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would himself prefer before that vering persuasion, that in every which he so earnestly and exclu- given case a miracle would be sively seeks. The truth is, we wrought, he adds as follows, never pray aright, in regard to
“But it may be asked, how it could be any specifick thing that God has known that it was the pleasure and purnot absolutely promised to bestow pose of God that a miracle should be in answer to prayer, unless we do wrought in any given case? Whether it with a portion of the temper be remembered that this fact of the divine
this question can be answered or not, let it and spirit of our blessed Lord, purpose must have been known, or no when thrice he prayed in agony, sure ground for the certainty of the event that if it were possible the cup of could have existed. Our reply, however, anguish might pass from him, and is, that the purpose of God in the case yet as often added, “nevertheless, might have been known by the immediate
suggestions of the Holy Spirit. Nor is not as I will, but as thou will—not there any inherent improbability in the my will but thine be done.” Here supposition that those who wrought miis our example, in all cases of pray- racles by the power of the Holy Ghost
should receive intimnations from him when er for specifick blessings in re
and where these mighty works were to be gard to which God has made no performed. Did he preside over their absolute promise; and thus asking, thoughts, and over their words, whenever our prayers will certainly return they opened their lips on the subject of with abundant blessings into our
their heavenly message, and can it be own bosoms, whether the particu- point out to them the fit occasions for
unreasonable or incredible that he should lar thing asked for be granted or those works by which their message was not. This conclusion professor to be confirmed? Without some superRichards has fairly reasoned out, natural intimation of this kind, it does not scripturally reasoned out-in this
seem possible that any firm persuasion of
the miraculous event could exist. For excellent lecture. He has proved can men believe without evidence ? or beyond reasonable controversy, could evidence be derived from any other that such is the teaching of the quarter, as to the future occurrence of a infallible oracles of God, in regard have supposed, from that ever-present
miracle? But allow the intimation we to this important subject.
Spirit who was given to the primitive disHe proceeds immediately after ciples, in his miraculous teaching and the quotation we have given, to guidance, and all difficulty vanishes. show what the faith of miracles What would otherwise appear a weakness
or absurdity, becomes a plain and obvious was, and occupies nearly three duty. And thus the faith of miracles will pages of this closely printed pam- have something to rest upon, as it is nophlet in showing what was its thing else but giving credit to the divine nature, and in exhibiting examples testimony:, It involves the belief that a of it from the Holy Scriptures. how strangesoever the miracle may be,
miracle will be performed in a given case, As to its nature, he says, “What agreeably to the suggestions of that Dihas been denominated the faith of vine Spirit by whose agency it is to be miracles, because peculiar to those accomplished.” who wrought miracles, and neces- After thus disposing of the insary to such extraordinary dis- quiry in regard to the faith of plays of the divine power, seems miracles, the author saysto have been, not only a firm per- “ But there is another kind of faith emsuasion of the divine power, by ployed in prayer, common to Christians of which all things possible are alike all ages—a faith which takes hold of the di
vine attributes and the divine promises, easy to God, but that the contem
without any miraculous intimation concernplated miracle, in any given case, ing the result-a faith which rests distinctwould certainly be performed.” ly and primarily upon God's word, making
After proving clearly, from the that the rule and limit of its expectations. sacred volume, that it was essen
Whatever is declared in the sacred votial in the faith of miracles, that lume, it stands ready to receive, and to
employ as an argument in prayer. Bethere should be a firm and unwa- yond this it never goes. At the same time, it may be remarked that this faith referred to in holy writ. In closing is the fruit and effect of divine teaching. what he says on indefinite promises, It is wrought in the soul by that Almigh: professor R. approaches and inty Agent who enlightens the understanding and sanctifies the heart; and it com- troduces his main point in the folprehends in it such a vivid belief of what lowing mannerGod is, and of what he is ready to do for those who truly seek him as no unrenew- “ When Christ says in his sermon on ed man ever possessed. Nor is this all the mount, (Matt. viii. 7, 8.) · Ask, and it it implies a cordial approbation of the di- shall be given you ; seek, and ye shall vine character and will. For, as we have find; knock, and it shall be opened unto already heard, it is a faith which works by you: for every one that asketh receireth; love.
