Choice excerpts from Thomas Brooks'
THE PRIVY KEY OF HEAVEN
(A Discourse of Closet Prayer, published
during the awful plague of London in 1665)
The devil's tennis-ball
"Warn those who are idle." 1 Thessalonians 5:14
Take heed of an idle and slothful spirit. An idle life
and a holy heart are far asunder. By doing nothing
men learn to do evil things. It is easy slipping out
of an idle life into an evil and wicked life; yes, an
idle life is of itself evil, for man was made to be a
active, not to be idle. Idleness is a mother-sin, a
breeding-sin; it is the devil's cushion—on which
he sits; and the devil's anvil—on which he frames
very great and very many sins. Look! as toads and
serpents breed most in standing waters, so sin
thrives most in idle people. Idleness is that which
provokes the Lord to forsake men's bodies, and
the devil to possess their souls.
No man has less means to preserve his body, and
more temptations to infect his soul, than an idle
person. Oh shake off sloth! The sluggish Christian
will be sleeping, or idling, or trifling; when he should
be in his closet a-praying. Sloth is a fatal sickness of
the soul; get it cured—or it will be your eternal bane.
Of all devils, it is the 'idle' devil which keeps men
most out of their closets. There is nothing that gives
the devil so much advantage against us as idleness.
Idleness is the time of temptation. An idle person is
the devil's tennis-ball, tossed by him at his pleasure.
The fowler bends his bow and spreads his net for birds
when they are roosting, not when they are in flight.
So Satan shoots his most fiery darts at men, when
they are most idle and slothful.
Slothful and idle people commonly lie so long a-bed,
and spend so much precious time between the comb
and the mirror, and in eating, drinking, sporting, and
trifling; that they can find no time for private prayer.
Certainly those who would rather go sleeping to hell,
than sweating to heaven, will never care much for prayer.
And therefore shun sloth and idleness, as you would
shun a lion in your way, or poison in your food, or
coals in your bosom!
Dirt, handsomely fashioned
"All your life you will sweat to produce food, until your
dying day. Then you will return to the ground from
which you came. For you were made from dust, and
to the dust you will return." Genesis 3:19.
Our bodies are but dirt, handsomely fashioned. We
derive our pedigree from the dirt, and are akin to clay.
One calls the body "the soul's beast."
Another calls it "worms' food".
Paul calls it "a body of vileness".
Secret meals make fat bodies
Secret duties are the most soul-enriching duties. Look! as
secret meals make fat bodies—so secret duties make
fat souls. And as secret trades brings in great earthly riches,
so secret prayers makes many rich in spiritual blessings and
in heavenly riches. Private prayer is that secret key of heaven
which unlocks all the treasures of glory to the soul. The best
riches and the sweetest mercies, God usually gives to His
people—when they are in their closets upon their knees.
All the graces of the saints are enlivened, and nourished, and
strengthened by the sweet secret influences which their souls
fall under, when they are in their closet-communion with God.
Certainly there are none so rich in gracious experiences, as
those who are most exercised in closet duties.
As the tender dew which falls in the silent night makes the
grass and herbs and flowers to flourish and grow more
abundantly than great showers of rain which fall in the day;
so secret prayer will more abundantly cause the sweet herbs
of grace and holiness to grow and flourish in the soul, than all
those more open, public, and visible duties of religion, which
too, too often, are mingled and mixed with the sun and wind
of pride and hypocrisy.
The secret kisses
When a Christian is in a wilderness, which is a very
solitary place, then God delights to speak friendly
and comfortably to him: Hosea 2:14, "Behold, I will
allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and
speak friendly or comfortably to her," or as the
Hebrew has it, "I will speak to her heart."
"When I have her alone," says God, "in a solitary
wilderness, I will speak such things to her heart,
as shall exceedingly cheer her, and comfort her,
and even make her heart leap and dance within
her." Certainly the soul usually enjoys most
communion with God in secret.
A husband imparts his mind most freely and fully
to his wife when she is alone; and so does Christ
to the believing soul. Oh . . .
the secret kisses,
the secret embraces,
the secret visits,
the secret whispers,
the secret cheerings,
the secret sealings,
the secret discoveries,
which God gives to His people when in secret prayer.
That white devil!
While the disciples were healing diseases and casting
out demons, the proud white devil was a-stirring in
their own souls; as is evident by that gentle rebuke
which our Savior gives them in Luke 10:20, "Don't
rejoice that the spirits submit to you."
There is no pious duty which a Christian performs, but
one white devil or another—one lust or another—will be
still dogging and following of him to that duty. There is
no public duty, there is no family duty, there is no private
duty which a Christian performs—but either that white
devil pride, or that white devil hypocrisy, or that white
devil vainglory; or else some one or another white devil
will follow the soul, near at heel to it.
Two infamous strumpets
"You have set our iniquities before You, our secret
sins in the light of Your presence." Psalms 90:8
"Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot
see him? Do not I fill heaven and earth?" Jer. 23:24
"The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping
watch on the wicked and the good." Proverbs 15:3
As we are never out of the reach of God's hand,
so we are never from under the view of God's eye.
God is privy to our most secret sins. His eye is as much
upon secret sins, as it is upon open sins. God has an eye
upon our inmost evils. He sees all that is done in the dark.
There is no cloud, nor curtain, nor moment of darkness,
which can stand between the eyes of God and the ways
of men. "For a man's ways are in full view of the Lord, and
He examines all his paths." Prov. 5:21. In this scripture
Solomon mainly speaks of the ways of the adulterer, which
usually are plotted with the most cunning secrecy; yet God
sees all those ways. Look! as no boldness can exempt the
adulterer from the justice of God, so no secrecy can hide
him from the eye of God. Though men labor to hide their
ways from others, and from themselves—yet it is but labor
in vain to endeavor to hide them from God. Men who labor
to hide God from themselves, can never hide themselves from
God. Paphnutius turned Thais and Ephron, two infamous
strumpets, from their harlotry, with only this argument—
"That God sees all things in the dark, when the doors
are closed, the windows shut, and the curtains drawn."
