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you are willing to struggle a long time with your heart to awaken deep feeling enough to justify, in your opinion, coming to God. Are you willing, as you retire to rest tonight, to breathe a short and simple petition to God to come and be your friend and protector for the night, to acknowledge that you do not deserve his protection, and that you ask it in the name of Jesus Christ? If you are willing to do this, and if you actually do it, and if you ask with that degree of feeling which your sincere desire for God's protection prompts, you may lie down in peace, sure that you have offered acceptable prayer.

But here I must mention a difficulty which, many and many a time, has been brought to me by serious-minded persons who wish to pray to God, but who think they should not pray aright. I presume this difficulty has occurred to many who will read this chapter. I fancy I can perceive thoughts like these passing through the mind of some thoughtful conscientious one, who has taken up this book, honestly desiring to find in it religious instruction.

"If I understand the author aright, he says, that if I tonight pray to God to protect me, just because I want protection, or rather because I want his protection, that will be acceptable prayer. But it seems to me that that would be mere selfishness. I wish for a great many things which I know none but God can grant, but if I ask them only because I feel the need of them, it is only a selfish desire for my own happiness, and I cannot expect to be heard. I should like such a friend as Jesus Christ, to come to him in all my trials and troubles, and to seek strength in temptation. But then this is all love of my own happiness. I cannot be happy in sin;-there is a foreboding, and a burden from which I wish to be relieved. But unless I have a higher motive than a wish to obtain peace and happiness myself, I cannot expect to be heard."

I have no doubt there are multitudes who are substantially in this state of mind. They are deterred by this difficulty from coming cordially to their great friend above. I have stated the difficulty as distinctly and fully as I can, adopting as nearly as possible the words in which it has often been presented to me. I hope you will attend carefully to my reply, and if it is satisfactory now, lay it up in your memories, and never be embarrassed by this difficulty again.

My reply is substantially this, that a desire for the peace and happiness of piety is a perfectly proper motive for coming to God. It is the motive that the Bible everywhere presents. It is not, in any proper sense of the term, selfish


First, I say it is a perfectly proper motive. God is our great creator and protector, and he made us weak and dependent, but desirous of peace and happiness, for the very purpose of having us look to him for it. He never intended to make a universe of stoics, in which each one should be entirely indifferent about his own happiness. The spectacle which he wishes to see is, all happy, and all happy in him He wishes us to desire and seek this happiness, and to come to him for it.

Again, I say that the Bible everywhere presents the peace and happiness of piety as the motive why we should seek it. Jesus stood and cried, in a great concourse of people, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. How strange that any one can imagine, after this, that a love of rest, and a desire to be relieved of burden, is not a proper motive for coming to Jesus Christ. The prodigal son, perhaps the most striking and complete emblem of the penitent sinner which the Bible contains, says, "How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare, while I perish with hunger; I will arise and go to my father." Who would think, after reading this parable, that any sinner would be afraid to come to the Saviour, because his only motive is to have his wants supplied. Look at the thousands who came to our Saviour to be healed of their diseases, or to be rescued from some suffering. Did he ever turn them away because they were selfish? A nobleman came once. His son was at the point of death. Parental affection urged him on. He came and begged the Saviour to come and save his son. He was so far from being under the influence of any high philosophical notions of faith and disinterestedness, that when the Saviour began to speak of faith and the influence of miracles upon it, he almost interrupts him by saying, "Come down ere my child die." And did the Saviour repulse him because he was influenced by wrong motives? It was not a wrong motive. He wanted happiness, and he was willing to come to Jesus Christ for it. And God wishes to see the

whole human race eager for the pure joys of piety, and flocking around his throne to obtain them. Oh, if any of you are weary with the burden of sin, and long for the peace and happiness of piety, come boldly for it. Never fear that God will call it selfishness, and drive you away.

Once more; I said this could not be called selfishness. Desiring the happiness of virtue, and taking the proper measures to preserve it, never is called selfishness, except by persons lost in the mazes of metaphysics. Suppose two children, whose parents had taught them habits of regularity and order so fully that they take pleasure in the systematic arrangement of all their little property, come and ask their father to let them have a large desk which stands useless in the garret, to bring to their little room as a place of deposit for their books, and papers, and toys. Suppose now he should inquire of the boys, and should find that they have planned the disposal of their effects exactly in the shelves and drawers of the desk, and are anticipating much enjoyment from the expected acquisition. He sees their countenances brightened with animation, as they wait breathlessly to catch his answer, and then to fly away and commence the removal. Now suppose the father should stop them by such absurd words as these :


My boys, I am very sorry to find that you are so selfish. I strongly suspect that the reason why you want that desk, is because you expect some pleasure from it. Perhaps you think you will enjoy your property more by seeing it well arranged in such a good storehouse, or perhaps you think you can spend rainy afternoons in your room more pleasantly if you have it. Now, that is very wrong. That is selfishness. To desire any thing for the sake of the happiness it affords is selfishness. Unless you can ask from some better motive than that, I cannot grant your request."

