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LECTURES ON THE ROMANS.
ROMANS, X, 1.
"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved."
THE words of this text derive a special and an augmented interest from the very position which it here occupies. You will observe that it is at the close of a very elaborate argument held by our apostle on the high topic of predestination; and from which the reader is fully warranted to imagine, that those Israelites, in whose behalf he plies Heaven with such fervent importunity, had already been the objects of Heaven's irrevocable decree. It is altogether worthy of notice, that, in this instance, the preordination of the Creator did not supersede the prayers of the creature; and that he who saw the farthest into the counsels of the Divinity above, saw nothing there which should affect either the diligence or the devotions of any humble worshipper below. We believe that there are some men with loftier reach of intellect than their fellows, who can
discern the harmony between these two things; or how it is that the seat of the Eternal might be assailed with prayer, on a matter whereabout the purposes of the Eternal have been unalterably fixed from the foundations of the world. They can perceive that either the prayer, or the performance of man, is but a step in that vast progression which connects his final destiny with the first purposes of God; and that, being as indispensable a step as any single link is to the continuity of the whole chain, it must be made sure else we shall never arrive at the right or prosperous termination. other words, if man will not address himself to the business of supplication, the blessing of salvation will not follow; and, however indelible the characters may be in which the ultimate futurities of man are written in the book of heaven, this, it would appear, should not foreclose but rather stimulate both his prayers and his efforts upon earth. There be a few who can clearly discern the adjustments of this seeming difficulty; but for these, there are many, who, should they attempt to resolve, would sink under it as a mystery of all others the most hopeless and impracticable. To these we would say that they should quit the arduous speculation, and keep by the obvious duty-taking their lesson from Paul, who, though just alighted from the daring ascents which he had made oramong the past dinations of the Godhead, forthwith busies himself among the plain and the present duties of the humble Christian; and so makes it palpable to the
Church throughout all ages, that, however deep or hard to be understood his article of predestination may be, there is nothing in it which should hinder performance, there is nothing in it which should hinder prayer.
Theology has its steeps and its altitudes-pinnacles far out of sight, or shooting upwardly to heaven till lost in the cloudy envelopment which surrounds them. Yet this does not hinder that there should be a most distinct and discernible path which winds around its basement, and by which the lowliest of Zion's travellers may find an ascending way, that at length when the toils of his pilgrimage are ended, will land him in a place of purest transparency, where he shall know even as he is known. There are some whose vision can on can carry them more aloft among the heights of arduous speculation. Yet let none be discouragedfor there is a way of duty that may be practised and of doctrine that may be understood which is accessible to all-a way the entrance upon which requires but the union of a desirous heart with a doing hand-a union this that is often realized by the veriest babe in intellect; who, wholly unable though he be to scan the awful mysteries of a predestinating God, yet can lift the prayer both of affection and confidence, while looking to Him in the more legible as well as more lovely aspect of a God that waiteth to be gracious.
Our first remark then is that predestination should be no barrier in the way of prayer.
second is, that unless the desire of the heart goes before it, it is no prayer at all. Prayer is the utterance of desire, and without desire is bereft of all its significancy. The virtue does not lie in the articulation-but altogether in the wish which precedes, or rather which prompts it. Prayer is an act of the soul; and the bodily organ is. but the instrument and not the agent of this service. The soul which thinks and wills and places its hopes or its affections on any given object-this and this alone is the agent in prayer. Insomuch that although not one word should have been framed by the lips, or emitted in language from the mouth-the man might substantially be praying. It is thus that he might pray without ceasing. In company, or in business, or in any scene whatever whether of duty or of discipline, there might at least be a prayerful heart apart from the formalities of prayer—a supplicatory, a kneeling attitude, on the part of his inner man, and to which he is bowed down continually by an aspiring earnestness on the one hand to be and to do at all times as he ought; and by a lowly sense on the other hand of his native insufficiency and dependence on a higher power than his own, for being constantly upholden in the way of rectitude. This will be sustained as prayer by Him who weigheth the secrets of the spirit; and, on the contrary, all expression disjoined from this will be dealt with as an affronting mockery of Heaven. It is true that in the case of prayer, God has committed Himself to the amplest promises of fulfil
ment; and all nature and providence would be at our command, if the mere verbality of a petition upon our part were to bring upon God the literal obligation of these promises. But He is not pledged to the accomplishment of any prayer where the desire of the heart does not originate the utterance of the mouth. The want of such desire nullifies the prayer; and to imagine otherwise would be to revive the superstition of other days-when a religious service, instead of being held as a community of thought and spirit between the creature and the Creator, consisted in the mere handiwork of a certain and stated ceremonial. And be assured—that neither the counting of beads nor the conning of Pater-nosters is at all more irrational, than are those devotions, whether of the closet or the sanctuary, which the heart does not emanate, or the heart does not go along with..
This remark, obvious although it be, should be urged more especially on the coming round of every great religious anniversary. Although Popery in respect of denomination may have gone conclusively forth of our borders-yet in respect of spirit and character may it still abide in the land, and be as inveterately rooted as ever in the hearts of our population. Even long after that the creed of these realms has been purified of all that is erroneous in the dogmata of Catholics, might the conscience be infected with a certain Catholic imagination, which in truth forms by far the most misleading heresy of the Church of Rome. It consists in the charm.