Those sins which lie closest and are most secretly lurking in
the heart, are as obvious and odious to God as those who
are most fairly written upon a man's forehead. God is all
eye; so that He sees all—even the most secret turnings
and windings of our hearts.
"Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight:
but all things are naked and opened (that is, anatomized)
to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." Hebrews 4:13
What is the curtain, or the darkest night, or the double lock,
or the secret chamber—to Him who clearly observes all things
in a perfect nakedness. God has an eye upon the most inward
intentions of the heart, and the most subtle motions of the soul.
Certainly there is not a creature, not a thought, not a thing,
but lies open to the all-seeing eye of God. The Lord knows
all our secret sinnings as exactly as our visible sinnings.
"If you cannot hide yourself from the sun, which is God's minister
of light; how impossible will it be to hide yourself from Him, whose
eyes are ten thousand times brighter than the sun!" (Ambrose)
"My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from Me,
nor is their sin concealed from My eyes." Jeremiah 16:17
This is the killing aggravation of all sin—that it is done before
the face of God; that it is committed in the royal presence of
the King of kings! The very consideration of God's omnipresence
should bravely arm us against sin! Shall not the strict, the pure,
the jealous eye of an all-seeing God—keep you from sinning in
the secret chamber, when all curtains are drawn, doors bolted,
and everyone in the house sleeping—but you and your Delilah?
Oh! what dreadful atheism is bound up in that man's heart,
who is more afraid of the eye of his father, his pastor, his
child—than he is of the eye and presence of the eternal God!
Those who wallow in secret sins, act as if there were . . .
no God to behold them,
nor conscience to accuse them,
nor judgment-day to arraign them,
nor justice to condemn them,
nor hell to torment them!
Though they may escape the eyes of men—yet
they shall never escape the judgment of God!
The cockatrice must be crushed
"Lust having conceived, brings forth sin." James 1:15
First, sin has its conception—which is its delight;
and then sin has its birth—which is its action;
and then sin has its growth—which is its custom;
and then sin has its end—which is its damnation!
The very thought of sin, if but meditated on,
will break forth into action; action into custom;
custom into habit; and then both body and soul
are irrecoverably lost to all eternity!
If the subtle Serpent can but wriggle in his tail
by a sinful thought, he will soon get in his head
by a worse action!
The cockatrice must be crushed in the egg,
else it will soon become a serpent!
It would make him pull his hat over his eyes!
All Christians have their secret sins. Secret not only
from other men—but from himself! It is but natural for
every man to err, and then to be ignorant of his errors.
Every man's sins are beyond his understanding. There
is not the best, the wisest, nor the holiest man in the
world—who can give a full and entire list of his sins.
"Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from
secret faults." Psalm 19:12
"Who can understand his errors?" This interrogation has
the force of an affirmation: "Who can?" No man! No, not
the most perfect and innocent man in the world!
O friends! who can reckon up . . .
the secret sinful imaginations,
the secret sinful inclinations,
the secret pride,
the secret blasphemies,
the secret hypocrisies,
the secret atheistical risings,
the secret murmurings,
the secret repinings,
the secret discontents,
the secret insolencies,
the secret filthinesses,
the secret unbelievings,
which God might every day charge upon his soul?
Should the best and holiest man on earth have but
his secret sins written on his forehead, it would not
only put him to a crimson blush—but it would
make him pull his hat over his eyes, or cover
his face with a double scarf!
"Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from
secret faults." Psalm 19:12
The constant cry of the rod
One lesson that you are to learn by the rod of affliction,
is to get more weaned and more mortified affections to
all worldly comforts, contentments, and enjoyments.
A man never comes to experience so much of . . .
of all worldly comforts and enjoyments—as when he falls
under the rod of affliction. The constant cry of the rod
is, "Be dead to the profits, pleasures, honors, and applauses
of the world! Be dead to everything below a living Jesus!"
He was still a-pointing at the toads in their bosoms
How shall we find out that particular sin, for which God
corrects us—for which He has brought the rod upon us?
Seriously observe what that sin is, which your soul would
have spared above all, which your soul is most unwilling
to leave, and bid an everlasting farewell to. Observe what
your right-hand sin, your bosom sin, your constitutional
sin, your complexion sin, is; for it is a hundred to one that
God has sent the rod for the subduing of that very sin!
Commonly by the rod, God points at the mortifying of that
particular sin to which the heart stands most strongly inclined.
It may be that sin which you cannot endure should be touched,
or reproved, or spoken against. Ah! how proud, how impatient,
how passionate, how mad are many—when you come to touch
their right-eye sin! When you come to touch them in the
tender part, oh! then they fume, and swell, and rage,
and carry on like people out of their wits; as you may see in
the scribes and pharisees, who were so angry and mad with
Christ that they sought His death; and all because He was
still a-pointing at the toads in their bosoms; namely,
pride, vainglory, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness. Oh! they
could not endure that the sharp razor of reproof should come
near their sorest part!
Certainly that Christian must be under a very bad distemper,
who smites a righteous man with reproach—for smiting him
with a reproof. Though gracious reproofs are a choice
remedy, yet few stomachs can bear them. Who is angry
with the physician for prescribing a bitter medicine? And
yet, ah! how angry are many Christians when they fall under
holy reproofs. Now, doubtless, the voice of the rod is this,
"Soul! take heed of that sin which you cannot endure
should be touched. Labor mightily with God to get that
particular sin mortified—which you cannot endure should
be reproved." It is very probable that, for the subduing
of that particular sin, the Lord has visited you with His
A whore's forehead
"You have a whore's forehead, you refuse to be
ashamed!" Jeremiah 3:3
"Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No,
they have no shame at all! They do not even know
how to blush!" Jeremiah 6:15
They had sinned away shame, instead of being ashamed of
sin. Continuance in sin had quite banished all sense of sin
and all shame for sin; so that they would not allow nature
to draw her veil of blushing before their great abominations.
