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the Pharisees, in the very act of crucifying him, admitted the reality of his miracles. "He saved others; himself he cannot save." Thus, by the very justification which they attempted, they condemned themselves.
So is it with you. Whatever reason you may give for neglecting religion, you admit its divine authority, its reality, and importance. Were I to charge you with being infidels, you would be indignant at the aspersion. Were I to say you do not respect religion, you would repel the charge as slander. In the very act of giving your reasons for neglecting religion, you are careful to avow your respect for it, and your belief in its importance. And do you not thus condemn yourself? If religion is a reality, it is a reality infinitely momentous. If it is important, it is infinitely important. What is wealth, what is human honor, compared with the favor of God? What all earthly interests compared with the salvation of the soul? What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? What shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Oh, sirs, if religion is important, it is so important that no reason can justify the neglect of it; no reason can justify any conduct respecting it, but that which puts it before all earthly interests, which impels to seek God's favor with uncontrollable and imperishable earnestness; which forbids any rest, till you rest in a good hope through grace of everlasting life. Therefore, in your attempt to justify, you condemn yourselves. Therefore, the all-seeing Judge will pronounce to you those fearful words, "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that religion was important,-why then didst thou not seek my favor with an earnestness corresponding to its importance? Thou wert surrounded with difficulties,-why then didst thou not toil to overcome them with an earnestness and perseverance corresponding to the worth of thy soul? "Out of thine mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant."
VII. Your demands and apologies are unreasonable, because they lay the blame of your continued impenitence on God.
After nailing Jesus, by their own malice, to the cross, the Pharisees called on him to come down, and then by his neglect to do it, justified themselves in putting him to death as a self-convicted impostor. Thus, they laid the blame on him. So, if you examine your apologies for neglecting religion, you may find that they involve the same daring impiety; they lay the blame of your continued impenitence on God. You plead that you continue in sin, because the circumstances in which God has placed you are unfavorable to a religious life, or because God has not made the way of salvation sufficiently plain, or because God has not given you enough of his Spirit. The cause is always in God, never in yourself. Like the Jews, who blasphemously charged the blame of their own crime on the suffering Saviour, you charge all the
criminality of your impenitence and disobedience on God. You ascribe it to what God has done or neglected to do, not to yourselves.
But the criminality of your impenitence and disobedience rests on you alone. The real cause why you continue impenitent lies in your own hearty opposition to God, and your aversion to the duties and experience of a spiritual life. No reason, which you can urge, covers this fact from the sight of God, or abates the constant criminality of your impenitence, or your immediate and constant obligation to give your heart to him, to trust in Jesus for mercy, and to devote yourself to his service. When the sinner comes to Jesus, he sees that all the blame of his whole life of impenitence rests on his own head, that God has always been blameless and lovely in all his requirements, and all his dealings, and that he himself stands before God a sinner, whose sins are unveiled, and absolutely without apology or extenuation, deserving the wrath of God. May you thus discover your inexcusable guilt, that you may seek mercy before it is too late. But if not now, at least when you stand before God's judgment seat, you will discover it. The apologies and demands by which you now appease your own consciences, and which you so confidently utter to your fellow-men, you will not then utter to God. Nay, you will not utter them in the secresy of your own soul. The refuge of lies, which now covers you, will vanish, and you will find yourself standing revealed before God an inexcusable transgressor; revealed to your own inmost consciousness, an inexcusable transgressor. You will be speechless before your Judge. You will see that your life-long neglect of God had no justification or apology; that it was wholly unreasonable and unjustifiable; that you have no plea to break the force of the condemnation which falls on you, or even in the depth of your own consciousness to sustain you with the conviction that it is undeserved. "Every mouth will be stopped, and all the world be guilty before God."
BY REV. F. SNYDER,
PASTOR OF THE BAPTIST CHURCH, TERRE HAUTE, IND.
THE REASONABLENESS AND BLESSEDNESS OF PRAYER. "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”—JAMES iv. 8.
Worshipping with a pious heart is evidently the manner of drawing nigh to God, which the Apostle had in mind when he penned the text. It is elsewhere in the Scriptures, designated in this way-Says the Psalmist, "It is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God."-Writing to the Hebrews, the apostle exhorts; "Having a high Priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith."
Under the Jewish dispensation, drawing near to God in worship was a more literal thing than it is under the Christian dis pensation. In the temple, God had his dwelling place as a king in his palace. There the Shekinah, as the visible symbol of his glory, manifested his presence. There was the mercy-seat; there the altar, and there the offering was to be made to him. Hence his people were required to come to that place, and there wait upon him in the manner of his own appointment.
It will not be understood from this, that Jewish worship was only of this outward, ceremonial character. The heart was required of them as well as of us. "Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people."-Isa. xxix. 13, 14. Nevertheless, under the Christian dispensation, the worship of God is more strictly of a spiritual character than it was under the former, as is indicated by the Saviour's remark to the woman of Samaria. "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him."-The apostles did not understand this as discountenancing all outward worship-all expressed devotion; since prayer and preaching the word, baptizing and breaking bread, were afterwards frequently engaged in by them as religious duties. The Saviour's meaning, therefore, must have been simply that what God requires in worship is, that the heart be in it; and that such worship may be rendered to him any where.
