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but disappointment has turned my eye up- trouble?" The case is this: The prayer of ward, and now, Lord, what wait I for, my hope is in thee?""
III. How was he employed under this trying dispensation? HE GAVE HIMSELF UNTO PRAYER. "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me."
Prayer is the refuge of the afflicted. It is, therefore, recommended by Infinite Wisdom and Goodness. "Is any afflicted? let him pray." Prayer cannot be offered in vain; for, says the promise, "Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee." Yea, the very exercise of prayer, as well as the answer, brings succour. There is some relief even in tears. You have heard of the luxury of weeping. It is soothing, in distress, to pour our tears into the bosom of a friend, who, rejoicing when we rejoiced, will now weep when we weep. But oh! to turn aside, as Job did, and say, “Mine eye poureth out tears unto God!" To tell Him all that distresses us, and all that alarms, with a confidence in his compassion and sympathy and power and wisdom, all of which are infinite! Here is an asylum, from which no enemy can cut us off; here is a sanctuary, that no evil can invade; here the repose of the grave, and of glory, begins-here "the wicked cease from troubling," and here "the weary are at rest." I do not wonder that David should say, "It is good for me to draw nigh to God;" or that Hannah, when she had poured out her soul before God, should go her way and eat and drink, and her countenance be no more sad.
Prayer was the effect of Paul's suffering. Is it the result of yours? How does your affliction operate? Does it make you a suppliant, or a fury? Does it lead you to quarrel with instruments, or to commit your cause unto God? It is by their influence you are to know whether your afflictions are sanctified. If they lead you to the throne of grace; if you can say,
"Trials make the promise sweet:
then the thorns have done something for you; and will do more.
A man under sanctified affliction, will not pray carelessly, but "continue instant in prayer." He will say, with Jacob, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." Thus Paul besought the Lord thrice. Our Saviour, "in his agony, prayed most earnestly; he kneeled down and prayed three times, saying the same words." But I do not understand the expression of our apostle numerically: it imports, that he prayed fervently and frequently. But was this necessary? Is not the God he addressed "a God hearing prayer? Merciful and gracious? A very present help in
faith is always immediately heard, but not always immediately answered. The reason is, not that he is wanting in kindness, but, that he exercises his kindness wisely: he is a God of judgment, and therefore he waits that he may be gracious unto us. He will take away all hope in ourselves and in creatures. He will make us sensible of the value of the blessing; and prepare us to sing aloud of his mercy when it comes. We are like children; we wish to gather the fruit while it is yet unripe; that is, before it has acquired the fine complexion and the rich flavour, and while the use of it is even dangerous. But he pulls back our impatient hand; he is resolved that it shall ripen before it is eaten. Nor will he yield for our crying.
The time of delay is often peculiarly trying. When he seems to shut out our prayer; when we stand at the door and knock, and hear nothing like an opening, especially if the weather be foul too; there is danger of our withdrawing, with the complaint of the unbelieving nobleman, "Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?" But "he that believeth, maketh not haste." He will check his murmuring and his despondency, by reflecting, that God is a sovereign upon whom he has no claims; that his own time of acting must be infinitely the most proper; and, above all, that he cannot seek him in vain. For "the vision is but for an appointed time; in the end it will speak," and its contents will be more than satisfactory. Thus Paul at length obtained,
IV. AN ANSWER. "And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee." Observe two things.
First. The answer does not apparently correspond with the petition. Paul prayed to have the thorn removed: to this, God says nothing; but assures him of something equally good; yea, unspeakably better. Let us not overlook this circumstance. With regard to temporal things we cannot be too general in our prayers, or refer ourselves too much to the pleasure of God. We can hardly with safety say more than this-"O Lord, grant me such a deliverance, or such an indul gence, if it be good for me; but, if not, favour me with a denial. Not my will, but thine be done." For our prayers, like ourselves, are imperfect: nature sometimes speaks, without our being aware of it, in the tone of grace; and we are really pleading only for our pride, or impatience, or unbelief. We know not what to pray for as we ought: but the Lord knows what to give; and he gives, perfectly acquainted with the case, in all its bearings, and in all its consequences; and with a love towards us that passeth knowledge. Hence he sometimes denies a request entirely; at other times he separates the good from the evil, and grants us a part;
Secondly. The answer is yet blessed and glorious. “My grace is sufficient for thee!" -not thy grace, but mine: not that which thou hast in thy possession, but that which I have in my keeping, and will seasonably communicate, in the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Nothing in thyself, I will be always near; always within call; always within reach. "My grace is sufficient for thee." Sufficient for what? Write all thy wants underneath. Sufficient for what?
