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
Eleven advices and counsels
Now, for the better management of this great duty, namely, closet prayer, I beseech you take my advice and counsel in these eleven following particulars.
(1.) First, Be frequent in closet prayer, and not now and then only. He will never make any earnings of closet prayer, who is not frequent in closet prayer. Now, that this counsel may stick, consider,
[1.]First, Other eminent servants of the Lord have been frequent in this blessed work: Neh 1:6, "Let your ear now be attentive, and your eyes open, that you may hear the prayer of your servant, which I pray before you, day and night." So Daniel, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did beforetime, Dan 6:10. So David, "My voice shall you hear in the morning, and in the evening will I direct my prayer unto you, and will look up," Psalm 5:3. So Psalm 88:13, "But unto you have I cried, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you." So Psalm 119:147, "I rise before dawn and cry out for help." So Psalm 55:17, "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray and cry aloud." Psalm 109:4, "I give myself unto prayer;" or, as the Hebrew may be read, "But I am a man of prayer."
Of Carolus Magnus it was said, that he spoke more with God than with men.
[2.]Secondly, Consider the blessed Scripture does not only enjoin this duty—but it requires frequency in it also, Luke 18:1; 1 Thess 5:17; Col 4:2. In the former part of this discourse, I have given light into these scriptures; and therefore the bare citing of them must now suffice.
[3.]Thirdly, Christ was frequent in private prayer, as you may easily see by comparing of these scriptures together, Mark 1:35; Matt 14:23; Luke 22:39; John 18:2. In my second argument for private prayer you may see these scriptures opened and amplified. But,
[4.]Fourthly, Consider that you have the examples of the very worst of men in this case. Papists are frequent in their private devotions. And the Mahommedans, whatever occasion they have, either by profit or pleasure, to divert them, will yet pray five times every day. Yes, the very heathens sacrificed to Hercules morning and evening upon the great altar at Rome. Now, shall blind nature do more than grace? But,
[5.]Fifthly, Consider you cannot have too frequent communion with God, you cannot have too frequent fellowship with Jesus, you cannot have your hearts too frequently filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory, and with that peace that passes understanding, you cannot have heaven too frequently brought down into your hearts, nor you cannot have your hearts too frequently carried up to heaven; and therefore you cannot be too frequent in closet prayer. But,
[6.]Sixthly, Consider that you are under frequent needs, and frequent sins, and frequent snares, and frequent temptations, and frequent allurements, and frequent trials, and frequent cares, and frequent fears, and frequent favors, 1 Pet 5:8, Job 1:7; and therefore you had need be frequent with God in your closets. But,
[7.]Seventhly, Consider you are the favorites of heaven, you are greatly beloved, you are highly honored, you are exceedingly esteemed and valued in the court of the Most High God. And remember, that the petitions of many weak Christians, and of many benighted Christians, and of many tempted Christians, and of many clouded Christians, and of many staggering Christians, and of many doubting Christians, and of many bewildered Christians, and of many fainting Christians, etc., are put into your hands, for a quick and speedy despatch to the throne of grace; so that you had need be frequent in your closets, and improve your interest in heaven, or else many of these poor hearts may be wronged, betrayed, and prejudiced by your neglect. Such as are favorites in princes' courts, if they are active, diligent, careful, and watchful, they may do much good for others, they may come as often as they please into their prince's presence, and with Queen Esther have for asking what they please, both for themselves and others, Esther 7.
Oh what a world of good may such do for others, if they would be but frequent with God in their closets! O sirs! if you have not that love, that regard, that pity, that compassion to your own souls, as you should have—yet, oh let not others suffer by your neglect of private prayer! Oh, let not Zion suffer! Oh, let not any particular saint suffer by your being found seldom in your closets.
Certainly, it might have gone better with the churches of Christ, and with the concernments of Christ, and with many of the poor people of Christ, if most Christians had been more frequent with God in their closets. But,
[8.]Eighthly and lastly, Consider that this liberty to approach near to God in your closets, cost Christ his dearest blood, Eph 2:13; Heb 10:20. Now, he who is not frequent with God in his closet, tells all about him, that he sets no great value upon that liberty which Christ has purchased with his blood. The incomparable, the unparalleled price which Christ has paid down upon the nail, above sixteen hundred years ago, that we might have liberty and free access to his Father in our closets, argues very strongly, yes, irrefragably, the superlative excellency of that liberty, 1 Pet 1:19. Oh therefore let us improve to purpose this blessed purchase of our Lord Jesus, by being frequent with God in our closets.
O sirs! shall Christ shed not only a few drops of blood—but his very heart blood, to purchase you a freedom and liberty to be as often in your closets with his Father as you please; and will you only now and then give God a visit in private? The Lord forbid!
(2.) My second advice and counsel is this, Take the fittest seasons and opportunities that possibly you can for closet prayer. Many take unfit seasons for private prayer, which more obstruct the importunity of the soul in prayer, than all the suggestions and instigations of Satan. As,
First, When the body is drowsy and sleepy; this is a very unfit season for closet prayer, Song 3:1. Take heed of laying cushions of sloth under your knees, or pillows of idleness under your elbows, or of mixing nods with your petitions, or of being drowsily devoted when you draw near to God in your closets.
Secondly, When a man's head and heart is filled with worldly cares and distractions; this is a very unfit season for closet-prayer, 1 Cor 7:35; Ezek 33:31.
"Dinah, Leah’s daughter whom she bore to Jacob, went out to see some of the young women of the area. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, a prince of the region, saw her, he took her and raped her." Genesis 34:1-2. When Dinah must needs be gadding abroad to see fashions; Shechem meets with her, and rapes her. So when our hearts, Dinah-like, must needs be a-roving and gadding abroad after the things of the world, then Satan, the prince of the air, usually seizes upon us, commits a rape upon our souls, and either leads us off from prayer, or else he does so distract us from prayer, that it were better not to have prayed at all, than to have offered the sacrifice of foolish and distracted prayer.
I have read a story, how that one offered to give his horse to his fellow, upon condition he would but say the Lord's prayer, and think upon nothing but God; the offer was accepted, and he began, "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be your name." But I must have the bridle too, said he. "No, nor the horse neither," said the other, for you have lost both already. The application is easy.
Certainly, the most free and lively season for closet-prayer is the mornings, before a man's spirit is blunted or cooled, deadened, damped, or flattened by worldly businesses. A man should speak with God in his closet, before he speaks with his worldly affairs and occasions. A man should say to all his worldly business, as Abraham said unto his young men, when he went to offer up his only Isaac, "Abide here, and I will go yonder and worship, and then return to you again." He who will attend closet prayer without distraction or disturbance, must not, first, slip out of the world into his closet—but he must first slip into his closet before he be compassed about with a crowd of worldly employments.
It was a precept of Pythagoras, that when we enter into the temple to worship God, we must not so much as speak or think of any worldly business, lest we make God's service an idle, perfunctory, and lazy recreation. The same I may say of closet-prayer.
Jerome complains very much of his distractions, dullness, and indisposedness to prayer, and chides himself thus, "What! do you think, that Jonah prayed thus when he was in the whale's belly; or Daniel when he was among the lions; or the thief when he was upon the cross?"
Thirdly, When men or women are under rash and passionate distempers, 1 Tim 2:8. For when passions are up, holy affections are down, and this is a very unfit season for closet-prayer. Such prayers will never reach God's ear—which do not first warm our own hearts. In the Muscovy churches, if the minister mistakes in reading, or stammers in pronouncing his words, or speaks any word that is not well heard, the hearers do very much blame him, and are ready to take the book from him, as unworthy to read therein. And certainly God is no less offended with the giddy, rash, passionate, precipitate, and inconsiderate prayers of those who, without a deliberate understanding, do send their petitions to heaven in posthaste. Solomon's advice is worthy of all commendation and acceptance: "Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty, to utter anything before God," Eccles 5:2; or as the Hebrew may be read, "Let not your heart through haste be so troubled or disturbed, as to tumble over, and throw out words without wisdom or premeditation." Good men are apt many times to be too hasty, rash, and unadvised in their prayers, complaints, and deprecations. Witness David, Job, Jeremiah, Jonah, and the disciples. [Psalm 31:2-3; Psalm 116:11; Job 10:1-3; Jer 18:15,18; Jon 4:2-4; Matt 20:20-21] There is no Christian like him, who does wisely and seriously weigh over his prayers and praises before he pours out his soul before the Lord. He never repents of his requests, who first duly deliberates what to request; but he who blurts out whatever lies uppermost, and who brings into the presence of God his rash, raw, tumultuary, and undigested petitions, confessions, complaints, etc., he does but provoke God, he does but brawl with God; instead of praying to him or wrestling with him. Suitors at court observe their fittest times and seasons of petitioning; they commonly take that very nick of time, when they have the king in a good mood, and so seldom come off but with good success.