How applicable these scriptures are to the present time, I
will leave the prudent reader to judge.
But what does the prophet do, now that they were as bold in
sin, and as shameless as so many harlots; now that they were
grown up to that height of sin and wickedness; now that they
were above all shame and blushing; now that they were grown
so proud, so hardened, so obstinate, so rebellious, so bent on
self-destruction—that no mercies could melt them or allure them,
nor any threatenings or judgments could in any way terrify them
or stop them? The prophet goes into a corner, he retires into the
most secret places, and there he weeps bitterly; there he weeps
as if he were resolved to drown himself in his own tears. "I will
weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly,
overflowing with tears." Jeremiah 13:17
In the times wherein we live, hell seems to be broken loose,
and men turned into incarnate devils! Soul-damning wickednesses
walk up and down the streets with a whore's forehead, without
the least check or restraint.
Ah, England, England! what pride, luxury, lasciviousness,
licentiousness, wantonness, drunkenness, cruelties, injustice,
oppressions, fornications, adulteries, falsehoods, hypocrisies,
atheisms, horrid blasphemies, and hellish impieties—are now
to be found rampant in the midst of you! Ah, England!
England! how are the Scriptures rejected, God derided,
and wickedness tolerated!
And what is the voice of all these crying abominations—but
every Christian to his closet—every Christian to his closet—and
there weep, with weeping Jeremiah, bitterly—for all these great
abominations whereby God is dishonored openly. Oh weep in
secret for their sins—who openly glory in their sins, which should
be their greatest shame. Oh blush in secret for those who are
past all blushing for their sins; for who knows, but that the
whole land may fare the better for the sakes of a few, who
are mourners in secret?
"For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are
higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your
thoughts." Isaiah 55:9
Take heed of curiosity, and of spending too much of
your precious time in searching into those dark, concealed,
mysterious, and hidden truths and things of God and religion,
which lie most remote from the understanding of the best and
wisest of men.
Those who are troubled with the itch of curiosity, will say
they can never be satisfied until they come to the bottom
of the most deep and profound things of God. They love
to pry into God's secrets, and to scan the mysteries of
religion—by their weak, shallow reason. Curious searchers
into the deep mysterious things of God will make all God's
depths to be shallows, rather than they will be thought not
able to fathom them by the short line of their own reason.
Oh that men would once learn to be contentedly ignorant,
where God would not have them knowing! Oh that men were
once so humble, as to account it no disparagement to them, to
acknowledge some depths in God, and in the blessed Scripture,
which their shallow reason cannot fathom!
They are only a company of fools, who attempt to know more
than God would have them. Did not Adam's tree of knowledge
make him and his posterity mere fools? He who goes to school
to his own reason, has a fool for his schoolmaster!
Oh that we were wise to admire those deep mysteries which we
cannot understand, and to adore those depths and counsels which
we cannot reach! "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and
knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His
paths beyond tracing out!" Romans 11:33
Oh let us restrain our curiosity in the things of God, and sit down
satisfied and contented to resolve many of God's actions into
some hidden causes which lie secret in the abyss of His eternal
knowledge and infallible will.
Curiosity is one of Satan's most dangerous weapons, by which
he keeps many souls out of their closets, yes, out of heaven!
When many a poor soul begins in good earnest to look towards
heaven, and to apply himself to closet duties, then Satan begins
to bestir himself, and to labor with all his might, so to busy the
poor soul with vain inquiries, and curious speculations, and
unprofitable curiosities. Ah! how well might it have been with
many a man, had he but spent one quarter of that time in
closet prayer, that he has spent in curious inquiries after
things that have not been fundamental to his happiness.
Many are more busy about reconciling difficult scriptures, than
about mortifying of unruly lusts! They set more value upon vain
speculations, than upon things that make most for edification.
Such men of abstracted conceits, are but a company of wise
fools! Had many men spent but half that time in secret prayer,
that they have spent in seeking after the philosopher's stone,
how happy might they have been! Oh how holy, how happy,
how heavenly, how humble, how wise, how knowing, might
many men have been—had they spent but half that time in
closet prayer, which they have spent in searching after those
things that are hard to be understood!
"There are secret things which belong to the Lord our God."
God's spy in the heart
Conscience is God's spy in the heart.
'Conscience,' says Philo, 'is the little tribunal of the soul.
Conscience is a thousand witnesses, for or against a man.
Conscience is a court of record, and whatever it sees it
writes down; and conscience is always as quick in writing
as the sinner can be in sinning.' The very heathen could
say that conscience was a god to every man.
Conscience, as a scribe, a register—sits in the closet of
your hearts, with pen in hand, and makes a journal of
all your secret ways and secret crimes, which are above
the cognizance of others. Conscience sets down the time
when, the place where, the manner how, and the people
with whom—such and such secret wickednesses have been
committed; and that so clear and evident, that, go where
you will, and do what you can, the characters of them shall
never be cancelled or erased out, until God appears in
judgment. Let a man sin in the most hidden seclusion
which human policy can contrive, let him take all the
ways he can to hide his sins, to cloak and cover his sin,
as Adam did—yet conscience will so play the judge, that
it will bring in the evidence, produce the law, urge the
penalty, and pass the sentence of condemnation upon him.
This perfect pattern
"He who says he abides in Him, ought himself also
to walk even as He walked." 1 John 2:6
Oh that this blessed Scripture might always lie warm
upon our hearts. A Christian's whole life should be
nothing but a visible representation of Christ. It is not
only our liberty—but our duty and glory, to follow Christ
inviolably in all His moral virtues. Other patterns are
imperfect and defective—but Christ is a perfect pattern!
Of all His children, they are the happiest, who come
nearest to this perfect pattern.
"Leaving you an example, that you should follow
in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21
God would not rub so hard
"I will turn My hand against you and will burn away
your dross completely; I will remove all your impurities."