and he that seeketh findeth ; and to him How this faith is put forth in the duty that knocketh it shall be opened'—it can of prayer, may require some elucidation. hardly be made a question that this lanI cannot better express my own views, guage authorizes every man, and espethan by saying that faith in this case is cially every true Christian, to ask what directed chiefly to two things—the attri. he will for himself or for others, pertainbutes of God, and the promises which God ing to this life or the next, and to ask has made in and through liis dear Son. with the hope that he shall receive, pro
1. Faith in the first place is directed to vided the object be lawful, and that he ask the attributes of God, and has much to do for it in a right manner. And to give the with these in the article of prayer. This greater encouragement to praye:, Christ is clearly implied in the declaration of the adds, “What man is there of you, who, if apostle, “ He that cometh to God must his son ask bread, will he give him a believe that He is, and that he is the re- stone ? Or if he ask a fish, will be give warder of them that diligently seek him," him a serpent? If ye, then, being evil, as if there could be no acceptable worship know how to give good gifts unto your without such belief.”
children, how much more shall your Fa.
ther which is in heaven, give good things The author here goes on to show
to them that ask him?" Here, then, is a that the faith of which he speaks promise, that if we ask, we shall receive;
if we seek, we shall find, if we knock, it is “in most of the prayers record- shall be opened unto us; and it restricts us ed in the Bible, seen to fix upon to no particular kind of blessings—but its some one or more of the divine language is broad enough to cover all our attributes—and that often, if not wants, and all our desires, which at any
time we may have occasion to present to always, it takes hold of the divine
the throne of divine mercy. power.” After a very satisfactory A serious question now arises : how are illustration of this particular, he we to interpret this promise, and other proceeds to show
kindred promises, alike comprehensive in “ 2. How faith regards the pro- opinions which are entertained upon this
their character? I know of but two mises of God, all of which are subject. One is that which I have already made in and through his dear suggested, that promises of this kind are to Son. Shall I say, it regards them
be regarded as indefinite, so far, at least, as they are, or according to their
as they stand related to the things where
the will or purpose of God is not known: true intent and design. In other holding true in a sufficient number of words, that it makes them speak a cases to encourago hope and excite to language which the Holy Spirit prayer—but in no degree pledging the di. intended they should speak, with. vine veracity that whatsoever we ask
with the faith common to true believers, out narrowing them on the one
or if you please, in a right and acceptable hand, or giving them an improper manner, we shall certainly receive. The latitude on the other. These pro- other opinion is, that God has bound himmises are different in their cha- self in these promises to give to his chil. racter, and faith knows how to dis- dren whatsoever things they ask believing,
making no exceptionsbut construing the tinguish them.” It is then shown promises as being strictly and universally that the promises are either abso- true, applying to every case where the lute or conditional, definite or inde- blessing is sought in the manner required. finite; and the nature of cach of Thus, if a man were to ask for his daily these classes of promises is ex
bread, and to ask it with that faith which
he is bound to exercise, the truth of God plained, and examples of each are stands pledged in the promise to grant it;
general or if he ask for any other favour, temporal sovereign pleasure as well as his percepor spiritual, for himself or for others, he tive will-what he wisely purposes as to may ask with an unwavering assurance the event, no less than what he commands that he shall receive, and receive the very as a matter of duty, (and we can see no thing he asks. Which of these opinions reason why an interpretation thus comis true? To aid in determining this ques- prehensive should not be given,) then it is tion, let me solicit your attention to the obvious that we do not ask according to following remarks:”
his will, in the full meaning of the apostle,
unless three things can be affirmed of our We regret that our space for- petitions ; first, that they are authorized, bids us to give more than the state- embracing proper subjects of prayer; sement of the several particulars,
condly, that they are offered in the spirit and a few detached remarks, under
which God requires; and thirdly, that
they coincide with his purpose or his one or two of them.
