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V
PRACTICAL



THOUGHTS.



BY REV. WILLIAM NEVINS, D. D,

LATE PASTOR OF A CnVRCH IN BALTIMORE.



PUBLISHED 2T jr^a,
AMERICAN TRACT SOCIETY,

150 NASSAU-STREET, NEW-YORK.



20,feb.03



JTJ^h' NCV./ YORK
[PUBLIC iriiHARY

281482



A5T(>r



1903



Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1S36, b;,'
RoFUS L. Nevins, in the Clerk's Office of the Dipmcl Covirl
nf the Southern District of New-York.

Riglit of publiehiug transferred to American Tract Sc-»ioty.



■), «•>« « «



CONTENTS.



1. Do you Pray in Secret '? - - - 7

2. Do you Pray in your Family 1 - - - 13

3. I must Pray more, 18

4. I must Pray differently, 24

5. Why Prayer is not heard, 30

6. I must Praise more, 38

7. Do you remember Christ 1 42

8. I don't like Professions, 48

9. Are you a Sabbath School Teacher 1 - - - 53

10. Do you attend the Monthly Concert 7 - - 61

11. Why all Christians should attend the Monthly

Concert, 6o

12. Will any Christian be absent from the next ,

Monthly Concert ? 71

13. How came it to pass 1 74

14. Why the World is not Converted 1 . . 73

15. The Conversion of the Church, .... 84

16. Inquiring Saints, 89

17. Do you pay for a Religious Newspaper 1 . - 92

18. Detached Thoughts, 95

19. The late Mr. Wirt, 99

20. Traveling on the Sabbath, - . - . 104

21. Apologies for Travelling on the Sabbath, . - 111

22. I have done giving, 118

23. I will give liberally, ... - - 121

24. The calls are so many, 125

25. I can't afford it, - 129

26. An example of Liberality, - - - . 134

27. Another example of Liberality, - . - - 140

28. More about Liberality ..... 144



4



CONTENTS.



IJo.

29. A Tract Effort,

30. Why the World should have the Bible, -

31. Mrs. M. L. Nevins, ....

32. What strange beings we are,

33. What very strange beings we are,
\.^34. Should it be according to thy mind %

35. How inconsistent we are,

36. The Pity of the Lord,

37. Five Negatives, .....
u^' 38. How to dispose of care, . - -

39. Do you enjoy Religion 1

40. Lovest thou me 7

41. The light of the World,

42. The Salt of the Earth,

43. The Distance of Death,

44. Why so loth to die ?
4.^). Heaven's Attractions, - . ., .
4 ^m^^^^^^S.



1. Do you Pray lii Secret?

I know not how it is with the reader, but 1 know
that many persons are not in the habit of secret pray-
er. They have no closet, no place of retirement to
which they daily resort, and where, when they have
shut the door, they pray to their Father which is in
secret, and in solitude seek the society of God. I am
acquainted with one who for many years neglected
this duty, which all religions recognize, and which
even nature teaches. Sometimes he read the Bible,
and no part of it oftener than the sermon on the
mount. ♦ Of course he must have frequently read
those words of the great Teacher, in Avhich, taking
it for granted that his hearer prays, he tells him what
he should do when he prays : " But thou, when thou
prayest, enter into thy closet ;" (the person is sup-
posed to have some place called his closet, to which
he is accustomed to retire for prayer;) "and when
thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which
is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret
shall reward thee openly." He read this, but he gave
no heed to it. During all this period he asked no-
thing, though he received much. God did not neg-
lect him, though he neglected God ; and as he pray-



8 PRACTICAL THOUGHTS.

ed none, so he praised none. Sometimes, indeed, he
&aid, " Thank God !" but it was said in so much
thoughtlessness, that it was set down profaneness
rather than praise. It is true, at that time he would
never allow that he was ungrateful ; but he was, and
now he sees that he was. He lived, and moved, and
had his being iii God, and yet was without God in
the world. Many and precious were the thoughts
of God towards him, but in all his thoughts God was
not. Not even when he was in trouble did he ask,
" Where is God my maker ?" I wonder the Lord
had not become weary of bestowing his bounty on
such an one. It is because he is the Lord and chan-
ges not. But for that, the person of whom I speak
would have been consumed long ago. There is no-
thing he admires more than the long-suffering of
God towards him, and he hopes to spend eternity in
admiring it, and exchanging thoughts with his fel-
low-redeemed on this and kindred subjects.

