Hannah More.

The complete works of Hannah More online

. (page 99 of 135)
Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 99 of 135)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


worse to a better system of doctrines, nor in ex-
changing gross sins for those which are more
sober and reputable : nor in renouncing the sins
of youth, and assuming those of a quieter period
of life; nor in leaving ofifevil practices because
men are grown tired of them, or find they in-
jure their credit, health, or fortune ; nor does it
consist in inofifensiveness and obliging manners,
nor indeed in any merely outioaiA reformation.

But the change consists in * being renewed
m the spirit of our minds ;' in being * conforroed
to the image of the Scm of God :' in being * call-
ed out of darkness into his marvellous light'
And the whole of this great change, its begin-
ning, progress, and final accomplishment (for it is
represented as a gradual change) is ascribed to

THE INFLUENCES OP THE HOLT Sri&IT.

We are perpetually reminded of our attcr m-
ability to help ourselves, that we may set the
higher value on those gracious aids wnich are
held out to us. We are taught that * we are
not sufficient to think any thing as of ourselves,
but our sufficiency is of God.' And when we ar«
told that* if we live after the flesh, we shall die,
we are at the same time reminded, that it is
* through the Spirit that * we must mortify thi

• Ephesians, iv. 34. t GalatiaM, vi. U

X 2 Ck)rintliians, xlL {8 Pe|^, L 4

Digitized by VjOOQlC



THE WORM OF HANNAH yOR^l



409



ieedt of the body.* We ere likewise oaaiioned
that we 'grieve not the Hol^ Spirit of God,*
'that we qaench not the Spirit* By all which
expreniona, and many others of like import, we
are taught that, white we are to ascribe with
humble gratitude every good thought, word, and
work, to the inflnenoe or the Holy Spirit, we are
not to look on such influence as superseding our
own exertions ; and it is too plain that we may
reject the mcious ofiers of assistance, since
otherwise there would be no occasion to caution
OS not to do it The scriptures have illustrated
this in terms which are &miliar indeed, but
which are therefore onlv the more condescend-
ing and endearing. ' Behold, I stand at the door
and knock. If any man hear mv voice and
open the door, I will come in to him, and will
sup with him, and he with me.* Observe, it is
not said, if any man will not listen to me, I will
fbroe open the door. But if we refbse admit
tance to such a guest, we must abide by the
consequences.

The sublime doctrine of divine assistance is
the more to be priied not only on account of
our own helplessness, but fhrni the additional
eonsideration of the powerful adversary with
whom the Christian has to contend : an article
of onr faith by the way, which is growing into
general disrepute among the politer class of so-
ciety. Nay, there is a kind of ridicule attached
to the very sugcrestion of the subject, as if it
were exploded by general agreement, on fiiU
proof of its being an absolute absurdity, utterly
repugnant to the liberal spirit of an enlightened
age. And it requires no small neatness of ex-
pression and periphrastic ingenuity to get the
very mention tolerated i — ^I mean

nn scRirnntx Doantuti ov tbi kzistenck and
pown or ovR grxat smrruAL xnemt.

This is considered by the fashionable sceptic
as a vulgar invention, which ought to be banish-
ed with the belief in dreams, and ghosts and
witchcraft : — ^by the ftshionable Christian, as an
ingenious allegory, but not as a literal truth ;
and by almost all, as a doctrine which, when it
happens to be introduced at church, has at least
nothing to do with the pew9^ but is by common
consent made over to the ai$le$, if indeed it must
be retained at all.

May I, with great humility and respect, pre-
same to suggest to our divhies that they would
do well not to lend their countenance to the mo-
dish enrtailments of the Christian fkith : nor to
shun the introduction of this doctrine whenever
it consists with their subject to bring it forward !
A truth which is seldom brought before the eye,
imperceptibly grows less and less important;
and if it be an unpleasing truth, we grow more
and more reconciled to its absence, tiU at length
its intrusion becomes offensive, and we learn in
the end to renounce what we at first gnly ne-
glected. Because some coarse and ranting en-
thusiasts have been fond of using tremendous
terms and awfhl denunciations with a violence
and frequency, which might make it seem to be
a gratificatior. to them to denounce judgments
■nd anticipate torments, can their coarseness or
Tolgarity make a true doctrine false, or an im



portant one trifline? If such preachers hav^
given offence by their uncouth manner of ma-
naging an awful doctrine, that indeed furnishes
a caution to treat the subject mord discreetly,
but it is no just reason for avoiding the doctrine.
For to keep a truth out of sight because it has
been absurdly handled or ill-defended, might in
time be assigned as a reason for keeping back,
one bv one, every doctrine of our holy church ;
for which of them has not occasionally had im-
prudent advocates or weak champions 1

