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ON THE NECESSITY OF PRAYER.
TO be instant in prayer is not an obligation peculiar to the sacred calling. It is the most essential duty of Christianity: every Christian is expected to be a man of prayer : his views, his desires, his hopes, his conversation, all, according to the Apostle, are to be in Heaven : every Christian is a citizen of the world to come; all the external objects which surround him here below, should be, in his estimation, as bonds and obstacles, which, retarding his course, and prolonging his pilgrimage, ought to enflame his desires towards his own country; the seductions of the world, innocent as they may appear, should all conspire to warn him to raise, continually, his thoughts on high; to send up thither his sighs and prayers ; to address himself “ to the faithful and invisible “ Witness in heaven,” and to his only Protector, from whom he receives consolation and support. Every Christian, then, is a man of prayer : and a Christian who does not pray, is without God, without Religion, without hope. This incontroveștible truth once established, is it not our indispensable duty to employ the most powerful arguments, and urge the most persuasive exhortations, to inspire our respective flocks with the love, and devote them to the practice, of prayer ?
But if Religion itself be, in fact, nothing more than “ an holy worship,” which we offer unto God, to declare his blessings, and exalt his Majesty, or to solicit his assistance and obtain his mercy ; if its several ordinances are prescribed to make of each of its professors a man of prayer ; if, as hath been already observed, a Christian, who does not pray, is without God, without Religion, and without hope—what a monster must a Pastor be, a Minister of that blessed Religion, if he himself is not a man of prayer; if he does not know the use of it—that is to say, if he prays only with his mouth, without attention, without any sentiment of piety, and even with so little reverence, that his prayer is rather an insult offered to God, than the homage of Religion, paid to his Supreme Majesty? If, my Reverend Brethren, you do not feel this truth, how ought you, and how ought I myself to lament, in having to address such Ministers, and such Pastors, of the Church? In order then, to our mutual edification, and to animate us, individually, to the practice of a duty so consolatory in the discharge of our obligations, and so inseparable from them, I will beg your attention, whilst I expatiate on the necessity and advantages of frequent and devout prayer.
Yes, we who are Ministers, who are Pastors of
the flock, we have need continually of the support of prayer. The greater our intercourse with the world, the more we are exposed to its allurements. When we appear in it, we ought to appear clothed with more virtue, more holiness, than the rest of those among whom we live. It is difficult to a Minister, if the practice of prayer have not established him stedfast and immoveable in goodness, to be incessantly in the midst of the corruption of the world, and not be caught in its snares. He carries thither an heart, void of those profound sentiments of religion, which the practice of prayer can alone inscribe upon it, and filled with all those ideas, which make the world seem amiable, and which, in our opinion, justify the abuse of it.
And although decorum should restrain him within certain bounds, yet, if he is influenced only by a regard to men, and the decency of appearance, which his calling requires, the world no longer respects him as a Christian Minister, no longer perceives in him, the engaging piety, the holy dignity, which bespeak a Pastor of the flock.
But allowing that, in our intercourse with men, we are “ defended from all adversity which may
happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts “ which may assault and hurt the soul,” and that a sense of the danger to which we are exposed, did not exact of us a constant application to God in prayer, which is, alone, capable of enabling us to support the dignity, and the holiness of the minis.