תמונות בעמוד

ourselves; and prayer is efficacious so far, and no farther than it conduces to this change. This is the law of God's moral government, the constitution of our moral being. We can gain accessions of felicity only by making advances in knowledge, virtue and holiness. Without these, it is not in the power of omnipotence it self to render us happy. This, then, is the true object of prayer, to assist us in acquiring a growing resemblance to God, and cultivating a more intimate communion with him. 'And with this view of its design, we may be justified in saying, that true prayer, in regard to its highest results, is never unanswered. It implies the existence of holy affections and desires in the heart that offers it; and these affections and desires are cherished and strengthened and rendered habitual by its exercise. And in these the very felicity and glory of the soul consists. Humility, meekness and faith ; hope and confidence in God; increasing purity and spirituality ; enlargement and elevation of our intellectual natures—these are the blessed results of prayer; results that never fail to follow from its due perform

And what more valuable results could we desire, or imagine? What if the specific requests we prefer, are not granted? What if the blessings we solicit—or, what we in our ignorance and blindness conceived to be blessings—are not bestowed ? It is not necessary that they should be. They have been withheld both in wisdom and in goodness. If our petitions were offered in the true spirit of devotion, what we really desired, was increasing happiness; and the particular objects we solicit, were asked only because we conceived them to be conducive to this end. And He who knows us better than we know ourselves, and loves us better than we love ourselves, would not bestow them, because they were not so. It does not follow, from this view of the subject, that we may not ask of our Father in heaven to give us what we believe to be good, or avert what we suppose to be evil. Constituted as we are, we cannot avoid entertaining wishes and aversions corresponding to the apparent character of the objects and events with which we are conversant. And I know not why they may not as well be uttered by the lips as felt in the heart. But it does follow, that we are not so to desire or to dread anything of a temporal nature, as to ruffle the equanimity of our spirits, or divert our attention from the higher purposes of our being. It does follow, that whatever we ask, we are to ask in entire resignation to the divine will: We know not whether any particular object of desire would, on the whole, contribute to our happiness. Bụt we do know, that virtue and holiness are desirable. We do know, that conformity to the character and will of God is our supreme felicity ; for these we may pour forth all the fervor of our souls. In this respect, as in all others, the example of our Lord is full of instruction to his followers. He prayed, and prayed earnestly and repeatedly, that the cup of bitterness might pass from him, and his prayer was not granted. The sufferings from which his nature shrunk, were not averted. But was his prayer therefore disapproved? Oh no! for it was concluded with the meek and submissive expression, Not as I will, but as thou wilt. His particular request was rejected; but his eternal, and ineffable glory and exaltation are the consequence of its rejection.





One cannot but sometimes feel perplexed and discouraged by a view of the doubtful disputations that are carried on without end or mitigation, about the doctrines of religion. When will they be settled ? When will the truth be found out? When will all Christians know the truth, and unite in it, and rejoice together in the light of it? And in the mean time what shall we do? What shall they do who cannot themselves decide upon the merits of the questions? Shall we wait with indifference till religious truth is brought out of this heat and din of contention, and is set forth clear, definite and undoubted, uniting all hearts, and commanding universal conviction? And then comes the deeper question-Why, if religion be the best and most glorious gift of God, given to enlighten, to govern, and to save—why comes it to us veiled in doubtfulness, and inviting dispute ? Why is not the saving light a clear one? Why should not à religion of peace be itself above and beyond contention and discord ? Itself, in all its developments and uses, the model and the inspirer of peace ?

These are questions that must sometimes occur to the thoughtful, and demand an answer. They are se

rious questions, and the serious mind must wish them settled satisfactorily. We will examine some of them a little more particularly. Let us see how far we ought to be concerned on account of theological doubts and disputes, and on account of that supposed imperfection in Christianity which makes it a subject of doubt and dispute.

How then, in the first place, shall we reconcile it with the wise and benevolent purpose of the Deity in giving us a religion, that he should give it shaded by any obscurity ? Why, rather, should not the sun of righteousness beam as clear and direct upon all minds, as the light of day upon all eyes? Why should such a cause be suffered to be thus weakened and abused by divisions among those who embrace it? Why, we are ready to ask, were not the truths of so important a revelation, stamped upon the heart, or written in letters of light upon the vault of heaven, so that all from the least to the greatest miglit know and understand them? Why these imperfections in the scheme of salvation? Why are these slow and contested advances towards truth, made necessary? These and similar questions are certainly reasonable to be asked, and I believe that answers as reasonable to be received may be given to them.

If Christianity be the revelation of God, given and directed by him, we should expect, beforehand, that as a system, as a mode of divine agency in our behalf, it would correspond to other systems established by the same immutable Being, to other operations carried on by him. It was not to be expected that he would depart from that use of means to bring about ends, which he

observes in other cases. Now how does our Maker

operate in other cases? How does he operate with regard to other gifts bestowed upon us, and other arrangements which concern us? Is every thing given at once, and brought to pass at once, in completeness and perfection ? No, far from it. Every thing respecting us is effected by the use of means, by the gradual operation of a train, a system of means. We do not, for instance, enter upon this life with the full strength of our bodies, or the development of our minds, but at first the body is helpless, and the soul is a blank. We attain to the vigor and maturity of our faculties, not at once, but by a slow and gradual process, by the tedious operation of appointed means. In attaining to that maturity we have constant difficulties to encounter.

For a long time we are entirely dependent upon others; and when we at length begin to emerge from this dependence, temptations to indolence, to excess, and to all waywardness and folly, are striving to draw us down and keep us back. Every attainment is made through hardship and danger, and subject to numberless checks and failures. The body grows up in exposure to, and conflict with, numberless wants and diseases and disasters, and the mind must pass up through regions of tares and thorns, through errors and prejudices, before it can fix down a throne for the reason, and gather clear truth from the action of its ripe, developed capacities.

How are our daily wants supplied? How are those fruits of the earth produced, which are essential to our subsistence ? Not by any summary process. They are not brought to us, and put into our hands by a sudden, complete exercise of a moment's power. It

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