« السابقةمتابعة »
are not seen or heard by men, yet they are well known to thy God, Ps. xxxviii. 9, “ Lord, all my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not hid from thee;" as if David had said, Lord, I many times withdraw myself into a closet or retired place, and there I lay before thee the sorrows of my soul, “I pour out my heart like water before the face of the Lord,” Lam. ii. 19; sometimes in the night watches, or in solitary places, none knows what I am doing; no eye sees my briny tears, no ear hears
my bitter outcries; but the all-seeing God hides not his eyes from my tears, stops not his ears at my cries, but knows my groans, yea my very desires. Observe it, there is not a believing prayer but it is upon the file, and on record in heaven, though offered up by an obscure person, and in an obscure place; God even knoweth the meaning of his Spirit in the hearts of his people, though the troubled saint cannot tell whether it be indeed the Spirit of God or not:* but this know, that secret prayers in a chamber are as well known to God, as open prayers in a public church; heart ejaculations are owned by God as much as the loudest acclamations. God took notice of Hezekiah when he turned his face toward the wall, and wept and prayed, and said God, “ I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears,” Isa. xxxviii. 5. Though men did not much take notice, God did ; yea more, he expresseth his approbation and acceptance of these sacrifices in secret ; but of that, anon.
4. God sees in secret, therefore closet prayer is a solemn acknowledgment of God's omniscience and omnipresence: when you pray in retirement, you testify your faith in God's ubiquity, and look upon him as filling heaven and earth; and this God commands us to believe, yea would have us to lie under the sense hereof. Hence that vehement expostulation, Jer. xxiii. 24, .
* Rom. viü. 17.
“Can any hide himself in secret places, that I shall not see him, saith the Lord? Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord ?” Yes, saith the believing soul, I know thou art every where; no thought can be withholden from thee, therefore I wait on thee here: all is one where I am, for wherever I am, I cannot escape from thee; and wherever I am, I may approach unto thee : and the Lord is nigh to broken hearts and praying souls; he is not far from every one of us, but his special presence is with his saints engaged in duty.* David composed a Psalm on God's immensity, Psalm cxxxix, wherein he shews, (1.) God's omniscience, in the six first verses, “thou knowest my down-sitting and mine up-rising,” &c. (2.) God's omnipresence, ver. 7-14, “whither shall I
go froin thy spirit ? If to heaven thou art there,” &c. Darkness and light are both alike to thee: and what use doth holy David make of this heavenly doctrine? Surely if God will be with him wherever he is, he is resolved to be with God, ver. 18, “when I awake I am still with thee,” that is, by secret prayer and meditation: when I lie down I commend my soul and body to thee, and when I rise up I meditate on thee; when I go to sleep I pray, when I awake I am with God by holy and precious thoughts. So that I am still with God; all my days, in all places, conditions, relations, companies, I am still with my God; and as a good man used to say, “My God and I are good company.” This, this is to be thorough-paced in religion; this is Enoch's walking with God, a conversation in heaven, a fellowship with the Father, an emblem of glory, and the sweetest, happiest life a soul is capable of in this world, and much of this consists in conversing with God in the duty of secret prayer. All this flows from a due apprehension of God's omniscience and omnipresence, and this reason Cyprian renders, why Jesus Christ here doth prescribe our closet devotions as most agreeable to our christian faith, that we may know God is every where present, hears all, and pierceth with the fulness of his majesty into the inmost rooms, and hidden places according to the scriptures :* and truly this is a doctrine worth confirming by such a practice: and this is a practice worthy of such a doctrine.
a * Psalm xxxiv. 15, 17, 18.
The Liberality of God.
LASTLY, The text saith, Thy Father that seeth in secret will reward thee openly: this reason is drawn from God's munificence: wherein we have, first, the promise, that is, a reward; secondly, the manner of performance, openly: this is a comfortable circumstance, it is worth something to know that our labour is not lost, it shall be rewarded, yea it shall be rewarded by God, whose rewards are great like himself, it shall even be rewarded by our Father. A father takes in good part a little service from an obedient child, and gives a great reward for a little work; closet prayer also shall be openly rewarded. The observableness of the mercy enhanceth the rate of it; tending more to increase a Christian's comfort, to exhibit an example for others, to afford encouragement to right worshippers, and to advance the glory of God : all these things might
* Denique magisterio suo Dominus secrete nos orare precepit in abditis et secretis vel semotis locis, in cubiculis ipsis, quod magis convenit fidei, ut sciamus Deum ubique esse præsentem, audire omnes, et videre, et majestatis suæ plenitudine in abdita quoque et occulta penetrare, sicut scriptum est, Jer. xxiii. 23, 24, et Prov. xv. 3. Cypr. Serm. de orat. Dom. p.
take up much time, but I shall only suggest what is that open reward which God gives to such as are constant in closet prayer; that is given in these four ways:
1. By returning a visible answer to secret prayer. None saw Jacob wrestling hand to hand, as it were, with the angel, but all might observe the tender embraces betwixt that good man and his hostile brother Esau ; * there was no witness of Moses' intercession for Israel in the mount, but all the congregation and the whole world, may bear witness of God's hearing his prayer, for sparing an offending people.f When Eli observed Hannah's lips move, and heard no voice, he misjudged her to be a drunken woman, but the truth is, she was busy with her God in earnest prayer; and though he knew nothing of it then, yet afterwards he saw the effect: compare 1 Sam. i. 13, with ver. 27, “For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him :" (Ecce signum) “behold a sign of his favour! behold an evident token that I prayed in truth! Many a time, yes many a time was I provoked by my scoffing adversary Peninnah, and as often did I make my complaint to my heavenly husband; and see here the fruit of my sincere devotions
1 in private : none saw my tears, all may see my child ; none heard my cries in prayer, but the voice of my Sa
, muel may be heard by all Israel: he shall carry the memorial of answer to secret prayer in his name to the grave :” and cannot many a soul speak the same language? Cannot you set your seal to the same or like experiment? Cannot some of God's children say, this mercy I got from God in such a room, chamber, or closet? No creature upon earth knew my object there; but now all may see the happy effects of my hard wrestling, I find that it is not in vain to seek God in • Gen. xxxii. 24, with chap. xxxiii. 4. + Exod. xxxii. 10, 11, 14.
private ; none knows the meaning of the mercy but myself. I may call it Naphtali, for with great wrestlings have I wrestled with my God and prevailed.* This mercy bears a double price to all the rest, for it is gained by prayer, and now may be worn with praises and triumphing, so that a believer may say, “This is my God, I have waited for him, he will save me; this is, my God, Jehovah, I have waited for him, I will be glad and rejoice in his salvation:”+ lo here he is, I can now make my boast of my God.
Wicked men are wont to say, “Where is thy God?” now I can say in reply, lo this is he that returns such answers to my prayer, that appears so gloriously for me, this is my God in whom I have trusted, on whom I have called, and he hath answered, I am not disappointed : blessed be God, these appearances are the visible returns of my secret prayers.
2. God rewards secret prayer openly, by discriminating providences in a common calamity. God usually takes those into the chambers of his protection, who have retired into chambers of devotion ;£ they that enjoy most of God, shall be best secured by God. Psalm xci. 1, “ He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty :” that is, he that by faith and prayer hath got most intimate communion with God, is lodged under the safest shelter in the day of danger: and who is so likely to enjoy God as that Christian that waits upon him in secret ? he who is much with God in secret places, gets into God's secret place. David put up many a hearty prayer in solitary caves; and how remarkable does God secure him in the day of apparent hazard, to the conviction of Saul and his courtiers? We find the mourners in Sion lamenting secretly the abominations . Gen. xxx. 8.
+ Isa. xxv. 9. Isa. xxvi. 20.