while frequently he answers by way of ex-theless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable change. If a child was to ask of a father a fruit of righteousness unto them which are fish, and he should give him a serpent, we exercised thereby." Secondly, it is sufficient should be shocked at the deed. But suppose to render them supportable. What am I the child, by reason of his ignorance, should saying? I have marked the effect too lowask for a serpent instead of a fish: we should It is sufficient to enable you to "glory in then admire the father, if he refused what he tribulation also." Yes," says the Church, asked, and gave him what he did not ask. having nothing, and yet possessing all We applaud not only the judgment, but the things." -"Although the fig tree shall not kindness of the parent, who, in the education blossom neither shall fruit be in the vines; of his son, regulates his conduct, not by his the labour of the olive shall fail, and the wishes, but by his wants. He may wish for fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be holidays, while he wants schooling; he may cut off from the fold, and there shall be no wish for delicacies, while he wants medicine. herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Our heavenly Father always gives according Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." to what we ought to ask;-and according to And what says the experience of some of what we should ask,-if we had the same you, my fellow Christians? Have you not, views with himself, and the same regard for when they arrived, borne with patience, with our welfare-for our welfare governs all his cheerfulness, with peace, with joy-trials dealings with us. which, in the prospect, made you tremble? Spilsbury was a sufferer for conscience' sake. He had been once imprisoned, and released; and when apprehended a second time, he said-as they were conveying him awayhis wife and children weeping around him; "Weep not for me; I am not afraid to go to prison now, for I found God there the first time." Ah! says many a sufferer, awaking from despondency, in a situation where he thought no ray of heaven could enter, "Surely God is in this place, and I knew it not!" The people of the world often wonder that Christians are not only patient, but blessed in those circumstances which make them turbulent and miserable-as Isaiah finely expresses it, "like a wild bull in a net." The reason is this. They can see their losses and sufferings, but not their supports and consolations. Did they see all-did they see how underneath were the everlasting arms; they would not wonder that they do not sink. Did they see how they are fed with the hidden manna, they would not wonder that they do not faint. Did they see how, in the mudwalled cottage, and lying on the half-straw bed of languishing, the kingdom of God was within them; they would not wonder that they can "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory!" But many know nothing of the blessedness of this promise; and even those who are the heirs of it know but very little.
Sufficient for thy work; which often discourages thee, and is enough to discourage thee, if it is to be performed in thine own strength. But it is not. "As thy day, so shall thy strength be. My strength shall be made perfect in thy weakness." Sufficient for what? Sufficient for thy warfare; which often alarms thee, and is enough to alarm thee, if thine enemies only are seen. But look at me. More are they that are for thee, than they that are against thee.""Greater is he that is in thee than he that is in the world." Sufficient for what?
Sufficient for thy affliction; which often depresses thee, and is enough to depress thee, if thou art to struggle with it alone. But thou art not to be alone. "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." This was Paul's case. I will not remove the thorn in the flesh, says the Saviour-but while suffering-my grace shall be sufficient for thee. Whatever therefore, Christian, be your affliction, remember, here is your sufficiency; and be persuaded, that this grace is sufficient for two purposes, which you should be more concerned to have accomplished than to have your thorns extracted. It is sufficient, First, to sanctify your afflictions: so that though "no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; never
With one reflection we conclude; and it is a necessary application of the whole subject. To what purpose should I have proved that this grace was sufficient for Paul, and for all the people of God, since-sufficient for their work, their warfare, and their trials,—if it be not, my dear hearers, sufficient for you? But it is. There is the same fulness and efficacy in it as ever; and what it has done, it can do.
But you say, Is it attainable? It is. By whom? Every one that feels his need and implores it. "For EVERY ONE that ask
eth receiveth: and he that seeketh find-appeal. Let us consult the apostle James; eth and to him that knocketh, it shall be he seems more than any other of the sacred opened."
THE REGULATION OF THE TONGUE. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.-Psalm cxli. 3. PRAYER is not only a duty, but the man' ner in which it is commanded shows it to be a duty of universal obligation. "Continue instant in prayer. Pray without ceasing. In every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgivings, let your requests be made known unto God."
With these demands, the experience ofa man attentive to his spiritual welfare harmonizes. He knows, he feels prayer to be always seasonable; always necessary. There is much to employ him at the throne of grace with regard to others; for, in his intercourse with God he does not forget the world, the nation, the church, the family; his friends, or even his foes. But when he considers himself; and reflects on the grace that is needful to preserve him in prosperity; to support him in adversity; to renew his heart; to govern his life; and to regulate his tongue-no wonder he says with David-" But I give myself unto prayer.”
"Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.' These words remind us of four things-Importance-Danger -Inability-Application. A man would not ase such language as this unless he was convinced-I. OF THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SUBJECT: II. THE DANGER HE IS IN OF TRANSGRESSION: III. HIS INABILITY TO PRESERVE HIMSELF: IV. THE WISDOM OF APPLYING TO GOD FOR ASSISTANCE. Let us examine and exemplify each of these four convictions.
I. A man would never use this language, without a conviction of THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SUBJECT. This conviction, I fear, does not very generally prevail. The use of speech is seldom considered morally. Unless on some very particular occasions, people imagine, that it is perfectly optional with them, what they speak, and how they speak, -saying, with those in the time of David, "Our lips are our own, who is Lord over us?" Hence numberless words are daily uttered with indifference, and never thought of again; and if ever people confess, or pray, speech never makes an article either in their confessions or prayers.
Such is the common sentiment. And, to crush it at once; to inspire you with a holy dread; to bring you upon your knees with this supplication, "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips;" -let me lead you to a few passages of Scripture-a book to which you all professedly
writers to have enlarged upon the subject. There are many declarations in his epistles which you would do well to read, at least once a week, before you leave your retirement.
For instance, "If a man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain."
Religion! what treasure untold
Religion! It is profitable unto all things; having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. Without it, we have no hope beyond the grave, no comfort in death, no solace in affliction, no God with us in the world. But the careless use of the tongue annihilates all title to the possession, and stamps the man who assumes the profes sion, as a self-deluder. What a charge! What a decision! How many thousands does this righteous sentence unchristian and condemn! " If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain."
Again; the same writer tells us, "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” A Christian, it seems, should not be stationary, but advancing. It is his duty and privilege to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour." And what is the consequence of this progression? What is the evidence? There is not a better test than the government of the tongue. There is nothing, that implies a higher degree of wisdom and goodness; of self-attention; of the power and prevalence of holy principles. Such a man may be consulted in any enterprizes; he may be entrusted with any secret; he may be left in any trying situation; he will betray no friendship; he will punish no confidence: the very discipline and grace he must have exercised before he could have reached his present attainment are securities for every future duty, and pledges of every future excellency. Whoever has accomplished this victory need despair of no other; and it is not a figure of speech, but the language of truth and soberness" If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body."
Again; says the inspired author, “Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us: and we turn about their whole body." Do you perceive the force of the image? He who has not the government of his tongue, is like a person riding a horse without a bridle-the consequence of which, especially if the beast be spirited and fierce,
righteousness of the sentence to be passed upon you? This surely is sufficient to convince you of the importance of the subject, and to induce you to cry, "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips."
II. A man would never use this language without a conviction that HE IS IN DANGER OF TRANSGRESSION. And if David was conscious of a liableness to err, shall we ever presume on our safety?
Our danger arises from the depravity of our nature. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; and who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" The stream will always resemble the fountain.
Our danger arises from the contagion of example. There is nothing in which mankind are more universally culpable than in the disorders of speech. Yet with these we are constantly surrounded; and to these we have been accustomed from our impressible infancy.
may be easily conjectured." Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth." Do you see the force of the comparison? The man that has not the control of his tongue is like a passenger on board a vessel without a rudder, rolling as the waves direct, and in constant peril of shipwreck. "Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature and it is set on fire of hell." As if he should say, Every thing is transacted by speech, in natural, civil, and religious concerns -how much, therefore, depends on the good or evil management of the tongue! What an ardour of holy love and friendship, or of anger and malice, may a few words fan into a flame! The tongue is the principal We are in danger from the frequency of instrument in the cause of God: and it is the speech. "In the multitude of words there chief engine of the devil-give him this, wanteth not sin." We must of necessity and he asks no more-there is no mischief speak often: but we often speak without or misery he will not accomplish by it. The necessity. Duty calls us to intermingle much use, the influence of it, therefore, is inex- with our fellow-creatures; but we are too pressible; and words are never to be consi- little in the closet, and too much in the crowd dered only as effects, but as causes; the—and when we are in company we forget operation of which can never be fully ima- the admonition-" Let every man be swift gined. Let us suppose a case; a case, I fear, to hear, and slow to speak." but too common. You drop, in the thoughtlessness of conversation, or for the sake of argument, or wit, some irreligious, sceptical expression-it lodges in the memory of a child, or a servant-it takes root in a soil favourable to such seed-it gradually springs up, and brings forth fruit, in the profanation of the sabbath; the neglect of the means of grace; in the reading of improper books; in the choice of dangerous companions;-Who can tell where it will end? But there is a Being who knows where it began. It will be acknowledged that some have it in their power, by reason of their office, talents, and influence, to do much more injury than others; but none are so insignificant as to be harmless.
