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JOB XXI. 15. The latter Part of the
we pray unto Him?
So said the Atheists in the Days of Job, and so we may hear some among us say now: For it is no strange Thing, in this Age, to hear Men talk against the Duties of Religion, as well as the Doctrines of it, and against no Duty more than that of praying to God, of which yob here speaks. This,
though one would think it should be the most natural, the most reasonable Duty in the World, considering that we are all the Creatures of God, and do and must depend upon him continually for all the Good we hope for, either here or hereafter, yet it is accounted by some among us, a very unphilosophical absurd Thing: If we would place Religion in Acts of Justice and Beneficence, and such other moral Virtues, they could be content so far to own it : Nay, they would not be against the exercising our Devotions to God by way of Hymns and Praises for his Excellencies and wonderful Works, though yet he stands in need of none of our Service ; but as for this Business of praying to him, and tiring him every Day with our Petitions, and Supplications, and Intercessions, in which the godly People spend most of their Time, there is no Sense, no Reason in it; nay, they have unanswerable Reasons to prove that all this is Labour lost, and Time spent very unprofitably.
It is my Design at this time, to vindicate this Part of Religion from the Cavils and Exceptions of this Sort of Men, and to give an Answer to them that are apt to ask, with those that are here represented in my Text, What Profit fall we have if we pray unto God ?
Now, methinks, to those that put such a Question as this, it should in Reason be a fuificient Answer to represent these following Things :
First of all; That all good Men who have ever seriously applied themselves to God by Prayer, have always had, and still have, many and great Instances and Experience of God's answering their Prayers : And there is no devout Man (and such kind of Men only are capable Judges of this Matter), but is ready to attest the Truth of this ; so that here is constant Experience on the Side of Prayer, against their philosophical Doubt. . . Secondly, It has been the general Belief of all Nations, in all Ages, that God hears the Prayers of good Men, and answers them ; and accordingly all Nations have always made use of this Way for the obtaining those Benefits they stood in need of, and for the removing those Evils they were pressed with; so that as there is Experience on the Side of praying to God, so there is likewise the universal Consent and Practice of all the World,
Thirdly, If we may believe God's Revelations, which he hath made in the Holy Scriptures, we are certain that there is great Profit and Advantage to be found in Praying to God; for God hath, in those Scriptures, made the most folemn Promises that he will
hear and grant all the Prayers of his Servants, if they be put up to him as they ought to be; and a great many Initances we find in these Scriptures wherein God hath remarkably made these Promises good.
Fourthly, and Laflly, God hath, in there Scriptures, laid so great a Stress upon this Duty of Prayer, and declared it to be so necessary in order to the obtaining the good Things we stand in need of, that he hath told us, without our Prayers we shall not have them ; so that surely, all these Things consider’d, it is not in vain that we should serve God, neither is it without Profit that we should pray unto him.
Well, but all this doth not satisfy that Sort of People which we have to deal with : What do we talk to them of Experience and Revelations, so long as the Thing itself is against Reason, so long as in the Nature of the Thing it is absurd to think that our Prayers should help us in any Distress ?
Now, for the Proof of this, they argue four several Ways : Some argue from the Immutability of God's Nature, others from his essential Goodness, others from his eternal Decrees, and lastly, others from the Frame of the World, and the establiihed Course of Nature. From all these Topicks they draw Arguments, and, they think, very strong ones, to prove that our Prayers fignify
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nothing as to any real Benefit we receive from them.
Well! let us, at this Time, examine these their Arguments one by one, and fee what Force there is, in them for the inferring this Conclusion ; I am confident you will be satisfied that there is none at all, tho' yet I Thall give them all the Weight they are capable of.
The first Argument, against the Needfulness or Efficacy of Prayer, is drawn from the Immutability of the Nature of God, and it runs thus : To suppose that our Prayers are at any Time effectual, or, which is all one, that God doth at any Time grant the Requests that are put up to him, is to suppose that he doth upon our Prayers bestow something upon us, which without our Prayers he would not have done ; which is in effect to say, that our Prayers can produce a Change, an Alteration in the Mind of God; for before our Prayers he was not inclined or disposed to give us such and such Blessings, but after our Prayers he is : So that according to this Doctrine, God is fo far from being immutable by his Nature, that it is in the Power of the most contemptible Man in the World to make him alter his purpose, which is very impious to affirm, and directly contrary even to our own Scripture Propofitions, which declare, That with God there is no Variableness nor Shadow