Friday, March 21, 2008

Hannah More - Prayer

Excerpted from The Spirit of Prayer, by Hannah More. New York: Swords, Stanford, and Co., 1883, pages 16-18.

Chapter II.
The Duty of Prayer Inferred from the Helplessness of Man, pp 16-18.

Man is not only a sinful, he is also a helpless, and therefore a dependent being. This offers new and powerful motives for the necessity of prayer, the necessity of looking continually to a higher power, to a better strength than our own. If that power sustain us not, we fall; if he direct us not, we wander. His guidance is not only perfect freedom, but perfect safety. Our greatest danger begins from the moment we imagine we are able to go alone.

The self-sufficiency of man arising from his imaginary dignity, is a favourite doctrine with the nominal Christian. He feeds his pride with this pernicious aliment. And, as we hear much, so we hear falsely, of the dignity of human nature. Prayer, founded on the true principles of Scripture, alone teaches us wherein our true dignity consists. The dignity of a fallen creature is a perfect anomaly. True dignity, contrary to the common opinion, that it is an inherent excellence, is actually a sense of the want of it; it consists not in our valuing ourselves, but in a continual feeling of our dependence upon God, and an unceasing aim at conformity to his image.

Nothing but a humbling sense of the sinfulness of our nature, of our practised offences, of our utter helplessness, and constant dependence, can bring us to fervent and persevering prayer. How did the faith of the saints of old flourish under a darker dispensation, through all the clouds and ignorance which obscured their views of God! "They looked unto him, and were enlightened!" How do their slender means and high attainments reproach us!

David found that the strength and spirit of nature which had enabled him to resist the lion and the bear, did not enable him to resist his outward temptations, nor to conquer his inward corruptions. He therefore prayed, not only for deliverance "from blood-guiltiness," for a grievously remember sin, he prayed for the principle of piety, for the fountain of holiness, the "the creation of a clean heart," for "the renewing of a right spirit," for "truth in the inward parts," that the "comfort of God's help might be granted him." This uniform avowal of the secret workings of sin, this uniform dependence on the mercy of God to pardon, and the grace of God to assist, render his precatory addresses, though they are those of a sovereign and a warrior, so universally applicable to the case of every private Christian.

the Presbyterian Magazine: Religious Lessons

Presbyterian Magazine
May, 1858.
edited by Rev. C. Van Rensselaer, D.D.
Published in Philadelphia by Joseph M. Wilson, pp 239-240.

This copy was owned and signed by Rev. Charles Hodge.

To Those Commencing A Religious Life

  1. Do not expect so sudden and remarkable a change as to leave no doubt of its reality. Did religion enter the soul in perfection, and to the entire exclusion of sin, the change would be so marked and obvious as to leave no room for doubt. But usually, there is, in the Christian heart, a perpetual struggle between good and evil, and thus a continual competition of evidence for and against, according as the good or evil prevails.
  2. Evidence of piety is not so much to be sought in high emotions of any kind, as in real humility, self-distrust, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, sorrow for sin, and a continual effort, in every-day life, to the nature, and not the degree of our affections which is to be regarded in the examination of our evidences.
  3. Do not expect to find, in your own case, everything you have heard or read of in the experience of others. For it may be, that many things we hear and read of are not correct feelings, and do not afford just grounds of confidence for any one; and if they are correct experience, it may be the experience of a mature Christian, and not to be expected in the beginning of a religious life.
  4. Do not suppose that religion is a principle of such self-preserving energy, that when once implanted in the soul, it will continue to thrive and increase without effort. God will not sustain and bring to maturity the work of grace, without your own voluntary concurrence in the diligent use of means, more than he will cause the harvest to whiten in the field of the sluggard.
  5. Do not expect to be made happy by religion unless you become eminent Christians. A half-way Christian can neither enjoy the pleasures of the world nor the pleasures of religion, for his conscience will not let him seek the one, and he is too indolent to obtain the other. The Christian may be the happiest man on earth, but he must be a faithful, active, and devoted Christian.
  6. Do not make the practice and example of other Christians the standard of piety at which you aim. By this means, a more disastrous influence has been exerted on the Church and on the world, than perhaps by all other causes that could be named. But look into your Bible and see how Christians ought to live. See how the Bible says those who are Christians must live, and then if you find your Christian friends living in a different way, instead of having cause for feeling that you may do so too, you have only cause to fear that they are deceiving themselves with the belief that they are Christians when they are not.
  7. Remember that your evidence of possessing ceases when anything else has the first place in your thoughts and interests. Religion should not lessen our love for our friends, or our enjoyment of rational pleasures; but the desire to please God, in all our ways, should be the prevailing feeling of the mind. Our Saviour says, we cannot have two masters; God and his service must first be in our thoughts and affections, or else the world and its pleasures are first. If, then, we would find whose servants we are, we must find who has the first place in our thoughts and affections.
  8. Never for one day omit to read the Bible, with prayer. This is a most important direction. It is of the utmost importance that you should never, for once, break through this habit. Prayer and the Bible are your anchor and your shield; they will hold you firmly in the path of duty, and protect you from temptation.
  9. Attempt, by your efforts and example to raise the standard of piety and activity. If all who are now commencing the Christian life should make this an object, and not fall into the temptation which professed Christians so often set before the lambs of the flock, the Church would indeed soon rise before the world, "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners."
  10. Be active in promoting all benevolent objects. Make it an object to prepare to lead with propriety, when necessary, in all social devotional duties. At this period, when prayer and effort must unite in hastening the great day of the Lord, let every Christian learn to guide the devotions of others, as well as to lift up his own private supplications.
  11. Remember that the principal duty of a Christian, as it respects others, is to excite them to the immediate performance of their religious duty. There is no Christian but can find some one mind, at least, over which he can have some influence, and if we can do anything to save others from eternal death, nothing should for a moment prevent our attempting it.
  12. Lastly, do not be discouraged because you find that you are very deficient in every one of the particulars specified. Remember, that the Christian life is a warfare, and that it is only and the end that we are to come off conquerors, and more than conquerors. When you feel your own strength and resolution failing, go to Him who hath said, "My grace is sufficient for thee, and My strength shall be made perfect in weakness," Call upon Him, "and He will be very gracious unto the voice of thy cry when he shall hear it, He will answer thee." Remember, also, that the conflict is short; the race will speedily be accomplished.