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teth his mouth in the dust, with fasting and prayer; if so be there may be hope. While persons have their full occupation or enjoyment, they are too busy ; but when any are thus occupied, they should occasionally withdraw themselves and retreat to God. The less comfort persons find in public ordinances, the more serious must they be in closet performances, that the loss may be supplied in another way.
Several Objections Considered and Answered.
It is strange if our carnal hearts and cavilling spirits have not something to say against this difficult duty; I shall therefore mention what objections, I can foresee may be made, and briefly answer them,
1. Obj. We pray in our families, and is not that enough? what needs all this ado?
Answ. This objection cannot be made by all, some have no families to pray with, but if thou dost pray in thy family, it is well. There are many graceless individuals and prayerless houses, of which it may be said, the fear of God is not in this place; 'O the wrath that shall be poured out on such families. But suppose thou dost, family prayer is one thing, and closet prayer is another; and let me tell thee, God never made one duty to supersede another; you must not jostle out one work, because you are bound to perform another. Every thing is beautiful in its place and
God's commandments are exceeding broad, and take in a great compass of duties. You must worship God in your houses; that exempts you not from worshipping God in your closets, no more than in the public assemblies: there are equal commands for all, necessity for all, you neglect at your peril;
besides, I told you, a child of God hath a secret errand to his father, of which it is not fit his family should know: and on this account God hath appointed closet prayer, as being tender over the credit of his people, that they might not discover their spiritual nakedness to any but to that God who knows thier secrets, and will keep their counsel. And I must tell thee, soul, thou art very little sensible of thy spiritual state or wants, if thou hast nothing to say to God that thou wouldst not have others to hear.
2. Obj. But I am a poor man, and busy in my calling, and cannot spend so much time in closet prayer; I have other occasions.
Answ. Friend, hast thou any greater business than the affairs of thy soul ? let thy calling stand still rather than thy soul should be lost. Cursed be those occasions that eat out religion. But consider, you may follow both callings, if you be observant; our general and particular callings must not interfere. Clean creatures divided the hoof, considerate Christians are such as rightly proportion works to their particular seasons. A chief part of David's arithmetic of numbering days, was in that which we call division, to cast up the account of this our short life, so as to divide the little total sum thereof, into the several portions of time due for performing every duty in. The handmaid may not thrust out the mistress ; nor the shop have all, and the chamber none of our time. You are flat atheists, if you think praying will hinder your work; no, no, it blesseth and expediteth temporal affairs.* We use to say, meat and matins hinder no work. Canst thou not get time for eating and sleeping ? yea, dost thou not spend as much time in idleness, and vain discourse, as would be required every day for this duty ? if thou
* Nobis pietate peculia crescunt.—Mant.
hadst an honest heart, thou wouldst redeem time from thy meat, or sleep, or recreations, for prayer, rather than neglect a duty, or ruin thy soul : the truth is, we complain we want time, but we waste time. There is not the poorest labourer, but he mispends more time than prayer time comes to: and why should any water be let off, when there is little enough in the channel to turn the mill for, or towards, our God ?
3. Obj. But I am a servant, and must obey my master; I am kept too hard at work, to get time for secret prayer; I am called to work betimes, dogged to it all the day.
Answ. Though you be servants to do men's work, yet you are not slaves to their lusts; in that respect you must not be the servants of men; if you be servants, you are the Lord's free men; if free, you are Christ's servants, 1 Cor. vii. 22, 23. Remember, you have a master in heaven; no mortal creature can discharge you from your attendance on God. You must do God's work as well as your master's, and your master's work for God's sake.* Oh sirs, do not neglect your duty to God, to please men. Can your superior answer for your neglect, or interpose betwixt flaming wrath and your sinning souls ? but I am afraid, some lay the blame on masters, when the fault is in themselves. Deceive not thyself by accusing others to clear thyself; this was Adam's fault. Think not that another's rigour can excuse thy neglect. Let me tell you, there is never a servant so strictly watched, but might steal some time from his master for his God, and yet do him no wrong ; only see that you be prudent in choosing such seasons, as may not provoke your master, or prejudice his occasions. And be often in your callings lifting up your hearts to God; be content with your
• Eph. vi. 6, 7
condition : had you more liberty, it may be your hearts would not be in so good a frame. But let me bespeak masters' indulgence to poor and pious servants; Ohinder them not in any good work, rather put them upon it, encourage them in it, bless God that you have praying servants; this is a hopeful presage of good success. Let not your servants fare the worse, but better, for being God's servants.
4. Obj. But I have no closet to pray in, no convenient room for secret prayer: I have a little house, a busy full family, and cannot withdraw myself.
Answ. A good heart will find room, either within doors, or without; a gracious person will seek out places to pray in; any sorry cote where he can enjoy his God, will be a Bethel; or, if he cannot get to this exercise under a roof, he will, with good Isaac, walk out into the fields to meditate and to pray. Could heathens and idolatrous Jews plant groves for their superstition, in an apish imitation of Abraham's practice ? and cannot a bird of paradise take its flight out of some wood or arbour into heaven? But, most need not make this silly slight excuse; they have good roofs to be under, and need not worship God sub Dio, in the open air. There are few of us that have not convenient rooms, but most of us want affectionate hearts to visit God therein. Now, Christians, make good use of your houses to serve God therein, else they may justly vomit you out, and leave you harbourless; and then, what dreadful guilt and terror will follow you whithersoever you go? O consider London's flames and ruins; your houses are no better built, nor more secured from the like catastrophe; do not weaken their foundations by wilful neglects, or scandalous sins.
5. Obj. But I know some good Christians who
what they say.
never use it, yea, who maintain that in their judgments it is not necessary, except in some extraordinary cases; what say you to that?
Answ. I never yet met with such persons as had the face of religion, that ever spoke against the ordinary practice of this duty of closet prayer. I confess, I have met with some, who being urged to family prayer, have put it off with this evasion, that they would pray in their closets; how well, the God of heaven knows. But if the judgment of any professors, be so far bribed as to plead for the flesh on this neglect, the Lord rebuke them, and forgive them, they know not
This is a lamentation, that there is scarce any truth so sacred, or duty so spiritual, but it hath been contradicted in these licentious days; some have pleaded against family prayer, catechising, christian meetings, and what not? but they can produce no solid arguments; do not you follow their example contrary to plain scripture precepts and precedents. Many were produced for confirmation, most whereof were not only in extraordinary cases, but were an ordinary practice. And can you find the day that affords not some special matter to occasion you to make addresses to God in secret prayer? If you be sensible and observant, surely you will see great need for such retirement in ordinary practice. Remember this, that you follow no man, he follows Christ: and I am sure our precious Saviour used this practice.
6. Obj. But I find not my heart affected or prepared. Is it not a tempting of God, to go when the spirit doth not move me?
Answ. It is a dangerous mistake to think you may not go to duty but when the spirit moves you; for it may be long before it stir; the Spirit is like the wind, which bloweth where and when it listeth: you are