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ever God is sometimes pleased to grant the requests of those who have no faith, yet he has not obliged himself so to do; nor is it an argument of his not being a prayer-hearing God, when he hears them not.
3. It is no argument that he is not a prayer-hearing God, that he exercises his own wisdom as to the time and manner of answering prayer. Some of God's people are sometimes ready to think, that he doth not hear their prayers, because he doth not answer them at the times when they expected; when indeed God doth bear them, and will answer them, in the time and way to which bis own wisdom directs.—The business of prayer is not to direct God, who is infinitely wise, and needs not any of our directions; who knows what is best for us ten thousand times better than we, and knows what time and what way are best. It is fit that he should answer prayer, and as an infinitely wise God, in the exercise of his own wisdom, and not ours. God will deal as a father with us, in answering our requests. But a child is not to expect that the father's wisdom be subject to his; nor ought he to desire it, but should esteem it a privilege, tbat the parent will provide for him according to his own wisdom.
As to particular temporal blessings for which we pray, it is no argument that he is not a prayer-hearing God, because he bestows them not upon us : for it may be that God sees the things for which we pray not to be best for us. If so, it would be no mercy in him to bestow them upon us, but a judgment. Such things, therefore, ought always to be asked with submission to the Divine will. God can answer prayer, though he bestow not the very thing for which we pray. He can sometimes better answer the lawful desires and good end we have in prayer another way. If our end be our own good and happiness, God can perhaps better answer that end in bestowing something else than in the bestowment of that very thing which we ask. And if the main good we aim at in our prayer be attained, our prayer is answered, though not in the bestowment of the individual thing which we sought. And so that may still be true which was before asserted, that God always hears the prayer of FAITH. God never once failed of hearing a sincere and believing prayer; and those promises for ever hold good, Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you : for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth ; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened."
Another use of this doctrine may be, of reproof to those that neglect the duty of prayer. If we enjoy so great a privilege as to have the prayer-hearing God revealed to us, how great will be our folly and inexcusableness, if we neglect the privilege, or make no use of it, and deprive ourselves of the ads
vantage by not seeking this God hy prayer. They are hereby reproved who neglect the great duty of secret prayer, which is more expressly required in the word of God than any other kind. What account can those persons give of themselves, who neglect so known a duty ? It is impossible that any among us should be ignorant of this command of God. How daring, therefore, is their wickedness who live in the neglect of this duty! and what can they answer to their Judge, when he shall call them to an account for it?
Here I shall briefly say something to an EXCUSE which some may be ready to make for themselves. Some may be ready to say, If I do pray, my prayer will not be the prayer of faith, because I am in a natural condition, and have no faith.
This excuses not from obedience to a plain command of God. The command is to all to whom the command shall
God not only directs godly persons to pray, but others also. In the beginning of the second chapter of Proverbs, God directs all persons to cry after wisdom, and to lift up their voices for understanding, in order to their obtaining the fear and knowledge of God; and in Jam. i. 5. the apostle says, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God;" and Peter directed Šimon Magus to repent, and pray to God, if perbaps the thought of his heart might be forgiven bim, Acts viii. 22. Therefore, when God says, do thus or thus, it is not for us to make excuses, but we must do the thing required. Besides,
God is pleased sometimes to answer the prayers of unbelievers. Indeed he hears not their prayers for their goodness or acceptableness, or because of any true respect to him manifested in them, for there is none; ror has he obliged himself to answer such prayers; yet he is pleased sometimes, of his sovereign mercy, to pity wicked men, and hear their cries. Thus he heard the cries of the Ninevites, Jonah iii. and the prayer of Ahab, 1 Kings xxi. 27, 28. Though there be no regard to God in their prayers, yet he, of his infinite grace, is pleased to have respect to their desires of their own happiness, and to grant their requests. He may, and sometimes does, hear the cries of wicked men, as he bears the hungry ravens, when they cry, Psal. cxlvii. 9. and as he opens his bountiful hand, and satisfies the desires of every living thing, Psal. cxlv. 16. Besides, the prayers of sinners, though they have no goodness in them, yet are made a means of a preparation for mercy,
Finally, seeing we have such a prayer-hearing God as we have heard, let us be much employed in the duty of prayer: let us pray with all prayer and supplication : let us live prayerful lives, continuing instant in prayer, watching thereunto with all perseverance; praying always, without ceasing, earnestly, and not fainting,
NATURE AND END OF EXCOMMUNICATION,
1 Cor. v. 11.
But now I have written unto you, not to keep company, if any
man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one, no not to eat.
