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patience, Job xix. 8. 9.10. "He hath fenced up "my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set "darkness in roy paths. He hath slript me of "my glory, and taken the crown from my head. "He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am "gone: and mine hope hath he removed like a ** tree."
When the rod of correction falls heavy, the Christian sinds it very dissicult to believe that it comes from the love of a father, and is rather apt to tremble under it as the severity of a judge. So did Jacob himself, after all his experience, in the close cf life, Gen. xlli. 36. "And "Jacob their father said unto them, Me have "ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, *' and Simeon is nor, and ye will take Benjamin *.' away: all these things are against me." Sometimes the course of Providence in general has the fame effect. The prosperity and insolence of sinners, the oppressed state of the children of God, the disappointed endeavours of his servants, make them ofien call in question his presence, his faithfulness, or his power. This is the subject of the whole 73d psalm, and summed up in the 10th and nth verses: "Therefore *; his people return hither: and waters of a full '" cup are wrung out to them. And they fay, "How doth God know? and is there knowledge "in the Most High i"
He that wrestles in prayer, therefore, considers the depth of Divine Providence with reverence. He dwells upon the wisdom and power of God, who alone can bring light out of darkness, and
order out of confusion. He taketh hold of his covenant, and the sure and everlasting mercy that is contained in it, and humbly and earnestly prays for universal and absolute resignation to the divine will. This, my brethren, is one of the greatest and most important objects of prayer, and what believers mould wrestle for with the greatest fervour and importunity. They mould cry mightily to God, and expostulate earnestly with their own hearts, as the Psalmist, Ps. xlii. 9. 10.11. "I will say unto God my rock, Why "hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning "because of the oppression of the enemy? A J "with a sword in my bones, mine enemies re". proach me: while they fay daily unto me, * Where is thy God? Why art thou cast down, "O my foul i and why art thou disquieted with"in me? hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise "him, who is the health of my countenance, "and my God." I am not here to go through all the grounds of encouragement on which the suffering and pleading believer may place his dependence, drawn from the perfections of an unchangeable God, from the power of a Saviour upon a throne, from the precise and express promises in scripture of support or delh'erancer and the daily experience of the faithful. It is sussicient that I have pointed out to you the state and practice of a distressed and afflicted Christian. wrestling with God.
3. Another dissiculty often arises from unbelieving thoughts, and inward temptations distressing the spirit. Prayer takes its rife from Z 2 andand is carried on by faith. Prayer indeed is litile else than the immediate and lively exercise of faith: Heb. xi. 6. "For he that cometh to "God, mi ft believe that he is, and that he is a "rcwaidcr of them that diligently seek him." On this account, dutiful and acceptable prayer is called the prayer of faith. Who would apply, or who can apply, to God, for any mercy, but from a persuasion, that he is present to hear, ar.d that he is able and willing to bestow? Now, when this faith begins to fail, either from its natural weakness, from our sinful negligence, from the subtle insinuations, or the more violent assaults of the adversary of our salvation, it must be a great hindrance to the exercise of prayer.
'Many are the dissiculties of this kind which the Christian, from time to time, hath to struggle 'uith. Sometimes he is made to doubt of the certainty, and sometimes of the meaning, of the promises. We fee some distressed persons so imbarrassed with scruples, or so milled by controversy, as to lose the relish and spiritual comfort Of the word of God, while they are contending about it. Sometimes they are made to doubt their own title to apply the promises, which appear like a rich and sumptuous table, encompassed with a flaming sword, forbidding their approach. Thus they are led awr.y from the consolation of Israel, and made to seek in vain for a foundation of comfort in themselves. How often do we see, that the very fense of sin, and fear of danger, the very misery and necessity
cessity which particularly discover the fitness and excellence of the truths of the everlasting gospel, are made use of to discourage us from em« bracing them!
Sometimes the truths themselves are pervert, ed, or set in opposition one to another, and mutually destroy each other's influence. Thus, while the constant and over-ruling providence of God mould be the great foundation both of cur faith and prayer, it is sometimes set in opposition to both. The salse reasoner will say to himself, Why should I pray for deliverance srom this distress? why should 1 pray or hope for the possession of such a mercy? The- whole order and course of events is sixed and unalterableo If it is appointed to happen, it shall happen, whether I speak or be silent; if it is otherwise determined, the prayers of the whole creation . will not be able to obtain it. How unhappily do men thus reason themselves out of their own peace! not considering the unspeakable absurdity of making our weak and imperfect conceptions of the nature and government of God to stand in opposition to his own express command. The influence of second causes, moral as well as natural, is a matter os undeniable experience. If you acknowledge it in the one,' should youdeny it in the other? Is not intemperance the" cause of disease? is not flothfulness the way to poverty? is not neglected tillage the cause of a barren sield? and is not restraining prayer also the way to barrenness of spirit? Believe if,my brethren, fervent prayer is as sure and estecZ j tuai: tual a mean of obtaining those mercies which may be lawfully prayed for, as plowing and sowing is of obtaining the fruits of the ground.
.Again, sometimes by the cunning of Satan, the believer is driven to the brink of the precipice, and made to doubt of the very being of God, and the reality of all religion. It is easy to see, that this must wholly take away the necessity and use of prayer. But even when it is not so powerful as to prevent the practice, yet doth itj in a great rrreasure, cool the fervour and destroy the comfort of prayer. He that wrestles with God has often these dissiculties, in a greater or lesser degree, to struggle with. Some of them it is hjs duty to oppose by reason, and some (-f them directly and immediately to resist and banish as temptations; and I think an exercised Christian will usually make the matter of his complaint the subject of his prayer. This is indeed defeating the tempter with his own weapons: it is bringing sweetness out of the strong, and meat out of the eater, when the dissiculties thrown in the way of our prayers serve to excite us to greater ardour, importunity, and frequency in that necessary and prositable exercise.
4. Another dissiculty with which the believer hath to struggle, is the coldness and slothfulness of his own heart. This is as great a.hindrance of prayer as any that hath been named; and I believe it is of all others the most common and prevalent. At the fame time it asfords a very mortifying view of our own character