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SERMON CXL.

THE ORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.

THE USEFULNESS OF PRAYER TO INDIVIDUALS.

1 THESSALONIANS v. 17.

Pray without ceasing.

Is the preceding discourse, I considered the Nature, and Seasons, of Prayer, and the Obligalions which we are under to pray. I shall now discuss, at some length, the fourth subject proposed at that time; viz. the Usefulness of Prayer.

The observations, which I shall make concerning this subject, will be included under the following general heads :

The Usefulness of Prayer by its own proper Influence; and,
Its Eficacy in procuring Blessings from God.

The first of these heads, viz. the Usefulness of Prayer by its own proper Influence, I shall consider, as it respects

Individuals;
Families; and,
Public Societies.

In this discourse, it is my intention to exhibit the Usefulness of Prayer to Individuals by its proper Influence on themselves.

Before I proceed to the direct discussion of this subject, it will be useful to observe, that the personal concerns of an indiVol. V.

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vidual are the proper subjects of secret prayer. The propriety of such Prayer is wholly derived from the fact, that we have many important interests, which are only personal, and require to be transacted between us and our Maker. In their very nature, they are incapable of being disclosed to our fellow-creatures, without material disadvantages. Often they are such, as we would not, on any account, reveal to any human being whatever. Often the disclosure, although not injurious to our moral or intellectual character, would wound our delicacy, or involve us in other kinds of distress. In a multitude of instances, where they are already partially known, we are still unable to disclose them entirely, and with that freedom, which is indispensable to the due performance of this duty. Before our Maker, strange as it may seem, we can use a freedom of communication, which cannot be exercised towards any created being. We know, that he is already acquainted with whatever we have experienced, done, or suffered, either within or without the mind. We know, that he is infinitely removed from all the partialities, and prejudices, from all those cold, unkind, and contemptuous sentiments, which are so generally cherished by our fellow-men. We know, that he will not betray us; but, however unworthy we have been, will regard us, if sincere and penitent, with kindness and mercy. We approach Him, therefore, with a freedom, a confidence, of communication, which can be used towards no other being in the Universe.

Besides, God is nearer to all men, than any man to another. If we are willing to choose him as our friend; he is infinitely the nearest, the best, the most affectionate, of all friends. With Him, therefore, a communion can, and does, exist, which no creature can hold with a fellow-creature.

In consequence of these facts, a freedom, and a fervency also, exists in secret prayer, when the subject of it is our personal concerns, which cannot exist in the presence of others.

With these things premised, I observe, that the Usefulness of Prayer to individuals is found,

First, In the peculiar Solemnity, which it naturally induces on the mind.

In secret prayer, a man comes directly into the presence of

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