I do not think that any gravity of countenance which could be assumed would lead the boys to imagine that their father could be serious in this. Certainly no parent would ever say it; and if earthly parents know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him? that is, to them that ask him for it as a good gift,-something which is to do good to them.

But what is selfishness? Why, if the desk, instead of ly

ing useless in the garret, was used by the older brothers, and the younger wished to take it away, that would be selfishness. A disposition to encroach upon the rights and enjoyments of others, in order to secure our own, is selfishness, and we must not come to God with this spirit. If any one, however, desires peace and happiness, and is satisfied that God only can give it, let him come and ask. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come unto the waters." God never will repulse you because thirst urges you to come.

IV. The Earnestness of Prayer. Importunity in prayer is a subject in regard to which the conceptions of the young are often in error. By very many it is understood to mean something very much like a teazing spirit. But how can such a spirit be felt by one who knows that God is always ready to grant, unless imperious reasons compel him to deny ? I believe the word importunate is not applied to prayer in the Bible. The widow is said to have been importunate in entreating the unjust judge; but then the reason why she was obliged to repeat and urge her request in such a way, was the very injustice of the judge, which has no parallel in God's character. The Saviour in that case does by no means intend to say that we are to come to God with a feeling that he is disinclined to grant our requests, and that we are to overcome his reluctance by the pertinacity with which we urge our claim. Far less should we ever come to him with the tone of demand, claiming what we ask as if it were our due. We should come humbly, and with a calm, but not an indifferent spirit. If we ask sincerely, God will certainly hear us, and he will certainly grant our requests, unless good reasons prevent. If good reasons do prevent, the judge of all the earth is not a weak-minded monarch, who will be led to what he knows is on the whole not for the best, because he cannot bear to refuse an urgent and long-continued petition. No; a spirit of entire submission to God's overruling hand is an essential part of the spirit of prayer.

It is a very common impression among young persons, and perhaps some of mature minds are not entirely free from the same perplexity, that in order to render prayer acceptable the Christian must have a full belief that his request will be granted. This is called the prayer of faith. Hence many persons, when they strongly desire some spiritual bless

ing for themselves or others, make a great deal of effort while they pray for it to believe that they shall receive it. Come with me to the morning prayer-meeting. A few Christians whose duties of business press upon them during the day assemble by the grey light of the dawn around the early fire of some Christian neighbour. They read and reflect a moment upon a few verses of the Bible. They sing a hymn, and are just about to kneel before God to unite in prayer for his blessing upon themselves and upon their families and neighbours during the day, when perhaps one of the number addresses the meeting as follows:


My brethren, we come this morning to ask great blessings, but we must have faith or we cannot expect that God will hear us. He has promised to hear us, and to give us whatever we ask believing. Let us believe then firmly and cordially that God will hear us. And let us ask for great blessings. God is ready to give us the greatest if we only have faith."

They then unite in prayer, and there kneels with them, in a corner of the room, unnoticed perhaps by all but God, a young disciple who has hesitatingly asked of the master of the house permission to enjoy the privilege of joining that circle of prayer. She understands the word of exhortation which was given to mean that she must fully believe that the blessings to be asked will certainly be granted. She tries, therefore, as she listens to the words of the prayer, to believe this. Perhaps the first request is, that God would pour out his Spirit upon all present, and purify them, and keep them that day devoted to his service and free from all sin. Now she thinks it right to pray for this; she sincerely desires it, but she cannot really believe that it will be fully granted. Then she reproves herself for her unbelief. She struggles against the feeling that it is not probable that all present will be perfectly pure and holy during that day. She struggles against it, but she cannot conquer it. Belief rests on evidence, not on determination.

The next petition is for a powerful revival of pure religion in that neighbourhood; that, by a divine influence exerted over their hearts, Christians may be led to love their Maker more and to serve him better, and those who are living in sin may universally be awakened to a conviction of their guilt and danger, and be persuaded to serve Jehovah,

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