The Privy Key of Heaven
(A Discourse of Closet Prayer)
by Thomas Brooks, published during
the awful plague of London in 1665.
"But when you pray, go into your room, close
the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.
Then your Father, who sees what is done in
secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:6
Beloved in Our Dear Lord Jesus,
The Lord at several times, and in several ways, has exercised you all in the
furnace of affliction. This book may reach you all, and speak to you
all—when I can not, or when I may not, or which is more, when
I am not.
Dear friends, many and great have been the breaches that
the Lord has made upon your persons, upon your near and dear relations, and
upon your sweetest comforts and contentments. There is not one of you but
may truly say with Job, "He breaks me with breach upon breach," Job 16:14.
God has chastised you all round with various rods; and oh that the Lord
would help you all to "hear the rod, and him who has appointed it," Micah
Now that you may give me leave a little to open and apply
to your particulars, that
"The Lord's voice cries unto the city, and the man of
wisdom shall hear your name: hear the rod, and him who has appointed it."
The matter that I shall offer to your consideration from
this scripture, will be not only of special concernment to yourselves, but
also of high concernment to all sorts and ranks of men and women, in this
sad day, when the sword devours on the one hand, and the pestilence rages on
the other hand.
"The Lord's voice cries unto the city." Tremellius
turns it thus, "The voice of the Lord does preach unto this city, for what
the matter is, you see: hear you the rod," etc. This city, namely,
Jerusalem, and so consequently to all the Israelites; for in this city all
offices and duties of godliness and humanity were more religiously
performed, or to be performed, than in any other place, because of the
presence and majesty of God that was among them. "But your Majesty sees what
wickedness is practiced among them," as is evident in the verses following.
"Cries." The word is from kara, which
First, "To cry aloud," or "to make a noise," Isa 58:1;
"cry aloud" there is kara. The word signifies, to cry so loud as that all
may hear that have ears to hear.
Secondly, The word signifies, "openly to proclaim,
preach, or publish a thing." Exod 33:19, "I will proclaim the name of the
Lord before you." Here is the word kara.
Thirdly, The word signifies, "to cry out." Gen 39:15, "I
lifted up my voice and cried." Here is kara.
"And the man of wisdom shall see your name."
Vethushiia properly signifies essence; and, therefore, according to the
Hebrew, the words should be read thus, "And the man of essence shall see
your name," etc., that is, he who is a man indeed, he who is not a sot, a
stock, a stone. Most men are men of folly, and so not worthy of the name of
men; but as for such as are truly wise, they "shall see your name." There
is a great measure of spiritual art, of holy and heavenly wisdom required,
both to enable a man to hear the voice of the rod and to understand the
language of the rod. This wisdom is too high for a fool, Prov 24:7.
"Shall see your name." Now the Hebrew word here used,
signifies to fear; and so the words will run smoothly thus, "The man of
wisdom, or of essence, shall fear your name," considering that, it is
majesty itself that cries, and that he is immediately to deal with God
himself, and not with a poor, weak, mortal worm.
"Hear the rod." The word hear signifies,
First, "To mark, observe, and attend to what is said."
Gen 29:33, "The Lord has heard that I was hated;" that is, "he has marked
it, he has observed it." So here, Oh mark the rod! Oh observe the rod! Oh
attend to what is spoken by the rod!
Secondly, The word signifies, "to understand what is
spoken;" so Gen 42:23, "They knew not that Joseph understood them." In the
Hebrew it is, "that Joseph heard them." Now to hear the rod, is to
understand what is spoken to us by the rod.
Thirdly, The word signifies, "to believe a thing reported
to be true;" so Exod 6:9, "They hearkened not unto Moses," that is, "they
did not believe the report that Moses made." "Hear the rod," that is,
"believe the report the rod makes." The rod reports, that of all evils sin
is the greatest evil; and that of all bitters, sin is the greatest bitter.
Oh believe the report of the rod! The rod reports, that God is angry, that
God is displeased. Oh believe its report! The rod reports the creatures to
be mere vanity and vexation of spirit. Oh believe its report! The rod
reports our nearest and dearest comforts, contentments, and enjoyments to be
mixed, mutable, and momentary. Oh believe its report! The rod reports sin to
be vile, and the world to be vain, and heaven to be glorious, and Christ to
be most precious. Oh believe its report!
"The rod." The Hebrew word matte, that is here
rendered rod, has three significations:
First, It denotes "power and strength:" Psalm 2:9, "a rod
Secondly, It denotes "rigid and harsh government:" Isa
14:5, "The Lord has broken the staff," or rod, "of the wicked;" that is,
"their rigorous and cruel government." Nebuchadnezzar had sorely afflicted
the children of Judah; he was a rod, that broke them in pieces, and ruled
over them with much rigor in Babylon.
Thirdly, It denotes "sore afflictions and heavy
judgments:" Psalm 89:32, "I will visit your transgressions with a rod." And
thus you are to understand the word rod in the text.
"And him who has appointed it." It is God who
appoints the rod, and ordains it for the revenge of the quarrel of his
covenant. The Hebrew word signifies properly "to appoint" or "constitute."
It is God who appoints the rod, and who constitutes it to do what service he
pleases. It is God who has not only a permissive—but also an active, hand,
in all the afflictions that come upon his people.
And let thus much suffice for the opening of the words.
Now, though this choice garden affords many sweet
flowers—yet I shall only present you with one, which is this, namely,
That all the afflictions, troubles, and trials which
God lays upon His people, are his rod. It is their highest and greatest
concernment to hear the voice of the rod, and to learn those lessons that
God would have them learn by the rod.
For the opening and clearing up of this important point,
I shall endeavor these two things:
First, To show you in what respects afflictions are like
unto a rod.
Secondly, To show you what those special lessons are,
that you are to learn by the rod.
The following discourse on closet prayer I heartily recommend to your
serious perusal. I have many reasons to hope, that when you have once read
it over, you will be more in love with closet prayer than ever, and that you
will set a higher price upon closet prayer than ever, and that you will make
a better and fuller improvement of closet prayer than ever yet you have
done. Consider what I say in my epistle to the reader, and labor so to
manage this little treatise, which now I put into your hands, that God may
be glorified, your own souls edified, comforted, and encouraged in the ways
of the Lord, and that you may be "my crown and joy, in the great day of our
Lord Jesus," 1 Thes. 2:19-20.
Christian Reader—The epistle dedicatory being so large, I shall do little
more than give you the grounds and reasons of sending forth this little
piece into the world, especially in such a day as this is. Now, my
reasons are these:
1. First, Because God by his present dispensations calls more loudly for
closet prayer now, than he has done in those last twenty years that are now
passed over our heads. See more of this in the 16th argument for closet
2. Secondly, Because I have several reasons to fear that many Christians
do not clearly nor fully understand the necessity, excellency, and
usefulness of this subject, and that many, oh that I could not say any, live
in too great a neglect of this indispensable duty; and that more than a few,
for lack of light, err in the very practice of it.
3. Thirdly, For the refreshing, support, and encouragement of all those
churches of Christ that walk in the fear of the Lord, and in the comforts of
the Holy Spirit, etc., especially that particular church to whom I stand
4. Fourthly, To preserve and keep up the power of religion and godliness
both in men's houses, hearts, and lives. The power of religion and godliness
lives, thrives, or dies, as closet prayer lives, thrives, or dies. Godliness
never rises to a higher pitch than when men keep closest to their closets,
5. Fifthly, Because closet prayer is a most sovereign remedy, a most
precious antidote of God's own prescribing, against the plague that now
rages in the midst of us, 1 Kings 8:37-39, etc.
6. Sixthly, Because every man is that really which he is secretly.
Never tell me, how handsomely, how neatly, how bravely, this or that man
acts his part before others; but tell me, if you can, how he acts his part
before God in his closet; for the man is that certainly, which he is
secretly. There are many who sweat upon the stage that are cold in their
7. Seventhly, Though many worthies have done worthily upon all other
parts of prayer—yet there are none either of a former or later date, that
have fallen under my eye, who have written any treatise on this subject. I
have not a little wondered that so many eminent writers should pass over
this great and princely duty of closet-prayer, either with a few brief
touches, or else in a very great silence. If several Bodies of Divinity are
consulted, you will find that all they say clearly and distinctly as to
closet-prayer, may be brought into a very narrow compass, if not into a
nutshell. I have also inquired of several old disciples, whether among all
the thousand sermons that they have heard in their days, that ever
they have heard one sermon on closet-prayer? and they have answered, No. I
have also inquired of them, whether ever they had read any treatise
on that subject? and they have answered, No. And truly this has been no
small encouragement to me, to make an offer of my mite; and if this small
attempt of mine shall be so blessed, as to provoke others who have better
heads, and hearts, and hands, than any I have, to do Christ and his people
more service, in the handling of this choice point in a more copious way
than what I have been able to reach unto, I shall therein rejoice.
8. Eighthly, and lastly, That favor, that good acceptance and fair
quarter that my other poor labors have found, not only in this nation—but in
other countries also, has put me upon putting pen to paper once more; and I
hope that the good will of him who "dwelt in the bush," will rest upon this,
as it has to the glory of free grace rested upon my former endeavors. I
could add other reasons—but let these suffice.
Good reader, when you are in your closet, pray hard for a poor, weak,
worthless worm, that I may be found faithful and fruitful to the death, that
so at last I may receive a crown of life. So wishing you all happiness both
in this lower and in that upper world, I rest,
Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,