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may send forth pious thoughts towards heaven, and main

tain communion with God while you are engaged in your daily labours : " Pray without ceasing.”

I might have spoke of occasional and stated prayer; of public, private, and secret prayer; and of ordinary and ex. traordinary; but I shall drop all these, and only give you next a discourse on secret prayer.

A DISCOURSE ON SECRET PRAYER.

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MATTH. vi. 6.- But thou, when thou prayeft, enter into thy clo

Jet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in fecret, and thy Father which seeth in secret, fhall reward thee openly, CTAVING opened unto you the nature of prayer in ge.

neral, before I proceed to the explanation of the Lord's prayer, it will not be improper to discourse a little of that too much neglected duty, secret prayer; concerning which our blessed Lord gives directions in this passage of fcripture. And this he does negatively, yer. 5. cautioning against performing that important duty with vanity and often. tation, to gain the applause of men. (2.) Positively, in the text. Wherein consider,

1. The duty itself urged by the Lord. And in it we may observe,

(1.) The duty supposed : When thou prayeft. That this is to be understood only of fecret prayer, is manifest from the text, and the preceding verse. Public prayer cannot be meant; for where else is that to be performed but in the congregation ? Not family-prayer, which is not performed in a closet, and which must be done by more than one. Not ejaculatory prayer, which may be done any where, in any company, and whatever one be doing, as in the case of Nehemiah, chap, Ü. 4. Therefore we must understand here folemn secret prayer ; which, in the text, the Lord takes it for granted that his disciples made conscience of.

(2.) The place to be chosen for it : Enter into thy clofet; that is, a secret place, where you may be out of the view

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I and

of others; for secret prayers are not to be restrained to secret chambers, as Christ's praying on a mountain does evidence.

(3.) The care that we should take least our secret place become public: Shut thy door, fo as others 'may not fee thee, and so thou fall a sacrifice to hypocrify, vanity, oftentation.

(4.) The duty itself commanded : Pray to thy father which is in secret. Where we have, [1.] The object of thy Father, namely, in Christ; intimating to us, that when we go Christ, able and ready to help us, and reconciled to us in

to God, we should go to him as he is ourses him. [2.] A designation which the Father gets, which is in secret ; who knows as well what thou sayeft in a secret place as what thou fayeft in public; for he is omniscient and omnipresent.

2. The motive whereby he presseth fecret prayer, vizi God's reward, who will openly reward service done in fe. cret, which the world knows not of. And those who make confcience of this duty in faith and fervency, aré no ftrangers to those rewards and advantages that are to be met with in this heavenly traffic, The text affords the following doctrine.

itu wajit!!

Doct. “ Secret prayer is a necessary duty incumbent on

all."

In discoursing from this subject, I shall,
I. Confirm the doctrine.
II. Shew the necessity of secret prayer.

III. Answer some cases relating to this duty, in order to clear it further to you.

IV. Make some practical improvement,

if ye

1. I'am to confirm the doctrine, or shew that fecret prayer is a necessary duty incumbent on all. This will be clear,

ye confider,

1. Christ's express command in the text, which is to us instead of all reasons. His will is a fufficient ground of our duty: He commands nothing but what is juft and right in itself, good for us, and conducive to his glory. And the command of God should be a prevalent motive

is one.

with all to practise constantly this duty, which is attended with so much pleasure and profit.

2. The Spirit of God, by the apostle, Eph. vi. 18. calls for it, “ Pray with all praying,” viz. all sorts of prayer, of which secret prayer There are many exhortations to this duty in holy scripture, which manifestly shew the importance and necessity of it; such as that, 1 Theff. v. 17. “ Pray without ceasing ;” which must denote secret prayer, as well as other kinds of that exercise.

3. The practice of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath fet a fair and striking example of this duty to all his followers, He was in strict propriety, a man of prayer, and spent much time in this delightful exercise ; as we may fee from Matth. xiv. 23.“ And when he had sent the multitude away, he went up into a mountain a part to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. "

Mark i. 35. “ And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” Thus he retired from his public labours to converse in secret with his heavenly Father, and prevented the dawning of the day, to hold communion with heaven. Compare 1 John ii. 6. “ He that faith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." The neglect of secret prayer is an incontestable evidence of one's being a stranger to Christ.

