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a Pattern of this Practice with Success, P/al. cxlii. 2. In the Day of my 'Trouble, saith he, / foight the Lord, I poured out my Complaint before him, I shewed before him my Trouble. Pfal. cxviii. 5. / called unto the Lord in my Distress; the Lord atfwered me, and set me in a large Place. So when any strong Temptation assaults us, our best Course is, to flee unto God for Shelter; after the Example of St. Paul, 2 Cor. xii. 7. When there was given to him a Thorn in the Flesh, a Messenger of Satan to buffet him, then he besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from him; and had a gracious Answer, My Grace is sufficient for thee.
And besides these, and such like external Providences, there are many internal favourable Dispositions, which call upon us to the same Exercise of Prayer. Sometimes we have a great Awakening in our Consciences, a great Overflowing of godly Sorrow, Stings of Remorse from some seasonable Admonition, earnest Desires to draw near to God in Prayer, a great Delight in God: whenever we perceive ourselves to be in any such good Temper of Mind, or melting Frame and Disposition of Heart, let us then strike while the Iron is hot; when these savourable Gales blow, then let us hoist our Sails, and make the best of our Voyage to Heaven.
(4.) The Words Ask, Seek, and Knock, import a great Assiduity in Devotion. That we mould frequent it very often, both in publick and private; that besides the more solemn Times of it, we should accustom ourselves to many occasional Addresses, and likewise to pious Ejaculations, culations, and habitual mental Prayer; that these holy Breathings, and setting of God before our Eyes, and imploring his Aid and Assistance, fliould become as natural as bodily Respiration; the one being as necessary for the Preservatioa of the spisitual, as the other is for the Preservation of the natural Life; that Devotion should be intermixed to sanctify and sweeten all the Cares, and Troubles, and Business, and even Recreations of Life; that Prayer should be the Key to open up the Day, and to lock up the Night, and both to begin and end all our Business; that our Love, and Fear of God, our Faith, Hope, and Trust in him, should be continually expressing itself in Confessions, Supplications, Prayers, and Praises; and that our Love to our Neighbour too mould continually be venting itself in Intercessions and Thanksgivings for him, this being the most universal Way whereby we can be beneficial to all Men in short, that, as the Apostle says, 1 Thejs. v. 17, 18, We mould pray without ceasing, and in every Thing give Thanks.
(5.) I shall name but one Sense more, in which, I understand this Asking, Seeking, and Knocking; and that is, that we use our utmost Effort and Endeavours to make our Prayers effectual, that is, to obtain what we pray for. This '.includes a great many holy Exercises, which I have not now Time to insist upon; such as the putting and keeping of ourselves always in a good Frame and Temper for Devotion, the preserving our Minds disentangled from inordinate Cares; no% distracted with too much Company and Busiflclsj not polluted with lustful Imaginations; c not not discomposed with Anger; not obstructing the Effect of our Prayers with Malice and Envy; not dissolving our serious Temper with Gluttony and Drunkenness; not regarding Iniquity in our Heart; not praying for one Thing in our Devotions, and going quite contrary in our Life and Practice; but contriving that fervent Prayers and vigorous Endeavours may go hand in hand together; and then we may promise ourselves, that the Encouragements here interspersed and annexed shall be made good; that if we ask Grace, we shall receive it; if we seek it, we shall find it; and if we. keep knocking, the Door of Grace shall be opened unto us.
This is the next Thing I should have gone upon; and it will be a proper Subject for our next Meditation. I shall detain you no longer at present. Let all them who are desirous to learn Christian Duties to Perfection, learn not to depend on their own Strength and Endeavours; but call in the Assistance of God's Grace by incessant fervent Prayer, in the Name and through the Mediation of Jesus Christ, this being the great Secret, whereby our Hearts are sanctified, our Lives amended, and our Souls finally saved. Blessings of inestimable Value; which God of his infinite Mercy bestow upon us all, for Jesus Christ's.Sfke. To him, SV.
Mat. VII. 7.
Ask, and it Jhall be given you: seek, and ye jhallfind: knock, and it Jhall be opened unto you.
V. 8. For every one that ajketh, receheth: and he that Jeeketh, findeth: and to him that knock* eth> it Jhall be opened.
The Second Sermon on this Text.'
HAVING entred on these Words at the last Occasion, I told you they contained' the first concluding Caution which our Saviour gave against such Things as might obstruct the good Effects of this Sermon on the Mount, upon the Lives of his Hearers. For having given so many Precepts of great Perfection and Difficulty, that his Disciples might not be discouraged, as being unable of themselves to discharge so difficult a Task, he puts them in a Way how they might obtain of God Grace sufficient to perform what he required of them ;> namely, by fervent and importunate Prayer, accompanied with vigorous Endeavours after Grace to keep his Commandments.
In In the Words I observed these two Things:
1. The Duty of fervent Prayer, accompanied with vigorous Endeavours after Grace, Ask, Seek, and Knock.
2. Several Encouragements to this Duty, taken from the Promises and Nature of God.
Now having spoke to the first of these, The Duty of Prayer, at the last Opportunity; I proceed now to the second; namely, The Encouragements taken from the Promises and Nature of God. I begin with the Promises, or rather Promise here repeated and interspersed, Ask, and itjhall he given you ; seek, and ye fialljind: knock, and it shall be opened unto you: And that we might not think this Promise was something extraordinary, and that the Return of Prayer was like other miraculous Gifts in those Times, our Saviour adds an Assertion, by which we are taught, that the Promise is extended to all who perform the Duty. For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he thatseeketh,Jindeth: and to him that knockethy it shall be opened. It is a very full Promise of Grace in Return of our fervent and importunate Prayers.
But because Experience doth not so fully and readily answer what seems to be here promised, for we often alk without receiving; and seek without finding ; and knock when it is not opened unto us; therefore there is a great Difficulty to be cleared in the first Place, concerning the Meaning of this Promise ; for certainly the Worda jjxe not to be understood in the fame Latitude