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Father, and will gratefully accept the pardon and reconciliation which he offers to me. I will never leave him till Ishall have obtained an interest in his love, and an earnest of everlasting blessedness in his kingdom.
SECTION V.-Renders Prayer useless and unnecessary.
It is alleged that the doctrine of the divine decrees renders prayer useless and unnecessary. Prayer, in its primary notion, is an act of adoration to God, and the acknowledgemnt of dependence upon him.
But our adoration cannot be the less fervid, because we know his perfections to be infinite, and his government to be universal. Nor are we less earnest in our supplications, that we know that the things we ask are the very things which God has declared it as his purpose to bestow.
On the contrary, we are animated and emboldened when we know that we are asking things agreeable to the will of God. Thus it was with Daniel, when he understood that the period appointed for the captivity of the Jewish people was drawing near to a close, he set his face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes. And if we at all possess the spirit of prayer, the circumstance that the government of God is over all, and that his purpose is fixed to communicate real good, both in time and in eternity, to those that ask him, will tend to awaken our desire, and encourage our hopes. Even should we be ignorant of the event, prayer is not the less useful to prepare our minds to acquiesce in the will of God. This is the appointed means of obtaining a thankful and resigned frame of spirit, which will cordially submit to the will of God, however different from our own. It is an encouragement, and not a hinderance, to know that if we ask any thing according to the will of God, he heareth us. And how animating is it to be assured, that it is his declared will to give us in answer to prayer the greatest blessings-blessings which most deeply concern us, because they respect the soul and eternity! If we are left in uncertainty about any thing, it is what is of short duration, and what is not essential to our happiness. We have at least one promise that secures our safety in time, and renders all events subservient to our meetness for eternity: all things work together for good to them that love God, and are the called according to his purpose. ,
It is the peculiar privilege of all the children of God, of all who pray aright, that they have an Intercessor within them who prays for them, and in them, by making intercession according to the will of God. It is thus that the Spirit helpeth our infirmities : "for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” We have thus an Agent within to produce feelings and desires corresponding to the blessings which it is our Father's good pleasure to give us, who produces such a hungering and thirsting after them as cannot be relieved till they are obtained. The purpose of God to bestow mercy through the Saviour on all who ask it, whatever be their sins, forms, from its immutability, the strongest possible encouragement to pray always and not to faint, and still to hope and wait for the salvation of God. It is the immutability of this purpose
that animates me with the persuasion that the promises, which were fulfilled in answer to the prayers of patriarchs, and prophets, and apostles, will be fulfilled in answer to mine also.
Section VI.—The same as the Doctrine of Fate, or
It is further objected to this doctrine, that it is the same as the doctrine of fate, or blind destiny. ACcording to the stoics, fate is an eternal and immutable series of antecedents and sequences, within which all events are included, and to which the Deity himself is subject. All things were supposed to be under the control, and to be brought to pass by this blind destiny. The doctrine of fatality excludes every idea of justice and mercy; the attribute of wisdom does not belong to it, and it rests entirely upon power; but the constant, universal, and over-ruling agency of God, as represented in Scripture, gives rise to a grand system of government, in which all the attributes which we ascribe to the Almighty are united for promoting the best ends. Agreeably to this system, his justice invades not human freedom ; his
subdue man's depravity and assist his weakness; his wisdom is engaged in plans of ultimate and eternal good; and his
mercy and his
power is exerted in their accomplishment. The notion of such a system of government differs from that of fatality, as the stern decrees of an inexorable tyrant differ from the tender mercies of a parent: a subjection to fatality chills every generous feeling of the heart, thwarts every fair and noble purpose, and blasts every hope; while the doctrine of the God of righteousness and of goodness, governing all things for his own glory, according to his eternal purpose and counsel, is full of consolation, imparting peace to those who know that all things, whether prosperous or adverse, work together for good to them that love God. What similarity can there be between this doctrine, so pleasing to the human heart, so accordant with enlightened reason, and so encouraging to the hopes and exertions of men, and an unintelligent something, denominated fatality, compelling by physical coercion, and controlling by inevitable necessity, the actions both of God and men ?
Section VII.—Unfriendly to the Interests of Morality.
Finally, it is objected to the doctrine of God's decrees that it is unfriendly to the interests of morality. I apprehend that many of those who have urged this objection have confounded the doctrine which they oppose, with that of fatality, or of a physical though natural necessity. The charge must originate in a gross (misconception of the real nature and tendency of a doctrine which has always been found in close alliance with practical religion.
Can that be un
friendly to morality, which, while it leads me to view the hand of God in every thing, teaches me to regard the diligent use of means as closely and inseparably united to the end ? The history of the church bears us out in the assertion, that pure morality always prevailed most when this doctrine was most firmly believed. Who could have a stronger conviction of its truth, than he who, in the midst of privation and persecution, was supported by the consideration-" If God be for us, who can be against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Such was the belief, and so strong were the consolations of the apostle to the Gentiles; and yet, how far has he left all other men behind in zeal for the glory of God, in benevolent concern for the salvation of mankind, and in the exercise of all the virtues of self-denial and of godliness! Who have been the
most formidable opposers of this doctrine ? The Jesuits :--the contrivers of courtly casuistry, and the founders of lax morality. What are we to think of the morality of the Reformers, and of the churches of the Reformation? By them this doctrine was taught as a part of divine revelation, and it long continued to