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beings in the world. When we can be prevailed upon to step out of this narrow circle, and look at the distresses and anxieties which those around us have to encounter, a generous compassion is excited, the tenderness of nature is touched, and our own troubles appear light and inconsiderable. Most of our vices, my brethren, may be traced to a want of reflection. And what is the best remedy for this thoughtlessness and vanity, as far as it respects our duty to others ? Intercession.
In solemn intercession with God, the misery, the helplessness, and dependence of our fellowmortals, or rather of our fellow-immortals, rise in view with all their affecting peculiarities; at those moments, when the mind is the most calm, tender, and elevated, at those moments when none but God can enter, when we feel our own nothingness before Him who is all in all. When we have been “ spreading before the Lord” the circumstances of an orphan who has no friend, of a widow who has no protector, of an unhappy man who is under the dominion of lusts which are hurrying him fast to eternal destruction; is it possible to rise from our knees without feeling sentiments the most noble, tender, and disinterested; without feeling, in some measure, what Paul felt when he said, “ Who is weak and I am not weak; who is offended and I burn not ?"
Is it possible to return immediately into ourselves, and to behave with unfeeling insolence, as though the world were made for us; instead of remembering that we are a small part of an immense whole, an inconsiderable member of a vast family?
As we are concerned to employ prayer and intercession for all men, that narrowness of mind which confines our solicitude to a small circle instead of all within our reach, universal good or ill, will be the most effectually promoted or remedied.
If we comply, in any tolerable measure, with this apostolic injunction, by offering solemn prayer for the happiness of the world and the prosperity of the church, for the conversion of the heathen and the salvation of the whole earth, in proportion as our thoughts diffuse themselves, our hearts will necessarily become enlarged.
(2.) It will be the best antidote against all angry and malignant passions.
* * *
2. We may consider the benefit of intercession as it respects others.
There is a remarkable passage in Ezekiel xiv. 14: “ Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.”
From this passage we may infer two things :First, That there are seasons when even the intercession of the most eminent will not avail; seasons in which it is unalterably determined to inflict punishment. Secondly, we may infer, that these are so rare and so extraordinary, that to declare he will not turn away for intercession, is the strongest token of his fierce indignation.
(1.) If God delights to hear prayer, it is most reasonable to believe he will favourably regard intercessory prayer; for then the supplicant is exercising two most important virtues at once, piety and benevolence. He is then employed in fulfilling the whole law, and makes the nearest approach to the divine nature.
(2.) Examples of its success ;—Abraham, Moses, and Job.
III. General objects of intercession.
1. Our civil governors. We are under the strongest obligations to this, on account of the inestimable benefits involved in good government, which, like the natural health of the body, is indispensably necessary to our happiness, yet is scarcely perceived till it be interrupted. We, of this country, are under peculiar obligations to this duty.
2. The church, “ the mother of us all,” from whom we are born, at whose breasts we have been nourished with the “ sincere milk of the word.” “ For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new VOL. V.
name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.”* Let us pray for its extension, for its peace, for its purity, for the accomplishment of all the promises made to it.
3. The distressed of every description have peculiar claims to our prayers. Indigent christians, who ever appear to be in a peculiar manner the objects of compassion, will share in our petitions to a throne of grace. To pray for others is the best salve and relief of powerless benevolence. For where can we turn our eyes without seeing persons misled by error and delusion which we wish in vain to arrest; made wretched by vices which we cannot reform; or oppressed with misery it is out of our power to avert? Must it not, in such circumstances, furnish the greatest incitement to go into the presence of that Being to whom it is infinite mercy to heal the maladies of mind and body, and to do “ for us, and for all men, above all we can ask or think ?” When we have thus commended the case of our distressed fellow-creatures to the divine notice—when we have thus committed them, as it were, into the arms of our heavenly Father—we feel calm : our compassion grows softer, while it loses its anxiety, and our benevolence, like his, becomes strong and glowing, without solicitude. 4. Our friends and relatives.
* * Application.
* Isaiah lxü. 1, 2.
XXXVIII. GOD'S ETERNITY CONSIDERED, IN REFERENCE
TO THE SUSPENSION OF HIS PROMISED PURPOSES.
2 Pet. iii. 8. —But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing,
that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a
thousand years as one day.* That spirit of prophecy with which the holy apostles were endowed, enabled them to foretell the principal defections from the christian faith which should distinguish the last days,—the papal superstition and infidel impiety.
We have long witnessed the fulfilment of both these predictions: the gross idolatry, cruel edicts, and tyrannical claims of the church of Rome, have been for ages promulgated; and now that superstition appears to be in its dotage, and falling fast into decay, a new progeny has arisen—a scoffing, infidel spirit.
They founded their disbelief of Christ's coming to destroy the world, to judge the wicked, and to reward his servants, on the pretended uniformity of the course of nature. No event which bears any resemblance to that which the gospel foretells, they pretend, has ever taken place. In affirming this, the apostle charges them with “ wilful ignorance” [of the destruction of the world by water.]
He then proceeds to declare that the heavens, which at present subsist, are reserved for a similar
** Preached at Leicester, Sunday, January 6th, 1811 ; the first Sunday in the new year.