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thee, shew me thy glory,"—if for ends like these, he has ordained, that only by solicitation shall his chiefest blessings and his choicest bounties be shed down upon us, overweening and presumptuous indeed is the confidence, which reckons his grace so prodigal and undiscriminating, as to be lavished upon unconscious wants, and unthanksul hearts.
Do we mean then-for such an issue some may anticipate from the drift of our argument—that to every petition we choose to prefer, we have a right to expect an apposite response? We have shown above, that definiteness of request is encouraged in Scripture, and we have intimated that, destitute of this attribute, the very nature of the exercise is altered, and that what the worshipper imagines prayer is only meditation. So long as we indulge in mere generalities, so long as, sensible of spiritual want, or bewildered in difficulty, or shaking under the discipline of sorrow, we refrain from distinct and direct deprecation of the particular evil besetting us, or entreaty for the very grace we need, so long as we limit ourselves to pious ejaculations, no matter how fervent, to protestations of submission to our Maker's will, to mere aspirations after meeker tempers, purer lives, and tranquil fortunes, and suppress within our hearts the holy instinct that struggles to burst upward in immediate appeal to the listening God, so long do we betray our disbelief in him as the answerer of prayer, indicate our persuasion that while as a mode of spiritual exercitation it is advantageous, as a means of obtaining what we desire it is useless, and demonstrate our entire want of that confidence in him as hearing us when we ask any thing according to his will, which is the distinctive spirit of prayer.
But although thus insisting that prayer is prayer, that to pray is really to ask for what we want, we do not think that we are warranted to hope for precisely such a response to our wishes as we may frame for ourselves. We remember in our young days, of hearing of a good old Presbyterian lady in Edinburgh, one of whose nightly petitions ran to the effect, that heaven would grant her an income of £400 a year, adding with
earnest specification, "payable quarterly, O Lord!” So carefully and circumstantially to prescribe to God the exact amount of the favor
we'solicit, we certainly would not advocate. Yet we have no quarrel with the nature of her request. We are justified in seeking temporal, no less than spiritual advantages, from him in whom we live, and move, and have our being, and from whom cometh down our every good, as well as our every perfect gift.
But while seeking them, like the patriarch, let us worship leaning on the staff of a faith that will support us, whether he grant or withhold. It is ours to plead, directly, specially; it is His to discern, and decide whether what we covet be really that which we require. St. John tells us that if we ask for any thing that is in accordance with his will, he hears, that is, he answers us. And very clearly, we think, we detect in such an exhortation, an implied encouragement to make an immediate appeal to him for every blessing in his treasure-store of goodness. “If we ask any thing," is evidently addressed to persons who are assumed to ask for many things. And yet our expectations are to be qualified by the reflection that only such as are agreeable to his will shall be accorded. Nor does this qualification, when rightly applied, tend to impair our confidence in him. Rather does it augment it; and while not at all interfering with the particularity of our requests, shutting out from the scope of our supplications no one object of reasonable desire, it calls upon us to cultivate a larger faith than that which consists in a persuasion that each separate quest will receive just such an answer as our conceptions have fashioned for us, and to cast ourselves with implicit reliance on his wisdom and kindness, to select and bestow just such benefactions as he sees to be advantageous for us. We cannot read the records of his will, and because we cannot, it is not for us to decide wþich of the many boons we seek would really be boons to us.
But just therefore-since even those of them set apart for us, will not be granted unless they be besought
- just because he reserves from us a knowledge of those, among the many objects of our desires, which would be truly profitable to us,-those things that are according to his will just therefore is it requisite, that in our flights heavenward, we sweep the whole circuit of our wants upon the unwearying wing of prayer, sustained the while by a strong and steadfast faith-a faith far bolder
than that which looks for a literal answer to each particular entreaty—that, our effort made, our reward will follow; that, adown the same holy path of communication by which we mounted to his presence, his holy spirit will pursue us, and pour into our hearts such treasures of pardon and peace as he has apportioned to us, and upon the path of our daily march, upon our social walks, and pur household hearths, just such blessings as are best for as; yea, and kindle afresh, fanning it with the breath of our every supplication, the flame that seeks the sky-flame of hope, tender and holy,—that glows upon the graves of our departed.
We pray, pressed by the hard necessities of poverty, for an improvement in our worldly circumstances, for a competence of material comfort ;-give us each day our daily bread, we cry;-or in bodily weakness, or disease, in the use of the means prescribed by human skill, we implore his vital help, without which human aids are naught, and yet the gripe of poverty is unrelaxed, and his saving health withheld.