Afflictions cleanse and purge away the dross, the filth,
and the scum of the Christian.
All the harm the fire did to the three children, or rather
the three champions—was to burn off their cords. Our
lusts are cords of vanity, but the fire of affliction shall
burn them up. Sharp afflictions are a fire—to purge out
our dross, and to make our graces shine; they are a
potion—to carry away ill humours; they are cold frosts
—to destroy the vermin; they are a tempestuous sea—
to purge the wine from its dregs; they are a sharp
corrosive—to eat out the dead flesh.
Afflictions are compared to washing—which takes away
the filth of the soul, as water does the filth of the body.
God would not rub so hard, were it not to fetch out
the dirt and spots that are in His people's hearts.
The shop, the farm, and the oxen
Take heed of engaging yourselves in a crowd of worldly
businesses. Many have so much to do on earth that they
have no time to look up to heaven. As much earth puts
out the fire, so much worldly business puts out the fire
of heavenly affections. Look! as the earth swallowed up
Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, Numbers 22:32; so much worldly
business swallows up so much precious time, that many
men have no leisure to be with God in their closets. There
is nothing that has kept men more from Christ—than the
shop, the farm, and the oxen, etc., Luke 14:16-22.
The outward dress and garb of religion
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!
You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you
have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice,
mercy and faithfulness." Matthew 23:23
Take heed of spending too much of your precious time about
circumstantials, about the minor things of religion, as "mint,
dill, and cummin," or in searching into the circumstances of
worship, or in standing stoutly for this or that ceremony, or
about inquiring what fruit it was which Adam ate in paradise,
or in inquiring after things which God in His infinite wisdom
It is one of Satan's great designs to hinder men in the great
and weighty duties of religion, by busying them most about
the lowest and least matters of religion. Satan is never better
pleased, than when he sees Christians puzzled and perplexed
about those things in religion, which are of no great consequence
or importance. Such as are more busied about ceremonies than
substances, about the form of godliness than the power. Such are
more taken up with the outward dress and garb of religion,
than they are with the spirit, power, and life of religion.
There cannot be a surer nor a greater character of a hypocrite,
than to make a great deal of stir about little things in religion, and
in the meantime neglect the great and main things in religion.
They pierce not, they cut not, they fly not
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man
avails much." James 5:16
Cold prayers call for a denial.
Be fervent, be warm, be importunate with God in all your
closet duties and performances. Certainly, all those usual
phrases of crying, wrestling, and striving with God, which
are scattered up and down in Scripture, strongly show
that holy importunity and sacred violence which the saints
of old have expressed in their addresses to God.
Fervency feathers the wings of prayer, and makes them
fly the swifter to heaven. An arrow, if it be drawn up but
a little way, flies not far; but if it be drawn up to the head,
it will fly far, and pierce deeply. Just so, fervent prayer
flies as high as heaven, and will certainly bring down
blessings from thence.
Look! as in a painted fire there is no heat; so in a cold
prayer there is no heat, no warmth, no omnipotency,
no devotion, no blessing. Cold prayers are like arrows
without points, as swords without edges, as birds without
wings: they pierce not, they cut not, they fly not up
to heaven. Such prayers as have no heavenly fire in them,
do always freeze before they reach as high as heaven.
But fervent prayer is very prevalent with God.
The very soul of prayer
"My son, give Me your heart." Proverbs 23:26
In all your closet-duties God looks first and most to
your hearts. It is not a piece, it is not a corner of the
heart, which will satisfy the Maker of the heart. The
very soul of prayer lies in the pouring out of the soul
before God. The heart is a treasure, a bed of spices,
a royal throne wherein He delights. God looks not at:
the elegance of your prayers, to see how refined they are; nor at
the geometry of your prayers, to see how long they are; nor at
the arithmetic of your prayers, to see how many they are; nor at
the music of your prayers; nor at
the sweetness of your voice; nor at
the logic of your prayers;
but at the sincerity of your prayers, how hearty they are.
The reason why so many are so unsuccessful in their
closet-duties and services, is because there is no more
of their hearts in them. No man can make sure work or
happy work in prayer but he who makes heart work on
it. When a man's heart is in his prayers, then great and
sweet will be his returns from heaven.
There is no prayer acknowledged, approved, accepted,
recorded, or rewarded by God—but that wherein the
heart is sincere.
Prayer without the heart is but as sounding brass or
a tinkling cymbal. Prayer is only lovely and weighty,
as the heart is in it, and no otherwise. It is . . .
not the lifting up of the voice,
nor the wringing of the hands,
nor the beating of the breasts,
nor an affected tone,
nor studied motions,
nor seraphical expressions;
but the stirrings of the heart, which God looks at in prayer.
God hears no more than the heart speaks. If the heart be
dumb, God will certainly be deaf. No prayer is accepted by
God—but that which is the travail of the heart.
A dumb devil
Among all God's children, there is not one possessed
with a dumb devil. Prayerless people are . . .
forsaken of God,
blinded by Satan,
hardened in sin,
and every breath they draw, are liable to all
temporal, spiritual, and eternal judgments.
Prayer is that part of natural worship due to
God, which none will deny but stark atheists.
I have read of a man who, being sick, and afraid of
death, fell to praying. And to move God to hear him,
told him "that he had never troubled Him with his
prayers before; and if He would but hear him at that
time, he would never trouble Him again." This world is
full of such profane, blasphemous, atheistical wretches.
Certainly prayerless people are graceless people.
"Lord! all my desire is before You; and my groaning
is not hidden from You." Psalm 38:9
We cannot get into any blind hole, or dark corner, or
secret place—but the Lord has an eye there, the Lord
will keep us company there. There is not the darkest,
dirtiest hole in the world into which a saint creeps—but
God has a favorable eye there. God never lacks . . .
an eye to see our secret tears,
nor an ear to hear our secret cries and groans,
nor a heart to grant our secret requests.