Sometimes God strongly inclines the heart to closet-prayer; sometimes he brings the heart beforehand into a praying frame; sometimes both body and soul are more enlivened, quickened, raised, and divinely inflamed than at other times; sometimes conscience is more stirring, working, and tender, etc. Oh, now strike while the iron is hot! Oh now lay hold on all such blessed opportunities, by applying of yourself to private prayer. O sirs! can you take your fittest times, seasons, and opportunities for ploughing, and sowing, and reaping, and buying and selling, and eating, and drinking, and marrying, etc. And cannot you as well take your fittest times and seasons to seek the Lord in your closets? Must the best God be put off with the least and worst of your time? The Lord forbid. Neglect not the seasons of grace; slip not your opportunities for closet-prayer; thousands have lost their seasons and their souls together!
(3.) My third advice and counsel is this, Be very careful that you do not perform closet duties, merely to still your consciences. You must perform them out of conscience—but you must not perform them only to quiet conscience. Some have such a light set up in their understandings, that they cannot omit closet-prayer—but conscience is upon their backs, conscience is still upbraiding and disquieting of them; and therefore they are afraid to neglect closet-prayer, lest conscience should question, arraign, and condemn them for their neglects. Sometimes when men have greatly sinned against the Lord, conscience becomes impatient, and is still accusing, condemning, and terrifying of them; and now in these agonies they will run to their closets, and cry, and pray, and mourn, and confess, and bitterly bewail their transgressions—but all this is only to quiet their consciences. And sometimes they find upon their performance of closet-duties, that their consciences are a little allayed and quieted; and for this very end and purpose do they take up closet-prayer as a charm to allay their consciences. And when the storm is over, and their consciences quieted, then they lay aside closet-prayer—and are ready to transgress again.
O sirs! take heed of this, for this is but open hypocrisy, and will be bitterness in the end. He who performs closet-prayer only to bribe his conscience, that it may not be clamorous, or to stop the mouth of conscience that it may not accuse him for sin—he will at length venture upon such a trade, such a course of sinning against conscience, as will certainly turn his troubled conscience into a seared conscience, 2 Tim 4:2. And a seared conscience is like a sleeping lion, when he awakes he roars, and tears his prey in pieces; and so will a seared conscience, when it is awakened, roar and tear the secure sinner in pieces.
All the mercy that a seared, a benumbed conscience does afford the sinner, when it does most befriend him, when it deals most seemingly kind with him, is this—that it will not cut, that it may kill; it will not convince, that it may confound; it will not accuse, that it may condemn; it will spare the sinner a while, that it may torment him forever; it will spare him here, that it may gnaw him hereafter; it will not strike until it is too late for the sinner to ward off the blow. Oh cruel mercy, to observe the sin, and let alone the sinner until the gates of mercy be shut upon him, and hell stands gaping to devour him: Gen 4:7, "Sin lies at the door." The Hebrew word signifies to lie down, or couch, like some wild beast at the mouth of his cave, as if it were asleep—but indeed watches and wakes, and is ready to fly at all that come near it. O sirs! sin is rather lying down than dormant; it sleeps dog's sleep, that it may take the sinner at the greater advantage, and fly the more furiously in his face! But,
(4.) My fourth advice and counsel is this, Take heed of resting upon closet-duties, take heed of trusting in closet-duties. Noah's dove made use of her wings—but she did not trust in her wings—but in the ark; so you must make use of closet-duties—but you must not trust in your closet-duties—but in Jesus, of whom the ark was but a type. There are many that go a round of duties, as mill horses go their round in a mill, and rest upon them when they are done, using the means as mediators; and so fall short of Christ and heaven at once. Closet-duties rested in, will as eternally undo a man as the greatest and foulest enormities; open wickedness slays her thousands—but a secret resting upon duties slays her ten thousands. Multitudes bleed inwardly of this disease, and die forever. Open profaneness is the broad dirty way which leads to hell--but trusting in religious duties is a sure way, though a cleaner way to hell. Profane people and formal professors shall meet at last in the same hell. Ah, Christians! do not make closet-duties your money, lest you and your money perish together.
The phoenix gathers sweet odoriferous sticks in Arabia together, and then blows them with her wings and burns herself with them; so do many shining professors burn themselves by resting in their duties and services. You know, in Noah's flood all that were not in the ark, though they climbed up the tallest trees, and the highest mountains and hills—yet were really drowned; so let men climb up to this duty and that—yet, if they don't get into Christ, they will be really damned. It is not your duties—but your Christ, that must save you. If a man be not interested in Christ, he may perish with "Our Father" in his mouth. It is as natural to a man to rest in his duties as it is for him to rest in his bed.
This was Bernard's temptation, who, being a little assisted in duty, could stroke his own head with 'O Bernard, this was gallantly done, now cheer up yourself.' Ah, how apt is man, when he has been a little assisted, heated, melted, enlarged, etc., in a way of duty, to go away and stroke himself, and bless himself, and hug himself, and warm himself with the sparks, with the fire of his own kindling, Isa 50:11. "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." Isaiah 64:6. "I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get." Luke 18:12
Adam was to win life and wear it; he was to be saved by his doings: "Do this and live," Gen 2:2. Hence it is that all his posterity are so prone to seek for salvation by doing: Acts 2:37; Acts 16:30, "What shall we do to be saved?" and "good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" Mark 10:17,20. Like father, like son. But if our own duties or doings were sufficient to save us, to what purpose did Christ leave his Father's bosom, and lay down his dearest life? etc. Closet-duties rested in may pacify conscience for a time—but this will not always hold. "When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb; yet could they not heal him, nor cure him of his wound," Hos 5:13. If we rest on closet-duties, or on anything else on this side Christ, we shall find them as weak as the Assyrian, or as Jareb; we shall find to our cost that they cannot help us nor heal us; they cannot comfort us nor cure us of our wounds. As creatures, so duties, were never true to any who have trusted in them. When the Israelites were in great distress, the Lord bids them go and cry unto the gods which they had chosen, and let them deliver you, says God, in the time of your tribulation, Judg 10:14. O sirs! if, when you are under distress of conscience, or lying upon a dying bed, God should say to you, 'Go to your closet prayers and performances, that you have made and rested in, go to your closet tears that you have shed and rested in, and let them save you and deliver you; oh, what miserable saviors and comforters would they be unto you!'
Look! what the ark of God was to the Philistines, 1 Sam 5, that closet-duties are to Satan; he trembles every time he sees a poor sinner go into his closet and come out of his closet, resting and glorying in Jesus, and not in his duties; but when he sees a poor creature confide in his closet-duties, and rest upon his closet-duties, then he rejoices, then he claps his hands and sings, 'Aha! so would I have it.'
Oh, rest not on anything on this side Jesus Christ! Say to your graces, say to your duties, say to your holiness, 'You are not my Savior, you are not my mediator; and therefore you are not to be trusted to, you are not to be rested in.' It is my duty to perform closet-duties—but it is my sin to rely upon them, or to put confidence in them; do them I must—but glory in them I must not. He who rests in his closet-duties, he makes a Savior of his closet-duties. Let all your closet-duties lead you to Jesus, and leave you more in communion with him, and in dependence upon him; and then thrice happy will you be, Heb 7:25. Let all your closet prayers and tears, your closet fastings and meltings, be a star to guide you to Jesus, a Jacob's ladder by which you may ascend into the bosom of eternal loves; and then you are safe forever.
Ah! it is sad to think, how most men have forgotten their resting-place, as the Lord complains: Jer 50:6, "My people have been like lost sheep, their shepherds have caused them to go astray, and have turned them away to the mountains; they have gone from mountain to hill, and forgotten their resting-place." Ah! how many poor souls are there, that wander from mountain to hill, from one duty to another, and here they will rest, and there they will rest, and all on this side their resting-place! O sirs! it is God himself that is your resting-place; it is his free grace, it is his special mercy, it is his infinite love that is your resting-place; it is the bosom of Christ, the favor of Christ, the satisfaction of Christ, and the pure, perfect, spotless, matchless, and glorious righteousness of Christ, that is your resting-place; and therefore say to all your closet duties and performances, Farewell; prayer, farewell; reading, farewell; fasting, farewell; tears, farewell; sighs and groans, farewell; meltings and humblings, I will never trust more to you, I will never rest more on you; but I will now return to my resting place, I will now rest only in God and Christ, I will now rest wholly in God and Christ, I will now rest forever in God and Christ.
It was the saying of a precious saint, that "He was more afraid of his religious duties, than of his sins. For his duties often made him proud; his sins always made him humble." But,
(5.) My fifth advice and counsel is this, Labor to bring your hearts into all your closet prayers and performances. Look that your tongues and your hearts keep time and tune. Psalm 17:1, "Give ear to my prayer—it does not rise from deceitful lips." Heart and tongue must go together; word and work, lip and life, prayer and practice, must echo one to another, or else your prayers and your soul will be lost together. The labor of the lips, and the travail of the heart must go together.
The Egyptians of all fruits made choice of the peach to consecrate to their goddess, and for no other cause—but that the fruit thereof is like to one's heart, and the leaf to one's tongue. These very heathens in the worship of their gods, thought it necessary that men's hearts and tongues should go together. Ah, Christians! when in your closet duties your hearts and your tongues go together, then you make that sweet and delightful melody that is most acceptable and pleasing to the King of kings. The very soul of prayer lies in the pouring out of the soul before God, 1 Sam 1:15. Psalm 42:4, "When I remember these things I pour out my soul in me." So the Israelites poured out their souls like water before the Lord. So the church: "The desire of our soul is to your name, and to the remembrance of you. With my soul have I desired you in the night, yes, with my spirit within me will I seek you early," Isa 26:8-9. So Lam 3:41, "Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens." So Heb 10:22, "Let us draw near with a true heart," etc. So Rom 1:9, "For God is my witness, whom I serve in the spirit." 1 Cor 14:15, "I will pray with the spirit, and sing with the spirit." Phil 3:3, "We are the circumcision who worship God in the spirit."
Under the law the inward parts were only to be offered to God in sacrifice; the skin belonged to the priests. Whence we may easily gather, that truth in the inward parts, is that which is most pleasing in a sacrifice.
When the Athenians would know from the oracle the cause of their often defeats in battle, seeing they offered the choicest things they could get, in sacrifice to the gods, which their enemies did not; the oracle gave them this answer, that "the gods were better pleased with their inward supplication, than with all their outward pomp in costly sacrifices." Ah, sirs! the reason why so many are so unsuccessful in their closet-duties and services, is because there is no more of their hearts in them. No man can make sure work or happy work in prayer but he who makes heart work on it. When a man's heart is in his prayers, then great and sweet will be his returns from heaven. That is no true prayer in which the heart of the person bears no part. When the soul is separated from the body the man is dead; and so when the heart is separated from the lip in prayer, the prayer is dead.
The Jews at this day write upon the walls of their synagogues these words, 'a prayer without the heart, is like a body without a soul.'
In the law of Moses the priest was commanded to wash the inwards of the sacrifices in water; and this was done, says Philo, to teach us to keep our hearts and affections clean when we draw near to God. In all your closet-duties God looks first and most to your hearts: "My son, give me your heart," Prov 23:26. It is not a piece, it is not a corner of the heart, which will satisfy the Maker of the heart; the heart is a treasure, a bed of spices, a royal throne wherein he delights. God looks not at the elegance of your prayers, to see how refined they are; nor yet at the geometry of your prayers, to see how long they are; nor yet at the arithmetic of your prayers, to see how many they are; nor yet at the music of your prayers, nor yet at the sweetness of your voice, nor yet at the logic of your prayers; but at the sincerity of your prayers, how hearty they are. There is no prayer acknowledged, approved, accepted, recorded, or rewarded by God—but that wherein the heart is sincere.
The true mother would not have the child divided. As God loves a broken and a contrite heart, so he loathes a divided heart, Psalm 51:17; James 1:8. God neither loves halting nor halving; he will be served truly and totally. The royal law is, "You shall love and serve the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul." Among the heathens, when the beasts were cut up for sacrifice, the first thing the priest looked upon was the heart, and if the heart was bad, the sacrifice was rejected. Verily, God rejects all those services and sacrifices, wherein the heart is bad, as you may see by comparing these Scriptures together. [Prov 21:27; Isa 1:11-12; Isa 29:13; Matt 15:7-9; Ezek 33:30-82; Zech 7:4-6; 2 Chron 25:1-2; Psalm 78:36-37]
Prayer without the heart is but as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Prayer is only lovely and weighty, as the heart is in it, and no otherwise. It is not the lifting up of the voice, nor the wringing of the hands, nor the beating of the breasts, nor an affected tone, nor studied motions, nor seraphical expressions—but the stirrings of the heart, which God looks at in prayer. God hears no more than the heart speaks. If the heart be dumb, God will certainly be deaf. No prayer is accepted by God—but that which is the travail of the heart.
The same day Julius Caesar came to the imperial dignity, sitting in his golden chair, he offered a beast in sacrifice to the gods; but when the beast was opened, it was without a heart, which the soothsayers looked upon as an ill omen. It is a sad omen, that you will rather provoke the Lord than prevail with him, who are habitually heartless in your closet duties. Of the heart, God seems to say to us, as Joseph did to his brethren, concerning Benjamin, "You shall not see my face without it."
It was the speech of blessed Bradford, that "he would never leave a duty, until he had brought his heart into the frame of the duty. He would not leave confession of sin, until his heart was broken for sin. He would not leave petitioning for grace, until his heart was quickened and enlivened in a hopeful expectation of more grace. He would not leave thanksgiving, until his heart was enlarged with the sense of the mercies he enjoyed, and quickened in the return of praise."
(6.) My sixth advice and counsel is this, Be fervent, be warm, be importunate with God in all your closet duties and performances. James 5:16, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much;" or, as the Greek has it "the working prayer;" that is, such working prayer as sets the whole man on work, as sets all the faculties of the soul, and all the graces in the soul, at work. The word signifies such a working as notes the liveliest activity that can be. Certainly, all those usual phrases of crying, wrestling, and striving with God, which are scattered up and down in Scripture, do strongly argue that holy importunity and sacred violence that the saints of old have expressed in their addresses to God. [Psalm 55:1; Psalm 61:1; Psalm 64:1; Psalm 88:1,13; Psalm 119:164; Jon 2:1-2; Joel 2:13; Psalm 119:145,147; Psalm 119:20] Fervency feathers the wings of prayer, and makes them fly the swifter to heaven. An arrow, if it be drawn up but a little way, flies not far; but if it be drawn up to the head, it will fly far, and pierce deeply: so fervent prayer flies as high as heaven, and will certainly bring down blessings from thence.
Cold prayers call for a denial—but fervent prayers offer a sacred violence both to heaven and earth. Look! as in a painted fire there is no heat; so in a cold prayer there is no heat, no warmth, no omnipotency, no devotion, no blessing. Cold prayers are like arrows without heads, as swords without edges, as birds without wings: they pierce not, they cut not, they fly not up to heaven. Such prayers as have no heavenly fire in them, do always freeze before they reach as high as heaven. But fervent prayer is very prevalent with God. Acts 12:5, "Peter, therefore, was kept in prison—but prayer was made without ceasing." The Greek word signifies instant prayer, earnest prayer, stretched out prayer. These gracious souls did in prayer strain and stretch themselves, as men do that are running in a race; they prayed with all the strength of their souls, and with all the fervency of their spirits; and accordingly they carried the day with God, as you may see in the following verses.
So Acts 26:7, "They earnestly serve God day and night," or rather as the Greek has it, "in a stretched out manner, serving God day and night." They stretched out their hearts, their affections, their graces, to the utmost in prayer. In all your private retirements, do as these did. Rom 12:11, "Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." The Greek word signifies seething hot. God loves to see his people zealous and warm in his service. Without fervency of spirit, no service finds acceptance in heaven. God loves that his people should be lively and active in his service. Rom 12:12, "Persistent in prayer;" or "continuing with all your might in prayer." It is a metaphor from hunting dogs, which will never give over the hunt until they have got their prize. Rom 15:30, "That you strive together with me, in your prayers to God for me;" "strive mightily, strive as champions strive, even to an agony," as the word imports. It is a military word, and notes such fervent wrestling or striving, as is for life and death.
Col 4:12, "Always laboring fervently for you in prayer." The Greek word which is here used, signifies to strive or wrestle, as those do who strive for mastery; it notes the vehemency and fervor of Epaphras' prayers for the Colossians. Look! as the wrestlers do bend, and writhe, and stretch, and strain every joint of their bodies, that they may be victorious; so Epaphras did bend, and writhe, and stretch, and strain every joint of his soul, if I may so speak—that he might be victorious with God upon the Colossians' account. So, when Jacob was with God alone, ah how earnest and fervent was he in his wrestlings with God, Gen 32:24-27; Hos 12:4-5. He wrestles and weeps, and weeps and wrestles; he tugs hard with God, he holds his hold, and he will not let God go, until as a prince he had prevailed with him. Fervent prayer is the soul's contention, the soul struggling with God; it is a sweating work, it is the sweat and blood of the soul, it is a laying out to the uttermost all the strength and powers of the soul. He who would gain victory over God in private prayer, must strain every string of his heart; he must, in beseeching God, besiege him, and so get the better of him; he must be like importunate beggars, that will not be put off with frowns, or silence, or sad answers. Those who would be masters of their requests, must, like the importunate widow, press God so far as to put him to a holy blush, as I may say with reverence: they must with a holy impudence, as Basil speaks, make God ashamed to look them in the face, if he should deny the importunity of their souls.
Had Abraham had a little more of this impudence, says one, when he made suit for Sodom, it might have done well. Abraham brought down the price to ten righteous, and there his modesty stopped him; had he gone lower, God only knows what might have been done, for God went not away, says the text, "until he had left communing with Abraham," that is, until Abraham had no more to say to God. Abraham left over asking, before God left over granting; he left over praying, before God left over conceding; and so Sodom was lost.
Oh the heavenly fire, the holy fervency that was in Daniel's closet prayer! "O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name," Dan 9:19. Look! as there be two kinds of antidotes against poison, namely, hot and cold, so there are two kinds of antidotes against all the troubles of this life, namely, fervent prayers and holy patience: the one hot, the other cold; the one quickening, and the other quenching, and holy Daniel made use of them both. Fervency to prayer, is as the fire was to the spices in the censer, or as wings to the bird, or as oil to the wheels; and this Daniel found by experience. God looks not for any James with horny knees, through assiduity of prayer; nor for any Bartholomew with a hundred prayers for the morning, and as many for the evening; but for fervency of spirit in prayer, which alone carries all with God. Feeble prayers, like weak pangs, go over, and never brings a mercy to the birth. Cold prayers are stillborn children, in whom the Father of spirits can take no pleasure. Look! as a painted man is no man, and as painted fire is no fire; so a cold prayer is no prayer. Such prayers never win upon the heart of God, which do not first warm our own hearts. As a body without a soul, much wood without a fire, a bullet in a gun without powder; so are all prayers without fervency of spirit.
Luther terms prayer, the gun or cannon of Christians, or the Christian's gunshot.
The hottest springs send forth their waters by ebullitions. Cold prayers make a smoke in the eyes of God. Lazy prayers never procure noble answers; lazy beggars may starve for all their begging, Isa 1:15, and Isa 65:5.
Such as have a male in their flock, and offer to the Lord a female; such as offer to the Lord the torn, and the lame, and the sick; such as turn off God with their cold, lazy, sleepy, and formal devotions—are condemned, cast out, and cursed by God, Mal 1:13-14. David compares his prayers to incense, and no incense was offered without fire, Psalm 141:2; it was the fire, which made the smoke of it to ascend. It is only fervent prayer which hits the mark, and which pierces the walls of heaven, though, like those of Gaza, Isa 45:2, made of brass and iron.
While the child only whimpers and whines in the cradle, the mother lets it alone; but when once it pitches up its note, and cries outright, then she runs and takes it up. So it is with a Christian: Psalm 34:6, "This poor man cried." There is his fervency, he cried; but it was silently and secretly, in the presence of King Achish, as Moses did at the Red Sea, and as Nehemiah did in the presence of the king of Persia. "And the Lord heard him, and delivered him out of all his troubles;" here is his prevalency. So Latimer plied the throne of grace with great fervency, crying out, "Once again, Lord, once again restore the gospel to England," and God heard him.
Hudson the martyr, having prayed fervently, he was comforted immediately, and suffered valiantly.
I have read of one Giles of Bruxels, a Dutch martyr, who was so fervent in his prayer, kneeling by himself in some secret place of the prison where he was, that he seemed to forget himself; and being called to his food, he neither heard nor saw who stood by him, until he was lifted up by the arms, and then he spoke gently to them, as one awaked out of a trance.
So Gregory Nazianzen, speaking of his sister Gorgonia, says, that, in the vehemency of her prayer, she came to a religious impudency with God, so as to threaten heaven, and tell God that she would never depart from his altar until she had her petition granted.
Let us make it our business to follow these noble examples, as ever we would so prince it in prayer as to prevail with God. An importunate soul in prayer is like the poor beggar, who prays and knocks, who prays and waits, who prays and works, who knocks and knocks, who begs and pleads—and will not stir from the door until he has an alms. Well, friends, remember this, God respects no more lukewarm prayers than he does lukewarm people, and they are such that he has threatened to spue out of his mouth. Those prayers that are but lip-labor are lost labor; and therefore, in all your closet prayers, look to the fervency of your spirits.
(7.) My seventh advice and counsel is this, Be constant, as well as fervent, in closet-prayer. Look that you hold on and hold out, and that you persevere to the end in private prayer: 1 Thess 5:17, "Pray without ceasing." A man must always pray habitually, though not actually; he must have his heart in a praying disposition in all states and conditions. Though closet-prayer may have an intermission—yet it must never have a cessation: Luke 18:1, "And he spoke a parable unto them, to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint," or, as the Greek has it, not to shrink back, as sluggards in work, or cowards in war.
Closet-prayer is a fire like that on the altar, which was never to go out, day nor night: 1 Thess 3:10, "Night and day praying exceedingly." Paul speaks like a man made up all of prayer, like a man who minded nothing so much as prayer: so Eph 6:18, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance." Calvin makes this difference between "praying always" in the beginning of this verse, and "praying with perseverance" in the end of this verse: "By praying always," says he, "he exhorts us to pray in prosperity as well as in adversity, and not to quit the duty of prayer in a prosperous estate, because we are not driven to it by outward pressing necessities and miseries; and by praying with perseverance, he admonishes us that we be not weary of the work—but continue instant and constant in its performance, though we have not presently what we pray for." So that "praying always" is opposed to a neglect of the duty in its proper times and seasons, and "praying with perseverance" is opposed to a fainting in our spirits, in respect of this or that particular suit or request that we put up to God.
When God turns a deaf ear to our prayers, we must not fret nor faint, we must not be dismayed nor discouraged—but we must hold up and hold on in the duty of prayer with invincible patience, courage, and constancy, as the church did: Lam 3:8,44,55-57, compared; Col 4:2, "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving." We must be constant and instant in closet prayer; we must wait upon it, and lay all aside for it. He who is only in his closet by fits and starts, will neither glorify God nor advantage his own soul. If we do not make a trade of closet-prayer, we shall never make any earnings of closet-prayer.
Look! as those who get money by their iron mills do keep a continual fire in their iron mills; just so, those who will get any soul-good by closet duties, they must keep close and constant to closet duties. The hypocrite is only constant in inconstancy; he is only in his closet by fits and starts. Now and then, when he is in a good mood, you shall find him step into his closet—but he never holds it: Job 27:10, "Will he always call upon God," or, as the Hebrew has it, "Will he in every time call upon God?" When they are under the smarting rod, or when they are upon the tormenting rack, or when they are under grievous needs, or when they are struck with panic-fears, etc., then you shall have them run to their closets, as Joab ran to the horns of the altar, when he was in danger of death; but they never persevere, they never hold out to the end; and therefore in the end they lose both their closet prayers and their souls together, Isa 26:16; Psalm 78:34; Zech 7:5.
It was a most profane and blasphemous speech of that atheistical wretch, who told God "that he was no common beggar, and that he never troubled him before with prayer, and if God would but hear him that one time, he would never trouble him again."
Closet-prayer is a hard work; and a man must tug hard at it, and stick close to it, as Jacob did, if ever he intends to make any internal or eternal advantages by it, Gen 32. Daniel chose rather to run the hazard of his life, than to give over praying in his chamber, Dan 6. It is not he who begins in the spirit and ends in the flesh, Gal 3:3; it is not he who puts his hand to the plough and looks back, Luke 9:62; but he who perseveres to the end in prayer, who shall be saved and crowned, Matt 24:13. It is he who perseveres in well doing, who shall eat of the hidden manna, and who shall have the white stone, "and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows, but him who receives it," Rev 2:17.
Those precious, praying, mourning souls in Ezek 9:4,6, who were marked to be preserved in Jerusalem, were distinguished, say some of the learned, by the character t, tau, which is the last of all the Hebrew letters, to teach them that they must hold out and hold on to the end in well doing. It is constancy in closet-duty which crowns the Christian and commends the duty.
Objection—But would God have his people to cast off their callings, and to cast off all care of their relations, and shut themselves up in their closets, and there spend their whole time in secret prayer? Oh, no! Every duty must have its time and place; and as one friend must not shut out another, so one duty must not shut out another, Eccles 3:1. The duties of my particular calling as a man, must not shut out the duties of my general calling as a Christian; neither must the duties of my general calling as a Christian, shut out the duties of my particular calling as a man. But that you may be fully satisfied in this case, you must remember that a man may be said to pray always,
[1.] First, When his heart is always in a praying frame. Look! as a man may be truly said to give always, whose heart is always in a giving frame; and to suffer always, whose heart is always in a suffering frame—"For your sake are we killed all the day long," Psalm 44:22; and to sin always, whose heart is always in a sinning frame, 2 Pet 2:14; Jer 9:3, so a man may be as truly said to pray always, whose heart is always in a praying frame.
[2.] Secondly, A man prays always when he takes hold on every fit season and opportunity for the pouring out of his soul before the Lord in his closet. To pray always is to pray in every opportunity; but this has been addressed before.
If we continue constant in our closet-wrestlings with God, if we hold on in private prayer though God should appear to us in the form or shape of a judge, an enemy, a stranger—we shall certainly triumph at last: "O woman, great is your faith, be it unto you even as you will; and her daughter was made whole from that very hour," Matt 15:28.
The philosopher being asked in his old age why he did not give over his practice and take his ease, answered, "When a man is to run a race of forty furlongs, would you have him sit down at the 39th, and so lose the prize, the crown for which he ran?" O sirs! if you hold not out to the end in closet-prayer, you will certainly lose the heavenly prize, the crown of life, the crown of righteousness, the crown of glory. To continue in giving glory to God in this way of duty, is as necessary and requisite as to begin to give glory to God in this way of duty; for though the beginning be more than half—yet the end is more than all. The God of all perfections looks that our ultimate end should be his optimum glory; that our last works should be our best works; and that we should persevere in closet-prayer to the end, Rev 2:10.
(8.) My eighth advice and counsel is this, In all your closet prayers, thirst and long after communion with God. In all your private retirements, rest in nothing below fellowship with God, in nothing below a sweet and spiritual enjoyment of God, Song 3:1-3; Psalm 73:28. Psalm 27:4, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple." The temple of the Lord, without communion with the Lord of the temple, will not satisfy David's soul.
Psalm 42:1-2, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" The deer, as Aristotle and others observe, is of all creatures most hot and dry of itself; but especially when it is chased and hunted, then it is extreme thirsty. The female is here meant, as the Greek article does manifest. Now, in the females the passions of thirst are more strong, as the naturalists observe. By this David discovers what a vehement and inflamed thirst there was in his soul after communion with God; and as nothing could satisfy the hunted deer but the water brooks, so nothing could satisfy his soul but the enjoyments of God.
Psalm 43:4, "Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy." The altar of God is here put for the worship of God. Now, it is not barely the worship of God—but communion with God in his worship, that was David's exceeding joy. Psalm 63:1-3, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you." David's soul did not thirst after a crown, a kingdom, or any worldly greatness or glory—but after a choice and sweet enjoyment of God in his wilderness estate. Never did any woman with child long more after this or that, than David's soul did long to enjoy sensible communion with God in the midst of all his sorrows and sufferings.
Psalm 84:2, "My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh cries out for the living God." By the "courts of the Lord," we are to understand the ordinances. Now, these without communion with God would never have satisfied David's soul. I commend that speech of Bernard, "I never come from God, without God."
Whenever you go into your closets, press hard after real and sensible communion with God, that so you may come out of your closets with some shines of God upon your spirits, as Moses came down from the mount with his face shining, Exod 34:29-35. Oh, labor and long to enjoy that inward and close fellowship with God in your closets, as may leave such a choice and sweet savor of God, both upon your hearts and lives, as others may be forced to say, "Surely these have been with Jesus," Acts 4:13. It is sad when Christians return from their closets to their shops, their trades, their families, their commerce, etc., without the least visible rays of divine glory upon them.
O sirs! closet-prayer will be found to be but a dry, sapless, lifeless, heartless, comfortless thing, if you do not enjoy communion with God in it. Communion with God is the very life, soul, and crown of all your closet duties; and therefore press after it as for life. When you go into your closets, let everything go which may hinder your fruition of Christ; and let everything be embraced, which makes way for your enjoyment of Christ. Oh let closet-prayer be a golden bridge, a chariot to convey your souls over to God, and to bring you into a more intimate communion with God. Let no closet duty satisfy you or content you, wherein you have not conversed with God, as a child converses with his father, or as a wife converses with her husband, or as a friend converses with his friend, even face to face. Nothing speaks out more unsoundness, falseness, and baseness of heart than this—when men make duty the end of duty; prayer the end of prayer; than when men can begin a duty, and go on in a duty, and close up a duty, and bless and stroke themselves after a duty, and yet never enjoy the least communion with God in the duty!
Question. But how shall a man know when he has a real communion with God in a duty or not? This is a very noble and necessary question, and accordingly it calls for a clear and satisfactory answer; and therefore thus:
Solution [1.] First, A man may have communion with God in sorrow and tears, when he has not communion with God in joy, delight, Psalm 51:17. A man may have communion with God in a heart-humbling, a heart-melting, and a heart-abasing way—when he has not communion with God in a heart-reviving, a heart-cheering, and a heart-comforting way. It is a very great mistake among many tender-hearted Christians, to think that they have no communion with God in their closets, except they meet with God embracing and kissing, cheering and comforting up their souls (Song 2:4-6). When they find God raising the springs of joy and comfort in their souls; when they find God a-speaking peace unto them; when they find the singular sensible presence of God cheering, refreshing, and enlarging of them in their closets—oh then they are willing to grant that they have had sweet communion with God in their closets. But if God meets with them in their closets, and only breaks their hearts for sin, and from sin; if he meets with them and only makes his power and his presence manifest—in debasing and casting down of their souls, upon the sight and sense of their strong corruptions and many imperfections, how unwilling are they to believe that they have had any communion with God!
Well, friends, remember this once for all, namely, that a Christian may have as real communion with God in a heart-humbling way, as he can have in a heart-comforting way. A Christian may have as choice communion with God when his eyes are full of tears, as he can have when his heart is full of joy, John 20:11-19. Sometimes God meets with a poor Christian in his closet, and exceedingly breaks him and humbles him; and at other times he meets with the same Christian in his closet, and mightily cheers him, and comforts him. Sometimes God meets with a poor soul in his closet, and there he sweetly quiets him and stills him; and at other times he meets with the same soul in his closet, and then he greatly revives him and quickens him. God does not always come upon the soul one way, he does not always come in at one and the same door, John 3:8. We sometimes look for a friend to come in at the front-door, and then he comes in at the back-door; and at other times, when we look for him at the back-door, then he comes in at the front-door; and just so it is with God's coming into his people's souls. Sometimes they go into their closets, and look that God will come in at the front-door of joy and comfort; and then God comes in at the back-door of sorrow and grief. And at other times, when they look that God should come in at the back-door of humiliation, breaking, and melting their hearts; then God comes in at the front-door of joy and consolation, cheering and rejoicing their souls. But,
[2.] Secondly, I answer, That all Christians do not enjoy a like communion with God in their closets. Some enjoy much communion with God in their closets, and others enjoy but little communion with God in their closets. Moses had a more clear, glorious, and constant communion with God in his days, than any others had in those times wherein he lived, Exod 33:11; Deut 5:4; Num 12:7-8. God spoke to none "face to face," as he did to Moses. And Abraham, Gen 18, in his time, had a more close, friendly, and intimate communion with God, than holy Lot, or any others had in that day. And though all the disciples, Judas excepted, had sweet communion with Christ in the days of his flesh—yet Peter, James, and John had a more clear, choice, and full communion with him than the rest had, Matt 17:1-4. Among all the disciples John had most bosom-communion with Christ, he was the greatest favorite in Christ's court, he leaned on Christ's bosom, he could say anything to Christ, and he could know anything of Christ, and he could have anything from Christ, John 13:23; John 20:2, and John 21:20. Now that all Christians do not enjoy communion with God alike in their closets, may be thus made evident:
First, All Christians do not prepare alike to enjoy closet-communion with God; and therefore all Christians do not enjoy communion with God alike in their closets, Eccles 5:1; Psalm 10:17. Commonly he who prepares and fits himself most for closet-communion with God, he is the man who enjoys most closet-communion with God, 2 Chron 30:17-20.
Secondly, All Christians do not alike prize communion with God in their closets. Some prize communion with God in their closets before all and above all other things; as that noble marquis said, "Cursed be he who prefers all the world, to one hour's communion with God." They look upon it as that pearl of price, for the enjoyment of which they are ready to sell all and part with all; others prize it at a lower rate, and so enjoy less of it than those who set a higher price and value upon it, Job 23:12; Psalm 119:127; Matt 13:45-46.
Thirdly, All Christians do not alike press after communion with God in their closets. Some press after communion with God in their closets, as a condemned man presses after a pardon, or as a prisoner presses after freedom, or as a poor beggar presses after alms, Psalm 33:8; Isa 26:8-9. Now, you know these press on with the greatest earnestness, the greatest fervency, and the greatest importunity imaginable. But others press after communion with God in their closets more coldly, more carelessly, more slightly, more lazily: "I have taken off my robe-- must I put it on again? I have washed my feet-- must I soil them again?" Song 5:3. Now, those who press hardest after communion with God in their closets, they are usually blessed with the highest degrees of closet-communion with God.
Fourthly, All Christians don't alike improve their communion with God in their closets; and therefore all Christians don't enjoy communion with God alike in their closets. Some Christians do make a more wise, a more humble, a more holy, a more faithful, a more fruitful, and a more constant improvement of their closet-communion with God than others do; and therefore they are blessed with higher degrees of communion with God than others are. Some Christians do more improve their closet-communion with God against the world, the flesh, and the devil, than others do; and therefore no wonder if they do enjoy more communion with God in their closets than others do.
Fifthly, All Christians do not alike need communion with God in their closets; and therefore all Christians have not a like communion with God in their closets. All Christians have not a like place in the mystical body of Christ, 1 Cor 12:14, seq.; some rule, and others are ruled. Now, every man stands in more or less need of communion with God, according to the place that he bears in the body of Christ. Again, all Christians have not alike burdens to bear, nor alike difficulties to encounter with, nor alike dangers to escape, nor alike temptations to wrestle with, nor alike passions and corruptions to mortify, nor alike mercies and experiences to improve, etc.; and therefore all Christians don't need alike communion with God in their closets. Now, commonly God lets himself out more or less in ways of communion, according as the various necessities and conditions of his people does require.
Sixthly and lastly, All Christians do not alike meet with outward interruptions, nor inward interruptions; and therefore all Christians have not alike communion with God in their closets. Some Christians meet with a world of outward and inward interruptions more than others do; some Christians' outward callings, relations, conditions, and stations, etc., do afford more plentiful matter and occasions, to interrupt them in their closet-communion with God, than other Christians' callings, relations, conditions, and stations do, etc.
Besides, Satan is more busy with some Christians than he is with other Christians; and corruptions work more strongly and violently in some Christians than they do in other Christians, etc.; and let me add this to all the rest, that the very natural tempers of some Christians are more averse to closet-duties than the natural tempers of other Christians are; and therefore all Christians have not alike communion with God in their closets—but some have more and some have less, according as God in his infinite wisdom sees best.
Now, let no Christian say, that he has no communion with God in closet-prayer, because he has not such a full, such a choice, such a sweet, such a sensible, and such a constant communion with God in closet-prayer—as such and such saints have had, or as such and such saints now have; for all saints do not alike enjoy communion with God in their closets: some have more, some have less; some have a higher degree, others a lower; some are enrapt up in the third heaven, when others are but enrapt up in the clouds. What man is there so childish and babyish as to argue thus, that he has no wisdom, because he has not the wisdom of Solomon; or, that he has no strength, because he has not the strength of Samson; or, that he has no life, because he has not the swiftness of Ahimaaz; or, that he has no estate, because he has not the riches of Dives?
And yet so childish and babyish many weak Christians are, as to argue thus: namely, that they have no communion with God in their closets, because they have not such high, such comfortable, and such constant communion with God in their closets, as such and such saints have had, or as such and such saints now have! Whereas they should seriously consider, that though some saints have a great communion with God—yet other saints have but a small communion with God; and though some Christians have a strong communion with God—yet other Christians have but a weak communion with God; and though some Christians have a very close and near communion with God—yet other Christians have but a more remote communion with God; and though some of God's servants have a daily, constant, and uninterrupted communion with God—yet others of his servants have but a more transient and inconstant communion with God. But,
[3.] Thirdly, I answer, When a man acts grace in closet-duties, then certainly he has communion with God in closet-duties, 2 Tim 1:17; 1 Tim 2:8. When a man in closet-duties acts faith in God, or faith in the promises, or faith in the blood of Christ; or when a man in private duties acts repentance for sin, or love to Jesus Christ, or sets up God as the object of his holy fear, or as the object of his joy, etc., then he has communion with God, then he has fellowship with the Father, and with the Son, 1 John 1:3.
An unregenerate man may act gifts and abilities in a duty—but he cannot act grace in a duty; for no man can act grace in a duty—but he who has grace in his soul; and hence it comes to pass that unsanctified people under the highest activity of their arts, parts, and gifts in religious duties, enjoy no communion with God at all; witness the scribes and pharisees, Demas, Judas, Simon Magus, etc., Isa 1:11-13. As ever you would have an evidence of your communion with God in closet-duties, carefully look to the activity of your graces, carefully stir up the grace of God which is in you, 2 Tim 1:6. But,
[4.] Fourthly, I answer, When a man has communion with God in his closet, then he gives God the glory of all his actings and activities, Psalm 115:1. Communion with God always helps a man to set the crown of praise and honor upon the head of God. Witness that gracious and grateful doxology of David and his people, in that 1 Chron 29:13, "Now therefore, our God, we thank you, and praise your glorious name." Men who enjoy no communion with God in religious duties, are still a-sacrificing unto their own net, and a-burning incense unto their own dragnet, Hab 1:16; they are still a blessing themselves, and a-stroking of themselves, and applauding themselves; they think the garland of praise, the crown of honor, befits no head but their own, Luke 18:11-12.
But now, men that enjoy communion with God in religious duties, they will uncrown themselves to crown God, they will uncrown their duties—to crown the God of their duties; they will uncrown their arts, parts, gifts, and enlargements—to set the crown of praise upon the head of God alone, Acts 3:11-13,16; Rev 4:10-11; Rev 5:11-12.
You think that you have communion with God in closet-duties, yes, you say that you have communion with God in closet-duties; but on whose head do you put the garland of praise? Psalm 148:13. If on God's head, you have communion with God; if on your own head, you have no communion with God. As all the rivers run into the sea, and all the lines meet in the center—so, when all our closet-duties terminate and center in the advance of God's glory, then have we communion with God in them.
Constantine used to write the name of Christ over his door. When a man has communion with Christ in a duty, then he will write the name of Christ, the honor of Christ, upon his duty. Some say that the name of Jesus was engraved upon the heart of Ignatius; sure I am, when a man has communion with God in a duty, then you shall find the honor and glory of Jesus engraved upon that duty. But,
[5.] Fifthly, I answer, When the performance of closet-duties leaves the soul in a better frame—then a man has communion with God in them. When a man comes off from closet-duties in a more holy frame, or in a more humble frame, or in a more spiritual frame, or in a more watchful frame, or in a more heavenly frame, or in a more broken frame, or in a more quickened and enlivened frame, etc.—then certainly he has had communion with God in those duties. When a man comes out of his closet, and finds the frame of his heart to be more strongly set against sin than ever, and to be more highly resolved to walk with God than ever, and to be more eminently crucified to the world then ever, and to be more divinely fixed against temptations than ever—then without all question, he has had communion with God in his closet.
[6.] Sixthly, I answer, When closet-duties fit a man for those other duties that lie next at hand, then doubtless he has had communion with God in them. When private duties fit a man for public duties, or when private duties fit a man for the duties of his place, calling, and condition, wherein God has set him—then certainly he has had fellowship with God in them, Eccles 9:10. When a man in closet duties finds more spiritual strength and power to perform the duties that are incumbent upon him, then assuredly he has met with God. When private prayer fits me more for family prayer, or public prayer—then I may safely conclude that God has drawn near to my soul in private prayer. When one closet duty fits me for another closet duty, as when praying fits me for Scripture reading, or reading for praying; or when the more external duties in my closet, namely, reading or praying, fits me for those more spiritual and internal duties, namely, self-examination, holy meditation, soul-humiliation, etc., then I may rest satisfied that there has been some choice fellowship between God and my soul.
When the more I pray in my closet, the more fit I am to pray in my closet; and the more I read in my closet, the more fit I am to read in my closet; and the more I meditate in my closet, the more fit I am to meditate in my closet; and the more I search and examine my heart in my closet, the more fit I am to search and examine my heart in my closet; and the more I humble and abase my soul in my closet, the more fit I am to humble and abase my soul in my closet: then I may be confident that I have had communion with God in my closet.
[7.] Seventhly, I answer, That all private communion with God is very soul-humbling and soul-abasing. Abraham was a man who had much private communion with God, and a man who was very vile and low in his own eyes: Gen 18:27, "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes." In respect of my nature, says Abraham, I am but base dust and ashes; and in respect of my deserts, I deserve to be burnt to ashes. There are none so humble as those who have nearest communion with God, Gen 28:10-18. Jacob was a man who had much private communion with God—and a man who was very little in his own eyes: Gen 22:10, "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which you have showed unto your servant;" or, as the Hebrew has it, "I am less than all your mercies." When Jacob had to deal with Laban, he pleads his merit but when he has to do with God, he debases himself below the least of his mercies, Gen 31:38-41. Moses was a man who had much private communion with God, as I have formerly evidenced, and a man who was the meekest and humblest person in all the world: Num 12:3, "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men that were upon the face of the earth." And so, when the glory of God appeared to Moses, he falls upon his face, Num 16:22, in token of humility and self-abasing.
David was a man who had much private communion with God, as is granted on all hands; and how greatly does he debase himself and vilify himself! 1 Sam 26:20, "The king of Israel has come out to seek a flea;" and what more weak and contemptible than a flea? So 1 Sam 24:14, "After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom do you pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea?" As if David had said, "It is not worth the while, the labor; it is below the dignity and honor of the king of Israel to take such pains and to pursue so violently after such a poor nothing as I am, who has no more strength nor power to bite or hurt than a dead dog or a poor flea has." So Psalm 22:6, "But I am a worm, and no man." Now, what is more weak, what less regarded, what more despicable, what more trampled under foot than a poor worm? The Hebrew word which is here rendered worm, signifies a very little worm, which are so little that a man can scarcely see them, or perceive them. Thus you see that holy David debases himself below a worm, yes, below the least of worms. No man sets so low a value upon himself, as he does who has most private communion with God.
The twenty-four elders cast down their crowns at the feet of Jesus Christ, Rev 4:10-11. Their crowns note all their inward and outward dignities, excellencies, and glories; and the casting down of their crowns notes their great humility and self-debasement. When Christians, in their closets and out of their closets, can cast down their crowns, their duties, their services, their graces, their enlargements, their enjoyments, etc., at the feet of Jesus Christ, and sit down debasing and lessening of themselves, then certainly they have had a very near and sweet communion with God.
Austin being once asked what was the first grace, answered, humility; what the second, humility; what the third, humility.
Chrysostom has a remarkable saying of humility: "Suppose," says he, "that a man were defiled with all manner of sin and enormity—yet humble; and another man enriched with gifts, graces, and duties—yet proud; the humble sinner were in a safer condition than this proud saint."
When a man can come off from closet-duties, and say, as Ignatius once said of himself, 'I am not worthy to be called the least,' then certainly he has had fellowship with God in them. All the communion that the creature has with God in his closet is very soul-humbling and soul-abasing. In all a man's communion with God, some beams, some rays of the glory and majesty of God, will shine forth upon his soul. Now all divine manifestations are very humbling and abasing, as you may clearly see in those two great instances of Job and Isaiah: Job 42:5-6 "I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear—but now my eye sees you: Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Isa 6:1,5, "In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." What sweet communion had Elijah with God in the low cave!
There was a gentlewoman, of no ordinary quality or breeding, who, being much troubled in mind, and sadly deserted by God, could not be drawn by her husband, or any other Christian friends, either to hear or read anything that might work for her spiritual advantage. At last her husband, by much importunity, prevailed so far with her, that she was willing he should read one chapter in the Bible to her; so he read Isa 57, and when he came to Isa 57:15, "For this is what the high and lofty One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite." Oh, says she, is it so, that God dwells with a contrite and humble spirit? Then I am sure he dwells with me, for my heart is broken into a thousand pieces. Oh happy text and happy time, that ever I should hear such comfort! and she was thereupon recovered. The more communion any man has with God, the more humble and broken his heart will be.
Holy Bradford was a man who had much private communion with God, and he would many times subscribe himself in his letters, "John the hypocrite, and a very painted sepulcher." Agur was one of the wisest and holiest men on the earth in his days, and he condemned himself for being more brutish than any man, and not having the understanding of a man, Prov 30:2. How sweet is the smell of the lowly violet, which hides his head, above all the gaudy tulips that be in your garden. The lowly Christian is the most amiable and the most lovely Christian. When a man can come out of his closet, and cry out with Augustine, "I hate that which I am, and love and desire that which I am not. O wretched man who I am, in whom the cross of Christ has not yet eaten out the poisonous and the bitter taste of the first tree." Or, as another says, "Lord, I see, and yet am blind; I will, and yet rebel; I hate, and yet I love; I follow, and yet I fall; I press forward—yet I faint; I wrestle—yet I halt;" then he may be confident that he has had communion with God in his closet. He who comes off from closet-duties in a self-debasing way, and in laying of himself low at the foot of God, he certainly has had communion with God; but when men come out of their closets with their hearts swelled and lifted up, as the hearts of the pharisees were, Luke 18:11-12, it is evident that they have had no communion with God. God has not been near to their souls, who say, 'stand by yourself, come not near to me, for I am holier than you.' Isa 65:5. But,
[8.] Eighthly, and lastly, When a man finds such a secret virtue and power running through his closet-duties—as wounds and weakens his beloved corruption, as breaks the strength and the power of his special sin, as sets his heart more fully, resolutely, and constantly against his darling lust, as stirs up a greater rage, and a more bitter hatred, and a more fierce indignation against the toad in the bosom—then certainly he has had communion with God in his closet-duties. Consult these scriptures:
Isa 2:20, "In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they have made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats." In the day wherein God should take these poor hearts into communion with himself, their hearts should be filled with such rage and indignation against their most delectable and desirable idols, that they should take not only those made of trees and stones—but even their most precious and costly idols, those who were made of silver and gold, and cast them to the moles and to the bats, to note their horrible hatred and indignation against them. Idolatry was the darling-sin of the Jews; their hearts were so exceedingly affected and delighted with their idols, that they did not care what they spent upon them: Isa 46:6, "They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a God: they fall down, yes, they worship it." The word here used for lavish, in the Hebrew, signifies properly to waste, or spend riotously; they set so light by their treasure, that they cared not what they spent upon their idols. God gave them gold and silver as pledges of his favor and bounty, and they lavish it out upon their idols, as if God had hired them to be wicked.
Oh, but when God should come and take these poor wretches into a close and near communion with himself, then you shall find their wrath and rage to rise against their idols, as you may see in that Isa 30:19-21. Their communion with God is more than hinted; but mark, Isa 30:22, "Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them—Away with you!" None defile, deface, detest, and disgrace their idols like those who are taken into communion with God. Fellowship with God will make a man cast away, as a menstruous cloth, those very idols, in which he has most delighted, and with which he has been most pleased and enamored.
Idols were Ephraim's bosom-sin. Hos 4:17, "Ephraim is joined," or glued, as the Hebrew has it, "to idols; let him alone." Oh! but when you find Ephraim taken into close communion with God, as you do in that Hos 14:4-7, then you shall find another spirit upon him: Hos 14:8, "Ephraim shall say, what have I to do any more with idols?" I have had too much to do with them already, I will never have to do with them any more. Oh! how does my soul detest and abhor them, and rise up against them. Oh! how do I now more loathe and abominate them, than ever I have formerly loved them, or delighted in them. After the return of the Jews out of Babylon, they so hated and abhorred idols, that in the time of the Romans they chose rather to die, than allow the eagle, which was the imperial insignia, to be set up in their temple.
Though closet-duties are weak in themselves—yet when a man has communion with God in them, then they prove exceeding powerful to the casting down of strongholds, and vain imaginations, and every high thing and thought, which exalts itself against the knowledge of God, 2 Cor 10:4-5. When a man comes out of his closet with a heart more fully and steadfastly set against every known sin—but especially against his bosom-sin, his darling-sin, his Delilah which he played and sported himself most with, and which he has hugged with pleasure and delight in his bosom—then certainly he has had private communion with God.
After Moses had enjoyed forty days' private communion with God in the mount, how did his heart rise, and his anger wax hot against the molten calf that his people had made! Exod 32:19-20, "When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it." Moses had never more intimate fellowship with God than now, and he never discovered so much holy zeal, anger, and indignation against sin as now.
When a man comes off from the mount of closet-duties with a greater hatred, anger, wrath, and indignation against bosom-sins, darling-sins, complexion-sins, which were once as dear to him as right hands or right eyes, or as Delilah was to Samson, or Herodias to Herod, or Isaac to Abraham, or Joseph to Jacob, then certainly he has had communion with God in those duties. When a man finds his beloved sins, his Delilahs, which, like the prince of devils, command all other sins, to fall before his closet-duties, as Dagon fell before the ark, or as Goliath fell before David—then assuredly he has had fellowship with God in them.
Pliny writes of some families which had secret marks on their bodies, peculiar to those of that line. Certainly, there are no people—but have some sin or sins; some secret marks on their souls, that may in a peculiar way be called theirs. Now when in private duties they find the bent of their hearts, and the purposes, resolutions, and inclinations of their souls more raised, inflamed, and set against these, they may safely and comfortably conclude, that they have had communion with God in them.
O sirs! there is no no bosom-sin so sweet or profitable, that is worth burning in hell for, or worth shutting out of heaven for; and therefore, in all your private duties and services, labor after that communion with God in them, that may break the neck and heart of your most bosom-sins. When Darius fled before Alexander, that he might run the faster out of danger, he threw away his massive crown from his head. As ever you would be safe from eternal danger, throw away your golden and your silver idols, throw away your bosom-sins, your darling lusts.
And thus I have done with the answers to that noble and necessary question, that was last proposed.
(9.) My ninth advice and counsel is this, In all your closet-duties look that your ends be right, look that the glory of God be your ultimate end, the mark, the bulls-eye, that you have in your eye. There is a great truth in that old saying, that "duties are esteemed, not by their acts—but by their ends." Look! as the shining sun overshadows the light of the fire, so the glory of God must consume all other ends. There may be bad aims in good actions, as in Jehu's zeal. Two things make a good Christian, good actions and good aims. And though a good aim does not make a bad action good, as in Uzzah—yet a bad aim makes a good action bad, as in Jehu, whose justice was approved—but his policy punished. God writes 'worthless' upon all those services, wherein men's ends are not right: Jer 32:23, "They obeyed not your voice, neither walked in your law, they have done nothing of all that you have commanded them to do." So Dan 9:13, "All this evil is come upon us—yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God." The Jews were very much in religious duties and services; witness Isa 1:11-15; Isa 58:1-3; Zech 7:5-6. I might produce a hundred more witnesses to confirm it, were it necessary; but because they did not aim at the glory of God in what they did, therefore the Lord writes a cipher upon all their duties and services. It was Ephraim's folly, that he brought forth fruit unto himself, Hos 10:1.
It was the Pharisees' hypocrisy, that in all their duties and services they looked at the praise of men. Matt 6:1-5, "Verily," says Christ, "you have your reward." A poor, a pitiful reward indeed! Such men shall be sure to fall short of divine acceptance, and of a glorious recompense; who are not able to look above the praises of men. Woe to that man who, with Augustus, is ambitious to go off the stage of duty with a plaudit. Peter was not himself when he denied his Lord, and cursed himself to get credit among a cursed crew. As ever you would ask and have, speak and speed, seek and find—see that the glory of the Lord be engraved upon all your closet-duties. He shall be sure to speed best, whose heart is set most upon glorifying of God in all his secret retirements. When God crowns us, he does but crown his own gifts in us; and when we give God the glory of all we do, we do but give him the glory which is due unto his name; for it is he, and he alone, who works all our works in us and for us.
All closet-duties are good or bad, as the mark is at which the soul aims. He who makes God the object of closet-prayer—but not the end of closet-prayer, does but lose his prayer, and take pains to undo himself. God will be all in all—or he will be nothing at all. Such prayers never reach the ear of God, nor delight the heart of God, nor shall ever be lodged in the bosom of God—which are not directed to the glory of God. The end must be as noble as the means, or else a man may be undone after all his doings. A man's most splendid actions will at last be found to be but splendid sins, if he has made himself, and not the glory of God, the end of those actions.
(10.) My tenth advice and counsel is this, Be sure that you offer all your closet prayers in Christ's name, and in his alone; John 14:13-14, "And whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask anything in my name, I will do it." John 15:16, "Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." John 16:23-24, "In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." O sirs! this is your privilege as well as your comfort, that you never deal with God but by a mediator. When you appear before God, Jesus Christ appears with you, and he appears for you; when you invoke—then he advocates; when you put up your petitions—then he does make intercession for you. Christ gives you a commission to put his name upon all your requests; and whatever prayer comes up with this name upon it, he will procure it an answer. In the state of innocency, man might worship God without a mediator; but since sin has made so wide a breach between God and man, God will accept of no worship from man—but what is offered up by the hand of a mediator. Now this mediator is Christ alone; 1 Tim 2:5, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." One mediator, not of redemption only, as the papists grant—but of intercession also, which they deny.
The papists make saints and angels co-mediators with Christ; but in this, as in other things, they fight against clear Scripture light. The apostle plainly tells us, that the office of intercession pertains unto Christ, as part of his mediation, Heb 7:25: and it is certain, that we need no other master of requests in heaven—but the man Christ Jesus; who being so near to the Father, and so dear to the Father, and so much in with the Father, can doubtless accomplish anything with the Father, which makes for his glory and our good. This was typified in the law. The high-priest alone did enter into the sanctuary, and carry the names of the children of Israel before the Lord, while the people stood all outside; this pointed out Christ's mediation, Exod 28:29. In Lev 16:13-14, you read of two things: first, of the cloud of incense that covered the mercy seat; secondly, of the blood of the bullock, which was sprinkled before the mercy-seat. Now that blood typified Christ's satisfaction, and the cloud of incense his intercession.
Some of the learned think, that Christ intercedes only by virtue of his merits; others, that it is done only with his mouth. I suppose it may be done both ways, the rather because Christ has a tongue, as also a whole body—but glorified, in heaven; and is it likely, that that mouth which pleaded so much for us on earth, should be altogether silent for us in heaven?
There is no coming to the Father—but by the Son, John 14:6. Christ is the true Jacob's ladder, by which we must ascend to heaven. Joseph, you know, commanded his brethren, that as ever they looked for any good from him, or to see his face with joy, that they should be sure to bring their brother Benjamin along with them. O sirs! as ever you would be prevalent with God, as ever you would have sweet, choice, and comfortable returns from heaven to all your closet-prayers, be sure that you bring your elder brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the arms of your faith, be sure that you treat and trade with God only in the name of the Lord Jesus.
When you go to closet-prayer, look that you pray not in your own names—but in the name of Christ; and that you believe and hope not in your own names—but in the name of Christ; and that you look not to speed in your own names—but in the name of Christ: Col 3:17, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." Whatever we do, we are to do it by the authority of Christ, and through the assistance of Christ, and in the name of Christ, and for the sake and glory of Christ. Christ's name is so precious and powerful with the Father, that it will carry any suit, obtain any request at his hands. When a man writes the name of Jesus upon his closet-prayers, then he shall be sure to speed. Though God will not give a man a drop, a sip, a crumb, a crust, for his own sake—yet for Jesus' sake he will give the best, the choicest, and the greatest blessings that heaven affords; that name is still mighty and powerful, prevalent and precious before the Lord.
The prayers which were offered up with the incense upon the altar were pleasing, Rev 8:3; and were accepted by God, Rev 8:4. Joseph's brethren were kindly received for Benjamin's sake. O sirs! all our duties and services are accepted by the Father, not for their own sakes, nor for our sakes—but for Christ's sake! There are no prayers that are either heard, owned, accepted, regarded, or rewarded—but such as Christ puts his hand to. If Christ does not mingle his blood with our sacrifices, our services—they will be lost, and never ascend as incense before the Lord. No coin is accepted, which has not Caesar's stamp upon it; nor any prayers are accepted in heaven, which have not the stamp of Christ upon them. There is nothing more pleasing to our heavenly Father, than to use the mediation of his Son. Such shall be sure to find most favor, and to speed best in the court of heaven—who present themselves before the Father with Christ in their arms. But,
(11.) My eleventh and last advice and counsel is this, When you come out of your closets, narrowly watch what becomes of your private prayers. Look at what door, in what way, and by what hand the Lord shall please to give you an answer to the secret desires of your souls. It has been the custom of the people of God, to look after their prayers, to see what success they have had, to observe what answer they have found in heaven: Psalm 5:3, "My voice shall you hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto you—and will look up." In the words you may observe two things: first, David's posture in prayer; secondly, his practice after prayer. First, His posture in prayer, "I will direct my prayer unto you." Secondly, His practice after prayer, "And I will look up." The psalmist, in these words, makes use of two military words. First, he would not only pray—but marshal up his prayers, he would put them in battle-array; so much the Hebrew word imports. Secondly, when he had done this, then he would be as a watchman upon his watchtower, to see whether he prevailed, whether he got the answer or not; and so much the Hebrew word imports. When David had set his prayers, his petitions, in rank and file, in good array, then he was resolved he would look abroad, he would look about him, to see at what door God would send in an answer of prayer.
He is either a fool or a madman, he is either very weak or very wicked, who prays and prays—but never looks after his prayers; who shoots many an arrow towards heaven—but never minds where his arrows alight: Psalm 85:8, "I will hear what God the Lord will speak; for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints." If David would have God to hearken to his prayers, he must then hearken to what God will speak; and upon this point it seems he was fully resolved. David's prayer you have in Psalm 85:1-7, and his gracious resolution you have in Psalm 85:8, "I will hear what God the Lord will speak." As if he had said, "Certainly it will not be long before the Lord will give me a gracious answer, a seasonable and a suitable return to my present prayers."
Psalm 130:1-2,5-6, "Out of the depths have I cried unto you, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice, let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord, more than those who watch for the morning; I say, more than those who watch for the morning." Those who watch abroad in dangerous times and severe weather look frequently for peep of day. How does the weary sentinel, who is wet with the rain of heaven or with the dew of the night—wait and watch, look and long, for the morning light. Now this was the frame and temper of David's spirit when he came off from praying; he falls a-waiting for a gracious answer. Shall the farmer wait for the precious fruits of the earth, and shall the merchantman wait for the return of his ships, and shall the wife wait for the return of her husband, who is gone a long journey? James 5:7-8, and shall not a Christian wait for the return of his prayers?
Noah patiently waited for the return of the dove to the ark with an olive-branch in his mouth, so must you patiently wait for the return of your prayers. When children shoot their arrows, they never mind where they fall; but when prudent archers shoot their arrows, they stand and watch where they fall. You must deal by your prayers as prudent archers do by their arrows. Hab 2:1, "I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the lookout tower. I will watch to see what He will say to me." The prophet, in the former chapter, having been very earnest in his expostulations, and very fervent in his supplications, he gets now upon his watchtower, to see what becomes of his prayers. He stands as a sentinel, and watches as vigilantly and as carefully as a spy, a scout, earnestly longing to hear and see the event, the outcome, and success of his prayers.
That Christian who in prayer has one eye upon a divine precept, and another upon a gracious promise—that Christian will be sure to look after his prayers. He who prays and waits, and waits and prays, shall be sure to speed; he shall never fail of rich returns, Psalm 40:1-4. He who can pray as well as wait, and he who can be contented that God is glorified, though he himself is not gratified; he who dares not demand God's promises immediately, but patiently waits for the accomplishment of them—he may be confident that he shall have seasonable and suitable answers to all those prayers that he has posted away to heaven.
Though God seldom comes at our time—yet he never fails to come at his own time: "He who shall come, will come, and will not tarry," Heb 10:37. The mercies of God are not styled the swift—but the "sure mercies of David." He who makes as much conscience to look after his prayers as to pray, he shall shortly clap his hands for joy, and cry out with that blessed martyr, "He has come, he has come, he has come." Certainly there is little worth in that man's heart, or in that man's prayers, who keeps up a trade of prayer—but never looks what becomes of his prayers. When you are in your closets, marshal your prayers; see that every prayer keeps his place and ground; and when you come out of your closets, then look up for an answer; only take heed that you be not too hasty and hot with God. Though mercy in the promise be yours—yet the time of giving it out is the Lord's; and therefore you must wait as well as pray.
And thus much by way of counsel and advice, for the better carrying on of closet prayer.
I have now but one thing more to do before I close up this discourse, and that is, to lay down some means, rules, or directions which may be of use to help you on in a faithful and conscientious discharge of this great duty, namely, closet-prayer.