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conversation, they will talk as vainly, live as freely, be as hard and false in their way of trading, and be as proud, scornful, perfidious and injurious as others are. Ah Christians, let this never be said, at least give no occasion for such speeches; let the world see that your prayers have some efficacy, that you get some strength in duties which you lay out in your practice.
3. Another duty incumbent upon you after you have been with God in secret, is, to wait for a seasonable return; stand upon your watch, hearken what God will speak; “ Unto thee,” saith David, “ will I direct my prayer, and will look up,” Psal. v. 3. So do you, Christians, look up to see what becomes of your prayers, observe what answers God gives. It is mockery of another, Pilate-like, to ask a question and expect no answer: and is it not a gross solecism in religion, to speak many things to God, and expect no return? It is certainly a great fault among Christians, to pray and pray, and never to consider or gather up the fruits
Is it not a strange piece of folly for men to be always sowing, and never to look for a harvest ? Surely Christians have more harvests than they are aware of; therefore, sirs, observe how you reap, take special notice of any thing that looks like a return of prayer; examine it thoroughly, gather something out of it, catch at what comes from the King of heaven, as Benhadad's servants did by the king of Israel's words; and if there be but a hint, lay it up, make much of it, improve it, praise God for it, and hope for more. It is the negligence or unwarrantable modesty of some Christians, to think that they can expect no fruit of their prayers, because of the imperfection of their duties ; forgetting God's gracious promise to uprighthearted seekers, and remembering his strict justice to such as seek him not in the due order. But, sirs, you
must so be humbled, as also to believe; you must so deny your own righteousness, as also to improve Christ's intercession ; you are to renounce all conceit of merit in yourselves, and yet
from God. God hath graciously annexed his promise of acceptance to the performance of the condition; and if God have assisted you to pray right on the whole, you may expect his audience ; for God is faithful and merciful, both in forgiving our iniquities, and granting us mercies.* God's answers are larger than our askings; when we truly pray for a piece of bread, God giveth a whole acre of land, as Luther saith ;t and he tells us, that when his wife was sick, he prayed to God that she might live: “so,” saith he,“ he not only granted that request, but also therewith he hath given us a goodly farm at Zorlsdorf, and thereto hath blessed us with a fruitful year.” Instances of this sort are endless. There is never a sincere prayer lost; God always gives in return, only we either do not observe or mistake his mercies, and lose the comfort of them. An aswer of prayer doth not always come in the way we expect it; we look for it at the front door, and it comes in at the back door, while we are still expecting the friend we look for, he is in the house; the mercy we desired is received, only it comes in a way we thought not of, and are therefore apt to overlook it: therefore take heed of confining God to your way or limiting him to
4. Communicate your success, and thereby commend the duty to others: thus David saith, “Come, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul,” Psal. lxvi. 16. “ This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him," Psal. xxxiv. 6. Do you as I have done, and you shall speed as I have sped. Do not mistake this, I would * 1 John i. 9. 2 Tim. iy. 8. + Luth. Colloq. Mens. fol. 245.
not have you tell every one when you go to closet prayer, or when you have been at it—that is a pharisaical blowing of a trumpet; but you must, at some times, to such persons as you can confide in, or as you have some well-grounded hope of profiting, tell them your experience, for their direction and encouragement; in this case acquaint them how God is wont to deal with your hearts, what good you have found from God in that duty, and you question not but upon a conscientious use thereof they may find the like advantage; and this would be singular of use, for hereby they have not only a rule for it, but the exemplifying of it in a precedent, and we know that examples have a prevailing influence; especially, see that you put your family upon this practice. O what a blessed thing were it, if every person in some room of the house were engaged with God in secret prayer ! how bravely would that house be perfumed ! how well would the trade of godliness thrive! Surely such a house would be a more blessed beautiful edifice than any prince's palace under heaven. It is the disposition of gospel penitents to mourn, every family apart, husbands and wives apart, Zech. xii. 11, 12. and of gracious souls, “to be like doves of the valleys, every one mourning for his iniquity,” Ezek. vii. 16. There must be joint prayers, and separate prayers, together and apart. Let not Christians be content to find Christ in private for themselves, but let them do what they can that others also may enjoy him; this was the frame of the church, Cant. iii. 4. When she had found him, “I held him," saith she, “and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house,” that is, into more public assemblies. And truly, Christians, that man hath not found Christ at all, that would not have all others to find him. O, thinks the Christian in his
retirement, that others did but feel and enjoy what my soul hath sweet experience of; would to God, my husband, wife, brother, father, child, neighbour, would but try this course a while, O what advantage would they get by it! Though I eat these sweet morsels alone, yet fain would I have others to partake with me. In things of this world, persons are apt to grudge others any great benefit, which they may have obtained ; but in spiritual advantages there is no envy, and if there be, it proceeds not from grace, but from corrupt nature: the more grace the less envy; and when envy is gone, persons will be communicative. Take away envy, and mine is thine, and thine is mine.* True grace or "charity is kind, envieth not,” 1 Cor. xiii. 4. Now this is what I am recommending, that they who have found Christ would be so charitable to souls as to communicate the knowledge of him and the way to enjoy him, unto others; thus doth Andrew come to Simon, and Philip to Nathaniel, and both of them were (as a man finding a jewel, and cannot contain,) overjoyed, and cry out évonka, čvonka, I have found him, “ we have found the Messiah," John i. 4145. And when the poor woman of Samaria, had been privately conversing with Jesus, down she threw, or at least, left behind her, her waterpot, and all in haste, went to the city, and said to the men, “Come see a man which told me all things that ever I did : is not this the Christ ?” John iv. 28, 29. Thus do you, sirs, promote and propagate the observance of this choice duty, commend it to the practice of others, and so you may be instruments of good.
* Tolle invidiam, mea tua sunt et tua mea.
ON THE MATTER OR WORDS OF PRAYER.
The Lord's Prayer.
THERE is one thing yet remains, on which it may be expected something should be said, and that is, the matter in praying, or words of prayer; whether it be lawful or requisite to use a form or not?
Most judge, that as forms are lawful, so prescribed words may be requisite to some young beginners in religion, and other Christians of weak parts, who cannot express their desires to God in fit words, for the purpose of furnishing them with aid, when conscious of their deficiency or inexperience.* Yet, Christians ought to press after more growth and proficiency, that they may lay aside those crutches, and arrive at the gift of prayer, which may be of singular use. As for closet prayer, Dr. Hammond doth assert it, that every one may ask his own wants in what form of words he shall think fit. And, indeed, all particular cases incident and variable, can scarce be comprehended in one constant form : besides, in secret prayer, God doth not so much stand upon phrases or well formed sentences, as the workings of the heart in sighs and groans, which are the best rhetoric in his ears. It is inquired, whether we may use the Lord's prayer ? I answer, we may use it as other prayers in scripture; but, I conceive, the principal end of it is, not to be rehearsed every time we pray, but to be regarded as an
• Videas Ames. Cas. Cons. lib. 4. c. 17. p. 190. + Practical Catech. pag. 277.