We cannot sigh out a prayer in secret—but He sees us;
we cannot lift up our eyes to Him at midnight—but He
observes us. The eye which God has upon His people
when they are in secret, is such a special tender eye of
love—as opens His ear, His heart, and His hand, for their
good. "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and
His ears are attentive to their prayer." 1 Peter 3:12
God's eye is upon . . .
every secret sigh, and
every secret groan, and
every secret tear, and
every secret desire, and
every secret pant of love,
and every secret breathing of soul,
and every secret melting and working of heart.
As a Christian is never out of the reach of God's
hand, so he is never out of the view of God's eye.
Tears have tongues
"The Lord has heard the voice of my weeping."
Tears are not mutes. Tears have a voice. Tears
have tongues. Tears can speak. There is no
prayer compared to those which secret tears
make in the ears of God. Tears make the most
forcible entry into the ears of the great God of
Penitent tears are undeniable ambassadors which
never return from the throne of grace without a
gracious answer. Tears are a kind of silent prayers,
which, though they say nothing—yet they obtain
pardon; and though they plead not a man's cause
—yet they obtain mercy at the hands of God.
Uncovered and laid bare
Ah! how many Christians are there who would blush
and be ashamed to walk in the streets, should but
their infirmities, enormities, and wickednesses be
written on their foreheads, or known to others!
There are many sins which they have fallen into
since conversion, which, should they be known to
the world, would make themselves to stench in
the nostrils of all who know them.
"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight.
Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the
eyes of Him to whom we must give account." Hebrews 4:13
An atheist at home
He who puts on a religious demeanor abroad to gain
himself a great name among men, and at the same
time lives like an atheist at home, shall at the last
be unmasked by God, and presented before all the
world for a most detestable hypocrite.
No cause to murmur or complain
One lesson that you are to learn under the afflictive rod
of God, is to humbly to kiss the rod, and patiently and
quietly to lie under the rod, until the Lord shall either
give you a gracious, or a glorious, deliverance from it.
What is the rod—compared to the horrors of conscience,
and to the flames of hell, or to an everlasting separation
from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His
power? Therefore put your mouths in the dust, and be
silent before the Lord!
He who has deserved a hanging—if he escapes with
a whipping, has no cause to murmur or complain.
We who have deserved a damning—have little cause
to murmur or complain of a whipping, yes, though it
should be with a pestilential rod.
Then you will kiss it!
"Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline." Revelation 3:19
Christian! Always look on the rod of affliction, in conjunction
with the hand which holds it. Thus Jesus did, "Shall I not
drink the cup that My Father has given Me to drink?"
Though the cup was a bitter cup, a bloody cup—yet seeing
it was put into His hand by His Father, He drinks it off, with
a "Father, I thank You."
The rod in itself brings nothing but pain to the child; but the
rod in the hand of a father brings nothing but love, kindness,
and sweetness. You should never look upon the rod of affliction,
but as it is in the hand of your heavenly Father—and then you
will kiss it, rather than murmur under it!
He draws out the core
Afflictions are the Lord's drawing-plasters, by which
He draws out the core of pride, earthliness, self-love,
covetousness, etc. Pride was one of man's first sins,
and is still the root and source of all other sins. Now,
to prevent it, God many times chastens man with pain,
yes, with strong pain, upon his bed: Job 34:31-32,
"I have endured my punishment; I will no longer act
wickedly. Teach me what I cannot see; if I have done
wrong, I won't do it again." The burnt child dreads the
fire. Sin is but a bitter sweet; it is an evil worse than
hell itself. Look, as salt brine preserves things from
putrefying; so sanctified rods, sanctified afflictions,
preserves and keeps the people of God from sinning.
His school of instruction
"The rod is for the back of the one who lacks sense."
The rod is to make the child sensible of his folly and
vanity. So it is here: God takes up the rod, but it is
to make His people sensible of their folly and vanity;
it is to make them look up to Him, and to look into
conscience, and to look out to their lives. God's
house of correction is His school of instruction:
His lashes are our lessons,
His scourges are our schoolmasters,
His chastisements are our corrections.
Hence both the Hebrews and Greeks express
chastening and teaching by one and the same
word, because teaching is the true end of
Afflictions are a Christian's looking-glass, by
which he may see how to dress his own soul,
and to mend whatever is amiss.
All the afflictions, troubles, and trials
"Heed the rod and the One who appointed it." Micah 6:9
It is God who appoints the rod, and ordains it to do what
service He pleases. It is God who has an active hand, in
all the afflictions which come upon His people.
"Heed the rod," that is, "believe the report the rod makes."
The rod reports, that of all evils sin is the greatest evil; and
that of all bitters, sin is the greatest bitter. Oh believe the
report of the rod! The rod reports, that God is angry, that
God is displeased. Oh believe its report! The rod reports the
creature to be mere vanity and vexation of spirit. Oh
believe its report! The rod reports our nearest and dearest
comforts, contentments, and enjoyments to be mixed,
mutable, and momentary. Oh believe its report!
The rod reports . . .
sin to be vile, and
the world to be vain, and
heaven to be glorious, and
Christ to be most precious!
Oh believe its report!
All the afflictions, troubles, and trials which God lays
upon His people, are His rod. It is their highest and greatest
concernment to hear the voice of the rod, and to learn
those lessons which God would have them learn by the rod.
He must deny himself
"If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny
himself, take up his cross, and follow Me." Mark 8:34
He must deny sinful self, which takes in a man's lusts.
He must deny natural self, which takes in a man's
arts, parts, gifts, and reason.
He must deny religious self, which takes in all a man's
religious duties and services.
He must deny moral self, which includes a freedom
from gross, heinous, enormous wickednesses; and a
fair, sweet, harmless behavior towards men.
He must deny relative self, which takes in our nearest
and dearest relations in the flesh; as wife, children, father,
mother, brothers, sisters, etc.