Be it remembered that thedoctrme in question
is not only interwoven by allusion, implication,
or direct assertion throughout the whole scrip-
ture, but that it stands prominentlv peraonijied
at the opening of the New as well as the Old
Testament The deril*s temptation of onr Lord,
in which he is not represented figuratively, but
visibly and palpably, stands exactly on the sauie
ground of authority with other events which are
received without repugnance. And it may not
be an unuseful observation to remark, that the
very refusing to believe in an evil spirit, may be
considered as one of his own suggestions ; for
there is not a more dangerous illusion than tu
believe ourselves ou% of toe reacn of iLOSions,
nor a more alarming temptation than to fancy
that we are not liable to be tempted.

But the dark cloud raised by this doctrine
will be dispelled by the cheering oejtainty that
our blessed Saviour baring himself * been tempt-
ed like as we are, is able to deliver those who are
tempted.* t

To return. — From thb imperfect sketch we
may see how suitable the religion of Christ is to
fallen man ! How exactly it meets every want \
No one needs now perish because he is a sinner,
prorided he be willing to forsake his sins ; foi
Jesus Christ came into the world to save sin
ners ;' and * He is now exalted to be a Prince
and a Saviour, to give repentance and forgire-
ness of sin.* Which passage, be it observed
may be considered as pointincr out to us the or
der in which he bestows hu Uessings ; he gives
first repentance and then forgiveneee.

We may likewise see how much the character
of a true Christian rises above every other ; that
there is a wholeness, an integrity, a complete-
ness in the Christian character, that a few natu-
ral, pleasing qualities, not cast in the mould of
the Gospel, are but as beautiful fragments, or '
well-turned single limbs, which for want of that
beauty, which arises from the proportion of
parts, for want of that connexion of the members
with the living head, are of little comparative
excellence. There may be amiable qualities
which are not Christian graces ; and the apostle,
after enumerating ever^r separate article of at-
tack or defence with which a Christian warrior
is to be accoutred, sums up the matter by di-
recting that we put on * tn«) whole armour of
God.' And this comjUteneee is insisted on by
all the apostles. One prays that his converts
mav * stand perfect and complete in the whole
will of God ;* another enjoins that they * be per-
fed and entire^ wanting nothing.*

Now we are not to suppose that they expected
any convert to be without faults ; they knew
too well the constitution of the human heart to
form so unfounded an expectatioii^ But Chris*

Digitized by VjOOQIC



^HE^WORKS OF HANNAH MORE.



dans niQft hare no fmoh in their prinetjiU ; their
Tiewa must be correct, their propoeed $eheme
mast be faultless ; their intention must be sin-
gle : their ttandard must be lofty ; their object
must be right ; their mark must be the high call-
ing of God in Christ Jesus.' — ^There must be no
aUowed evil, no toarranted defection, no tcierated
imparity, no habitual irr^ularity. Though they
do not rise as high as they ought, nor as they
wish, in the scale of perfection, jet the scale it-
aelf mast be correct, and the desire of ascending
perpetual; counting nothing done while any
thing remains undone. Every grace most be
kept in exercise ; conquests once made over an
evil propensity must not only be maintained but
extended. And in troth Christianity so com.
priies contrary, and as it may be thought irre-
ooncilable excellences, that those which seem
su incompatible as to be incapable by nature of
being inmates of the same breast are ahnost ne-
oessarily involved in the Christian character.

For mstance ; Christianity reqoires that our
&ith be at once fervent and sober ; that our love
be both ardent and lasting ; that our patience be
not only heroic but gentle ; she demands daunt-
less zeal and genuine humility ; active services
and complete self-renunciation; high attain-
ments in goodness, with deep conscioosness of
defect ; courage in reproving, and meekness in
bearing reproof; a quick perception of what is
sinfiil ; with a willingness to forgive the offender ;
active virtue ready to do nW, and passive virtue
ready to bear all. We must stretch every fk-
ciilty in the service of our Lord, and yet bring
eveiy thought into obedience to Him : while we
aim to live in the exercise of every Christian
grace, we must accomit ourselves unprofitable
servants : we must gtrive for the crown, yet re-
ceive it as a gift, and then lay it at our Master's
feet : while we are busily trading in the world
with oar Lord's talents, we must * commune
with our hearts, and be still :' while we strive
to practise the purest disinterestedness, we must
be contented though we meet with selfishness in
return ; and while laying out our lives fer the
good of mankind, we must submit to reproach
without murmuring, and to ingratitude without
resentment And to render us equal to all these
sisrvices, Christianity bestows not only the pre-
cepts, but the power ; she does what the great
poet of Ethics lamented that reason coold not do,
* she lends us arms as well as rules.'

