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or our own negligence in stirring up the grace of God: but believers always have it in the root and principle, even all who have received the Spirit of adoption, and are ordinarily assisted in the use of it.
This liberty in prayer includes a confidence of acceptance, which is given to believers by the Holy Ghost; and this respects not the answer of every particular request, but consists in a holy persuasion that God is well pleased with their duties, accepts their persons, and delights in their approaches to his throne. They are not terrified with apprehensions that God will say to them, "What have you to do, to take my name in your mouths ? « Will he, .saith Job, plead against me with his great power? no; but he will put strength in me.' Yea, they are assured, that the more they are with God, the better is their acceptance.
4. The Holy Spirit keeps the souls of believers intent upon Jesus Christ, as the only way and means of acceptance with God. This is the fundamental direction for prayer, under the gospel, we are now to ask in his name, which was not done expressly under the Old Testament. By him only, we have access to the Father. We enter into the holiest through the new and living way that he has consecrated for us; and where faith is not actually exercised to this purpose, all prayer is vain and unprofitable. To enable us hereto is the work of the Holy Ghost. This is a genuine effect of his, as the “Spirit of the Son ;' and herenf believers have a refreshing experience in themselves. Nor doth any thing leave a better savour or relish on their souls, than when they have had their hearts and minds kept close in the exercise of faith in Christ, the Mediator, in their prayers.
If we know these things, happy are we if we do them. There are two duties incumbent on us ; which may be inferred from what has been said.
1. We ought continually to glorify God for this great privilege of the Spirit of grace and supplication for This is the principal means of all our intercourse with God; and without this, men wander in the dark, and know not how to deal with God. The whole work of faith is denominated from the duty of prayer; for it is said, 'Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved.' Rom, X. 13. No heart can conceive what treasures of mercy are contained in this great privilege, of having liberty and ability to approach to God at all times. This is the relief, the weapons, and the refuge of the Church, in all conditions.
It is a matter of peculiar praise that this privileg'e is bestowed in a larger measure under the Gospel than under the Law; and he who has been under the Law and its bondage, but has now received the Spirit of adoption, knows the difference, and will be thankful. This privilege, which was of old confined to a few, is now communicated to great multitudes, even to all who • in every place, call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.' In every assembly of mount Zion throughout the world, prayers and supplications are offered to God, through the effectual working of the Spirit. Mal. i. 11. And in this lies all the glory of our worship; take this away, and all is contemptible, dead, and carnal. Every family apart is enabled to pray in the Spirit. He is the same to believers all the world over, in their closets or their prisons. They have all, wherever they are,.. access by one Spirit unto the Father; and for this enlargement of grace, God expects a revenue of glory.
2. It is our duty to make use of this gift of the Spirit. Have you an ability to pray always freely given you by the Holy Ghost, why do you not pray always in private, in families, as occasions offer? Prayer is that singular duty, in which every grace is acted, every sin opposed, every blessing obtained ; the whole of our obedience is concerned in it, and much of our present and future blessedness depends upon it. What difficulties and discouragements rise up against it, what aversion there is in corrupted nature to it, what distractions often attend it, are well known to the people of God :--but to help us under our various infirmities; to give us freedom and confidence in coming to the throne ; to enable us, as children, to cry Abba, Father, the Holy Spirit is given to us. Who then can express the sin and folly of neglecting prayer? How does it grieve the Spirit, and injure our own souls? Can we go from day to day in the neglect of opportunities and occasions of prayer? How shall we answer this contempt of the Spirit's gracious aid? Do carnal persons habitually live without prayer? Alas! they know not how to pray; but for those who have received this gift of the Spirit, enabling them to pray, and making it pleasant to the inner man,-how great an aggravation is it to their sin! I press this duty of prayer the more, because the temptations and dangers of the present day particularly call for it. If we were to talk less and pray more, things would be better than they are in the world.
It is the duty of those who have received this gift, to cherish it, to stir it up, and improve it ; it is freely bestowed, but it is carefully to be preserved. It is a Gospeltalent given to be traded with, and thereby increased ;and this is to be done,
(1.) By a constant consideration and observation of ourselves, our own hearts, and our spiritual state and condition. Our state, in general, by reason of the depth and deceitfulness of our hearts, and the various changes in our frames, together with the temptations that assault us, will find us matter of examination all our days. To sist us in this, is a part of the work of the Spirit ; and if we neglect our duty towards him herein, how can we expect that he should continue his aid unto us? He who prays without a due consideration of the beginnings of tempta. tion, the deceitful actings of indwelling sin, the risings of particular corruptions, with the occasions that give them advantage, must pray at random, ' fighting uncertainly, as one that beats the air; but he who attends to this selfsearch and judgment, will have always in readiness the due matter of prayer, will be able to fill his mouth with argu. ments, and will thrive not only in the gift, but in the power and life of this duty.
