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God, and we should seek to please him, both in the habit of our body and manner of our voice. Think of this rule.
3. In reference to the scason, the apostle saith, “Pray continually, or without ceasing." Yet there are some, as it were, canonical hours of
wherein a Christian's discretion must interpose; only, in this case, take the fittest seasons for secret prayer, as when you are most at leisure from worldly business, most free from company, least in danger of drowsiness. O Christians, if it be possible, put not off your secret devotions too long, till you go to bed, then you are fitter for rest and sleep than for wrestling with God on your knees. And then, for the frequency of this exercise, no certain rule can be given. David and Daniel - prayed three times a day,” morning, noon, and night.* Noon-time was the sixth hour, which was also a time of prayer, Acts x. 9; others also observed the ninth hour, which was three o'clock in the afternoon,t Acts iii. 1. Certainly the third hour, that ts, nine in the morning, was an hour of prayer, Acts ii. 15, and so was evening, six at night, say some. David adds a seventh in Psalm cxix. 164, “Seven times a day will I praise thee;" which may only denote frequency in the duty. Some of these may seem extraordinary cases. The ordinary seasons the saints have taken, have been morning and evening, as the Jews sacrificed a lamb at those seasons.f In the morning our spirits are fresh and lively; at evening we may find the past affairs of the day a fit occasion for prayer and praise. It would do well to take Isaac's season for devotion, even about sun-set, or the shutting in of the day. But I shall not
* Psalm lv. 17. Dan. vi. 10.
Exod. xxix. 38, 39. Psalm v. 3, lxxxviii. 13, and cxli. 2.
too peremptorily impose in these undetermined circumstances, only take that general rule, “ Watch unto prayer,” 1 Pet. iv. 7.
4. In regard to the voice. The articulate sound of words is not absolutely necessary in prayer, and it may not be so convenient in closet prayer, which should be managed privately betwixt God and a man's own soul, approving the heart to God as sole witness of his sincerity; except, through some extacy and strong emotion of the affections, the soul's desires break out on the lips beyond its first intentions. I know, Mr. John Cartev, that eminent man of God, did purposely use his voice in secret prayer for these two reasons, (1.) Because he found it a help to his affections; (2.) Because it was an example to his family.* I must not therefore impose any necessity in these variable circumstances ; only, I humbly conceive, it is most suitable to the nature of closet prayer to perform it so as none else may take notice thereof. Give me leave to mention a few passages out of Cyprian to this purpose:t-As it is a token of impudent forwardness to make a noise with loud clamours; so it is most suitable to a modest spirit to pray with silent supplications : for God is the hearer not of the voice, but of the heart. He makes Hannah a type of the church, who prayed not with loud petitions, but with affections agitating her and rising within the recesses of her breast-she, spake with hidden prayer, but manifest faith.
* Mr. Clark in his Life.
+ Nam ut impudentis clamoribus strepere, ita contra congruit verecundo modestis precibus orare: quia Deus non vocis, sed cordis auditor est. Et paulo post : Quod Anna in primo Regum libro, ecclesiæ typum portans, custodit et servat, quæ Dominum non clamosâ petitione sed tacite et modeste, intra ipsas pectoris latebras, precabatur: loquebatur prece occultâ, sed manifesta fide.-Cypr. Serm. de Orat. Dom. p. 409, 410.
Thus much for the circumstances of closet prayer, wherein I am more brief and hesitating, because I would not prescribe any thing to the people of God which he hath left free in his word; only in general take notice, that though accidental circumstances which concern a duty be mutable, yet by the wise ordering of those circumstances they will become a singular assistance in the performance of the duty.
In what way attention may be profitably occupied after
having been engaged in devotional exercises.
AFTER closet prayer our attention should be directed to the following things, which may be considered as incumbent upon us, and from which we may derive advantage ; namely,
We ought to observe the manner in which God deals with us—to walk suitably—to wait for returns of prayer—and to communicate the success of our intercourse with God.
1. When you have been before the Lord in closet prayer, observe how God hath been dealing with your hearts, that you may be suitably disposed and affected; if the Lord hath withdrawn himself from you, left you under hardness, deadness, distraction, uncomfortableness; you are to mourn for it, inquire the cause of it, reflect upon yourselves, see what guilt there is upon your conscience, which separates betwixt God and your souls : and then (if time permit) begin again, lament the sin, be ingenuous in confession, make stronger resolutions, remove all obstructions, that God and your souls may not be at any distance, reckon straight, and make up your accounts, part friends that you may meet friends the next time you go to him. If you find that God hath helped you, melted your hearts, and graciously manifested himself to your souls, take special notice of it, record that for time to come, slight not the least appearances of God in your favour, acknowledge him, and praise him for these manifestations of his love. Learn this lesson even from Hagar the bond woman: when she was in a solitary wilderness, the angel of the Lord comforts her and tells her that God had heard her affliction, that she was with child, and that her seed should be multiplied; she as a grateful return to God for his kindness, sets an asterism of observation upon the place, for a memorial of God's seeing and looking after her, “so the well was called Beer-lahai-roi,” that is, the well of him that liveth, and seeth me, Gen. xvi. 13, 14. Thus do you : think and think again, Oh, who, or what am I, that God should look after me, or take notice of me, in this desolate state and place! I shall remember this time of love whilst I live; in such a room I met with God, such a chamber or closet was a Bethel, a mount Nebo, where I beheld my Jesus, and took a blessed view of the promised land.—Thus Christians, reflect upon, and recollect your experiences in God's presence, which may be of use to you all your days.
2. Let your behaviour at all times be suitable to your closet prayers, let it appear that you are wholly devoted to God; cross not your prayers with your practices; pray much, and live well; let it appear that you have been with God, that you have been drawing supplies from the spring-head; walk with men as those that walk with God; let indications and evidence of your heavenly intercourse be perceivable in your gracious expressions and exemplary conversation; live not after the ordinary rate of professors. As your heart is God-wards, so let your light be men-wards, that they may see your good works and glorify God : carry something out of your closet, that may hold forth the word of life and work of grace; be able to say in your conduct what David speaks in words, Psal. cxix. 55, 56, after he had said, “ He remembered God's name in the night,” he adds, “This I had, because I kept thy precepts;" he tells not what it was, but certainly something it was, worth having-possibly, it was some strength to obey the will of God, some power over a corruption. O Christians, let your actions demonstrate what you get in God's presence.
What a sin and shame it is, when persons do that morally which Moses did literally, even come down from the mount and break the tables of God's law, as soon as they are off the place. Oh how sad it is for a person to come down from closet prayer, and be proud, passionate, envious, or covetous! and observe it, then you are most in danger, for then doth Satan tempt most, and your hearts are then most apt to be secure, conceited, and carnally confident, as though you had done enough, and might now sit down and take your ease; and having sweat at duty, and suddenly cooling, the gracious soul doth contract a dangerous surfeit, and fall into a languishing condition; be jealous therefore of yourselves when you have been with God in secret; and have an eye upon the devil, who is like a swindler, who strikes in with a young heir, when he hath newly received his rents, and never leaves him till he hath eased him of his money. Oh now walk warily and watchfully, consider where you have been, and do nothing contrary to your communion or profession. Let it never be said of you, as some are apt to say, I wonder what such persons do so much alone! unless they lived better and conducted themselves after another mode; they pretend devotion, but there is little seen in their