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immodestly to seek them there, where only they can be found, in God's presence and hand. The case doth bear, yea, doth require that we should be cager and hot, resolute and stiff, free and bold, yea, in a manner peremptory and impudent solicitors with God for them. So our Saviour intimateth, where, comparing the manner of God's proceeding with that of men, he representeth one friend yielding needful succour to another, not barely on the score of friendship, but deà riv åvaidetav, · for his impudence;' that is, for his confident and continued urgency, admitting no refusal or excuse. So doth God, in such cases, allow and oblige us to deal with him, being instant and pertinacious in our requests, 'giving him no rest,' (as the phrase is in the prophet;) not enduring to be put off, or brooking any repulse ; never being discouraged, or cast into despair, by any delay or semblance of neglect. We may « wrestle with God, like Jacob, and with Jacob may say, 'I will not let thee go except thou bless me.' Thus God suffereth himself to be prevailed on, and is willingly overcome : thus Omnipotence may be mastered, and a happy victory may be gained over Invincibility itself. Heaven sometime may be forced by storm, or by the assaults of extremely fervent prayer;) it assuredly will yield to a long siege. God will not ever hold out against the attempts of an obstinate suppliant.
So the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.' We read in St. John's gospel of a man, that, being thirty-eight years diseased, did wait at the pool of Bethesda seeking relief: him our Lord pitied and helped, crowning his patience with miraculous relief, and proposing it for an example to us of perseverance.
It is said of the patriarch Isaac, that he intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebecca his wife conceived. Whereon St. Chrysostom doth observe that he had persevered twenty years in that petition.
Of good success to this practice we have many assurances in holy Scripture. • The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.' • Blessed are all they that wait for him.' None that wait on him shall be ashamed.' They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall
mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.' So hath God assured by his word, and engaged himself by promise, that he will yield unto constant and patient devotion ; so that it shall never want good success.
Without this practice we cannot indeed hope to obtain those precious things ; they will not come at an easy rate, or be given for a song; a lazy wish or two cannot fetch them down from heaven. God will not bestow them at first asking, or deal them out in one lump; but it is on assiduous soliciting, and by gradual communication, that he dispenseth them. So his wise good will, for many special reasons, disposeth him to proceed: that we may (as it becometh and behoveth us) abide under a continual sense of our natural impotency and penury; of our dependence on God, and obligation to him for the free collation of those best gifts; that by some difficulty of procuring them we may be minded of their worth, and induced the more to prize them ; that by earnestly seeking them we may improve our spiritual appetites, and excite holy affections ; that by much conversing with heaven our minds may be raised above earthly things, and our hearts purified from sordid desires ; that we may have a constant employment answerable to the best capacities of our souls, worthy our care and pain, yielding most solid profit and pure delight unto us; that in fine, by our greater endeavor in religious practice, we may obtain a more ample reward thereof.
For the same reason indeed that we pray at all, we should pray thus with continued instance. We do not pray to instruct or advise God; not to tell him news, or inform him of our wants : (' be knows them,' as our Saviour telleth us, « before we ask ;') nor do we pray by dint of argument to persuade God, and bring him to our bent; nor that by fair speech we may cajole him or move his affections toward us by pathetical orations : not for any such purpose are we obliged to pray. But for that it becometh and behoveth us so to do, because it is a proper instrument of bettering, ennobling, and perfecting our souls; because it breedeth most holy affections, and pure satisfactions, and worthy resolutions; because it fitteth us for the enjoyment of happiness, and leadeth us thither; for such ends
devotion is prescribed ; and constant perseverance therein being needful to those purposes, (praying by fits and starts not sufficing to accomplish them,) therefore such perseverance is required of us. Farther,
V. “Praying incessantly' may import that we do with all our occupations and all occurrences interlace devout ejaculations of prayer and praise ; lifting up our hearts to God, and breathing forth expressions of devotion, suitable to the objects and occasions which present themselves. This, as it nearly doth approach to the punctual accomplishment of what our text prescribeth, so it seemeth required by St. Paul, when he biddeth us 'pray always' ěv a veúuare'in spirit,' and to sing év Tŋ kapdią, ' in the heart;' that is, with very frequent elevations of spirit in holy thoughts and desires toward heaven; with opportune resentments of heart, directing thanks and praise to God. We cannot ever be framing or venting long prayers with our lips, but almost ever our mind can throw pious glances, our heart may dart good wishes upwards ; so that hardly any moment (any considerable space of time) shall pass without some lightsome flashes of devotion.* As bodily respiration, without intermission or impediment, doth concur with all our actions, so may that breathing of soul, which preserveth our spiritual life, and ventilateth that holy flame within us, well conspire with all other occupations.t For devotion is of a nature so spiritual, so subtile, and penetrant, that no matter can exclude or obstruct it. Our minds are so exceedingly nimble and active, that no business can hold pace with them, or exhaust their attention and activity. We can never be so fully possessed by any employment, but that divers vacuities of time do intercur, wherein our thoughts and affections will be diverted to other matters. As a covetous man, whatever beside he is doing, will be carking about his bags and trea
* Sed non satis perspiciunt quantum vatura humani ingenii valeat, quæ ita est agilis et velox, sic in omnem partem (ut ita dixerim) spectat, ut ne possit quidem aliquid agere tantum unum; in plura vero non eodem dic modo, sed eodem temporis momento, vim suam impendat.--Quint. i. 12.
