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Behaviour. I ask, now, any sober Person living, whether this particular Acknowledgement in private be not more effectual than a general one, in company with others, where we only declare that he has been very kind to us all; whether my Friend would not expect it from me; and whether it would not more strongly excite Gratitude in me, and make me the more careful to please him? .Or, if I have privately done a particular Injury to this very kind Friend, or endeavoured, or intended, to do it, and it, some way, or other, comes to his Knowledge, should I only go along with several ethers, who have, likewise, injured, or affronted him, where I could have no Opportunity of mentioning my particular Offence, but only join with them in owning our common Offences, and aiking his Pardon: Would he think this a sufficient Satissaction? Or would this general Confession be equally efficacious towards creating in my Mind a proper Sense of Shame, and Sorrow, and a Resolution to behave better for the future? I say, would this have the same Effect as if I went by myself, laid open all the aggravating Circumstances of my Guilt, and humbled myself in Words, and Gestures, that may be more suitable than such as I could decently use in publics where the Publick are ignorant of the Fact, and of the Nature and Circumstances of it, and ought to be kept ignorant? I think this is so obvious a Cafe, that I may trust the most ordinary Understanding with the Determination of it, and leave him. to draw the plain Comparison between this Cafe,
1 and that of the singular Mercies which we receive from God, and our particular Offences committed against Him. This Method I would advise to be put in practice in the following Manner: To give an habitual Attention to our Thoughts, and Words, and Actions. This may 'be done in any Station of Life whatsoever. There may be some Difficulty in doing it, especially at first, but by degrees it will grow more and more easy. This will bring Us acquainted with ourselves, naturally increase"our Watchfulness, and be the Means of preventing Sins, as well as of reclaiming us from the Repetition of them. Whenever we catch ourselves at a Fault, if it be the Result of ^natural Infirmity, it may be sufficient for such Escapes, if we immediately lift up out Minds to God (which may be done in Company) in a penitential Ejaculation. If the Fauit be more deliberate and wilful, or the Repetition of one that we have often committed, we should not only lift our Minds to God at that Instant, but lay it up carefully in our Memories, and before we go to Bed weigh the Circumstances of it, and make a particular and solemn Acknowledgment of it. I add farther, that in the Cafe of very notorious Sins, such as that of David\ or an Escape from imminent Danger of our. Lives, we should not content ourselves with a single Acknowledgment, but make it an Article in our daily Prayers in our Closets. I would recommend the fame Method in regard to 'Temptations. Every one has something in his Conjlitution, or Situation, that subjects him lo partiId cular
cular Temptations, and, therefore, in our Closetst we should be particular in begging God's Grace to inable us to resist them. A Person naturally' inclin'd to Lafciviousnefs, should daily pray for Chastity \ the Proud, for Humility; the Cholerick, for Meekness, &c. The same Course should be taken in respect to such Sins as we are in most danger of from our Circumstances in Life. The Rich should pray, particularly, against the natural and usual Consequences of Riches upon the Minds and Manners of Men, and for a Disppsition to make a good use of them. Persons, in the more elevated Stations of Life, and intrusted with Power and Influence, are subject to more and greater Temptations, either to abuse their Trust, or to negleSl the due Discharge of it j; They stand in need of more Watchfulness, and more Assistance from God's Grace; and, therefore, it is incumbent upon them to ask, particularly, for those Virtues which are necesiary to; the Discharge of their great Trust; and, above., all, that God would give them a true, publick Spirit, an inflamed Zeal for the Honour of Godi> the Interest of his Religion, and the Good of. Mankind; such a Zeal as may guard them from low and mean Views; and I call all Views low and mean, which are inconsistent with thofe/j s great ones that I have-just now mentioned.\ Jy chuse not to be more particular in explaining., myself: Those honest Readers who are disposes j to make a good Use of a Hint, will take it, the., rest will only be provok'd to Resentment. But 4 before'I quit this Head, I must desire, the Rea-'
tier to apply what I have said concerning Men's particular Sins, and Temptations, to Sins oiOmis Jich, which I apprehend to be much more nu*merous than those of Commission, because they are more likely to escape our Notice, and, consequently, we more likely to lapse into them*; \'' •.• Another Advantage 1 shall barely mention, because it requires no Inlargement upon it: Every one has particular Friends and Benefactors'," whom a generous and affectionate Mind would be glad, in a particular Manner, to recommend to the Blessing of God; which can be done only in our private Devotions, since no Commongrayer can descend to such Particulars.
And thus having mentioned the principal Advantages peculiar to private Prayer, I (hall subjoin a necessary Caution. Our blessed Saviour has directed us to make our private Devotions as secret as possible; but this Direction must not be followed to the NeglecJ of such Prayers. As far as possible we should make them secret, but make them we muft, though we mould have no Opportunity of retiring from the Notice of every human Eye. Such Circumstances may, and often do, happen; and, in these Cases, it will be no pharisaical Ostentation, if we suffer others to fee us upon our Knees addressing ourselves to God, but a necessary Piece of Justice to Religion, and to ourselves; but, then, what passes between God and us may be secret, for we need hot speak so as to be heard by any one; or we may only direct our Minds to God without speaking at all.
H 2 These
These are the principal Advantages peculiar to private Prayer.: As to those which are peculiar Xp .publick Prayer, I shall take the Liberty. o£ fetting them forth in a Transcript from that most excellent Preacher and sound Divines as well as pious Christian, Archbishop Sharp, Vol. 4. p. 157. "It is the Fault of a great many, and ** even of some that have otherwise an hearty *' Sense of Religion, that they have not that "Esteem and Value for the publick Worship o( ** God, that, in the Nature of Things, it doth '' call for. If they do but say their Prayers de* '' voutly in their Closets, (and I would to God « that all Persons did that) they think they have '' done enough; all that is needful for the Dis
charge! of that Part of their Duty which cons' cerns the Worship of God. The Church Prayers, "and, likewise, Prayers in their Families, they "can well enough spare. And tho' they 'de, "perhaps, now and then attend the publick "Worship, yet it is not so much for the Sake "of the Prayers, as for the Curiosity of hearing f* a Sermon; or, it may be, for the avoiding the l' Scandal that their Absence at such Times "Would bring upon them. But, certainly, this ** is sar from being a right Notion of the Wor9 ship of God; so far from it, that 1 must say? "it is a very absurd one. We do own, that to "serve God in private, is a necesiary Duty; "nay, so necessary, that there is no living an '' holy Chriflian Life without it. We1 own, \' likewise, that as the Thing is infinitely rea'• sonable in itself, so k is attended with Advan. L -i " tages