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of turning, James i. 17. And that the Strength of Israel, as he cannot lye, fo neither can he repent ; fór be is not a Man that he should repent, i Sam. xv. 29.
This is the Argument; but, in truth, if it be examined, it is a mere Fallacy. God's hearkening to, or being moved by the Praye ers we put up to him, doth not in the least clash with his Attribute of Immutabili. ty. It is true, when upon our Prayers God is pleased to give us those Things we pray for, which without our Prayers he would not have done, it cannot be denied but that there is a Change fomewhere ; but if the Matter be examined, it will be found to be in us, and not in God. God's Mind was always the fame towards us; that is, he refolved that if we humbly and heartily begged such or fuch Things at his Hands, we should have them ; but if not, we should go without them. When therefore upon our Prayers we obtain that Grace or that Blessing which we had not before, it is not He that is changed, but we. We, by performing the Conditions he required of us, do look with another Aspect to him, do intitle ourselves to another kind of Dealing from him, than we could claim before. We have made ourselves capable of receiving those Benefits, which before we were not.
TO To put this yet into a clearer Light, if it be possible. Suppose a Father had a Son that had carried himself very unworthily, and disobediently to him, whereupon he is so displeased, that he casts him off, and resolves never to receive him again, unless he comes and humbles himself, acknowledges his Fault, and begs Pardon (which is the fame thing with the Prayer we are now speaking of); but if he will do thus, he will be reconciled to him. We will suppose now that the Son by Extremity of Want, or other Streights that he is reduced to, doth at last become sensible of his Folly, and that Sense puts him upon returning to his Father, and closing with those Conditions of Pardon he is pleased to offer him'; and accordingly with the Prodigal in the Gospel he comes home, and falling down before his Father he faith, Father, I have finned against Heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy Son: He confefseth his Faults, and implores his Father's Forgiveness. Upon this, as it followeth in the Parable, the Father receiveth him, takes him home to him, cloathes him anew, grants all the Requests he puts: up to him, and makes a Feast for his Return. Here now is a most vilible Alteration. The Son that was before in a most deplorable Condition, as can be, is now put into happy Circumstances. The Father that had before abandoned him,
now receives him, and rejoiceth in him. But is this Alteration produced in the Father or in the Son ? Not in the Father certainly, for he acts punctually according to his first Resolutions or Determinations, that he had set down with himself, which indeed were infinitely just and reasonable. But the Alteration is in the Son, who by performing the Conditions which his Father required of him, hath rendered himself a different Object from what he was before ; he was before an Object of his Father's Wrath and Displeasure ; he is now an Object of his Pity and Kindness : And accordingly as he felt before the Effects of the former, so now he feels the Effects of the latter. But these different Effects do no more argue any Change or Inconstancy in the Father, than it doth imply a Change or Inconstancy in any Person, that he is differently affected to. wards Persons that have contrary Qualities. The Application of this is fo easy to the Case we are upon, that every body may make it.
And thus much for the first Objection against Prayer drawn from God's Iminutability. The second is drawn from another Attribute, and that is God's infinite and efsential Goodness; and thus it proceeds. If God in his Nature is the most perfect Love and Goodness, that is conceivable ; then it is certain he manages the Affairs of the
World World in the best way that is possible; as he most truly knows what is most convenient for his Creatures, and as his Power can eafily effect what he knows to be fo, fo if his Goodness be equal either to his Knowledge or his Power, it shall certainly and eternally take Effect, let all the World do what they can to the contrary: To fuppofe otherwise, is to suppose that it is poffible for God to order and manage things better than he doth; which is as much as to fay, that God is not fo good as he may be conceived to be. If this now be admitted, what need is there that any of us should spend our Breath in Prayers for any thing ? "If it be fit, That the Things we defire should be given us, God's Goodnefs is fuch that he will give it us whether we ask it or no. As he hath no need to be told of our Wants, fo needs he not be importuned for a Supply of them. On the other side, if what we pray for be not fitting or convenient for us, then all our Praying, be it never so importunately, will be to no Purpose; for God will do nothing but what is for the best.
This is the objection: But to one that considers well, it will appear to have no manner of Force in it. It is granted that the Goodness of God is infinite, and that he governs the World in the best way that is possible, and consequently he always will do that which is best, let us behave our
Our Prayinting or conul
felves how we please. All this is granted : But doth it from hence follow, that we shall have all such things as we stand in need of, whether we pray for them or no? Not in the least. The plain State of the Matter is this: The fame God that will do always what is absolutely best for his Creatures,
knows that it is best for them, that in order + to the partaking of his Benefits, they should E pray for them, if they do not, why then -, he knows it is best that they should be dee nied them. So that the Necessity of God's
acting for the best, doch not in the least de- stroy the Necessity of Prayer in order to our
obtaining what we stand in need of : God will do always that which is best, but we are mistaken if we think it is for the best that we should have our Necessities supplied. without the Use of Prayer. God will always take care of that which is most fit and convenient for his Creatures, but he fees likewise, that it is then only fit and convenient that they should have this or the other Mercy or Blessing conferred upon them, when they heartily and earnestly pray for it.
This is the plain State of the Case, from whence appears what little Force there is in the Objection. The Truth is, this Objection, if there was any Weight in it, would as much strike at the Use of all other Means for the obtaining of what we want,