Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

honor, all the glory. When blessings come in answer to prayer, the praise is more generally ascribed to him to whom alone all praise belongs. The time is hastening on, when one vast song shall fill the earth “ from sea to sea, and from the rivers unto the ends of the earth;" when shall be heard, “as it were the voice of mighty thunderings : saying, Allelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth; let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him.” And doubtless, when, through the prayers of many, this happy period arrives, the burden of the song will be, “Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous works; and blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory, Amen, and amen.”

May the reader lay these things to heart, and remember how small a sacrifice the thing desired calls for. You are not here asked to give your silver and gold, or your life, though these all belong to your Savior ; but the duty now pointed out is simply that of remembering a perishing world in your prayers: and in constantly and faithfully discharging it, you are obeying the two great commands of love to God, and love to man. Never, then, think a prayer to be at all complete, which does not include the Heathen world. Never be satisfied with a prayer, either in your closet, in your family, in your walks, with your relatives and friends, or in the house of God, in which you have not asked of God something relating to his ways being “ known on earth,” his “saving health among all nations." Pray for all the societies engaged in this work, either at home or abroad; for all the Missionaries sent forth among the heathen, and all preparing to go; and for all who conduct or support Missionary efforts. As a real Christian, you will be an immense gainer by the enlargement of the kingdom of Christ, and the increase of the communion of saints.

And as this is the duty of individuals, so there seems a special efficacy in united prayer. Much that has been said on social, family, and public worship, applies here. Let Christian assemblies, in every part of our land, come frequently together to pray for the coming of Christ's kingdom; and it would be one of the happiest signs of its approach. | Let love to your Savior, benevolence towards man, your

own interest in this promised and happy era, the remarkable signs of the times, and your plain and positive duty, all combine, and influence and excite you really and often to pray, “thy kingdom come.”

CHAPTER XI.
ON DISTRACTIONS IN PRAYER.*

When the sun is above the horizon, all the stars which appear so plainly, and in such number, during the night, are no longer visible; and though they are really still in the heavens, they are lost in the sun's brightness. This may illustrate a difference often observable between the Christian's striving to serve God in all things, and a worldly man who is living in habitual sin. The Christian condemns himself for unnurnbered faults. He sees defects more numerous than the stars of heaven, in every part of his conduct. Even his prayers appear full of sins; he discovers in them innumerable wanderings of heart, and perpetual distractions; for there is no great sin in his life, in the blaze of which all these daily infirmities are lost, as the stars are lost in the more dazzling light of the sun. But the man of the world, whose heart is unchanged and unrenewed, thinks that he performs a meritorious service in the outward worship of God, and is not troubled, though he never feels one holy inclination. Did he but watch his heart, and know its true state, he would have to say, “I was almost in all evil, in the midst of the congregation and assembly.”+

There are, indeed, many defects in our prayers; there is often great coldness in our desires, much unbelief in God's promises, improper ends in our petitions; but one principal sin in all our devotion is, the wandering of the heart.

It being of main importance to the right performance of prayer, “to attend upon the Lord without distraction," a fuller consideration of this subject may be useful. Distrac

* See Steele's “Antidote against Distractions in Prayer,” from whom the Author has borrowed several ideas. + Proy. y. 14.

tions will not, indeed, be entirely cured in this life: but as a man who knows not how to swim, may gradually learn that art, so as to keep himself by degrees longer and longer above water; so here improvements may be continually made. It is possible to be more and more freed from distractions, and more and more to rise above those troublous waves.

Observe the nature of distraction. It is the wandering of the heart from God. Some indeed manifest this in public worship by the wandering of the eye, the irreverence of their outward behavior, unnecessary whispering, and salutations; but I would rather dwell on the root of the evil—the wandering of the heart. In the midst of a solemn prayer, the heart will be dwelling on an earthly business, or pursuing a vain pleasure. It will be engaged in thoughts of doing good on a subject foreign to the prayer then offering up with the lips, or be led aside to circumstances relating to the subject of our prayer. *

