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and ardent supplication, and this he found sweet to his soul; and others saw the effect, *
4. The last and chief reward that our heavenly Father will bestow on those that have waited on him in secret prayer, will be the open acknowledgment and acceptance of them at that solemn day of judgment, when the whole world shall be summoned before the Lord, “and every one shall receive the things done in his body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad,” 2 Cor, v. 10. Then our blessed Saviour who shall be Judge, will single out this seed of Jacob, and tell them they have not sought his face in vain; he will now solemnly acknowledge them before his Father and all the holy angels, as persons with whom he hath had familiar acquaintance in secret. O the joy and triumph arising from such a public acknowledgment! when our dear Redeemer shall speak such a language as this before those myriads of beings! “ This or that person,” calling him forth with honour,
though not taken notice of in the world for religion, much less for worldly greatness, hath yet had intimate familiarity with myself, and I with him; he hath performed many a solemn duty which none but an omniscient eye hath seen: though he hath lived obscurely in the world, and hath been little known to eminent preachers or professors; yet he and I have been long and well acquainted. I have had his company many times in private, and now I cannot but remember the kindness of his youth and old age, the love of his espousals when he went after me in solitary places, rather than want my presence : he hath visited me in duty, and I have visited him in mercy: what mutual endearments, and reciprocal exchanges of love have there been betwixt us! He hath owned me, and I have owned him in the day of adversity ; whenever he had any doubt or want, or fear, or affliction, I heard from him in a closet; he sent his winged messenger of a believing prayer to the throne of grace, and I received it well from him. I did not despise his person, or deny his suit; when others have been sporting away time in vain recreations, or damning their souls in profane practices, this ransomed believer when he could steal a little time, run into a corner, and there did make his complaint to me; and then I gave him something worth his pains, I sent him away with a cheerful heart and thankful tongue: and now take notice all ye angels and men, I declare that I accept his labour of love, and pardon all his imperfections, and set him in my immediate presence in eternal mansions : he that separated himself from the world, shall now be separated from the goats, and be set on my right hand; he that longed so much to be with me, shall everlastingly enjoy me, without cessation or interruption.” O blessed day! O transcendent reward ! Is not this a rewarding openly ? You will say, how do you know that Jesus Christ will thus address a praying soul? I reply, though we know not the form of words he will speak, yet that a discovery shall be made of acts of piety and charity, Mat. xxv. 34-36, evidently declares. Yea, that secret duties shall be brought to light as well as secret sins, the scriptures assure us, 1 Cor. iv. 5—“Who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise of God:” then good men shall receive open approbation and commendation for their holy exercises in sequestered places : then will God wipe off all reproaching calumnies of black-mouthed liars, wherewith they have bespattered the reputation of praying saints, and clear up their uprightness as the noon-day, by letting the world see, how the saints have spent their time in retirement, both alone, and with their fellow Christians; not in plotting but praying ; even pleading for those that persecuted them. O blessed day! O happy resurrection of bodies and of names. Surely praying souls will not then repent of all their pains in private, when they poured out their hearts in prayers and tears, since now they are rewarded with such a blessed euge, and are openly introduced into their Master's joy and Father's kingdom.
* Bernard's Life and Death of Dr. Usher, p. 27.
Concerning Places of Prayer.
If closet prayer be a christian duty, then it shews us, that in gospel-times God stands not precisely upon places : this holy incense may ascend to heaven with as much acceptance upon the golden altar, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, in a private chamber as a public church. Some have scornfully called private devotions, by the derogating title of chimney-prayers; and think to confine all religion to public places : yea a great scholar said once, God heard prayer in a consecrated place, not because men pray, but because they pray there,* as though the conceived holiness of the place added some virtue to the prayer,
• Expressed "Non quia precatur, sed quia ibi.”
ör rendered it more acceptable to God. This is worse than plain Judaism, to bind religion to places :* the true gospelized Christian hath otherwised learned Christ. It is true, under the Old Testament dispensation, after the erecting of the temple, prayer was to be made at it, or towards it, as it typified Christ, through whom our prayers are accepted : but that holiness being ceremonial, it has been abolished by the gospel : now that takes place, John iv. 21, “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this Mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father;” that is, God now doth not so much regard the place, as thie manner of worship, " that men worship in spirit and truth,” ver. 23, 24. Now is the prophecy accomplished, Mal. i. 11. "In every place, incense shall be offered to my name. ” Which the apostle also asserts expressly, 1 Tim. ii. 8. Much hath been said in controversy concerning the holiness of places; but this seems to be an undeniable argument against that conceit, that if some places be holy by the consecration of them to holy uses, then it followeth that other places not so consecrated, howbeit applied to the same holy use, are more profane and less adapted for divine worship than places consecrated, which would directly contradict the scriptnres last mentioned. Indeed Hookerf teacheth that “the service of God in places not sanctified, as churches are, hath not in itself such perfection of grace, and comeliness, as when the dignity of the place, which it wisheth for, doth concur, and that the very majesty and holiness of the place where God is worshipped, bettereth even our holiest and best actions :" to which we dare not subscribe, but rather say with Dr. John Reynolds, that * to us Christians no land is strange, no ground unholy:
Judaismus est, alligare religionem ad certa loca.--Hospin. de Orig. Temp. lib. 4. c. 2.
+ Eccles. Polit. lib. 5, c. 16.
every coast is Jewry, every town Jerusalem, every house Zion, and every faithful company, yea every faithful body, a temple to serve God in."*
But I shall not enter on a dispute upon this subject : the duty enjoined in the text is clear-if God command and accept closet prayer, then he doth not make so great a matter of the place for this duty as some imagine, since it cannot be imagined that closet prayer can be performed ordinarily in a consecrated place, as they call it, and there being no such place where a duty can be performed, to which God hath more expressly promised a reward, than what is performed in a corner or closet ; and therefore we have no warrant to expect acceptance merely upon the account of one place more than another.
Indeed it is a common practice of some persons, to perform their private devotions in public places. For you
will see some at their entrance into a church or chapel, whatever public worship is in hand, fall down upon their knees, or put their hats or hands before their faces, and so begin to pray. I will not call this the sacrifice of fools, but I judge it very unseasonable: for we should join with God's people in the public ordinances, and prefer them before any thing that we can then undertake. The original of this practice was, a conceit that the place was more holy than their own houses; and that their prayer would be heard there rather than at home: it is too sad a sign that they had not prayed before they came thither. I am sure, it savours rankly of a pharisaical spirit, for the fault which our Saviour here rectifies, was that of the Pharisees praying individually in public places; and in opposition thereunto he directs his disciples to the duty of the text, namely, to pray in their closets.t
* Confer. with Hart. c. 8. Div. 4, page 491.
+ Eo proposito Dominus vetat in conventu orare, ut à conventu videatur. -Chrysost. Ho. 13. Op. Im. Perf. sup. Math.