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12. Every believing prayer hath a sure rewardhe will reward thee openly: not a good word addressed to God, or good work for God, shall be lost : him that soweth righteousness, shall be a sure reward,” Prov. xi. 18. And we know every right prayer is real seed, Psal. cxxvi. 6, and it will rise in a full and plentiful crop another day.
13. The reward of secret prayer shall be open and manifest. There is previously a reward or gift in secret; communion with God is an abundant recompense. “In keeping thy commandments there is great reward,” Psal. xix. 11. But this is a (præmium ante præmium) reward before the reward : the other shall be in heaven, before angels and men.
14. A Christian's reward is from God—thy Father will reward thee, not men. Scribes and Pharisees have their reward from men, from men they expect it: saints expect their reward from God, and God gives it them: men reward them evil for their good will, and they expect no better : if better comes from men, they own it as a gratuity sent from their Father : it is a principle of religion to know and “ believe that God is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."—Heb. xi. 6. And as God gives a reward, so he is the reward of his saints, Gen. xv. 1, “Yea, an exceeding great reward.” It can admit of no hyperbole, it cannot have a sufficient emphasis : to enjoy God is a reward sufficient, in and for the service of God. These doctrines would require large discourses, but none of these are the subject on which I shall insist.
I shall raise only one doctrine from the main scope of the text, namely
That closet prayer is a christian duty.
Every child of God may and must perform the duty of secret prayer.
As a Christian must pray all manner of prayer, so in all places, 1 Tim. ii. 8, “ I will that men pray every where;” and if every where, then in their closets. This divine incense should perfume every room, and should ascend to heaven from chambers as well as churches: any place now is fit for a divine oratory; God and a believing soul may meet in a corner: a saint should give himself to prayer, and dedicate his house to God ;* he should, as it were, consecrate every room in his house to be a place of private devotion. Abraham reared an altar to God wherever he came, so must a Christian make every place wherever he can get close to the duty, a place of prayer.
Mr. Mede hath undertaken to prove, from Josh. xxiv. 26, that the Jews of old, as well as Christians in gospel times had their proseucha, or praying places, which he thus describes,t as to the Jews of old: “a proseucha,” saith he," was a plot of ground, encompassed with a wall, or some other similar fence or inclosure, and open above, much like to our courts, the use being properly for prayer, as the name proseucha imports : and these were without the cities, as synagogues were within :" of this, as he thinks, was that mentioned Acts xvi. 13, and also that, Luke vi. 12, where Jesus Christ is said to continue all night, εν τη προσευχή τε θες, in proseucha Dei, in the place of prayer, or proseucha of God. Now although I shall say little on the notion, yet I cannot see how it will prove any relative holiness of places; nor yet do I believe or find, but that the saints had other praying places, as in houses and elsewhere as occasion offered, even in dwelling-houses, Acts xii. 12. But as to this duty of secret prayer, it * Psalm cix. 4. Psalm xxx. title + Mede's Diatribe, page 279.
must not be so narrowly confined, but we may go into any closet or private room where our souls may meet with God: and, as one saith, we shall not fail to find that the grots and caves lie as open to the celestial influences, as the fairest and most beautiful temples.*
Several instances in Scripture of closet prayer.
The doctrine needs not explication, but confirmation ; which I shall furnish from Scripture instances and reasons.
We have several examples of patriarchs, prophets, and apostles that practised this duty of solitary or secret prayer.
1. ABRAHAM, the friend of God, and father of the faithful, conversed much with his God alone ; particularly in this duty of prayer, Gen. xviii. 22. When the men, that is, the created angels that seemed men, were gone towards Sodom—“Abraham stood yet before the Lord,” or Jehovah, that is, Jesus Christ, the Angel of the covenant. Standing is a praying posture, therefore put for prayer; hence, Abraham drew near and pleaded with God for Sodom : that was his errand to God at that time. No doubt he had used this course frequently in other cases : hence arose that intimacy betwixt God and Abraham :f so that God talked with him, came to him, and he again discoursed familiarly with God.
2. Isaac, the son of the promise, a very contemplative man, therefore it is said, Gen. xxiv. 63, that “ Isaac
* The Life of Dr. Hammond, in a Letter, p. 201.
+ Gen. xv. 8--13. xvii. 3.
went out to meditate in the field at even-tide." The word signifies as well to pray as meditate;* it is likely he did both in some solitary walk, where he conversed with his God. The Chaldee translates it by praying, but the Greek by exercising himself, that is, both in meditation and prayer : and truly there is a near affinity betwixt these two solemn, yet pleasant duties, and it is usual for a devout soul to pass out of the one into the other, in its retirements. Soliloquy in the heart, helps to a colloquy with God: but here observe Isaac's oratory, which he had in the field, and which he used for more privacy ; "There," saith Pareus, † “he constantly poured out prayers to God, and at this time more earnestly for the happy success of his servant-a singular example of piety: a place it was, every way fit for prayer, especially in solitude where the senses are less drawn off from pious meditations.” Some think he was returning from his devotions, and then it is worth noticing, what a speedy reward of his piety, and effect of his prayers was granted : would all young men take the like course for a wife, they might meet seasonably with a Rebecca in mercy.
3. JACOB is a famous instance of this choice exercise, few like him ; he was made to flee, but he could not be driven from his God: they had their meetingplaces and intercourse where none saw, particularly that remarkable time, Gen. xxxii. 24, “ Jacob was left alone: and there wrestled a man with him, until the breaking of the day.” It is likely Jacob had sent his household away on purpose, that he might wrestle with God alone. I shall not dispute whether Jacob had any extraordi
* TIU Locutus est ore, vel corde cogitavit ; proprie significat, submissa voce loqui, ut orantes.-Leigh.
+ Locus precibus ubique commodus; maxime in solitudine, ubi sensus de piis meditationibus minus avocantur. -Pareus in loc.
nary natural strength of body, I am sure he had abundance of spiritual strength of grace, nor shall. I take notice of the Hebrews' subtle disputes concerning this man. Hosea tells us it was an angel, yet withal he tells us, “that by his strength he had power with God,” Hos. xii. 3, 4. Therefore this was God himself, the creating, not a created angel, even Jesus Christ, the angel that redeemed him from all evil,* whom Malachi calls, “the angel of the covenant,” Mal. iii. 1. It was God himself, Elohim, whom Jacob overcame in this stupendous monomachia, or conflict. But how did he thus prevail ? The text saith, with prayers and tears, he wept and made supplication: now he had gotten God to a side, as it were, and none came to distract him, or to part this strong and blessed duel : he is resolved to make good his hold, and not let God go, till he blessed him: the consequence was that good Jacob came off a noble conqueror, and from that procured the famous name of Israel. O unequal match! O unparalleled conquest! The seemingly adverse combatant was Jacob's only assistant, and the conquered was the invincible Jehovah, and no seconds or spectators, but the infinite God, and worm Jacob.
4. MOSES was an excellent man of God, whom the Scripture characterizeth as a non-such, Deut. xxxiv. 10. “ There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face:” and this intimate acquaintance was obtained, maintained, and cherished by this secret conversing with God : how often do we find the Lord and his servant Moses together and none with them ? yea, Moses only must Come near, and the rest must worship afar off :t and what business have these familiar friends with each other? Why, sometimes the Lord speaks to Moses, * Gen. xlviii. 16.
† Exodus xxiv. 12.