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Lecture Forty-Seventh.

IN yesterday’s Lecture we dwelt on the Prophet’s enlarging upon the people’s crime, in resisting the impression made by God’s chastisements; but now he more clearly demonstrates the kind of obstinacy displayed. For they did not turn away from their iniquities, and were not attentive to God’s truth He had said before, we have not deprecated the anger of God. But here he expresses something more, namely, allowing the existence of some pretense to prayer, there was no real sincerity, We know how impiously hypocrites abuse God’s name, and pretend to the outward form of prayer, and even to the greatest fervor, but there is no reality in their prayers. Thus the Prophet has good reason for uniting what ought never to be separated, and then convicts the Israelites of obstinacy, because they did not flee suppliantly to God’s mercy with repentance and faith. There was, doubtless, some form of piety left among the people; but Daniel here estimates prayers according to God’s word, and thus puts these two things before us, namely, repentance and faith. We must diligently notice this. For nothing is more common than an earnest supplication for pardon when the signs of God’s wrath are apparent; this was always customary among all nations and at all times, and yet there existed neither repentance nor faith. Hence their prayers became mere falsehood and vanity. This is the meaning of the Prophet’s language when he says, We have not asked at the face of Jehovah our God, by turning away from our iniquities, (or that we may return,) and by being instructed in thy truth. Finally, we may gather from this passage what the rule of pious and acceptable prayer really is; first, we must be displeased with ourselves for our sins; next, we must regard the threats and promises of the Almighty. As to the first member of the sentence, experience teaches us how rashly many break forth into prayer, even when their evil conduct rises up professedly against God. On the one hand, they are so enraged as not to hesitate to engage in warfare with God, and yet they pray unto him, because terror seizes upon their minds and compels them to submit themselves to God. The Prophet, therefore, here shews the utter inutility of that outward shew and perverse mixture of noise and flattery, because God cannot approve of any prayers, unless they spring equally from repentance and faith. When he says, the people were not attentive to God’s truth, in my opinion this is extended equally to threats and promises, and faith apprehends both God’s pity and his judgments. For, surely, it cannot be otherwise, when terror rouses the pious to fly to God’s mercy. As, therefore, God embraces each quality in his word, as he cites all who have sinned to his own tribunal, and then gives them a hope of reconciliation, if the sinner is really converted to him; so also Daniel, by saying, the Israelites were not attentive to God’s truth, doubtless had respect to both objects, namely, their want of sufficient consideration of God’s judgments, and next, their stupidity in despising his pity when plainly set before them. On the whole, This passage shews us the impossibility of our prayers being pleasing to God, unless they flow from true repentance and faith; that is, when we heartily feel our wickedness, we then flee to God’s mercy and rely upon his promises. Hence we discover three things to be necessary to render God propitious to us; first, dissatisfaction with ourselves which occasions sorrow, through our being conscious of our sins, and of our having provoked God’s anger. This is the first point. Secondly, faith must necessarily be added. Lastly, prayer must follow as a proof of our repentance and faith. When men remain without repentance and faith, we observe how God’s name is profaned although we conceive and utter many prayers, at the very time when the two principal dispositions are entirely wanting. Now let us proceed, —

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