The apostle reproves the church at Corinth for not excommunicating an offending person; and directs them. speedily to cast him out from among them; thus delivering him to Satan. He orders them to purge out such scandalous persons, as the Jews were wont to purge leaven out of their houses when they kept the passover. In the text and two foregoing verses he more particularly explains their duty with respect to such vicious persons, and enjoins it on them not to keep company with such. But then shews the difference they ought to observe in their carriage towards those who were vicious among the heathen, who had never joined with the church, and towards those of the same vicious character who had been their professed brethren ; see ver. 9–12. “ I wrote unto you, not to company with fornicators. Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters, for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you, not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a forni. cator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one, no not to eat.”
In the words of the text we may observe,
1. The duty enjoined; including the behaviour required, negatively expressed, not to keep company, and the manner or degree, no not to eat.
2. The object, a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner. We are not to understand merely these particular vices, but also any other gross sins, or visible wickedness. It is evident, that the apostle here, and in the context, intends that we should exclude out of our company all those who are visibly wicked
For in the foregoing verses he expresses his meaning by this, that we should purge out the old leaven; and explaining wbat he means by leaven, he includes all visible wickedness; as in ver. 8. « Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Another thing by which the object of this behaviour or dealing is characterized, is, that he be one that is called a brother, or one that hath been a professed Christian, and a member of the church.
DOCTRINE. Those members of the visible Christian church who are become visibly wicked, ought not to be tolerated in the church, but should be excommunicated.
In handling this subject, I shall speak, (1.) Of the nature of excommunication ; (2.) Of the subject; and, (3.) Of the ends of it.
I. I shall say something of the nature of excommunication. It is a punishment executed in the name and according to the will of Christ, whereby a person who hath heretofore enjoyed the privileges of a member of the visible church of Christ, is cast out of the church and delivered unto Satan. It is a punishment inflicted; it is expressly called a punishment by the apostle, in 2 Cor. ii. 6. Speaking of the excommunicated Corinthian, he says, “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment.” For though it be not designed by man for the destruction of the person, but for his correction, and so is of the nature of a castigatory punishment, at least so far as it is inflicted by men; yet it is in itself a great and dreadful calamity, and the most severe punishment that Christ hath appointed in the visible church. Although in it the church is to seek only the good of the person and his recovery from sin-there appearing, upon proper trial, no reason to hope for his recovery by gentler means-yet it is at God's soyereign disposal, whether it shall issue in his humiliation
and repentance, or in his dreadful and eternal destruction; as it always doth issue in the one or the other. In the definition of excommunication now given, two things are chiefly worthy of consideration; viz. wherein this punisbment consists, and by whom it is inflicted.
First, I would shew wherein this punishment consists; and it is observable that there is in it something privative, and something positive.
First, There is something privatite in excommunication, which consists in being deprived of a benefit heretofore enjoyed. This part of the punishment, in the Jewish church, was called putting out of the synagogue, John xvi. 2. The word synagogue is of the same signification as the word church. So this punishment in the Christian church is called casting out of the church. The apostle John, blaming Diotrephes for inflicting this punishment without cause, says, 3 John v. 10. “ He casteth them out of the church.” It is sometimes expressed by the church's withdrawing from a member, 2 Thess. iii. 6. “ Now we command you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly.”
The privative part of excommunication consists in being cut off from the enjoyment of the privileges of God's visible people. The whole world of mankind is divided into these two sorts, those that are God's visible people; and those that are of the visible kingdom of Satan. Now it is a great privilege to be within the visible church of Christ. On the other hand, it is very doleful to be without this visible kingdom, to be cut off from its privileges, treated as belonging to the visible kingdom of Satan. For,
1. They are cut off from being the objects of that charity of God's people which is due to Christian brethren. They are not indeed cut off from all the charity of God's people, for all men ought to be the objects of their love. But I speak of the brotherly charity due to visible saints.-Charity, as the apostle represents it, is the bond by which the several members of the church of Christ are united together : and therefore he calls it the bond of perfectness; Col.
iii. 14. “ Put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." But when a person is justly excommunicated, it is like a phy. sician's cutting off a diseased member from the body; and then the bond which before united it to the body is cut or broken. A scandal is the same as a stumbling-block; and therefore while the scandal remains, it obstructs the charity of others : and if it finally remain after proper endeavours to remove it, then it breaks their charity, and so the offender is cut off from the charitable opinion and esteem of the church.