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and delightful anticipations. The First Epistle of John, for instance, was given for this express purpose, “that ye may know that ye have eternal life;" and would it not assist you in the awful inquiry, to have these marks collected together and written before you? But even if you have satisfactorily decided this momentous question as to your personal interest in the blessings which in the gospel Jesus offers to sinners, should not you constantly examine your frame and walk before God ?-Have I walked in the fear of the Lord all the day long ? Have I neglected any express duty, or committed any particular sin, to-day?-as I am nearer eternity than yesterday, am I nearer to God and heaven?

If convinced of the propriety and obligation of these several duties of the closet, the question is asked, How may we best perform them, so as to give each its due place, and to derive from them all the utmost advantage ? some directions as to their suitable discharge may be acceptable.

In speaking of the place for secret devotion, our Saviour mentions “your closet.” The original word employed is one of considerable latitude of meaning, and is used in reference to a chamber, wardrobe, warehouse, or any other separate place ; and may have been designedly adopted to intimate that none should omit secret prayer under the pretence that they had not a proper place into which to retire, although it might not be so convenient as they might wish. The place of our withdrawal should be as secret as possible. It was not without design that Christ said, “ when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father, who seeth in secret.” The more remote from all on earth, the nearer may

be your approach to heaven. And shall we omit to provide such a retreat for those committed to our

- for servants, and children as they grow up to maturity? The time of retirement should be duly regulated. What is left to any time, is likely to be done at no time. Must not all unite to consecrate their first hours in the morning ? Hearken to David's determination : “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O God; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and look up.” Ought we not to serve the first and best of beings with our first and best moments ? By retiring then for prayer, we at once secure the hour of which we might afterwards be deprived, and prepare our minds for all that awaits us, by communion with Him “whose morning smiles bless all the day.” Here Christ's bright example goes before us; for he,

rising up in the morning a great while before day, departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” The same example teaches us to retire in the evening. And does not each day



furnish us with an errand to the throne of grace, to give thanks for the mercies we asked in the morning, and to seek pardon for the sins which, alas ! stain every day? Strain every to retire to the closet before drowsiness render you unfit for devotion: “For if ye offer to me the lame or the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil, saith the Lord of hosts ?”

The length of time to be spent in retirement must greatly depend on each one's circumstances. He that knows its worth will not voluntarily abridge its length; and he that is much with God is likely to get much from God.

The method in which we should conduct our secret worship must in a great degree depend upon individual experience, taste, and advantages. On entering the closet, our earnest desires should be raised to God for that aid of the Holy Spirit without which we can do nothing profitably. The Scriptures should not be read promiscuously, without order or design. It is advantageous to read regularly through each book, perusing the Old Testament in one part of the day, and the New Testament in the other. By this course we come at once to the subject, and are more likely to discover the connexion, scope, and meaning of each passage. What we thus read will suggest hints for self-examination, which in their turn will furnish subjects for prayer. Neither should our prayers be without order or design. The pattern of prayer which our Lord has given teaches us to ask for proper things in their proper places. The orderly returns of days and seasons invite us to regularity. Saturday night, or Sabbath morning, reminds us to pray for our ministers and the church of God; Monday morning, for grace to honour God, and to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in the various duties of civil life upon which we then enter. One day may be thus appointed for one matter of prayer, and another for a different subject; and in this way we may fully enter into all, without suffering one to defeat the claims of another. If time yet remain, we may read the works of some pious author. He who has not tried can scarcely conceive how many such volumes may be read in a year, by devoting to the duty only a quarter of an hour every day.

The spirit of secret devotion is of the utmost importance. Without watchfulness, time may be spent in the closet as unprofitably as any where else. Secret devotion is the mainspring of a religious profession. If you allow formality and a worldly spirit to intrude and reign there—if you content yourself with stationing your body there for an hour, though your thoughts rove to the ends of the earth, the mainspring is


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broken. Then what shall give vigour, motion, and direction to the whole machine ? Keep thy foot” when thou goest to be where thou wouldest meet God. Hearken to the voice which there says, “ Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” Invite the presence of Christ, your great High-Priest, who alone can make your person or offerings acceptable. Ask of Him the supply of the Holy Spirit, that this living fire, coming down, may kindle your sacrifice, and your spirit ascend with your offering to the skies. Let all the outward service go for nothing, till

you to God, even to his seat," and converse with Him “ as a man with his friend." Like Jacob, resolve to “wrestle all night till the day break,” saying, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” At least, if disappointed of this, return humbled and mourning. Let the words of the Psalmist describe your state of mind : “My soul followeth hard after thee.”

The motives which enforce attention to the religion of the closet are numerous and weighty.

