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with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." It has often been remarked that the first symptoms of spiritual decline commence in the closet. Be on your guard, therefore, believers, against a formal spirit in your secret devotions. Seek when you are with God to have the world shut out from your heart, and strive after a collected state of mind before you commence your approach to the footstool, so that you may be able to say, My heart is fixed, O God." And for this purpose perhaps the most suitable employment in preparation for a close communion with God in secret, is to read a short portion of the Word of God, endeavouring to enter into its spirit, meditating seriously upon the truths which it contains, until the heart glows with devotional feeling. And the portion of God's Word which believers in all ages have most frequently delighted to use, for the purpose of bringing the mind, with the aid of the Spirit, into a frame most fitted for secret prayer, is the Psalms of David, which contain a mine. of precious subjects wherewith the mind and the heart of the believer may be richly fraught in the devotions of the closet.
Not only does Christ inculcate upon his people the duty of secret prayer, but He issues His command in language which plainly conveys the idea of a privi-. lege, "Pray to thy Father which is in secret." In the performance of alms-deeds the child of God was.
reminded of his "Father who seeth in secret;" but to encourage him to the observance of secret devotion he is reminded of his "Father who is in secret." The believer is in his closet, the world is shut out, but even then he is "not alone, for his Father is with him." The communion of the child of God with his heavenly Father is not only a secret, hidden communion, but it is a near and intimate communion. The Israel of God are described "as a people near unto Him." They are admitted into His presence chamber, He converses with them as it were, face to face. He is not a mere observer of their secret devotions from His throne in the heavens, but He is present with them in their secret retirements, and He even permits them to wrestle with Him, until, like Jacob, as a prince they shall prevail.
And besides He who thus communes with them is their Father. They have received the spirit of adoption, whereby, with childlike confidence, mingled with holy reverence, they exclaim, Abba, Father. The sonship of the believer is that which gives him such enlargement of heart in his secret devotions. There is an unspeakable tenderness and ample encouragement in the revelation which God makes of Himself to His people as their Father. The whole blessings of the new covenant indeed may be summed up in the one promise: "I will be unto thee a Father." Throughout the Old Testament God is generally ex
hibited under the sterner notion of a lawgiver, and although we find occasional glimpses of this endearing relationship, as in the passage of Isaiah, "Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer; thy name is from everlasting," yet it was reserved for New Testament times to bring out this view of God in a still stronger light than ever. Multitudes since the fall of man, and the revelation of mercy which followed, had been admitted into the adoption of children, but now that the kingdom of heaven was made manifest in its glory by the coming of the Son of God in the flesh, the doctrine that God is a Father to His people, is held pre-eminently forth to the world, and this Sermon being the introduction of the Kingdom, the name "Father" applied to God, is brought forward for the first time since the coming of Messiah, and it is used by our Lord in the course of the Sermon no fewer than fourteen different times.
The name Father, as applied to God, is peculiarly sweet and endearing. Which of us has not experienced the tenderness and soothing influences of an earthly father's love, and yet if the love of every father that ever lived upon the earth, were all concentrated in one bosom, it would be cold and un friendly compared with the love of our Father in heaven to his ransomed people. How sweet then
to commune in secret prayer with a God of love, with a Father whose love infinitely transcends all that human imagination can conceive!
And farther, how is the child of God encouraged in his converse with his heavenly Father, when he reflects that all his infirmities and short-comings, all his unmortified corruptions, and unsanctified desires, which cost him many a pang of sorrow, and many a struggle for deliverance, will not finally shut him out from the love of God. "Like as a Father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” And as an expression of this pity, hear His own language, heavenly, affectionate and tender: "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will not I forget thee." "Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore are my bowels troubled for him. I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord." If such, believer, so tender, so loving, so compassionate be thy Father which is in secret, are any arguments necessary to persuade thee to pray to Him? Dost thou not feel that there is enough in thy sonship to ensure thee a welcome reception at a throne of grace? It is thy Father with whom thou art secretly to hold fellowship. Reveal to Him the inmost secrets of thy heart, commune with him freely, fully, confi
dentially. Let there be much in your secret devotions of the "Abba, Father."
But the encouragement which the Redeemer holds out to the believer to abound in secret prayer, is not yet exhausted, for he adds in the verse now under consideration, "Thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." There is a reward awaiting the praying Christian in the heavens, a reward of grace, not of debt; a reward which will amply compensate for the many trials of faith and patience which he has often experienced in his closet devotions. How true is it that the world knows not the people of God! It is utterly unacquainted with those painful and sometimes protracted struggles with an unbelieving heart; those mournings over unsanctified desires and unhallowed inclinations; those ardent aspirations and longings after more ample communications of the grace of God, which only He who seeth in secret can possibly know. But while the believer has his secret sorrows, he has also his secret joys, with which a stranger cannot intermeddle, and one of the sweetest and most abundant sources of true spiritual consolation is derived from the thought of the day of final recompense. That day so terrible to the impenitent and unbelieving, is looked forward to by the Christian as the consummation of his joys, for he knows that then he shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the presence of an assembled uni