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None can live there who do not make God the object of their concentrated affections.
Discord would prevail in heaven should men be indiscriminately received into that world.
3. Hence the necessity of a separation in the coming world according to character. The tares and the wheat, the sheep and the goats, the clean and the unclean, are terms expressive of the contrariety of character on which this final division will be founded.
4. We see, then, how radical is this change required in regeneration, as great as if the lion should become a lamb, or the vulture should be changed into a dove. It is a change in the object of the supreme affections.
5. We see why unregenerate men are unhappy and must be so. They must dislodge their hearts from its hold upon the world and all that they hold dear; we are required to "put off concerning the former conversation, the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of our mind; and that" we "put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness."
Children are commanded to love their parents, and parents their children; husbands their wives, and wives their husbands, and in fine we are commanded to love all men "with a pure heart fervently," and to let "love be without dissimulation." That is, the affection we are to feel is to be a sincere, and cordial, and true affection. But in all this there is to be no infringement at all, upon the claims of God. He claims a supreme affection, and all our other affections are to be in subordination to this.
Hence, whatever I set out to love, I engage with the principle that God is to be loved better.
PSALM CII. 1.
ONE of the most natural things for a creature, is to know how he may approach acceptably his Maker. Hence that supplication so often in the mouth of God's people, "Wherewithal shall I come before the Lord ?"
To point out such a prayer, and to show what will be that mode of approach that will draw down blessings upon our heads, will be my object.
I. There must be a holy respect for the character and ways of God. This will prevent us from coming into his presence (6 as the horse rusheth into the battle," and prevent us from being repulsed at the first attempt, as offering him what is a stench and a nuisance in his sight, instead of an acceptable sacrifice.
When we would pray acceptably, we must come looking at all his attributes. They must there cluster, as the vine-fruits on the vine. They must fill all the eye, and ravish all the heart.
II. And as we are social beings, the mode of our approach must show that we are not praying alone, that we belong to a praying family; and we should wish to get near to his presence, and not pray at a distance-as one expressed it, "with a rope about our neck." The child would choose to come where the father was, if he could speak to him, and not stand at a distance, as if he were praying by proxy to an absent father.
And here we shall feel it very important to say,
III. That our prayers must go up with sincerity before him, and with that open frankness that love is accustomed to generate. And we should really desire the blessing we need, and not some other, that we are afraid to ask for, as if we were held in the attitude of foreigners, who were supplicating mercies which we not only did not deserve, but had no reason to expect. God does not love this slavish attitude in those who supplicate favors at his hands.
IV. We must have our eyes filled with the precious Mediator: he must be to us "the chief among ten thousands, and altogether lovely."
We must be glad and happy that we may approach him through a
name so precious and so prevalent. Thus only can we hope that our prayers may come up before him, and our cry reach even to his ear.
V. We must not fail to approach him with a spirit of submission. This, however, will not imply indifference. The affection that brings us nearest to him will be the farthest possible from indifference-not light differs more from grossest darkness.
There can be no resignation, unless the heart desires earnestly the blessing it supplicates.
It hardly need be said,
VI. We must come with a spirit of humility and penitence. The suppliant, who can for one single moment forget that he is a suppliant will deserve to be repulsed in the very prayer he makes.
Beggars do not come to our doors to make a demand upon our charity, and rebel if they are repulsed.
VII. It would be natural and indispensable that we remember that we have received blessings from the same hand before, and there is no part of our plea that is more efficacious than where we tell of the mercies received in days gone by.
We smile propitiously upon the beggar who can call to mind that he had been fed from our table before, and clad from our wardrobe. Then he shows that any favors we bestow, will not be squandered upon him.
Here arise several questions.
1. Ought impenitent men to pray? If it can be shown that there is no part of the prayer that ought not to be in the heart of every sinner, then every sinner ought to pray.
If the view we have taken be correct, then they ought. There is no one of these qualifications that the sinner ought not to possess.
If he ought to respect the divine character; if he ought to sincerely desire divine blessings; if he should come in the only way given among men whereby he can be saved; if he ought to come with a thankful heart; if he ought to have his eye filled with a precious Mediator; if he ought to pray for those blessings that God pleases to give; if he ought to pray with a spirit of humility and penitence; if he ought to pray remembering that he has received blessings from the same hand before ;—if thus the sinner should pray, then, surely, every sinner ought to pray.
Thus we see that duty requires a whole world to be prostrate before God in prayer for the blessings he has seen fit to give in answer to prayer.
If any plead to dispute their acceptance, and not pray, they may take the responsibility upon themselves. Whatever may have
been the opinion of other preachers on this subject, the present preacher chooses to express it as his opinion that every sinner ought to pray.
But here arises another question.
2. How will prayer be accepted without these qualifications? I answer, it will not; and I answer on the authority of God.
And if sinners choose to pray, leaving out of view the qualifications with which they should pray, they must answer to their own consciences.
MOTIVES TO PRAYER.
1. It is God's appointed medium of communicating blessings to them.
2. Prayer fits us to receive those blessings.
How futile are the hopes of sinners, when, without any prayer, they hope to receive all those comforts that God has promised through his Son! How important, then, that the house of Israel should be much in prayer for those who are perishing in their sins! How wonderful the condescension of God, that he will hear a sinner pray!
LUKE XVIII. 13.
THIS parable was intended to reprove the self-righteous. "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God on the heart." Hence our opinions of ourselves differ often very widely from God's opinion of us. Sometimes the matter of the action may be right and yet the heart wrong. The text is the prayer of one who sees all to be wrong. The publican was reviewing his heart and glancing a thought across his miserably dissolute life. The review filled him with pain, and he gave vent to his feelings in the best of prayers. It speaks the language of every true penitent. My plan will be to bring into view the feelings that dictate such a prayer.
I. It implies great self-abasement and deep humiliation.
1. I have dishonored the eternal God. I have been saying to God all my life time, "Depart from me, I desire not a knowledge of thy ways."
2. I have helped crucify the Lord of glory. I had in his death as direct an agency as if I had been there and drove the nails.
3. I have grieved the Holy Spirit. I have despised his merciful interposition. Have "grieved the Spirit of the Lord whereby I might have been sealed unto the day of redemption."
4. I have grieved the people of the saints of the most high God. I have expelled them from my society and have been willing to be expelled from theirs for ever.
5. I have helped to pollute sinners. As if I had not found the world sufficiently defiled, I have employed my time and talents to make it more vile still. "Thus have I spoken and done evil things as I could."
6. I have polluted my own soul and have provoked God to prepare me a hell, where I shall be shut up in darkness for ever.
II. The prayer implies a deep conviction that none but God can help!
1. Christians cannot help me.
2. Ministers cannot.
3. Means cannot.
4. Angels cannot.
5. I cannot help myself.
It requires an almighty arm to raise me from the pit into which I have fallen.
III. The prayer may imply a conviction that we can be relieved on no principle but that of grace or mercy. Even goodness, in its simple state, cannot favor a rebel.
"A pardoning God is zealous still,