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hears from the word of God, into fervent petitions. All his sorrows, anxieties, and perplexities he spreads before the Lord, seeking, in every exigence, support, direction, and consolation from him: subjoining continual thanksgivings for mercies received, and intercessions for all around him; and submissively referring himself, in every case, to the will and wisdom of his heavenly Father. "Thus is he careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, makes his requests known unto God;"" and casts his care upon him, who careth for him." Such prayer as this cannot be taught by man, but must be the effect of "the pouring out of the Spirit of grace and supplication;" who, communicating divine light to the understanding, and holy dispositions to the heart, excites fervent and spiritual desires in the soul, and teacheth us to pray with "groanings that cannot be uttered." It is therefore called in the word of God, "praying, in and by the Spirit;" as opposed to a "form of godliness," or good words spoken with the mouth, without suitable affections and desires in the heart.* He whose words express more than he intends, or heartily desires, prays formally and hypocritically: he who means all his words express, and more than he can find words to express, evidently prays spiritually, and, though he may not be sensible of it, is assisted in prayer by the Holy Spirit.t

But if nothing, however specious or ostentatious, be prayer, which has not in it something of this nature, (as I trust, upon mature examination of the Scriptures, will be found the case :) then evidently the proud, ungodly, and carnal-minded, cannot pray aright. Nor can it be deemed strange, if, when a sinner is first seriously impressed with concern for his soul, he hath great reluctance to this spiritual exercise, and knows not how to go about it. For even real Christians, who are arrived at some measure of stability, and have made considerable proficiency in a life of communion with God, meet with considerable difficulty in this grand concern; have need habitually to be humbled for neglects and imperfections; and want continually fresh supplies of divine assistance to excite, teach, and enable them thus to " and not faint."

pray always Satan also will oppose to the uttermost all his artifices to prevent a sinner's approaching to the throne of grace; well knowing, that in the critical season, when any person is under serious impressions, if he can be prevailed on to neglect prayer, they will soon wear off, and leave the conscience more insensible than before. The business, pleasures, diversions, and society of the world; and that scorn with which ungodly men treat a life of prayer, combine their influence in aid of natural corruption and Satan's temptation, to keep the poor convinced sinner from the throne of grace. And as if these hindrances were not sufficient, even some, professing serious godliness, (whose intention may be better than their judgment,) extremely increase the difficulty, by strenuously contending, that unconverted persons ought not to pray, or be exhorted to it.

Saul, previous to conversion, was a strict Pharisee, who made long prayers; yet when the Lord spoke of his conversion to Ananias, he said, with emphasis, "Behold, he prayeth." Before, he might read or repeat long forms, or pray fluently in extemporaneous language: but now he feels his indigence, dependence, and unworthiness, and really prays with suitable desires and dispositions.

I am far from thinking that no prayer is accepted, which comes not up to this description; but this is the nature of a sinner's praying for spiritual blessings: to this, in a degree proportioned to the measure of his grace, a believer attains: and every accepted prayer has something in it of the same nature. If a man ought not to pray before conversion, he ought to know, that is, be sure, of his conversion before he prays for if he be not sure of his conversion he cannot be sure whether he may, and ought to pray, or not, Thus assurance springs up in a sinner's heart all at once; and now having received he may ask; having found he may begin to seek: the door being opened he may begin to knock.-Surely, at first glance, every one must see this to be absurd and unscriptural, yea, anti-scriptural. Truly all ought to pray, but none will in sincerity, until the Holy Spirit in some degree inclines the heart. Then a man feels an inclination to do that, which before was his duty, though he did it not: frequently he knows not from whence this change proceeds: but is encouraged, by such Scriptures as that before alluded to, (Matth. vii. 7, 8. or Isaiah Iv. 6, 7.)" Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way." Thus he begins to ask and seek: and in consequence to receive and find: in this way giving diligence he makes his calling and election sure; and this statement reconciles all the different views which the Scripture gives us of this matter. The Lord seeking us when lost, and being found of us when we sought him not, inclines us, (though we are not aware whence this inclination comes) to seek him in prayer; and thus we receive all spiritual and eternal blessings in the way of asking and receiving.

