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MATTHEW Vi. 9.
After this manner therefore pray ye, Our Father, &c. UR Lord Jefus Chrift, in, his fermon on the 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 verses 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 should be concerned for. The Lord knows his people's weakness, 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 fspecial rule of direc
business in the world, and will it not fuffer you to manage your foul's bufincfs, which is of infinitely greater importance? It would feem, that the nearer we draw to the grave, the more active we should be in preparing for it. It were good, that old people would mind heaven more, and the world lefs, as they have fo fhort a time to ftay here. The concerns of the other world should mainly ingrofs their care and attention, and they fhould then redouble their diligence in improving their span of time, and doing that which perhaps they too much neglected in the days of health and vigour. The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteoufnefs, Prov. xvi. 31. But the fin ner being an hundred years old fhall be accurfed, If. lxv. 20. Let this found an alarm to all the old finners among you, that ye may yet apply to the merciful Redeemer, who fets even fome to work in the vineyard at the eleventh hour. It is fad to be tottering under the miferies and infirmities of old age, and yet to have no profpect of a happy landing. Fly then to Chrift, thou old decrepit finner, while his call reaches thee, left thou spee dily perifh without remedy.
Obj. 9. I am too young to mind fecret prayer. Anf. You are too old never to have entered on God's fervice. Remember that Jofiah when he was but eight years old, began to feek the Lord God of his father David. Obadiah, Ahab's steward, feared the Lord greatly from his youth. John Baptift was fanctified from the womb, and fo was the prophet Jeremiah. Timothy knew the holy fcriptures from a child. You' can never begin to be religious too foon. None ever repented that they fought the Lord; but all have repented that they did not begin to feek him fooner. You are as liable to death as the oldeft perfon here, have a foul as precious as theirs, and as much need to mind your best and eternal interefts as they. Up then and be doing, without putting off a moment longer.
Obj. ult. I cannot pray. Anf. The truth is, thou
wilt not pray, Pfal. x. 4. If thou hadft a will to the duty, thou wouldft foon learn. But if thou wouldst learn to pray, go to God, that he may teach thee, as Chrift taught the difciples; and confider the abfolute need thou haft of divine inftruction in this matter. Use the one talent, and God will increase it. Wherefore fet about this weighty duty, and neglect it not. Think seriously with yourselves, whether those who are now in hell, and when they lived neglected fecret prayer like you, would do fo ftill if they were in the world again. I scarce think they would. Pray now therefore, left ye repent your neglect, when it will be too late, and ye are tormented in the lake of fire and brimftone. Again, think with yourselves how you will get this criminal neglect digested on a deathbed, when ye are ready to leap into eternity, without having once prayed for God's mercy through Chrift to your fouls; and how you will get it digefted before the awful tribunal of God, when he will drive you from his bleffed prefence for ever. Think with yourfelves how precious time is, and what a fad business it is to spend it in pursuing the world and lying vanities, and neglecting communion with God, wherein lies the life of the foul. What! will ye delay it yet a while? O do it not; for delays are dangerous. Will ye be fo foolish as to venture all to two or three words on a fick bed or death-bed? Perhaps you will not get one, but may be hurried away in a moment. Confider that awful paffage, Prov. i. 24.-28. Becaufe I have called, and ye refufed, I have ftretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have fet at nought all my counfel, and would none of my reproof: I alfo will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as defolation, and your deftruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then fhall they call upon me, but I will not anfwer; they shall feek me early, but they fhall not find me.
Exhort. 2. Be frequent in this duty, morning and e
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 prayer.
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, reftrain prayer before the Lord, or but now and then bow a knee before him, do thereby declare they have loft the life and relish 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 ftorm raifed in their confciences, as has made them a terror to themfelves, and all around them and it has coft them much and fore wrestling
with God ere they recovered the light of his countenance. For the Lord's fake then, and your own fouls fake, be frequent in this exercise, 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, & 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 most excellent approved patterns. Chrift 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 instructing 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 house, 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 press 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 exercise than the Ifraelites had, a fmall 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 command his children, and his household after him, and they