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folicits divine vengeance, and prevents the efficacy even of the fincere prayers that are offered up for deliverance and mercy. But as, with refpect to particular persons, every error or defect in practice is the confequence of an erroneous or defective principle, as every vicious action proceeds from an impure heart; fo, in a national capacity, I am perfuaded that our fafting and prayer has been fundamentally wrong, or effentially defective in itself, and therefore, has been followed by little or no fenfible fruit; or rather that impiety, which it fhould have removed, it hath only contributed to increafe.
For this reafon my intention at this time is to point out to you what is the just and proper object of prayer for divine aid in a time of public calamity, as well as the great encouragement to its exercife. For this there is a proper foundation in the paffage of Scripture juft read in your hearing. In the former part of the chapter, the prophet had pronounced many gracious promifes, of inward and fpiritual profperity, and of outward protection and fecurity to the church, though furrounded and threatened, by enemies to her interefts in both refpects. He then changes the form of his difcourfe, perfonates believers, and in their name, as one of them, addreffes to God the prayer in the text, "Awake, awake, put on firength, O "arm of the Lord: awake as in the ancient days, in the "generations of old: art not thou it that hath cut Rahab and wounded the dragon ?"
The beauty and ftrength of this language, the juftnefs and force of the figures here ufed, it is almost impossible to overlook. The prophet prays for fuch a display of divine power and mercy as might be fignal and fenfible. "Awake, awake, put on ftrength," that is, exert thy power, difcover thy glory in fuch a manner, as that thy prefent forbearance may be like the vigor of a waking man, compared to the defencelefs and inactive state of one that is fast afleep. "O arm of the Lord." This expreffion, the arm of the Lord, with the addition of making bare his holy arm, is frequently ufed in Scripture; and it is so strong, and at the fame time, fo intelligible a figure, that it is impoffible to amplify or explain, without weak
ening it. In the laft part of the verfe, he animates his own faith, and enforces his requeft, by calling to remembrance past transactions, and former displays of the power and grace of an unchangeable God. By Rahab and the dragon we are to understand Egypt and her king, as appears by comparing other paffages of Scripture, particularly by Pf. lxxxvi. 4. and Ezek. xxix. 3. the last of which runs thus: "Thus faith the Lord, Behold, I am against "thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth "in the midft of his rivers: which hath faid, my river is "mine own, and I have made it for myself."
In dicourfing on this fubject, what I propofe, through the affiftance of divine grace, is,
I. To point out to you the import of this prayer in the firft part of this paffage," Awake, awake, put on flrength, "O arm of the Lord."
II. To confider the encouragement included in the laft part of it, "Awake as in ancient days, in the generations of old art not thou it that hath cut Rahab, and wound"ed the dragon?"
III. To apply the fubject to our present situation.
And we are to confider,
I. The meaning and import of the prayer: " Awake, "awake, put on ftrength, O arm of the Lord." And in this I have no hope either of inftructing or perfuading any but those who have fome measure of real religion, who do unfeignedly believe, and will, when called upon, recollect the conftant fuperintendency of Divine Providence. These only will be fenfible that, as every event is directed and over-ruled by the Almighty, fo there are righteous, wife and gracious purposes to be ferved by them. All men it is true, are ready to complain under diftrefs. The most wicked and profligate, "when the waters are gone into "their foul," when they feel their mifery, will cry for relief. And, as they will turn them on every hand, and lay hold on every twig that may afford the leaft profpect of
faving them from finking, fo the terror of divine power, with which public calamity is fometimes accompanied, will even make them cry unto God. But there is a great difference, between this complaint of the miferable, and the prayer of faith, which proceeds upon juft views of the nature and government of God, and is affured of fuccefs. It may fometimes pleafe God to make use of defolating judgments or alarming public ftrokes to awaken a fecure thoughtlefs generation; but dutiful, acceptable and fuccefsful prayer for their removal, can only be the work of his own children.
Perhaps it may be thought unneceffary to direct perfons of this character to the proper object of their prayers, as they must be fuppofed habitually to flow from right principles, and to point at juft and warrantable ends. But it is certain, that, when wickednels and profanenefs greatly and univerfally prevail in any nation, the real fervants of God are not only few in number, but even this little flock, always receives fome degree of infection. This we are taught to expect by our bleffed Saviour, who fays, " And
because iniquity fhall abound, the love of many thail "wax cold." They may both be negligent and defective in their duty, reftraining prayer before God, and may be in a great meafure unmindful of the great and principal views with which they ought to offer up their interceffory requests. But, hoping that all fuch among you as are jufly liable to this charge, will difcern the light, and feel the force of divine truth, it is my defire to ftir up your pure minds by way of remembrance.
