Page images

of this hypocrisy in the time of praying? Have you not felt a secret love to the sin you professed to renounce; nay, some degree of fear lest God should take you at your word, and render that sin bitter and unpleasant to you? Need I tell you, that such prayers are an abomination to the Lord, and instead of diminishing, aggravate your guilt? To pray, is not to offer op words, but desires, to God: I therefore said, that in using this petition, you must do it with a sincere and earnest desire, that God may hear and grant your request. It was for this purpose I set before you the heinous nature and fa.

I tal effects of presumptuous sins, that you might view them as deadly foes, and long to be rescued from their tyranny; for till your hearts are brought to this, in vain do you utter the words of David; your prayers are hollow and insincere wbatever dress you put them into; and are themselves more presumptuous than any of those sins against which you pretend to use them.

2dly. We must put up this request, from a humble sense of our own weakness, with a lively hope of the mercy of God, and a steadfast reliance upon the efficacy of his grace. These qualifications are absolutely necessary: for till we feel our inability to overcome our im

: petuous and headstrong passions, we shall not be very importunate with God to restrain them; and we shall soon grow weary in our addresses to him for aid, if we either call in question his good will to bestow it, or doubt of its sufficiency to answer our necessities. We must neither pray proudly nor despairingly; we affront God equally both ways. If we go to him merely in a complimental way, as if we did him honour by asking some slender assistance only to render the conquest more easy; this may provoke him to leave us in the hands of our enemies, till, by some fatal overthrow, we


are brought to a thorough conviction of our impotence; for 66 he resisteth the proud, and giveth grace only to the humble; the hungry are filled with good things, but the rich are sent empty away."

On the other hand, should we either question his willingness or ability to help us, would not this be to cast upon him vile dishonour, after all the illustrious proofs he hath given us, both of his love and saving power? “ He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all; how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

Let us therefore, under a deep sense of our depravity and weakness, humbly and importunately cry to God, that he may deliver us from the oppression of our tyrannical lusts; and these cries of the oppressed shall “enter into the ears of the Lord of Saboath." At the same time, let us harbour no dishonourable suspicions either of his mercy or of his power: “We have a great HighPriest, who has passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, who now appears in the presence of God for us. Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the vail, tủiat is to say, his flesh; and having a High-Priest who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and was in all points tempted like as we are; let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

If we thus ask, we shall certainly receive: The great Captain of our salvation, whose grace is sufficient for all his people, will not only keep us back from presumptuous sins, but in due time he will bruise Satan underneath pur feet, and "grant unto us to sit with him on his throne,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

even as he also overcame, and is set down with his Father in his throne.”—Let me only add, in the

Third and last place, That our prayers to God for restraining grace, must be accompanied with our own most vigorous efforts to resist all temptations to presumptuous sins, otherwise they shall not be accepted.

God will so do his work, as that we shall do ours likewise; for God's working in us to will and do," instead of superseding the necessity of our own endeavours, is urged in Scripture as a motive and encouragement to make us “ work out our own salvation with fear and trembling." Prayer is not only an acknowledgment of our dependence upon God for the things we ask, but it likewise imports a resolution on our part to use all

proper means for obtaining them; and the vigour of our endeavours is the best proof of our sincerity. Should a person who is just now praying, “ Lead me not into temptation,” rise immediately from his knees, and go forth to

, invite or even to meet a temptation, who could believe that such a man was in earnest? Let us be doing, and then we may, with greater confidence, both ask the divine aid, and hope to obtain it. If, in a humble dependence upon God, we faithfully employ the strength we have, more shall be added to us as our necessities require: “For to him that hath shall be given. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Wait therefore on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord." Amen,



2 TIMOTHY iii. 5.

Having a form of Godliness, but denying the power


«THE sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord; but the prayer of the upright is his delight.” It is the heart of the worshipper which God principally regards; if that be wrong, external bomage is only “vain oblation," which can never ascend to bis tbrone with acceptance. Happy were it for us, had we a just impression of this interesting trutb; but many, alas! are too apt to impose upon themselves. Instead of aspiring to that inward purity which is necessary to qualify them for communion with God, they seem to have no higher aim, than to lall conscience asleep by the practice of some cheap and common duties, lest its galling reproofs should alarm their fears, and anticipate the horrors of approaching judgment. Thus they dream of safety, when destruction is fast coming upon them; and, with “ untempered mortar," rear up for themselves “ a refuge of lies,” which, ere long, shall be tumbled down, and bury them in its ruins.-For awakening such persons from their fatal security, I have chosen this passage of Holy Scripture, wherein the apostle gives us a part of the character of deceiving hypocrites, or rather, indeed, a comprebensive description of them in a few words: They have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. Their religion is a mere carcass, a body without the soul, a lifeless picture or image of godliness: they assume the garb and air of sanctity, but are strangers, nay enemies, to the thing itself. That the following discourse may be “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness," I shall, in the

First place, Endeavour to open the nature of true godliness, and to show wherein the life and power of it consist.

Secondly, I shall inquire, whence it is, that any who deny the power of godliness should submit to the drudgery of practising the forms of it? and then point out the improvement which both saints and sinners ought to make of this subject.

GODLINESS, in general, is the subjection or devotedness of the soul to God himself. It is the practical acknowledgment of his unlimited sovereignty, and the unreserved dedication of the whole man to his service ; or, to speak in the emphatical language of this Apostle, it is 6 Christ formed” in the heart by the powerful energy of the Holy Spirit: in consequence whereof, the person becomes “ a new creature,” both with regard to his temper and practice; “ be partakes of the divine nature; and “ those members" which were formerly the “servants of sin,” are now employed as “ instruments of righteousness unto God.

It is not a cold assent to the truths of religion ; it is not a natural softness and benevolence of temper; it is not the abstaining from gross sins, or the giving to God a corner of our hearts, and some vacant portions of our time, wbile the bulk of both is alienated from him, that will intitle us to the character of godly men. As he only is God, who is universal Lord, supreme in wisdom, in power, and in goodness; so that only is godliness which

« PreviousContinue »