Such indeed are the pride and ungodliness of man, that, left to himself, and under Satan's influence, he never will pray in sincerity. Confounding the depraved disinclination with a real want of ability, many thence argue the want of obligation. But this argument, if it prove any thing, proves too much; and would consequently repeal the law and abrogate the gospel, and furnish the devil himself with an apology, by making inward depravity a justification of outward rebellion; the desperate wickedness of the life. For certain it is, that man is as much disinclined to keep the whole law, or to repent and believe the gospel, as he is to pray; and will never do either the one or the other, if left to himself, destitute of the influence of divine grace. But doth this indeed justify all our transgressions of the law, and contempt of the gospel?

Again, prayer is an important part of that worship and obedience which the law requires: and it is also the grand means of receiving from Jesus new covenant-blessings. He, then, who prays not, at once breaks the law, and contemns the gospel: " and he that keeps the whole law, and thus * offends in one point, is guilty of all." If then a sinner ought not to pray, he is justifiable in breaking the whole law, and equally justifiable in neglecting the salvation of the gospel! In fact, however, our depraved inclinations are in no respect the measure of our duty, but the direct opposite. "The carnal mind is enmity to God; is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." The law to which the carnal mind cannot be subject, is the measure of our duty. This men cannot obey, because of the depravity of their nature, which enhances, instead of extenuating, their guilt. Men ought to love God and one another; having sinned, they ought to repent: they ought to believe and pray, to deny themselves and mortify their lusts: but they do not. What is the reason? They cannot. But in what sense is this true? In fact, because they dislike the service of God, hate his law, reject his authority despise his gospel, and prefer the gratification of their lusts; and because these hateful dispositions are so predominant in them, that without the interposition of Omnipotence they are insuperable. Can these hateful dispositions then, be seriously urged as an excuse: Will any dare to urge them at the day of judgment? No; "every mouth will then be stopped, and all the world shall be found guilty before God." I should not in this place have touched upon this controversial subject, had I not observed how greedily this poison is drunk down, and how fatally it operates, in stupifying the conscience, flattering the pride, and apologizing for the sloth of mankind.

Instead of thus abetting, we should endeavour to counteract these artifices of Satan, and to combat the reluctancy of a sinner's heart, by shewing the absolute necessity of prayer unto salvation; enforcing the invitations to the throne of grace; expatiating on the promises made to all who call upon the Lord; explaining the nature of prayer; directing him in the new and living Way to the throne of grace; answering objections, obviating discouragements, representing prayer as our privilege, and unspeakable consolation; and exhorting sinners to draw near, and share our happiness; for we may be assured, that they who are thus excited to pray, will in due time render unto God the praise of "making them to differ."

But I return from this digression. My fellow-sinners, you must pray or perish. Your backwardness to pray should humble you, and stir you up to overcome it; especially by crying unto the Lord to incline your heart, by his grace, to love and delight in prayer. Your ignorance should urge you to begin as the disciples did:-"Lord, teach us to pray." You must not yield to corruption, temptation, or discouragement, but persevere in prayer with all sincerity and earnestness. If you pray aright, you will be very far from trusting in, or boasting of your prayers; for you will perceive much imperfection and defilement in them. But though humbled on that account,

* Num. xv. 30, 31. "The soul that doeth ought presumptuously, the same reproacheth the Lord-he hath despised the word of the Lord." + James ii. 10, 11.

you need not despond; your prayers, though broken, faltering, and feeble, (if you mean what you express, and desire what you ask,) shall meet with acceptance through the intercession of Jesus, and be not only answered, but in due season far exceeded. Especially in this way you must seek repentance, as the gift of God through Jesus Christ; using the other means with diligence, earnestness, and perseverance; and then you will assuredly be made partaker of "that repentance which is unto salvation, not to be repented of."


HAVING thus gone through the subject, according to the method first laid down, nothing remains but to close with a few practical observations.

