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It is noticed with approbation, when men are violent for the kingdom of heaven, and take it by force. Thus Christ suffered the blind man to be most importunate and unceasing in his cries to him, Luke xviii. 38, 39. He continued crying, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me." Others who were present rebuked him, that he should hold his peace, looking upon it as too great a boldness, and an indecent behaviour towards Christ, thus to cry after him as he passed by. But Christ did not rebuke him, but stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him, saying, "What wilt thou that I should do to thee?" And when the blind man had told him, Christ graciously granted his request. The freedom of access that God gives, appears also in allowing us to come to him by prayer for every thing we need, both temporal and spiritual; whatever evil we need to be delivered from, or good we would obtain: Phil. iv. 6. Be careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God."

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2. That God is eminently of this character, appears in his hearing prayer so readily. He often manifests his readiness to hear prayer, by giving an answer so speedily, sometimes while they are yet speaking, and sometimes before they pray, when they only have a design of praying. So ready is God to hear prayer, that he takes notice of the first purpose of praying, and sometimes bestows mercy thereupon: Isa. Ixv. 24. "And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, will hear." We read, that when Daniel was making humble and earnest supplication, God sent an angel to comfort him, and to assure him of an answer, Dan. ix. 20-24. When God defers for the present to answer the prayer of faith, it is not from any backwardness to answer, but for the good of his people sometimes, that they may be better prepared for the mercy before they receive it, or because another time would be the best and fittest on some other account: and even then, when God seems to delay an answer, the answer is, indeed, hastened, as in Luke xviii. 7, 8. "And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you, that he will avenge them speedily." Sometimes, when the blessing seems to tarry, God is even then at work to bring it about in the best time and the best manner: Hab. ii. 3. Though it tarry, wait for it; it will come, it will not tarry."

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3. That the Most High is eminently one that hears prayer, appears by his giving so liberally in answer to prayer: Jam. i. 5, 6. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not." Men often show their backwardness to give, both by the scantiness of their gifts, and by upbraiding those who ask of them. They will be sure to put them in mind of some faults, when they give them any thing; but, on the contrary, God gives liberally, and upbraids

*us not with our undeservings. He is plenteous and rich in his communications to those who call upon him: Psal. lxxxvi. 5. "For thou art good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy unto all that call upon thee;" and Rom. x. 12. "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek ; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him." Sometimes, God not only gives the thing asked, but he gives them more than is asked.So he did to Solomon, 1 Kings iii. 12, 13. "Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour; so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee, all thy days." Yea, God will give more to his people than they can either ask or think, as is implied in Ephes. iii. 20. "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think."

4. That God is eminently of this character, appears by the greatness of the things which he hath often done in answer to prayer. Thus, when Esau was coming out against his brother Jacob, with four hundred men, without doubt fully resolved to cut him off, Jacob prayed, and God turned the heart of Esau, so that he met Jacob in a very friendly manner; Gen, xxxii. So in Egypt, at the prayer of Moses, God brought those dreadful plagues, and, at his prayer, removed them again.When Samson was ready to perish with thirst, he prayed to God, and he brought water out of a dry jaw-bone, for his supply, Judg. xv. 18, 19. And when he prayed, after his strength was departed from him, God strengthened him, so as to pull down the temple of Dagon on the Philistines; so that those whom he slew at his death, were more than all those whom he slew in his life.-Joshua prayed to God, and said, "Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon; and God heard his prayer, and caused the sun and moon to stand still accordingly. The prophet "Elijah was a man of like passion" with us; and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and i rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit;" as the apostle James observes, Jam. v. 17, 18. So God confounded the army of Zerah the Ethiopian, of a thousand thousand, in answer to the prayer of Asa, 2 Chron. xiv. 9, &c. And God sent an angel, and slew in one night an hundred and eighty-five thousand men of Sennacherib's army, in answer to Hezekiah's prayer, 2 Kings xix. 14-16, 19, 35.

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5. This truth appears, in that God is, as it were, overcome by prayer. When God is displeased by sin, he manifests his displeasure, comes out against us in his providence, and seems to oppose and resist us; in such cases, God is, speaking after

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the manner of men, overcome by humble and fervent prayer. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much," Jam. v. 16. It has a great power in it; such a prayerhearing God is the Most High, that he graciously manifests himself as conquered by it. Thus God appeared to oppose Jacob in what he sought of him; yet Jacob was resolute and overcame. Therefore God changed his name from Jacob to Israel; "for," says he, as a prince thou hast power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." Gen. xxxii. 28. A mighty prince indeed! Hos. xii. 4. "Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept and made supplication unto him."-When his anger was provoked against Israel, and he appeared to be ready to consume them in his hot displeasure, Moses stood in the gap, and by his humble and earnest prayer and supplication, averted the stroke of divine vengeance. Exod. xxxii. 9, &c. and Numb. xiv. 11, &c.

III. Herein the Most High God is distinguished from false gods. The true God is the only one of this character, there is no other of whom it may be said, that he heareth prayer.

