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whom no one intercedes, while he intercedes for all, is the true and only Mediator.”
I have stated thus fully and plainly, from the Holy Scriptures, the doctrine of the intercession of Jesus Christ, because it is not only a most delightful truth to those who feel the burden of their sins, but is highly profitable to us when duly improved. To this end it should be considered before, at the time of, and after your prayers.
BEFORE PRAYER.—Make it the only ground of your encouragement to draw near to God. Do not, on the one hand, trust in any preparation which you may have made, or in any dispositions which you may have acquired ; and on the other hand, whatever your former transgressions, (Ps. xxv, 7.) or aggravated wickedness, may have been; (Ps. xxv, 9. lxxix, 8, 11.) or whatever is the conviction of your present sinfulness, (Jer. xiv, 7,) or your indisposition to approach God, still endeavour to come with freedom, knowing that you have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins." 1 John, ii, 1, 2.
AT THE TIME OF PRAYER. -Let the intercession of Christ encourage you. Expect, through his mediation, the spirit of grace and supplication, Zech. xii, 10. By the exercise of faith, however weak, still expect to receive, out of his fulness, grace, suited to your necessity. However great the matter for which you ask, however many things in yourself may tend to discourage or discomfort you; you have a sufficient ground to hope for the acceptance of your prayers, through the name and mediation of Jesus Christ. His gracious intercession remains firm and unchangeable. Let faith in Christ's merits quiet and compose your troubled mind, and dispose and strengthen you to leave every petition with comfort and confidence in his hands.
AFTER PRAYER-However conscience may accuse you of many wanderings, imperfections, and distractions, or abuses of former answers to prayer, still plead for acceptance only on this ground, Christ is your meditor. Your hope of a favorable reception of any prayer is, and is only, in the name and work of Jesus Christ, and not in your own prayers. A practical writer observes, « If we have cast our anchor on Christ, and rest upon
his merits and intercession, in order to the receiv. ing of an answer to our prayer, we shall have a sufficient Lold to keep us sure and steadfast, in the midst of the tossing waves of this world. By this we may answer all -Christ is faithful, and a tender sympathising High Priest, and so will not, and cannot forget or neglect our
“He," says Ambrose, “is our mouth, with which we address the Father; our eye, by which we behold him ; our hand by which we present ourselves to him : without whose mediation, neither we, nor any of all the saints, have the least intercourse with God.”
* Browne on Prayer :-an author to whom the writer has been often indebted.
ON PRIVATE PRAYER.
IT is observed by Dr. Owen, that “if a man of a carnal mind be brought into a large company, he will have much to do; if into a company of Christians, he will feel little interest; if into a still smaller, engaged in religious exercises, he will feel still less; but if taken into a closet, and forced to meditate on God and eternity, this will be insupportable to him.” Man is evidently by nature averse to all communion with God. There is an enmity to be removed. Rom. viii, 7. And hence arises the necessity of a change of mind : of obtaining “a spiritual mind," without which, spiritual truths and exercises can neither engage nor influence the heart. The man who possesses a spiritual mind, does, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, often find that closet retirement, which Dr. Owen states to be so insupportable to the carnal mind, a real privilege.
The duty of prayer generally has already been proved ; and that of closet devotion is plain from our Lord's direction. Matt. vi, 6. Let us endeavour, however, always to consider it as an advantage afforded to us, rather than as a work required of us.
Baxter well expresses this :*_"What delightful converse may a Christian have with God alone! He is always present, always at leisure to be spoke with, always easy of access! He has no interest that will clash with our happiness. He never mistakes our meaning, nor our character. In proportion, indeed, as any thing of God appears in men, their converse is excellent and delightful. But there is so much of vanity and sin in all of us, as exceedingly darkens our light, and damps the pleasure, and blasts the profit of our mutual converse. How often have I been delighted in God, when I have found most deceit and darkness in the world! How often has he comforted me, when it was not in man to do it!"
* See his excellent little Tract, “ Converse with God in Solie tude."
In order to have a fuller view of secret prayer, we will consider it under different sections, as it is distinguished from other kinds of worship; as it respects the object of worship; the subjects to be mentioned; the use of forms; the various parts, the answer, the frequency, and the reward of prayer. After dwelling on these particulars in this chapter, we may afterwards be the more brief in remarks on other kinds of
Sect. I.-On Secret Prayer, as distinguished froin
other kinds of worship.
There are SOME THINGS IN WHICH SECRET PRAYER HAS AN ADVANTAGE OVER SOCIAL AND PUBLIC WORSHIP.-By praying in secret we give God the glory of his being every where present, and seeing and knowing all things. We acknowledge not only his general providence, as taking care of communities; but his particular providence, as watching over us individually. We express our faith in his presence, his power, and his love.
The Christian can also in secret give free vent to every desire; vary his requests according to the present state of his mind; or the present necessities of the day,
or hour, in which he is living; he can dwell on his personal wants; and, in short, give full scope to his feelings, and pour out his whole soul before God.
Prayer in secret is also considered by our Lord as forming a line of distinction between the Christian and the mere professor. “When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.” Matt. vi, 5. When we are constant in secret prayer, not as an act of self-righteousness, but from a feeling of necessity, and of its being both our duty and privilege, we may hope well of our sincerity and of our state before God.
Other advantages of secret prayer will be noticed afterwards. But it must not be concealed, that there are PECULIAR DIFFICULTIES IN CONSTANT AND FERVENT SE
We have many adversaries opposing us. We are by nature both reluctant to the duty, and utterly helpless and insufficient in ourselves. We can do nothing by our own strength; though we may do all things by Christ strengthening us. And besides the oppositions of a corrupt nature within, the temptations of the world without, continually draw and allure us from the practice of this duty. Our great enemy, Satan, also uses every temptation to keep us from secret prayer. Hence, though it is a most evident and needful, as well as profitable duty, yet it is one, which it is not
with corstancy and effect to fulfil. We do not find it so difficult to read the Bible, go to Church, or hear sermons, as we do to persevere in constant, fervent and believing private prayer. “ It is easier,” says one, “ to hear a whole hour, than to pray for a quarter of an hour.” another, we have overcome the difficulties at one time, it may be the next day we shall meet with new conflicts,