For here, if not only the worldly and the ti-
mid, but the humble and the well-disposed, should
demand with fear and trembling, * Who is suffi-
cient for these things?' Revelatbn makee its
own reviving answer, • My grace is sufficient for
thee.'

It will be wen here to distinguish that there
are two sorts of Christian professors,. one of
which affect to speak of Christianity as if it were
a mere system of doctrines, wfth little reference
to their influence on life and manners ; while
the other consider it as exhibiting a scene of
human duties independent of its doctrines. For
though the latter sort may admit the doctrines,
yet they contemplate them as a separate and
disconnected set of opinions, rather than as an
influential principle of action. In violation of
that beautiful harmony which subsiste in every



part of Scripture between practice and belief
the religious world furnishes two sorte of people
who seem to enlist themselves, as if in opposi-
tion, under the banner of Saint Paul and Saint
James ; as if those two great champions of the
Christian cause had fought for two masters.
Those who affect respectively to be the disciples
of each, treat faith and works as if they were
opposite interests, instead of inteparaUe points.
Nay, they go farUier, and set Samt Paul at va-
riance with himself.

Now instead of reasoning on the point, let ue
refer to the apostle in question, who himself de-
finitely settles the dispute. The apostolic order
and method in this respect deserves notice and
imitation : fer it is observable that the earlier
parte of most of the epistles abound in the dsc-
frines of Christianity, while those latter chap-
ters, which wind up the subject, exhibit all the
duties which grow out of them, as the natural
and necessary productions of such a living root*
But this alternate mention of doctrine and prac-
tice, which seemed likely to unite^ has on the
contrary fermed a sort offline of separation be-
tween these two orders of believers, and intro-
duced a broken and mutilated system. Those
who would make Christianity consist of doc-
trines only, dwell fer instance, on the first eleven
chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, as con-
taining exclusively the sum and sabstance of
the Gospel. While the mere moralists, who
wish to strip Christianity of her lofty and appro-
priato attributes, delight to dwell on the twelftk
chapter, which is a teble of duties, as exclusive-
ly as if the preceding chapters made no part of
ine sacred Canon. But Saint Paul himself who
was at least as sound a theologian as any of hii
commentators, settles the matter another way,
by making the duties of the twelfth grow out
of the doctrines of the antecedent eleven^ just as
any oth^r consequence grows out of ito cause.
And as if he suspected that the indivisible union
between them mi^ht poesiUy be overlooked, he
links the two distmct divisions together by a lo-
gical * therefere,* with which the twelfth begins:
— * I beseech vou therefore,* (that is, as the efiect
of all I have been inculcating,) ' that you pre-
sent your bodies a living sacrifice, acceptable to
God,* &c. and then goes on to enfbrce on them,
as a consequence of what he had been preach-
ing, the practice of every Christian virtue. Thb
combined view of the subject seems on the one
hand, to be the only means of preventing the
substitution of Pagan morality for Chrbtian bo-
liness : and, on the other, of securing the leading
doctrine of justification by faith, from the dread-
ful danger of Antinomian licentiousness ; ewj
human obligation being thus grafted on the tir-
ing stock of a divine principle.



CHAP. XXI.

On the duty and efficacy of prayer.
It is not proposed to enter largely oo a topic

* This is the language of our church, as may be seca
in her ISth article ; vix.

Oood worlcs do spring out Deceaumlv of a true and
lively fUth ; insomuch that by them a lively fetth may
be as evidently known, as a tree disreroed by iu ftvit.



Digitized by



Google



THE WORKS OF HANNAH MORE.



