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their spices to breathe around a delightful perfume. Thus, what the supplicant performs secretly is often rewarded openly.
3. The great importance of closet prayer may be proved from the mournful consequences which follow the neglect of it.
The foundation which supports the house is out of sight, and the root which sends up sap into the branches is under ground; and thus the various duties of religion, in a great measure, depend on the silent unobserved devotion of the closet. When this base decays, the pillars totter, and the whole fabric falls; when this root dies, the fruits perish, and all the branches wither. Company, business, and books, will not keep the soul alive to God, if the stated duties of retirement are omitted. What! some may say, are the social ties which bind man to man to be broken? Are we to be deaf to the calls of business, and indifferent to all books but the Bible? Shall we imitate monks and hermits, and shut ourselves up in solitary cells? No: religion neither requires nor allows a total seclusion or abstraction from the world. But if social intercourse has such charms, that you can give your time by hours to company, and can spare minutes only for God; if business commands your hearts, and private devotion does little more than employ your lips; it is but too sure a sign that you
have a name that you live, and are dead. It is a common and just remark, that backsliding and apostasy may be traced back to the closet, where they generally begin. When secret devotion is hastily hurried over, and a slight excuse is deemed at times sufficient to omit it, the next step is to set it aside altogether; and though the church or the chapel may still be frequented, it is rather from custom than from a sense of duty. How many have, in this manner, been drawn farther and farther from true religion, till, at length, they have made shipwreck of faith. Oh! let us shun the fatal rocks on which they have split; and let the solemn voice of warning not be heard in vain!
II. I shall give some directions for the management of this duty.
1. Choose a proper place for secret prayer. Whatever attracts the senses, has a tendency to draw off the mind; and experience teaches how difficult it is to keep the attention fixed. The most trivial outward circumstances often break the train of our meditations, and distract our thoughts in prayer; and the very design of solitude, for this purpose, is to exclude every sort of interruption. We read that Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and
there called on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God. Isaac went out alone at evening tide to meditate, or, as the word in the original also means, to pray in the field; and either the shady grove, or the peaceful field, secure from intrusive footsteps, is a very proper place for devotion. Peter went up to the house-top to pray; and the flat roofs of the eastern houses, it is well known, are some of them furnished with little booths, peculiarly fit for retirement. Paul turned the very cell of his prison into an oratory, or place of prayer; from which he offered to God not only requests on his own account, but intercessions on behalf of his friends, and all the churches. When thou prayest, says Christ, enter into thy closet, and shut the door. The word our Lord here uses sometimes signifies a place where treasure is laid up, and at other times a private apartment, or retired chamber. We need not be troubled with anxiety as to this matter; but the place chosen should be as free as possible from all disturbance.
Some Christians use the voice in their closet exercises, and others do not; every one must determine for himself which method is best. For my own part, I think, if the voice is used, it ought to be in a low and softened tone; as it is hardly to be called secret prayer, when every sentence may be heard in the
next room. But it may be said, did not holy Daniel open his windows, when he retired to pray? True: yet he was not moved by ostentation. He thought it wrong, in his peculiar circumstances, to give the least countenance to idolatry, or seem either ashamed or afraid of worshipping the true God.*
* There have been many instances in which a decision and holy boldness, discovered in maintaining secret prayer, have had a good effect upon the careless. The late Rev. Robert Heath, when an apprentice, slept with his master's son, who every night, before he went to bed, retired into a corner of the room, to read a portion of the Scripture, and commend himself to God in prayer. By this instance of piety, he was smitten with a consciousness of the impropriety of his own neglect of this important duty, and was constrained, from conscience, to kneel down, though he was altogether unacquainted with the true nature of prayer. While on his knees, he was forcibly struck with the thought, that God must not be mocked; and from that time, he was desirous to engage solemnly in the sacred duty. Increasingly sensible of its great importance, he requested his young companion to pray with him, and was thus led on, by gentle steps, to the knowledge and experience of evangelical truth. The writer has lately heard of a case, in some respects similar to that given above, attended, however, with circumstances far more striking; but as the parties are living, delicacy forbids any disclosure. The late Dr. Bailey, the founder and minister of St. James's Church, Manchester, discovered, very early, the evidences of a mind religiously disposed. Even when about six years of age, he was in the daily habit of using fervent prayer. He was accustomed to pray in a room adjoining one which was occupied by a very careless and wicked man; who, hearing the child pray so earnestly, was heard to say," That child's prayer will make my hell seven-fold hotter!"
2. Appoint proper times for closet prayer. The man who is not regular and punctual, will seldom secure much profit, either from his temporal or spiritual engagements. Begin the day with God. O Lord, in the morning will I direct my prayer to thee, and will look up. (Ps. v. 3.) Certainly morning prayer," says M. Henry, on this passage," is our duty. We are fittest for prayer when we are in the most fresh and lively and composed frame; got clear of the slumbers of the night, revived by them, and not yet filled with the business of the day. We have then most need of prayer, considering the dangers and temptations of the day to which we are exposed, and against which we are concerned, by faith and prayer, to fetch in fresh supplies of grace. David promiseth that he will patiently wait for an answer of peace. I will look up; will look up after my prayers, and hear what God the Lord will speak, (Ps. lxxxv. 8); that if he grant what I asked, I may be thankful; if he deny, I may be patient; if he defer, I may continue to pray, and wait, and may not faint. We must look up, or look out, as he that has shot an arrow looks to see how near it has come to the mark. We lose much of the comfort of our prayers, for want of observing the returns of them."
"Self-denial, of all kinds," says a good