sovereign pleasure, being such requests
as in his wisdom he will deem it proper to "1. First, it is more desirable in itself,
grant. When all these circumstances conand a far greater privilege to the believer,
cur, no doubt can be entertained that God to have the promise understood with the
will hear our prayers, and answer us in limitation we have suggested, than to sup.
the very thing we ask. But this is adoptpose that God is pledged to give the very
ing the principle advocated in the precedthing which is asked, be it wise or unwise, for his own glory on the contrary.
ing remarks, that God is no farther bound
by his general promise to hear the prayers "12. Besides: who that is any measure
of his people, ihan to give such things as
in his wisdom he shall judge most suitable sensible of his own weakness and fallibi.
in the case.” lity, but must be compelled to acknowledge that, in a thousand cases, when he prays, be knows not what, all things con
The professor here continues to sidered, would be for the best. His de
illustrate his “ adopted principle," sires may be ardent, and directed to an at considerable length, and with object lawful in itself, and apparently of an overwhelming force of scripgreat moment, when yet he cannot tell
tural evidence. But we have alwhether, in the whole view of the case, it would be better for God to give or with.
ready trespassed on the bounds hold. * * * * *
we had allotted to ourselves, as “3. But farther: it has commonly been preliminary to the result of the supposed that our prayers, for many things whole, and the inferences deduced at least, should be offered with submission. from it, which we have promised But it is difficult to conceive of any case where this ought to be done, if we inter- to give at large. We hope our pret the general promises made to prayer readers will give this quotation, without any restriction. * ****
long as it is, a very attentive " But if all the promises made to prayer are to be understood without any limita
perusal, for it is highly instruction or restriction, pledging God in every tive, and cannot, we think, fail to case to give the very thing which is asked, prove edifying, if it be duly conhow could it ever be our duty to ask with sidered. submission? Our requests, it would seem, ought to be as unqualified and as absolute “ From this extended view of the subject, as the promise; and the only point to be what other conclusion can be drawn, than aimed at would be firmly to believe that that the promises made to prayer must be our requests would be granted. * * * * * understood with limitation in all cases
6 4. Again: it is not unimportant to re- wbere the will of God is not known. mark that the apostle John appears to
If the question then return, how does have interpreted the promises made to faith regard the promises of God? our anprayer with the same limitations which swer must be as before-it regards them we have done; in all cases, I mean, where as they are, and embraces them according the will or purpose of God is not known to their true intent and design. Absolute (1 John v. 14, 15.) "This,' says he, 'is promises it regards as absolute, condition. ihe confidence which we have in him, al as conditional; those which are definite that if we ask any thing according to his as holding true in every case, subject to no will he heareth us. That is, as I under restriction or limitation; and those which stand the passage, he lends a gracious are general or indefinite it regards as inde. to Christians in general; others as belong: built? It cannot be drawn from the proing to Christians of all ages, and designed mise, as we have seen, for that pledges to awaken hope and encourage prayer. nothing until this faith is in being; nor
and grants our requests: if we ask finite, and interprets them accordingly.any thing according to his will. But Some of the promises it considers as spe. when can this be said of us? If the will cifically made to the apostles, and others of God here be understood to mean his in the primitive church, and not applicable
But it may be asked how can these pro- . from any other source, conceivable by us, mises encourage prayer unless we believe short of an immediate and special revelathem? And if we believe them, do they tion. That such a revelation is possible not insure to us the very things we ask? will readily be admitted, but it will be Is it not said, “All things whatsoever ye long, we mistake not, before, in the ask, believing, ye shall receive?" and judgment of the Christian world, it will again, “Whatsoever things ye desire, be regarded as in any degree probable. when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, It is again inquired, however, if Chrisand ye shall have them?" True : but these tians do not draw near to God in the full promises were made to the immediate dis. assurance of faith, and if they are not reciples of Christ, who had the power of quired to ask in faith, nothing wavering? working miracles, and from the connexion Certainly; this is their privilege, and this it appears, ought to be limited to them and is their duty. But what is their faith as. to others gifted with the same power. sured of? Not that they shall receive every Whenever they exercised the faith neces- thing they ask, whether it be best for them sary to a miracle, the divine veracity stood or otherwise; but that God is a being of pledged that the miracle should be per- infinite perfection, ready to do for his peoformed. But as these promises were made ple more than they can ask or even think, to a peculiar kind of faith, it is evident and who will do all that they desire, unless that they cannot be applicable to Chris- his eternal wisdom shall decide to the contians at large, by whom no such faith is trary. This is what their faith is assured exercised. But farther : suppose that these of, when it is grounded upon the sacred promises had respect to all true Christians oracles. And is not this enough? Does not equally, it is plain that they secure nothing this place their hopes and expectations on until the events prayed for are believed. the best possible foundation? Besides, let “ Believe that ye receive them and ye shall us suppose that when they pray they refer have them," is the promise. It is not enough their petitions to the sovereign pleasure of of course to believe that God is able to God, as they ought most surely to do in grant our petitions, we must believe that all cases, where that pleasure is not known; he will, or the condition of the promise is what is the import of such reference? Is nol complied with, and God is not bound. it not that God should grant or not grant, But how shall we come to this belief? We as it may seem good in his sight? Let the cannot come to it through the medium of event then be as it may, their prayers are the promise, because the promise pledges virtually answered, though they receive nothing, and secures nothing, until we not the very things they desired. They actually believe. It affords no evidence receive what is best for them; and so far that God will grant our requests, until we as they were sincere in submitting the mathave first believed that he will grant them, ter to the will of God, they have what they and then the evidence comes too late to ultimately chose. be the ground of our faith, because we Should the question then return, with have believed already. We cannot apply which this lecture commenced, “What is the promise until we have fulfilled the con- it lo pray in faith, and how far has God dition of the promise; but in fulfilling this bound himself to hear such prayer?” the condition we have exercised the faith re- answer will be obvious. If the faith conquired, which is a fact prior to the appli- cerned be the faith of miracles, then it is cation of the promise and not subsequent to pray believing that the very thing which to it; and consequently does not depend is asked will be granted; but if reference upon this application. It must be obvious, be had to the faith common to all true we think, to all, that faith in this case Christians, then it is to pray firmly believcannot depend on the promise, whatever ing in the being and attributes of God, in else it depends on; but the promise, as to the truth of his gracious promises, and in its obligatory force, depends on faith- the general fact that he is ready to hear which must always be presupposed before prayer, and to grant to his people whatsothe promise can be applied. To suppose, ever they ask according to his will, withas some have done, that faith is founded holding nothing which he perceives best on the promise, is to suppose that the ef- for them, and most for his glory. In all fect exists anterior to the cause, or that the this, however, it is to be understood that effect has no cause; for until faith exists, we ask in Christ's name, and expect a grathe promise avails nothing, as to the cer- cious hearing on his account solely, as the lainiy or probability of the desired event, great Mediator of the new covenant, and cannot be the ground of faith, unless through whom all the blessings of that it be to believe that God will hear us, if covenant are bestowed. we first believe that he will hear us. From We conclude this long discussion with what quarter then must the evidence be two remarks. derived on which this prior faith is to be And first: if we have taken a right view
