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their visions and revelations, when withdrawn from the world. Solomon saith, “ Woe to him that is alone,” but blessed is he that being alone hath God to bear him company. Our dear Saviour tells his disciples, “ You leave me alone, yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me;"* and when no creature is with us, we have most converse with God. For observe it, when persons are most secluded from other society, they are aptest to be subject to divine impressions, or to Satanical suggestions. Therefore, Christians, learn to get alone; improve solitary hours ; pour out your souls in your closets, and God will pour in
Think not to seek and find Christ in a crowd. An honest intent for retirement, to enjoy Christ, did occasion a monastic life, but certainly there is much sweetness in secret prayer, when the soul can freely open its bosom to God, and expostulate boldly, yet humbly with him. There the Christian may use such postures, pauses, pleadings, as would not be convenient before others. You may tell him your whole heart, and he will deal with you as with friends, and open his breast to you.
Observe it, sirs, a Christian hath some secret errand to God, that the dearest friend and nearest relation must not know of, cases that are not to be entrusted with any but God alone. Here then, comes in the necessity and excellency of secret prayer; therefore, again, let me earnestly request you to go alone (as you know Christ did often) and tell God your whole heart; hide nothing from him; plead no excuse from worldly business. Satan and your corrupt hearts will find many occasions for diversion ; but say to them as Abraham to his servants, “ Stay you here whilst I go and worship the Lord yonder.” Steal time from the world and thy work; occasional duties are like accidental bargains, that make careful tradesmen rich. Bread eaten in secret is sweet, and such morsels make the soul well liking. Consult with such Christians as converse much with God in a corner, and you shall see their faces to shine as Moses's did after his retired conversings with God in the mount. When Elijah hoped to raise the woman's dead son, he took him into the loft, and there prayed.* When thou wouldest quicken up thy dead heart, take it alone, go into a loft, and fall on thy face or knees and pray, and see the blessed effects thereof. Cyprian notably describes his sweet and solitary recesses into a place where no hearer could hinder his discourse, or intemperate noise of the busy family could obstruct. There he experienced and obtained what he enjoyed without learning, not through a long series of study, but by a compendious act of di
* John xvi. 32.
vine grace. +
7. To obtain a treasure, endeavour after intercourse with God in every performance. Rest not satisfied with a bare outside of duties, or a trudging in the common road or round of formality. If you look not beyond ordinances in the use thereof, you will get no more treasure than a merchant whose ship sails to the Downs, and quickly returns again. He that would be rich must use duties as a bridge or boat to bring his soul to God, and as a chariot to bring God to his soul. Every ordinance should be like those merchant ships that
1 Kings, xvii. 19, 20. + Ac ne eloquium nostrum arbiter profanus impediat, aut clamor intemperans familiæ strepentis obtundat, petamus hanc sedem: dant secessum vicina secreta, ubi, dum erratici palmitum lapsus nexibus pendulis per arundines bajulas repunt, viteam porticum frondea tecta fecerunt.--Et paulo post :-Accipe quod sentitur antequam discitur, nec per moras temporum longâ agnitione colligitur, sed compendio gratiæ maturantis hauritur.---Lege totam Epist. lib. 2, cap. 2, ad Donat. pag. (mihi) 105, 106.
