« PrécédentContinuer »
not pass all his time amidst crowds. He had not only his seasons of privacy with his disciples, but his hours of secret intercourse with God. “ And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” (Mark i. 35.) At another time, after he had healed the man whose hand was withered, and the Jews were filled with madness and rage against him, it is said, “In those days he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” Luke vi. 12.
2. The great importance of closet prayer may be proved from the happy influence it has on the divine life in the soul. It is the best means we can use, both for evidencing the reality of grace, and increasing the measure of that grace. It is certainly a condition greatly to be deplored, when the Christian. goes on halting and hesitating at every step of his progress; when his sky is always clouded, and his comforts seem to wither at his touch. Yet such must be the condition of the man, who is continually in doubt whether he be in a state of grace, or still in a state of nature; whether he be a servant of God, or a slave of Satan; an heir of heaven, or a child of hell. While auy one remains in such a state of uncertainty, and his hopes are often outweighed by his fears, the crafty enemy gets an advan
age over him, whispering his infernal suggestions, and insinuating that he has no right to this promise, or that ordinance, or the other privilege; and thus, as it were, dashing away the cup of consolation, when just raised to his lips. How often does the weak trembling believer exclaim, O that I had a fair title to the inheritance of the heavenly land! Happy, thrice happy, should I be, in the lowest station here, had I a good hope of filling some humble place in the glorious kingdom of God! Now I will venture to say, that nothing so much brightens a Christian's evidences as prayer; and nowhere can this beneficial effect be more clearly discerned than in the closet. The specious dissembler and the self-righteous formalist are strangers to secret devotion. Their religion is confined to public rites; as though they concluded that their having a pew in some church or chapel on earth, where Christ is preached, would ensure them a place in the church above, where Christ is seen in all his glory. Our Lord casts an angry frown upon the vain ostentation of the Pharisees, in the very passage which calls his disciples to closet devotion. (Matt. vi. 5, 6.) The total neglect of secret duty is not the spot of God's children; it is the dark stain of the artful deceiver, though none but the eyes of Jehovah may see it. He who conscientiously frequents his closet, to seek and serve God there, whatever he may be, is no hypocrite. Let then the humble Christian, who longs for a clearer evidence of his interest in the New Covenant, retire often, to pour out his heart to God. It was after the prophet had set his face to seek the Lord, by prayer and supplications, with fasting and mourning, three full weeks, that the angel was sent with a cheering message, and said, “ O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee." As intimate friends are most familiar, and
sually open their very hearts when all other company is absent; so it is in the gracious intercourse between God and his people. It is generally in retirement, when they are waiting for Him, and walking to and fro in the gallery of devotion, and praying, and panting, and 'hoping to enjoy his presence, that he manifests himself to them as he does not 'to the world. The good Shepherd watches and keeps all his sheep, yet puts his mark in stronger colours on some than others; and though men may mistake, he cannot. Seek then the evidence of salvation from the Author of salvation. The Sun of Righteousness alone can scatter your clouds, and banish your fears. Secret prayer carries the soul to heaven, and brings down a portion of heaven into the soul. Observation and experience evince that the searching power of the Spirit is oftener felt in the sanctuary, but his sealing grace in the closet. The devout Christian, like solitary Jacob, wrestling through the night, wins a special blessing, where there is no creature as a witness. And as closet prayer evidences the reality of grace in the heart, so it is a means adapted to increase the measure of that grace. Thy Father, who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly. It is true, we deserve nothing, and we are too deeply indebted to think of setting up a claim on the ground of merit. But though we dare not look for a reward of justice, we may both ask and expect a reward of grace. The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him; unto all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him; he also will hear their cry, and will save them. Heaven and earth shall sooner pass away, than one jot or tittle of his word shall fail. The promise is accomplished in the answer of prayer. Hypocrites seek the applause of men, and they sometimes gain their object; saints sincerely and earnestly seek the favour of God, and sooner or later always succeed. " For the Lord giveth more grace; wherefore it is said, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." " Let him who wishes for an effectuał cure to all the wounds which the world can inflict, retire from intercourse with men to intercourse with God. When be enters his closet, and shuts his door, let him shut out at the same time all intrusion of worldly care, and dwell among objects divine and immortal. Solitude is the hallowed ground which religion hath in every age chosen as her own. There her in.. spiration is felt, and her secret mysteries elevate the soul.” *
Do you make conscience of secret prayer? What, though you can point to no remarkable interpositions of Providence? Though no extraordinary events have fallen into the train of your life, I doubt not you have had many seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; you have received supplies out of the treasury of heaven, far more valuable than the worldling's corn, and oil, and wine ; you have had quickening grace, strengthening grace, and sanctifying grace, in the calm retirement of the closet. And it may be said, with truth, the blessings which God grants to the suit of secret prayer, will generally be made manifest to those who have eyes to see. The plenteous dews of heavenly grace will make the plants of righteousness bloom and grow; and the gentle gales of the Holy Spirit will cause