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patiently and industriously to compare scripture with scripture, that we may obtain clear and consistent views of its promises, that we may plead them in our petitions without wavering.
Secondly, The passage is bounded by some limitations. We have already said that they must be promised blessings which we thus confidently expect, and of course if the promises be conditional, and not absolute, our confidence cannot be absolute, but must be dependent on the conditions of the promise. Thus temporal blessings are promised; but not absolutely, in any greater degree than to supply absolute necessities. Consequently when praying for these blessings, absolute confidence is not warranted, any
farther than that absolute necessities shall be supplied. Here then is a limitation arising from the nature of the blessings sought. Another limitation may be mentioned arising from the character of the person seeking. This is often the hinging point of a promise. Let me instance Isa. 1. 10. “Who is among you that feareth the Lord and obeyeth the voice of his servant, who walketh in darkness and hath no light? Let him trust in the Lord, and stay himself on his God.” Here is a promise that God will be the strength and stay of such a soul. But if he who would take consolation from it, though generally a good man, were remiss in some known duty, (family worship, for example, could he possibly impugn the veracity of the Promiser, because he still feels condemned by his heart, and without confidence before God ? Certainly not. The promise has just such a limitation ; he who would hope, confidently, for the promised blessing must obey the voice of God's servant, or he has no warrant to “trust in the Lord, and stay himself upon his God.”
There is another limitation arising out of the circumstances of the petitioner; for with respect to them, promises, in some instances, appear to be given. God has said that he will supply all his people's need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now this does not mean according to the riches of his power to supply them, according to the plenitude of his resources; but that, according to the riches of his wisdom, as well as power, he will proportion his aids to their exigencies. Thus to Paul, prayed that his peculiar temptation might depart from him, our Lord replied, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness." We see then, that the letter of a promise may remain unfulfilled to the petitioner, and yet no impeachment lie against the truth of the promise, because it was given subject to such limitations as might arise out of his particular circumstances.
Again, the glory of God may sometimes require that the letter of a promise shall remain unfulfilled; and in such cases the promises are to be considered as given, subject to such a limitation. For example, there are many promises of deliverance from the persecutor's power, the scourge of the tongue, &c.; yet thousands of God's faithful servants have fallen by the power of their enemies, and thousands more have suffered, and do suffer from the tongue of slander. Are then the promises of God of none effect? God forbid. But God's glory requires the trial and affliction of his servants,
and to his glory the promise of their deliverance must be subject. The spirit of the promises is fulfilled, indeed :-this requires that the good promised, or a superior one be communicated; and this is done for the martyr when he enters the joy of his Lord; and for the reviled Christian when grace is given him to resemble his Saviour in the meekness of endurance, and to believe that great is his reward in heaven.
But notwithstanding all that this passage supposes, and all the limitations to which the assurance it contains is subject, it appears to be among the most encouraging promises to the duty of believing prayer, that the word of God contains; for it teaches us, that if we are assured that what we solicit, God has promised, we may present our supplications in the “ full assurance of faith.” Now there are many promises in the sacred volume, which are made with respect to things, the bestowment of which will glorify God, honor the Redeemer, and promote the true and highest interests of the petitioners; and which they may be certain that they understand. In praying then for these things, we may, without presumption, believe that we receive them, and so believing, we shall have them. Such promised blessings, among others, are the following: the increase of spiritual knowledge, and devotedness, and zeal, &c. in the servants of God; the increase of purity, and love, and union in the churches of Christ; the enlargement of the borders of Christ's kingdom ; the downfall of Heathenish, and Mohammedan, and Anti-Christian idolatry and superstition; our own personal victory over the world, the flesh and Satan and the more unreserved and perfect consecration of our bodies and souls to the service of God. Possibly some persons may be ready to say, that for these blessings, they have prayed so long, and to so little purpose, as to be nearly ready to complain with Zion of old, “The Lord hath forsaken me; my God hath forgotten me,” and to be silenced by the taunts of the enemy, “Where is the promise of his coming ?” But, beloved, is it surprising that you thus despond? Your despondency is to be charged on your unbelief;-you do not “ believe that whatsoever things you ask in prayer, you shall receive;" and as these blessings are bestowed on the principle above mentioned, according to faith, it is not strange, that, where there is a predominance of unbelief, petitions should be unheard and disregarded. You are such petitioners as James censures, who, when they ask for blessings, ask wavering; and thus secure a denial.
That we often thus ask, appears even in our grateful surprise, when our petitions are answered. How are our souls overwhelmed in astonishment in such cases ! But this surprise can hardly consist with a state of vigorous faith; it will scarcely ever be found in a person who is much in intercourse with heaven. Why should it surprise us that the God of Truth should be faithful to his engagements? On the contrary, it would be surprising if he were otherwise. Our astonishment might justly be excited, were they not fulfilled; but their fulfilment never should excite it. What should we say of a person who should present a check at the bank, and on
receiving the amount of it, should break out into expressions of astonishment at the consequences of presenting it? We should say, “Surely, this person is no merchant, or man of business : if he were, he would know that there is nothing strange in what astonishes him; he evidently did not expect such results, or they would not so much surprise him; if he understand the transaction of business in general, it is plain, that in this instance he either suspected the genuineness of the draft, or the solvency of the bank.” Now is not much of our surprise, on receiving answers to prayer, liable to similar remarks ? May not the experienced Christian, who lives much in prayer, and is strong in faith, say, Surely, these persons must be strangely under the influence of unbelief; for they plainly, either doubted the truth of the promises they pleaded, or the power of God to perform them. Now since by our unbelief we lay ourselves open to such censures as these, is it surprising that our prayers in many instances are apparently unheard and disregarded ? No: it is exactly what might have been expected; for our Lord says, “ according to your faith, be it unto you.”
