secretly insinuates, that fatiguing and useless cares never can be duties. Now, how can zeal withstand this suggestion, if we do not derive new powers from the frequent exercise of prayer; if we have not the consolation of committing our cares and sorrows, to the great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, whose place we fill, and whose representatives we are? In his presence we shall be overwhelmed with shame, at reckoning upon light