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SER MON XV,
Preached before the
March the Thirteenth, 169.
LUKE xviii. In And he spake a Parable unto them, to this End, That
Men ought always to pray, and not to faint. enth HE Parable which our Saviour fpake
e unto them to this End, was this; I bere 10 was in a City a Judge, who feared not
God, nor regarded Men; and there was a Widow in that City, and she came to him saying, Avenge me of my Adversary; and he would not for a while : But afterwards he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard. Man, yet because this Widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, kejt by her continual coming she weary me.
The Application of this Parable is easie and natural. If a Man that neither fears God, nor regards Men; hath neither Sense of Religion nor Humanity; may be supposed to be so far prevail'd upon by the earnest Prayer of a miseraÉ e 2
ble necessitous Perfon, as to grant the Request made to him, and to administer Relief to the Supplicant, merely upon Account of the Continuance, and Importunity of the Petitions that are put ap; then how much more ought we to think that God, who is Infinite Goodness itfelf; who is always kind and bountiful to his Creatures; who delights to do Good to them, even without their feeking and desiring it ; and who is so far from being at any Pains or Trouble for the supplying their Wants, that it is altogether as easie for him to do what is requested of him, as not to do it: I say, How much more ought we to think, that this God, upon our earnest and hearty Prayer to him for any Thing we stand in need of, will return us 'i kind Answer, and grant us Tuch Supplies as are proper for us. But then we are to remember, that we Pray always, and faint not. We must be diligent, and importunate, and perfevering in our Devotions, otherwise we are not to expect any more favourable Return of them, than the Judge in the Parable made to the Widow upon her once or twice putting up her Petitions to him.
This is the Effect of the Parable. I mean not now fartħer to insist on it, but to stick to that Point, for the fake of which, our Saviour framed it: Jefus fpake a Parable unto them to this End, That Men ought always to pray, and 2100 to faint. .
But what is meant by praying always, and not fainting, which our Lord here obliges us to ? Is it to be always on your Knees, and to mind no other Business but Devotion ? So indeed
(they fay) fome of ancient Times expounded it; but we meet with them no where, but in the Catalogues of the Hereticks : No certainly, to pray always, and not to faint, doth imply a quite different Thing, of which I shall give an Account in the following Particulars.
First, These Words import, that we should be always in a praying Temper, in such a Difposition of Mind, that we always carry about us, and have within us the necessary Requisites of hearty Prayer; that is to say, a firm Belief of God and his Providence, a lively Sense of our own Sinfulness and Weakness, and manifold Necessities; and an entire, humble constant Dependance upon the Divine Goodness for the Supply of them. In such a Frame of Soul as this, I take that Spirit of Prayer and Supplication, mentioned in the Scriptures, to consist.
Secondly, To pray always, likewise imports, That upon every folemn Occasion, we should actually address ourselves to God, seeking Help from him in all the Straits and Difficulties we happen into; rendring our Acknowledgments for every Good that arrives to us in our Lives; and imploring his Protection, his Guidance, his Blelling upon us, in every Work of Moment that we go abolit.
Thirdly, It imports farther, that we should, at least, twice every Day, either in publick, or in private, offer up the Sacrifice of Prayer and Praise in a solemn inanner unto God. Less than this (I think) this Phrase of Praying always, as likewise that other Expression of St. Paul, that we should pray without ceasing : less a Thell. than this, I say, they cannot fignifie; but how 5.17.
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much more, I now enquire not. It is indeed, very probable, as Interpreters have noted, that thefe Expressions are borrowed from, and have respect to the daily Sacrifices among the stews, Every Day twiee (that is to say, in the Morning, and in the Evening) by the Appointment of God, was offer'd up a Sacrifice in the Temple; to which the Devout People resorted: Which Sacrifice is in Scripture called by the Name of the continual Sacrifice; the daily Sacrifice; the never-ceasing Sacrifice ; and this in Contra-distinction to the occasional Sacrifices, which pious Persons use to bring thither. If now this be a true Account of these Expressions, we cannot be said to pray always, to pray without ceasing, to pray continually, unless we do, at least, twice every Day, in the Morning, and in the Evening, offer up our solemn Sacrifice of Prayer to God;
But Fourthly, To pray always, and not to faint, implies great Earnestness and Importunity in our Prayers : It imports that we should not faintly address to God, but with Affection and Fervour; with a deep Sense of our Sins, and of our Wants; and a serious and fixed Attention to what we are about; and with very ardent Desires, and hungring and thirfing after that Grace, or that Pardon, or that Blessing that we
pray for. And this is that kind of Prayer, which Ch. 5. 16. St. James styles the effectual fervent Prayer of a
righteous Man, which, he faith, availeth much.
Lastly, To pray always, and not to faint, imports Contimiance and Perseverance in our Prayers. That we do not pray by Fits and Starts, and then intermit our Devotion; but constantly
keep up the Fervour of our Minds towards
I do not know how it comes to pass, that Men have generally so great 'an Aversion to this Duty of Prayer. They are very hardly got to it; they are glad of any Pretence in the World to be excused from it. And when they do come to perform their Devotions, (which, among many, is not oftner than the Laws or Customs of the Country oblige them to how soon are they weary of them! How little do they attend to the Business they are about ! As if indeed Prayer was one of the greatest Burthens that God could lay upon Human Nature. Whereas in Truth, if our Lusts and Passions were out of the way, and Men could be brought to give themselves the Liberty of considering Things equally; we should be convinced that there is no Work that a Man can apply himself to; no Action that he can perform, to which there are greater Invitations, greater Motives; nay, I was going to fay, greater Temptations of all sorts, than to this of Prayer.
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