of this subject, it is easy to perceive that But I hear it said, would God breathe they must labour under a mistake who into my heart such desires, so sincere, so imagine that their prayers shall infallibly ardent, unless he intended to answer be answered in the very thing they ask, them? I may reply, it is not very proba. provided they ask in the manner which ble, but still there is no certainty. Had God has prescribed, or in a way acceptable not Paul very sincere and ardent desires to him. They ask, it may be, for the con- for the salvation of his brethren, his kinsversion of an individual, or for many indi- men according to the flesh ? and were not viduals; and if they ask with a certain de. these desires the fruit of the Spirit? These gree of fervour, connected with confidence desires, however, though often expressed in God as the hearer of prayer, they sup- in prayer, were not granted. And it may pose that he is bound by his proinise to be so with respect to many who offer fergrant their requests; and hence it has been vent prayers now. Besides, where has common for such persons not only to in. God said that he will not move his people dulge the hope that their prayers will be to feel and pray as they ought to do, withliterally answered—a circumstance which out giving them the very things which we do not condemn—but to predict with they ask? Are they not bound to plead confidence that the thing prayed for will for every blessing, and especially for spiricertainly be given. They are sometimes tual blessings, with the utmost sincerity, heard to say that they have gotten a pro- and, where the blessing is supremely im. mise to this effect, because, as God has portant, with all the strength and fervour promised to hear prayer of a certain cha- of their souls ? Would they not thus racter, and believing that they themselves plead if they were perfectly sanctified? have offered such prayer, they conclude and would it not be a privilege to plead in that God is now pledged by his promise, this manner, though God should not al. and will verify it to them. Their mistake, ways grant the very thing which they dehowever, lies in this: God has made no sire? Who can say that God does not ofsuch promise as they suppose to prayers
ten impart this spirit of prayer chiefly for which his people offer to him in the exer- the purpose of bringing his children near cise of a true and living faith. They con. to him, and perfecting that holy fellowstrue the promise as if it were definite or ship which they have with the Father and universal; holding true in every case, and the Son? subject to no limitation or restriction: Far be it from us to dampen the faith whereas we believe, and have endeavour and hope of Christians by these remarks, ed to show, that the promise is indefinite or in any degree to diminish the proper in in all cases where the will or purpose of ducements to prayer. Would that they God is not known: of course, that the ve- might feel a thousand times more confi. racity of God is not pledged to grant the dence in the power, and wisdom, and very things we solicit; but that he gives grace, and covenant faithfulness of God or withholds according to his sovereign than they do; and that they took a far pleasure. But, to prevent all misconcep- deeper interest in the cause of truth and tion, let me explicitly state that there is the salvation of their fellow men! But the utmost encouragement to pray, and we desire to guard against a spirit of prethat the hopes of God's people may justly sumption, and to promote a correct mode rise high that he will hear and answer their of thinking and speaking on this deeply prayers, and often in the very things which momentous subject. they desire; that they have cause to hope 2. We remark, secondly, that as we have the more, the more their hearts are drawn no authority for predicting any particular out to him, the more they can see of his event simply on the ground of our prayers, glory, and lie at his feet, and exalt his as though God had bound himself to grant eternal majesty in their hearts; the more whatsoever we desire, so, on the other they can take hold of his strength, and hand, it is venturing too far to assert that apprehend the truth of his promises; tho we shall not have this or that mercy unmore they can see of Jesus, the great Me- less we pray for it. We must be careful diator, at the right hand of God, and the not to limit God where he has not limited stronger their reliance upon the fulness of himself. There are many favours which his righteousness, and the preciousness of he ordinarily gives in answer to prayer, his blood. Nay, they may have so much and some perhaps which he will not give hope, arising from these and other circum- unless duly solicited at his hands. But it stances, that God intends to hear their is wise in us not to invade his sovereignty, prayers in the very things which they ask, nor to set bounds to his goodness where he as to indulge in a prevailing expectation has set none. It is usual for God to conthat he will; but they have no certainty, nect the salvation of children with the nor can they arrive at it by any process fidelity of parents; and if a parent is unwhatever. God is not bound, nor can they faithful, and neither prays nor labours for certainly tell what he will do until the the conversion of his children, as he ought event shall declare it, unless you suppose to do, it might justly be said that he has a special revelation.
little or no reason to expect their converCh. Adv.--Vol. X.