One sigh and groan
Some may think that they lack the ability to pour
out their souls before the Lord in secret. I answer,
You cannot pray; but can you not sigh? can you not
groan? There may be the Spirit of adoption in sighs
and groans, as well as in vocal prayer. The force, the
virtue, the efficacy, the excellency of prayer does not
consist in the number and flourish of words;but in the
supernatural motions of the Spirit—in sighs, and groans,
and pangs, and strong affections of heart, which are
unspeakable and unutterable. Certainly, the very soul
of prayer lies in the pouring out of a man's soul before
the Lord, though it be but in sighs, groans, and tears.
One sigh and groan from a broken heart, is more
pleasing to God, than all human eloquence.
Remember, that God is no critical observer of the poor
expressions which fall from His poor children, when they
are in prayer. He is such a Father as is very well pleased
with the broken expressions and flawed stammerings of
His people when they pray. It is not a flood of words, nor
studied notions, nor seraphical expressions, nor elegant
phrases in prayer—which takes the ear, or which delights
the heart of God, or which opens the gates of glory, or
which brings down the best of blessings upon the soul;
but uprightness, holiness, heavenliness, spiritualness, and
brokenness of heart. These are the things which make a
conquest upon God, and bring most benefit to the soul.
"My times are in Your hands," says David, Psalm 31:15.
Not only the times of his sorrows—but also the times of his comforts;
not only the times of his miseries—but also the times of his mercies;
not only the times of his dangers—but also the times of his duties,
were in the hands of God. It is observable the Psalmist does not say
time—but times, in the plural, to show that every point and period
of time depends upon the hand of God.
A work of absolute necessity
Private prayer is a work of absolute necessity,
for the bringing of the heart into a holy frame,
for the keeping of the heart in a holy frame,
for the discovery of sin,
for the preventing of sin,
for the embittering of sin,
for the weakening of sin,
for the purging away of sin,
for a full exercise of grace,
for an eminent increase of grace
to arm us against temptations, afflictions, and sufferings,
to fit us for all other duties and services.
Pray without ceasing
"Persistent in prayer." Romans 12:12
The Greek is a metaphor taken from hunting dogs, which
never give up the chase until they have got their prey.
A Christian must not only pray—but hold on in prayer,
until he has got the heavenly prize.
"Pray without ceasing." 1 Thessalonians 5:17
We are always needing; and therefore we had need
be praying always.
The world is always alluring; and therefore we had
need be always a-praying.
Satan is always a-tempting; and therefore we had
need be always a-praying.
We are always a-sinning; and therefore we had
need be always a-praying.
We are in dangers always; and therefore we had
need be praying always.
We are dying always; and therefore we had need be
praying always. Man's whole life is but a lingering death;
man no sooner begins to live—but he begins to die. Dying
Christians had need be praying Christians, and those who
are always a-dying had need be always a-praying.
Christ is a universal Friend.
He is an omnipotent Friend, an almighty Friend.
He is an omniscient Friend.
He is an omnipresent Friend.
He is an unfailing Friend.
He is an independent Friend.
He is an unchangeable Friend.
He is a watchful Friend.
He is a tender and compassionate Friend.
He is a close and faithful Friend.
"His mouth is most sweet: yes, He is altogether lovely.
This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend." Song 5:16
He overcomes the Almighty!
"Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because
you have struggled with God and with men and have
overcome." Genesis 32:28
Oh the power of private prayer! It has a kind of omnipotence in
it; it takes God captive; it holds Him as a prisoner; it binds the
hands of the Almighty! Yes, it will wrench a mercy, a blessing,
out of the hand of heaven itself! Oh the power of that prayer
which makes a man victorious over the greatest, the highest
power! Jacob, though a man, a single man, a traveling man,
a tired man, yes, though a worm, which is easily crushed and
trodden under foot—yet in private prayer he is so potent, that
he overcomes the omnipotent God! He is so mighty, that he
overcomes the Almighty!
He bruises His spices
"God disciplines us for our good, that we may share
in His holiness." Hebrews 12:10
Grace always thrives most when saints are under the rod.
When Christians are under the rod, then their graces do
not only bud, but blossom and bring forth fruit, as Aaron's
rod did. The snuffing of the candle makes it burn the brighter.
God beats and bruises His children, to make them burn the
brighter; He bruises His spices, to make them send forth
the greater aromatic fragrance.
The Jews were always best when they were in an
Stars shine brightest in the darkest nights.
Vines grow the better for bleeding.
Gold shines the better for scouring.
Juniper smells sweetest when in the fire.
By afflictions, God many times revives, quickens, and
recovers the decayed graces of His people. By afflictions,
God many times inflames that love which is cold; and He
strengthens that faith which is failing; and he puts life into
those hopes which are languishing; and new spirits into
those joys and comforts which are withering and dying.
Sharp afflictions recover and revive our decayed graces.
The smarting rod abases the loveliness of the world,
which entices us; it abates the lustiness of the flesh
within, which incites us to vanity and folly.
She hugs her young ones to death
"Withhold not correction from the child, for if you beat
him with the rod, he shall not die. You shall beat him
with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell."
God uses the rod to prevent further folly, mischief, and
misery. It is said of the ape, that she hugs her young
ones to death; so many fond parents, by not correcting
their children, they come to slay their children. The best
way to prevent their being scourged with scorpions in hell,
is to chastise them with the rod here.
So God takes up the rod; He afflicts and chastises His
dearest children, but it is to prevent soul-mischief and
misery; it is to prevent pride, self-love, worldliness, etc.
The rod is to purge out that vanity and folly that is bound
up in the heart of the child. Proverbs 22:15, "Foolishness is
bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction
shall drive it far from him." The rod is an ordinance, as
well as the word; and such parents who use it as an
ordinance—praying and weeping over it—shall find it
effectual for the chasing away of evil out of their children's
heart. Eli and David were two very choice men, and yet, by
their fondness on one hand, and neglect of this ordinance
on the other hand, they ruined their sons; and whether
they did not undo their souls, I shall not at this time
stand to inquire.
