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vening at leaff, and at other times when your conve niency will allow, and go not only to it now and then. Confider,
1. God's exprefs command, which ties you to pray always, continually, and without ceafing. This does not mean, that you fhould do nothing but pray, or fpend your whole time in this exercife. No; but denotes frequency, and embracing every opportunity that offers for fo delightful and profitable a duty. It fays you should be always in a praying frame, never having your minds fo much ingroffed with worldly concerns, as to be indifpofed to call upon God in
2. Frequency in this duty is a good fign of a good frame, and an excellent mean to maintain and preferve it. They who are not frequent in this exercise, do thereby fhew that their frame and difpofition is not fpiritual, but carnal, much under the conduct of fenfe, and attachment to fenfible things. Whereas, if a perfon were frequent in this duty, it would be a token of a heart weaned from the world, and much converfant in the things of God.
3. Lastly, It is dangerous to grow flack and remifs in this duty, as mournful experience has teftified in the cafe of many. They who having been for years frequently employed in this heavenly exercife do at laft turn careless, restrain prayer before the Lord, or but now and then bow a knee before him, do thereby declare they have loft the life and relifh of the power of religion, and are in the high road to apoftafy. There are not wanting inftances of fuch having returned with the dog to his vomit, and with the fow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. O. thers have been made fignal monuments of judge ment, and fet up as beacons to backfliders. And fome who have had the root of the matter in them, have had fuch a storm raised in their confciences, as has made them a terror to themselves, and all around them and it has coft them much and fore wrestling
with God ere they recovered the light of his counteFor the Lord's fake then, and your own fouls fake, be frequent in this exercife, and grow not remifs therein, left ye feel the vengeance of God's temple.
Exhort. 3. To parents and mafters of families. I befeech and entreat you by the mercies of God, by the love ye bear to the Lord Jefus, and the regard ye have to the fouls of your children and fervants, not only to pray in fecret yourselves, but by all the means that are competent to you, by command, advice, exhortation, &c. to ftir them up to this duty of fecret prayer. For motives, confider,
1. It was the practice of John the Baptift, yea and of Chrift himself, the great Prophet of the church, Luke xi. 1. Thus this duty comes recommended by the best authority, and the moft excellent approved patterns. Christ taught and urged his difciples to pray, and for that end gave them an excellent directory, fuited to their then ftate; and which ye would do well to make your rule in inftructing your children and fervants.
2. God exprefsly commands it, Deut. vi. 7. Thou fhalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and fhalt talk of them when thou fittest in thine boufe, and when thou walkeft by the way, and when thou lieft down, and when thou rifeft up. Thus they were to be daily employed in this duty, not only to let their children know what they were bound to do, but to prefs them to the performance of it. And this command being of moral obligation, is equally incumbent upon you that are Chriftian parents and mafters of families; and ye have far fuperior advantages for this exercife than the Ifraelites had, a small part of the Bible having been then written, whereas ye have the whole of it among your hands.
3. God commends the practice in Abraham, Gen. xviii. 19. I know him, fays Jehoyah, that he will com mand his children, and his household after him, and they
all keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judge ment. Thus if thou make confcience of this duty, thou wilt tread in the fteps of the father of the faithful, and receive tokens of the divine approbation, by the Lord's bleffing thy family, and profpering thy outward concerns, and be an example to others to excite them to their duty. This will be the ready way to have dutiful and affectionate children, and obedient and careful fervants.
4. Confider the engagements which thou tookeft on thee at the baptifm of thy children, to train them up in the good and holy ways of the Lord; to inform them of their natural depravity, impotency and averfion to what is good, of the method of falvation by the obedience and death of Chrift; and to prefs them to vield themselves to the Lord, by taking hold of his covenant by faith. Thou became then engaged to inftruct them in the principles of our holy religion, to thew them their duty to God and man, and to obferve his ordinances and commandments. And canft thou fulfil thefe thy engagements, unlefs thou be at pains to intruct them, and especially to ftir them up to the practice of fecret prayer?
5. Laftly, Their fouls are committed to thy charge; and if they perish through thy neglect, their blood will be required at thy hand. Ah! my friends, Papifts and others will rise up in judgement against you, who take more pains on their children to breed them in their falfe and corrupt doctrines, and their idolatrous and fuperftitious courfes, than ye to instruct them in the pure doctrines and precepts of religion. If thou now neglect their religious education and inftruction, thy loft children and fervants fhall curse the day that ever they faw thy face, who tookeft no more care of them than of thy beafls. Oh! let this melancholy confideration excite and ftir thee up to thy duty now, left thy children and fervants rife up in judgement against thee, and be a dreadful addition to thy condemnation.
What fhall we do then? may ye fay.
1. As foon as they can fpeak perfectly, give them a few words to fpeak to God upon their knees every morning and evening, and fee that they do io. Let these words confift of a hort confeffion of fin, an acknowledgement of God's goodness in prefervation, and an application for pardon through the blood of Jefus.
2. When they advance farther in years, give them the help of a form, compofed chicly in fcripturewords, and particularly that which Chrift taught his difciples. And be fure to vary and enlarge any form you give them, from time to time; and in a little time by reading the Bible, and duly confidering their own cafe and wants, they will be able to pray without a fet form : for it is often observed, that where young ones make confcience of practising the helps that are given them, and take pleasure in the duty, the Holy Spirit ftrikes in with his affiftance, and lays fuitable matter of prayer before them; fo that even fome very young perfons have been found to pray with great fluency and fervour to the admiration of thofe who happened to over-hear them.
3. Pray frequently with your children; which will be an excellent means, to inftruct them both as to the matter and manner of the duty, and have a powerful influence upon them to induce them to pray for themfelves. And indeed I muft fay, if parents made more confcience of this practice, in praying with their children, the young ones would not difcover fuch averfion to the duty as many do; nor would there be fuch a numerous fry of young prayerlefs finners among us, who, though they have not learned to pray, yet are great proficients in fpeaking vain and idle words, and in curfing and fwearing.
4. Furnish them daily with proper materials of prayer, which ye can extract from the Lord's word, your own obfervation of the itate and temper of your fouls, the difpofition and inclination of your children,
the fins and vanities they are moft addicted to, your knowledge of their peculiar wants and defires, and what appears to be fuitable to their circumftances and fituation.
5. Lastly, Carefully obferve, whether they perform this duty or not; that you may encourage them when they do well, and check and rebuke them when they neglect it. Shew them that you are influenced by a regard to the command and authority of God, and are actuated with a hearty zeal and concern for the falvation of their fouls, in all you do in this matter, whether refpecting the encouragements and advices you give them, or the rebukes and chaftifements you adminifter to them, in cafe of non-compliance, neglect, or carelefs performance of the duty enjoined. This will have no finall influence upon them to comply with your inftructions and directions, and by degrees conquer their averfion to the exercife; and you may come, through the divine blefling, to fee the happy fruit of your labours and endeavours.
Thus I have endeavoured, as briefly as I could, to lay before you the nature, importance, and necessity of this excellent duty of fecret prayer, and have removed the moft material objections that can be made against it. If any of you then fhall continue in the
abitual neglect of this exercife, and fo perish, your blood will be on your own head, for I have delivercd my own foul. But I hope better things of you, and things that accompany falvation, though I thus fpeak. And I hope there will no more henceforth te a prayerless perfon among us: which God, of his infinite mercy, grant.