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universe stands in need of these ; and on the attainment of it depends our everlasting welfare. Let every one, then, pray,
« Quicken me, O Lord !” Oh! turn me, for thy mercy's sake! “Turn thou me, and I shall be turned.”] 2. The manifestations of his favour
[We should never rest without an evidence in our own souls that we are the Lord's. While our interest in his favour is doubtful, what happiness can we enjoy? There must always be a secret fear and misgiving, that ere long we may become monuments of his righteous indignation. We should therefore entreat of God to “ lift up the light of his countenance upon us,” and to give us a spirit of adoption, testifying that we are his. It is not the sun of outward prosperity that we are to desire, but that inward light, by which we can discern our adoption into his family, and our title to his glory. This will make every "yoke easy, and every burthen light.”)
But the text itself leads us to consider, III. The fruit and consequence of accepted prayer
These blessings once obtained, we shall assuredly, possess, 1. Stability in God's ways
[Thousands there are who “run well only for a season, and who, by turning back from God, make “ their latter end worse than their beginning." But real conversion, especially when it issues in a peaceful walk with God, produces a decision of character which nothing can shake. I mean not to say that any man has strength of his own, whereby he can stand : even St. Paul himself needed incessant care and watchfulness, lest, “ after having preached to others, he himself should become a cast-away.' But a sense
God's love in the soul confirms our confidence in him; and enables us, in dependence on his grace, to hurl defiance at all the enemies of our salvation, and to rest assured that “ none shall ever prevail to separate us from his love."] 2. The everlasting enjoyment of his favour
[Thrice is this repeated, and each time with increasing earnestness : “ Turn us again, O God, and we shall be saved : turn again, O God of Hosts, and we shall be saved : turn us again, O Lord God of Hosts, and we shall be saved m.” If we commit ourselves truly to the Lord Jesus Christ, “none shall ever pluck us out of his hands ; ” but that promise shall be fully verified, " Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation; ye shall not be ashamed or confounded world without end.") m ver. iï. 7, 19.
n Isai. xly. 17.
Hence we may SEE,
1. How little reason there is for any man to despond
[Who can be in a more desperate state than that depicted in the psalm before us? Yet for them was relief solicited and obtained. And is there not the same help for us? Is not the Saviour as mighty as ever? Is his hand shortened at all, that it cannot save? or his ear heavy, that it cannot hear? Let, then, the same means be used, and the same result may assuredly be expected. I will suppose that the enemy has “overflowed even to the neck," and is even now exulting in his triumphs. Spread but your case before the Lord, as Hezekiah did, and you may adopt the language which was put into his mouth; "The virgin, the daughter of Israel, hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn ; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.” Sooner shall heaven and earth pass away, than one praying and believing soul be left to perish.] 2. How little ground there is for any one to glory
[I will suppose that any one of you is now flourishing like the vine, of which the Psalmist speaks, in all its glory. Whence came you? Know that you were once in Egypt, and were brought out thence to the place in which you stand. And who has kept you from being trodden down and devoured by the beasts of the field ? It is God alone who has kept you, even to the present hour. It is He who gave you his converting grace; He who infused peace into your soul by the light of his reconciled countenance. And when you shall arrive at the realms of glory, it is to Him that you must ascribe your salvation, from first to last. If any man be disposed to glory, I would ask, “ Who made thee to differ? And what hast thou, which thou hast not received ?” Whilst you are building on the true foundation here, you must say continually, “ By the grace of God, I am what I am P:" and when “ the headstone shall be brought forth with shoutings," you must spend eternity in crying, “Grace, grace unto it !!"]
o Isai. xxxvii. 22. p 1 Cor. xv. 10. q Zech. iv. 7.
DCXXXVII. PRAYER EFFECTUAL, TO ANY EXTENT. Ps. Ixxxi. 10. I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.
ACCESS to God, and a certainty of acceptance with him, have been amongst the most distinguished privileges of the Lord's people in all ages.
ancient people the Jews, God said, “What nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?” To us, under the Christian dispensation, it is promised, that “ wherever two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus, there will that blessed Saviour be in the midst of them.” None shall “ draw nigh to him in prayer, but he will also draw nigh to them,” to answer their prayers. In the psalm before us, God most affectionately encourages his people to come to him, and to enlarge their requests to the utmost extent of their necessities : “ Hear, O my people! and I will testify unto thee, O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me.” “I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt; open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.”
Here, Brethren, let me call your attention to, 1. The invitation given us
How comprehensive the words in which it is contained !
[Here is no limit to our petitions. On the contrary, we are encouraged to extend them to every thing that our souls can desire. Nor is there any limit assigned, beyond which we are not to expect an answer. Whatever we want for body or for soul, for time or for eternity, it shall all be given us, if only we will “ approach unto God," and "make our requests known unto him."]
