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upon, had the
proper effect. Upon which, Ananias received a commission to go and relieve him
The Lord said to him, in a vision“ Arise, and go into the street, which is called
straight, (strait) and inquire in the house of Judas “ for one called Saul, of Tarsus, for behold, he prayeth.” The importance and excellence of
prayer may be collected from the words of the text; which do not relate to the duty of private devotion, however necessary, but to public prayer only. The house of God does not take its name from the practice of preaching there, but from the practice of praying.-My house shall be called the House of Prayer. Accordingly we find, that when the temple of Solomon was finished, it was immediately applied to its proper use. We hear of no preaching on this great occasion, but only of prayers and religious offerings. The king, the priests, and all the people attended at the solemn service of its dedication. Sacrifices were offered without number, and the king in his capacity of a prophet, prayed publicly for the blessing and favour of God upon the house which he had built. His words are very striking, and a part of them will furnish an excellent commentary upon the text. Will God in. deed dwell on the earth? Behold the heaven, and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have builded? Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to hearken unto the cry and unto the prayer which thy servant prayeth before thee this day. That thine eyes may be opened towards this house night and day; even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there; that thou mayst hearken to the prayer which thy servant shall make towards this place. And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray towards this place, and hear thou in heaven, thy dwelling place, and when thou hearest, forgive. In this part of king Solomon's prayer, these things following are to be observed; Ist. That the temple was an habitation of God; a circumstance which the piety of the king dwells upon with wonder-will God indeed dwell on earth! The cloud, which denoted the presence of God, had already filled the house, so that the Priest could not stand to minister : and in the ages after, as well as before, the divine presence was manifested about the ark, and between the cherubims which overshadowed it. On special occasions it appeared in a visible manner, under the symbol of a cloud with a -light or glory attending it; and, when the cloud was not seen, the place was always understood as being inhabited in a particular manner by the glory of the God-head.
In the words that follow, the use of the temple is signified-have thou respect unto the prayer which thy servant prayeth before thee this day. This house was the place, where God would give audience, and have respect to the petition, out of regard to the place in which it was offered. They, who expect to be heard, when they address a king, go into his court, and present themselves in the proper place for an audience. The temple is the court of the great King; and though he can hear the voice of men in every place, yet it was expedient, that one place should be honoured above all others, to stir up reverence in men, and give them a reasonable ground of hope, when they should offer their petitions. It seems by the expression, that the people were encouraged not only to pray within the temple, but to have respect to it, and turn themselves toward it in their devotions,
even when they prayed to the God of Israel in distant places—Hearken to the supplication of thy people Israel, when they shall pray towards this place. And the practice was duly observed by Daniel in his captivity at Babylon; it was his manner to open his window toward Jerusalem, and to kneel, and pray three times a day. His respect was to the temple : and he held to the practice, though there was then no more than the ruins of it remaining. In fact, the tabernacle and temple were the places, where the devotion of the people and the favour of God met together; the house of God was the common assembly of - heaven and earth; there God was to be found, and there the people sought him, there Hannah, in the bitterness of her soul, offered up her devotions, and her petition was granted. Yea and Christ himself allows, that the Temple sanctified the gold which was offered in it; and, if it could sanctify gold, it would rather sanctify the more valuable offerings of
prayer and thanksgiving. This was known to that godly woman Anna, the prophetess, who, having devoted herself to God, departed not from the temple, but served him there with fastingu and prayers night and day. It is not said, that she ran gossipping after sermons, but that she served God with prayers. There the prayers of Simeon were granted, and the promise of God fulfilled to him, when he took up the child Jesus in his arms, and blessed God, who in his temple had indulged him with a sight of what his eyes had most desired to behold.
But it is particularly worth our notice, that private devotion seems to have met with the regard of heaven on account of its connection with the services of the temple. It appears from the scripture, that there were settled hours of prayer, when the people resorted to public worship; such as the third hour of the day, the sixth hour or noontide, the ninth hour, which answered to our three o'clock in the afternoon, and the sun setting, when they offered the evening sacrifice. These hours were preferred as the best for private devotion, that the prayer of the closet might be the prayer of charity and uniformity, and ascend to God with the incense of the church. Peter went up to the house-top to pray at the sixth hour, one of the seasons of public devotion at the temple. The prayer of Cornelius was answered by a vision from heaven at the ninth hour. Daniel confessed his sin and presented his supplication before the Lord about the time of the evening oblation, and was then favoured with a revelation from the Angel Gabriel : and lastly, on occasion of that great contest of Elijah with the worshippers of Baal, we read, that the prophet waited from the morning till ihe time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, and then put up the brought down fire from heaven, and determined the dispute. 1 Kings, 18. 36.
These examples shew us plainly, that both God and man have had regard to stated hours of that private prayer was most acceptable, when it agreed with the services of the church. In the pri. mitive ages of Christianity, certain hours of the day and night were set apart for public and private devotion, that the people of God might be upon their knees together, whether in the church or in their own fami. lies: and there are still extant the forms of devotion anciently adapted to the hours of
prayer, put into the Savon language eight hundred years ago, and were probably used in Latin some hundreds earlier. If all ages and nations have shewn so much regard
to the places and the times of public worship, and all this reverence was commanded and encouraged by God himself in his dealings with his people, whether Jews or Christians; we shall be disobedient to God, and contrary to good men of all ages, if we neglect
, the duty of public worship. It hath pleased God in his wisdom to inspire us with reverence for his name, by hallowing some places and things above others :. and if God hath regard to what is so set apart for his own honour, we must displease him and injure ourselves, if we do not conform to his institutions; none of which were appointed without a view to our advancement in holiness and happiness. For consider the consequence of uniting in public worship. Does it not serve as a principle of unity, to promote charity among Christians, and bind them in affection to one another? Men, who resort to the same place by choice, that they may pray together, will contract an habit of considering themselves as constantly under the eye of God, and as members of the same family; and with such a relation, they cannot lightly offend or speak evil one of another. And will not every place become happier, in proportion as there is less offence and less evil to set men against one another? If the experiment were to be made, I dare be answerable for it, that the happiness of every society would be found to keep equal pace with their devotion. Where there is no prayer, there is no religion; and where there is no religion, there is no peace; but instead of it the blusterings of pride, the cruelty of malice, the oppressiveness of avarice, the rage of blasphemy, slander and evil speaking. When Abraham sojourned in a land where the true God was either unknown or disregarded, he said within himself, the fear of God is not in this place; and accord