When Moses cast away his rod, it became a serpent; and
so, when parents cast away the rod of correction, it is ten
to one but that their children become the brood of the
serpent: Proverbs 13:24, "He who spares his rod hates his
son; but he who loves him chastens him often." Not only
the care, but also the cure of the child—so far as the rod
will reach—lies upon the hands of the parent.
The promises of God
The promises of God are as so many rich mines, they are as so many choice flowers of paradise, they are the food, life, and strength of the soul. They are as a staff to support the soul, and they are as jewelry to adorn the soul, and nourishment to enrich the soul; and therefore poor sinners should bring them forth, and lay them before the Lord, and urge God with them.
The promises of God shall certainly be performed, 2 Corinthians 1:20, they being all made in and through Christ. They are made first to Christ, and then to all who have union and communion with Him.
Sirtorius, says Plutarch, paid what he promised with mere fair words; but God pays with performance. Men many times say and unsay; they often eat their words as soon as they have spoken them; but God will never eat the words that are gone out of His mouth: Isaiah 46:10-11, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure: yes, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass: I have purposed it, I will also do it."
The promises all issue from God's free grace, special love, and divine goodness, Hosea 14:4.
The promises of God are all as unchangeable as He is, who made them, Jeremiah 31:3.
The promises of God are all bottomed and founded upon the truth, faithfulness, and all-sufficiency of God, Malachi 3:6.
The promises of God are most sure and certain evidences of divine favor, and a declaration of the heart and goodwill of God to His poor people, Hebrews 6:12; Numbers 23:19.
The promises of God are the price of Christ's blood.
Now how should all these things encourage poor souls to be still a-pressing of God with His promises.
The dumb sinner
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." Matthew 7:7-8
The threefold promise annexed to the threefold precept, should encourage all Christians to be instant, fervent, and constant in prayer.
Though prayer is not the ground, nor the cause of obtaining favors and mercies from God—yet it is the means, it is the silver channel, it is the golden pipe, through which the Lord is pleased to convey to His people all temporal, spiritual, and eternal favors. God promises to give them the cream, the choicest, the sweetest of all spiritual, eternal, and temporal blessings; but mark, Ezekiel 36:37, "I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them." Though God is very prompt and ready to bestow upon His people the best and the greatest of blessings—yet He will by prayer be sought unto, for the actual enjoyment of them. He who has no heart to pray for a mercy, he has no ground to believe that God will ever give him the mercy. There is no receiving without asking, no finding without seeking, no opening without knocking. The proud beggar gets nothing from men, and the dumb sinner gets nothing of God. As there is no mercy too great for God to give, so there is no mercy too little for us to crave. Certainly that man has little worth in him who thinks any mercy not worth a seeking.
Failings and infirmities
God will never cast off His people for their failings and infirmities.
First, It is the glory of a man to pass by infirmities, Proverbs 19:11. Oh how much more, then, must it be the glory of God to pass by the infirmities of His people!
Secondly, Saints are children; and what father will cast off his children for their infirmities and weaknesses? Psalm 103:13-14; 1 Corinthians 12:27.
Thirdly, Saints are members of Christ's body; and what man will cut off a limb because there is a scab or wart upon it?
Fourthly, Saints are Christ's purchase; they are His possession, His inheritance. [Ephesians 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23; 1 Peter 1:18-20] Now what man is there that will cast away, or cast off his purchase, his possession, his inheritance, because of thorns, bushes, or briars that grow upon it?
Fifthly, Saints are in a marriage-covenant with God, Hosea 2:19-20. Now what husband is there that will cast off his wife for her failings and infirmities? So long as a man is in covenant with God, his infirmities can't cut him off from God's mercy and grace. Now it is certain a man may have very many infirmities upon him, and yet not break his covenant with God.
In a word, if God should cast off His people for their failings and infirmities, then none of the sons or daughters of Adam could be saved: "For there is not a just man upon the earth that does good and sins not," Ecclesiastes 7:20.
Oh remember that at such a time you went into your prayer closets with hard hearts, and dry eyes; but before you came out of your closets, ah, how sweetly, how graciously, how powerfully were you melted, and humbled before the Lord!
Oh remember how that at another time you went into your closets clouded and benighted—but came out of your closets with as glorious a shine of God upon your souls, as Moses had upon his face, when he came down from the mount from communing with God!
Oh remember how often you have gone into your closets with cold, frozen spirits—but before you came out of your closets, what a fire has God kindled in your souls, what a spirit of burning have you found in your hearts!
Oh remember how often you have gone into your closets straitened and shut up—but before you have come out, how have your souls been aflame!
Oh remember what power God has given you against corruptions in your closets, and what strength God has given you against temptations in your closets!
Oh remember the sweet discoveries of divine love that you have had when in your closets! Oh remember the secret visits, the secret kisses, the secret embraces, the secret whispers, the secret love-tokens, that Christ has given you in your closets!
Oh seriously ponder upon these things, and then closet duties will be sweet unto you!
A secret virtue and power
When a man finds such a secret virtue and power running through his closet-duties—as wounds and weakens his beloved corruption, as breaks the strength and the power of his special sin, as sets his heart more fully, resolutely, and constantly against his darling lust, as stirs up a greater rage, and a more bitter hatred, and a more fierce indignation against the toad in the bosom—then certainly he has had communion with God.
Isaiah 2:20, "In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they have made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats." In the day wherein God should take these poor hearts into communion with Himself, their hearts should be filled with such rage and indignation against their most delectable and desirable idols, that they should take not only those made of trees and stones—but even their most precious and costly idols, those who were made of silver and gold, and cast them to the moles and to the bats, to note their horrible hatred and indignation against them. Idolatry was the darling-sin of the Jews; their hearts were so exceedingly affected and delighted with their idols, that they did not care what they spent upon them: Isaiah 46:6, "They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a God: they fall down, yes, they worship it." The word here used for lavish, in the Hebrew, signifies properly to waste, or spend riotously; they set so light by their treasure, that they cared not what they spent upon their idols. God gave them gold and silver as pledges of His favor and bounty, and they lavish it out upon their idols, as if God had hired them to be wicked.
