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love to the duty of prayer, and begin to grow weary of it, yet, as they love their own hope, they are somewhat backward to take a course, which will prove it to be a false hope, and so deprive them of it.
If they should all at once bear the sign of a false hope, they would scare themselves. Their hope is dear to them, and it would fright them to see any plain evidence that it is not true. Hence, for a considerable time after the force of their illuminations and affections is over, and after they hate the duty of prayer and would be glad to have done with it, if they could without showing themselves to be hypocrites-they hold up a kind of attendance upon the duty of secret prayer. This may keep up the outside of religion in them for a good while, and occasion it to be somewhat slowly that they are brought to neglect it. They must not leave off suddenly, because that would be too great a shock to their false peace. But they must come gradually to it, as they find their consciences can bear it, and as they can find out devices and salvos to cover the matter, and make their so doing consistent in their own opinion, with the truth of their hope.-But,
II. It is the manner of hypocrites, after a while, in a great measure, to leave off the practice of this duty. We are often taught, that the seeming goodness and piety of hypocrites is not of a lasting and persevering nature. It is so with respect to their practice of the duty of prayer in particular, and especially of secret prayer. They can omit this duty, and their omission of it not be taken notice of by others, who know what profession they have made. So that a regard to their own reputation doth not oblige them still to practise it. If others saw how they neglect it, it would exceedingly shock their charity towards them. But their neglect doth not fall under their observation; at least not under the observation of many. Therefore they may omit this duty, and still have the credit of being converted persons.
Men of this character can come to a neglect of secret prayer, by degrees, without shocking their peace. For though indeed, for a converted person to live in a great measure without secret prayer, is very wide of the notion they once had of a true convert, yet they find means by degrees to alter their notions, and to bring their principles to suit with their inclinations; and at length they come to a notion, that a man may be a convert, and yet live very much in neglect of this duty. In time, they can bring all things to suit well together; as a hope of heaven, an indulgence of sloth, gratifying carnal appetites, and living in a great measure a prayerless life. They cannot, indeed, suddenly make these things agree; it must be a work of time; and length of time will effect it. By degrees they find out ways to guard and defend their consciences against those powerful enemies;
so that those enemies, and a quiet, secure conscience, can at length dwell together.
Whereas it is asserted in the doctrine, that it is the manner of hypocrites, after a while, in a great measure, to leave off this duty; I would observe to you,
1. That it is not intended, but that they may commonly continue to the end of life in an external attendance on prayer with others. They may commonly be present at public prayers in the congregation, and also at family prayer. This, in such places of light as this is, men commonly do before they are so much as awakened. Many vicious persons, who make no pretence to serious religion, commonly attend public prayers in the congregation, and also more private prayers in the families in which they live, unless it be when carnal designs interfere, or when their youthful pleasures and diversions, and their vain company call them; and then they make no conscience of attending family prayer. Otherwise they may continue to attend upon prayer as long as they live, and yet may truly be said not to call upon God. For such prayer, in the manner of it, is not their own. They are present only for the sake of their credit, or in compliance with others. They may be present at these prayers, and yet have no proper prayer of their own. Many of those, concerning whom it may be said, as in Job xv. 4, that they cast off fear and restrain prayer before God, are yet frequently present at family and public prayers.
2. But they, in a great measure, leave off the practice of secret prayer. They come to this pass by degrees. At first they begin to be careless about it, under some particular temptations. Because they have been out in young company, or have been taken up very much with worldly business, they omit it once: after that they more easily omit it again. Thus it presently becomes a frequent thing with them to omit it; and, after a while, it comes to that pass, that they seldom attend it. Perhaps they attend it on Sabbath days, and sometimes on other days. But they have ceased to make it a constant practice daily to retire to worship God alone, and to seek his face in secret places. They sometimes do a little to quiet conscience, and just to keep alive their old hope; because it would be shocking to them, even after all their subtile dealing with their consciences, to call themselves converts, and yet totally to live without prayer. Yet the practice of secret prayer they have in a great measure left off.-I come now,
III. To the reasons why this is the manner of hypocrites. 1. Hypocrites never had the spirit of prayer. They may have been stirred up to the external performance of this duty, and that with a great deal of earnestness and affection, and yet always have been destitute of the true spirit of prayer. The
spirit of prayer is a holy spirit, a gracious spirit. We read of the spirit of grace and supplication; Zech. xii. 10. "I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications." Wherever there is a true spirit of supplication, there is the spirit of grace. The true spirit of prayer is no other than God's own Spirit dwelling in the hearts of the saints. And as this spirit comes from God, so doth it naturally tend to God in holy breathings and pantings. It naturally leads to God to converse with him by prayer.Therefore the spirit is said to make intercession for the saints with groanings which cannot be uttered; Rom. viii. 26.
The Spirit of God makes intercession for them, as it is that Spirit which in some respect indites their prayers, and leads them to pour out their souls before God. Therefore the saints are said to worship God in the Spirit; Phil. iii. 3. "We are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit ;" and John iv. 23. "The true worshippers worship the Father in spirit and in truth." The truly godly have the spirit of adoption, the spirit of a child, to which it is natural to go to God, and call upon him, crying to him as to a father.
