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we must fetch in strength from God in Christ by prayer, left we fall and be overcome by the temptations in our way. : Thus it appears from these considerations, that prayer is a necessary duty incumbent on all. And surely all who have tasted that the Lord is gracious will make conscience of this important and useful exercise.
III. I proceed to answer some cases concerning this duty, which will tend to clear it further unto you.
Queft. 1. What is the proper season of this duty of secret prayer? or when are we called to this exercise ?
Anf. 1. We are doubtless to be very frequent in this duty. Thus we are called to “ pray always,” Eph. vi. 18.; and , “ without ceasing," 1 Thess. v. 17.; that is, at all proper times, and to be continually in a praying frame, or to pray inwardly, though we utter not a word with our lips.
2. Whenever God calls us to it, putting an opportunity in our hands, and moving and inciting us to it, then we are to go about it. Thus, when the Lord Jesus says, “ Seek ye my face ;” our hearts should say unto him, Thy face, Lord, will we feek,” Psal. xxvii, 8. And thus we have daily calls and invitations to this duty, which we should carefully regard, and conscientiously embrace, lest we quench the Spirit, and provoke the Lord to harden our hearts from his fear.
3. The faints in scripture have fometimes been more, sometimes less frequent in this exercise. Thus David was sometimes employed thrice, sometimes seven times a day in prayer, Psal. lv. 17. and cxix. 164.; and Daniel three times, even at a very perilous juncture, Dan. vi. 10. From whose practice the frequency of performing this duty evidently ap: pears.
4. Morning and evening at least we should pray, and not neglect this duty. This appears from our Lord's practice, Mark i. 35. Matth. xiv. 23. both cited above; from the practice of the saints in scripture, Pfal. ly. 2. and v. 2. for merly quoted; and from the morning and evening facrifice under the legal dispensation, which were daily offered, and fhould excite us to offer up unto God daily the morning and evening facrifice of prayer and praise. And the very light of nature teaches us fo much, that when we are preserved through the filent watches of the dark night, and from the
perils we may be exposed unto in that gloomy season, we ihould acknowledge the goodness and kindness of God therein ; and that when we are preserved through the day, from the many snares and temptations we are liable to amidst the cares and distractions of our business, we should bless God for his preserving and protecting mercy, and commit ourselves, and all our concerns, into the hand of God, when we are going to take necessary rest, that we may fall asleep under a sense of his love, and may rise again to resume the bufiness of our callings with his blessing and favour.
Quest. 2. What is the proper place for secret prayer ?
Ans. A secret place is the most proper place for this exercise; and though every body has not a closet, or retired apartment, into which he may go in and shut the door, yet any place where we may be retired from the view and observation of others, answers the purpose; though in other respects it be a public place, yet if it be dark, and the voice kept low, it is justly a secret place.' And to a place of that fort did our Lord retire for secret prayer, Matth. xiv. 23. perhaps not having proper conveniency in the place where ħe lodged all night. And indeed there is not a person but may meet with such a secret place every day, if he have a difpofition for this exercise. "
'p yili Queft. 3. What gesture are we to use in secret prayer?
Anf. 1. Holy fcripture does not bind us to any gesture particularly; but we find these four gestures of the body in prayer spoken of there, viz. ftanding, Mark xi.
25. ; lying along on the face, Matth. xxvi. 39.; kneeling, Dan. vi. 10. Eph. iii. 14.; and fitting, 2 Sam. viii 18.
2. Whatever the gesture be, let it be a reverent one, that may express a humble and reverent frame of fpirit. Hence we are commanded to “ glorify God in our bodies,” 1 Cor. vi. 20.
siitta. 3. I shall say these two things for the further determina tion of this question. (1.) Let it be such a gesture as is conformable unto, or flows natively from, the present disposition of the heart. Thus in extraordinary cases we find the faints were wont to fall on their faces, 2 Sam. xii. 16. And fa likewise did the Lord Jefus in the garden, on the eve of his sufferings, Matth, xxvi. 39. (2.) Yet let it be always to edification ; and let that gesture be chosen which is most conducive to devotion, and occafions leaft distraction in the
duty: As if kneeling be dangerous for the body, and so may tend to disturb the mind, let another gesture be chosen that is not attended with these inconveniencies; though kneeling
the most eligible gesture, and exprellive that humility which must ever accompany this exercise. " And the same thing we may fay of closing the eyes, or keeping
1 open ; though praying with the eyes shut is certainly to be preferred.
pagtingi 39 VSI Oj 91113b & bus 9000isinós Queft. 4. What are we to say of the voice in secret prayeri
Ans. 1. The duty may be performed without using the voice, as was done by Moses in the strait the children of Israel were reduced to, after their escape from Egypt, when high and inaccessible mountains were on each fide of them, the Red Sea before them, and the Egyptian host at their heels ready to cut them off. In this dilemma we find that
to the Lord, though not with an audible voice, Exod. 15. Thus the voice is not to be used when people cannot do fo without being heard, or when through weakness of body, or disquiet of mind, they are unfit for the tongue.
