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reality in my prayer. It seems to be a useless, unmeaning act, buried in my solitary bosom, and of which I only am conscious."

Now, we can easily conceive of another state than this—a state of nearness to the light of God's countenance-a joyful sense of the warming and cheering influence of its beams. We have abundant intimations of such a state. One of the angels says, "I am Gabriel that stand in the presence of God." The spirits of the just made perfect are before the throne of God, and see his face. Adam, before his fall, appears to have enjoyed much of this privilege, and only to have lost it when he fell; for then, first, we detect the disposition to hide himself among the trees of the garden. And the Scriptures speak of a future state, the final abode of the saints, in which we shall not


see through a glass darkly, but face to face; and we shall know even as we are known;" that is, our perceptions will wear the character of that unveiled and realizing knowledge of God, which God perpetually has of us. Now, to acquire any measure of this, is to get so far within the barrier that sin has raised. To have attained any degree of this communion and nearness, is something gained upon our former state of exclusion. But still whatever measure of sin or sinfulness remains, presents a barrier remaining to be overcome. There is still an interior chamber for nearer and happier worship, that we would desire to enter.

There is still another inclosure that we would desire to have opened, and within whose limits we would wish to dwell. As in the temple, there was the court of the Gentiles and its gates; the court of the priests, and its sacred precincts and hangings; the holy place with its curtained door, and the holy of holies with its veil, the way into which was not then manifest; so in communion with God, to which divine grace restores the soul, there are successive degrees of privilege, after which we are to labour, before the soul can be satisfied. We never can feel that there is nothing left to ask, till we acquire all that knowledge of God and that sense of nearness to him, which shall clearly manifest our state to be a perfect state, and such as a holy God approves and takes delight to contemplate.

Secondly, Such then are the subjects of prayer. Notice, in the next place, the character of prayer. It is the act by which the creature directs its thoughts to the great invisible God, and pleads with him in the belief that he knows the thoughts of the heart, and attends to the necessities of those who call upon him.

Generally speaking, it is asking of God; for God is all fulness, and we are all emptiness and want. God opens his hand, and fills all things living with plenteousness. The beasts of the forest receive their meat from God; and by the bounteous provision of the natural world, the wants of all crea

tures are supplied as they arise. But it hath pleased God, that the higher wants of his rational and moral creature, man, should be solicited at his hands. And our text is a distinct injunction from the great Messenger of the covenant to this effect. We are commanded to ask. The Lord himself says, "Ask.” And consequently, prayer to God is properly a detail of our manifold wants for both worlds; and an earnest application to the almighty and unchangeable God, that he would supply them. Not that we are authorized to imagine, that the pleading of the creature changes the purpose of God, or that he waits for the urgent petition to determine; but that God has ordained, as the mode of blessing, this connection between the prayer of faith, and the gift of grace. Men shall ask, that it may be given. The creature shall come before his gracious Creator, with a submissive supplication, and the Lord will then hear and answer. So that, in fact, the prayerful disposition is part of the grace bestowed. It is itself a gift. It is part of the ordained means of mercy; and is the forerunner and earnest of the blessing sought.

2dly, But the character of prayer rises in proportion to the blessing asked for; and if we draw near to God, desirous to be restored to those privileges, from which by sin we have been excluded, then prayer wears all the character of deeper interest which attaches to the seeking that which is lost. We do not merely ask, as every good creature of

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God must still perpetually ask, to receive out of the divine fulness; but we ask with the keen sense

of loss, of bankruptcy, and ruin. We must plead with God as beings who have lost all that was really valuable, all that was worth living for;-as beings so totally ruined, that if we do not recover the gift of peace and holiness, it were far better for us that we had perished ere we had seen the light; or that a mill-stone were tied about our necks, and we were cast into the sea; and that sea, not the waters of this transitory and perishing world, but the bottomless ocean of everlasting forgetfulness.

Prayer, suited to our circumstances, must be seeking earnestly, diligently, imploringly, the lost favour and image of God. If man was once the child of God, wearing his holy image and likeness; if it was once consistent with his nature to be like God, and to be beloved of God; then while an opening towards the heaven in which God dwells is given, however strait; while a power of communication with him is continued, however weak; and the way not finally shut up for ever,-let the poor guilty creature plead with all the desperate energy of a man who has lost all; who knows the value of what he has lost; and who seeks in the only interval given, and in the only open way, to have all that he has lost restored.

3dly, But we are warranted to extend our importunity even beyond this. If we are made sensible that our sin has shut us out from God; that a dark

impenetrable barrier has been raised up between God and our souls, so that we know not where to find him; and if we have felt in any degree authorised and encouraged to ask for blessing from God; then we should besiege the veiled throne of the Eternal with unceasing importunity, that we may yet know him with that kindly and endearing intercourse, which he vouchsafes to his holy creatures, but which has been hitherto denied to us. Our prayer should wear the character of importunate knocking at that barrier, which limits our approach to Almighty goodness. It should be an entreaty that "the way into the holiest" may be really and sensibly opened to us. The consciousness of the faintest secret wish in the depth of the heart, to know and commune with the Infinite source of holiness, should encourage us to knock and to plead with unwearying perseverance. And when we find that this secret feeling is called forth and stimulated by the very language of the inspired injunction, "knock and it shall be opened," we should never desist till we obtain the blessing. And that we may have all the encouragement to which we are entitled, let us look to the parable in the 11th of Luke, with which this injunction is associated, where we find the injunction to importunate prayer strengthened by the gracious language, that "though the door is shut," and "though he will not rise and give to him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity, he will rise

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