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safely lodge you in the embraces of the Saviour. When they have laid your body in the grave, they will be solaced by sweet hopes that your soul is with the redeemed of the Lord, and is waiting to hail them on their deliverance from earth. Are you unaffected by this motive? pretend not then to the sacred name of friendship or affection.
4. Finally, this subject teaches us in the strongest manner, the barbarity and cruelty of the infidel, who endeavours to shake our faith in the principles of Christianity. We have seen that our sweetest joys and firmest supports are derived from this religion, and that the prospects which it presents to us can alone uphold us in those hours of dereliction and distress, when we weep over the lifeless corpses of our friends and relatives. Even then, if Christianity, which is eternal truth, which we can prove to be eternal truth: even, however, if it were only a solemn cheat, would it not be the most inhuman of acts to deprive the believer of that happy delusion, without which nature is comfortless, the world melancholy, and death terrible? Would it not be brutal to disturb us in our sweet dream, if we were in a dream, and designedly awake us to truth and sorrow? Would it not be base and unfeeling to rob us of our truest peace, of our prospects for eternity, of our hope of an immortal union to our departed friends ?
Go, go, cruel infidel! Why will you attempt to deprive me of the joy of my heart; to rifle my bosom of its felicity; and to persuade me that there is no futurity, no redeeming love, no immortality for me to enjoy with God and in the society of the pious ? Go, barbarous man! enjoy your guilt and gloom alone; breathe out your wretchedness in solitude
and the desert, and infect not the world with the poison of your principles ! Go, herd with the brutes, whose death you are willing to die; but curse me not with your tenets, kill me not with your sentiments ! O tear not from me my God and my Saviour, the only rock I find to rest on; tell me not, that the cords which tie my soul to my friends must in a little time be irretrievably snapt in sunder; and if they and myself are to be annihilated, do not, oh! do not push us down the precipice of destruction before our time!
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet ; and
when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret ; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
What nation has ever existed, so savage; what form of religion has ever been heard of, so corrupted; as not to acknowledge the necessity of prayer? Reason, feeling, and revelation, concur to teach us the obligation to this duty. Can we think of our situation, exposed to calamities which we cannot avert, polluted by sins which we cannot expiate, tyrannized by passions which we cannot subdue; and not confess that it is both our duty and our privilege to implore the aid of the Almighty and AllMerciful ? Can we recollect in what manner we are related to God, as creatures to their Creator, as subjects to their Ruler, as the receivers of countless and unmerited mercies to their Benefactor, as accountable creatures to their Judge; and not feel that prayer is an act of homage due unto him, and that by it we ought to acknowledge his sovereignty, hiš providence, his goodness, and our dependence ? Can we remember that we are soon to pass into the eternal world, and not be found in the exercise of devotion which, by now connecting earth and heaven, and removing that alienation and distance from God, in which we were as sinners, prepares us for his immediate presence ?
Without prayer there is no religion. When the impenitent man is first awakened to a sense of his guilt and his danger, he flees to his closet, and pours out his supplications unto God. While the Christian passes through the world, his spiritual life is supported by the exercises of devotion; and in joy or sorrow, in sickness or health, in youth or in age, he still pours out his soul before his heavenly Father. And when the believer is stretched upon the bed of death, if his reason is preserved, prayer is his last employment upon earth, he expires, like Stephen, with supplications upon his lips; his soul ascends with his petitions to the throne of God, and the humble prayer of earth is succeeded by the rapturous hallelujah of heaven.
Prayer is divided into public, when we unite with the people of God in the temple ; social, when with our family or friends we kneel before the mercyseat; and private, when, retired from the world and those dearest to us, we alone pour out our supplications to the Lord. These various modes of prayer are all obligatory upon us; we cannot neglect any of them without violating our duty, and injuring our souls. But it is of the last only that the Saviour speaks in the text. My sole design in addressing you
from these words is, to
Present some motives to the habitual exercise of private prayer.
From the many motives that might be urged, I select only four :
1. It affords one of the best tests and strongest proofs of the sincerity of our religion.
In all external duties, there can but little difference be observed between the child of God and those moral men, who, although their hearts are not renewed, yet feel the restraining grace of God, and the beneficial effects of a pious education. These, as well as the believer, abstain from gross crimes, attend the public ordinances of religion, and study the word of God. Wherein then do they differ? Follow them to their retirements, and
you will see. The one has the spirit of prayer and a devotional temper; in secret he cultivates communion with his God; desirous not merely of seeming, but of being holy, he performs with as much solicitude those duties, in the discharge of which no other eye is fixed upon him but that of his Lord and his conscience, as those in the performance of which he is in the view of the world. The other either entirely omits these secret duties, or performs them with reluctance, as a task and a burden.
Many causes besides true piety may lead persons to the discharge of the public duties of religion, and may give an apparent warmth to the feelings while engaged in them. We may be found regularly in the house of God, from the habits of education, from a regard to our pious friends or to the preacher, from many other motives besides true and vital piety. We may unite in social prayer, that our gifts may be admired, and that we may be commended by men.
But how is it with our hearts in retires