bring food or gold from afar. * The Christian must travel far beyond the Indies, even as far as heaven, to fetch a heavenly treasure into his heart, “ The soul of the diligent shall be made fat.”—Prov. xiii. 4. It is not a shew of eating, nor merely a sitting at the table that filleth. A pretence of trading makes not rich. He that stands upon the bridge and walks not, will never get over the water. It is not the goodness of the boat, but our motion by it that wafts us over. A golden bucket will bring us no water, except it be let down into the well. The choicest ordinances will bring us no spiritual or saving profit, except we have to do with God therein. God's institutions work not by any innate physical virtue that is in them, but morally, that is, by a careful improvement of them, and especially the blessing of God with them. A man is not, therefore, a good scholar because he went so long to school, and for saying so many lessons ; nor is an ignorant Papist a whit the better for dropping so many beads, or pattering over so many pater-nosters. The apostle saith, “ Bodily exercise profits little.” 1 Tim. iv. 8. He means not only recreations or superstitious usages, but even God's own ordinances; saith an expositor, “ The mere verbal complimental use thereof will not advantage the soul; but godliness is profitable to all things.” The right spiritual worship of God brings along with it abundant incomes. Some observe, that religious worshippers are said in Latin, Deum colere, because thereby they “ sow to the Spirit” and are sure to “ reap of the Spirit life everlasting;"I besides the inward refreshments they reap in this life, and truly in worshipping God there is great reward ; but it is easier to be much in duties, than to be much with God in duties. If we had been as often with God
* Prov. xxxi. 14. + Vid. Marlorat, in loc. # Gal. vi. 8.
as we have been before God, we had been readier than
Job was persuaded that if he could find God, and come near to his seat, he would not plead against him with his great power, but would put strength into him, Job, xxiii. 3, 6; and I dare say, if thou couldest meet God in duty, he would meet thee in mercy, Isa. liv. 7; and if God meet thee he will bless thee, * and fill thy soul with a blessed treasure, a treasure of heavenly blessings. If thou draw nigh to God, he will draw nigh to thee. Let me, therefore, persuade you to make conscience of earnestly seeking communion with God, and influences from him in all ordinances and performances. You are great losers if you miss of God in duties; you take God's name in vain and lose your labour, nay, you lose a blessing, and get the curse of doing the work of the Lord negligently. But, О how blessed a thing it is to say with holy St. Bernard, “ I never come to God, but I meet with God; I never go from God, but I carry God with me.” Therefore, in all your attendance upon God, carefully prepare before; mind your work, regard the object of your worship, and diligently examine your hearts afterwards, how the Lord hath dealt with your souls; and blessed is he that can say as David in the point of obedience, Psal. cxix. 56, “ This I had, because I kept thy precepts." What had he? Why, he had a heart to remember God's name in the night, holy thoughts whereby he might meditate on divine things. So say you, this I got in such a duty or ordinance, and this doth furnish my soul with heavenly conceptions, and new matter of meditation. It is the power of the Spirit that must make ordinances effectual; though the gospel be the ministration of the Spirit, yet the choicest truths, promises, sermons, sacraments, will be but a dead letter,
* Exod. xx. 24.
and law of death * to the soul, without the Spirit : therefore, you are to wait for the Spirit to breathe and blow upon the garden of your souls, that the spices, divine graces, may be nourished, and so may flourish in our hearts and lives. Ordinances are empty cisterns if God be not in them; they are full and filling if the presence of God be in them. O, therefore, look after God in every spiritual performance.
8. Spend time well. Lose not a mite or minute of this precious article. Fill up all your waste time with some profitable work in your general or particular callings. Cast not at your heels the least filings of these golden seasons; you have lost too much time already. Now buy up the remainder ; engross this precious commodity; take the fittest opportunities, like good merchants, for a dear time is coming, nay, “ The days are evil.”—Ephes. v. 16. Imitate such tradesmen as miss no opportunity of getting gain at home or abroad, by night or by day, by planning or by practising; only make use of present moments, and promise not to yourselves to-morrow, as worldly tradesmen are apt to do, and be sure you take God along with you, whom they forget and leave behind. Take time by the forelock, for it is bald behind, and you can get no hold of it. † You little know what one pregnant day may bring forth; it may produce a birth and burden of more duty, difficulty, or misery, than hitherto you have met with. Time-redemption is an act of great discretion, but time-neglect brings thousands of souls to a despairing, Had I wist. The apostle said, above a thousand years ago," the time is short,” much more may we say so, since the ship is drawing so much
* Literæ damnatoriæ, aut leges mortis.
+ James, iv. 13 - 15. Fronte capillatâ, post est occasio calva.