« PreviousContinue »
Examine your progress at each recurring period of receiving the body and blood of your Savior Christ. Detect the vast remains of selfishness in your heart, spirit, and conduct. Pursue them out in their meanderings. Imbibe more adequately the commanding motive of the love of Christ.
Qui amat non laborat,” says Augustine—nothing is painful to love, it fills the soul, it makes it forget all other things, it changes the taste, it is ever active, ever alert, ever studious, ever watchful for opportunities. It is in virtue of a delectatio victrix,” says a modern author, “that Christianity makes us its own.”
But if there is no point in your moral history where we can erect this memorial ; or if the matter be doubt. ful; or if declines, like a land-flood, have sapped the barrier, then I beseech you this day to begin; I pray you to set up the ensign here. Henceforth, I earnestly entreat you to enter on a religious life. Henceforth examine the proofs of a selfish and dead state of heart. Henceforth consider the claims God has over you ; and your fearful guilt in having lived so long unto yourself. Let “the time past of your life suffice to have wrought the will of the Gentiles." Henceforth live to Christ, live to your neighbor, live to the gospel, live to prayer, live to your Bible, live to your own happiness, live to heaven. This only, will bring you back to that for which man created, and without which he must be for ever miserable—to derive all his happiness from God; to subject his will to that of his Maker in the Revelation he has made to him of it in Christ Jesus ; and to seek his own felicity in harmonious connection with the present and eternal happiness of others.
LUKE XI. 11, 12, 13. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion ? If ye then, being evil, know horo to give good gifts unto your children ; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.
INDIA is a vast solitude. Christians are often stationed for years where they have but very partial, if any, public means of grace. Sickness also detains a large proportion of them for considerable periods from any regular attendance on the worship of God, even where it is celebrated. India, then, is the place for prayer.
The Christian wherever he goes may carry his Bible and his devotions with liim. One obvious instance, indeed, of the beneficial tendency of Christianity is, that it teaches and disposes man to pray; and thus directs him how to obtain constant relief under his necessities, and perpetual aids for understanding and performing all the other parts of his duty. Heathenism knows nothing of the only true object of prayer; Mohammedanism rejects the only Mediator between God and man. Christianity alone presents to us the one living and true God; not in the monstrous and cruel aspects of the Hindoo deities, but as a merciful and most tender Father; not through the intervention of a warlike and licentious impostor, þut through his most holy and only-begotten Son, first dying as a sacrifice for the pardon of our sins, and then obtaining for us the grace and influences of the Holy Ghost to renew and comfort our hearts.
It is in these two respects that I propose to consider our present important subject, Prayer, as it is set forth in the text: First, The object of it, our heavenly Father; and, secondly, The chief blessing to be sought for by it, the Holy Spirit. This will form a natural commencement of the
DIVISION of our entire course, The Christian life and conduct. For, after tracing out some features of the bearing and tendencies of Christianity in its great mysteries, and in the application of them to the human heart, such topics as we are now entering on,-prayer; the Holy Scriptures interpreted by affliction ;; the dangers of the world;* false philosophy exposed ;s consolation under the loss of friends; and the memory strengthened for retaining religious truth, will not improperly succeed.
In order to set before us thetrue object of Prayer, our Lord describes the feelings and conduct of an earthly parent, and then illustrates thereby the tender character of our heavenly Father. He reasons with us on the common principles of our nature.
He appeals to the very heart of parents. He seems to have
1 Sermon I to VI.
2 Sermon VII to XII. 3 Sermon XIV.
looked around on his auditory, and addressed himself to such of them among the crowd as were fathers of families, “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father.” He does not put the case argumentatively, but calls on every parent to say what would be his feelings and conduct.
1. The appeal proceeds on the supposition of various cruel and unfatherly acts being done in certain cases towards a child—refusal, mockery, deception.
“If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father”—for what is indispensable to his temporal existence, and without which he must die—would you refuse the request ? Would you deny him the bread, the fish, the egg he asked for; not dainties, but the most ordinary articles of food ; not requested by a stranger, but by your own son, your flesh and blood, your beloved offspring? Would any of you that are parents act thus hardly, cruelly, unnaturally? Such is our Lord's appeal.
But this is not all. The case supposes mockery and insult. Would a father, not only reject the suit, but mock and insult his son with a stone instead of bread, a serpent instead of a fish, and a scorpion in the place of the egg? Would he thus add derision to cruelty? Would he mock him by giving him what was not capable of being eaten, a stone; or what was disgusting, a serpent; or what might be noxious and poisonous, a scorpion ? Will a father thus turn to ridicule the craving wants of his “ own son that serveth him," and leave him to perish with mock gifts ?
But there is, further, the idea of deception and imposition in the conduct supposed. The things said to be given, though useless and injurious, are yet very similar in first appearance to those asked. It is well known that there are abundance of stones which exactly resemble some kinds of bread. The similitude between many sorts of fish, particularly of the eel kind, and serpents, need not be pointed out. And the learned Bochart informs us, that the body of the white scorpion is very much like an egg; and that in Judea the size is not very different, as the scorpions about Jerusalem were particularly large. The supposition then is, would the father attempt to deceive and impose upon the poor boy with what had the semblance of wholesome food, which the child would believe to be what he asked for, but which on taking away and looking at more closely, he would find to be useless or destructive ?
These various suppositions are so monstrous that something like our Lord's words had in many places become proverbial amongst the Greeks and Romans, as well as amongst the Jews. Seneca calls a benefit grudgingly given by an avaricious person, stonybread.' And Plautus speaks of one who brings a stone in one hand, and shews bread in the other. ?
Our Lord therefore in making this appeal, adopts illustrations which were probably proverbial amongst his audience. Every one that heard him, perfectly knew at least, that, instead of acting in this hard, contemptuous and deceitful manner, parents con. stantly laboured to give the best gifts in their power to their children.
2. On this admission our Lord founds his argument: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your hea. venly Father give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
The argument is from the less to the greater ; from the feeble and mixed affections of the best of men to their offspring, to the perfect and unmingled goodness of the infinitely holy God.
The comparison lies between the two fathers—the one a
Panem lapidosum. Alterâ manu fert lapidem, panem ostentat alterâ.