4. The practice of the saints of God, who were all diligent in the performance of this excellent duty. Thus the Pfalmist says, Pfal. v. 3. “ My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” And how often this holy man was employed in this exercise, he tells us, Psal. lv. 17. “ Evening and morning, and at noon, will I pray,

and

cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice." Which practice of his may make even the best of us blush, who usually confine our secret devotions to the morning and evening, and perhaps on very flight occasions intermit sometimes one of these feasons. But this pious man, though a crowned head, and involved in much business, was yet

oftener at the throne of grace; for he says, Psal. cxix. 164. “Seven times a-day I will praise thee. O that we could imitate fo noble an example of sequestration and retirement from the world! Thus also Daniel a kneeled upon his knees three times a-day, and prayed, and

gave
thanks before his God,” chap. vi. 10. and

that at a time when prayer to God was made a capital crime, Thus also we find, that Cornelius the Roman centurion, a profelyte to the Jewish religion, was one that." prayed to God always," Acts X. 2. ; and that it was fecret, and not fa. mily-prayer, in which he was employed, when the angel appeared to him, is evident from ver. 7.; for on the departure of the heavenly messenger from him, who certainly spoke to him in a retired chamber, he called fome of his domestics, to dispatch them for Peter to come to him, as the angel had directed. Thus likewise we find, that good King Hezekiah was no stranger to this delightful exercise ; for when the prophet Isaiah was sent with a heavy message to him, announcing hịs death, he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord,” If. xxxviii. 1, 2. Compare Cant. 1. 7. And indeed to which of the faints can we turn in any age, who neglected this duty ? Habitual neglect of prayer is not the spot of God's children. No sooner does grace take possession of the soul of any person, but behold that per. fon will pray, as Saul did at Damascus, after the extraordinary appearance of the Lord Jesus to him on his journey to that city, Acts ix. 11.

Thus we have express divine precepts, apoftolical injunctions, and the approved practice of our Lord Jesus, and of all the faints, to recommend this duty to us; and wo unto us if we neglect it.

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II. I proceed to shew the necessity of secret prayer. It is not necessary in regard of merit, as if we could procure heaven by it. The only ground of eternal life in the manfions of bliss is the righteousness of a crucified Redeemer. Beg. gars pay no debts, but confess insufficiency, faying with the prophet, Dan. ix. 5. “ We have finned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts, and from thy judge ments." But it is necessary,

1. In regard of the command of God. He by a plain and express command requires it, and that command binds it as a neceffary duty upon us, To neglect it, therefore, is a di

rect violation of the command of the great God and Lawgiver; and to make conscience of it is a neceffary and pro. per act of obedience to the divine will.

2. To give God the glory of his omniscience and omni

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prefence When we pray to our Father which is in secret, we plainly declare, that we believe he knows and fees all things, that the darkness and the light are alike unto him ; and that he is the witness and inspector of all our actions, and will call us to an account for all our thoughts, words, and actions, which are well known to him.

3. To evidence our sincerity, that it is not to be seen of men that we pray; that we are not acted from motives of oftentation and vain-glory, but from regard to the divine command, and a sincere desire to serve God: though indeed it will not hold that all such as pray in secret are fin. cere; for, alas ! men may be very affiduous in this duty, and yet be far from being sincere Christians, or accepted of God therein.

4. In regard that none know our cafe so well as ourselves : and therefore, though the master of the family pray in the family, yet we ought to pray by ourselves, in order to make known our particular case and wants unto God, which none other can know, and to ask such blessings and mercies of him as we stand in need of, and are fuitable to our circum. stances. 15:5. In regard that, if we know our own hearts, we cannot but have fomewhat to say unto the Lord, that we cannot, - nor would it be at all proper to say before others, respecting both confession of sins and supplication for mercies. Hence the spouse fays, Cant. vii. 11, 12. “ Come, my Beloved, let us go forth unto the field : let us lodge in the villages. Let us get up early to the vineyards, let us fee if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth : there will I give thee my loves."

6. In regard of our wants continually recurring on our hands, and daily and hourly temptations, that may call for this exercise, when family-prayer cannot be had. What man is fo well supplied, both as to temporal and spiritual blessings, as to have no occasion for asking supplies from above? Man is a needy and indigent creature in all respects; as a creature he lives on the bounties of providence, and as å Christian on the grace which is in Christ Jesus; and there. fore he must daily apply to the throne of grace

for necessary fupplies in both. And as we are daily furrounded with temptations, and have no strength to resist or repel them,

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