Oh, but when God should come and take these poor wretches into a close and near communion with Himself, then you shall find their wrath and rage to rise against their idols, as you may see in that Isaiah 30:19-21. Their communion with God is more than hinted; but mark, Isaiah 30:22, "Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them—Away with you!" None defile, deface, detest, and disgrace their idols like those who are taken into communion with God. Fellowship with God will make a man cast away, as a menstruous cloth, those very idols, in which he has most delighted, and with which he has been most pleased and enamored.
Idols were Ephraim's bosom-sin. Hosea 4:17, "Ephraim is joined," or glued, as the Hebrew has it, "to idols; let him alone." Oh! but when you find Ephraim taken into close communion with God, as you do in that Hosea 14:4-7, then you shall find another spirit upon him: Hosea 14:8, "Ephraim shall say, what have I to do any more with idols?" I have had too much to do with them already, I will never have to do with them any more. Oh! how does my soul detest and abhor them, and rise up against them. Oh! how do I now more loathe and abominate them, than ever I have formerly loved them, or delighted in them. After the return of the Jews out of Babylon, they so hated and abhorred idols, that in the time of the Romans they chose rather to die, than allow the eagle, which was the imperial insignia, to be set up in their temple.
Though closet-duties are weak in themselves—yet when a man has communion with God in them, then they prove exceedingly powerful to the casting down of strongholds, and vain imaginations, and every high thing and thought, which exalts itself against the knowledge of God, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. When a man comes out of his closet with a heart more fully and steadfastly set against every known sin—but especially against his bosom-sin, his darling-sin, his Delilah which he played and sported himself most with, and which he has hugged with pleasure and delight in his bosom—then certainly he has had private communion with God.
After Moses had enjoyed forty days' private communion with God in the mount, how did his heart rise, and his anger wax hot against the molten calf that his people had made! Exodus 32:19-20, "When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it." Moses had never more intimate fellowship with God than now, and he never exhibited so much holy zeal, anger, and indignation against sin as now.
When a man comes off from the mount of closet-duties with a greater hatred, anger, wrath, and indignation against bosom-sins, darling-sins, complexion-sins, which were once as dear to him as right hands or right eyes, or as Delilah was to Samson, or Herodias to Herod, or Isaac to Abraham, or Joseph to Jacob, then certainly he has had communion with God in those duties. When a man finds his beloved sins, his Delilahs, which, like the prince of devils, command all other sins, to fall before his closet-duties, as Dagon fell before the ark, or as Goliath fell before David—then assuredly he has had fellowship with God in them.
Pliny writes of some families which had secret marks on their bodies, peculiar to those of that line. Certainly, there are no people—but have some sin or sins; some secret marks on their souls, that may in a peculiar way be called theirs. Now when in private duties they find the bent of their hearts, and the purposes, resolutions, and inclinations of their souls more raised, inflamed, and set against these, they may safely and comfortably conclude, that they have had communion with God in them.
O sirs! there is no no bosom-sin so sweet or profitable, that is worth burning in hell for, or worth shutting out of heaven for; and therefore, in all your private duties and services, labor after that communion with God in them, that may break the neck and heart of your most bosom-sins. When Darius fled before Alexander, that he might run the faster out of danger, he threw away his massive crown from his head. As ever you would be safe from eternal danger, throw away your golden and your silver idols, throw away your bosom-sins, your darling lusts.
Man's whole life is but a lingering death; man
no sooner begins to live—but he begins to die.
Secret prayer sweetly inclines and strongly disposes
a Christian to all other pious duties and services.
Private prayer is a golden key to unlock the mysteries
of the word unto us. The knowledge of many choice and
blessed truths, are but the returns of private prayer. The
Word dwells most richly in their hearts—who are most in
pouring out their hearts before God in their closets.
Certainly that Christian, who in private prayer lies most
at the feet of Jesus Christ—he shall understand most of
the mind of Christ in the gospel, and he shall have most
of heaven and the things of his own peace brought down
into his heart.
There is no service wherein Christians have such a near,
familiar, and friendly fellowship with God as in private
prayer; neither is there any service wherein God does
more delight to make known His truth and faithfulness,
His grace and goodness, His mercy and bounty, His
beauty and glory to poor souls, than in secret prayer.
Private prayer crowns God with the honor and glory
which are due to His name; and God crowns private
prayer with a revelation of those blessed weighty truths
to his servants, that are a sealed book to others.
One hour's communion with God in one's closet,
is to be preferred before the greatest and best
company in the world.
A man whose soul is conversant with God in a closet,
in a hole, behind the door, or in a desert, a den, a
dungeon—shall find more real pleasure, more choice
delight, and more full contentment, than in the palace
of a prince.
Our heavenly Father hears and observes our private
prayers, and bottles up all our secret tears. He is not
a stranger to our closet desires, wrestlings, breathings,
hungerings, and thirstings. He loves to lade the wings
of private prayer with the sweetest, choicest, and chief
blessings. Saints often meet with the best wine and with
the strongest cordials—when they are all alone with God.
All tears will never be totally wiped from our eyes,
until all sin is totally taken out of our hearts.
The very soul of prayer lies in the pouring out of a man's soul into the bosom of God. Prayer is nothing but the breathing out before the Lord, that which was first breathed into us by the Spirit of the Lord. Prayer is nothing but a choice, a free, a sweet, and familiar fellowship of the soul with God.
Some saints have never had so much of heaven brought down into their hearts, as when they have been with God in private prayer. Oh the secret manifestations of divine love, the secret kisses, the secret embraces, the secret influences, the secret communion with God, that many a precious Christian has had in the most solitary places.