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God discharged the prophet from appearing in their behalf: 66
Pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me, for I will not hear thee.”? And with no less, or rather more severity, “Though these three men, Noah, Job, and Daniel, were in the land, they should deliver none but their own souls." And if the wicked commence a suit in their own name, the Lord will not be entreated of them. What have they to do with holy ordinances, that have no fellowship with holy practices ? To come before the Lord with a lap full of sins, and a mouth full of prayers, what an heterogeneal sacrifice is it! Will the Mediator, Christ Jesus, bring it for them before his Father? “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. " And the throne of iniquity shall have no fellowship with thee.” 4
Many in our land, and in our days, pray for the confusion of them that brought all to confusion ; but themselves are in pursuance of notorious crimes, and rebellion against God. They would advance that government, to which we have sworn to be faithful by the oaths of supremacy and allegiance: but they make no conscience to break their oaths and covenants, which they have made to God. It is not to suppress sin, and tyranny, and injustice, that they are instant with God; but to be revenged for their own injuries and losses. Their prayers are compounded with such sins as quite mar them. So many a pair of beads have been dropt in corners for the extirpation of the protestant religion. Many a mass hath been said for the good success of Jesuitical treasons. Many a rosary was run over to bring the powder treason to its bloody birth. If they have no better stuff than this in their matins, they had as good pray to devils as to
1 Jer. vii. 16.
2 Ezek. xiv. 14.
saints. “I will that men pray always, or every where, lifting up holy hands without wrath.". Let go wrath, and malice, and bitterness. Holiness becometh the house of prayer, and holiness becometh the mouth of prayer. “If any man be a worshipper of God, and doth his will, him he heareth." 2 Do justly, live chastely, give charitably, walk circumspectly, and then pray confidently.” “For whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in his sight.” But then will the trembling Christian say,
“ Wo is me, for I am a great sinner; wo is me, for I am filthy, and polluted, and of unclean lips :"* then how shall I turn me to my God in prayer? O thou that fallest low upon the earth, oppressed with the burden of thy sins, stand up, and be cheerful before God: none is fit for prayer in the militant church but such an humble sinner. God draws thee, and none but those that are like unto thee, near unto his mercy. Though thy sins do cleave unto thee, be comforted that thou dost not cleave unto thy sins. Elkanah gave a more worthy portion to Hannah, that was barren, but meek and devout, than to Peninnah, that bare him sons and daughters, but was proud and scornful.” God hath heard his beloved Son, when he made prayers for sinners : he will hear those sinners that are his sons, when they ask any thing in the name of Christ.
3. Good fruit must be brought forth in a good season, which only remains to be thought upon, and to be added to the consolation of prayer. thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."6 But neither days, nor hours, nor seasons, did ever come amiss to faithful prayer.
11 Tim. ii. 8.
2 John ix. 31.
1 John iii. 22. 6 Eccles. iii. 1.
“Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud, and he shall hear
which includes all the space of duration : for all time is included in ‘morning, noon, and night.' “Pray without ceasing." "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance. " 3 Short passes, quick ejections, concise forms and remembrances, holy breathings, prayers like little posies, may be sent forth without number on every occasion, and God will note them in his book.
But all that have a care to walk with God, fill their vessels more largely as soon as they rise, before they begin the work of the day, and before they lie down again at night : which is to observe what the Lord appointed in the Levitical ministry, a morning and an evening lamb to be laid upon the altar. So with them that are not stark irreligious, prayer is the key to open the day, and the bolt to shut in the night. But as the skies drop the early dew, and the evening dew upon the grass,—yet it would not spring and grow green by that constant and double falling of the dew, unless some great showers, at certain seasons, did supply the rest; so the customary devotion of prayer, twice a day, is the falling of the early and the latter dew; but if you will increase and flourish in the works of grace, empty the great clouds sometimes, and let them fall into a full shower of prayer : choose out the seasons in your own discretion, when prayer shall overflow, like Jordan in the time of harvest.
Keep strictly, as much as you are able, to those times of the day, which
have designed to appear in before the Lord : for then you offer up not only your prayers, but the strict observation of set times, which is a double sacrifice, and an evidence that you
1 Psalm lv, 17.
2 1 Thess. v. 17.
Ephes. vi. 18.
will not neglect that holy work for any avocation. He that refers himself at large to pray, when he is at leisure, gives God the worst of the day; that is, his idle time. I account them prudent, therefore, that are precise in keeping canonical hours of prayer, as they call them, so they pray to God alone, who alone knows their heart, and so they pray “with the Spirit, and with the understanding :”! that is, in a tongue wherein they know what they say, and understand the language wherein they vent the meditations of the Spirit. This was the milk that the church of England gave every day out of her breasts, to praise God in common prayer at set hours, before noon and after, in the assemblies of her devout children. How many have rejoiced to hear the chiming of bells to call them together, and would never miss their station ! Thus “Peter and John went together to the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour." 2 O, when will these profane days come to an end, that we may again, so orderly, so delightfully, appear before the living God?
Of one thing, the devil hath disappointed us many years past in the time of prayer, which was the night-offices of prayer, called 'vigils,' which are disused, because it was feared they grew incident to . scandal and uncleanness. And though they be left off (I believe for good reason) in a concourse of open meeting, yet let not God lose his tribute of
prayer, which should be paid him in the still and quiet opportunity of the night. The day is God's, and the night is God's; the darkness and light to him are both alike ; let not so many hours, as run out from our lying down to our rising up again, pass away without any prayer. Says David, “O Lord, I remembered thee in my bed, and meditated on thee in the night
11 Cor. xiv. 15.
2 Acts üi. 1.
watches.' It seems, while the tabernacle of Moses stood, that the priests did some duties in it all night long. “ Bless the Lord, ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord.” The apostle allowed "widows must continue in supplication and prayers night and day ;' 3 and Anna, the widow-prophetess,"served God with fasting and prayer night and day."'4 The Lord hath foretold that “he will come as a thief in the night at the great day. Therefore, O Lord, with my soul will I desire thee in the night, and at midnight will I think upon thee, and call unto thee; that if it shall be this night, even now, when Christ Jesus will come to judge the world, my
mercy from him, and both body and soul may be glorified, and so continue with him for ever.
All this about the opportunity of time shall shut up with one institution of the Psalmist : “Every one that is godly, shall pray unto thee, O Lord, in a time that thou mayest be found.” When you find stirrings and impulsions more than ordinary to provoke you to prayer, follow the admonition of the Spirit, and let not such a time slip. You know not whether such a divine presage may roll in your thoughts again. I make no question but there are some critical moments, wherein God offers more than he will do again, if you neglect him, when he courts you with so great advantage. But now change the case from mine to the whole nation's, from private to public, then thus I will be peremptory in my resolution: There is no time too late for any Christian that lives, in his single person, to beseech God to be merciful to him; he may find the same propitiousness that the penitent thief did : but there may be a time too
1 Psalm Ixiii. 6.
2 Psalm cxxxiv. 1.
3 1 Tim. v. 5.