And how marvellous the invitation, as sent by God to sinful man !
[God can receive nothing from us : "our goodness can never extend to him." He is altogether independent of us: and if the whole human race were annihilated this very moment, God would suffer no loss. Neither his honour nor his happiness were in the least diminished, when the fallen angels were cast out of heaven into the bottomless abyss of hell: nor if we were all plunged into the same abyss of misery, would God be in the least affected by it. Yet, behold, He deigns to send us the gracious invitation which we have just heard, and permits even the vilest amongst us to regard it as addressed personally to himself. To every soul amongst us he says, “ Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it."]
Listen then with wonder to,
II. The consideration with which it is enforced
Surprising encouragement! Mark it,
[God had brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm. What an evidence was this of his power! and what a pledge was this of his willingness to do for them all that their necessities might require! Behold the sea opening before them, to give a dry path to them, and to overwhelm in one common ruin every one of their pursuers ! Behold the bread given them for forty years by a daily miraculous supply from heaven, and the water from the rock following them in all their way! See them at last established in the Promised Land! Could they ask more than had already been done for them? And if these things had been done notwithstanding all their rebellions, what should they not obtain if they would implore it with all humility from God?]
2. As comprehending that more wonderful redemption vouchsafed to us
[If the typical redemption from Egypt afforded such encouragement to prayer, what must we think of that redemption which it shadowed forth, even the redemption of our souls from death and hell, by the precious blood of God's only dear Son? Hear Jehovah saying, 'I am the Lord thy God, who became a man for thee; who died upon the cross for thee; who bore thy sins in my own body on the tree, that thou mightest be freed from the condemnation due to them, and mightest inherit a throne of glory!' What a claim is this to our gratitude! what an incentive to the utmost possible enlargement of our petitions ! and what an encouragement to our most unshaken affiance! Take the invitation by itself, and it expresses all that we can wish: but take it in connexion with this consideration with which it is enforced, and methinks there will not be one amongst us that will not most cordially accept it, and most thankfully avail himself of the liberty, the inestimable liberty, thus accorded to him.]
But, seeing that this invitation has been so often sent to us,
1. How amazing is it that any of us can live without prayer!
(Methinks it were almost a libel upon human nature to suppose that there should be any one so stupid and so brutish as to live without prayer; and I ought to make an apology for suggesting even a possibility that such an one may be found in this assembly. Well; forgive me, if in this I have erred: yet I would affectionately put it home to the consciences
of all who are here present, and ask, Have you, my Brethren, and you, and you, really sought after God, and spread your wants before him, and implored mercy at his hands, and wrestled with him, as it were, in prayer, for an out-pouring of his Spirit upon you? Have you done it this week past? Have it this very morning? Can you call God to witness that you have thus opened your mouth wide before him, in the hope that he would fill and satisfy you with the abundance of his grace? Is there no one amongst you that stands reproved for his neglect of this duty ? Yea, rather, are there not some amongst you who have never poured out their souls before God in prayer during their whole life, or, at all events, only under the pressure of some great calamity, which, when it was past, left them in the same careless and obdurate state as before? Perhaps some of you may have repeated some form which you learned in early life, or may have read some form out of a book: but this is not prayer, if it be unattended with the real desires of the heart : prayer, is not a mere service of the lip and knee, but the effusion of the soul before God in earnest supplication. I lament to think how many there are utter strangers to such holy wrestlings, such sweet communion with their God. Let me, then, remind such persons what sad regret they excite in the bosom of Jehovah ; and what bitter regret they themselves also will one day experience in their own bosoms. God says, "O that my people had hearkened to me, and Israel had walked in my ways !” And will not you also, ere long, adopt a similar language, and say, “O that I had hearkened to the voice of my God, and had walked in the ways to which he called me!" And if God contemplate with such regret the blessings which he would have bestoweda, with what sad regret will you one day view the blessings you have lost! Be wise in time; and now avail yourselves of the opportunity that is afforded you, “ seeking the Lord whilst he may be found, and calling upon him whilst he is near.”]
2. How lamentable is it that any one should yield to discouragement in prayer!
[What could God say to you, more than he has said ; or do for you, more than he has done ? St. Paul says, “ He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with Him also freely give us all things?” Only reflect on what he has done, and how impossible it was any fallen creature should dare to ask such things at God's hands, and you need not fear to enlarge your petitions, to the utmost extent of language to express, or of imagination to conceive. You are not straitened in him; be not straitened in yourselves b. Only spread your wants before him freely, and you shall find ver. 13-16.
b 2 Cor. vi. 12.