« PreviousContinue »
The neglect of the duty of prayer seems to be inconsistent with supreme love to God also upon another account, and that is, that it is against the will of God so plainly revealed. True love to God seeks to please him in every thing, and universally to conform to his wili.
3. Your thus restraining prayer before God is not only inconsistent with the love, but also with the fear of God. It is an argument that you cast off fear, as is manifest by that text, Job xv. 4. Yea, thou castest of fear, and restrainest prayer before God. While you thus live in the transgression of so plain a command of God, you evidently show, that there is no fear of God before your eyes. Psalm xxxvi. 1. “ The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes."
4. Consider how living in such a neglect is consistent with leading a holy life. We are abundantly instructed in scripture, that true Christians do lead a holy life ; that without holiness no man shall see the Lord, Heb. xii. 14 ; and that every one that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as Christ is pure, 1 John iii. 3. In Prov. xvi. 17. it is said, “ The highway of the upright is to depart from evil," i. e, the common beaten road in which all the godly travel. To the like purpose is Isa. xxxv. 8.“ An highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness ; the unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for those:"i. e. those redeemed persons spoken of in the foregoing verses. It is spoken of in Rom. vji. 1. as the character of all believers, that they walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.
But how is a life, in a great measure prayerless, consistent with a holy life?. To lead a boly life, is to lead a life devoted to God; a life of worshipping and serving God; a life consecrated to the service of God. But how doth he lead such a life who doth not so much as maintain the duty of prayer? How can such a man be said to walk by the spirit, and to be a servant of the Most High God? A holy life is a life of faith. The life that true Christians live in the world, they live by the faith of the Son of God. But who can believe that the man lives by faith who lives without prayer, which is the natural expression of faith? Prayer is as natural an expression of faith, as breathing is of life; and to say a man lives a life of faith, and yet lives a prayerless life, is every whit as inconsistent and incredible, as to say, that a man lives without breathing. A prayerless life is so far from being holy, that it is a profane life; he that lives so, lives like a Heathen, who calleth not on God's name; he that lives a prayerless life, lives without God in the world.
5. If you live in the neglect of secret prayer, you show your good-will to neglect all the worship of God. He that
prays only when he prays with others, would not pray at all, were it not that the eyes of others are upon him. He that will not pray where none but God seeth him, manifestly doth not pray at all out of respect to God, or regard to his all-seeing eye, and therefore doth in effect cast off all prayer. And he that casts off prayer, in effect casts off all the worship of God, of which prayer is the principal duty. Now, what a miserable saint is he who is no worshipper of God! He that casts off the worship of God, in effect casts off God himself: he refuses to own him, or to be conversant with him as his God. For the way in which men own God, and are conversant with him, as their God, is by worshipping him. 6. How can you expect to dwell
with God for ever, if you so neglect and forsake him here? This your practice shews, that you place not your happiness in God, in nearness to him, and communion with him. He who refuses to visit and converse with a friend, and who in a great measure Rrsakes him, when he is abundantly invited and importuned to come ; plainly shows that he places not his happiness in the company and conversation of that friend. Now, if this be the case with you respecting God, then how can you expect to have it for your happiness to all eternity, to be with God, and to enjoy holy communion with him?
Let those persons who hope they are converted, and yet have in a great measure left off the duty of secret prayer, and whose manner it is ordinarily to neglect it, for their own sake seriously consider these things. For what will it profit them to please themselves with that, while they live, which will fail them at last, and leave them in fearful and amazing disappointment!
It is probable, that some of you who have entertained a good opinion of your state, and have looked upon yourselves as converts—but have of late in a great measure left off the duty-will this evening attend secret prayer, and so may continue to do for a little while after your hearing this sermon, to the end that you may solve the objection which is made against the truth of your hope. But this will not hold. As it hath been in former instances of the like nature, so what you now hear, will have such effect upon you but a little while.When the business and cares of the world shall again begin to crowd a little upon you, or the next time you
shall into young company, it is probable you will again neglect this duty. After the next frolic to which you go, it is highly probable you will neglect not only secret, but also family prayer. Or, at least, after a while, you will come to the same pass as before, in casting off fear, and restraining prayer before God. VOL. VI.
It is not very likely that you will ever be constant and persevering in this duty, until you shall have obtained a better prin. ciple in your hearts. The streams which have no springs to feed them will dry up. The drought and heat consume the snow-waters. Although they run plentifully in the spring, yet when the sun ascends higher, with a burning heat, they are gone. The seed that is sown in stony places, though it seem to flourish at present, yet as the sun shall rise with a burning heat, will
None will bring forth fruit with patience, but those whose hearts are become good ground.
Without any heavenly seed remaining in them, men may, whenever they fall in among the godly, continue all their lives to talk like saints. They may, for their credit sake, tell of what they have experienced: but their deeds will not hold. They may continue to tell of their inward experiences, and yet live in the neglect of secret prayer, and of other duties.
II, I would take occasion from this doctrine, to exhort all to persevere in the duty of prayer. This exhortation is much insisted on in the word of God. It is insisted on in the Old Testament; 1 Chron. xvi. 11. "Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually.” Isa. lxii. 7. “Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence:" i. e. be not silent as to the voice of prayer, as is manifest by the following words," and give him no rest till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” Israel of old is reproved for growing weary of the duty of prayer. Isa. xliii. 22. " But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob, thou hast been weary of me, 0 Israel."
Perseverance in the duty of prayer, is very much insisted on in the New Testament; as Luke xviii. at the beginning. “A man ought always to pray, and not to faint ;' i. e. not to be discouraged or weary of the duty; but should always continue in it. Again, Luke xxi. 36: "Watch ye, therefore, and pray always.” We have the example of Anna, the prophetess, set before us, Luke i. 36, &c., who, though she had lived to be more than an hundred years old, yet was not weary of this duty. It is said, “ She departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day." Cornelius also is commended for his constancy in this duty. It is said, , that be prayed to God always; Acts x. 2. The apostle Paul in his epistles, insists very much on constancy in this duty; Rom. xii. 12. Continuing instant in prayer." Eph. vi. 18, 19. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance.” Col. iv. 2. “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same. 1 Thess. v. 17. “Pray without ceasing.” To the same effect the apostle Peter, 1 Pet. iv. 7. “Watch unto prayer.” Thus abun
dantly the scriptures insist upon it, that we should persevere in the duty of prayer; which shows that it is of very great importance that we should persevere. If the contrary be the manner of hypocrites, as hath been shown in the doctrine, then surely we ought to beware of this leaven.
But here let the following things be particularly considered as motives to perseverance in this duty.
1. That perseverance in the way of duty is necessary to salvation, and is abundantly declared to be so in the holy scriptures; as Isa. Ixiv. 5. “ Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth, for we have sinned, in those is continuance, and we shall be saved.” Heb. x. 38, 39. “Now the just shall live by faith : but if any man draw back, my soul bath no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition ; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul."
Rom. xi. 22. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but towards thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off."-So in many other places.
Many, when they think they are converted, seem to imagine that their work is done, and that there is nothing else needful in order to their going to heaven. Indeed perseverance in holiness of life is not necessary to salvation in the same way as the righteousness by which a right to salvation is obtained. Nor is actual perseverance necessary in order to our becoming interested in that righteousness by which we are justified. For as soon as ever a soul hath believed in Christ, or hath put forth one act of faith in him, it becomes interested in his righteousness, and in all the promises purchased by it.
But persevering in the way of duty is necessary to salvation as a concomitant and evidence of a title to salvation. There is never a title to salvation without it, though it be not the righteousness by which a title to salvation is obtained. It is necessary to salvation, as it is the necessary consequence of true faith. It is an evidence which universally attends uprightness, and the defect of it is an infallible evidence of the want of uprightness. Psalm cxxv. 4, 5. There such as are good and upright in heart, are distinguished from such as fall away or turn aside: “Do good, O Lord, to those that are good, and to them that are upright in their hearts. As for such as turn aside to their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity. But peace shall be upon Israel." It is mentioned as an evidence that the hearts of the children of Israel were not right with God, that they did not persevere in the ways of holiness. Psalm lxxviii. 8. A generation that set not their hearts aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God."
Christ gives this as a distinguishing character of those tha! are his disciples indeed, and of a true and saving faith, that it is accompanied with perseverance in obedience to Christ's word. John viii. 31. “ Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed." This is mentioned as a necessary evidence of an interest in Christ, Heb. iii. 14. “ We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end."
Perseverance is not only a necessary concomitant and evidence of a title to salvation, but also a necessary pre-requisite to the actual possession of eternal life. It is the only way to heaven, the narrow way that leadeth to life. Hence, Christ exhorts the church of Philadelphia to persevere in holiness from this consideration, that it was necessary in order to her obtaining the crown. Rev. ii. 11. “ Hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” It is necessar it only that persons should once have been walking in the way of duty, but that they should be found so doing when Christ cometh. Luke xii. 43. “Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing.” Holding out to the end is often made the condition of actual salvation. Matt. X. 22. “ He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved :" and Rev. ii. 10. “ Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
2. In order to your own perseverance in the way of duty your own care and watchfulness is necessary. For though, it be promised that true saints shall persevere, yet that is no argument that their care and watchfulness is not necessary in order to it; because their care to keep the commands of God is the thing promised. If the saints should fail of care, watchfulness, and diligence to persevere in holiness, that failure of their care and diligence would itself be a failure of holiness. They who persevere not in watchfulness and diligence, persevere not in holiness of life, for holiness of life very much consists in watchfulness and diligence to keep the commands of God. It is one promise of the covenant of grace, that the saints shall keep God's commandments. Ezek. si. 19, 20.-Yet that is no argument that they have no need to take care to keep these commandments, or to do their duty. So the promise of God, that the saints shall persevere in holiness, is no argumert that it is not necessary that they should take heed lest they fall away.
Therefore, the scriptures abundantly warn men to watch over themselves diligently, and to give earnest heed lest they
1 Cor. x. 13. “ Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong." 1 Cor. x. 12. “Let bim that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” Heb. iij. 12–14. " Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart