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With him there is no weariness, nor any defect either of inclination or of power. To him all may go, at all times, and under all circumstances : and, if they go to him, they shall find, by sweet experience, that “he is able to do for them exceeding abundantly above all that they can ask or think.” Hence the name given to Jehovah by the Psalmist, is this, “O thou that hearest prayer.” In the passage before us we are particularly led to contemplate God in this view. It is here said, I. That he will hear the supplications of his praying
people“ The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him”
[Never will he turn a deaf ear to a humble suppliant. We read not of so much as one whom the Lord Jesus turned away in the days of his flesh, provided only that he came under a deep sense of his own necessities, and a humble expectation of relief from him. So at this time there is no difference with respect to persons; God is ready to hear “all” without exception, whether those who have long approved themselves to him as faithful servants, or those who come to him for the first time in their whole lives “He will be nigh unto them,” the very instant they call upon him. But who can declare all that is contained in this expression ? As to his actual presence, God is nigh unto all, whether they call upon him or not. It is of the manifestations of his presence that the Psalmist speaks: and those will God vouchsafe to the souls of his faithful worshippers in a variety of ways. He will “ lift up the light of his countenance upon them;" he will shed abroad his love in their hearts by the Holy Ghost: he will give them the spirit of adoption, yea,
and the witness of his Spirit, whereby they shall know that their prayers are both heard and answered. We do not now speak of such testimonies as were vouchsafed to Daniel, or Cornelius, but such as are promised in the prophecies of Isaiah to the Church at large: “ Then thou shalt call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am a.” To judge of these assurances of our acceptance, we must have experienced them in our own souls. To those who have not known them they must of necessity appear little better than the dreams of a heated imagination. But whatever the ignorant may say, "if we draw nigh to God, he will draw nigh to us b,” and “ will manifest himself unto us, as he does not unto the world o."]
a Isai. lviii. 9. b Jam. iv. 8. c John xiv. 21, 22.
It is here however supposed, that we call upon him “in truth”—
[Prayer must be sincere, in order to find acceptance with God. We cannot hope that it shall prevail, if it proceed "from feigned lips.” Of what value in the sight of God can a mere formal recital of words be? "It is in vain that we draw nigh to him with our lips, if our hearts be far from him.” Or, supposing that we be earnest in our petitions, how can we hope that God will hear them, if we are hypocritically indulging any secret sins ? David justly says, “ If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." By the prophet Isaiah, God speaks yet more strongly; “ When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers I will not hear: your hands are full of blood d.” “God is a Spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth e :” and to those who so worship him, is his promise of acceptance confined: “ Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall
unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart ?."]
To this general promise of hearing his people's prayers, is added an assurance, II. That he will hear them even under circumstances
that may be supposed most unfavourable to their
acceptance with him Where there have been much previous meditation, and subsequent fluency of expression, we are inclined to hope, that our prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts : but where these have been wanting, we are ready to doubt whether God will regard us at all.
But we are assured in our text that he will hear, 1. Our cries unpremeditated
[There are many occasions that arise so suddenly as to preclude a possibility of previous meditation. Such was the danger to which Jehoshaphat was exposed in the very heat of battle, when the Syrians mistook him for King Ahab, whom they were especially commanded to search out and to destroy: they had actually compassed him round about; and Jehoshaphat had only time to cry out to God: yet behold, so instantaneously did God hear and answer, that in a moment “ he was helped, and his enemies were moved to depart from him 8.” Thus by ten
d Isai. i. 15. and Prov. xxi. 27. e John iv. 24. f Jer. xxix. 12, 13.
8 2 Chron. xviii. 30, 31,
thousand accidents may we be brought in danger of our lives, or by the devices of Satan be exposed to temptations that threaten to overwhelm and destroy our souls: but prayer will in an instant bring omnipotence to our aid. Look at Peter sinking in the waves: he cries, “ Save, Lord; or I perish!” and, behold, the Saviour instantly stretched out his hand, and saved him: and so will that Almighty Friend do to us also, whatever our difficulties or dangers be, according to that blessed promise; “ It shall come to pass, that, before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hearh."] 2. Our desires unexpressed
[It is but little than any man knows of his own necessities: and even those who know most of them, are often greatly at a loss to express their wants in prayer. There are times when the best of men feel their spirit straitened, and can utter their desires only in sighs and groans. This, I say, is the case with those whose knowledge is most enlarged, and whose abilities are most eminent. How then must it be with those whose intellectual powers are small, and who have never enjoyed the advantages of a liberal education? Will God confine his answer to their immediate requests? No. He knows the meaning of a sigh or groan, as well as if it were expressed in the most fluent language. He knows that at the very time when his people can say little else, than, “ Lord, help me; God be merciful to me a sinner," they would, if they could, expatiate upon all their wants, and pour out their souls before him in the most enlarged petitions. Hence, in his answers, he regards, not so much their words, as their wants; and enlarges the measure of his gifts in proportion to the extent of their desires. Whatever can tend to the peace of their minds or the perfection of their souls, that he imparts in rich abundance, communicating infinitely “ more than they can ask or thinki.”
