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thoughts, words and actions of an unregenerate man are; but it is a far greater evil for a sinner not to pray at all.
The first, viz. to offer to God a prayer, which abounds with sin, argues a state of spiritual impotency, from which the poor captive sinner can no way free himself.
But wholly to neglect or slight calling upon God in prayer, argues the highest contempt against the majesty of heaven.
The third reason is, Because that out of the way of duty a sinner is not to expect help or relief from God. Whatever the Almighty may do in a way of sovereignty, in preventing the destruction of his creatures, yet sinners have no ground or warrant to look or expect that God should work for their deliverance while they wilfully neglect crying to, and calling on, him for help and relief.
Fourthly, Because God expects that the talents of an unregenerate man shall be improved; the natural man, though a stranger to saving grace, hath many good gifts and endowments from God, which are given to be employed for the glory of God and the common good, both of the sinner's self and others; and, as it is but rational that those gifts should be improved to the utmost in invoking the name of, and wrestling with, the Majesty of heaven for help and succour in time of need and danger; so it is most just and righteous with God to turn his back on such as, through sloth and
idleness, will rather lie down and perish than bestir themselves, in a way of duty, to prevent their own and others' ruin. And, although saving grace be the absolute free gift of God, and so out of the reach of an unregenerate man's free will, and the utmost improvement he can possibly make of his natural and acquired endowments; yet it is the undoubted duty of the sinner to belabour himself to the utmost, according to the natural ability he hath, to seek and beg from God the saving grace he wants; and, if he perish, he will find it greatly advantageous to perish in God's way; for to perish in the way of duty will, undoubtedly, render the torments of hell more tolerable to him than they will prove to the presumptuous despisers of God, who are grown so desperate in sinning as that they choose rather to be damned eternally than once to pray to the Almighty to deliver and save them.
Fifthly, Because the poor sinner knows not but that God may meet him in a way of sovereign mercy and saving grace when he sees the poor sinner just sinking under the weight of his sins, and groaning and sighing under the sense and feeling of his own inability to help or save himself. When the poor sinner finds that he hath run out the full length of the chain of his own free will and moral endeavours to save himself, and finds, by bitter experience, that salvation is still as far from him as when he first set out in the way of working for life, he is brought to such extremity as to conclude and cry out, I am past all hopes of
recovery, by what the creature can possibly do. Lord! help thou a poor, sinful and helpless creature, who have undone myself and wrought mine own ruin; I find now, by woeful experience, that my case and condition is so every way helpless and desperate, that none in earth or heaven can possibly heal or cure me; but the rich, the free, and sovereign, undeserved grace of thee, the ever-living Sovereign of the world. If thou wilt, thou canst
If thou wilt not, my ruin is of myself. I will för ever acquit and justify thee from being any way the cause of my damnation.
I never heard or read that ever God rejected any poor sinner who came this length to meet God in the way of duty. But woe, and alas! the misery of this age
lies here, in that their cannot help themselves’ is become a real' will not.' They neither will pray, nor strite in the use of means to prevent their own ruin as much as in them lies; neither are they willing or desirous that God should save them in a way of free and absolute grace.
Thousands upon thousands, in city and country, , are so infected with the pestiferous contagion of free will and general redemption, and the universal grace which they boast is offered and given to all men, that they act rather the part of madmen than the part of men designed for life and salvation ; in that the free will and general grace, of which they so much boast, are become as stupid and
dead, as touching striving after God in the way of duty, as death itself.
All I shall or need to say of such atheistical, besotted sinners is, that, if they have such a thing as free will to good, and a power to forbear those abominable sins which provoke God, and ripen themselves and the nation for ruin: if they have any part of that universal grace which they boast is given to all men; then are they of all men the most wretched and miserable; and among the many numberless millions in hell none will be found more inexcusable, inasmuch as they did not improve, but, with the idle and slothful servant in the parable, hid and buried their so much boasted talents of free will and universal grace. Matt. xxv. 25. xii. 37.
Quest. Whether it be lawful for, or the duty of, an awakened sinner to take up with, and to make use of, stinted forms of prayer composed by other men, and by human authority imposed on the conscience?
To this question I answer in the negative, viz. That it is no way lawful for, or the duty of, an awakened soul to take up with, or to make use of, stinted forms of prayer composed by other men, and imposed on the conscience by human authority.
The reasons are plainly these which follow.
One reason is, Because there is no need of such a practice; this will appear convincingly
true, if we, without prejudice, consider but two things.
First, The infallible certainty of such as are savingly enlightened and regenerated, having received the spirit of adoption, whereby they are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, and to pray acceptably to God. Rom. viii. 15, 26.
Now for such souls to take up with, and to make use of, stinted forms of prayer, composed by other men, and imposed by human authority, is not only needless but very sinful. First, needless, in that a living spring from the fountain of living waters taking up its lodging in the soul of the regenerate sinner, he is thereby, and the Spirit from whom it came, enabled to pray without any help from creatures.
He who hath a running stream within his own house, need not be beholden'to his neighbours for water. John iv. 14. 1 John ii. 27.
As it is needless for the believer who hath this living spring of grace in his soul, and the inhabitation of the Spirit of grace, to be beholden to the muddy puddles of men's composed prayers; so it is very
sinful for the believer to act so injuriously against the Spirit, whose work and office in the soul it is to teach and enable the soul to pray aright, as to allow himself to practise that which, experience teaches, will prove no better than a quench coal to the good motions of the Spirit within the soul; and also a keeping the believer