« PreviousContinue »
Will you say
wake; but they kneel not to him. Supported by his goodness, and encompassed by his mercies during the day, they yet seek no intercourse with him. Dependent entirely upon his will, whether their beds shall not be their graves, they yet lie down insensible. Suffer me briefly to expostulate with those of you
who thus act. Why is it that you neglect secret prayer? Will you say that God has not commanded it? You dare not make this assertion! You cannot be so ignorant of the scriptures, as not to recollect some of the innumerable commandments to pour out our hearts before God, and call upon his name; to“ pray always ;” to “ continue in prayer.":
have no need of the spiritual blessings that are to be obtained by prayer? You dare not! Your conscience cries within you that without grace and glory it had been better for you never to have been born.
Will you say, (for this is a common plea,) “ I have no time for prayer?” For what was time given you, but to work out your salvation, and glorify God? You find time for a thousand frivolous pursuits and vain: conversations; and can you find no time to speak to God? You have then, no time to be a Christian, to secure the glories of heaven, to avoid the agonies of hell!
Will you say, 'I attend on the public worship of God, and perhaps on family devotion; surely then, private prayer is not essential.' It is essential, since it is commanded by God; since it is necessarily prompted by the pious heart; since religion is a personal concern; since there are peculiar circumstances in the state of every individual, which can be unbosomed only to God; since without private prayer,
public devotion will have no saving influence up
Let me then, exhort and charge you, as you value your duty, your happiness, your salvation, and
your God, no longer to neglect secret prayer. And that your prayers may be effectual, think before you kneel, of the majesty and holiness of him, before whom you are about to present yourselves; of the indispensable necessity of the blessings for which you are about to supplicate; of the danger and guilt of mocking the Lord by unfelt petitions, and insincere expressions. It will tend much to compose and prepare your minds to read some of the devotional parts of the scripture. Let your prayers be humble and reverent. Consider what God is, and what
you are. Remember that he is your judge ; and think what you have merited ; and with Abraham confess that you are but “ dust and ashes," and with the publican, acknowledge that you are not worthy to raise up your eyes, or your voices to heaven. But let not this reverence degenerate into a slavish fear. It is under the charaeter of a tender and affectionate Father, that the God whom you address, is exhibited to you; approach, remembering not only your guilt, but his unspeakable mercy, and the abounding grace of his Son. Let your prayers be earnest and ardent. “ Your Father seeth you; the sense of his omniscience should animate you; wrestle like Jacob; seek the holy fervour of Elijah; let fire be mingled with these sacrifices; pray in the name of Jesus. Do not be satisfied with merely mentioning his name at the close of your services; but let it be deeply impressed upon your heart, that you have access to the Father only through him, as your mediator; that you cannot hope for the acceptance of your imperfect
worship, except through his advocacy and intercession. Pray in submissive reliance upon the aid of the Holy Spirit ; feeling that the Spirit of grace and of supplication" can alone “ help our infirmities.” Pray with constancy and perseverance. Some who dare not totally omit this duty, perform it only occasionally. On the Lord's day, before the Lord's supper, under some striking dispensations of providence, they will retire to their closet; but at other times they are strangers there. Others feel that they are bound daily to attend to this duty; but they neglect it for every slight excuse of business, company, or amusement. This is not the conduct of those who delight themselves in the Lord,” and have the temper of his children; who find prayer a privilege as well as a duty. These omissions lead the way to greater neglects; they chill the spirit of devotion, and produce a disrelish for the exercises of the closet. At least, twice in each day converse with God. Redeem time from other occupations for this purpose. nest and constant in devotion, you shall pass through life, not with a feeble and tottering step, but strong in the power in the Lord, and cheered by the prospect of immortality.
And ye, who have conscientiously observed this delightful duty, still persevere
Your Father who seeth in secret, will reward you openly.” You have enjoyed much felicity in your closet, when speaking to the Eternal as your Father and your Friend, and receiving the testimonies of his love. But all this is only the earnest of that joy reserved for you in heaven. “ There, petitions for mercy and grace, will be exchanged for praises that God has heard them; and the blessed effects of a life of prayer will be experienced in a fulness of divine love and glory throughout eternity."
JOSHUA xxiv. 15.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
These are the words of Joshua, the worthy successor of Moses, an illustrious type of Christ. I regret that I have not time to illustrate the interesting circumstances under which they were uttered. But in even superficially examining the subject to which they principally lead, I fear that I must exceed the ordinary limits of these exercises. To two things Joshua here binds himself: to personal piety, and to family religion. • I have devoted myself unto God and besides this, I am resolved to use all my influence, to make every exertion, to strive by practice, by precept, and by authority, to cause my family to unite with me in the service and love of God.'
Family religion, to which Joshua here resolves to attend, does not consist of one single act, but comprises many most important duties. If you would imitate his example, you must instruct the ignorant members of your household in the principles of piety and virtue ; you must pour religious knowledge in
the minds of your children, by frequently conversing with them on their most important concerns, and by carefully catechising them; by the salutary restraints of discipline, and the proper exercise of authority, by the reproof and punishment of vice, you must endeavour to preserve from sin and to lead to virtue, those committed to your care; you must in your own life set before them an example of holiness; you must establish family worship, and daily join with them in adoring your common Lord. All these acts are necessary, if you would attend to family religion: to the performace of them all Joshua obliges himself, when he says, “ As for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
It would be agreeable and useful to consider all these branches of family religion; to show you on what principles your obligation to perform them is grounded, and in what manner you should discharge them: but it would be impossible to do justice to such a subject without writing a volume instead of a discourse. We shall therefore confine our attention to one single branch of this extensive subject. We shall select for our meditation that important, but, alas! that neglected duty of family prayer. Do you ask, Why we believe it to be neglected ? Not from prying into your domestic arrangements, and the secrets of your families; you know that this is not our character: but we are assured of its neglect from the gross ignorance concerning divine things that we find in so many young persons; from the comparatively little effect of the ordinances of religion ; and from similar circumstances. Favour me then with your attention while,
I. I endeavour to lead you to the performance of this duty by the most plain and simple arguments ;