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AN EXHORTATION TO CONSTANT PRAYER.
PRAYER being at the root of every other good, marking the commencement of the Christian life, being the pulse by which its strength and vigour may be known, or the hands by which its daily nourishment is obtained and ministered, the reader will bear with me while I attempt still farther to press this duty on the conscience.
There are two things which will ever bring the Christian to the throne of grace:-A sense of his own wants; and a desire to enjoy the presence of God.
God having promised to supply all his wants, his prayers are the importunate wrestlings of the soul with God for blessings of infinite moment. And God being the portion of his soul, he finds in his presence, the sweet and unspeakable repose of the soul on God, his exceeding great reward.
Prayer," says Bishop Taylor, "is the effect and the exercise, the beginning and the promoter, of all graces. A holy life is a continual prayer. Prayer is the peace of our spirit, the stillness of our thoughts, the rest of our cares, the calm of our tempest."
1. Yet there are many wнO HAVE NEGLECTED PRAYER, and this in all, or at least in some of its branches. Such persons will often be dissatisfied, complaining of others; and though in the midst, perhaps, of abundance of earthly good things; yet would they declare their real state,
they would be found discontented and unhappy. And is this to be wondered at? God is your Creator. He is the Governor of the Universe. He makes men happy; when he leaves them they are miserable; and yet you neglect to seek him. You do not pursue his plans. You do not follow the directions which he has given you for obtaining his blessings, and therefore you have them not. But can you think that you will always have an opportunity of seeking him? O no! remember, that there is an accepted time, a day of salvation, and that it is our highest duty and our plainest interest to "seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near." But, perhaps, you defer seeking God to the close of life, or to a period of sickness. O most dangerous delusion! To be careful about the temporal enjoyment of a day, and to suspend eternal happiness on the most improbable of all chances! It is almost certain that if you do from day to day put off the duty of prayer, deceiving yourself with the intention of calling on God in such a period, God will not in that day, give you either grace or ability to pray to him. You will perish in your sins. There is neither safety nor happiness but in constant prayer. If you would obtain the waters of life, you must come to the fountain. If you would drink of the streams, you must come to the banks of that river which maketh glad the city of our God. Perhaps you think prayer to be needless, or useless. But is not this sad folly? You think it necessary to enquire, "what shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed? Necessary to seek after the provision of mere temporal wants; and yet you can be careless about the pardon of your sins, the salvation of your soul, the eternal ruin of hell, and the everlasting glory of heaven. Prayer is no more to be esteemed
needless, than eternal bliss is needless. No man ever repented of prayer. Baxter says, "I often repent that I have prayed to him so coldly, and communed with him so negligently, and served him so remissly; but I never repent of the time, care, affection, or diligence employed in this holy work."
2. Some are ASHAMED OF PRAYER. They think that it is the mark of a weak, or superstitious mind. They are afraid of being laughed at and ridiculed by their ungodly companions; and perhaps they have no place to which they can retire to be alone. But is it not the grossest ignorance, weakness, and delusion, to be afraid of the ridicule of a perishing, guilty man, and regardless of the displeasure of the ever-living, and ever-blessed God? Only be firm, and constaut, in your devotions, and you will soon put to shame the ridicule of your companions, or God will manifestly appear on your side. Imitate Daniel's noble openness and frankness, his firm decision, and integrity of devotion, (Dan. iv, 35.) and you may expect to be carried through every difficulty. It is not a mark of a weak and little mind, but of the deepest wisdom, of the highest grandeur, and nobleness of spirit, to hold constant intercourse with the Lord of heaven and earth. The true weakness, the real littleness, is to be afraid of a worm, a creature of a day, mere dust and ashes.*
*The following fact will shew that God's blessing to others may also attend a faithful discharge of our own duty.
A pious man was once led by some common engagement to associate a whole Jay with a minister who had greatly neglected his sacred duties. Their business took them from home, and they had much conversation together on religious subjects. At night they came to the same Inn, and found that they could only have one bed room. The minister was soon undressed and in bed, without saying any prayer. His companion at first hesitated whether he should put out the candle, and then pray, or say his prayers openly. He thought that his duty at that time led him not to be asham
3. There are others wнO DID ONCE PRAY WITH EARNESTNESS AND FERVOUR, BUT THEY HAVE BECOME
REMISS OR CARELESS. Some alarming sermons, some terrors of conscience, some dangerous event, and some convictions of sin, once excited you to seek God; but now, both your fears and your prayers have passed away, or at least you are unsteady and negligent. David describes the case, Ps. lxxviii, 34-37. How precious once were the hours of prayer! How delightful a place was your closet! How tears filled your eyes while you confessed your sinfulness, or thanked God for his mercies! But now, all is cold and dull. Surely your own conscience will most powerfully condemn you, and plead with me when I exhort you to renewed efforts to obtain the spirit of grace and supplication. "Prayer," says Cooke, "is compared to incense; and if the smoke of it ceases to rise up before God, it is a sure sign that the light of divine knowledge and the fire of divine love are both extinguished in the heart." The exhortation belongs to you-O Israel, return unto the Lord, thy God, for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Are the realities of a dying bed and the judgment day, less near, or less important than they once were? Nay, every day is bringing you nearer and nearer to them. Every day is of more importance, and shortens that little span of life, in which we have to escape the misery of hell, and gain the heavenly mansions. Lose not a moment-plead earnestly for the renewed spirit of prayer. Think not that your sin is beyond forgiveness, and therefore now
ed of prayer, and he prayed, extinguished the light, and went to bed. This faithful discharge of duty was not lost on him who had gone prayerless to bed. The conversation which he had beard, and the example which he had seen, left a deep and abiding impression on his mind, and from that time he became a faithful and laborious minister of Christ.
prayer is of no use. Let not Satan so tempt you. Again seek the presence of God, and it will be a proof that you are not yet given up to a reprobate mind. Even in the wicked city of Nineveh, when they cried mightily unto the Lord, they were spared. Now if God heard the Ninevites crying for temporal blessings, doubt not but he will hear you, when you earnestly implore pardon, peace, and salvation. Yet there is a way open to the throne of grace; and so long as it is open, you need not be miserable, you need not be unhelped.
4. Others are ENDEAVORING TO LIVE IN CONSTANT PRAYER. They need no proof of the obligation, no additional argument, to shew them that it is their duty. But perhaps they are often discouraged and cast down by their difficulties in attaining a constant spirit of devotion. If, however, you are desiring and seeking, Augustine justly says, If he seeks, let him not doubt but that the desire of seeking has been received from him whom he seeks." And may I not say, when you really attain a good measure of the spirit of devotion, you enjoy a peace of God which passeth all understanding; it is your privilege-your happiness. You have free communication with the Lord of Lords, and King of Kings -You are permitted to come near to him on all occasions. He grants all your requests, and supplies all your wants. On account of our corrupt nature it requires indeed watchfulness, patience, and perseverance to maintain this spirit of prayer, but you find it to be its own reward. Let us not then be content with small measures of the grace of supplication, let us seek to attain more and more of this gift, and soon, the work of prayer ended, the never-ceasing song of praise will com