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godly have good reason to pity the ungodly. They have always been unhappy and miserable objects; for they have always been disappointed respecting that contentment which has been the supreme and ultimate object of all their worldly pursuits. Though they have often obtained the things which they desired, and which they expected would afford them conteniment, yet they have always found that they produced a contrary effect, and blasted their hopes and expectations. All that cometh is vanity; the world will
, in time to come, as in time past, deceive and disappoint them. They are pursuing a course which will disappoint one hope after another, until it plunges them in ulter despair, which is the perfection of misery. Such persons are really to be pitied, though they may view themselves as rich, and increased with goods, and to have need of nothing. The godly see their misery, and guilt, and danger, and ought to pity them. David condemns himself for being envious at the prosperity of the wicked. Good men ought to guard against such unwise, as well as sinful feelings. And as soon as they view their end, they will feel as David did, and pity their forlorn condition, when they shall lose the world and their souls with it. Lazarus had reason to pity Dives, while living in all his wealth and affluence. Every godly man has reason to pity the ungodly, though having more than heart can wish; for he sees his present discontentment, and foresees his future disappointment and despair, if he persists in his ungodliness.
6. If godliness be so gainful as has been represented, then the godly ought to do all they can to lead others to be godly. Godliness is benevolence, and benevolence wishes well to all mankind. God is good to the evil, and the godly are good to the ungodly. And though they may express their goodness to them, by promoting their temporal happiness, yet they can give a much stronger expression of their benevolence towards them, by promoting their piety and godly contentment. It is true, parents ought to provide for their children; but they cannot promote their present and future good in any other way so much, as in a faithful discharge of parental duty towards them. They can do nothing better for them than to teach them, by example, godly contentment, godly obedience and godly zeal, for their spiritual and eternal good. These are powerful means to impress the minds of the young with a sense of the importance and benefit of early piety. And these are the best means that the godly can use, to lead all the ungodly to give up their lying vanities, choose the one thing needful, and prepare for both living and dying.
THE PROPER DESIGN AND INFLUENCE OF PRAYER.
For as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
CENESIS, xxxii. 28.
Though all christians agree in maintaining the duty of prayer, yet many find a difficulty in reconciling this duty with the divine character. They suppose God is perfectly good, infinitely wise, and absolutely immutable in all his purposes ; and upon this ground, they cannot easily conceive what influence prayer can have, either to procure his favors, or to avert his frowns. It is the design of the ensuing discourse, therefore, to remove this difficulty, by pointing out the nature and tendency of prayer. And the words I have read, taken in their proper connection, directly lead us to the consideration of this serious and practical subject.
As Jacob was returning from Padan-Aram to his native country, he sent messengers to his brother Esau, to acquaint him with his intended visit, and to conciliate his favor. But the messengers brought back information, that his brother was on his way to meet him, with four hundred men.
This news was extremely alarming to Jacob, who knew his brother's resentment, and his own weakness. In this critical situation, he acted the part of a pious and prudent man.
He first attempted to appease his brother's wrath, by a noble and princely present. But lest this precaution should fail of success, he ordered his servants to conduct his family and flocks over the brook Jabbok, whilst he himself remained alone, to supplicate the divine favor and protection. At this season of solitude and devotion, he wrestled with God and prevailed. The account is extremely solemn and instructive. " And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh ; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh ; and he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said,
, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel; for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Here it is very evident that Jacob wrestled with a divine person; and that his wrestling principally or wholly consisted in pleading and crying for mercy. So we find it represented by the prophet Hosea. “ Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed; he wept, and made supplication unto him.” The sincerity, fervency, and importunity of his prayers, moved God to hear and answer his requests. Both the letter and spirit of the text suggest this general observation:
That it is the design of prayer to move God to bestow mercy. This will appear, if we consider, 1. That prayer properly and essentially consists in pleading. Though it may be divided into distinct parts or branches, yet all these ultimately unite and centre in supplication. In adoration, confession, petition, and thanksgiving, we ultimately plead for divine mercy.
When we petition our fellow men, we always mean to move them to grant our requests. And in order to prevail, it is common to make use of various modes of supplication or pleading. This is the method which a penitent child would take, to obtain the forfeited favor of his father. He would acknowledge the rectitude of his father's government; he would confess the injury he had done to his father's character; he would thank him for his past favors, and pathetically plead for his forgiving love. He would naturally employ ail these modes of address, in order to move his father to pardon his faults. So when we praise God for his perfections, thank him for his mercies, confess our trespasses against him, and present our petitions to him, we do all this with an ultimate aim to move his heart, and obtain the blessings we implore. Indeed, we never supplicate any being, without an ultimate intention of prevailing upon him to do or grant what we desire. And any address which does not express or imply a design of moving the person addressed, cannot deserve the name of petition or prayer. So far, therefore, as prayer signifies “the offering up of our desires to God for things agreeable to his