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may be "cleansed from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
We shall now consider the danger of neglecting prayer. To neglect to pray, is to neglect the means of salvation. A negligence of God must ensue, and finally the ruin of ourselves. For to what danger does such negligence expose us ? To the danger of being abandoned by him who alone can “ lift up them that are fallen;" to the danger
: of being “given over to a reprobate mind;" to the danger of being left to fill up the measure of our guilt,“ to work iniquity with greediness," so that we may receive the greater condemnation. Prayer is the breath of the righteous soul. Without this, it can have no spiritual life. It must be “ dead in trespasses and sins,” and, whilst it so continues, must be excluded from all chance of happiness in the life everlasting. Oh, Lord! who can refuse to supplicate thy gracious favour, where it is so freely granted to our petitions, “ for thou art good and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy to all them that call upon thee!" Shall we then think, that where our petitions, when devoutly presented, are so graciously received, we can innocently forbear to offer them? We cannot surely forget that when we do pray, our chief supplications to that God, who is so “plenteous in mercy, " are for forgiveness of our sins; but can we expect that these should be forgiven if we are too proud, too stubborn, or too negligent, constantly to supe plicate his pardon? Shall we think that He will seek us out to make us objects of his especial favour, if we do not seek Him in order that we may become so? The consciousness, which we cannot but feel, of our manifold infirmities, of our continual lapses from virtue, would naturally urge us, one should think, earnestly to propitiate the anger of that mighty Being, whom we are so constantly offending, by humbling ourselves daily before Him, and beseeching his forgiveness of our numerous miscarriages. If we neglect to do this, can we have any ground for supposing, that“ though he bear with us long," he will nevertheless encourage our indifference by overlooking our negligence; that he will drag us, as it were, to Heaven by violence, though we make no efforts to obtain a place there ? No! we may be assured that if we turn a deaf ear to his invitations, and refuse to “come unto Him that we may have life”—if we forbear to pray, to lift up our hearts as well as our voices unto him with praise and thanksgivings, he will “shut up his loving-kindness in displeasure," and finally devote us to “ the wrath to come.” I am sure they who are earnest in prayer
need not be told, that it engenders those feelings which at once spiritualize the mind and purify the heart. It induces religious thoughts, pious inclinations, and devout resolves. It leads to moral habits and holy practices, without which the eternal inheritance will be forfeited, for “faith without works is dead," and a dead faith can profit us nothing. To neglect, then, that which produces such essential means of salvation, must be evidently at all times rash and perilous.
“ Blessed is the man, O Lord,” says the Psalmist, “ whom thou choosest and causest to approach unto thee; for one day in thy courts is better than a thousand." If the man is blessed whom the Lord causes to approach unto him in prayer, for by prayer only can we approach unto Him, then, by natural deduction, is he not blessed who does not approach Him; for assuredly that may fairly be presumed to cause the reverse of a blessing, which is directly opposed to what produces the blessing. If they are blessed who pray worthily, will any one deny that it is proper to pray? and, unquestionably, in proportion as it is right to do so, it must be wrong not to do it; but if it be wrong at all, it no doubt must be perilously wrong.
The fact is, that he who forbears to pray, can have no just motive for such forbearance. Why then does he neglect so positive and paramount a duty? Principally because it is irksome to withdraw his mind from his pleasures, and to fix it habitually upon his God. But will such a person be likely to do things acceptable to his Maker, when he feels no desire, no anxiety to address his thoughts to Him? Never! And yet, in spite of the sinfulness of neglecting prayer, it is, nevertheless, an omission which is regarded but with too
much indifference. And first, private prayer, which is a most natural homage of the dependent creature towards his Creator, is very insufficiently performed. In the morning, when we rise to light and life, from the temporary suspension of all the faculties of mind and body, what so natural as to pour out our hearts unto God," to seek him, to rejoice and be glad in him, and to magnify his name"? But how many neglect to do this? Are not their worldly interests first thoughts, when they rise from that bed of rest which, through God's mercy, has recruited their wearied bodies and harassed spirits ? What are too often their reflections upon retiring to their nightly repose? In what pleasures they shall dissipate the morrow, or how it may be made to add to the gains of the preceding day. But let it not be forgotten, that these wanderings of the mind, these silent aspirations to the idols of the world, are recorded against us in that awful registry of human transgression, where all our most secret thoughts, words, and works are traced by the finger of Him“ from whom no secrets are hid,” to be produced, God only knows whether to our confusion or triumph, at that period of universal inquisition, when we shall receive for “ the things done in the body according to that we have done, whether it be good or whether it be evil.” None of us, who are acquainted with our Bibles, can justly plead ignorance of the necessity of earnest
ness in devotion. We are enjoined by the Apostle to “pray and not to faint.” By this latter term, we are instructed that ardour, resolution, energy, are required in prayer: nay, the absence of these
, qualities will only aggravate our guilt; since what we perform outwardly with our tongues, will show at least our conviction of the necessity of what we neglect “inwardly in our hearts"; and to act against our convictions of what is right and necessary, must be a presumptuous and perilous daring.
I have already noticed the neglect of public prayer, and shall therefore conclude with a few words on the obligation of family prayer. Permit me to press upon your attention that all heads of families are in some degree responsible for the moral habitudes of those under their charge, as far as they have the means of improving them. It is at least their duty to give them every opportunity in their power of walking uprightly. And what can so directly tend to promote this desirable object, as directing their thoughts to those spiritual interests for which it so pressingly behoves us all to provide ? “ Brethren, if any err from the truth, and one convert him, let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." And surely one would imagine that this alone would be a sufficient inducement to family prayer, tending, as it must frequently do, to such a blessed effect. We shall do well to re