+ Μνημονευτέον γάρ Θεού μάλλον και αναπνευστέον και εί οίόν τε τούτο είπείν, unod mo To TOÛTO #partéov. Naz. Or, 33,
sures; an ambitious man will be devising on his plots and projects; a voluptuous man will have his mind in his dishes; a lascivious man will be doting on his amours; a studious man will be musing on his notions; every man, according to his particular inclination, will lard his business and besprinkle all his actions with cares and wishes tending to the enjoyment of what he most esteemeth and affecteth : so may a good Christian, through all his undertakings, wind in devout reflexions and pious motions of soul toward the chief object of his mind and affection. Most businesses have wide gaps, all have some chinks, at which devotion may slip in. Be we never so urgently set or closely intent on any work, (be we feeding, be we travelling, be we trading, be we studying,) nothing yet can forbid but that we may together wedge in a thought concerning God's goodness, and bolt forth a word of praise for it; but that we may reflect on our sins, and spend a penitential sigh on them; but that we may descry our need of God's help, and dispatch a brief petition for it: a‘God be praised, a • Lord have mercy,' a God bless,' or 'Gold help me, will nowise interrupt or disturb our proceedings." As worldly cares and desires do often intrude and creep into our devotions, distracting and defiling them ; so may spiritual thoughts and holy affections insinuate themselves into, and hallow our secular transactions. This practice is very possible, and it is no less expedient; for that if our employments be not thus seasoned, they can have no true life or savor in them; they will in themselves be dead and putrid, they will be foul and noisome, or at least flat and insipid unto us.
There are some other good meanings of this precept, according to which holy Scripture (backed with good reason) obligeth us to observe it : but those, (together with the general inducements to the practice of this duty,) that I may not farther now trespass on your patience, I shall reserve another opportunity.
* Είπε κατά διάνοιαν, Ελέησόν με, ο Θεός, και απήρτισταί σου ή ευχή.---Chrys. Orat. v. in Annam, v. p. 78, 79.
SUMMARY OF SERMON VII.
1 THESSALONIANS, CHAP. V.-VERSE 17.
What the prayer here enjoined by St. Paul imports, and how, according to different senses, we may perform this duty incessantly, has been declared in the preceding discourse : two or three more are now added and pressed on our observation.
VI. Praying incessantly may imply that we appoint certain times conveniently distant for the practice of devotion, and carefully observe them : as the Jews had a sacrifice called Tamidh, which being constantly offered at set times, was thence denominated the continual sacrifice; so may we, by punctually observing fit returns of devotion, be said to pray incessantly. Reasons given why we should do this. In determining these seasons according to just proportions, honest prudence must arbitrate. It is shown how that nature herself seems to prescribe and define certain seasons and periods of this kind. These times it is necessary or expedient that persons of the highest rank and greatest employment should observe. God himself appointed such in his law, or by his prophets; besides which, there were other middle times farther observed by devout people who had leisure and disposition of mind thereto : references to such in the holy Scripture. And if the Jews were so liberal in appointing times for yielding praise and offering supplications to God, how much more ready and diligent should we be, who have a religion far more spiritual and exempt from corporeal incumbrances? But,