But there are some things requisite, in order to the consistent exercise of unshaken faith, which must be mentioned ; lest from forgetting them, our faith degenerate into presumption. The prayer we offer, must not only be for promised spiritual blessings, but it must be offered in the name of Jesus. To advert to Him in our supplications, as the being for whose sake alone we plead, will destroy that unbelief which originates in conscious guilt and unworthi
Often do we feel emotions which may be thus expressed : Alas! it is but presumption for me to pray and expect a blessing. I am so deeply sinful—so utterly unworthy. But what then ? Have we forgotten that our prayers are not presented in our own name, but in that of Jesus ?
Our unworthiness presents no obstacle to the fulfilment of the promise, for it is in Christ that the promises are Yea and Amen. The promises are drafts payable to the bearer, without reference to his own unworthiness or guilt; and they are honored because of the wealth and credit (i. e. righteousness) of Him in whom they are Yea and Amen.
Again, The prayer we offer must be fervent, or we cannot consistently expect acceptance. God has said, not only that every one that seeketh findeth; but that to find Him we must not expect, till we seek him with all the heart. Jer. xxix. 13.
Perseverance, also, must characterize our approaches to God, if we wonld exercise confidence of acceptance; for the exhortation is, “Continue in prayer." Paul besought the Lord thrice, thus exemplifying in himself what he requires of others; namely, to pray “ with all perseverance." Eph. vi. 18.
Watchfulness, also, must characterize our devotion. "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same.” Obedience to this injunction will prevent that unseemly surprise which was before adverted to, when our prayers return to us in blessings.
If we thus pray, and for such blessings as above mentioned, we may believe ihat we shall receive them. Let us then be strong
in faith, giving glory to God.” Let us no longer bewail unbelief as an infirmity, but deplore it as a sin ;- let us say with the man in the Gospel, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." If all the sincere followers of Jesus would exercise that measure of faith in their supplications, which the word of God warrants; if they would come with boldness to the throne of grace, and plead God's promises with becoming confidence; how soon would the wilderness and solitary place be glad for them, and the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose! How soon would heathenism and superstition be overthrown, and the missionaries of the cross and ministers at home, say of the crowds of genuine converts to righteousness, “Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows ?” How soon would the day arrive when
“One song shall fill all nations; and all cry
In our last number but one, we commenced some remarks on this Address. We have since obtained permission to insert it entire in our pages; and in thus laying it before our readers, we are confident that we shall highly gratify them, and the most effectually recommend a subject of incalculable importance.
I stand before you as a public character. The station which I occupy, will, doubtless, give some additional influence to the sentiments wbich I may advance. This consideration inspired me with a deep sense of responsibility, and made me anxious to select a subject, which would be best suited to the present occasion. I might have chosen to address you upon the importance of classical learning; upon the circumstances in our country, which are peculiarly favorable to the progress of science and literature; or upon the connexion between the general diffusion of knowledge, and the stability of elective governments. But these topics I have declined, and have taken for my theme, The Business of Human Life.
To gain a correct knowledge of this subject, and to act accordingly, will secure our welfare, not simply during our short probation, but during our endless existence. What then is the business of human life? In reply, I would say, that it is, in its highest design, to acquire that education in knowledge, and to form that character, which will qualify us for a future state of happiness. Before I present the proof of this sentiment, I will define what I mean by education. By this term I mean the right application of
that whole combination of means, which are appointed to be employed upon man, to give health and vigor to his constitution, dignity and grace to his manners; to develop and mature his intellectual powers; to subdue his evil propensities; and to train him up in the habits of morality and religion. As man possesses soul and body, and as he was formed to exist in two worlds, and in each of them has specific duties to perform, his education should be adapted to his complex character, and to his respective theatres of action. In order to fit him for his present station, he needs a healthy and vigorous constitution, a mind strengthened by study, and enriched by various knowledge and experience, and a heart of inflexible integrity, and yet tenderly alive to the highest welfare of his species. In a word, that man is the best educated, who possesses the greatest physical strength, the richest stores of wisdom and knowledge, and a paramount disposition to employ all his talents in honoring God, and in multiplying the sources of human enjoyment. Think not that because I have directed your at tention principally to the future state, that I wish to encourage indifference to this life. Instead of doing this, I would say that the objects of this world were designed to excite our attention and gratitude; and that a faithful discharge of our relative duties here on earth, is one of the best preparations for the world to come. But that it should be our grand concern to acquire that knowledge, and to form that character, which will fit us for a state of blissful immortality, I shall support by two comprehensive arguments.
1. The mental endowments of man indicate, that he is designed for another and more lasting state.
2. All the appointed means of instruction and discipline are actually adapted to exert such an influence over his mind, as is best calculated to fit him for a future world of glory.
My first argument ought not to be deemed unsound; for in many other cases, we learn the end and uses of things from a knowledge of their properties. The wing of the bird, and the fin of the fish, determine the clement and the manner, in which they are to be employed. An inspection of the delicate and specific structure of a watch, will teach us, that it is formed, not to be thrown among the toys of children, but to be carefully kept to mark the passing hours of time. The limbs and the organs of the human body, so readily indicate the end of their formation, that even children infer, that the feet were designed for motion, the hands for labor, and the eyes for seeing. By the same mode of reasoning, we can, with equal certainty, decide for what purpose man was called into existence. What, then, are the properties of his mind, which teach us that he was formed for a second state of being?
Man is endowed with that insatiable curiosity, which all the wonders of this globe will not satisfy. Anxious to gain a knowledge of other worlds, he patiently studies the exact sciences, to enable himself to explain the phenomena of the heavenly bodies. When he has completed his calculations in the solar system, he by