I. I would observe, from what has been discoursed, that every species of religion, in which repentance forms no prominent part from first to last, is justly to be suspected, yea, certainly to be condemned as unscriptural and destructive. There is a great deal of this religion in the world, which often comes recommended by extraordinary zeal for some peculiar doctrines of Christianity, and is distinguished by unwarranted confidence and high affections. Men hearing the gospel, are superficially alarmed on account of their sins, and eagerly look out for comfort. Through inexperience they lie open to Satan's artifice, and are easily imposed on with false comfort, deduced from false principles, exactly suited to their carnal unhumbled hearts. Thus they presume that their sins are pardoned, and their state good; and with this presumption self-love is delighted, and high affections produced: these, expressed in earnest fluent language, create them injudicious admirers: this flatters and affects them the more, and confirms them in their confidence; so that they think, after such experiences, they must never more, on any account, doubt of their own salvation. Yet all this is only a land-flood, and soon subsides. They gradually experience a decay of affection, and grow lifeless, indolent, and worldly; with their affection their confidence declines, but they struggle hard to exclude doubtings: they call themselves backsliders; allow themselves to have forsaken their first love; and groan out Job's complaint, though not at all in Job's meaning: "Oh that it were with me as in months past !" And would a wish suffice, something might be done : but they have no heart for greater exertion. To close all, they abuse the doctrine of final perseverance; take it for granted that they are saints; expect to be restored as it were by miracle, whilst they turn a deaf ear to the voice of Christ, commanding them to "be zealous, and repent ;" till at length, perhaps, a suitable occasion and temptation presenting, they throw aside their profession of godliness.

This is exactly the religion of the stony-ground hearers, who had faith, confidence, and joy, such as they were, but no repentance or humility, and therefore no root in themselves: for it is only by renewing our hearts unto repentance, that the ground is prepared for the reception of the seed, and the production of true faith and holiness, as hath already been demonstrated. "Let no man deceive you by vain words." Except you are partakers of repentance, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance, all your religion is vain, your hopes presumptuous, and your destruction inevitable; whatever other attainments, gifts, or experiences, you may have to boast of, or to buoy

* It is very observable how often the words, " Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted," are repeated by our Saviour; and how many similar expressions are used by his apostles. This infallibly teaches us, that all appearances of religion are fallacious, so long as the heart remains unhumbled.

up your confidence. Satan can transform himself into an angel of light, and as effectually ruin souls by false religion, as by open ungodliness; and far more unsuspectedly.

II. I observe from what hath been discoursed, that great care is requisite in distinguishing betwixt true repentance, and that which is superficial and merely natural. This is of vast importance, as numbers of those who die impenitent, have at times judged themselves, and been thought by others to be penitent. Let it then be remembered that true repentance, though generally accompanied with terror, tears, confessions, and outward reformation, good words, fair promises, and earnest resolutions, doth not consist in, or uniformly attend upon all or any of them. But true repentance is a change of judgment, inclination, and affection, in respect to sin, immediately: accompanied, preceded, or followed by a change of judgment, inclination, and affection, respecting God and his law, Christ and his gospel, ourselves and our conduct, this world and the next. From this change springs sorrow for sin, self-abasement and condemnation; sole dependence on God's mercy; supreme valuation of Jesus and his salvation; love to God and holiness; tenderness of conscience; zeal for good works; all holy tempers; holy conversation, and holy conduct; accompanied with continual humiliation for remaining imperfections and defilements. Where these effects have been evidently produced, though with little or no terror, no effusions of tears, or seasons of peculiar melting, but gradually and silently, the repentance is yet sincere and genuine, by this rule, it leads to Christ and holiness. But all other appearances, whether of terror issuing in self-dependence and neglect of Christ; or of supposed evangelical humiliation inducing professed dependence on Christ and free grace, whilst sin is not abhorred and avoided, nor holiness loved and practised, are superficial and hypocritical. Herod might have passed for a true penitent, if John would have allowed him his Herodias: yet John shall lose his head rather than Herod (notwithstanding promising appearances,) will part with his beloved lust; `and human nature is just the same in other men as it was in Herod. Let no repentance therefore satisfy any man which doth not endear Christ and universal holiness; and divorce the heart from every sin, especially that which heretofore was the customary and beloved sin.

III. I would, from what hath been discoursed, take occasion to consider in few words, the nature and necessity of regeneration. No other religion but that which hath been described, requires that entire change which this term, and a variety of similar expressions in the sacred Scriptures, imply. A Pharisee's reformation, morality, and outward worship, require no entire inward renovation; and having no experience of it, nor seeing any occasion for it, with Nicodemus, he exclaims, "How can these things be?" The evangelical or antinomian self-deceiver also may have his opinions, affections, and confidence, without becoming a new creature; and will, therefore, whilst he uses the terms, mistake their import, and signify by them some of those enthusiastical impulses and revelations, which he experiences and boasts of.