Shall we shrink in despondent doubt to a prayerless distance from his throne, or shall we join the infidel, and flout against his ability, or his willingness, to single out our individual exigency from the multitude of his universal cares, and to send us the special relief we crave ? Must we then have the very petition we prefer, met and satisfied in the very way we propose, or decide God to be faithless, deaf, or impotent ? Shall we, purblind and perverse, prescribe to the Allseeing and considerate Father, what he shall bestow, and how he shall bestow it, and impute to reluctance, or defect, a refusal that surely springs from his care and love for ? How are we so confident that worldy affluence might not reduce us to spiritual beggary; that the robust health of the flesh might not be followed by a spiritual atrophy more lamentable by far than any bodily wretchedness? Be sure it is in guardianship of our truest interests, that he seems to deign no response to our demands. But does he render no reply? To a prayer, for what specific boon soever, if the prayer of a devout and reverential and earnest soul, from the first lone cry of Adam groping up the sky after his Maker, to the present hour, when thick as ars the air is clustered with the
ascending orisons of his creatures, he never yet has de nied an adequate, a far more than adequate rejoinder. The rejoinder we besought, it may not be; but the boon of all others the fittest and best for us, we may be sure it will be. Can we not trust him so far? Shall we forget, how, in Gethsemane, his Only Begotten prayed very earnestly, being in an agony such as crushed the perspiring blood through every pore, prayed that the cup of pain whose dregs were death, might be put past his lips ? And was this prayer heard? Yes, in the inmost depths of heaven, heard by every angel's ear, and echoed surely by every angel's tongue in his behalf; heard and felt in the Father's heart, and answered too in the helping angel despatched from the Father's side to support him; but not heard nor answered in literal accordance with the burden of its utterance; for it was not the will of God that the cup should be put aside, and he drank and died.
We need, surely, no higher example, to inspire us with the assurance that all our prayers, when the earnest utterances of our souls, if they do not bring us the very response we seek, will still secure such an acknowledgement of his heedfulness and love, as shall leave no pretext for discontent or repining. If, from inaptitude, and irrelevancy to our real wants, they fail to persuade hiin to yield us what we seek,—but what, if we knew what he knows, we would deprecate with apprehension and alarm—they have always the power to start angels from his side, burdened with blessings culled by his own hand from the fruitful Paradise of his grace, and dispensed and apportioned by his unerring wisdom, and considerate love, to the real necessities of our condition.
Our conclusion is, that putting aside the skeptical objections we have been discussing, as frivolous, and exercising such a confidence in God as cheerfully concedes to him the selection of the reply, we are warranted to pray for the satisfaction of every conscious need, and the possession of every coveted attainment; for food for the body, and nourishment for the soul; for release from the sin that galls us, for succor in the trial that overtasks us, and for solace in the sorrow that scourges us to his feet. For friends and kindred, for strangers and foes, for the common brother race with whom the universal Father shall yet save, and link us in eternal union" through the
redemption that is in Christ Jesus," let us prefer the importunate desire, and lift up the supplicating voice. He hears, and he will answer ; not merely by the natural influences of the exercise, in what we may call the mechanical effects of the effort, as the Rationalist would persuade us, but actually, and by the direct communication of his benefits to our own souls, and the souls of those whom we sanctify by our intercessions. Yes, and for the supply of particular needs, and the bestowment of particular graces, should we pray, our confidence the while overleaping all specialities, and casting us in trusting surrender at his feet, in patient waiting for such results as his large wisdom and thoughtful love shall allot us. Is he not both able and willing to do for us, far more abundantly than we can ask, or think?
A. G. L.
1. Ida May; A Story of Things Actual and Possible. By Mary Langdon, &c. Boston: Phillips, Sampson and Company, &c. 1854. 12mo. pp. 478.
A Story of Slavery. The heroine is the only surviving child of a widowed father, a gentleman of good fortune in Pennsylvania. At the age of five years, while walking abroad with her playmate, she is kidnapped, and hurried over the line. Having undergone the breaking-in, which is requisite in such cases, -having had her spirit crushed by the whip, her intellect and even her memory paralyzed, and being thus fitted for her doom, the child is taken to the South, and sold as a slave. She is first bought by a very good-natured master, who keeps his slaves fat and in a comfortable condition, and who sells them when he finds that they cannot be kept quiet, or when they grow old and unprofitable. He soon discovers that the stupefied, yet still interesting, girl is white, for the stain gets washed from her face ; he suspects the truth, that she is some gentleman's daughter kidnapped from her home; but he has paid the price of the slave, and he cannot think of losing his bargain-good man! Property is