O, BRING yourselves, and hold yourselves to a FREQUENT AND CONSTANT PERFORMANCE of this duty. There must be performance, or there cannot be a right performance, As to those that pray not, or pray but seldom, it is a plain sign that the root of the matter is not in them; they that can live without prayer, are dead while they are alive. Prayer is the first-fruits of Christianity: it was said of Saul, as a token that he was a convert, " Behold, he prayeth." The living child comes crying into the world; and as it is a token of life, so it is a means by which this new life is nourished. Prayer is a Christian’s key to unlock the storehouses and the treasuries of souls: to him that can pray, God has given a key to all his treasuries. . Prayer will not only unlock the clouds, as Elijah’s prayer did, and bring down rain to refresh the dry and parched earth, but it will unlock heaven too. It will unlock the ark and the mercy-seat, and bring down spiritual blessings on the soul. Praying is a Christian’s knocking at the gate of heaven, that knocking to which the promise is made, "Knock, and it shall be opened." Matthew 7:7. The word which the Lord speaks to us is God’s knocking at our doors: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." Revelation 3:20. And praying is our knocking at the Lord’s door, at the gate of heaven, that this may be opened. By the way, learn that if you will not hear God’s knock, it is dust in him not to hear yours. If.God’s voice may not be heard on earth, your voice will not be heard in heaven.. Yet fear not, you shall be heard if you will hear; hear him that speaks to you from heaven, and your cry shall enter into heaven.

Our souls will never thrive or flourish, unless the rain and the showers of heavenly graCe descend and fall upon them; and we cannot look that those showers should come down, unless we look up. Persons that pray not, may be classed among the heathen: "Pour out thy fury upon the heathen, that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name," Jeremiah 10:25; and among the profane ones of the earth, who are described by this character: They are all together become filthy and abominable, there is none that doeth good; they call not upon the Lord.Psalm 14:3, 4,

"Be ye sober, and watch unto prayer." 1 Peter, 4:7. Be ye instant as well as constant in prayer; set up your resolutions, and set your time; set your time, and keep your time. Do not put off this duty by pretending you pray always, every day and every ho’ur: as the pretence of an every-day’s Sabbath comes just to no Sabbath, .so it is usually in the case of prayer; some carnal wretches’ " praying always," is not praying at all. " Get thee into thy closet," saith Christ; get thee a place, set thee a time, wherein thou mayest make it thy business to seek the Lord.

Come to pray with an actual and great EXPECTATION OF OBTAINING HELP and grace from God.

Do not barely impose this duty upon yourself, as your task, but excite and encourage yourself to it, by looking for a return; think what it is that you would have, and look to receive it. The reason why we obtain no more in prayer, is because we expect no more. God usually answers us according to our own hearts: narrow hearts and low expectations receive usually as little as they look for or desire: large expectations are ordinarily answered with large returns. Expectation will put life into action: you will pray with most enlarged hearts, when you are most full of hopes; the reward that is looked for in the evening, will much encourage and quicken the labor of the day: fear not to expect too much from heaven. Be not straitened in your own heart, and you shall not be straitened in the God of compassion: open thy mouth wide, and he will fill it. God will never upbraid his beggars for looking for too great an alms; he has enough to supply them, and he has a heart to bestow it. God will never say to you, You are too bold, you ask too .much—too much grace, too much holiness; why Cannot less content you ? God has given you commission to ask what you will, not to the one half, but the whole of his kingdom; the kingdom you shall have, if no less will serve your turn.

Christians, be thankful for every little you receive, but look for much: be thankful for every little, every little received from God is much. A drop from that fountain is worth the world, yet content not yourselves with some drops, when, if you will, the fountain may be yours. The King of glory loves to give like a king, and will never say, This is too much either for a king to give, or a beggar to receive; since he has given you leave, spare not to speak in full your desires. God has promised you, and therefore you may promise yourselves; whatever you ask, that is good for you, you shall not ask in vain. O if we had so much in our eye when we come before the throne of grace, we should be oftener there, and yet still return with our load. Well, Christians, remember this whenever you come to beg—look to receive, come not to prayer as to an empty cistern that will yield no water.

III. Learn the skill to PLEAD WPM GOD 111 prayer. Though the Lord be willing to give to those that ask, yet he will have them first prove they are in earnest. Great store of arguments he has furnished us with to press him withal, but he will have us use them we must strive with God if we will prevail, and the best striving is with his own weapons. The counsel I give you in thiS is, Plead hard with God, but plead with him upon his own arguments: there arc, among many others, these four grounds on which to found your plea—on God himself; on Christ; on the promises; on experiences.

1. On God himself. And there are two special things from which you may plead here.

(1.) His gracious nature. Draw your arguments by which you plead with God for mercy, from the same source whence he originally drew his arguments for showing mercy—from his own compassion, from his gracious nature, from his natural goodness, and gracious inclination to mercy: " God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." John 3:16. "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved; in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he bath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence; -having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself." Ephesians 1:54. Here we have heaped up in a few words the riches of mercy which God hath bestowed on his people. Christ his beloved, redemption through Christ, the forgiveness of our sins, the adoption of children, acceptance in his sight, the revelation of the mystery of his will, or the discovering or making known these glorious mercies to us.

But whence is all this ? Who is it, or what was it, that persuaded the Lord to this abundant kindness ? Why, all this arose from himself. He purposed it in himself. He consulted no other argument but what he found in his own heart. It was from his love, the good pleasure of his will, his grace, the riches of his grace, wherein he hath abounded towards us. Hosea 11:8, 9. "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee up, Israel ? I cannot do it, I will not do it. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not destroy Ephraim." But why wilt thou not be angry, Lord; why wilt thou not destroy Ephraim ? "0," says the Lord, "my heart is turned within me; my heart says, Spare him; my compassion says, Destroy him not. I am God, and not man. I love him, and my love is the love of a God. I have compassion on him, and my compassion is the pity of a God: I will bear with him, am a God of patience: love is my nature; pity and mercy and compassion are my nature: I cannot destroy Ephraim, but by denying mine own nature." Love and pity and mercy and goodness are essential to God. He can as soon cease to be God, as to be gracious, and this is the fountain of all our mercy; hence Christ sprung, hence the gospel came, and all the unsearchable riches of mercy prepared for poor lost and undone creatures.

When you come to pray, draw your arguments hence. Plead with the Lord upon his own nature, his natural love, grace, and goodness. Thus we find the apostle Peter praying for the Christians to whom he wrote: "The God of all grace make you perfect; stablish, strengthen, settle you."1Peter 5:10. Plead with the Lord in your prayers, as the psalmist pleads with himself in his affliction:. "Will the Lord cast off for ever, and will he be favorable no more ? Is his mercy clean gone for ever; doth his promise fail for evermore? Rath God forgotten to be gracious; hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies ?" Psalm 77:7-9. That men should be merciless, that men should forget their friends in their low estate, is no such wonder. But hath God, who is all grace, all mercy, all pity, hath God forgotten ? Doth mercy cease to be merciful, grace cease to be gracious? Do compassions cease to be pitiful? Hath. God not only forgotten his servant, but forgotten himself ? Remember thyself, Lord; thine own heart, thine own soul, and according to it, remember me.

(2.) Plead his glorious name. The Lord’s nature is to be gracious, and according to his nature, such is his name: "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth." Exodus 34:6. This is an argument which the Lord puts into the mouths of his people, telling them, "I had pity for my holy. name; I do not this for your sakes, but for my holy name’s sake." Ezekiel 36:21, 22. And upon this argument we find them frequently pleading with him: "For thy name’s sake, lead me and guide me." Psalm 31:3. "Do not abhor us; for thy name’s sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: rernember, break not thy covenant with us." Jeremiah 14:21. Go you and do likewise.

2. Found your plea on Christ. And there are four things from which you may plead with God upon this account.

The Lord’s giving Christ to you as your Lord and your Saviour. Upon which gift, you may call him yoUr own.

The purchase of Christ, who has bought from the hands of the Father all that you stand in need of He has bought your lives: "Ye are bought with a price." 1Corinthians 6:20. He has bought you a livelihood, has purchased an inheritance and possession for you. 1 Peter 1.

The interest that Christ has in the Father, being the Son of God, the Son of his love, the Servant of God, in whom his soul delights: " Behold my servant whom I have .chosen, mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth," Isaiah 42:1, whose name is so precious and powerful with the Father, that it will carry any suit, obtain any request: "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you." John 16:23.

