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serve. As in the one case the prophet Daniel, for our ensample, opened his windows and set wide his doors, and in sight of the idolators of Babylon, three times a day addressed the God of Israel-so in the other case, we are commanded to go into our closets, and shut the doors about us, and pray to our Father which is in secret. However there may be individual cases of difficulty and danger, and there are many, in the open professions of piety now, we are persuaded that the latter precept is that we need the most we have more inducement to an ostentatious display of piety, than to a cowardly concealment of it. Let us dwell then, with deeply fixed attention, on these our Saviour's words, and carefully look into their meaning in application to ourselves.
The Pharisees professed a great respect for religion; even a more strict and conscientious compliance with its precepts than was evinced by other men-but it was for such religion, and for so much of religion only, as was in reputation among their people: could any law of Moses have been pointed out to them that among the Jews was held in disrepute, they had surely rejected and refused it, rather than forfeit the good opinion of their countrymen.
Well therefore might the God of Israel pronounce them hypocrites, in that they professed to serve him, when in fact they did but serve their own opinions and their own reputation, and would have refused him any service that did not compete with these. And then, beside the limit put to their false service, they were hypocrites even in that they rendered—for the object of their prayers was that men should know they prayed. Doubtless the secret prayer, the lonely meditation, if any such there were, was abridged and hurried to afford more time for these publick exbibitions of their piety-doubtless, the longer became their
prayers in the corners of the streets, the shorter became they in their closets; and the more anxious they grew that their devotions should be observed of men, the less careful were they that they should be acceptable in heaven. God will have no such service; he will accept of no such prayers. Imperfect services, indeed, and most polluted prayers, he does content him to receive, or he had never any at our hands—but he must have the object single and the purpose honest: he will never hear a prayer that is offered for any one's hearing but his own, or smile on an expression of devotion that is intended to win any smile but his. Whether the prayer be offered in the secrecy of our closets, or in the midst of an assembled crowd, it is the same to him, provided he see himself the only end and object of that prayer. It is not therefore that he rejects the publick service of his people, but that he disdains the mixed or the dissembled motive. He will have no worship at our hands beneath the world's smile, that we would not as freely render him beneath its frowns. He does not forbid us to pray in publick, or to acknowledge him before men-we have positive.command to do so but the motive of our publick prayers : must be the same as of our private ones-a simple desire to be heard of him we pray to.
“They have their reward”--the reward of hypocrisy, as just as it is fearful. It is no longer the fond requital of a grateful world to a humane and generous spirit—the richest of earthly wages, for the best of earthly services; it is no longer the affection of men rewarding the benevolence of men, as in the last division of the text.
The words are the same, but the sentence is now most awful. They have their reward—but what could it have been, for it should seem they merited none- bitter even in the gathering should be the fruit of an hypocrisy that deserved nothing of God or of man? Their reward on earth has been to gain credit for a sanctity they had not, and be admired for a devotion they felt not-to know withal that they were not what they were esteemed-to pass through a little space for something they know they are not, and gather a momentary applause that they know
they deserve not in stupid insensibility to forget, or in agony to remember, that some one beholds them who is not deceived. And at the last who would earn the shame of such a payment-to stand before the assembled world, unclothed, detected, exposed—the wonder of those who had admired, the shame of those who had loved them, the sorrow of the hosts of heaven, the proudest triumph of hell-beings who desired to seem what they never desired to be—who thought the counterfeit worth seeking while they despised the realityput themselves to the pain and trouble of disguise, to win the brief approbation of their fellow men; but thought not the approbation of the all-seeing God worthy of their regard. Beings most miserable, who have passed sentence on themselves or ever they are judged in heaven for they have shown that they knew the character they ought to wear, and consented to it as good, since they assumed it for their credit's sake.
The assumption of a religious character at the present day, as outwardly distinguished from that of the world at large, is every where extensively increasing—its outward features are as marked and as observable as the prayers of the Pharisees. We have our prayer-meetiugs, our expositions, our religious parties, our schools, and our associationsman interest in which is considered by the friends and the enemies of godliness, as a manifestation of a religious disposition, and in which those who desire so to be considered, eagerly enlist themselves. We have no right that I perceive, except it be on the ground of some very glaring inconsistency, to withold from any such the reward that heaven has assigned them. I cannot think, as some have done, that we are to draw baek from any such, or say to them, Stand aside, for ye are hypocrites-unless it be in a case where intimate knowledge and relative situation give us a right to be their counsellors. By assuming the habits and practices of the children of God, they make an open profession of godliness, and avow a desire to be considered religious among men, and to take their portion with the people of God. If we knew them false, which, unless we know their hearts, we cannot, we could not make them true. It rather seems that God has accorded them eir miserable choice, and that man is required to yield to them their pitiful reward—the transient recompence of successful hypocrisy. But how fearful, how tremendous to every one of us individually, to every one whom the world in derision or in admiration accounts religious, is this judicial grant from the God who sees the secrets of our hearts, and cannot be deceived. How fearful to think that the kindness with which we are welcomed into the society of the pious, the pleasure that is expressed at seeing us become more serious, the attention that is given to our words, the approbation that waits upon our actions, the name of piety that is every where attached to our character, may be no more than the reward which Heaven in indignant justice has assigned to the hypocrite. It is to the young more particularly we would represent this possibility, because they are most in danger of being themselves deceived in the deception they are practising -taking the opinions and the encouragement of those about them, as a proof of their own sincerity: as no man returns their coin, and tells them it is counterfeit, they, too, may believe it to be gold, till late it is weighed and found wanting. Nothing can avert from us a danger so imminent but an honest, close examination of our own hearts, humbly and before God-of our principles, apart from the external circumstances that influence them - of our conduct, apart from the temporal results we expect from it. Young people find the hubbub of action more congenial than the sedative of reflection, the excitation of religious society, than the probation of the closet: what they find agreeable, they fancy to be good-as the patient, languid from fever, fancies the stimulating draught revives him. With honest eagerness, and really desiring their own good, they hasten to seek the notice, and busy themselves in the employments of the persons they desire
to imitate. Far be it from us to check them in any pious pursuit, begun from a pious motive: but we would persuade them to reserve so much time at least from all this active zeal, as will suffice them to go into their closets, and shut their doors about them, and think thus within themselves—“My Father, which seeth in "secret, knows exactly what is my inducement to this open display of my religion-whether I go to that place because certain others go, or simply because I think it my duty -whether I said those words to recommend my religion or myself—whether I did that deed because man would know it, or because God would know it—whether I seem devout because those I love encourage and desire it, or because it is the honest feeling of my heart toward God and my Redeemer?" Alas! our hearts are so deceptive, so treacherous, that with our utmost scrutiny we shall never come exactly at the truth of our feelings; but the prayer in secret that ensues on such an examination, will be more acceptable in heaven, than any publick exercise of devotion—it will bring down a light upon our bosom that will disclose what we could not else discover that will purify what it does not disclose that will sanctify the service which remains imperfect-and that prayer, the simple result of urgent necessity, the language of conscious imbecility, unheard by any but Him to whom it is addressed, left out entirely from the record men are keeping of our pious dispositions—that prayer will be registered in heaven where only it is heard: and little a debtor as indeed he is for what is no good to him, though much to us, God has declared he will reward it openly-openly to our own perceptions now, in the blessings that will answer to it--openly to the universe hereafter, by acknowledging us as his redeemed children, who have believed his word and obeyed it, and served him with a simple and an honest heart.
We would not, by these observations, discourage the outward manifestations of piety that the world expects of us—the tree must be known by its fruits—the seed that VOL. V.