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to her friends, “I would not be hired out of my closet for a thousand worlds."
6. Some venture to say, “I am too wicked to pray.—The sacrifices of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord.” Is it my duty to pray while unregenerate? But he who thinks that he shall get rid of the duty of prayer on account of his wickedness, does not only confess, but aggravate his guilt and his condemnation. You must not, indeed, come with the same wicked mind with which you committed your sins; but go grieved and penitent; and the sooner you go the better. “ The ploughing of the wicked,” all they do, “is sin :" and yet even a worldly man would not therefore justify them in being idle. Your neglect of prayer is perhaps the very cause of your wickedness.
When God had promised the new heart and the new spirit to the Jews, he adds, “I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them.” Who more wicked than Simon Magus ? and yet the apostle calls on him to repent and pray to God. Your guilt should bring you to the Saviour, and not keep you from him. Will not the sick man desire to see the physician? Is keeping at a distance, and contemptuous and negligent conduct in an offender as likely to gain the favor of him that is offended, as a humble and meek confession of fault, and entreaty for pardon? All the practice and conduct of man, all your own experience, all the confessions of sin, and all the petitions for mercy which are recorded in the Bible, testify against such an idea. If your confession of wickedness be the real feeling of your heart, you soe it is the very reason that you should immediately begin to meditate on your sad condition, to repent, and seek God's mercy in prayer. But if it be not the feeling of your heart, this excuse for neglecting prayer needs no answer.
7. There are others who seem to think that all exhortations to prayer savor of legality. We are to be saved by believing, and not by working. But how gross is the mistake of such. We press it not as a mere task, or a meritorious labor, but as a plain duty. We state it to be a privilege and a blessing bestowed on all the children of God. We are not, it is true, saved by our prayers, but by Christ ; yet we shall never be saved without prayer, for the spirit of prayer is a part of our salvation. Living in neglect of prayer, is a plain proof, whatever men's notions or fancies may be, whatever their doctrinal sentiments are, that they have none of the Spirit of adoption, and so do not belong to Christ. Nay, a disregard of prayer shows that you have none of the real feelings of evangelical truth, which, working by love, ever influences the soul to seek the presence of Him we love.
Is there not at the bottom of all these objections, a reason of this kind, I dislike prayer-It puts a restraint upon
all my ways It compels me to think of that which I had rather forget ?-But what are you thus owning yourself to be? It is the character of the wicked,“ God is not in all his thought;" they dislike to “ retain God in their knowledge.” Ah! remember, all flesh must come before God; he
now sits on a throne of grace, where you may obtain mercy; he will hereafter sit on a throne of judgment, where he will forever condemn those who have not sought and found “ grace to help in time of need.”
ON SECRET PRAYER.
THERE are some things in which secret prayer has an advantage over social and public worship. By praying in secret we give God the glory of his being every where present, and seeing and knowing all things. We acknowledge not only his general providence, as taking care of communities; but his particular providence, as watching over us individually. We express our faith in his presence, his power, and his love.
The Christian can also in secret give free vent to every desire; vary his request according to the present state of his mind, or the present necessities of the day or hour in which he is living; he can dwell on his personal wants; and in short, give full scope to his feelings, and pour out his whole soul before God, with a freedom that he would not before his dearest friend.
Prayer in secret is also considered by our Lord as forming a line of distinction between the Christian and the mere professor. “When thou prayest thou shalt not be as the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.”
When we are constant in secret prayer, not as an act of self-righteousness, but from a feeling of necessity, and of its being both our duty and privilege, we may hope well of our sincerity, and of the general state of our souls before God.
The retirement of private devotion is strongly inculcated in the expression, “Enter into thy closet.” Retire from company. Go by thyself. Be alone. Retire from the notice of others, to avoid ostentation on the one hand, and distraction on the other. “ Shut thy door.” Keep out the world, and prevent every intrusion: thou hast a great business to transact with thy God, and let not the dearest friend or relative interfere with thy intercourse and converse with him. The privacy of prayer is the great thing which is here enforced. Poor persons who have but one apartment, may enter into the spirit of this direction by praying wherever they can be retired. Isaac's closet was a field. “ He went out to meditate in the field at even-tide.” David's closet was his bed-chamber. “ Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.” Our Lord's closet was a mountain. 6. When he had sent the multitude away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray, and when the evening was come, he was there alone.” Peter's closet was the house top. “ Peter went upon the house top to pray, about the sixth hour.” Hezekiah's closet was turning “his face towards the wall, and praying unto the Lord.”
But there is a retiredness of heart, and a self-recollection, which is of greater importance than any particular place of prayer. This is the fruit of the
Holy Spirit; let us then continually look for and solely depend on his aid, which alone can enable us to give our whole hearts to this great work.
The Scriptures do not give express directions how often we ought to pray, farther than by general intimations, and the examples of others. We ought always to be in the spirit of prayer. But stated seasons for retired prayer, ought, at least, to be twice every day. David says, “ It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High: to show forth thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night. Morning and evening devotions, then, every day, should never be omitted; and, speaking generally, unless you are prevented by circumstances out of your control, they cannot be neglected without much damage to your soul. Prayer has been compared to a key, that in the morning opens the treasury of God's mercies; and in the evening shuts us up under his protection and safeguard. It has ever been found, that as we have sought God in spirit and in truth in the morning, so the rest of the day has prospered.
The habit of early rising is of great importance to the due discharge of morning prayer.
O how many precious hours do indolent Christians lose; while those who are more self-denying and diligent, are gaining the favor of God and enjoying communion with him.
Our first waking thoughts should be directed towards God; copying David's example, who says, 66 when I awake I am still with thee." I would ad