« AnteriorContinuar »
19 For the earnest longing of the whole
creation looks eagerly for the time when [the glory of] the sons of God shall openly be brought to light. For the creation was made subject to corruption and decay, not by its own will, but through Him who subjected it thereto; with hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from its slavery to death, and shall gain the freedom of the sons of God when they are glorified. For we know that the whole creation is groaning together, and suffering the pangs of labour, which have not yet brought forth the birth. And not only they, but ourselves also, who have received the Spirit for the first fruits [of our inheritance], even we ourselves are groaning inwardly, longing for the adoption which shall ransom our body from its bondage.
ON RESTRAINING PRAYER BEFORE GOD.
BY THE REV. J. JENKINSON.
THAT the Creator and Ruler of the universe should have erected a throne of grace for the express purpose of there distributing pardons to the guilty, assistance to the helpless, liberty to the captives, protection to the endangered, guidance to the perplexed, and salvation to the lost, and that the beings in whom all these characteristics are combined should, as with one consent, either pertinaciously disregard this inestimable privilege, or with shameful infrequency and languor avail themselves of the opportunity afforded them, is a phenomenon so amazing as that its announcement might well excite the highest incredulity. The lamentable and astonishing fact is, however, every hour obtruded on our notice, and alas! too frequently confirmed by our own experience. Although a gracious audience is ensured to every humble suppliant by the explicit and oft-repeated declarations of Him whose grace we need; though He has commanded, invited, entreated us to seek that grace, and has surrounded us by those who have sought and obtained it; yet, not only is the greater portion of our race utterly regardless of his kindness, but even those who have tasted of his grace, too often restrain prayer before him.
In proof of the folly and wickedness of this nothing need be said. It must be highly ungrateful and provoking to Him whose mercy is thus slighted; in every case dangerous and injurious to ourselves; and, if persisted in, certainly followed by eternal ruin.
At the bottom of neglect of the throne of grace, atheism or sceptical doubt of the divine existence, will be generally found. This is the prolific root whence all the wickedness of man proceeds, and none more naturally than an undevotional
XV. FOURTH SERIES.
spirit. Whilst we pity the atheist, let us blush that the sentiments he avows so often exert the force of principles upon ourselves.
Next to this denial or doubt of God's existence is ignorance, or an erroneous view of his character and of the worship he requires. Hence the heathen, and alas! too many who disavow the name, content themselves with presenting a mere external service, without attempting or desiring to yield the homage of the heart! Hence, too, if the idolater has lost his pocket shrine, the catholic his crucifix and rosary, or the episcopalian his prayer-book, he, in many instances, deems it a sufficient reason for the omission of his customary devotions. And when we permit either our own conduct or that of others, or the want of a sensible degree of faith and comfort to interrupt intercourse with Heaven, do not we evince a similar mistake, and act as though the character of God, and the obligations of man, were as mutable as the circumstances in which we are placed, or the emotions we experience ?
Ignorance of God always induces depreciated views of his character. Sometimes, however, this depreciation imposes itself on the mind under the guise of a more elevated conception of him. Thus the unitarian denounces the doctrine of the atonement as incompatible with the belief of the infinitude of divine mercy; whereas in fact the providing, the offering, and the acceptance of that atonement, and the salvation of countless millions of sinners for its sake, is the most stupendous manifestation of that mercy which the universe has ever seen. A similar mistake has often led to the restraint of prayer. The Most High has been
regarded as feeling himself so transcendently great, and his own blessedness so entirely independent of the conduct or condition of his creatures, as that he beholds with the most perfect indifference the bursting of a bubble or the destruction of a world, and that therefore it would be as presumptuous as it would be vain to expect his interference in answer to our supplications. But how imposing soever such a view of the Supreme may at first sight appear, it really debases his character to a level with that of the least loved of earthly potentates. The grandeur of the Universal Sovereign is not that of an oriental monarch, but the majesty of a master mind directing the movements of every atom of the seemingly disordered mass; the majesty of a God walking on the waves of the tempestuous ocean, gathering the wind in his fist, allaying the fury of the storm, or employing it for the accomplishment of his own designs; and who while managing the universe can hear and answer the petition of a child. The greater his exaltation, self-sufficiency, and independence, the more honourable is his condescension; the greater his intelligence, the more capable is he of attending to unnumbered things without distraction; the more perfect his wisdom, and the more comprehensive his plan, the greater is the certainty of all actual occurrences forming part of that plan; and consequently that prayer so far from tending to disturb his tranquillity, or interrupt the harmony and order established by his immutable decree, is in reality a result of his allwise and beneficent appointment. The intelligent suppliant neither expects nor desires to alter the purpose of the Almighty, but he believes that whenever the time is near at hand in which God has decreed a blessing to be given, the divine High Priest, who is perfectly acquainted with his Father's will, sends
down his Holy Spirit to prompt and indite prayer for its bestowment; and that every prayer so originated is certain to be answered, because that Spirit always "makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God." Romans viii. 27. He who has decreed the end, has, in every case, decreed the means by which that end shall be attained. One of the most important of those means is prayer.
Pride of heart and hatred of God constitute another source of the restraint of prayer before him. How aptly has our great poet described the prince of darkness as being as far from asking, as God from granting grace." there is scarcely a more common manifestation of the pride and enmity of man's heart, than is seen in his refusal to implore the mercy which he needs. "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God." Psalm x. 4. Over the portal of the temple of grace is inscribed in legible characters, "Knock and it shall be opened unto you;" but the knocker is at the bottom of the door; every one that knocks must consequently stoop; to many this is irksome; they therefore pass on unpraying and unblest. That feeling, too, of unworthiness and false shame which keeps the Christian from the throne of grace, or induces him to withhold the full confession of his guilt, always arises from latent pride, and at least a partial dislike of God's way of showing mercy.