The duty of worshipping God is no less the dictate of reason and of common sense, than of Scripture. It has been the sentiment of mankind, universally, that children ought to cherish peculiar respect for their parents. So men have always deemed it proper to specially regard and honor those high in authority. Can they who thus honor parents and magistrates, deny the obligation to do homage to HIM who is at once their Maker, their Sovereign and their Judge? Grant that God is in no wise benefitted by the homage we render to him. Certainly no one supposes that we can add any thing to his essential glory. We can place him no higher than he is-cannot increase his happiness. Yet the homage we render to him may exalt him in our own hearts, and among our fellow mortals, and thus his declarative glory be promoted on the earth. It is not, however, my purpose on this occasion to dwell upon the general duty of worshipping God. I design rather to remark on that part of worship, which with peculiar propriety, may be denominated "drawing nigh to God;" and would address you on the reasonableness and blessedness of PRAYER.
I. Its reasonableness.
1. God has enjoined it. This may strike you at first as a strange reason to be assigned for the performance of any duty. But it must be counted reasonable to do what God has commanded, and most unreasonable to disregard his positive injunctions.
But has God, in explicit terms, enjoined this duty upon men? Yes, again and again. "Men ought always to pray and not to faint."-"Continuing instant in prayer."-" Pray without ceasing." Many such declarations and commands are to be found in the Scriptures. Now, unless we deny that the Bible is the word of God, or, admitting this, deny his authority over us-a stretch of boldness not to be expected of any man-we must acknowledge that it is our duty to pray; and this implies that it is reasonable.
2. The reasonableness of prayer may be shown from the example of the Saviour. Repeatedly in the New Testament we read of his being engaged in this exercise-at his baptism-at the transfiguration-in the garden. He spent whole nights in prayer. He taught his disciples to pray. They, certainly, counted his example and teachings authoritative in regard to the performance of this duty. And so we often find them after his ascension, supplicating the divine blessing, and receiving it in answer to their petitions. If, then, it was proper and reasonable for the Saviour to pray, and for the apostles to follow his example, on what ground can any man reasonably refuse to do the same. 3. The reasonableness of prayer is manifest when we consider what we are
(a) As needy and dependent creatures. Every hour of our lives brings with it wants which must be supplied, or we suffer and die. And while our necessities are thus numerous and pressing, we are utterly unable, apart from the divine bounty, to provide
for a single one of them. Can any sufficient reason be assigned why such creatures should refuse humbly to ask God for his blessing.
(b) As sinful and unworthy creatures. This might seem to us a reason why we ought not, rather than why we should, pray. Certainly it must be confessed that our sins strip us of all rightful claim to be heard in heaven, though pleading our own wants. But no one has, or can have any other idea of prayer, than as being addressed to the mercy of God; and when that mercy invites us freely to come and make known our desires, it is most unreasonable (to use no harsher term) in us not to avail ourselves of the privilege.
(c) As dying and accountable creatures. Who can be willing to go into the presence of God without ever having called reverently upon his name. Who can feel easy in view of future accountability, whose heart has never been sufficiently grateful to acknowledge the Divine goodness, nor sufficiently humble to confess its sins and seek the Divine forgiveness? A prayerless sinner, who is not an infidel in its very worst sense, is as unreasonable a man as exists on the earth. Confessedly living under the eye of God; expecting to die and to stand before him in judgment, and yet refusing to acknowledge his favor in humble prayer! willing to make requests of his fellow men; to send his petition to those in authority, while yet he refuses to ask God for blessings hourly needed, and to render thanks for those incessantly bestowed! If this be not unreasonable, it is difficult to say what is: and if the reasonableness of a duty may be shown from the unreasonableness of neglecting it, there seems no need of saying more on this point. There is, however, another consideration which may properly be named in this connection.
4. As showing the reasonableness of prayer, consider the benefits of a persevering attendance on this duty. Not to God, as was before said, as if it could add to his essential glory or happiness in any degree. But to those who pray, and for whom prayer is offered.-Prayer is the way to a life of communion. with God-a means of keeping up an acquaintance with, and of growing in the knowledge of God. It is a most excellent, yea, an essential means of nourishing the new nature, and of causing the soul to prosper. It is a good preservative from sin; as it is said, “praying will make us leave sinning," or "sinning will make us leave praying."-It hath a great tendency, says Edwards, "to keep the soul in a wakeful frame, and to lead us to a strict walk with God, and to a life that shall be fruitful in such good works as tend to adorn the doctrine of Christ, and to cause our light so to shine before others, that they, seeing our good works, shall glorify our Father who is in heaven." Nor are these all the benefits conferred by it. It prevails with God, as Jacob did, and brings down answers of peace and blessing. The Bible is full of instances in proof. We proceed to consider