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Scripture instances and examples of success in prayer give great encouragement to pray for this mercy. Most of the remarkable deliverances and restorations of the church of God, that we have account of in the scripture, were in answer to prayer. So was the redemption of the church of God from the Egyptian bondage ; Exod. ii. 23, and iii. 7. The great restoration of the church in the latter day, is often spoken of as resembled by this ; as in Isa. Ixiv. 1.....4....xi. 11, 15, 16..... xliii. 2, 3, 16.... 19....li. 10, 11, 15.....lxii. 11, 12, 13. Zech. X. 10, 11. Hos. ii. 14, 15. It was in answer to prayer, that the Sun stood still over Gibeon, and the Moon in the valley AijaIon, and God's people obtained that great victory over their enemies; in which wonderful miracle, God seemed to have some respect to a future more glorious event to be accomplished for the Christian church, in the day of her victory over her enemies, in the latter days ; even that event foretold, Isa. 1x. 20. “ Thy Sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy Moon withdraw itself. It was in answer to prayer, that God delivered his church from the mighty host of the Assyrians, in Hezekiah's time ; which dispensation is abundantly made use of, as a type of the great things God will do for the Christian church in the latter days, in the prophecies of Isaiah. The restoration of the church of God from the Babylonish captivity, as abundantly appears both by scripture prophecies and histories, was in answer to extraordinary prayer ; see Jer. xxix. 10..... 14, and I. 4, 5. Dan. ix. throughout. Ezra. viii. 21, &c. Nch. i. 4, to the end....iv. 4, 5, and Chap. ix. throughout. This restoration of the Jewish church, after the destruction of Babylon, is evidently a type of the glorious restoration of the Christian church, after the destruction of the kingdom of Antichrist; which (as all know) is abundantly spoken of in the Revelation of St. John, as the antitype of Babylon. Sampson, out of weakness, received strength to pull down Dagon's temple, through prayer. So the people of God, in the latter days, will out of weakness be made strong, and will become the instruments of pulling down the kingdom of Satan, by prayer.
The Spirit of God was poured out upon Christ himself, in answer to prayer ; Luke iii. 21, 22. “ Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove, upon him; and a voice came from heaven which said, Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased." The Spirit descends on the church of Christ, the same way in this respect, that it descended on the Head of the church. The greatest effusion of the Spirit that ever yet has been, even that which was in the primitive times of the Christian church, which began in Jerusalem on the day of pentecost, was in answer to extraordinary prayer. When the disciples were gathered together to their Lord, a little before his ascension, he commanded them that they should not dtpart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which (saith he) ye have heard of me,” i. e. the promise of the Holy Ghost ; Acts i. 4. What they had their hearts upon was the restoration of the kingdom to Israel : Lord (say they) wilt thou, at this time, restore again the kingdom to Israel ? ver. 6. And according to Christ's direction after his ascension, they returned to Jerusalem, and continued in united fervent prayer and supplication. It seems they spent their time in it from day to day, without ceasing; until the Spirit came down in a wonderful manner upon them, and that work was begun which never ceased, until the world was turned upside down, and all the chief nations of it were converted to Christianity. And that glorious deliverance and advancement of the Christian church, that was in the days of Constantine the great, followed the extraordinary cries of the church to God, as the matter is represented in Rev. vi. at the opening of the fifth seal. The church in her suffering state is represented crying with a loud voice, “ How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge, and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth ?" And the opening of the next seal brings on that mighty revolution, in the days of Constantine, compared to those great changes that shall be at the end of the world.
As there is so great and manifold reason from the word of God, to think that if a spirit of earnest prayer for that great effusion of the Spirit of God which I am speaking of prerailed, in the Christian church, the mercy would be soon granted ; so those that are engaged in such prayer might expect the first benefit. God will come to those that are seeking him and waiting for him ; Isa. xxv. 9. and xxvi. 8. When Christ came in the flesh, he was first revealed to them who were “ waiting for the consolation of Israel, and looking for redemption in Jerusalem,” Luke i. 25, 38. And in that great outpouring of the Spirit that was in the days of the apostles, attended with such glorious effects among Jews and Gentiles, the Spirit came down first on those that were engaged in united, earnest prayer for it. A special blessing is promised to them that love and pray for the prosperity of the church of God, Psal. cxxii. 6. 6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall prosper
that love thee."