The pressure of secular engagements, united with a belief that sufficient opportunities of seeking salvation will hereafter occur, exerts a powerful influence in producing restraint of prayer. Preposterous folly ! Vain delusion! Is not all the future, even life itself, proverbially uncertain ? Are we not living as with the rope around our
necks, and may not our death-warrant arrive at any moment? And were it not so, is not preparation for another world the one great end of our existence in this? Even were success in sublunary pursuits infinitely more certain than it is, how great the infatuation of seeking the acquisition of any earthly good before having sought that pardon which alone can enable us to enjoy it! And though the Christian has obtained forgiveness, yet as undue anxiety about the present world endangers his loss of all evidence of this important fact-is inconsistent with his profession, principles, and experience and exhibits base ingratitude to his gracious benefactor, his folly is equally surprising.
Want of liberty and enjoyment at a throne of grace, is the only other cause we shall specify as producing restraint of prayer.
There are unquestionably seasons in which the Sacred Spirit in a special manner "helps our infirmities;" and at such times it is all-important that every sail should be hoisted to the heavenly breeze. But in seasons of an opposite description it becomes us to remember that though delight is usually an attendant or result of sincerity, it is in no case the standard of duty. we always to pray without any sensible manifestations of the divine favour, neither the importance of obtaining that favour, nor our obligations to seek it, would be in the least diminished thereby. The more cause we have to suspect our own sincerity, and the less pleasure we find in the exercise of devotion, the more necessary is it for us earnestly and perseveringly to implore that spirituality of mind, or that habitual sense of the reality and importance of eternal things, which is the most effectual corrective of an undevotional frame. This possesssed, the axe will be laid at the root of our unbelief;-ignorance of God will give place to scriptural views of his character and the worship he requires ;-pride of heart will be sup
Besides secular engagements there are others of a different kind, which though really or apparently connected with the service of God, are sometimes the occasion of depriving the soul of the privileges and enjoyments of the more retiring saint. Perhaps there is scarcely a minister or active Christian in the world who has not at times had cause to confess, "they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard have I not kept." Nor is it unlikely that the wily adversary of our souls sometimes stimulates to active or laborious services for the very purpose of leaving us less leisure for that retire-planted by humility;-leisure for interment without which the vital principle course with our best Friend will be of piety will certainly decay. This is a secured amidst the most pressing secular serious thought, and one which should or religious engagements;—and slavish be pondered by all whom it concerns; fear, darkness and discomfort in debut let not indolence, timidity, or car-votional exercises will be exchanged for nal ease, hence derive an excuse for the sweet and "glorious liberty of the refusing or neglecting to devote the
utmost energies of mind and action to Him who has laid us under infinite and eternal obligations.
sons of God."
EXAMINATION OF BARNES'S NOTES ON TEXTS RELATING TO
NO. XII. MARK VII. 4,
serves as a mattrass, the other as a covering." Now, is the immersion of a cotton quilt an absolute impossibility? If not what becomes of the argument?
Our number for July last contained | quilts, one of which, folded double, the Note of Mr. Barnes on this verse unabridged, and we took into consideration that portion of the paragraph to which it belongs which relates to the immersion of pharisees and other ob- Does any reader ask for evidence servers of the traditions of the elders of the use of similar beds among the when they returned from market. It ancient orientals? Dr. Jahn of Vienna is to the latter part of the paragraph, furnishes it in his learned work on however, that Mr. Barnes refers with Biblical Antiquities. He speaks of the the greatest complacency. Here he table in the east as a round piece of has found something tangible. Heark-leather spread upon the floor, on which en ye baptists! "If the word baptism is placed a sort of stool to support the is used here to denote any thing except platter. Mr. Barnes tells us, however, entire immersion, it may be elsewhere." that the word "refers not to the tables Who can deny this proposition? Cer- on which they ate, but to the couches tainly we shall not; and therefore all on which they reclined at their meals." that Mr. Barnes has to do, in order to Hear Dr. Jahn then respecting these. secure our adhesion is to prove that "The seat," he says, 66 was the floor, it denotes something less than entire spread with a mattrass, carpet, or immersion here. cushion, upon which those who ate sat with legs bent or crossed. They sat in
Now then for the evidence,-" Tables. | This word means in the original," says Mr. Barnes, "beds or couches." Granted. "The word baptism is here used," says Mr. Barnes; and again we say, Granted. "But," says Mr. Barnes, as it cannot be supposed that couches were entirely immersed in water, the word baptism here must denote some other application of water, by sprinkling or otherwise." Stay, stay, good friend; not quite so fast. "Beds," if you please, but if you mean to maintain they were feather beds, you must bring forward your evidence. Couches," if you like, but if you wish to argue that they were such couches as would spoil by an effectual washing, just prove it.
Dr. George Paxon, an accredited Presbyterian writer, in his work on the Manners and Customs of the East, tells us that, "The eastern beds consist merely of two thick cotton
a circle round the piece of leather, with the right side towards the table, so that one might be said to lean upon the bosom of another. Neither knife, fork, nor spoon was used, but a cloth was spread round the circular leather to prevent the mats from being soiled, which is the custom in the east to the present day." If such were the beds or couches, is there any thing incredible in the statement that by very particular people, such as those spoken of in the text, they were afterwards immersed ?
But we will call one more witness. Perhaps Mr. Barnes himself will kindly tell us what sort of things they were which served for the common people as "beds ?" In his note on Matthew ix. 2, where a man sick of the palsy is represented as lying on a bed, the word used being precisely the same as that in the