The interest that you have in Christ. As he is precious to his Father, so you are precious to him; as the Father can deny him nothing, so he can deny his people nothing• "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do." John 14:13. He gives you commission to put his name upon all your requests, and whatsoever prayer comes up with this name upon it, he will procure it an answer.

Now when you are praying for any mercy, especially for any soul-mercy, make use of all these arguments: "Lord, host thou given Christ unto me, and wilt thou not with him give me all things I stand in need of? Host thou given me the fountain, and wilt thou deny me the stream? When I beg pardon of sin, when I beg power against sin, when I beg holiness, is not all this granted me in thy gift of Christ to me? Is Christ mine, and is not his blood mine to procure my pardon, his Spirit mine to subdue my iniquities? Are these mine, and wilt thou withhold them from me ? 0, shall this guilt lie upon me, these sins live in me, these lusts rule over me, when by giving me in hand that whereof thou hast already given me a grant, all this would be removed from me ? Look upon Christ, Lord; thou hast said to me, ‘Look unto Jesus,’ and give thy servant leave to say the same to thee. Look thou upon Jesus, and give out to me what thou hast given me in giving him to me. Look upon the purchase of Christ: do I want any thing, or desire any thing but what my Lord has bought and paid for, and thou hast accepted of the price ? Look upon the name of Christ, which thou mayest behold written upon every prayer I make; though thou mayest say, ‘For thy own sake thou shalt have nothing, not a drop, not a crumb,’ yet wilt thou say, ‘Nor for his name’s sake neither ?’ Is not that name still a mighty name, a precious name before the Lord ?" By these hints you may learn how to plead with God from any other arguments drawn frOm his promises, your experience, etc.

QUESTION. These arguments the saints may use in prayer; but is there no plea for poor unrenewed men, that are yet in their sins, to make use of ? What may they say for themselves, when they come before the Lord ? Have you never a word to put in their mouths? they have more need of arguments than any. What shall they say?

ANSWER. I shall premise that it is the duty of mere natural men to pray: for, 1. Prayer is a part of God’s natural worship. If there were no positive law requiring it, yet the law of nature enjoins it, and no man is exempted from the obligation of the law of nature. 2. Otherwise it were none of their sin to neglect and restrain prayer; where no law is, there is no transgression. Now we find in Scripture, that neglect of prayer is reckoned up among wicked men’s sins: " They are all together become filthy, they call not upon the Lord." Psalm 14:3, 4. Sin, though it doth disable, yet doth not release from duty.

When a sinner, being struck with a sense of his sin, and of his necessity of changing his way, and of his utter inability to turn of himself, under the fears and troubles of his heart goes to God and cries out, " Lord, what shall I do? I see I am in an evil case, my soul is running on in sin, and thy curse and wrath I behold running on upon me: Lord, save me; Lord, help me; Lord, pardon, Lord, convert me, break me off from my sins, break me off from my sinful companions; I cannot get loose, my heart is too hard, my lusts are too strong, my temptations are too many for me to overcome myself: Lord, help me; turn me and I shall be turned; pluck my foot out of the snare, that I be not utterly destroyed; forgive mine iniquity, make me a clean heart, make me thy child, make me thy servant, that I may never again yield up myself a servant to sin." To such a prayer as this, if it be hearty and in earnest, if there be . no promise of audience, yet at least there is a half promise. Who can tell ? It may be the Lord will hear.

