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TEN MINUTES' RECOMMENDATION,
The obligation incumbent upon every man to the observance of daily worship and family prayer, hath already made the subject of a former treatise. Five Minutes Advice was humbly offered to the thoughtless and inconsiderate upon this topic; in which was proposed to their serious consideration, the very pressing claims which are upon them to the duty as a duty, and the very awful responsibility in which every one is involved concerning it. And more especially, such as are placed at the heads of houses, were solemnly reminded of this weighty concern ; not only as being interested for their own everlasting welfare, but for the welfare of those immortal souls over whom they exercise a kind of spiritual guardianship. There was nothing knowingly omitted in that little tract, which five minutes could furnish, for the purpose of persuasion, in order to prevail upon the several readers before whom it might appear, to comply with the advice there given; but every argument and motive which seemed likely to operate upon rational and accountable creatures was brought before them, and enforced upon their consciences in the plainest and most affectionate terms possible.
I was led to hope, that, among prayerless persons and families, the adopting a habit of worship, in a family way, might, as any other ordinary means of grace, be blessed of the Lord, however unconscious the several branches of the household might be in
what the spirit of prayer consisted ; and that here, as in a thousand other instances, that Scripture might be fulfilled in the experience of some,—“I am found of them that sought me not.” What the event of that application hath already been, or may hereafter be, must be left, like all other cases where advice only can be administered, to the good pleasure of Almighty God: the province of man can extend no farther. It is the peculiar prerogative of God to give success to every ministration. He hath reserved to himself this efficient blessing; and we have the sacred treasure of his Holy Word in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. It was in an humble dependance upon his divine aid, that that feeble work was undertaken and sent abroad into the world, confiding in the pleasing hope that the blessing of God might rest upon it. And however unusual it may be to notice it again in this place, I cannot, while the recollection of it is present on my mind, wholly suppress the rising prayer, that it may go forth in the strength of the Lord God, and be like “ the bow” we read of in Scripture, “which turned not back, and the sword which returned not empty." May the Lord mercifully grant that a divine blessing may never cease to follow it wheresoever a divine providence shall cause it to come! but that it may prosper in his Almighty hand, and accomplish the thing whereunto he is pleased to send it !
But, my christian brother, the present feeble work now presented before you, is intended to answer another, and, if possible, so far as it concerns your own personal salvation, an higher and more interesting purpose. The former aimed at nothing more than to induce a spirit of piety among the several branches of a family; trusting, that where God was pleased to permit the means of grace to come, the end also might be attained, through his blessing resting upon it; and that our dwellings might be established in peace, when, like the man of Uz (Job i. 5.) we sanctify our households in the daily sacrifice of prayer. And what father is there that can reflect for a moment only on the near and dear ties of kindred in which we are linked in the present world, and especially if he connects with it the recollection of a future and eternal state, who can resist the affectionate claim ?
But however interesting, in a relative sense, the obligations of family worship may be, the present subject I am now upon becomes yet more persuasive and animating; for here the matter comes home individually to every man's own bosom. It interests by the strongest of all arguments, and appeals to the heart for attention by the most powerful of all motives, as it regards our own everlasting happiness in that day when all the connections of this life shall be over, and all human affinities shall have ceased; when our several relations in heaven will be similar to what our blessed Lord's was upon earth : “that they who are accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, the same will be our brothers, and sisters, and mothers ! »
I shall assume it for a principle, that this little tract finds my reader in the habitual practice of daily devotion ;-that, either influenced by the arguments proposed to his consideration in the former" Five Minutes' Advice," or convinced by an Higher Authority, arising from divine grace in the heart, whether he be appointed by Providence at the head of a family, or be only an individual of it, he is faithful and conscientious in the stated exercise of this important duty. The
first page, therefore, of my present address will naturally begin where the former left off. I am now, agreeably to the title of this little pamphlet, about to speak, by way of recommendation, of the pleasures and advantages of private prayer.
Suffer me, then, my brother, with the freedom of one whose sole object in the question aims at nothing but your happiness, to ask, are you acquainted with private prayer? Do you know what it is to enjoy a personal acquaintance with God? Have you been brought acquainted with God in his threefold personality of character, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost ?— Whenever we speak of God as God, he is always to be considered in this point of view:-for this knowledge of God can be the only foundation for a real acquaintance with him. And when the soul is awakened to a proper apprehension of God, in this threefold personality of character, as more immediately manifested in the great work of our salvation, then the enjoyment of God, in the sweet and retired moments of life, in a personal acquaintance with him, becomes the first and highest felicity of the soul. Are you apprehensive what these things mean? If you are unacquainted with this felicity of the soul, you are unacquainted with the purest gratification of life: you are a stranger to the noblest privilege of your nature. You have a Friend, and he an Almighty friend, “in whose hand your breath is, and whose are all your ways, in whom you live, and move, and have your being;" and you regard him not ! He visits you every moment; and his compassions are new towards you every morning. He spreads your table, and furnisheth both the means and the power of enjoyment; and you
sit down unconscious of the presence of the Great Master of the feast ! at least you feel nothing of that nameless and inexpressible gratitude of the heart, which those enjoy who eye God in every dispensation! Alas! my
brother, if this be your case, what a source of the most exquisite joy do you deprive yourself of from this one fatal inattention! Mistake me not; I am not considering the subject as it concerns your ingratitude towards God (though that must be painful enough in the reflection, to every feeling and ingenuous mind); but I am now speaking of it simply as it concerns your own happiness. I mean to shéw you what an enemy you are to yourself, andto your real and most substantial comfort. That by shutting God out of your constant remembrance, and not having any private and personal knowledge of your gracious Benefactor, you lose all the relish of those delightful sensations of the soul which those feel who walk with God, and are led on through every event by his guiding providence, enjoying that bread which is handed to them in secret.
Neither by these observations do you imagine that I consider you altogether a total stranger to God. No doubt, in a land like this, you have acquired that kind of general knowledge, which the great mass of mankind rest satisfied with, which manifests itself in an attendance on the outward forms of religion. Hence, it is possible you may observe all the public ordinances of worship, and the private exercises of family piety :--but if this be all the knowledge and acquaintance you have with the Supreme Object of devotion, you are still a stranger to the life of God in the soul. This is but the outside of it: a poor and confined knowledge of the Lord God of our salvation. It is not, surely, such an acquaintance as every one would wish to acquire, who hath proper apprehensions of the intimate connection in which the soul stands to God, and the sole dependance on which that soul must rest his hopes for every prospect of happiness, both here and hereafter. Would any man be satisfied, in the common intercource of earthly friendship, with such general knowledge of any object