But hypocrites have nothing of this spirit of adoption :They have not the spirit of children; for this is a gracious and holy spirit, given only in a real work of regeneration. Therefore, it is often mentioned as a part of the distinguishing character of the godly, that they call upon God. Psalm cxiv. 18, 19. "The Lord is nigh to them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him; he will, also, hear their cry, and will save them." Joel ii. 32. “It shall come to pass, that whosoever calleth on the name of the Lord, shall be saved."
It is natural to one who is truly born from above, to pray to God, and to pour out his soul in holy supplications before his heavenly Father. This is as natural to the new nature and life, as breathing is to the nature and life of the body. But hypocrites have not this new nature. Those illuminations and affections which they had, went away, and left no change of nature. Therefore, prayer naturally dies away in them, having no foundation laid in the nature of the soul. It is maintained a while
only by a certain force put upon nature. But force is not constant; and as that declines, nature will take place again.
The spirit of a true convert, is a spirit of true love to God, and that naturally inclines the soul to those duties wherein it is conversant with God, and makes it to delight in approaching him. But an hypocrite hath no such spirit. He is left under the reigning power of enmity against God, which naturally inclines him to shun his presence.
The spirit of a true convert is a spirit of faith and reliance. on the power, wisdom, and mercy of God, and such a spirit is VOL. VI.
naturally expressed in prayer. True prayer is nothing else but faith expressed. Hence we read of the prayer of faith; James v. 15. True Christian prayer is the faith and reliance of the soul breathed forth in words. But an hypocrite is without the spirit of faith. He hath no true reliance or dependence on God, but is really self-dependent.
As to those common convictions and affections which the hypocrite had, and which made him keep up the duty of prayer for a while, they not reaching the bottom of the heart, nor being accompanied with any change of nature, a little thing extinguishes them. The cares of the world commonly choke and suffocate them, and often the pleasures and vanities of youth totally put an end to them, and with them ends their constant practice of the duty of prayer.
2. When an hypocrite hath had his false conversion, his wants are in his sense of things already supplied, his desires are already answered; and so he finds no further business at the throne of grace. He never was sensible that he had any other needs, but a need of being safe from hell. And now that he is converted, as he thinks, that need is supplied. Why then should he still go on to resort to the throne of grace with earnest requests? He is out of danger; all that he was afraid of, is removed: he hath got enough to carry him to heaven, and what more should he desire ?-While under awakenings, he had this to stir him up to go to God in prayer, that he was in continual fear of hell. This put him upon crying to God for mercy. But since in his own opinion he is converted, he hath no further business about which to go to God. And although he may keep up the duty of prayer in the outward form a little while, for fear of spoiling his hope, yet he will find it a dull business to continue it without necessity, and so by degrees he will let drop the practice. The work of the hypocrite is done when he is converted, and therefore he standeth in no further need of help.
But it is far otherwise with the true convert. His work is not done; but he finds still a great work to do, and great wants to be supplied. He sees himself still to be a poor, empty, helpless creature, and that he still stands in great and continual need of God's help. He is sensible that without God he can do nothing. A false conversion makes a man in his own eyes self-sufficient. He saith he is rich, and increased with good, and hath need of nothing; and knoweth not that he is wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. But after a true conversion, the soul remains sensible of its own impotence and emptiness, as it is in itself, and its sense of it is rather increased than diminished. It is still sensible of its universal dependence on God for every thing. A true convert is sensible that his grace is very imperfect; and he is very far from having all that
he desires. Instead of that, by conversion are begotten in him new desires which he never had before. He now finds in him holy appetites, an hungering and thirsting after righteousness, a longing after more acquaintance and communion with God.So that he hath business enough still at the throne of grace; yea, his business there, instead of being diminished, is rather increased.
3. The hope which the hypocrite hath of his good estate takes off the force that the command of God before had upon his conscience; so that now he dares neglect so plain a duty.The command which requires the practice of the duty of prayer is exceeding plain; Matt. xxvi. 41. "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." Eph. vi. 18. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance, and supplication for all saints." Matt. vi. 6. "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret." As long as the hypocrite was in his own apprehension in continual danger of hell, he durst not disobey these commands. But since he is, as he thinks, safe from hell, he is grown bold, he dares to live in the neglect of the plainest command in the Bible.
4. It is the manner of hypocrites, after awhile, to return to sinful practices, which will tend to keep them from praying. While they were under convictions, they reformed their lives, and walked very exactly. This reformation continues, after their supposed conversion, while they are much affected with hope and false comfort. But as these things die away, their old lusts revive, and by degrees they return like the dog to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.They return to their sensual, worldly, proud, and contentious practices, as before. And no wonder this makes them forsake their closets. Sinning and praying agree not well together. If a man be constant in the duty of secret prayer, it will tend to restrain him from wilful sinning. So, on the other hand, if he allow himself in sinful practices, it will restrain him from praying. It will give quite another turn to his mind, so that he will have no disposition to the practice of such a duty it will be contrary to him. A man who knows that he lives in sin against God, will not be inclined to come daily into the presence of God; but will rather be inclined to fly from his presence, as Adam, when he had eaten of the forbidden fruit, ran away from God, and hid himself among the trees of the garden.
To keep up the duty of prayer after he hath given loose to his lusts, would tend very much to disquiet a man's conscience. It would give advantage to his conscience to testify aloud against him. If he should come from his wickedness into the presence of God, immediately to speak to him, his conscience would, as