But, as in the former case it was supposed that the person calling upon him was sincere, so here it is supposed that the person, whose unpremeditated cries he hears, and whose unexpressed desires he fulfils, does really “ fear him;" for it is that principle alone that can render their desires proper to be fulfilled, or their cries to be answered. Where the fear of God really is, there God's will, and God's glory, will alone be desiredk; and where they are the objects of our desire, however “wide our mouth be opened, God will fill it?."] See from hence,
1. How wonderful is the condescension of God to his believing people !
h Ps. lxv. 24. i Prov. xv. 8. and Eph. iii. 20.
[What would a person, who feels his own incapacity to spread his wants before God, wish for? If God should say to him, Tell me what I shall say for your encouragement, what could the drooping sinner dictate more consoling to himself than what is spoken in our text? — Examine well in this view what God has spoken in another place; how strongly he depicts the hopeless state of the suppliant, and what effectual aid he promises to impart m. and you will be prepared to estimate aright the promise in our text. Let none then give way to unbelieving fears, or be dejected because they find not in themselves all the liberty and fluency they could wish: but let the habitual desire of the soul be after God, and the bent of it be towards him on every emergency: then shall not one jot or tittle of this word fail of its full accomplishment".
Let me very especially direct your attention to the climax which God is pleased to use in this place, for the purpose of encouraging his tempted people, and of magnifying his mercy towards them. In every member of the sentence he enlarges his promise; and, at the same time, lowers, as it were, the qualifications necessary for those to whom the promises are made: To them that "call upon him in truth,” he will “be nigh.” To those who only “ fear him," and cherish, as it were, a feeble desire towards him, he will be so gracious as to "fulfil their desire."
And lastly, if any, through the greatness of their necessities, or an overwhelming sense of their unworthiness, are unable to do more than utter a cry," he will listen to them, yea, and save them with an everlasting salvation. The sigh, the groan, the tear shed in secret, shall come up with acceptance before him; even as Jeremiah's supplication did from the low dungeon, when he said, “ Hide not thine ear at my breathing and my cryo!"]
2. What bitter self-reproach will they feel, who live and die without prayer!
[One of the most bitter ingredients in that cup of God's wrath which will be put into the hands of those who perish, will be the reflection, that they might have had all the glory of heaven, if only they would have sought it in earnest prayer. When they once experience the torments of hell, they may cry ever so long for a drop of water to cool their tongue, but they will not be able to obtain it. How will they then curse their folly, that they neglected to cry, when they might have obtained all that they could possibly desire! The recollection of that word, “ Ask, and ye shall have," will be a dagger to their souls. Dear Brethren, do but think of this in time. Think on what easy terms, if we may so speak, heaven may be now obtained. m Isai. xli. 17, 18. n Ps. xxxiv. 18. o Lam. iii. 56.
If only you truly “ fear God," and “ call upon him in truth,” you may be perfectly assured that you shall never be cast out. If God, unsolicited, gave you his only-begotten Son to die for you, what will he refuse you when you call upon him? He may delay indeed for a time to answer you; but not beyond the fittest time. “ Continue instant in prayer," then, yea, “pray and faint not;" for God cannot resist the importunity of prayer. The unjust judge complied with the widow's request at last: and “ will not God avenge his own elect, who cry day and night unto him? I tell you, that he will avenge them speedily."]
DCCXLIV. THE BLESSEDNESS OF TRUSTING IN GOD. Ps. cxlvi. 5. Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his
help, whose hope is in the Lord his God. HOW exalted was the frame of the Psalmist's mind at the time he penned these words ! “ Praise ye the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul. While I live will I praise the Lord : I will sing praises unto my God while I have any beinga.” Who that reads these words does not envy him, and desire to be like him? But how shall we attain this frame? How did he acquire it? He had been contemplating the character of the Most High, and the interest which he himself enjoyed in the divine favour: and he records this as his decided testimony for the benefit of all future generations : “ Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.”
May the same benefit result to you, my Brethren, whilst I, I. Confirm his testimony
Doubtless a carnal mind can see no blessedness in such contemplations as these : but one who is taught of God will fully accord with this inspired penman, from a conviction that the person here characterized may assure himself of two most important facts :
1. However numerous or powerful his enemies be, he can never be overcome
[Were his confidence in himself, he might soon be vanquished. Peter has shewn us how weak the most intrepid
ver. 1, 2.