Consider that sinners, if they have but a heart to it, have also a price in their hands; God has put arguments into their mouths also, to plead with him for mercy, as,
  1. The grace of God, or his gracious nature—his readiness to show mercy; this even strangers may lay hold upon.
  2. God’s call or gracious invitation, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price." Isaiah 55:1. " Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." " Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Rise, sinner, he calleth thee: go to the Lord, and when thou goest tell him, "Lord, thou hast hid me come, and behold here I am; I come, Lord, at thy word, I come for a little water, I come for thy wine and thy milk; I have brought no price in my hand, but thou bast bid me come and buy without money and without price. Though I have no grace, yet behold, at thy word I come for grace; though I have no Christ, yet I come for Christ; though I cannot call thee Father, yet being called, I come to thee as fatherless; with thee the fatherless shall find mercy. If I am not thy child, may I not be made thy child ? Hast thou not a child’s blessing left yet to bestow upon me ? Thou hast bid me come, and come for a blessing. Bless me, even me also, O Lord. Wherefore hast thou sent for me ? Shall I be sent away as I came? I come at thy word;, do not say, Begone, out of my sight. I cannot go at thy word; I will not go; for whither shall I go from thee; thou hast the words of eternal life ? Since thou wilt have me speak,. Lord, answer; though I dare not say, Be just to me, a saint,’ yet I do say, I will say, I must say, Lord, be merciful to me a" sinner.’ "
  3. Plead Christ. And there are two things in Christ which sinners may plead with God. His sufficiency. There is enough in Christ, in his abediened and death, to save the worst of sinners, to save the whole world of sinners. There is a fulness in Christ, " It pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell." Colossians 1:19. There is a fulness of merit to obtain pardOn, to make reconciliation for whoever comes; a fulness of the Spirit to sanctify and cleanse them from their sins. " He is able to save unto the uttermost all those that come unto God by him." From this, sinners may reason thus with the Lord: O Lord, I do not come to beg that of thee which Cannot be had; tho’n hast enough by thee; look upon Jesus that sits at thy right hand: is there not righteousness enough in him to answer for all my unrighteousness; are there not riches enough in him to supply my poverty? Hear, Lord; send me not away without an alms, when thou hast it by thee. His office—which is to bring sinners to God, to make reconciliation for sinners, to make intercession for. transgressors. Isaiah 53:12. " Thou hat received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also." Psalm 68:18. What a strange and mighty plea is here for poor sinners ! " 0, it is true, Lord, I am a transgressor, and have been from the womb; I have played the traitor, and been a rebel against thee all my days; but is there none in heaven that will intercede for a transgressor ? Has the Lord Jesus received no gift for this poor rebel, that falls down before thee? Though I am a rebel, Lord, yet I am a returning rebel: though 1 am a rebel,. yet let me receive -a rebel’s gift—not a rebel’s terrible reward, but some of those gifts which Christ received for the rebellious. Does Christ make intercession for transgressors, and shall not he be • heard ? If thou wilt not hear me who am a sinner, yet wilt thou not hear HMI that speaks for sinners, -whose blood speaks, whose mercy speaks, whose Spirit speaks ? Does he speak for sinners, and yet not for me ?"
  4. Plead. your oum necessity. Sinners are neces-sitons, they have nothing of value left them; in the fulneSs of their sufficiency they are in straits. As a sinner of a hundred years is.but a child, so a sinner of thousands by the year is but a beggarpoor,,,miserable, blind, and naked: he may feel the want of nothing, and -yet lack every thing that is good. Sin has stripped him to the skin, stabbed him to the heart; the iron has entered into his soul, it has left him nothing. but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores. It is thy case, sinner, and hast thou nothing to say ? Spread thy wants and necessities before the Lord, and let these speak for thee.
Open thy wounds and thy sores, t3I1 him how’desperately sad thy case is, tell him of the guilt that is upon thy head, the curse that is on thy back, the plague that is in thy heart, and let this be thy plea: "God of compassion, look hither; behold what a poor, blind, dead, hardened, unclean, guilty creature, what a naked, empty, helpless, creature I am: look upon my sin and my misery, and let thine eye affect thy heart. One deep calls to another; a deep of misery cries out to a deep of mercy. 0, my very sins, which cry so loud against me, speak also for me. My misery speaks.; my curses, the woe. and the wrath that lie upon me speak; my bones speak, my perishing soul speaks, and all cry in thine cars, Help, Lord God of pity, help, help and heal me, help and save me; come unto me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord: I dare not say as once it was said, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man: come, Lord, for I am a sinful man. Thou couldst never come where there is more need: who have need of the physician but the sick? Come, Lord; I have too often said, ‘Depart from me,’ but if thou wilt not say, ‘Depart,’ to me, I hope I shall never again say, Depart, to thee. My misary saith, Come; my wants say, Come; my guilt and my sins say, Come; and my soul saith, Come. Come, then, and pardon, come and convert, come and teach, comb and sanctify, come and save me; even so, come, Lord Jesus."

Thus you have the sinner’s plea. Poor sinner, art thou willing to return from thy sins ? fear not to go to thy God. Go, and the Lord help thee, give thee thy heart’s desire, and fulfil all thy mind; and for thy encouragement take along with. thee this scripture: "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call .ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy. upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." Isaiah 55:6, 7.