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which a Mail cannot but have the most intense Contemplation of the Deity; and, therefore, we have all imaginable Reason to believe that those who omit their Prayers do seldom find themselves at leisure, or disposed, for serious Meditation on these Subjects; consequently, all such Persons must want that Check which thinking on God's Attributes must give them. How, then, is it possible for them to be Religious and Virtuous? To attain the End without the Use of the necessary Means? Nature is very corrupt and weak, Temptations are very numerous and strong evil Spirits are very cunning and active, and able to give Temptations an additional Force: And can Man then, or will he resist Temptations, notwithstanding their natural Strength, aided by the grand Enemy, while he neglects the proper Means of Resistance? No. He will, and mufl, be gradually carried down the Stream of Corruption, into an Ocean of Sin and Wickedness.
zdly, No Man can, in any measure, be good without God's Grace assisting him, the very weakest of our Inclinations being too strong for our natural Abilities to conquer. Heaven must be called into our Defence, or else we must yield ourselves Captives. This is the express Doctrine of the Gospel 5 this is the Language of our Articles, and Liturgy; this is a Truth acknowledged by all Chrijtians. But, how, can the Assistance of God's Grace be obtained without Prayer, because we cannot expect it without a/king for it? This is another Truth as clearly
. G laid ^' Faid down by Scripture, and our Church, and as universally assented to. God promises Grace. Says he, ajk and ye fl:all have; which carries an Implication as strong as the most positive Assertion, that without ajking, God will not give it us: From whence it follows, that without Prayer it is impossible for a Man to be a good ChriStian.
The next Assertion that I laid down is this, i. e. That, as a Man grows in Grace by his constant Attendance on Prayer, and his due Performance of that Duty, so in Proportion as he neglects to pray, or prays in an undue Mannar, he will gradually decline in Religion and Virtue. This is evident from the Nature of Things. As bad Habits, unless restrained, will grow stronger and stronger by Exercise j so good ones, without constant Exercise, and continual Supplies to forward their Growth, will daily grow weaker and weaker. Now, as has been shewn, these fresh Supplies of Grace cannot be obtained without daily praying for Them; and, consequently, he that does not regularly and duly perform the Duty of Prayer, which is the most nourishing Food of the Soul, does, as I may say, starve it, and thereby weaken its spiritual Strength; his Virtues languish, and at last for want of Recruits and Assistance will expire; he returns into his natural State of Aversion to God, and Goodness, and, perhaps, rests there without so much as attempting to recover himself. It is possible, I confess, that a Man who habitually neglects his Prayers, may not be so debauched as to be not torioujly ^torioujly wicked, and guilty of the most scandalous Enormities; such as habitual Drunkenness, and Whoredom; Swearing, Cursing, and Damning himself and his Neighbours (tho' in This Cafe, he cannot answer for himself, that he shall not, by degrees, be led into Them ;) yet, without such an extraordinary Degree of God's Grace, as no Man who has so long neglected to ask for it, has any good Reason to expect, he must be void of all Religion, notwithstanding, and in a State of the most imminent Danger. There are many Persons whom God, for wise and good Reasons, does not suffer to be tempted; or the Devil, for malicious Reasons, will not tempt them to be guilty of such outrageous Wickedness. God restrains, because he will not suffer them to do so much Mischief by their Examples; the Devil may not use all his Power, in hopes, by That Means, to be able the more effectually to ruin others by a less notorious, and scandalous Degree of Impiety: Such Persons, tho* not arrived to the highest Pitch* of Iniquity, do, notwithstanding, want every, the smallest Grain of Religion; tho' They have not so much aSiual Wickedness, They have every whit as little Goodness, as the most debauched Atheists.^ Nay, many Persons make a decent Appearance in the World, and pass for tolerably good People, who, nevertheless, are utterly destitute of all true Godliness. For, what is true Godliness? It is not a tolerable Outside; it does not consist in abstaining from the worst of Crimes; it is not mere Sobriety, or Chastity, or any such outward Thing;
it is an inward Disposition of the Heart; it is a fact, a steady, a quick and aSlive Desire, to the utmost of our Power, to conform ourselves to the Likeness of God's Nature, and to observe all his Commands; it is a living Principle that will exert itself upon all proper Occasions j it is That whereby we take delight in spiritual Things, and impatiently covet after them; and, like holy David, long and pant after God. 'This is Godliness, This is being truly Religious; and thus must ive endeavour to be if ever we expect to associate with just Men made perfect in Heaven: Before we can be qualify'd for their Acquaintance, or their Employments, we must resemble Them in their Sentiments and Dispositions; before we can be capable of seeing God, we must be Holy even as he his Holy. And can such Sentiments and Dispositions, as these, be acquired, or preserved, without Prayer? Can any one continue to delight in God without conversing with him? Can any one love Heaven above all Things who neglects an Acquaintance with That God, whose immediate Presence makes Heaven to be what it is? A Man may become an Atheist for want of praying, but, I am sure, he cannot be truly holy without praying; for, no sooner does he cease to pray, but his Piety lessens of course; his Love of God is diminished, and his Religion moulders away and grows feeble, faints, and dies.
3*//y, No Man can long continue in a State of deliberate, wilful Sin, who continually prays: I do not mean the formal Act of Prayer, but attentive and fervent Prayer. As to the proper
Manner Manner of performing This great Duty, I shall consider it more at large in another Part of This Discourse. At present, I will only suppose a Man to believe that there is such a Being as he professes in his Prayers to believe; That God is infinitely Pure and Holy; that, in consequence of his own Nature, he must be a determined Enemy to all Vice, and will punish it. Let us, then, suppose that such a Man (for as to Infidels, or Persons who make no Use of their Understanding, and act without meaning any thing by what They do, They are quite out of the Question) lives in the Habit of any known Sin, or frequently lapses into single Acts of gross Immorality, and, yet, daily, in a most solemn Manner, falls upon his Knees before God, acknowledges his Guilt and Folly, and the Reasonableness of God's Laws j humbly and sorrowfully asks Pardon, and promises Amendment: Is it possible for him long to continue in such a Contrast of daily Confession, and deliberate Sin? No. He must reform, or leave off Praying. Put the Case of an undutiful Child, Day after Day, acknowledging his Fault to an indulgent, but wise Father, who, he knows, will gladly receive him into Favour if he sliews the Sincerity of his Repentance, by an actual Amendment, but punish him with the greater Severity for continuing in his Disobedience, after so many repeated Acknowledgements and Promises. Would any one, that is not a Madman, or an Ideas, be able long to act such a Part <? It is impossible, utterly impossible. He would shew that he was in earnest, or be G 3 afraid,