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THIS Command would be most impressive and binding on us, had we only received it from the pen of an inspired apostle, but it is infinitely strengthened by the express and often repeated injunctions of our Saviour, "What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch." "What could ye not watch with me one hour?" (about the time of the daily services of our Church, and peculiarly applicable to the listless and wandering mind there.) Again, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." Let us, then, consider, 1st, What this duty is; 2ndly, Who they are who are called upon to "watch unto prayer;" and 3rdly, Why it is so necessary to set this particular guard over our paths and ways-remembering always, that our
blessed Saviour's example enlightens and makes sure every duty, and his Spirit enables us to perform faithfully what is required. 1st, then, what is this duty of watching unto prayer?" Is it that we are always to be on our knees-always engaged even in the mental act of prayer? I think not, for that must be performed at the risk and to the hindrance of many plain duties which God calls us to engage in. The duty seems to be this-that our minds should by God's grace be kept in a readiness to pray, by preserving a watch over our thoughts and desires, our affections and motives, our words and our works-that by watching against surprises and temptations to sin, our souls might be kept in a devotional frame. Nothing so cripples and disables the mind from seeking God in prayer as the indulgence of any sin. If we regard iniquity in our heart, the Lord will not hear us; we cannot approach Him with acceptance, and unaccepted, who would dare, who would desire to rush into the high and holy presence of his God? Our duty, then, is, so to watch that we may be ready to pray-so to pray that we may continually watch. They are two separate, yet inseparable duties-so built upon each other, that if one is displaced, the other sinks and is lost sight of. Without watching, prayer would be lifeless, irreverent, unmeaning like a child who asks his parent for something which he cares not to possess, and which he neglects and throws away as soon as given. Without prayer, watching would be a mere leaning on our own strength, or a foolish expectation of that which we have never sought.
In the 2nd place, let us consider who are they who are thus urged to "watch unto prayer?" Are they not those who are beset with innumerable seen and unseen dangers -who are surrounded by many outward and inward foes -who are exposed to a multitude of known and unknown evils and, finally, who are sure to be surprised and endangered if off their guard? The Romans punished their sentinels with death for sleeping at their post. Now they did it for an earthly sovereign, and to escape a temporal danger-but we for a "king eternal, immortal, invisible," and to avoid a spiritual death, with never
ending torment. What a proof is it of our alienation from God, that such things move us not-that considerations, and fears, and hopes which touch our everlasting welfare, are in themselves powerless to produce the change from carelessness to watchfulness-from indevotion to prayer, which is necessary for our attainment of salvation. The Spirit of God must urge and assist our necessities and endeavours, or they will never be made with earnestness and success; or if made for a time, we shall find, that "when the floods come and beat upon us," they fail, being founded only on sand. And these thoughts lead us lastly to reflect on the necessity for setting this guard on ourselves. Besides that prayer and watchfulness are God's express command, we shall find that they are necessary from our own experience, when once we have begun in earnest the heavenly race—the fight of faith-most necessary for keeping our hearts amid the distracting cares, the distressing fears, the disappointing hopes of the world. Surrounded as we are by tangible and visible objects, which gain a thousand avenues to our mind, we are prone to forget that which we do not see, and to neglect that from which we are averse. Did we see God as He is, prayer and watch fulness would seem the appropriate and desirable posture of the soul. Did we see the devil as he is, we should feel the necessity and safety of such an attitude of the mind; and did we but know ourselves as we are known by Him who made us, and gave us both the command and example, we should be earnest-how earnest, how constant in fulfilling the apostle's warning precept," Watch unto prayer!" Mercifully grant, then, O Lord, that we may so know Thee now by faith, that after this life we may have the fruition of Thy glorious godhead"-that having prayed in faith, we may receive in fulness-having watched continually, we may be called at length to that "rest which remaineth for the people of God."
1 Collect for the Epiphany, Jan. 6th.
P. S. L.
THOUGHTS FOR THE LABOURER.
AVOIDING BAD COMPANY.
"Enter not into the path of the wicked."-Prov. iv. 14, 15.
I MAY sometimes have to labour with wicked men, who try to make others as bad as themselves. Let me keep in mind that good word, "If sinners entice thee, consent thou not1." They may try to tempt me to the publichouse, to join in drunkenness, profane talk, and every bad way; but let me think, what will such ways bring a man to? The Word of God tells us, poverty; destruction and misery3; curses, and not blessings': the wrath of God; to be shut out of heaven; cast into hell. Truly, the way of transgressors is hard! O! that such wretched sinners may be given to see the evil of their way, and seek for renewing grace and pardoning mercy through the Saviour, that they perish not. "Keep me, O Lord, from the paths of the destroyer; and hold Thou up my goings in thy way, and let not any iniquity have dominion over me."
O guard me, Lord, from ev'ry step,
But let me of their ways beware,
Lest I their fatal doom should share.
"I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me to dwell in safety.....Into thine hand I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth."-Ps. iv. 8; xxxi. 5. ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father, we thank and praise Thee for thy care over us, and thy blessings to us this day. Thou hast seen all our ways, and marked all our thoughts, words, and actions. We are poor sinners in thy sight, and humbly beseech Thee to forgive us all we have done amiss; and give us thy Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, and cleanse us from all sin, and enable us to love Thee more, and to serve Thee better. 2 Ibid. xxiii. 21. 3 Rom. iii. 16. 4 Ps. cix. 17. Rom. ii. 5. 6 Gal. v. 19-21. 7 Ps. ix. 17.
1 Prov. i. 10.
O gracious Father, accept us in Thy beloved Son, and make us complete in Him. In his most Holy Name we ask all these blessings, and all that Thou seest good, both for us, and all for whom we ought to pray. To thy mercy and protection, O Lord, we commend ourselves, this night and evermore.
Another day is gone, and we
A day more near eternity.
Each word, each thought, each action known,
"Every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer.”—Is. lvi. 6, 7.
THE Sabbath is a type of heaven, and tends to prepare us for it. It is good both for soul and body. May I never forget the kind command, to "keep it holy." I bring my children early to the house of God, that they may learn to love his courts, and hallow his sabbaths, as He teaches us'. Then we shall delight ourselves in the Lord, and feel our interest in his salvation. And let us not only keep from worldly pleasures and sports on the Lord's day, but both at church and at home may we be devoutly employed; may we read, think, praise, and pray in spirit and in truth, and humbly come before the Lord as poor sinners who feel their need of mercy, pardon, and grace, through the great Redeemer; and may our talk, one with another, be such as becometh those who fear the Lord, and think on his name, and may we be owned by Him in that day when He maketh up his jewels, and spend an eternal Sabbath with Him.