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90 After this manner therefore pray ye, Our Father, &c.
UR Lord Jesus Christ, in, his fermon on the O
mount, whereof this chapter is a part, retrieves religion from the false doctrines, and the corrupt and hypocritical practices, which the fcribes and Pharisees brought into it. They were not wanting in the matter of external duties, but they were far from the right manner of performing them. Wherefore in the firit four verses he teaches them the right manner of doing alms. In the next place he teaches them the right manner of praying. He taxes two faults in the manner of praying. (1.) Hypocritical oftentation, ver. 5. and points them to the right manner in this point. (2.) Idle multiplying of words, ver. 7. 8. . In the text, for helping of this fault and others about prayer, the Lord, being to give us a prayer to serve for a pattern, and to direct us in praying, bids us pray after this manner, i. e. in the manner following in the form of prayer here set down ; not binding us to the very words, but to the manner of it, that we must pray after this manner and to this purpose.
The right manner of performing the duty of prayer is what God requires, and we thould be concerned for. The Lord knows his people's weakness, and how ready they are to go wrong in this, and how much they need direction, and therefore gives this form and pattern of prayer, for their direction in that weighty duty: After this manner address yourselves to God in
prayer. He had not left them without direction altogether before: they had the word formerly written, but this is added as a special rule of direction,
The text offers this doctrine.
Doct." Though the whole word of God is of use “ to direct us in prayer, yet the special rule of direc
business in the world, and will it not suffer you to manage your soul's business, which is of infinitely greater importance? It would seem, that the nearer we draw to the grave, the more active we should be in preparing for it. It were good, that old people would mind heaven more, and the world less, as they have so short a time to stay here. The concerns of the other world should mainly ingrofs their care and attention, and they should then redouble their diligence in improving their span of time, and doing that which perhaps they too much neglected in the days of health and vigour. The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the wayof righteousness, Prov. xvi. 31. Buithe fin. ner being an hundred years old shall be accursed, If.lxv. 20. Let this found an alarm to all the old sinners among you, that ye may yet apply to the merciful Redeemer, who sets even some to work in the vineyard at the eleventh hour. It is sad to be tottering under the miseries and infirmities of o!d age, and yet to have no prospect of a happy landing. Fly then to Christ, thou old decrepit finner, while his call reaches thee, left thou fpee. dily perish without remedy. Obj. 9. I am too young to mind secret prayer. Ans
. You are too old never to have entered on God's fervice. Remember that Josiah when he was but eight years old, began to seek the Lord God of his father David. Obadiah, Ahab's steward, feared the Lord greatly from his youth. John Baptist was fanctified from the womb, and so was the prophet Jeremiah. Timothy knew the holy scriptures from a child. You can never begin to be religious too soon. None ever repented that they fought the Lord; but all have repented that they did not begin to seek him fooner. You are as liable to death as the oldest person here, 'have a foul as precious as theirs, and as much need to mind your best and eternal interests as they. Up then and be doing, without putting off a moment longer.
Obj. ult. I cannot fray. Ans. The truth is, th}u
wilt not pray, Psal. x. 4. If thou hadít a will to the duty, thou wouldst foon learn. But if thou wouldst learn to pray, go to God, that he may teach thee, as Christ taught the disciples; and consider the absolute need thou hast of divine instruction in this matter. Use the one talent, and God will increase it. Wherefore set about this weighty duty, and neglect it not. Think seriously with yourselves, whether those who are now in hell, and when they lived neglected secret prayer like you, would do fo ftill if they were in the world again. I scarce think they would. Pray now therefore, left ye repent your neglect, when it will be too late, and ye are tormented in the lake of fire and brimstone. Again, think with yourselves how you will get this criininal neglect digelted on a deathbed, when ye are ready to leap into eternity, without having orce prayed for God's mercy through Chrift to your souls; and how you will get it digested before the awful tribunal of God, when he will drive you from his blefled presence for ever.
Think with yourfelves how precious time is, and what a fad business it is to spend it in pursuing the world and lying vanitiež, and neglecting communion with God, wherein lies the life of the soul. What! will ye delay it yet a while ? O do it not ; for delays are dangerous. Will ye
be so foolish as to venture all to two or three words on a fick bed or death-bed? Perhaps you will not get one, but may be hurried away in a moment. Conlider that awful paffage, Prov. i. 24.-28. Because I have called, and ye refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all niy counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at
your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind'; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer ; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me.
Exbert. 2. Be frequent in this duty, morning and e.
vening at leaft, and at other times when your conve niency will allow, and go not only to it now and then. Consider, - 1. God's express command, which ties
you always, continually, and without ceafing. This does not mean, that you should do nothing but pray, or spend your whole time in this exercise. No; but denotes frequency, and embracing every opportunity that offers for fo delightful and profitable a duty. It says you should be always in a praying frame, never having your minds so much ingroffed with worldly concerns, as to be indifpofed to call upon God in prayer.
* 2. Frequency in this duty is a good sign of a good frame, and an excellent mean to maintain and preserve it. They who are not frequent in this exercise
, do thereby thew that their frame and disposition is not fpiritual, but carnal, much under the conduct of fense, and atrachment to sensible things. Whereas, if a person were frequent in this duty, it would be a token of a heart weaned from the world, and much conversant in the things of God.
3. Lastly, It is dangerous to grow flack and remiss in this duty, as mournful experience has testified in the case of many. They who having been for years frequently employed in this heavenly exercife do at last turn careless, restrain prayer before the Lord, or but now and then bow a knee before him, do thereby declare they have lost the life and relish of the power of religion, and are in the high road to apoftafy. There are not wanting instances of such 'having returned with the dog to his vomit, and with the fow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. O: thers have been made signal monuments of judge. ment, and fet up as beacons to backfliders. And some who have had the root of the matter in them, have is ad such a storm raised in their consciences, as has made them a terror to themselves, and all around them: and it has cost them much and fore wrestling
with God ere they recovered the light of his counte
For the Lord's fake then, and your own fouls fake, be frequent in this exercise, and grow not remiss therein, lest ye feel the vengeance of God's temple.
Exhort. 3. To parents and masters of families. I beseech and entreat you by the mercies of God, by the love .ye bear to the Lord Jesus, and the regard ye have to the souls of your children and servants, not only to pray in secret yourselves, but hy all the means that are competent to you, by command, advice, ex. hortation, &c. to ftir them up to this duty of fecret prayer. For motives, consider,
1. It was the practice of John the Baptist, yea and of Chrift himself, the great Prophet of the church, Luke xi. 1. Thus this duty comes recommended by the best authority, and the most excellent approved patterns. Christ taught and urged his disciples to pray, and for that end gave them an excellent directory, suited to their then state ; and which ye would do well to make your rule in instructing your children and servants.
2. God expressly commands it, Deut. vi. 7. Thou fvalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou fittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, und when thou liest down, and when thou riseft up. Thus they were to be daily employed in this duty, not only to let their children know what they were bound to do, but to press them to the performance of it. And this command being of moral obligation, is equally incumbent upon you that are Christian parents and masters of families; and ye have far superior advantages for this exercise than the Ifraelites had, a small part of the Bible having been then written, whereas ye have the whole of it among your hands.
3. God commends the practice in Abraham, Gen. xviii. 19. I know him, says Jehoyah, that he will come mand his children, and his household after him, and they