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what he prays for. For he would be more sure of God's love, and disposition to do the very best for him, than of his own love for himself. Suppose, then, he prays for any worldly comfortfor his own health, or life, or for the health or life of a dear friend. It will all the while be strong upon his mind, that God only is able to judge whether this, if granted, would prove such a blessing and comfort as one naturally imagines. Therefore, how earnestly soever a thoroughly Christian devout soul may feel and utter any particular wish, it will always be tempered with this conviction, deeply rooted in his heart, that, however God may appear to deny him, He will in fact grant the blessing he asks for: and if not in the very form and manner in which he asks for it, yet still the same blessing will come somehow, he is quite sure, in a way which God knows to be better.
Our Saviour's words then, of which we are speaking, may perhaps not improperly be thought to mean as if He had said, All things, whatsoever ye desire when ye pray, ye desire, supposing them to be really best for you. Now then make up your minds to this, that God loves you so well, as never to deny you what is really best for you, except by your own fault. Make up your minds to this in earnest, and you will be as sure, when you kneel down, to have the meaning of your prayers granted, as a good child is, when asking a favour of a wise and kind parent. Nay, you will be as much more certain of it, as God is wiser and more kind than the wisest or kindest parent."
Such seems to be the meaning of our Saviour's promise, in regard of all our prayers generally: and St. James's words are the same promise in regard particularly of spiritual wisdom. Of that, as of all other blessings, it is quite certain, by God's word, that whoever comes to ask for it with a heart thoroughly resigned and contented, that is, in other words, with a faithful heart; that man shall receive what he asks.
And here, as it seems to me, is a sufficient answer to those persons who allow themselves to be perplexed by the many disputes among Christians. How, say they, can we know which is right, since there are so many good sort of people on one side and on the other : people who no doubt pray for wisdom, and yet they cannot come to an agreement. Certainly it is sad that so it should be: but no one need be perplexed by it, who considers how rare a thing it is to find a man thoroughly contented, and willing to resign himself to God in good earnest. And till a person is such, he cannot claim the promise of spiritual wisdom; and it is no wonder if he go wrong, though he do pray often, and be in many things devout and conscientious. The like may be said of another sorrowful truth, namely, that so many persons are found holding right opinions and using good prayers, yet improving very little, if not going back, in real spiritual wisdom ; that wisdom which teaches men practically to prefer heaven to earth. Their opinions may be right, and their prayers good, but their purposes and thoughts of heart may be very unstable and unsound. They ask, perhaps, every morning, that they may do always what is righteous in God's sight, and every evening, that their hearts may be set to obey His commandments : but, it
may be, all the while, they have no serious intention of the kind. What wonder, if when the temptation comes they fall away almost of course, just as if they never prayed at all ?
But, it will be said, who has this intention? who is so perfect as to pray in that faith, which is quite certain to make prayer heard ? And the answer must be, as in the matter of purity, of charity, and of all Christian graces. No one is perfect in any one of them : but in such measure as you come nearer perfection, so much the more nearly are the promises of Christ fulfilled in you. Therefore, to cure the imperfection of your prayers, and learn how to ask for wisdom in faith, is not a thing to be done at once. Try, the very next time you pray.
Think of the sin, whatever it be, which most easily prevails against you : and you will find how hard it is really to mean what you say, when you beg of God's Holy Spirit to guard you against that sin. Tempers and desires, long indulged, are like roots that wind deep in the ground; they will make themselves felt at your very heart, and will render it very difficult indeed to make good resolutions in earnest. Perhaps your good purposes will be the fainter, from remembering that you have often before resolved in like manner to turn from the error of your ways, and all your good meanings have vanished away, when temptation returned upon you. Or you may have gone some way in repentance, yet not feel yourself so easy in mind, so thoroughly possessed of the comforts of a good conscience, as you had expected beforehand. All these scruples, and many more, occur continually to hinder Christians from holy resolutions, when they pray. But what then it is for our life: we must have holy resolutions when we pray, or we shall never pray as we ought to do; we shall never obtain that heavenly wisdom, which only can bring us to life everlasting. Although, then, you fall after your prayers,- although your resolutions, too often, prove utterly weak and unstable, yet go on and resolve anew : watch yourself the more earnestly: remember the powerful aid promised, and the infinite loss, if you fail at last.
“For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?
“Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?”
WAITING FOR THE LORD.
JSAIAH xxv. 9.
“ And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."
This chapter contains a prophetic description of the feelings of the people of Israel, when they should be delivered from the captivity of Babylon. It is their hymn of thanksgiving, put into their mouths so many years beforehand by the great and holy Prophet. And therefore we may be sure, that whatever emotions of love, gratitude, and devotion, are expressed in it, they are the very feelings which God approves of, which He would bave in the hearts of His people; nay the very feelings which He puts into their hearts by His Holy SPIRIT, upon any signal mercy or deliverance.
Now, what is the peculiar feeling expressed in the verse from which the text is taken ?
“ It shall be said in that day, Lo, this is the LORD; we have waited for Him, and He saveth us : this is the LORD; we have waited for Him, we are glad and rejoice in His salvation.” “ We have waited for Him :" that is, we tried to endure our affliction with patience, confidently hoping that a time would come, in which He would deliver us from it. We tried to be content and let Him choose for us, because we were quite sure that He knew
what was for our good much better than we did ourselves. We did not hurry on towards deliverance, without care or consideration, regarding nothing but the evil of the present moment. pressing and silencing our natural fretfulness, we waited till GOD should see fit to deliver us: and now we have so much the more comfort in our deliverance ; because, however weakly and imperfectly, we did endeavour to be quiet, and resigned, and thankful in the very midst of our adversity.
The text, thus understood, contains an earnest recommendation from Almighty God to us all, that we should patiently wait for His mercy in all our trials and troubles, great or small. It may do us much good if we turn our thoughts seriously towards this His gracious invitation : considering, First, What great reason we have to close with it without delay. Secondly, What peculiar danger we are in of deceiving ourselves, and going wrong in this respect; and how we may best guard against that danger.
First, To be patient and resigned in any sorrow or affliction, and let God choose for us, is the only way to make sure of relief and deliverance at last. For this is the great subject of God's instruction and consolation to His afflicted servants in every page of His Holy Word. Wait on the LORD—be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thy heart-wait on the LORD.” “I waited patiently for the LORD, and He inclined unto me, and heard my calling.” My soul waiteth for the LORD, more than they who watch for the morning.” So the holy Psalmist, in a few places out of many; and the Prophet Isaiah teaches the same lesson. For thus he expresses the temper of a faithful Israelite, when the cloud is over him, and the light of God's presence hid for a time: · I will wait upon the Lord, which hideth His face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for Him." And he has left for our consolation this full and gracious promise, summing up the whole matter in a very few words : “ The LORD waits, that HE may be gracious unto you: for the Lord is a God of Judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him."
Turn now to the New Testament, and you find this very temper of quiet resignation, under the name of faith, recommended every where as the one thing needful to entitle us to a share in God's merciful promise of pardon and salvation through Jesus Christ. We may take the whole doctrine from the sacred