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be so again if you would open the same sluice ? 0 what endearments of love might your souls have, that no creature would know of! Secret influences are conveyed to souls in secret duties; these you block up by neglect. Ah, sirs, are the consolations of God small to you? Is communion with God of no worth? Why are you so unwilling to take pains to go to your Father, especially when you know he hath a kindness for you ? Have you ever lost by this duty ? Will not your profit infinitely countervail your pains ? Ask those that use it most, they will tell you it is the happiest time they spend; yea, cannot your own experience attest it? Did you ever lose your labour when you set yourselves about the exercise in good earnest ? Hath not this close and privy commerce with God brought in much spiritual gain ? Beloved friends, you little consider the good you miss for want of performing this excellent duty : but that is not all.
5. Do you not by neglect of secret prayer expose yourselves to many sad temptations ? Watching and prayer are singular helps against temptation, Matt. xxvi. 41. It has been said, and what wonder, that Satan hath professed, that he hath watched when some of God's children have gone out without closet prayer, and that day he hath gotten great advantage against them, sometimes by tripping up their heels and casting them down from their excellency, into some gross iniquity ; sometimes by tormenting their hearts with blasphemous, or soul-perplexing injections : sometimes God hath left them to fall into some afflictive snare, laid by this subtle fowler, which hath cost them many bitter pangs,
all this and much more hath been the fruit of such neglects. Christians, have you not found this too true by sad experience? When you have gone abroad without calling on God, hath not
God secretly withdrawn from you? hath not Satan obtained his designs upon you? have not your hearts been growing out of frame ? some lust increasing, grace decaying, and your souls at the brink of some astonishing fall?
When you have gone out in the morning without a portion of spiritual food from God, has not this state of emptiness been to the prejudice of your souls' health? If you engage not God by prayer to go with you, what security have you for that day? If God leave you, the devil may do what he list with you, and hamper you in a thousand snares and sins.
6 Doth not your neglect of secret prayer argue little love to God, or delight to be in his company? When persons have a strong affection for each other, they love to be together. Love delights in union and communion; yea, when persons love devotedly, they withdraw from other company, that they may enjoy each other with more endeared familiarity; the presence of a third person mixeth the streams of communication, and mars their intimate communion; and if you did supremely love the Lord, would you not withdraw from others, that your souls might enjoy some fresh and refreshing intercourse with your best beloved ? How can you say, you love him, when you have no desire for his company? If you did indeed love him, you would hold him, and not let him go, until you had
, (with the spouse,) brought him into the chambers of intimate communion, and solitary recesses : love is the gravity of the soul,* and draws it to the object beloved. If your hearts were captivated with him, you would take more pleasure in conversing with him, you would bless God for an opportunity of enjoying him; but this strangeness speaks a great defect in this noble grace. And would you be esteemed such as love not God?
• Cant. iii. 4. Amor meus, pondus meum.
What a sad thing is it to be low and deficient in love to God under such strong engagements to love? Poor soul! have not those silken cords of love which have been cast about thee, drawn thee nearer, and bound thee faster to thy God than thus ? Have not such bellows and incentives, kindled and increased thy spark of love into a flame? Lament thy sin, and shame thyself before thy God, for this decay of love, and dangerous neglect.
7. Do not you by these omissions declare yourselves ungrateful for the grace of God ?
It is God's way to engage souls to approach to him, by holding out promises of reward, as we offer apples, fruit, &c. to children, to entice them to us; nor is it a bait to cozen and ensnare us, but real offers of kindness to us, whereof we may partake, and wherewith we may be happy. Suppose a prince desire a beggar's company, with expressions of great affection, and promises of many kindnesses; is it not ingratitude, if he fling away, and scorn the invitation ?
Or, suppose a potent person send to a poor man a kind message, telling him he hath considered his case, and hath appointed time and place, that they two together may confer about the necessary concernments of this poor man; that he shall have free admission and liberty without disturbance to present his petition, and ask what he will, and it shall be granted; that none shall be present, but only they two shall converse familiarly together, for the good of the poor man: but if, instead of a thankful acceptance of this kindness, the poor man picks a quarrel with the messenger or message, grows sullen and perverse, runs away and saith, I need neither his counsel nor assistance; let him bestow his kindness where he will, I will not meddle with him: were not this gross ingratitude, and how would it be taken?
The case is thine Christian, that neglectest secret duties; the God of heaven gives thee notice to meet him in such a place, to negotiate freely the main concernments of thy precious soul, and thou art backward and shy, and wilt not come near him, but either plainly deniest, or heedlessly delayest. Oh monstrous folly! Oh black ingratitude! Be ashamed of it, be humbled for it, thy God takes it ill that thou art so loath to be happy, that thou even forsakest thine own mercies, and wilt go twice as far another way to gratify a friend, rather than go into thy closet to please thy God and profit thy poor soul. How long must God watch and wait, and strive and sue, to have thy company, and thou dost still neglect and grow averse thereto? O be ashamed of it.
8. Do you not, by neglect of secret prayer, resist the motions of the blessed Spirit ? and is this no fault? Is it nothing to neglect communion with God the Father, or to improve the intercession of Jesus Christ the mediator, but you must also slight the motions of God, the blessed Spirit? this is sad. How often doth the Holy Ghost knock at your doors, stir you up, spur you forwards unto duty, and take
you by the hand, offering his asistance if you will go to God—and yet do you refuse ? Do you make nothing of quenching, grieving, yea vexing the good Spirit of God? Consider what you do: as you deal with him, so he will deal with you; if you do not embrace his call, perhaps he will not be present at your call : and what can you do in duty, without him ? If you strive against him, he will cease striving with you : be it known to you, you have not this heavenly wind at your command; and you may toss in the boat of duty long, but shall not approach the port without it: nothing but the Spirit of God can carry thy soul to God: and what can excite and comfort thee when thy assistant and comforter is slighted and saddened ? Grieve therefore, Christian, for thy grieving of the Spirit, lay to heart thy careless quenching of this holy fire; and let those waters of sensuality or negligence cost thee the waters of godly sorrow and repentance, that this sin may not be laid to thy charge. Say as that divine poet.
And art thou grieved, sweet and sacred Dove,
When I am sour,
Griev'd for me? The God of strength and power !
and leave it dead.--Herbert.
9. If you can only pray in company, what will you do when your company is gone? A time may come when you may be left alone, as Christ saith he was. You had need to engage the Father to be with you, that you may say as the apostle, 1 John i. 3, “ Truly our fellowship is with the Father.” It is true, communion of saints is desirable, but external communion is not always attainable, you may be thrust out by divine providence: now it is a sad thing to be at a loss when persons are alone. It is a strange expression of some, that they know not how to live, if such and such christian friends or godly relations be taken away; why, what is the matter? Are they in the place of God? Is your spiritual life maintained by the leaden pipes, or by the living springs that stream through them? Alas, sirs, if you inore understood and used this art of drawing influences from God immediately through Christ by secret prayer, you would not be so discouraged with the loss of friends; you would say, indeed it is true, my loss is great, such a one had a notable gift in prayer, and spoke my very heart to God, but though he be gone,
my God gone? Is prayer gone ? Though I cannot employ such moving expressions as