Many of those things that are worshipped as gods are idols made by their worshippers; mere stocks and stones that know nothing. They are indeed made with ears; but they hear not the prayers of them that cry to them. They have eyes, but they see not, &c. Psal. cxv. 5, 6.-Others, though not the work of men's hands, yet are things without life. Thus, many worship the sun, moon and stars, which though glorious creatures, yet are not capable of knowing any thing of the wants and desires of those who pray to them.-Some worship certain kinds of animals, as the Egyptians were wont to worship bulls, which, though not without life, yet are destitute of that reason whereby they would be capable of knowing the requests of their worshippers. Others worship devils instead of the true God: 1 Cor. x. 20. "But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils." These, though beings of great powers, have not knowledge necessary to capacitate them fully to understand the state, circumstances, necessities, and desires of those who pray to them. But the true God perfectly knows the circumstances of every one that prays to him throughout the world. Though millions pray to him at once, in different parts of the world, it is no more difficult for him who is infinite in knowledge, to take notice of all than of one alone. God is so perfect in knowledge, that he doth not need to be informed by us, in order to a knowledge of our wants; for he knows what things we need before we ask him. The worshippers of false gods were wont to lift their voices and cry aloud, lest their gods should fail of hearing them, as Elijah tauntingly bade the worshippers of Baal do, 1 Kings xviii. 27. But the true God

hears the silent petitions of his people. He needs not that we should cry aloud; yea, he knows and perfectly understands when we only pray in our hearts, as Hannah did, 1 Sam. i. 13.

Idols are but vanities and lies; in them is no help. As to power or knowledge, they are nothing; as the apostle says, 1 Cor. viii. 4. "An idol is nothing in the world." As to images, they are so far from having power to answer prayer, that they are not able to act: "They have hands, and handle not; feet have they, but they walk not; neither speak they through their throat." They, therefore, that make them and pray to them, are senseless and sottish, and make themselves as it were stocks and stones, like unto them: Psal. cxv. 7, 8. and Jer. x. 5. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not; they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil; neither also is it in them to do good," As to the hosts of heaven, the sun, moon, and stars, although mankind receive benefit by them, yet they act only by necessity of nature; therefore they have no power to do any thing in answer to prayers. And devils, though worshipped as gods, are not able, if they had disposition, to make those happy who worship them, and can do nothing at all but by divine permission, and as subject to the disposal of Divine providence.-When the children of Israel departed from the true God to idols, and yet cried to him in their distress, he reproved them for their folly, by bidding them cry to the gods whom they had served, for deliverance in the time of their tribulation. Josh. x. 14. So God challenges those gods themselves, Isa. xli. 23, 24. "Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods; yea, do good or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together. Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought; an abomination is he that chooseth you."-These false gods, instead of helping those who pray to them, cannot help themselves. The devils are miserable tormented spirits; they are bound in chains of darkness for their rebellion against the true God, and cannot deliver themselves. Nor have they any more disposition to help mankind, than a parcel of hungry wolves or lions would have to protect and help a flock of lambs. And those that worship and pray to them, get not their good-will by serving them all the reward that Satan will give : them for the service which they do him, is to devour them.-I proceed now,

IV. To give the reasons of the doctrine; which I would do in answer to these two inquiries: first, Why God requires prayer in order to the bestowment of mercies? and secondly, Why God is so ready to hear the prayers of men?

INQ. I. Why doth God require prayer in order to the bestowment of mercies?

It is not in order that God may be informed of our wants or desires. He is omniscient, and with respect to his knowledge unchangeable. God never gains any knowledge by information. He knows what we want, a thousand times more perfectly than we do ourselves, before we ask him. For though, speaking after the manner of men, God is sometimes represented as if he were moved and persuaded by the prayers of his people; yet it is not to be thought that God is properly moved or made willing by our prayers; for it is no more possible that there should be any new inclination or will in God, than new knowledge. The mercy of God is not moved or drawn by any thing in the creature; but the spring of God's beneficence is within himself only; he is self-moved; and whatsoever mercy he bestows, the reason and ground of it is not to be sought for in the creature, but in God's own good pleasure. It is the will of God to bestow mercy in this way, viz. in answer to prayer, when he designs beforehand to bestow mercy, yea, when he has promised it; as Ezek. xxxvi. 36, 37. "I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it. Thus saith the Lord, I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them." God has been pleased to constitute prayer to be an antecedent to the bestowment of mercy; and he is pleased to bestow mercy in consequence of prayer, as though he were prevailed on by prayer.When the people of God are stirred up to prayer, it is the effect of his intention to show mercy; therefore he pours out the spirit of grace and supplication.

There may be two reasons given why God requires prayer in order to the bestowment of mercy; one especially respects God, and the other respects ourselves.

1. With respect to God, prayer is but a sensible acknowledgment of our dependence on him to his glory. As he hath made all things for his own glory, so he will be glorified and acknowledged by his creatures; and it is fit that he should require this of those who would be the subjects of his mercy. That we, when we desire to receive any mercy from him, should humbly supplicate the Divine Being for the bestowment of that mercy, is but a suitable acknowledgment of our dependence on the power and mercy of God, for that which we need, and but a suitable honour paid to the great Author and Fountain of all good.

2. With respect to ourselves, God requires prayer of us in order to the bestowment of mercy, because it tends to prepare us for its reception. Fervent prayer many ways tends to prepare the heart. Hereby is excited a sense of our need and of the value of the mercy which we seek, and at the same time earnest desires for it; whereby the mind is more prepared to prize it, to rejoice in it when bestowed, and to be thankful for it. Prayer, with suitable confession, may excite a sense of our unworthiness of the mercy we seek; and the placing of ourselves VOL. VI.

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