brituoig garwolloi 2. Yet where the voice may be used, and that with con. venience and propriety, it should be made use of; and that, (1.) Because we are to glorify God with our bodies and particularly our tongue is given to be an instrument of glorifying God; « Awake, my glory,” says David, Pfal. Ivii. 8. (2.) Because the voice is of good use in secret prayer, to Itir up the affections, and to stay the mind from wandering, Yet an affected loudness of
of the voice, whereby the secret is made public, is a every serious Christian will guard against.fm99des pont
Queft. 6. Is fecret prayer a fure mark of fincerity can one pray in fecret, and yet be an hypocrite? 6519
157 ? Ird W Ans. This is not out of the reach of the hypocrite. A hy. pocrite
e may come this length, and much farther. Judas was among the reft whom our Lord taught to pray in secret, ye all know what was his fate. But though a hypocrite may continue a long time, nay, many years, in the practice of secret prayer ; yet it is scarcely to be thought that he will always do fosf he live a [the hypocrite] always call upon God?" chap. XXVÜ. 102 It is not to be thought that he will
, as he has no communion with God in the duty: "And therefore, adds the fame holy
mian, Will he always delight himself in the Almighty ?” It is communion with God that is to be enjoyed in secret prayer, and the delight the soul has in it, that inclines a per. son to persevere in that exercise.
Inf. But if one pray not to be seen of men, can he be a hypocrite ?
Any Yes, he may. For the terrors of God scalding the conscience, and a desire to lay the ferment thereby brought into the mind, may excite one to the duty, and applause of men entirely out of the mind. But fecret prayer, conscientiously practised, and attended with manifestations of the Lord's love and favour, smiles of his face returns of what was asked, and continued faith and fervency, are undoubted signs of sincerity.
I come now to the improvement of this subject. Use I. Of information. It shews us, 09 nd. That they have great reason to suspect themselves, who are strangers to this duty of secret prayer; and that on the following grounds.
(1.) Because they come not the length of many hypocrites, who shall never come the length of heaven. There are many such who will not, for any consideration, omit their secret prayers every day: which is a thing good in itself, but they make them the ground of their acceptance with God, and fo, will perish notwithstanding. How much more must those perith who live in the habitual neglect of this duty !
(2.) Because they look not like the saints, whose dispofition has been to seek communion with God in secret, as in the case of the spouse, Cant. vii. 11. and many others. What! can ye pretend to be saints, and yet live .fo .very, unlike them?
21(3.) Because it seems they are very unacquainted with themselves, that know nothing to confess to, or ask of God, but what they can do before any. Did men know their milery and their wants, and had a suitable sense thereof, they would not be strangers to secret prayer.
TAVAN 1990 to e.(4) Because it looks too hypocritical-like to have others to be witnesses to all our duties, io prepis
2. Then there is much hidden work in religion. True religion is not all exposed to the view of others. Attending
VOL. III. No. 29.
on public ordinances in the church, and going the round of family-worship, is not that in which the whole of religion * consists: for many may be diligent enough in these exercises, and yet strangers to vital heart-religion. But they that are truly religious in the eye of God, are such who not only perform outward duties, but worship God in spirit, and hold communion and intercourse with him in secret prayer, without which they can no more live, than without bread and
Use II. Of exhortation. Be exhorted then, all of you, to fet about this duty of secret prayer. And this exhortation I address to you who never yet began this exercise, and to you who, though ye have perhaps formerly done fomething this way, yet now have left it off. To press this, I offer the following motives.
1. It is a piece of worship expressly commanded of God in the text, and it is directly required by him, Eph. vi. 18. Wili ye then counteract God's express command ? If ye do, it will be at your peril.
i szat 2. Are ye not engaged to this duty ? Are not the vows of God upon you for the performance of it ?: Were ye not baptised in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to worship them, and that in all parts of worship, of which prayer is a principal one? Have not some of you been admitted to the Lord's table, when ye professed to renew your baptismal engagements ? And perhaps some of you have fick-ved vows on you to that purpose.
3. Have ye not secret fins, secret wants, and secret temptations? and fhall ye not have secret prayers adapted to each, requesting of the Lord the pardon of your secret fins, the supply of your secret wants, and grace to resist and overcome your secret temptations?
4. Lastly, This is your known duty; and therefore remember, that " the servant that knew his master's will, but did it not, shall be beaten with double stripes.” Wherefore, I charge you, as you will answer to God at death and at judgment, and as you love your own souls, and would not eternally perish, to fet about this necessary. and important duty. ,
But fome are ready to muster up a variety of objections against this duty; the chief of which I shall endeavour to obviate,