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must pray:" meaning, that the salvation of his immortal soul was a matter of such infinitely superior magnitude . to every earthly concern, that, whatever were the consequences, he must attend to that.
Respecting the time to be allotted to prayer, no general rule can be given. Many have the command of their whole time, and from them more is reasonably expected. Surely an hour or two in twenty-four, is not too much for them. A real love to God, and a due sense of the value of his favour, will make a cheerful and a liberal giver. Others, as servants, who have hardly any time that they can call their own, are yet bound to redeem some for God. Let there be a willing mind, and a way will be found.
“Let those,” says Bishop Horne, “who retire in the middle of the day to adorn their persons, take the opportunity of putting on the ornaments of grace, and renewing the spirit of their minds."
In many cases and situations it will be impossible to retire to your private chamber for a mid-day prayer, but in a walk, in your house, or in your business, your heart may statedly retire at a particular season, for a few leisure moments from the world, and hold communion with its God. Only try.
Some of the last words which a dear African youth, now in heaven, told one of those about him was, “I used to pray three times every day, and I now find that it was good-do you mind to do the same.”
The importance of this regular and frequent devotion, will be evident from the consideration of the great concerns which we then have to transact with God. “I have,” says Baxter, "more and greater business to do with God in one day, than with all the world in all my life. My business with God is so great, that, if I had
not a Mediator to encourage and assist me to do my work, and procure my acceptance, the thoughts of it would overwhelm my soul. Therefore let man stand by; I have to do with the great and eternal God, and with him I am to transactin this little time the business of my endless life. I am to seek of God, through Christ, the pardon of all my great and grievous sins; and if I speed not, wo unto me that ever I was born! I have some hopes of pardon, but intermixed with many perplexing fears. I have evidences of grace, but they are exceedingly blotted ; I want assurances that God is my reconciled Father, and that he will receive me to himself when the world forsakes me. I have many languishing graces to be strengthened ; and, alas! what rooted, inveterate, vexatious, corruptions to be cured! Can I look into my heart, into such an unbelieving and earthly heart, into such a proud and peevish heart, into such a perplexed and trembling heart, and not discern how great my business is with God? Can I survey my sins, feel my wants, and nnt sink under my weaknesses ? Can I look forward and see how near my time is to an end? Can I think of the malice and diligence of Satan; the number, power, and policy of my enemies; the many dangerous snares and temptations that are around me, and my own ignorance, and weakness, and unwatchfulness, and not know that my greatest business is with God ?” Surely such views should lead us to frequent prayer.
Sect. IX.- The Reward of Private Prayer.
Thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. While this holds out to us the certain reward of secret devotion, it also discovers to us a delightful view of the glory and perfections of God. Heathen nations fancy that the God of heaven and earth is too far off, or too great, to attend to the petitions of menthat he is too determined, and too careless, or too powerful to be moved by them, and that therefore they must pray to inferior Deities. But in what a much sublimer light do the Christian Scriptures lead us to think of God! He is every where present-in Him we live, move, and have our being; He performeth all things for us; He seeth in secret. Ogden says on this subject, “ How magnificent is this idea of God's government! That he inspects the whole and every part of the universe, every moment, and orders it according to the counsels of his infinite wisdom and goodness, by his Almighty will! whose thought is power, and his acts ten thousand times quicker than the light, unconfused in a multiplicity exceeding number, and unwearied through eternity."
Christian, when you enter your closet for private prayer, you are going into the presence chamber of this great King of Kings; you are about to hold intercourse with him in the character of a tender father. He is indeed every where present, but he manifests his presence to those that seek him. He bestows on them his grace and blessing. O the dignity and glory of the Christian! O the vanity of the world ! O the astonishing blindness and perverseness of man, who can think slightly of his richest privilege, and his highest honour!
The advantages of prayer, generally, have already been pointed out; but consider farther-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 again 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. “Our graces will languish and die, our spirits grow heavy and dull, unless we are refreshed and revived by constant intercourse with the great paternal Spirit.” Grove says, “ The effects of Christian retirement, will appear in the sweet composure of the passions, the evenness and affability of the behaviour, the charitableness of the temper, and the purity and tranquility of the life.” The retired violet, which hides itself in the shade, gives one of the sweetest scents; and the lowly Christian, who is constant in secret prayer, diffuses a holy feeling, a heavenly atmosphere, around him. This blessed intercourse in secret RAISES THE CHRIS
A holy familiarity with his Maker, gives him a fixedness and serenity which nothing else can bestow, and hardly any thing can discompose. It prepares bim for all events, and fills him with a noble contempt for all the sinful pleasures and pursuits of a world lying in wickedness. It is like a sure anchor, which is unseen indeed above, but is safely fixed in solid ground, and though out of sight, keeps the vessel steadfast and secure amid the tumultuous waves and the stormy tempest. The devout Christian, praying in secret, MAKES RAPID
** 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
TIAN ABOVE ANXIETY ABOUT TEMPORAL THINGS.
ADVANCES IN THE DIVINE LIFE.
the indolent and careless Christian is contending to his life's end, soon yield to continued fervent prayer.Prayer gains for us that strength which enables us to surmount every difficulty, and removes every obstacle in our way to Sion. Are our affections towards God and Christ becoming cold? prayer is as a fire to which we must approach, and in doing so, we shall perceive a gentle warmth insensibly overspread us, and our benumbed powers will acquire fresh energy and vigour.
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 him to go through so much fatigue with such patience and quietness, that it was this which gave him spirit and vigour in the business of the day. This he therefore recommended as the best rule which he could give.
Private prayer is AN ENGINE THAN ALL HUMAN MEANS PUT TOGETHER. of earthly monarchs, neglecting prayer, has not that power to glorify God, benefit man, and secure bis own happiness, which the humble and praying Christian has. The prayer of a poor, destitute, and afilicted 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 labours, send the gospel to the Heathen, and advance the kingdom of Christ in the world. Prayer has an advantage above alms, and every
*“Admirable is the power of prayer. It calmeth the surges of a troubled spirit. Shuts lions' mouths - opens prison doors--beats the fiercest eneinies-nay, arrests the impending judgments of God." Readiog's Guide to the Holy City.