411



which has been exbaoited bj the ablest pens.
Bot as a work of this nature seems to reqaire
that so important a sabject should not be oTer-
looked* it is intended to notice in a sliffht man-
ner a few of those many difficulties and popular
objections which are In'ought forward against
the use and efficacy of prayer, even by those
who would be unwilling to be suspected of im-
piety and unbeliefl

There is a class of objectors who strangoly
profess to withhold homage from the Most Hi^h,
not out of contempt but reverence. They a6ect
to consider the use of prayer as derogatory from
the omniscience of God, asserting that it looks
as if wo thought he stood in ne^ of being in-
formed of our wants ; and as derogatory fVom
his goodness, as implying that be needs to be
put m mind of them.

But is it not enough for such poor frail beuigs
as we are to know, that God himself does not
consider prayer as derogatory either to his wis-
dom or goodness 7 And shall we erect ourselves
into judges of what is consistent with the attri-
butes of Him before whom angeb &11 prostrate
with self-abasement 7 Will he thanlc such de-
fenders of hb attributes, who, while they profess
to reverence, scruple not to disobey him 7 It
ought rather to be viewed as a great encourage-
ment to prayer, that we are addressing a Being,
who knows our wants better than we can ex-
press them, and whose preventing goodness is
always ready to relieve them. Prayer seems to
unite the difierent attributes of the Almighty :
for if he is indeed the God that heareth prayer,
that is the best reason why * to him aU Hash
should come.*

It is objected by another class, and on the spe-
eious ground of humility too, though we do not
always find the objector himself quite as humble
as htf plea would be thought, that it is arrogant
in such insignificant bein|r8 as we are to pre-
sume to lay our petty necessities before the Great
and Glorious Grod, who cannot be expected to
condescend to the multitude of trifling and even
iBterferin|r requests which are brought before
him by his creatures. These and such like ob-
jections arise from mean and unworthy thoughts
of the Great Creator. It seems as if those who
make thom considered the Most High as * such
an one as themselves ;* a Being, who can per-
form a certain givei^ quantity of business, but
who would be overpowered with an additional
quantity. Or, at best, is it not oonsidering the
Almighty in the light, not of an infinite God,
but of a great man, of a minister, or a king,
who, while he superintends public and national
eoncerns, is obliged to n^lect small and indivi-
dual petitions, because his hands being full he
cannot spare that leisure and attention which
suffice for every thing 7 They do not consider
htm as that infinitely glorious Being, who while
he beholds at once ul that is doing in heaven
and in earth, is at the same time as attentive to
the prayer of the poor destitute, as present to
the sorrowful sighing of the prisoner, as if each
of these forlorn creatures were individually the
object of his undivided attention.

These critics, who are for sparing the So-

feme Being the trouble of our prayers, and, if
may so speak without pro&neness, would re-



lieve Omnipotence of part of his burden, by as-
signing to his care only such a portion as may
be more easilj^ managed, seem to have no ade-
quate conception of his attributes.

They forget that infinite wisdom puts him as
easily withm reach of all knowledge, as infimte
power does of all performance ; that he is a Be
ing in whose plans complexity makes no diffi
omty, variety no obstruction, and multiplicity
no confusion ; that to ubiquity distance does not
exist ; that to infinity space is annihilated ; that
past, present, and future, are discerned more
accurately at one glance of his eye, to whom a
thousand yeft|s are as one da^, than a single
moment of time or a single pomt of apace can
be by ours.

To the other part of the objection, founded on
the supposed interference (that is irreconcilable-
ness) of one man*s petitions with those of an-
other, this answer seems to suggest itself: first,
that we must take care that when we ask, we
do not * ask amiss ;* that for instance, we ask
chiefly, and in an unqualified manner, only for
spiritual blessings to ourselves and others ; and
in doing this the prayer of one roan cannot in*
torfere with that of another, because no proper-
tion of sanctity or virtue implored by one ob-
structs the same attainments m another. Next
in asking for temporal and inferior blessings,
we must qualify our petition, even though it
should extend to deliverance fVom the severest
pains, or to our very life itself, according to that
exami^ of our Saviour : * Father if^itoe potsi"
&Zs, let this cup pass from me. Netertheles*,
not my wiU^ but thine, be done.* By thus qua-
lifying our prayer, we exercise ourselves in an
act of resi^fnation to God : we profess not to wish
what will interfore with his benevolent plan, and
^et we may hope by prayer to secure the bless-
mg so far as it is consistent with it Perhaps
the reason why this objection^ to prayer is so
strongly felt, is the too great disposition to pray
for merely temporal and worldly blessings, and
to desire them in the most unqualified manner,
not submitting to be without them, even thouj^h
the granting them should be inconsistent with
the general plan of Providence.

