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stream, so to speak, that supplies refreshing vigour, and nourishment to all the plants of grace. It is true, that, the fountain-head of all spiritual life,
grace to help in time of need” is Christ. “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.” And Paul's encouragement to the Philippians was, “My God shall supply all your need out of his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” But, the channel through which all grace comes, is, prayer. Prayer, ardent, wrestling, importunate, believing prayer. Suffer this channel to be dry,-permit any object to narrow or close it up, and the effect will be, a withering and decay of the life of God in the soul. Every plant will droop, every flower will fade and lose its fragrance, and the state of the soul will no longer resemble that of the church thus so beautifully described : “A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire with spikenard. Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices: a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon. Awake, O north wind, and come thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let
my beloved come into his garden, and eat his
pleasant fruits," Sol. Song iv. 12—16. This is the true and glowing picture of a believing soul, in which the spirit of prayer is flourishing and vigorous. Reverse this, and how melancholy would it appear. And yet, that would be the exact state of every unpraying professor. Guard, then, against the slightest decline of prayer in the soul. If prayer-family prayer, social prayer, most of all, closet prayer, is declining with you, no further evidence is needed of your being in a backsliding state of mind. There may not yet have been the outward departure, but, you are in the way
to it, and nothing but a return to prayer will save you.
O what alarm, what fearfulness and trembling, should this thought occasion in a child of God, “I am on my way to an awful departure from God! Such is the state of
soul at this moment, such my present frame of mind, such the loss of my spirituality, such the hold which the world has upon my affections, there is no length in sin to which I may not now go, there is no iniquity which I may not now commit. The breakers are full in view, and my poor weak vessel is heading to and rapidly nearing them !” O what can shield thee from the commission of that sin, what can keep thee from wounding Jesus afresh, what can preserve thee from foundering and making shipwreck of thy faith, but an immediate and
fervent return to prayer. Prayer is your only safety. Prayer, for grace to help in your time of need. Prayer, for reviving grace, for quickening, restraining, sanctifying grace. Prayer, to be kept from falling, to be held up in the slippery paths, Prayer, for the lowly mind, for the contrite spirit, for the broken heart, for the soft and close and humble walk with God.
Will it be enquired, what are some of the symptoms of a decline of the spirit of prayer? We reply that, the decay of any one grace of the Spirit in the soul,-faith, love, zeal, patience, meekness, temperance, lowliness, &c., mark the low and feeble pulse of prayer in a believer. There may not be a decay of all the graces at once, and because this is so, the believer may be greatly deceived. Outward zeal may continue long after other and more hidden and spiritual graces have withered; and because this remains, the soul is deceived as to its real state before God. A secret and a fearful process of spiritual declension may be going forward in the soul, while, for a time, there may be nothing outwardly to mark it. There are many evidences, known only to the individual himself, by which the declining spirit of prayer may be detected. A disrelish for the word of God, for a spiritual and searching ministry, for intercourse with spiritual minds, for holy thought and meditation, all, and many more which cannot be unknown to the backsliding soul, indicate a neglected throne of grace.
Does this page address itself to an unpraying professor? O what is all thy profession worth, if thou art a prayerless soul? What is thy zeal, thy church membership, thy talking well and loud, thy gifts, thy name to live, whilst thou art dead to the true spirit and life of prayer, living in awful neglect of family prayer, social prayer, secret prayer? All your profession of godliness, your outward zeal, your splendid gifts, all is but a ‘fair show in the flesh,' an empty name, while you live in neglect of prayer. Prayer is the breathing of the life of God in the soul. It is the pulse of the renewed man. It is the turning of the soul to God. Where this is wanting, the great evidence is wanting of the actual existence of life.
This may meet the glance of an individual who has never yet truly prayed. Who, all his life thus far, has neglected the throne of grace. O awful condition! O melancholy spectacle! Your life, reader, has been a prayerless life. It has been a life devoted to self, to sin, to rebellion against God, to impenitence and unbelief, to hardness of heart, and contempt of God's word. To a neglect of the great salvation, to a despising of Christ,
to a pursuit of happiness in a poor, dying, present evil world. Not a breath of prayer
has ever risen from thy soul to God. Not one pulse of love has ever beat in thy breast for Jesus. You have lived a lover of self, a lover of the world, a lover of sin, a lover of wealth, pleasure, and ambition, rather than a lover of God. And why are you at this moment out of hell? You have long been preparing for it. Your character for years has been moulding for the society and the sufferings of the lost. Why are you not now there, calling for a drop of water to cool that parched tongue, that never once called in earnest supplication upon God? It is of the Lord's mercies that you are not consumed. And because his long-suffering patience has borne with you so long, it is that you are yet within the region of hope. “What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, and call upon God.” The wrath of God here, and its fearful outpouring hereafter, rests upon the soul that comes not to the throne of grace. The hell of an unpraying man is a fearful hell. To go from the means of grace, from the ordinances of religion, from a preached gospel, from a praying family, to the judgementseat, an unpraying, unrepenting, unbelieving soul, is to go to a special hell. The untaught, unenlightened, and unwarned heathen, goes not to the hell of that soul that dies surrounded by the