And, in general, fuch a petition as this, "Awake, awake, put on ftrength, O arm of the lord," fuggefts to us, that our prayers for divine interpofition and deliverance from public calamities fhould be fupremely directed to the glory of God. This, as it is, upon the whole, the leading purpose of every real believer, fo it ought to hallow every single action, and purify every particular desire. Therefore our prayers must be conceived in fuch a manner, and our defires after deliverance muft be fo qualified, that the fupreme honor due to God may be preferved inviolate, that duty may maintain its precedency before interVOL. II. 3 M
eft, and fin may be flill more feared and avoided than fuffering. The great end both of personal affliction, and national correction, is to weaken our attachment to present and temporal enjoyment, by ftaining its glory, and convincing us of its vanity. If then our chief or only aim, in afking deliverance from outward calamity, is that we may again recover the eafe and quiet of fecurity, and the pleafure of plenty, though we may feem to honor God by imploring his aid, yet is our homage really given to a fenfual idol.
That this is neither impoffible nor unfrequent, is plain from the hiftory of the children of Ifrael. They often applied to God in their ftraits: "When he flew them, then they fought him, they returned and enquired early af"ter God."a But this fort-of feeking, merely for prefent relief, or temporal mercies, was far from being acceptable to him. We are told, that it was tempting God, thus" to afk meat for their luft."b In oppofition to this, let us look into the grounds affigned in Scripture for God's granting deliverance, and thence learn with what views we ought to implore it. The Pfalmift fays, "Nevertheless he faved them for his name's fake, that he might "make his mighty power to be known." And the prophet Ezekiel," But I wrought for my name's fake, that it fhould not be polluted before the Heathen among whom they were, in whofe fight I made myself known "to them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt."
But in order to illuftrate this a little further, obferve, that a juft regard to the glory of God, in our prayers, implies the two following things. In the first place, That we expect deliverance from God alone, defire that it may be attended with fuch circumftances as his hand and power may be feen in it, and are willing to acknowledge him as the fupreme and only Author of it. This is plainly included in the words of the prophet, "Awake, awake, put "on ftrength, O arm of the Lord." As if he had faid, In thee alone is our hope; "curfed be the man that maketh "flefh his arm." A profane irreligious people are always
a Pfal. lxxviii. 34. 6 Pfal. Ixxviii. 18. c Pfal. cvi. 8.
prone, in undertaking any enterprize, to put their trust in human prowefs, to glory and boast in the greatness of their ftrength. And when they are difappointed in their expectations, they are ready to dwell fo much upon fe cond causes, that they entirely overlook, or are with great difficulty brought to acknowledge the fupreme agency of God. We may, however be fenfible, by his taking to himself so often, in Scripture, the title of the Lord of hofts, "great in might and strong in battle," that fuch conduct is robbing him of the glory that is juftly his due. Many are the warnings we have in the word of God not to place too much confidence in any human means of fafety. "Put not your truft in princes (fays the Pfalmift) "nor in the fon of man in whom there is no help.a There " is no king faved by the multitude of an hoft: a mighty "man is not delivered by much strength. An horfe is a "vain thing for fafety, neither can he deliver any by his
great strength." And there is no Scripture truth more frequently, or more fenfibly confirmed in the courfe of providence. How often do we find, both in former and later ages, the events of war diametrically oppofite to the greatest human probability, and the moft confident hu man expectation?
Now prayer for divine interpofition fhould always be made under a deep impreffion of this truth. And indeed we fhall never come to importunity and fervency in prayer for fuch a mercy, till we are fomewhat affected with it. All the honor that is given to man is taken from God. All truft and dependance on human means as fuch, or on their own account, divides and weakens our reliance on God. But when he is confidered as the fingle and only fource of relief, we apply with that ardor and earnestnefs which neceffity and extremity fuggeft. This doth not hinder the diligent use and application of outward means, but keeps them in their proper place, induces us to afk the divine bleffing upon them, and prevents us from provoking the divine jealoufy by idolizing and trufting in them.
@ PL cxlvi. S.
Pf. xxxiii. 16, 17.