Another class continue to bring forward, as
pertinaciously as if it had never been answered,
the exhausted argument, that seeing God is im*
mutable, no petitions of ours can ever change
Him : that evento themselves being settled in a
fixed and unalterable course, and bound in a fa-
tal necessity, it is folly to think that we can dis-
turb the esteblished laws of the universe, or in-
terrupt the course of Providence by our prayers :
and that it is absurd to suppose these firm de-
crees can be reversed by any requests of ours.

Without entering into the wide and trackless
field of fate and fr^ will, from which pursuit I
am kept back equally by the most profound ig.
noranoe and the most invincible dislike, I would
only observe, that these objections apply equally
to all human action as well as to prayer. It
may therefore with the same propriety be urged,
that seeing God is immutable and bis decrees
unalterable, therefore our aetionB can produce
no change in Him or in our own state. Weak
as well as impious reasoning ! It may be ques-
tioned whether even the modern French ano



Digitized by



Google



419



THE WORKS OF HANNAH MORE.



Qerman philoflophers may not be iprevailed upon
to acknowledge the existence of God, if they
might make such a use of his attribotes. The
truth is (and it is a truth discoverable without
any depth of learning) all these objections are
the offspring of pride. Poor short-sighted man
cannot reconcile the omniscience and decrees
of God with the efficacy of prayer; and because
he cannot reconcile them« he modestly concludes
they are irreconcilable. How much more wis-
\ dom, as well as hVppiness, results from an hum-
ble Christian spirit ! Such a plain practical text
as, ' Draw near unto God, and he will draw near
unto vou,* carries more consolation, more true
kaowledge of his wants and their remedy to the
heart of a penitent sinner, than all the * tomes
of casuistry,* which have puzde^ the world ever
since the question was first set afloat by its
original propounders-

And as the plain man only got up and walked,
to prove there was such a thin^ as motion,
in answer to the philosopher who m an elabo-
rate theory denied it : so the plain Christian,
when he is borne down with the assurance that
there is no efficacy in prayer, requires no better
argument to repel the assertion, than the good
he finds in prayer itself.

All the doubts proposed to him respecting
Qod^ do not so mudi affect him, as this one
doubt respecting himself: * If 1 regard iniquity
n my heart, the Lord will not hear me.' For
.he chief doubt and difficulty of a real Christian
consists, not so much of a distrust of God*B
ability and willingness to answer the prayer of
the upright, as in a distrust of his own upright-
ness, as m a doubt whether he himself belongs
to that description of persons to whom the pro-
mises are made, and of the quality of the prayer
which he offers up.

Let the subjects of a dark fkte maintain a
sullen, or the slaves of a blind chanoe a hopeless
silence, but let the child of a compassionate AI-
mighty Father supplicate His mercies with a
humbfe confidence, inspired by the assurance,
that * the very hairs of his head are numbered.*
Let him take comfort in that individual and
minute attention, without which not a sparrow
fiiUs to the ground, as well as in that heart-
cheering promise; that, as 'jthe eyes of the
Lord are over the righteous,* so are * his ears
open to their prayers.* And as a pious bishq>
has observed, *Oor Saviour has as it were
hedged in and inclosed the Lord's prayer with
these two great fences of our faith, God*s tntting"
nets and hia potoer to help us ;' the prefiice to it
assures us of^ the one, which by calling God by
the tender name of • Our Father,* intimates his
readintsB to help his children : and the animat-
ing conclusion, * Thine is the power^^ rescues
us from every unbelieving doubt of his aUlUy to
help us.

A Christian knows, because he feels, that
prayer is, though in a way to him inscrutable, the
medium of connexion between God and his ra-
lional creatures : the means appointed by him to
draw down his blessings upon us. The Christian
knows that prayer is the appointed means of unit-
ing two ideas, one of the highest magnificence,
the other of the most profound lowliness, within
the compass of imagination ; namely, that it is the



link of communication between 'the high and
lofly One who inhabiteth eternity, and tint
heart of the * contrite in which he delights Co
dwell.' He knows that this inexplicable unioQ
between beings so unspeakably, so essentially
different, can only be maintained by prayer ;
>that this is the strong but secret chain which
unites time with etemi^, earth with heaven,
man with God.



Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 99 of 135)