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“ What an asylum has the soul in prayer!”
“I will lift
unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” Such was the resolve of the sweet minstrel of Israel, who was wont to address God his Creator, as friend talketh to friend.
And what, we may enquire, what shall sustain the mourner in the hour of sorrow and bereavement, but thus looking to the hand which chastens,--to the almighty Being who alone holds in his power the antidote to the poison of grief which “drinketh up the spirit?” Let us then pray!
It has been most expressively observed by one who was well acquainted with sorrow and bereavement, “ Prayer was born with the first sigh, the first joy, the first sorrow of the human heart; or rather, man was born to
pray. To glorify God and to implore him, was his mission here below; all else perishes before him, or with him, but the voice of glory, of admiration, or of love, which he raises towards his Creator does not perish on his passing away from the earth. It reascends; it resounds from age to age in the gracious ear of the Almighty, like the echo of his own voice, like the reflection of his own magnificence! It is the only thing in man which is wholly divine, and which he can exhale with joy and pride, for this pride is a homage to him to whom alone homage is due, the infinite Being."* Let us then pray! And thou, O God, who hast inspired this marvellous communication with thyself, with beings and with worlds invisible, thou, O God, hear us favourably, for thy benignity is as supreme as thy power! Prayer! mighty ascent, language wing’d, supreme, Which in a single sigh blends all of love.Incense unquenchable, which doth perfume Him who receives, and him who lights the flame.
Ib. 89. * Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, vol. iii. p. 46. LAMARTINE.
Oh, when the spirit is brought low, even to the dust, and the heart appears desolate in the bosom of the mourner, it is then that the full value, the high privilege of prayer is felt and fervently acknowledged. It is in seasons like these that we are led to recollect that a time there was when even the soul of our dear divine Master (that time when drinking the bitter draught
Mix'd by the hand of death, and drugg'd in hell,”)
was exceeding sorrowful, and endured an agony so intense, that he prayed that cup might pass untasted by his hallowed lips ! And what did he then do to sustain his suffering soul in that dread hour, that he might accomplish the work his heavenly Father had given him to do?
Verily, he did that which, in seasons of heaviness peculiarly, the disciples of his faith and the heirs of his salvation should learn of him and do likewise. Seeing that the chalice of agony was not to pass from him, but that to accomplish our salvation, to afford us consolation, and to guide us into all truth, he must drink it even to the very dregs, he evinced the entire resignation of his soul, and gave his precious life, saying, “Not my will but thine be done.” The former part of his lowly petition, “ If it be possible, let this cup pass from me," is the anguished voice of that human nature that he, in great humility and transcending love, assumed, in order to redeem us guilty rebels. It was that nature which recoiled with terror before the dark shadow of death. It was that assumed nature, yielding to those feelings the Creator has implanted in the heart of man. The Almighty therefore, we may be assured, cannot disapprove or condemn their expression, provided they are duly regulated; and it is a great consolation to the afflicted soul, that our blessed Saviour was touched with a feeling of our infirmities, but without sin; therefore we may solace ourselves, that we have in him a sympathising as well as an efficient friend!
In contemplating the exalted character of our divine Exemplar, “ that man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” we find he invariably practised what he taught. In the awful scene in the garden of Gethsemane, how impressive and how beautiful is his example to all those whom the hand of God hath touched !
“ And being in an agony, he prayed the more earnestly." In fact, the life of our blessed Lord may emphatically be called a life of prayer; and let us ever remember that it was for us he prayed; even for us sinners he spent the silent hours of night in supplication and intercession; for us he was overwhelmed with grief and tribulation. Yes, surely, “ He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; the chastisement of our peace was upon
him.” Let us then humble ourselves under his correcting hand. Let us learn, from the affecting contemplation of our blessed Redeemer's agony, a better wisdom than our own ; learn it even from him who brought it from above; and learn, amidst the sufferings which rend our hearts, more highly to appreciate those elevating hopes which those sufferings have been, perhaps, the appointed means to teach us Let us learn that afflic