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actually renounce the world, for you cannot mind two things at once; and observe it, if you leave any matters of the world tarrying for your attendance, the thoughts of them will attend you, and make you cut your duties short, and run away before your hearts be warmed; therefore, if it may be, dispatch them, rid your hearts of them. The heathen left their shoes at the temple doors, to shew that all earthly concernsand affections must be left behind when we go to God.
Let vain or busy thoughts have there no part,
Bring not thy plough, thy plots, thy pleasures thither ;
To cozen thee.-Herbert.
3. Set yourselves in God's presence. Although you be not within the view of any mortal creature, yet the eternal God sees what you are going about. So saith the text_“Your Father sees in secret.” Darkness or closeness hides not from him: and it is of more consequence that one God sees you, than if all the men on earth gazed at you.
eyes are ten thousand times brighter than the sun, and “he is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity;" therefore wash your hands in innocency before you compass his altar: for if you regard iniquity in your heart, God will not hear your prayer. Set the Lord always before you, especially when you are setting yourselves before the Lord. If that caveat was enough to beget reverence in a heathen, “ Cato sees thee;" | O what reverence would the sense of God's omnipresence beget in your hearts, if duly weighed! Christians, impress your spirits with such meditations as these—God's eye is never off me, I am daily walking in the sun; but now I am setting
* Hab. i. 13. Psal. xxvi. 6. Psal. lxvi. 18. # Cave, spectat Cato.
eye of God.
myself to pray in secret, I come to appear before God in a special manner. I may deceive men and myself, but God will not be mocked : I had need now engage my heart to approach unto God; that is the thing he looks for. O for a spirit suitable to the worship of such majesty! Lord, draw out my affections, unite my heart, excite my graces, that my whole soul may be carried out after thee. Thus “commit thy works to the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.”* When thou art setting thy face towards a duty, where thou art sure to meet Satan, and to carry with thee a corrupt deceitful heart, let God know from thy mouth whither thou art going, and what thy fears are. Never (saith one) doth the soul march in so good order, as when it puts itself under the conduct of God; and never is it so full of awe, as when it sets itself under the
“ I am God' Almighty, walk before me, and be thou perfect,” Gen. xvii. 1. When
When you sensibly discern that you are kneeling before God, will not this make you perfect, and sincere, and more holy? If you think God be not in your closets, what do you go to pray there for?
And if you know he sees you there, why do you not think so, and set yourselves as in his presence? The child will stand gravely before his father, the scholar before his master; and so will the gracious soul before God in duty, if sensible of his presence.
4. Collect and compose your thoughts. Our thoughts and affections are like the strings of an instrument out of tune, and therefore we must take some pains to regulate them. This is that which Zophar adviseth, Job xi. 13, to prepare the heart, and then stretch forth the hands. And for this end, it would not be amiss when you come into a private room to pray
in * Psal. xxxvii. 5. Prov. xvi. 3.
secret; first to read some portion of scripture, which may be of use to compose your spirits : and like David's harp in Saul's case, drive away your wild imaginations; yea, the word read, may afford you suitable matter of prayer to God. More particularly, let me recommend one tried and approved expedient, which is this ; when you are addressing yourselves to God in secret prayer, endeavour to fix your thoughts upon some particular subject to enlarge upon : there is no question, but you have sometimes one special errand to God, sometimes another, if you observe your circumstances well; be sure to mind that; whether it be to confess some predominant sin, to beg pardon of it, or power against it; you may have some grace in your eye, some grace that you need more than ordinarily, and see your weakness and defect therein, &c. Now do not satisfy yourselves in running out into general supplications only, but set yourselves to plead the cause of your souls in that very case, which you have found out by serious inquiry, should most engage you at that time to approach God, expatiate principally upon that subject : and this I conceive to be a taking to ourselves words* (which the Holy Ghost directeth us to employ in prayer,) not a form of such and such phrases, but some special subject matter on which to address God; the word in Hebrew imports so much.t
Now an intent and earnest pursuit of such a special consideration at the throne of grace is of use in these two respects :
(1.) You will find it a help against distractions, wanderings, withdrawings from God. When you purposely set yourselves to mind one thing, you will be more intent upon it, than when you allow yourselves liberty in variety of matter. When the stream runs
Hos. xiv. 2. + 727 Verbum, res, negotium.--Vid. Buxt. Ler.
one way, it is stronger than when dispersed in several channels,* so, when the Christian unites his strength to plead with God on a particular business, he is usually more warm and affectionate, and so less subject to distraction.
(2.) It will enable you to enlarge when spreading particular cases before the Lord, in correct and proper expressions, even before others as you have a call and opportunity; and this is that which is called the gift of prayer, which is of singular use, when a person can particularly and pathetically spread out a case, plead with God, improve promises, and rationally expostulate even with the Almighty on a spiritual or temporal concernment; this holy art is obtained by frequency in secret prayer, and particularly pleading for a man's own soul. This is the last preparative; think beforehand what special business you have in your approach to God; let this be a settled consideration, you cannot think to speak of all things to God at one time, but take that which is of present urgent use and importance, and set yourselves to enlarge upon that; follow that home till you feel your hearts to be warmed and affected, and so have some tokens for good that God will return a gracious answer. You will say, must we thus prepare ourselves before every duty of secret prayer ? can we have time for it? I shall answer this in the words of my dear and reverend father Angier:t-“There are some separating duties that prepare for others, as examination, meditation, prayer; and they do prepare by stiring up the grace of God, and providing a heavenly assistance to begin with us in the duty. If thou canst not always have separating time betwixt other occa
• Vis unita fortior.
+ His book called, A Help to Better Hearts for Better Times, pag. 196, 197; read more on this subject.
sions and God's worship, yet have some separating thoughts ere thou enter upon the duty, thou art not fit else to meddle with wisdom.”
Thus he expresses himself. It is true, some have not the leisure that others have, yet so much preparation is necessary for every duty as may withdraw the heart from other objects, and impress the spirit with a due sense of the work we have in hand, and sometimes this may be done speedily ; yet as for such as have more time to work upon their hearts, and state their soul's case by mustering up themselves to the work, by not doing it they neglect a duty and cannot warrantably expect the Lord's presence: and this I conceive is the reason why the Lord's people miss of God in secret prayer, at least is one reason because they do not make such conscience, and take such care of preparing their hearts as they ought. Ah Christians, when you come into your closet, sit down and pause a little, before you fall down upon your knees, consider your state, shake off
your state, shake off your business, set yourselves in God's presence, and muster up the sins or wants or mercies, you purpose to spread before the Lord : a client will consider all his matters, before he come to state his case to his advocate; a poor patient will bethink himself how he is, that he may tell his ailings to his physician; and a petitioner will not go hand over head to his prince, but order his cause before-hand, that he may plead it more effectuallyand shall not we much more prepare ourselves to wait upon the God of heaven?
Directions respecting what is essential to Secret Prayer.
ANOTHER class of rules regards some things essentially requisite to the right performance of devo