But self-admiring, self-justifying man, will never exercise that self-loathing and self-condemning repentance which hath been described, except he be born again. Insensible to the attractions of heavenly objects through inordinate love of worldly things, he never will renounce and abhor all sin, mortify every lust, die to all carnal objects, and delight in God and universal holiness, except he be changed into a new creature, by the efficacious influences

* Some will, perhaps, be disposed to inquire, why I have not adopted the common distinction between legal and evangelical repentance. As these expressions do not occur in Scripture, every one is at liberty to use them or not; and the distinction did not appear to me sufficiently exact or comprehensive, for my purpose. True repentance has more respect to the law, as transgressed by sin, and justly condemning the sinner, than any false repentance can have. Whilst, on the other hand, men are more frequently se duced into a dependence on a superficial repentance, by unwarrantable presumptions of mercy, and false apprehensions of evangelical truth, than by slavish regard to the law. Natural and spiritual repentance seems to me a preferable distinction. By natural repentance, I would understand every sort of repentance of which a mere natural man is capable; by spiritual repentance, that which springs from true grace in the heart.

of the Holy Spirit ; except "old things pass away, and all things become new."

This is the new birth so frequently spoken of in the sacred Scriptures. A new principle of divine life implanted in the heart, purifying the various powers of the soul. Hence proceed an enlightened understanding, a sound judgment in divine things, holy affections, a pure imagination, a sanctified memory, and a well-informed, tender, but not superstitious, conscience. Hence proceed new fears, new hopes, new joys, new sorrows, new aversions and desires, new dispositions, and a new life. Yet as these are in this life only imperfect in their degree, this imperfection of grace and remainder of corruption, extort from the true Christian bitter complaints: "Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" They put vigour into his prayers: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me :" they still find him employment for repentance and watchfulness, and endear free forgiveness through the blood of Christ.

Sinners should therefore be addressed in terms like these: All your aver sion to this thorough repentance, and all your delays about it, only demonstrate your need of being born again. Should God implant in your heart such a new principle of holiness, as would make you relish and take pleasure in divine things, you would find it natural and easy to abhor sin, to mourn over it, and forsake it; to repent and do works meet for repentance. Have you then a real desire after this invaluable gift? If you have not, but prefer the quiet satisfaction of your carnal inclinations; you are justly left without that which you so despise. If you have," Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."


IV. I now take my leave of impenitent sinners with a serious expostulation. I mean such as are living, secretly or openly, in covetousness, injustice, lewdness, drunkenness, profaneness, or any known sin; who remember not to hallow the Sabbath, to read the Scriptures, to worship God, to relieve the poor, or to do any other known duty or who proudly trust in themselves that they are righteous, and despise others, and neglect Christ and his salvation. Oh, make no more excuses or delays: "Flee from the wrath to come. Evil pursueth sinners:" if it overtake you in impenitency, eternal misery is your dreadful portion. Yet, yet a long-suffering God has patience with you the gospel invites, and Jesus stands with open arms to receive you; complains that you "will not come to him, that you may have life:" affirms with an oath, that "he hath no pleasure in the death of a sinner," and, as with tears of compassion, adds, "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?" Do you then love death? Will you slight such warnings, such expostulations, such invitations, such compassion? Well, if this prevail not, I must with reluctance leave you, as Paul did the Jews: "Your blood be upon your own head, I am free."

V. I now turn to thee, poor weeping penitent, who art almost inconsolable, and sinking in despondency. Thou scarcely canst hope that God will pardon so great a sinner; the expectation seems to border on presumption: yet still thy humiliation appears to thyself slight, and thy repentance superficial, and thy heart insensible: yea, though it is almost melted within thee, it feels like a very stone; and still thou pleadest, "Oh! take away the heart of stone, and give the heart of flesh." Behold, I bring thee glad tidings of great joy; and I shall share thy joy, if I may but be the instrument of administering peace and comfort to thee: "Come unto me," saith Jesus, "all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Behold, he calleth thee; be of good courage. All who will, may come; he hath given thee the willing mind, and will “ in nowise cast thee out." He will bind up thy broken heart, and "give thee the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." Only wait his time; let him probe thy wounds to the bottom; catch not impatiently at comfort; beg for still deeper

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