But I must lead you from the servant to the master. Hear the language of the faithful and true Witness, and who knows the nature of the judgment, because he will be the Judge: "I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." Did you ever hear this before, and do you believe it now? What! are not only your actions, but your words-every idle wordrecorded in the book of God's remembrance, to be called forth before the whole world, as evidences of your character, and of the
We are in danger from the extent of our obligation. The laws of speech are so numerous and various, that it must be difficult indeed, not to neglect or violate some of them. Observe these laws.
There is the law of prudence. This condemns silliness and folly-for no one has a license to talk nonsense. This condemns all that is impertinent, and unsuited to the place, the company, and the season:" A wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment. A word fitly spoken, O how good is it! it is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." "All foolish talking and jesting" are forbidden by the Apostle; while he enjoins, "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.'
There is the law of purity. This forbids all ribaldry: and not only every thing that is grossly offensive, but all indecent allusions and insinuations, however artfully veiled: "But fornication, and all uncleanness-let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints."
There is the law of veracity. This condemns every thing spoken with a view to deceive; or spoken so as to occasion deception: and which may be done by a confusion of circumstances; by an omission of circumstances; by an addition of circumstances: "Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man
truth with his neighbour; for we are mem- | Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, bers one of another." I know not the man!"
There is the law of kindness. demns all calumny and tale-bearing; the circulation of whatever may be injurious to the reputation of another. This requires, that if you must speak-if you must speak— of another's fault, you do it without aggravation; that you do it, not with pleasure, but pain; and that if you censure, you do it as a judge would pass sentence upon his son. "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice."
There is the law of utility. This requires that we should not scandalize another, by any thing in our speech; but contribute to his benefit, by rendering our discourse instructive, or reproving, or consolatory. "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."
There is the law of piety. This requires that we should never take God's name in vain; never speak lightly of his word, nor his worship; never charge him foolishly; never murmur under any of his dispensations. It requires that we extol his perfections, and recommend his service: "Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee." So will you render the calves of your lips.
Who can reflect upon all this, and not see his daily, his hourly danger? "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips."
III. A man would never use this language, without a conviction of INABILITY TO PRE
This conviction is well founded. There is no subject the Scripture more fully teaches than our natural weakness and insufficiency. It assures us that we are left by the Fall, not only without righteousness, but without strength. "Without me," says the Saviour, "ye can do nothing." The Bible teaches us this truth, not only doctrinally, but historically. The examples of good men, and men eminent in godliness, confirm it, and confirm it in the very article before us. Moses, the meekest man in the earth, "spake unadvisedly with his lips." You have heard of the patience of Job; but he "cursed the day of his birth:" and Jeremiah, the prophet of the Lord, did the same. Peter said, "Though all men should be offended because of thee, I will never be offended-though I should die with thee yet will I not deny thee." But how did he use his tongue a few hours after?
"Beware of Peter's word;
Nor confidently say,
I never will deny thee, Lord;"
This conviction is continually increasing. As the Christian, in the course of his expe rience, is learning to cease from man, so is he also taught to cease from himself. He knows the truth of Solomon's words, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool." He has seen how little his practice has kept pace with his knowledge; he has verified the vanity of his purposes and resolutions; his warmest frames and feelings have varied, and left him a wonder to himself; he has fallen, where he once deemed himself most secure
and is now persuaded-though he will be more strongly persuaded of it ten years hence that if he stands, he is kept by the power of God.
It is a conviction the most happy. You need not be afraid of it. This self-acquaintance will only reduce you to the proper condition of a creature, and prepare you for the reception of Divine supplies. Our misery is from our self-sufficiency; it is pride that ruins us. "He filleth the hungry with good things, while the rich he sends empty away. He that humbleth himself shall be exalted. If any man will be wise, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. Let the weak say, I am strong."
IV. A man should never use this language, without a conviction of THE WISDOM OF APPLYING TO GOD FOR THE ASSISTANCE WE NEED, Prayer is the effect of our weakness, and the expression of our dependence. It confesses the agency of God. They who pray and yet deny the doctrine of Divine influence, offer the sacrifice of fools; but those who believe that God works in us to will and to do, and strengthens us with all might by his Spirit in the inner man, act wisely in addressing him as David does-"Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips."
For, in the first place-God is equal to our preservation. However great our danger, he can keep us from falling. Whatever difficulties we have to encounter, or duties to perform, his grace is sufficient for us. "] can do all things," says Paul," through Christ who strengtheneth me."
Secondly. His succours are not to be obtained without prayer. He has a right to determine in what way he will communicate his own favours; he is infinitely capable of knowing what method is most consistent with his own glory, and conducive to our goodand he has revealed it: and however freely he has promised his influences, he has said, "Nevertheless, for all these things, will I be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them."