(2.) Constant searching of the Scripture :--This is the glass wherein we may take the best view of ourselves, because it represents both what we are, and what we ought to be ; what we are in ourselves, and what we are by the grace of God; what are our frames, actions, and ways, and what is their defect in his sight ;--and struction what to pray for, or how to pray, cannot be given us :~And who is there, who almost at any time reading the Scripture, with reverence of God, and subjection of conscience to him, has not had some particular matter of prayer or praise effectually suggested to him! And Christians would find no small advantage by constantly
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turning what they read into prayer or praise ; for hereby the instructions of the world would be more confirmed in their minds, and their hearts be more engaged in the practice of them.
(3.) Meditation on the glorious excellencies of God. The examples of prayer which we have in the Scripture, generally begin with some expressions of the names or titles of God; to which the remembrance of some mighty acts of his power is usually added. God has revealed his name unto us for this very purpose, that we might call upon him by the name which he owns and takes to himself. Hereby holy reverence and godly fear are excited. We are encouraged to come with boldness to the throne of grace : it is a throne of grace that God in Christ is represented to us upon : But yet it is a throne still, whereon majesty and glory reside : and God is always to be considered by us as on a throne. Hereby, also, faith and confidence are excited ; for prayer is our betaking ourselves to God as our shield, our rock, and our reward. Wher fore frequent meditation on the holy excellencies of the divine nature, must needs be a most useful preparation for prayer.
(4.) Meditation on the mediation and intercession of Christ.--To this end he is proposed to us, as abiding continually in the discharge of his priestly office. Heb. iv. 15. and x. 19. And this is not only an encouragement to and in our supplications, but a means to increase and strengthen the grace and gift of prayer itself; for the mind is thereby made ready to exercise itself about the effectual interposition of the Lord Christ at the throne of grace in our behalf. This has a principal place in the prayers of all believers ; and hereby we may try whether our faith be evangelical or not.
(5.) Frequency in the exercise of this gift is the way to improve it.-All habits are strengthened by exercise, and weakened by disuse. Some who had the gift of prayer in a good measure, so as to edify themselves and others, have, by a neglect of it in public and private (which is seldom without some secret or open enormities) so lost their ability, that they cannot open their mouth on any occasion in prayer. On the other hand, frequent exercise will increase it, by virtue of God's blessing on his own appointment. This is the eternal law concerning the dispensation of evangelical gifts :,Unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not, shall be taken away, even that which he hath. Matt. xxv. 29.
(6.). Constant fervency of mind in this duty.-Men may multiply prayers ; but if they are dull, dead, and formal in them, no spiritual advantage can be expected from them. Fervency and intention of mind quicken and enlarge the faculties, and leave vigorous impressions on them. The whole soul is cast into the mould of the matter of our prayers, and is thereby prepared for fresh engagements about them.
It is our duty, then, to use this gift of prayer unto the ends for which it is freely bestowed on us. With respect to ourselves, it is a blessed means of exciting and quickening all the graces of the Spirit, particularly faith, love, and joy. It is also appointed of God to be exercised in societies, families, church-assemblies, and occasionally for the good of any; and the discharge of this duty is peculiarly incumbent in ministers of the Gospel and masters of families :-But let us take heed that this gift be not alone ; for where the gift of prayer only is exercised, without the exercise of grace in the heart, it is at best but a form of godliness, and is consistent with all sorts of sea cret abominations.
THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT, AS A
When our Saviour left this world, he was very far from laying aside his care of his disciples. He has given us the highest assurance that he continues the same care, love, and grace towards us, as when he laid down his life for us :--but as there was a double work yet to be performed in our behalf, one toward God, and the other in us, he has taken a twofold way of performing it. That toward God he was to discharge himself, in his human nature, in Heaven; the.other, of which believers are the immediate object, is committed to the Holy Spirit; and the peculiar name whereby he is distinguished in this work is, The PARACLETE, which we translate The COMFORTER.