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THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
Let thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE privilege of approaching the throne
of grace is a blessing of inestimable worth; for there, and there only, is relief of the innumerable wants which guilty man experiences to be obtained. But it is greatly to be lamented that the majority of professing Christians are strangers to its value, and that even those who have found acceptance at its footstool are not fully conscious of their own privilege, so as to make a due improvement of it.
The encouragement which God has given us to confidence in prayer, is immensely great. The atonement and righteousness of Christ, His intercession, the covenant of grace and its ex. ceeding great and precious promises, every attribute of Deity, the relation in which believers stand to God and God to them, and the work of the Spirit, especially as a Spirit of grace and supplication—these, and many other considerations which might be specified lay a foundation for confidence in prayer which cannot be shaken. On these grounds Christian believers may adopt the words of the beloved disciple, (1 John v. 14, 15.) “This is the confidence is that we have in Him, that, if we ask any " thing according to His will, He heareth us. “ And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever “ we ask, we know that we have the petitions “ that we desired of Him.
Our collect for the tenth Sunday after Trinity contains—A petition for the success of our prayers--And a petition for direction in prayer.
It is scarcely necessary to observe that bodily senses are attributed to God merely for the purpose of conveying just conceptions of Him to man. He is or without body parts, and pas~ sions." But our minds can form no idea of pure spirit.
Immaterial substance, a being wholly intellectual, is what we cannot comprehend. The Scripture therefore condescends to our weakness by ascribing corporeal senses to incorporeal essence. But language is by no means needful for the purpose of communicating our wants and necessities, our wishes and desires, to our Omniscient Friend. Yet language in prayer is often expedient for our own benefit. It is essential to the performance of social worship; and it is often highly useful in solitary devotion, as a mean of exciting our sluggish souls to action, and of preserving our hearts from forgetfulness of the solemn nature of that work in which we are engaged ; and of precluding those sinful aberrations, of a liability to which every true supplicant is painfully conscious.
The epithet “merciful," as applied to the ears of the Lord our God, is strictly proper. The repeated declarations of His word; the exceeding great and precious promises which He hath made; the stupendous acts of His grace; the comfortable experience of His people; all concur to demonstrate that His ears are “mer« ciful ears."
God's merciful ears are said to be “
open," when He grants the requests which are presented to Him; and shut, when He refuses them. Now the ears of the Lord are always open to the prayers of His people. (1 Pet. iii. 12.) They never call on Him in vain. The prayer of humility and faith cannot be lost. God the Holy Ghost is the author of every such prayer; and it is presented in the name of Jesus Christ. And surely the prayer which God the Spirit dictates, and which is perfumed with the name of Jesus, cannot be ineffectual—especially if it be considered as the claim of a poor helpless child on the compassion of an indulgent and Almighty Father.
That 'the “ears of the Lord” are always
open to the prayers of His humble servants, appears from many considerations which might be mentioned. For it may be asked, (and conviction must result from the question) Why were the blessings of redemption provided, and provided at such an expence? Why have they been promised, and promised with so many assurances of sincerity and fidelity in the Pro. miser? Why are they offered freely, “ without
money and without price?"-nay, why are sinners, as it were, intreated to accept them—if any exception were intended to be made against those who apply for them, or if they were not designed to be actually communicated to every one who is willing to receive them? Were God's “humble servants" more attentive to the dealings of their Divine Master, and to His dispensations towards them in outward providence and inward experience, they would more frequently be able to ascertain that the ears of the Lord have been open to their prayers. But, alas!
we often ask without desire, and often neglect, after that we have preferred our petition, to wait on the Lord for its accomplishment. And when desire has been excited within us, we frequently fail of discerning the success of our prayers through inexperience of the Lord's usual mode of dealing with His people. He may sometimes, nay often, fulfil His promises to hear and answer prayer in a very unexpected way, Thus the thrice-repeated request of His servant Paul was granted. (2 Cor. xii, 7, 8, 9.) He asked for deliverance from the thorn in his flesh, the messenger
of Satan which was sent to buffet him. But, instead of removing it, God gave him grace to bear it patiently, and by its continuance promoted his humiliation at a time when he was in danger of self-exaltation on account of previous Divine favours which had been vouchsafed to him. But if God's answers to our prayers do not always correspond exactly with our requests; the change is always for our benefit. Si non ad voluntatem, ad utilitatem. If God doth not always act according to the wish of His people, He always acts for their advantage. If, when we implore deliverance from trouble, He give us patience under it, and enable us to derive profit from it, our prayer is answered, God's promise is fulfilled, and His veracity free from stain. If we solicit consolation, and He prepares us for it by increasing humiliation, our request is granted, and granted in a way that is more conducive to our benefit than if the blessing which we desired of Him had been immediately bestowed:
It will perhaps be said, If God's merciful ears are always open to the prayers of His humble servants, why should we pray that they may
open? It has been proved, that the Lord is always waiting to be gracious; yet the prayer of faith and earnest desire is needful to the enjoyment of the grace which He waiteth to communicate. For God has wisely established a connection between prayer and the blessings which are sought therein. He excites desire in order that He may fulfil it. He will have His favours valued and enjoyed by those who receive them. They cost too high a price, and are in themselves too precious, to be thrown away on unconscious and unthankful hearts.
The mode of address adopted in our collect is fully justified by many specimens of prayer which are recorded in Scripture. Thus Hezekiah prayed in his distress : (2 Kings xix. 16) “Lord, bow “ down thine ear, and hear; open, Lord, thine
eyes and see.” And thus David, (Ps. xvii. 6,) addresses the Lord his God, “I have called upon
thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God : incline “ thine ear unto me, and hear my speech.” Similar modes of address we find in other Psalms. (See Ps. Ixxi. 2. and lxxxviii. 2.) And in like manner Daniel also approached the throne of grace, saying, “O my God, incline thine ear, " and hear; open thine eyes and behold, &c. “ O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, “ hearken and do; defer not for thine own sake." (Dan. ix. 18, 19.) Now it is very evident that these modes of supplication were not the result of weakness in faith, of any doubt respecting the faithfulness of the Divine promises, nor respecting their own interest in them as God's “humble “ servants,” but that they were natural expressions of importunity and fervent desire.*
* See Hooker's Works, vol. ii. p. 180, &c.