There is a contest often carrying on in the Christian's breast, during worship, of which the mere formalist is wholly ignorant. His end is gained, his conscience is satisfied, if he has appeared in the house of God, or if he has repeated his prayers-he thinks this a meritorious service, and is well pleased with himself. Not so the watchful Christian. It is his continual internal struggle to worship God in spirit and in truth. He knows the task of raising an earthly mind to heavenly things. He strives not only against worldly thoughts, but also against good thoughts which often come thus unseasonably to hinder him in attending to the present duty. In carrying on this contest, he finds the power of a carnal mind continually sinking him to the dust. He repels idle and wandering thoughts, he labors against inattention, and, perhaps, after all, he has gained but a transient moment of devotion, and he returns humbled, abased, and depressed, smiting his breast, and saying, “ God be merciful to me a sinner. Nothing humbles him more than the defects of his prayers. - It is well when we are deeply affected by this wandering of the heart, and mourn on account of it. But if the writer may judge from his own experience, how often do we insult and dishonor God by a slight and perfunctory service, and yet retire from worship with little brokenness of heart, and little contrition ! How would such conduct towards an earthly superior, when reflected on in sober moments, overwhelm our minds with shame and confusion of face! . To some, almost the whole of their prayers is, at times, little else but one continued distraction; they have not a single holy thought really offered up to God in any part of the service; and, alas! if the thoughts of most Christians during their worship were expressed, with their prayers, what strange petitions would be found to be offered up to God! An old writer justly observes, “ thinking is the mind's speaking, and the Heart-searcher can, and does more easily take notice when the mind thinks impertinently, than we can observe when the tongue speaks so." There are but few that make a real business of prayer.

* A converted female among the liberated Negroes in Sierra Leone describes this very expressively. She said, “ Wicked thing trouble me much; me want to do good, but my wicked heart will no let me. My heart run away all this week; run all about.” When asked what she meant by her heart running all about, she replied, “Sup. pose me pray, my heart run to my country; to Sierra Leone; all about; and then me can't say no more but Jesus Christ have mercy on me, poor thing! O my bad heart. Me tink sometimes me have two hearts; one want to do good, but the other always want to do bad. O Jesus, have mercy on me, poor sinner!"

There is great evil in these distractions. The more wandering the heart is, the more wearisome the duty; while the nearer we come to God, the more warmth, and life, and comfort we enjoy. The work of prayer not only ceases while our hearts wander, but distracted “confessions" increase guilt; distracted “petitions” only ask for a denial; and distracted“ praises” tend to stop the current of mercy. We make light of distractions on account of their commonness; but God greatly condemns them. A curse is pronounced on those who do “ the work of the Lord deceitfully'* or negligently. God declares, “I know the things that come into your heart, every one of them.”+ Sins in public worship must be peculiarly offensive to the holy God. Solomon says, with marked emphasis, “I saw the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there."

It is an awful character described by David, “There is no faithfulness in their mouth, their inward part is very wickedness, their throat is an open sepulchre, they flatter

* Jer. xlviii. 10.

+ Ezek. xi. 5.

| Eccles. ii. 16.

with their tongue.”* Observe, too, how this sin agrees to Ezekiel's description: “ They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people-for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after covetousness.”+

God has ever shown himself to be jealous respecting those things which concern his immediate worship. Thus we find Nadab and Abihu punished with death for offering strange fire before the Lord. Lev. x. 1, 2. We read that Uzziah was smitten with death for touching the Ark of God. 2 Sam. vi. 6. The directions respecting his worship under the Mosaic dispensation were very minute and particular, which, among other things, may teach us the need of great attention in our approaches to God, and the regard which God pays to all our worship. Indeed, as one observes, “it is evidently a gross insult to the glorious God, when praying to him, to quit him in the midst of our prayers, as if we were conversing with an inferior, and to make vain excursions on every side.”

Another thing which should teach us the sinfulness of distraction is, they bear the stamp of hypocrisy. It was the reproach of the ancient Church, “Ephraim compasseth me about with lies.”Is not this a true description of much of the worship of Christians? You would not like that any fellow Christian should know what was passing in your heart during your prayers; but is it not a small matter to be judged of man's judgment? “He that judgeth me is the Lord.”

Alas! when we look back on the distractions of our prayers (and the writer continually and deeply feels in his own prayers the prevalence of that evil which he has been describing,) have we not reason to fear that few ever really pray? are we not compelled to acknowledge, how seldom they that pray oftenest, do pray; and what short prayers the best make, many words, perhaps, and but very little prayer? These things should lead us more to value the doctrines of free justification through the blood of Christ; more deeply to prize, and more earnestly to ask for the aid of the Holy Spirit; more to depend on the Savior's intercession; and more to long to be in that blessed kingdom

* Ps. v. 9.

+ Ezek xxxiii. 31.

Hosea xi. 12, &c.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »