Page images
PDF
EPUB

glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Does the reader possess the spirit of prayer? Is it bis meat and his drink to hold communion with God through Christ, tos: have access by one Spirit unto the Father?” Is it his greatest pleasure to be near to God, and his greatest grief to be far from Himi: If so, however, great his fears, he may hope.. His privilege is the privilege of sons; his. consolations, those hidden joys with whichu a stranger intermeddleth not; his seasons of refreshing, foretastes of the river of life, which flows from the throne of God and the Lamb.

1 It may not be amiss, while we are upon this subject, to spend a few minutes in looking at the question, What evidence does the long continued practice of the external duty of prayer afford of the existence of vital religion in the heart? We do not mean, by this statement, necessarily to exclude the spirit from the form of prayer. If we did, the question would be at an end. What ev idence does the long continued practice of the external form afford of the existence of the internal spirit? It is a question of moment.

Men may pray much, and yet not be Christians. They may pray in public, and in their families, and still not be Christians, This they may do to gratify their pride; to be seen of men; to maintain the character of Christians in the view of the world. They

may pray in secret and not be Christians. But whether men persevere in the habitual practice of secret prayer without good evidence of Christian character, is a question which I dare not answer in the negative. Neither would I venture to answer it unhesitatingly in the affirmative. This much the Bible will surely warrant us to say, Men who are not Christians will be exceedingly apt to neglect, and in the end, wholly to neglect the practice of secret prayer. Men do not act without motive. Now what motive can induce a man who is dead in trespasses and sins, whose carnal heart is enmity against God, to persevere in the habitual practice of secret prayer? Is it to silence the clamors of a guilty conscience? To do this, he will pray, and often pray in secret. But will he always call upon God? The impenitent are sometimes the subjects of much seriousness; they are convinced of their duty, and alarm ed at their danger; and while they remain in this state, they are compelled to admit the truth and importance of religion, and dare not omit the duty of secret prayer. But when they lose their convictions and forget their danger, the duties of the closet gradually become irksome. At length they are a weariness. Conscience ceases to govern, and almost to accuse. Her monitory voice is silenced; and it becomes less and less difficult to cast of fear, and restrain prayer before God.

[ocr errors]

: There is another motive which will induce the impenitent to maintain the practice of secret devotion for a considerable length of time. When once they have wrought themselves into the persuasion that they are Christians, and have cherished the hope that they are interested in the blessings of the gospel salvation, they relinquish the persuasion, and abandon the hope with singular reluctance. They will do much to entertain and defend them. They are too selfish to: omit a duty, the omission of which bears in its very face convincing evidence that they are hypocrites. They will rather practise the most self-denying duties, even long after they have lost their borrowed sweetness, for the sake of the testimony which they derive from this source, that they are the children of God. . This motive no doubt operates in many instances powerfully, and for some time; but does it operate uniformly, and to the end of life? With persons of this description, the omission of secret prayer is at first occasional; then, more or less frequent as other avocations demand; till at length, the cares of the world, the temptations of the Adversary, and the allurements of sin so far blind the understanding and stupify the conscience, that the most hardened sinner still cherishes his vain confidence, while he closes his eyes upon the last glimmering of evidence that that confidence is scriptural.

But though men may pray, and pray sometimes in secret, they will be exceedingly apt to neglect this duty, if they are not Christians. Wherever you find the babitual performance of secret prayer for a long course of years, there is some reason to bolieve, you find the breathings of the newborn soul. There you may hope that there are hungerings and thirstings after righteousness. There you will usually discover a heart that is not in pursuit of hope merely, but grace; not safety only, but holiness. There you will usually, if not always, discover one, not muttering over a few unmeaning sentences, as devoid of life as a loathsome carcass is of the life-giving spirit; but one whom the Spirit of God has taught to pray, because he is weak and needs strength; because he is tempted and needs support; because he is in want and needs supply; because he is a sinner and needs mercy.

If these remarks are just, it is not impertinent to ask the reader, whether he practises the duty of secret prayer? We do not ask whether he prays in secret now and then; whether be performs this duty on the Sabbath, or some occasional seasons of unusual alarm or solemnity? Is this his habitual practice! Has it been his habitual practice ever since he hoped he was brought out of darkness into God's marvellous light? No matter how punctual you are in other duties; no matter what evidence you have of your conversion from any other quarter; if

you have not this, you may set all other down for nought. The want of this is decisive evidence against you, even if the possession of it is not decisive evidence in your favor. Prayer has been often styled the “Chris. tian's breath." It is eminently so, prayerless Christian! No, it cannot be. It is a mark of the highest delusion, of the grossest stupidity, to cherish the hope of having made your peace with God, and at the same time to live in the neglect of be-* cret prayer. Who that has the least pretension to religion, can presume to live with out sceking the favor, without deprecating the wrath, and without realizing the pres. . ence of Him in whom he lives, and moves, and has his being? To live without prayer, is emphatically, to live without God in the world.

Before I conclude this essay, I would give one caution to a certain class of readers. There are not wanting those who live in constant doubt and trembling, because they do not enjoy the constant presence of God, and the uniform fervency of affection in their retirements. Real Christians have seasons of coldness which chill the spirit of devotion. Such is the power of in-dwelling sin; so great is the influence of the world, the flesh, and the Devil, that even God's own dear cbildren are sometimes carried too far down the current. Yes, to the shame and guilt of God's people, we are constrained to make this affecting acknowledgment. Still, this humiliating trith does not militate

« PreviousContinue »