7. We are presented with many motives in the dispensations of divine Providence, at this day, to excite us to be much in prayer for this mercy.
There is much in providence to shew us our need of it, and put us on desiring it. The great outward calamities, in which the world is involved ; and particularly the bloody war that embroils and wastes the nations of Christendom, and in which our nation has so great a share, may well make all that believe God's word, and love mankind, earnestly long and pray for that day, when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the nations shall beat their swords into ploughshares, &c. pecially do the spiritual calamities and miseries of the present time, shew our great need of that blessed effusion of God's Spirit : There having been, for so long a time, so great a withholding of the Spirit, from the greater part of the Christian world, and such dismal consequences of it, in the great decay of vital piety, and the exceeding prevalence of infidelity, heresy and all manner of vice and wickedness; and especially in our land and nation ; of which a most affecting account has lately been published in a pamphlet printed in Lon. don, and reprinter in Scotland, entitled “Britain's Remembrancer;" by which it seems that luxury, and wickedness of
almost every kind, is well nigh come to the utmost extremity in the nation ; and if vice should continue to prevail and increase for one generation more, as it has the generation past, it looks as though the nation could hardly continue in being, but must sink under the weight of its own corruption and wickedness. And the state of things in the other parts of the British dominions, besides England, is very deplorable. The church of Scotland has very much lost her glory, greatly departing from her ancient purity, and excellent order ; and has of late been bleeding with great and manifold wounds, occasioned by their divisions and hot contentions. And there are free quent complaints from thence, by those that lament the corruptions of that land, of sin and wickedness, of innumerable kinds, abounding and prevailing of late, among all ranks and sorts of men there. And how lamentable is the moral and religious state of these American colonies ? Of Newengland in particular ? How much is that kind of religion that was professed and much experienced and practised, in the first, and apparently the best times of Newengland, grown and growing out of credit ? What fierce and violent contentions have been of late among ministers and people, about things of a religious nature? How much is the gospel ministry grown into contempt ? And the work of the ministry, in many respects, laid under uncommon difficulties, and even in danger of sinking amongst us? How many of our congregations and churches rending in pieces ? Church discipline weakened, and ordinances less and less regarded ? What wild and extravagant notions, gross delusions of the devil, and strange practices have prevailed, and do still prevail, in many places, under a pretext of extraordinary purity, spirituality, liberty and zeal against formality, usurpation, and conformity to the world? How strong and deeply rooted and general are the prejudices that prevail against vital religion and the power of godliness, and almost every thing that appertains to it, or tends to it? How apparently are the hearts of people, every where, uncommonly shut up against all means and endeavors to awaken sinners and revive religion Vice and immorality, of all kinds, withal increasing and unusually prevailing? May not an attentive view and consideration of such a state of things well influence the people that favor the dust of Zion, to earnestness in their cries to God for a general outpouring of his Spirit, which only can be art effectual remedy for these evils ?
Besides the things that have been mentioned, the fresh attempts made by the antichristian powers against the Protestant interest, in their late endeavors to restore a Popish government in Greatbritain, the chief bulwark of the Protestant cause ; as also the persecution lately revived against the Protestants in France, may well give occasion to the people of God, to renewed and extaordinary earnestness in their prayers to him, for the fulfilment of the promised downfall of Antichrist, and that liberty and glory of his church that shall folIow.
As there is much in the present state of things to shew us our great need of his mercy, and to cause us to desire it ; so there is very much to convince us that God alone can bestow it, and shew us our entire and absolute dependance on him for it. The insufficiency of human abilities to bring to pass any such happy change in the world as is foretold, or to afford any remedy to mankind, from such miseries as have been mentioned, docs now remarkably appear. Those observations of the apostle, I Cor. i.« The world by wisdom knows not God, and God makes foolish the wisdom of this world,” never were verified to such a degree as they are now. Great discoveries have been made in the arts and sciences, and never was human learning carried to such a height, as in the present age; and yet never did the cause of religion and virtue run so low in nations professing the true religion. Never was an age whercin so many learned and elaborate treatises have been written, in proof of the truth and divinity of the Christian religion ; yet never were there so many infidels, among those that were brought up under the light of the gospel. It is an age, as is supposed, of great light, freedom of thought, and discovery of truth in matters of religion, and detection of the weakness and bigotry of our ancestors, and of the folly and absurdity of the notions of those that were accounted eminent divines in former generations ; which notions, it is imagined,