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we can meet with ; against every ungrateful and displeasing Accident that comes upon us in the Course of our Lives. He that converseth much with God, and useth to make all his Concernments known to him, is prepared to bear all Things patiently, and evenly, whatfoever happen; nor can he light into any Cir-, cumstances of Life, which will not be, not only supportable to him, but easy also.
Add to this in the last Place, that it is Prayer that secures the Blessing of God, both upon our Persons and upon our Labours; upon our Basket and Store; upon our Families z upon our Employments; and upon all that we have, or do. So great is the Virtue of Prayer, that it turns all the Actions of our natural or civil Life, however indifferent they be, into Actions of Religion. And every Thing that we have, or conies to us, is thereby made a Blessing of God, which with out it, perhaps, might have been a Cross and Affliction. It is Prayer by which every Tbing, and every Action is fanctified to Believers.
I night name several other Benefits and Advantages to be reap'd from the conscientious Practice of this Duty ; but those that I have mention'd, may, (I think) if they be considered, be sufficient to recommend it to any Man whatsoever, that hath the least Kindness for himself: And therefore I will not burthen your Memories, with heaping up more Motives. Only one Thing I desire leave to press a little more earnestly, and particularly, than I have yet done, and that is, The absolute
Necessity of Constant Prayer, in order to a Holy · and Virtuous Life.
Do any of you, here present, in good Earnest, mean to live as you should do ? Do you really e intend or desire to endeavour after such a Pitch
of Virtue and Holiness, as will be available for
These Three. Things I dare lay down for
First, It is impossible for any Man to be
Secondly, Whoever is Good at the present, yet if he disuse himself in this point, he will not continue Good long.
And Lastly, Whoever makes a Conscience of Praying frequently and heartily, and continues foto do, tho’ he cannot at present be said to be a good Man, yet it is impossible for him long to continue bad; he will certainly at last get the Victory over his Lufts and evil
Habits. So that Prayer is both the Means, * without which Virtue cannot be attained ;
and the Means that never fails of attainir
some who make no great Conscience of this Duty, but live in an habitual Neglect of it, máy so far retain the Notions of Good and Evil, and those Notions may so far influence their Altioits, as that they shall not be notoriously and scandalously vicious. It may be they will not lye, nor cheat, nor opprefs any one. It may be they do not live in a Course of Lewdness and Debauchery; nor will be engag'd in any Design or Action that is aparently bate or dishonourable. But all this while, these Men are far from being virtuous in the Sense we now speak of. For we speak of such a Virtue as recommends us to God; fuch a Virtve as will be effectual for our Salvation in the other World. Now to fuch a Virtue as this, there goes nothing less than an Universal Care over all our Actions ; a serious Endeavour to frame all · our Converfation suitably and conformably to the Laws of our Saviour. But how can any Man think he takes Care of this, that knowingly and willingly lives in a constant Contradiction to one of the principal Duties of our Saviour's Religion? ; Our whole Duty is made up but of Three Things; That a Man live foberly' with respect to himself; righteously with respect to his Neighbour; and piously with respect to God. Supposing now, that a Man take Care of the Two former, that is, of doing his Duty to himself and his Neighbour, (which yet I believe never any Man did, that made no Conscience of neglecting his Prayer : but suppose a Man could fatisfy himself as to these Two Points of his Duty) yet if he make no Conscience of the Third, that is, of Piety towards God (as no Man can make Conscience of that, who makes it no Matter of Conscience, whether he says his Prayers or no) in what Sense or Notion can this Man be said to have done his Duty; or to lead a virtuous Life? Certainly in no Sense at all. For as to one Third Part of his Duty (which is, indeed as confiderable, at least, if not more, than either of the other) he is a notorious
la Tranfgreffor: . And tho' he be not unjust, tho he to be not debauched, yet wanting Piety towards God, i he is Impious; and that will as certainly damn him,
as either of the other. Either therefore one of these Ī Two Things must be made appear, that is to say,
that there may be Virtue, such Virtue as will recommend us to God without Piety: Or that there may
be Piety without ever Praying, or Worshipping God, mi (neither of which I believe will be easily affirmed;)
or it will follow, That where there is no Praying, ; there is no Virtue, and consequently no Salvation.
But besides; We all know there is no Possibility ů of living a Holy and Virtuous Life, such a Life as
our Religion requires of us, and which alone will stand us in stead in the Day of Judgment) without the Grace of God, and the Assistances of his Holy Spirit. And we all know likewife, that these are no way to be come by, but by earnest, and affectionate, and constant Prayer. How therefore is it poffible, that any Man, who is not very serious and frequent in the Exercise of Devotion, should ever be able to live a Holy Life?, He may, indeed, by his own Study, and for his own Interest, posless himself of such good Qualities, as may make a fair Shew in the World, and recommend him to all about him : But the inward Principle of Goodness and Holiness he cannot have; because he doth not practise the Means of obtaining the Grace and Spirit of God, by which alone, that Principle is to be wrought in him. : · But, Secondly, Let a Man at present be in a good State of Soul, yet it is impossible to preserve himself in that State, without the constant Exercise of Devotion. If a Man once begin to neglect his Pray, ers, or to grow more dullor remiss in them, or more averse to them, it is a certain Argument, that he is in a declining Condition, as to Virtue and Goodness. And as that Neglect, or that Dulness, or that Averfron increases, in the same Degree doth the Goodness
of his Condition abate also. And when once it is come to that pass with him, that the Flame of Devotion is quite extinguished in tiis Heart; so that he can live, and enjoy himself without any converse or Intercourse with God in Prayer ; he may from that Period, date the Loss of his Spiritual Life. He is reduced to the State of a sensual, natural Man; alive to the World, and to his Lusts, but perfectly dead to God. · The plain English is, Prayer and Devotion is as necessary a Means to preserve the Union between the Soul and God, in which our Spiritual Life confifts, as Meat and Drink is, to preserve the Union between our Souls and Bodies, in which our Natural Life consists, and we may every whit as reasonably expect to keep our Bodies alive, without the constant and daily Use of Eating and Drinking; as we can expect to keep our Souls alive to God, without the constant and daily Exercise of Devotion.
This may to some appear strange Doctrine: but I I do believe, I may appeal to Experience for the Truth of it. Nay, I dare put the Question to any one, that ever took any serious Care of his Soul, and sincerely endeavoured to live virtuously, and to please God, whether he hath not found the Matter to be so as I have represented ?
Have not such always found, that so long as they kept up the Fervour and Vigour of their Devotion, so long as they were constant and diligent in their Prayers, and other Holy Exercises ; so long nothing could hurt them, so long they have always maintain'd their Port, and rather grown better than worse? And tho' they have sometimes been foully overtaken by some Sin that they resolved against, yer that Relapse hath done them no Mischief. Their Continuance in their Prayers, hath been an Antidote against the Malignity of the Sin ; and they have presently weather'd it out, and suffered no ill Consequence by it; but it has rather made them more