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vise you to be longest in your morning devotions, when your spirits are lively and vigorous, and undisturbed by the events of the day ; in the evening, when you are tired and spent with its labors, be shorter, and endeavor to attend to this duty sometime before you retire to rest.
The Rev. Mr. Simeon remarks, “ It is too generally found, that many, instead of transacting their business with God while their faculties are alive, stay till exhausted nature is become incapable of any energetic exertion, and then hurry over some form of prayer, as a school boy does his task, without feeling one word they utter. Even this is too favorable a representation of the prayers of some others, who stay till they have lain down upon their bed, and then fall asleep in the midst of their devotions. As for praying in the morning, they have no time for that; the concerns of the past or present day have pre-occupied their minds; and if they offer two or three cold petitions while they are dressing, or before they leave their room, they think this quite sufficient.”
Regular devotional exercises, twice every day, in secret, are insisted on as a plain duty. More than this is strongly recommended. Christians in general would find, what many do find in their own practice, a great advantage in obtaining a few leisure moments for retired and stated prayer in the middle of the day. The word of God gives us encouraging examples of those who have done so. "Evening, morning, and at noon-day, will I pray and cry aloud, and he shall hear my voice.” Daniel,
in a time of great danger, his windows being opened in his chamber, “ kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God as he aforetime did.” Here was the secret spring of the eminency of these holy men. They were much in prayer. Besides, men's thoughts and affections will necessarily be most vigorous and lively about those things in which they are incessantly employed, and they are able to do that best which they do most frequently.
The benefits of private prayer are numerous.
1. Intercourse with God in secret prayer, has a transforming efficacy. When Moses had been with God in the mount, the skin of his face shone. Something of that glory which had been then manifested to him remained with him. And thus the Christian often comes from his closet, with some of the beams of heavenly light and glory, shining as it were in his countenance. Coming into the world is sometimes to him like coming back into a lower sphere, into a new society. He has been holding converse with the unseen world, and he returns invigorated and refreshed for every duty.
2. This blessed employment in secret, raises the Christian above anxiety about temporal things. A holy intercourse with his Maker gives him a fixedness and serenity which nothing else can bestow, and hardly any thing can discompose. It prepares him for all events, and fills him with a noble contempt for all the sinful pleasures and pursuits of a world lying in wickedness.
3. The devout Christian, praying in secret, makes rapid advances in the divine life. “They that
wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, They shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.” Sins with which the indolent and careless Christian is contending to his life's end, soon yield to continued fervent prayer.
It was the daily practice of the eminent physician Boerhaave, through his whole life, as soon as he rose in the morning, which was generally very early, to retire for an hour to private prayer, and meditation on some part of the scriptures. He often told his friends, when they asked him how it was possible for liim to go through so much fatigue with such patience and quietness, that it was this which gave him spirit and vigor in the business of the day. This he therefore recommended as the best rule which he could give.
4. Private prayer is an engine of greater power than all human means put together. The greatest of earthly monarchs, neglecting prayer, has not that power to glorify God, benefit man, and secure his own happiness, which the humble and praying Chrisian has. The prayer of a poor, destitute, and afflicted Christian, in the name of Christ, may turn the hearts of kings and princes, save his country, raise up pious ministers, secure a blessing to their labors, send the gospel to the heathen, and advance the kingdom of Christ in the world.
5. It makes us fruitful in every good work. “I reckon it,' says Bennet, ' matter of common experience among good men, that they find themselves more or less disposed, and fit for their respective duties and service, according as their diligence
constancy, and seriousness in secret prayer is more or less." Christians, if you wish to prosper, if you long to bring forth all the fruit of the Spirit, strike your roots deep and wide in private prayer.
Mr. Scott says, “ Depend upon it, every thing will prosper in the event, in a very near proportion to our earnestness and perseverance in prayer: but negligence here will be followed by a declension, perhaps almost unperceived in all other respects, and will make way for temptations, falls, corrections, darkness, and inward distresses. If, like Jacob, we wrestle with God and prevail, we shall eventually prevail in all our other conflicts.”
6. It will be rewarded openly.—Our Lord does not in these words promise the very thing which you request ; but your Father will reward you ; he will give you a free, a full return, a gracious retribution, evidently, though not perhaps identically. Every tear of godly sorrow, shed in secret, will then be a brilliant gem in the crown of glory surrounding the brow of the Christian. The Christian's *reward comes from a Father of infinite power, riches, wisdom, and love ; and therefore cannot be a small reward, or an unsatisfying portion. May every reader then be encouraged to begin, or more constantly to practise, and persevere in this sacred duty.
ON PUBLIC WORSHIP.
Many are the advantages, and great is the necessity of private prayer; but public worship is also a duty plain and important.
1. The assembling of ourselves together is required in the scriptures of all Christians.
The apostle exhorts us to it as a great means of strengthening our love to God and
“ Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is.” The invitation runs, 0 come, let us worship and bow down : let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” “Come into his courts ; O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”
2. Public worship is a suitable and proper expression of homage to our Creator.
" In him we live, and move, and have our being;” and it is just and right that we should publicly and unitedly “give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name.” We all depend on him, and it is right that we should join in acknowledging this, and praying to him. We have in common sinned against him, and right it is that we should in common confess our sins before him.
3. It is alsola public testimony and profession of our religion. We hereby show “whose we are, and whom we serve.” The religion of a nation is known by its worship. “ All people walk every one in the name of his God, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever.”
4. Public worship is attended with some peculiar advantages. The constant return of the weekly. Sabbath, and its worship, keeps alive those impressions of religion which the cares, and business, and distractions of this world would wear away.
Our Saviour makes a special promise applicable to it,