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of the Son of God. He that can do this, need not doubt that he is a Christian. He has caught the very spirit of the Savior, and he must inherit eternal life.”



And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to

pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily, I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, &c.Matt. vi. 5–8.

66 Man

“ There is in the nature of man, or in the circumstances in which he is conditioned,” says the author of the “ Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation”

" there is something,

which leads him to recognize and worship a superior being." is a religious being: he will worship.

Equally true is it that man will pray. And with the same propriety that he has been denominated a "religious being," may he be styled a "praying being."

It is obvious that he is in no such sense religious, as to please his Maker, as a matter of course; but there is that in his nature which recognizes some being as superior to himself, and to whom, at times, and under certain circumstances, he pays his homage.

So, also, in relation to prayer. Men will pray. They will pray either to the true God, or to some idol.

There is, perhaps, not that human being, who has attained to manhood, who has not offered some form of prayer. have been sudden, brief, a whisper, a sigh, but it was prayer; or the natural, instinctive call of a needy and dependent nature upon some being, supposed to possess the power to aid. Cast a man-it matters not who he is, or what may

It may

be his creed, or his professions, or previous determinationscast him into sudden and extreme peril, or cause him to experience violent and excruciating agony-place him on the deck of some foundering bark, or on the roof of some burning habitation, and will he not pray? Let him realize that death and eternity are immediately before him, and nature will speak out. As well might you hope to chide the raging elements to repose, as to silence his cries in this hour of his extremity.

In his directions, in relation to prayer, our Saviour proceeded in exact accordance with these principles of our nature. In none of his discourses, does he attempt to prove prayer to be a duty. He gives ample instructions as to the manner—the frequency—the importunity of prayer; but the duty was too obvious to require any authoritative injunction from him. It was a dictate of nature; perhaps “a constitutional instinct, inwrought by the Maker;" or, if not that, it was a natural effort at relief, growing out of a sense of want and dependence. Men would pray. They might be instructed how to pray with more certainty of success; they might be taught the importance of more frequency, and greater importunity ; but they needed no clearer proof of the duty itself than that furnished by the light of nature. Hence, observe how our Savior introduces the subject to his disciples, in his memorable sermon on the mount: 66 When thou prayest,” &c. He takes it for granted that they would pray. Not a single sentence does he utter in regard to the duty, but proceeds at once to give directions as to the manner in which that duty should be performed.

It is apparent, from the sacred narrative, that, at this time, the Jews were not obnoxious to the charge of neglecting prayer. On the contrary, they abounded in prayer. “They loved to pray.” They made many and long prayers. But, in this service, which, of all other acts of worship, should be characterized by sincerity and humility, they were hypo

critical and ostentatious. "They loved to pray, standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, to be seen of men.They seem not to have had regard to the honor and glory of God. They seem not to have been burdened with a sense of spiritual want. Their object--supremely selfish-was to receive honor from men; to obtain a great reputation for the length, fervency, and, perhaps, eloquence, of their prayers.

It was the design of the Savior, in thus rebuking the hypocrisy and ostentation of the Jews, to convey to his disciples juster views of the nature of acceptable prayer. While, therefore, he is not to be considered as condemning prayer in the synagogue, but only that which was offered to be seen or heard of men, he is to be understood as recommending, and even enjoining, that such prayers as are offered by individuals, which are of a private or secret character, should be offered strictly in secret. “Every Jewish house had its place for secret devotion. Over the porch, or entrance of the house, was a small room, of the size of the porch, raised a story above the rest of the house, expressly appropriated for the place of retirement. Here, in secrecy and solitude, the pious Jew might offer his prayers, unseen by any but the Searcher of hearts. To this place, or to some similar place, our Savior directed his disciples to repair, when they wished to hold communion with God.”

What pious heart has not often thanked the Savior for this divine injunction? “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door,"—shut out the world and its disturbing cares—“pray to thy Father, which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." Yes, the closet!

The calm retreat, the silent shade,

With prayer and praise agree;
And seem, by thy sweet bounty, made

For those who follow thee.

Then, if thy spirit touch the soul,

And grace her mean abode,
Oh! with what peace, and joy, and love,

She there communes with God.

There, like the nightingale, she pours

Her solitary lays;
Nor asks a witness of her song,

Nor thirsts for human praise.

If there be one spot dearer to the true Christian than all others on the wide globe, methinks it must be his closet, where he is in the daily habit of going to meet and commune with God; where he pours out his soul in penitential sorrow for sin; where he can weep, and none molests him; where , he can wrestle with God, and take strong hold of the promises; where, as a parent, he can plead for his children, in terms, and with a pathos which he desires none should hear but God only; where he can wrestle for friends, as Jacob wrestled with the angel of the covenant; and where, drawn by the powerful attraction of the love of Jesus, and filled with antepasts of the glory which shall be revealed hereafter, he can only exclaim-not knowing what to say, more than the disciples did on the Mount of Transfiguration“Lord ! let me build a tabernacle here; and here let me abide, in the enjoyment of thy love, so long as I live!"

I have known Christians, who, especially in seasons of revival, seemed to think little of the closet, but every thing of the social or public prayer

meeting. It is delightful to meet the assembly of saints; to go to the house of God; to the chapel, and other places of resort, and there mingle our praises, and unite our prayers. But, while such seasons may be, and should be frequent, the Christian should learn to love his closet. The excitement and sympathy engendered by revivals are wont to subside—too soon, I allowbut the fire, the holy zeal, and holy joy, kindled up on the

altar of the heart in the closet, is apt to last. While, therefore, it is pleasant-and not a few such occasions has the writer enjoyed—to go

“ with a multitude to the house of God-with those who keep holy day,"—he must say and hopes to be able to say, so long as he continues in this earthly tabernacle

I love to steal awhile away,

From every cumb'ring care,
And spend the hours of setting day,

In humble, grateful prayer.

I love, in solitude, to shed

The penitential tear;
And all his promises to plead,

Where none but God can hear.

Christ further enjoins it upon his disciples, that they avoid “ vain repetitions." We may, doubtless, on suitable occasions, and in reference to blessings of great importance, repeat our requests. This is natural. The child does this. Importunity is admitted and encouraged; and this would seem to imply a repetition of our supplications. Such repetition indicates a deep conviction of our necessities; and the deeper the wants of the soul are felt, the more shall we urge our suit, and the more probable will be our success.

Christ does not here, or in any other discourse, fix the length of our prayers. He forbids the repetition of the same thing, as though God does not hear. “And it is not improbable," observes Mr. Barnes, "that he intended to condemn the practice of long prayers. His own supplications were remarkably short.”

The length of our prayers should vary according to cir. cumstances. There are seasons when the holy Spirit leads the soul to long and importunate wrestling with God. At such times, the soul must pray.

The affections are kindled into a holy ardor; the promises of God are delightful and

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