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Shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgement. 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 baptism 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 yield 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 fhew them their duty to God and man, and to obferve his ordinances and commandments. And canft thou fulfil these thy engagements, unless thou be at pains to intruct them, and efpecially to ftir them up to the practice of fecret prayer?
5. Lastly, 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 rife up in judgement against you, who take more pains on their children to breed them up 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 curfe the day that ever they faw thy face, who tookeft no more care of them than of thy beafts. Oh! let this melancholy confideration excite and stir thee up to thy duty now, left thy children and fervants rife up in judge. ment against thee, and be a dreadful addition to thy condemnation.
What shall 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 thefe 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 obferved, 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 must say, if parents made more confcience of this practice, in praying with their children, the young ones would not discover 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 curling 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 ftate and temper of your fouls, the difpofition and inclination of your children,
the fins and vanities they are most 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 careless 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 bleffing, 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 neceflity of this excellent duty of fecret prayer, and have removed the most 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 delivered 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 prayerlefs perfon among us: which God, of his infinite mercy, grant.
MATTHEW Vi. 9.
After this manner therefore pray ye, Our Father, &c.
UR Lord Jefus Chrift, in, his fermon on the
O mount, whereof this chapter is a part, retrieves
religion from the falfe doctrines, and the corrupt and hypocritical practices, which the fcribes and Pharifees brought into it. They were not wanting in the matter of external duties, but they were far from the right manner of performing them. Wherefore in the first four verfes he teaches them the right manner of doing alms. In the next place he teaches them the right manner of praying. He taxes two faults in the manner of praying. (1.) Hypocritical oftentation, ver. 5. and points them to the right manner in this point. (2.) Idle multiplying of words, ver. 7. 8. In the text, for helping of this fault and others about prayer, the Lord, being to give us a prayer to serve for a pattern, and to direct us in praying, bids us pray after this manner, i. e. in the manner following in the form of prayer here fet down; not binding us to the very words, but to the manner of it, that we muft pray after this manner and to this purpose.
The right manner of performing the duty of prayer is what God requires, and we fhould be concerned for. The Lord knows his people's weaknefs, and how ready they are to go wrong in this, and how much they need direction, and therefore gives this form and pattern of prayer, for their direction in that weighty duty: After this manner addrefs yourselves to God in prayer. He had not left them without direction altogether before they had the word formerly written, but this is added as a fpecial rule of direction.
The text offers this doctrine.
DocT. " Though the whole word of God is of ufe "to direct us in prayer, yet the fpecial rule of direc
"tion is that form of prayer, which Christ taught his difciples, commonly called the Lord's prayer:
Here I fall fhew,
1. That we need direction in prayer.
II. What rule God hath given for our direction therein.
III. Whether thefe rules are fufficient to enable us to pray acceptably.
IV. Deduce fome inferences.
I. I am to fhew that we need direction in prayer. This is evident from,
1. God's greatnefs. It is to him who dwells in heaven that we must addrefs ourfelves in prayer: therefore be not rafh with thy mouth, fays Solomon, nor let thine heart be hafty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few, Eccl. v. 2. Rafh and fearless approaches fpeak unbecoming thoughts of God, and low thoughts, of the throne in heaven which one prefents himself before. And to fuch may be faid, Thefe things haft thou done, and I kept filence; thou thoughteft that I was altogether fuch a one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and fet them in order before thine eyes, Pfal. 1. 21. Who of us approaching the prefence of our prince to prefent our petition before him, would not feek direction as to the right and acceptable manner of doing it? How much more fhould we, who have petitions to prefent to him who is God. of gods, and King of kings, afk direction as to the right manner of preienting our petitions?
2. Our own guiltinefs, Luke xviii. 13. Whoever would be rafh or carelefs in approaching his prince's prefence, one would think that a rebel, a traitor, and à criminal would fee well to the manner of his addrefs, and would be very cautious. This is our cafe, and therefore that fhould be our way. Therefore the prodigal thinks before-hand what he will fay to his of tended father, Luke xv. 18. 19.