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Watts says, "If we pray among a select society of Christians, we draw near to God with a holy boldness, something like what we use in our duties of secret worship. We have reason to take more freedom among those that are fellow-saints, and whose hearts have felt many of the same workings with our own. Then, when our faith is lively, we should give thanks to God for our election in Christ Jesus; for the atonement and righteousness of the Son of God, in which we humbly hope we have an interest; for the enlightening and sanctifying work of his own Spirit upon our hearts; for our expectations of eternal glory; and by expressing the joys of our faith to God, we may often be made a means, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to raise the faith and joy of others." Were your social meetings thus sanctified, the occasional intercourse of dear friends would be more blessed than it is. You would find it a means of grace, and would enjoy, in a much higher degree, the privilege of the communion of saints. You would receive a greater blessing than you have yet done in all your family and social relations. "Persons who belong to several families may, and ought to meet on these occasions. The consent of importunity is a pleasing instance of brotherly love."
for the evident purpose of excluding essentials. Thus the manner of a preacher, his style, his appearance often occupy the place which is due to his matter. Or, if the matter be introduced, it is not for the purpose of enjoying its excellence, in turning it to the exciting of present good, but rather as a ground of critique on his mode of treatment, affording a subject of ingenious remark, if not of authoritative decision. There are religious Tatlers and Busy Bodies, it is to be feared, as well as those of the world; but it should never be forgotten, that a religious gossip is less excusable than a worldly gossip. The object of the worldly is to kill time; and for this purpose, characters are sported with, and idle tales and jokes indulged in. It should be the Christian's object to redeem the time, and to improve it by edifying his associates."
Those who JOIN IN SOCIAL PRAYER should guard against a spirit of criticism on the prayer which they hear, and endeavour to join in the desire intended, even when they think that the mode of expression is not altogether proper, or suitable. Watch against criticising and being offended with the mere words and manner of others. Those, indeed, who do pray, should take care to avoid occasion of offence, by simplicity and propriety in their mode of conducting the prayer. But when sinful creatures kneel together before their Almighty Creator, the solemnity of the work in which they are engaged, and the greatness of his Majesty, should prevent a rigid observance of each other. Judge not, that ye be not judged.
In this, as in every means of grace, beware of any thing like ostentation, display, or self-righteoueness. Endeavour to attain Christian simplicity, and the meekness of wisdom. James iii, 13.
THE GENERAL HABIT OF PRAYER.
HITHERTO we have dwelt on the various kinds of devotion, private, public, family, and social, which should each come in their course at stated times; but the believer's character, I give myself unto prayer, (Ps. xc, 4.) shews, that he is continually in the spirit of prayer. The Scriptures suppose, that this is the habit of the Christian mind. Hence we find directions of this kind, "Praying always, with all prayer, and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance." Eph. vi,18. "Pray without ceasing." 1 Thess. v, 17. "Continuing instant in prayer." Rom. xii, 12.
These directions are in some measure fulfilled, by a constant attention to those kinds of prayer we have before mentioned; but they may have a yet more complete fulfilment, in the habitual disposition of the Christian's mind, his readiness at all times for prayer, and the exercise of this disposition in continual aspirations of soul, and desires expressed unto God in the midst of his other duties. These aspirations are both a great sign and means of our being spiritually-minded.
Nor does this in any way hinder, but rather help attention to our various duties. A labourer's love to his family will often bring it to his mind during his work, but will only incline him to labour more constantly and cheerfully; and a Christian's love to his Saviour will have the same effect. The breathing of the lungs, and the beating of the pulse, hinder not our being engaged
in other work; and the lifting up of holy desires unto God, will only quicken us, and animate us in the performance of the daily labours of our life.
The expression of this habit of mind has been sometimes called ejaculatory prayer; for as the ancient soldiers were accustomed to let fly javelins or darts, so when there is the habit of prayer there will frequently be short, earnest petitions darted up, on the moment, to the throne of grace.
Such an habitually devout disposition of mind, will make every action of your life holy. You will learn to do nothing without connecting it by prayer with the presence and glory of God. You will see nothing, and hear nothing, without its raising your heart to him. What a spiritual life may the Christian, improving every thing by prayer, lead! This will consecrate every field, every wood, and every dwelling place. It will turn an ordinary walk into a morning or evening sacrifice. Making this heavenly use of earthly things, you will rapidly advance in conformity to the divine image, you will be strong in overcoming sin, and you will carry on schemes of good with a power which nothing can resist.
"How highly," says Cooke, "would a courtier prize a privy key of admittance to his sovereign at all times. This key we possess in ejaculatory prayer. a golden chain of union between earth and heaven."
This general spirit of devotion, prevailing in the heart. at all times, is of such importance, that the chief number of EXAMPLES of prayer which we find in the Holy Scriptures are of this kind. Were all these examples to be enumerated, it would be seen, that there is no situation, nor circumstance, in which we may be placed, where such a spirit will not be suitable, and in which
the blessing of God may not in this way be sought, and obtained. It may be right to bring a few specimens from different parts of the sacred volume.
When the Patriarch Jacob, after much persuasion, at length permits his sons to take their youngest brother Benjamin, his heart sends up this short, but earnest petition; "God Almighty give you mercy before the man." Gen. xliii, 14. When Joseph sees his brother, Benjamin, he suddenly prays, "God be gracious unto thee, my son." Gen. xliii, 29.
When the Egyptians were behind the Israelites, and the Red Sea before them, and the mountains hemmed them in, and the people were repining and murmuring, in that great difficulty, the heart of Moses was with his God; and though we read of no outward prayer, yet God says to him, "Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward" Exod. xiv, 15.
In a similar great extremity, when the people talked of stoning David, he encouraged himself in the Lord his God. 1 Sam. xxx, 6. And when, flying from his rebellious son Absolom, he was going up Mount Olivet, one told him that Ahithophel, his counsellor, was among the conspirators, David prayed, on the moment, as he was going up the hill, “O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness." 2 Sam. xv, 31.
Nehemiah is an eminent example of the same spirit of prayer. You may observe it throughout his whole history. The following is an example. Being sorrowful in the presence of the king, and having stated the reason, the history goes on, "The king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven, and I said unto the king, Send me unto