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and in practice,—that he may ever speak in love, and yet speak the pure, entire, unvarnished truth,—that he may be full of the Holy Ghost, apt to teach, and able to comfort others with the consolations wherewith he himself is comforted of God; for these prayers, being answered, will react upon themselves; so that they will live in a brighter light, be fed with richer fare, and be led on in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man-unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
In conclusion, I would say, Seek to possess that character to which answers to prayer will be vouchsafed. It is the fervent and effectual prayer of the righteous man, the Apostle tells us, that availeth much. Hence, if we desire prayer, either for ourselves, or for others, to be availing, we must seek to be accounted righteous before God. But how can this be ? Our works can never prove us to be righteous; for in the best service that ever we did, there was something that needed to be pardoned. No; it is not for our own works and deservings that we can be accounted righteous before God, but for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Christ through faith. Are you, beloved, righteous in this sense ? Have you faith in Jesus Christ as the propitiation for your sins, the Lord your righteousness, the Saviour that must save you from your sins, and the King whose will is your law? If so, your prayer, when fervently and perseveringly offered up, will not return unto you void. And should the Lord not see good to answer your prayer,
say, well that it was in thine heart to ask this.”
I would also say, Let prayer for ministers be combined with more fervent prayer for yourselves.
It is easy to point out the cause why the soul of a Christian presents so few evidences of growth-why his comforts are small—why roots of bitterness defile it. He is straitened in himself: he restrains prayer. The
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Lord, it is true, oft gives when men do not seek; and, indeed, the believer might well say, “How could I be what I am, if it were not so ?” But granting this, we may lay it down as an undeniable axiom, that the soul's prosperity will ever be proportioned to the fervency and frequency of our applications to the throne of grace. The prayer of the believer may not, like that of the Tishbite, bring down fire from heaven on a material altar; but it will bring down the fire of divine grace upon the altar of the heart, and inflame our daily sacrifice, and make it a sweet savour of Christ unto God. Pray then, dear brethren, for us; but pray also for yourselves, that you may become more truly devoted to Christ, more holy, more self-denying, and more conformable to the image of the Son of God, that you may, in short, be daily more meet for that rest to which, we would humbly hope, you are advancing.
I THESSALONIANS, v. 16.
“ REJOICE EVERMORE."
THERE is nothing concerning which persons err so greatly as religion ; for though wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths peace, many look upon vital religion as destructive of cheerfulness and enjoyment; and as calculated to convert this world into a valley of sorrow and weeping. I admit that in the outset religion is productive of sorrow; for every true convert sows in tears. This sorrow, however, is not like the unproductive and unavailing sorrow of the ungodly: it is followed, sooner or later, by a harvest of joy; for as the Psalmist justly observes, “ He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” There is, indeed, a more certain connexion between the seedtime and harvest of the true penitent, than between the seedtime and harvest of the husbandman. The harvest of the latter, affected as it is by so many circumstances over which he has no control, may fail; but the harvest of the penitent cannot fail : he “shall reap in joy;" for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. The unfavorable opinion which worldly persons entertain of vital religion, though it often partakes somewhat of that
perverseness which our blessed Lord noticed and condemned in the Jews, who were equally offended, whether religion was set before them under an austere and repulsive, or under a cheerful and attractive garb, has in some measure arisen from the gloom, with which superstition and hypocrisy have, not unfrequently, invested it. Nothing, however, is more pointedly forbidden by our Lord, than all feigning of sorrow when the heart is not sad. “Be not,” said He," as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance.” And not only is all feigning of sorrow forbidden, but spiritual joy is every where spoken of, as a distinguishing characteristic of the Redeemer's subjects; and they are exhorted with line upon line to avail themselves of their privilege, and to “rejoice evermore.” The Apostles would, indeed, as soon have thought of excluding righteousness and peace from the kingdom of God, as joy in the Holy Ghost.
May the Lord, the Spirit, vouchsafe his comforting and illuminating influence to all who read these observations on the Apostle's exhortation, “Rejoice evermore."
It is most important to ascertain, in the first place, the character of those who are exhorted to rejoice evermore; for there are many in the world, who have more reason to weep and lament than to rejoice.
Were we to say, for example, to the notoriously wicked, “Rejoice evermore,” nothing would be more misplaced, than such an exhortation. Their laughter is madness; and like the profane joy of the Babylonish monarch, it will soon have an end. When conscience is aroused from its lethargy, and writes “ Tekel, thou art weighed in the balances, and found wanting," upon them,—when death with chilling grasp arrests them, and proclaims in language not to be misunderstood,
Thy days are numbered and finished,” the joy which they derived from created good, or from the gratification of fleshly lusts, will cease ; and in its place, the fearful
looking for of judgment, and of the fiery indignation of an offended God, will fill and possess the soul. But whatever may be the actual feelings of the openly profane and profligate, we cannot cry peace unto them, or exhort them to rejoice. No: “there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” They are sowing the wind, and must reap the whirlwind; and though they live many days, and seem to prosper in all things on earth, their sin will at length find them out, and their days of darkness will
Were we to say to those who are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, “Rejoice evermore,” the exhortation would be no less misplaced. The lover of pleasure, if the word of God be true, is dead whilst he liveth-dead in trespasses and sins,-dead through the sentence of the divine law. It would be more becoming, then, in us to call for the mourning women, than to exhort such an one to rejoice. The world, however, is slow to receive our testimony on this point; and if it were merely the testimony of man, this hesitation would be excusable: but when we adduce our authority,—when we appeal to that word which cannot lie in confirmation of our assertion, inattention is an evidence of unbelief, and a sin against light and knowledge.
Were we even to say to the hypocritical professor, “ Rejoice evermore,"
our exhortation would be as unjustifiable, as it would be misplaced. What has the hypocrite to do with joy ? His own heart must condemn him for feigning to be a Christian, when he is so only in name.
And if his own heart condemns him, “ God who is greater than his heart, and knoweth all things, will undoubtedly condemn him.” But should he be so deluded as to be unable to see the lie in his right hand, his joy will have an end. He may retain it until he reaches heaven's gates, if I may so speak; but when his earnest applications for admission are answered with