1. Without it there can be no sincerity. And must not our own judgment and conscience approve this statement ? Can we sincerely love God, and live without secret worship? What would be thought of a child who in company should make great professions of affection for his parent, and manifest very much deference, but in private, where attachment is most unequivocally displayed, should behave with cruel coldness and insulting neglect ? What person of discernment and spirit would not turn away disgusted at such hypocrisy? Judge, then, what must the Father of our spirits think of our public services and profession of his fear, if we neglect to worship Him in the secret closet, where his eye alone can behold us.

2. The religion of the closet yields a rich reward. The time that is spent in secret is not thrown away, for “thy Father who seeth in secret himself shall reward thee.” What though “the reward be of grace, and not of debt,” – is it the less liberal for that? God loves to testify peculiar delight in the hidden worship of the closet, as a truly generous man retires from public view to bestow his best favours in secret. The

very circumstance of being alone with God ought to be replete with honour and delight; as men would feel it a high favour to be closeted with a king. What pleasure can affect the heart with more lively and transporting touches, than the sense of being immediately under the eye of infinite wisdom, holiness, and goodness—under the eye of Him who “waiteth to be gracious," into whose bosom we can pour out our soul with more unreservedness than to any creature, at whose feet.


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we can lay the burden which no earthly friend can lift from our shoulder ? Our Redeemer, when on earth, could say, “I am left alone; and yet I am not alone, for the Father is with

In the secret chamber of communion with God, his followers

may find the same enjoyment, and use the same language. They are never less alone than when alone.”

3. The religion of the closet is the means of public excellence. “ Thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” It preserves from the shame to which those who neglect the duty will be exposed. He that dares neglect God in secret because men cannot see this sin, may provoke God to punish him openly, and make men see his shame. But “he that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." By communion with God, he shall find those principles strengthened which lie at the foundation of all that is honourable and useful in the intercourse he sustains with his fellow-creatures. The man whose secret religion proves his single eye to the approbation of God, will often be surprised at the honours which God confers on him before men. Like Moses retiring from the mount of communion with God—there will be an air of heaven about him, which will arrest the attention and command the veneration of those around him. His Father, who seeth in secret, will reward him openly. But still more fully shall this promise be fulfilled in that day when the secrets of all hearts shall be opened, and then it will be seen how close is the connexion between the spiritual life, as maintained in the retirement of the closet, and that eternal life into which the servants of God shall be welcomed; when “many rise to everlasting shame and confusion of face,” whose religion in the present state was altogether external, then shall those whose delight it was to commune with God in secret, awake to enter upon the

pure joys of eternal life, and be before assembled worlds put in possession of its highest felicities.

4. Secret worship is an imitation of the best examples. To pray in public only, is to be as the Pharisees, hypocrites; but to be alone with God, is to resemble the sincere, the holy, the excellent of the earth, and to copy the habit of our Lord and Saviour. David seems to have dwelt and delighted much in the closet. Many of his Psalms are the expression of his private devotion, the patterns and helps of our own. Elijah retired into his chamber and shut his door, when he would pour out his soul unto God. Daniel's prophetic visions were granted him at the time of his private humiliation and prayer. Peter, Paul, Cornelius, and all the saints, have walked in the same path from the earliest times to the present day. Go, reader, and do thou likewise ; go and imitate those who have proved the place of secret prayer to be the antechamber to the palace of eternal praise.

It is difficult to speak in terms of sufficient reprobation and alarm of the character and circumstances of those who, under a profession of religion, spend their days in the constant neglect of secret prayer. Your fellow-creatures dare not affix on particular persons the odious brand which the Redeemer fastened on such neglecters of duty; but Christ knows, your own conscience knows, and at the day of judgment we all shall know. What then will be your confusion, to be unmasked before an assembled world—to hear the Judge say, “Depart from me, thou hypocrite, thou hast only worshipped me before men to be seen of them, and therefore thou hast received thy reward ! Thou hast so far served me as would promote thy credit among men, and hast had thy heaven in thy reputation. The silent unostentatious religion of the closet, which would procure thee no applause, had for thee no charms; then what wouldst thou do in a heaven which is constituted by my presence and love, where thou wouldst no longer be the object of approbation and applause, but God shall be all in all ?' Depart from me, and take thy portion with hypocrites and unbelievers." Consider, we beseech you,-how could you bear such a reception at the great day?

“ The Lord shall come,” the Scriptures assure us, “who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will manifest the counsels of the heart." What then shall be our condition? What reason for hope do our present habits afford us that we shall be among those who will be rewarded openly?-not indeed because they have deserved his kindly notice, but because He has in his rich grace connected the promise with the practice, and thus marked it with a special encouragement. religion secret as well as public? Is it cherished when no eye but God's is upon us ?

Is such a course felt to be necessary and delightful? Do we “enter into the closet, and shut the door, and pray unto our Father which seeth in secret ?”

Is our





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