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the midst of such a scene, to converse with each other; but those who go much into the bustle of company, find it still more difficult to hold converse with God. It is only when compelled to be there in the way of duty, and not otherwise, that they may expect that, as his special grace preserved Daniel in the spirit of prayer even in Babylon, so it will preserve them. Being immoderately engaged in worldly business is another hinderance, filling a man with the cares of this life. He whose whole time is incessantly occupied in worldly affairs, finds his heart entirely distracted, and utterly unfitted for holy and retired duties. The Apostle says, " Be careful for nothing;" and then adds, "but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." O believe me, it is far better to have a small income, with a quiet conscience, and a devout heart, than the largest income without God's blessing.
3. RESIST THE TEMPTATIONS OF SATAN. There is a powerful spiritual adversary of man," who goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." Here is your great enemy. Other things are but his engines.His object in other things is to keep you from or hinder you in prayer. “Be not ignorant of his devices." He will suggest that prayer is a dull and gloomy service, or useless and vain. If these do not succeed, he will suggest the putting off the duty to another opportu nity, on account of some other employment: some favourite book to be read, some letter perhaps to be written, or some other business which he will propose to your mind, important perhaps in itself, but not good for this time. Consider every thing which would tempt you to neglect prayer, in its appointed season, whether it be any of those objections which have been answered already, (see p. 25, &c.) or the fear of man's
ridicule, or love of ease, or any other cause, as a mere temptation, and resist the devil, and he will flee from you. This evil spirit will be cast out by prayer and fasting. Matt. xvii, 21. Does he present to you various difficulties? Remember, that nothing excellent is obtained without effort and difficulty. Remember, men pursue human schemes of great difficulty, amidst every opposition; they go through the most arduous enterprizes, without any certainty of success, or any promise of Divine help. In seeking communion with God, you are sure to succeed, and have his faithful promise that he will help you. Will you not be condemned by the conduct of men in general, respecting the things of this world, if difficulties should deter you from endeavouring to obtain a good which, as a Christian, you must acknowledge to be the greatest and most profitable that can be gained in the present life? Difficulties give way to real efforts. Prayer is in its nature a kind of wrestling and striving for a victory, which pre-supposes an opposition." This opposition of Satan will be vanquished by a steady resistance in the strength of your Saviour.
4. BEWARE OF A SELF-RIGHTEOUS SPIRIT, or any thing like fancying because you have said your prayers, and especially, if you have prayed with more than ordinary freedom and affection, that therefore you deserve any thing from God, or are holy and righteous in his sight. Such a view of yourself, provokes God to withdraw his Spirit, and leaves you to your own natural barrenness and dryness. Nay, if you trust in your prayers, and put them in the place of your Saviour, they will as much. ruin your immortal soul as the grossest sins. Our Lord said to the self-righteous Pharisees, The publicans and
the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. Nothing is more natural to us, than, when we have been greatly assisted, and our heart softened, and our mind enlarged in prayer, to flatter ourselves, and trust in our performance. But as in the flood, neither the tallest tree, nor the highest mountain saved any of the ungodly world who were shut out of the ark, the only refuge; so Jesus Christ alone can save us. The directions of the pious Anselm to the sick man, are in point here. See, then," he says to him, "while life remains in thee, that thou repose thy confidence only in the death of Christ, trust in nothing else; commit thyself wholly to his death,-cover thyself with this alone. And if the Lord will judge thee, say, Lord, I cast the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, between myself and thy judgment, otherwise I will not engage in judgment with thee." And if he shall say unto thee, Thou art a sinner! say, I place the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, between me and my sin.' And if he shall say, Thou hast deserved damnation!' say, 'Lord, I cast the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and my evil deserts, and I offer his merits for that merit which I ought to have had, and have not." One good man said, "I am more afraid of my duties, than of my sins, for my duties make me often proud, but my sins make me always humble.” Though an expression of this kind may be somewhat unguarded, it may shew us, in a striking way, a danger which many Christians hardly even suspect. O rest not, then, in any duties; put no confidence at all in them as grounds of salvation; "Count all things but loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ," and rest wholly on him. Let prayer be the way by which you gain an interest in him and his salvation, and not be a means of keeping you from a sole trust in him.
5. GUARD AGAINST IMPROPER MOTIVES AND ENDS IN YOUR PRAYERS. Sinful motives are apt perpetually to mingle with and defile all we do. Let not the procuring an esteem for sanctity, conscientiousness, and spirituality, for great parts or gifts, for readiness and copiousness of invention, memory, and judgment, be your motives to pray. One prayer is worth ten thousand fine thoughts. Let not your design be to shew that you can pray much, and are well furnished with matter; nor yet to manifest that you are good Church-goers, never miss prayers, and can pray with an acceptable or pleasing delivery or voice. Let not the vain-glory of praying long, and frequently in every place, "as the hypocrites standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men," (Matt. vi, 5.) whom our Lord reproved, let not this be the end for which you pray. Rather pray desiring thereby to be disposed and enabled to serve God and the world, to live profitably and comfortably, and at last to obtain an immortal and everlasting reward. And remember, that the glory of God should be the ultimate end at which you aim in all your prayers. Our design in asking any thing from God should be to render it again to him: and while we propose this to ourselves, we are the more likely to obtain our requests. It has been said, " Wicked and unthankful men are but like vapours and exhalations drawn up out of the earth, which do but eclipse the sun that raises them so when God raises up wicked men by his bounty and goodness, they only serve to stain and eclipse his glory in the world. Whereas godly men are like rivers, which, as they receive all their streams from the sea, so they return all again into the sea: so whatever truly devout persons receive from God, they improve all for, and return all again unto him." And therefore they may
well hope to speed, who beg mercies at the hand of God, that they may return all again to his glory.
6. TAKE HEED OF SPIRITUAL PRIDE. Let us remember, God hath respect to the lowly, but the proud he knoweth afar off. Ps. cxxxviii, 6. One reason why we do not receive more help from God, may be this-we could not have it without danger to our souls. It is justly observed, "When the heart is enlarged in prayer, and good expressions come with great fluency from the lips, how apt is he that prays to have high conceits of himself and of his performances! His mind is prone to wander, and think what others think of him, and is sinfully pleased in the imagination, that they are admiring him. Such thoughts as these-How well do I pray! How broken for sin do I appear! How fervent in spirit do I seem! What credit and applause shall I get by this performance! What an excellent saint shall I be accounted! Such thoughts are apt to hover about an enlarged heart; but if they are not kept out with an utter detestation of them, the heart will be distracted with pride, how heavenly soever are the expressions of the mouth."* We want more Christian simplicity and humility; a more entire sense of our own nothingness, of our emptiness of all good; and then we should neither fancy ourselves to be any thing, nor fancy that we are more devout than others. "If a man thinketh himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself." A right knowledge of the true character of your best prayers will rather lead you to the deepest humility, and will incline you to look more simply for the power of the Spirit, and to the intercession of Christ.
7. NEGLECT NOT THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. If you disregard the word of God, when he speaks, you cannot
* Vincent on Distractions.