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Brief Notes on the Bible . No . XVI . Matthew vii . 11 : €€ If ye , being evil , know how to give good gifts unto your children , how much more shall your Father , which is in heaven , give good things to them that ask him ?"
FTT ^ HE efficacy of prayer has been M doubted even by some Christians , with the above and other harmonizing texts , urgent , if not imperative , in full array against them . Our Saviour , in dwelling on the paternal character of Ood , beautifully illustrates it" by a comparison of it with that of an earthly
Father , who , when his children ask for bread , is not so upnatural as to tender them a stone ; and assures us of the superior benignity of our heavenly Father . A more encouraging , a ^ more heart-refreshing assurance to weak and dependent mortals never issued from his lips .
True it is that the age of miracles , of special and visible divine interposition in human affairs , has long since passed , and apparently for ever , or for ages to come ; and that , if we ask for particular mercies , we have no reason to expect that they will be distinctl y conceded to us ^ or that any
unequivocal dispensation will take place in our favour ; yet the prayer of an humble and devout heart may , if not in terms , in effect , be granted circuitously or equivalent ^ and , as all men who reflect on past events must acknowledge , more to our advantage than in the specific mode we supplicated for them .
To contend that the Deity concerns himself only with the race of mankind , or with any other race in the multitude of worlds that he may have created , having , once for all , ordained the wisest and most benevolent general laws for their government and welfare , is an exclusion of his infinity . And it is the inattention to this , his most sublime
attribute , which I apprehend to be the source of all the imperfect and erroneous ideas that have prevailed on the subject . The word itself is so vast in its import , as , if not to exceed ,
certainly to lull , human comprehension ; but if it once obtain possession of the mind , without disturbing it , every difficulty seems to vanish before it . An absolutely infinite Being must be com-
petent , whilst superintending worlds and systems , to take cognizance of , and to bestow his attention equally upon , every atom of his different creations abounding in the universe , and without ever withdrawing it for an instant . Otherwise he would not be
infinite . Assign the remotest boundary to his superintendence ; say that he observes not the transient movement of a muscle , the slightest fluctuation of the mind , the most fugitive thought
that enters and escapes it , the progress and aberrations even of the pen I am using , and the very formation of its characters ; what is it less than saying that his observation is short of
infinite ? It is this cheering word , Isffinity , awful as it is , that inspires my mind with unhesitating confidence in the article of prayer ; which assures me
that the Being whom I address , while intent upon the lives and the prayers of myriads of his creatures , is intent also upon mine and regardful of my particular welfare . When I invoke him in a room , I feel a
consciousness that He is in the centre and in every corner of it ; in my bed , that He is within the curtains ; in the air , that He encompasses me ; that He is equally present to every other individual in the extended universe , and the recipient of all their prayers ; necessarily
so , because He is infinite , which implies his omnipresence ; in other words , that his actual presence can b y no possibility be any where excluded . Why , then , admit the appalling apprehension that our petitions may be unheard or unnoticed by the universal Parent ; by Him who cannot—I repeat it , cannot , his auricular like his other faculties
being infinite , —fail to hear every prayer addressed to him ^ and whose paternal regard for all his offspring is equally unbounded ?
Further ; the advocates for the mefficacy of prayer , on the assumption of the Deity ' s having withdrawn himself from communication with individuals , contemplate a limitation of the
Divine agency . They ascribe to Him an outline merely , which he is either unable or disinclined to fill up . His omnipotence repels the former supposition ; his unlimited goodness the latter . I cannot but think that many Chris-
702 Brief Note * on the Bible . No . XVI .
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Dec. 2, 1820, page 702, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2495/page/14/