He supposes that he is not the only one who has
neglected secret prayer. He fears that this neglect
is even now the habit of many. They are shy of
God. I know not why they should be. He is doing
every thing to woo and win them, and to secure their
confidence. So much has he done, that he asks (and
I cannot answer) what he could have done more.
He waits on his throne of grace to be gracious to
them, but they come not near to him. He even calls
to them to come to him, using too the language of



PRACTICAL THOUGHTS. 9

most affectionate address : " Son, my son ;" but they
respond not, "Abba, Father." It is strange they
should treat this Father so. They treat no other fa-
ther so. What child does not, in the morning, salute
his father ? and what father does not expect the sa-
lutation of each child as they come into his presence?
Oh, yes, we love our father who is on earth ; and we
remember with gratitude the favors he does us. And
does the Father of our spirits, the giver of evtry good
gift, deserve no daily notice from us, no affectionate
salutation, no grateful recognition of indebtedness to
him ? I am certain he expects it, for he says, " A
son honoreth his father : if then I be a Father, where
is mine honor?"' He claims to be a Father; and
O, how well he has established that claim ! Truly
he is a Father, and "like as a father pitieth his
children, so the Lord pitieth " his. And to the com-
passion of the father he adds the tender care and un-
tiring mindfulness of the mother. " Can a woman,"
he asks, "forget her sucking child?" She may, he
says, but He will not. How strange it is that men
will not go to the closet to meet and to pray to such
a Father I

Surely it is not for Avant of encouragement. If
they have it not in his very nature, yet in his invita-
tions, his promises, and his past acts of unsolicited
kindness, they have all they could desire. Nor is
it that they have no need of God. Never one of the
prayerless will say that. They all know what would



10 PRACTICAL THOUGHTS.

become of them but for that overlooking eye, and
that supplying hand, and that supporting arm. And
do they not know that God has a heart too — that he
can love with all the fervor of a friend ? And can
they not imagine that in the interchange of affection
between God and the soul of man there may, and
indeed must be, ineffable delight 1 And v/ho that
looks but a little way forward, does not perceive an
exigency when, in the utter inadequacy of earthly
and human resources for comfort, he will want " the
consolations of God?"

Ah, it is a sad as well as strange thing, that so
many enter no closet ! seek daily no retirement, either
in their houses or elsewhere, where they may be a
little while alone with God ; where they may look
up and meet the light of his countenance as he looks
down on them ; where they may confess their sins,
and receive assurance of his pardoning love ; where
they may thank him for mercies past, and humbly
ask for more ; where they may take counsel of him ;
tell him of their griefs, and have their tears wiped
away, and with him leave the weighty burden of
their cares.

I know not whether this excites more my grief
or my wonder. I am not so much surprised that
men should neglect a manifest duty, but when I think
what a 'privilege it is, what a happiness, what an
honor, to be on terms of intimacy, and in habits of
intercourse with God, it amazes me that they should



PRACTICAL THOUGHTS. 11

foregc it. How will such reflect upon themselves here-
after — how execrate their folly ! How will they won-
der that they could have deliberately done their souls
such a wrong ! Then it will be too late to redress
the wrong. They sought not the Lord while he
might be found — they called not upon him while he
was near. Yea, though he called, they refused. Now
they may call, but he will not answer. If any one
who is living in the neglect of secret prayer shall
read this, will he not be persuaded to commence the
practice the very day he reads it, aye, that same hour,
if it be possible ? If it be not convenient, let him make
it convenient. Let other things give way for this,
rather than this for any thing. Can he think his
heart right in the sight of God, or his condition safe
in prospect of eternity, while he neglects prayer ?
How dare he live without prayer ? Without it can
he have courage to die ? At the mercy-seat of God
we may decline to appear, but before his judgment-
seat we MUST all stand. How a frequent access to
the first would prepare us for final arraignment at
the other ! How it would familiarize us with the
presence of God ! How it would serve to break the
shock of the entrance into eternity !

Does any one, who is not in the habitual and daily
practice of secret devotion, pretend to be a Christian 1
It is but pretence. He may believe the creed of the
Christian, but certainly he does not pursue the prac-
tice nor possess the spirit of the Christian. Breath-



12 PRACTICAL THOUGHTS.

ing is essential to living, and pra3'er is the Chris-
tian's vital breath. Does he walk with God who
never converses with him ?

Some spiritualize the direction of Christ, making
the closet to mean the heart, and the duty of private
devotion to be discharged in mere mental prayer.
But Christ did not so trifle. His closet was not his
heart : he could not have meant that ours should be.
He selected the still morning, and sought out the
solitary place for prayer. May we be less attentive to
the circumstances of time and place? Shall we talk
about entering into ourselves and there thinking
prayer ? Jesus, even in his most retired intercourse
with his Father, used his voice. That prayer, " Let
this cup pass from me," was vocal — and that peti-
tion, " God be merciful to me a sinner," was express-
ed in words. Shall we re'ierve the voice exclusively
for our intercourse with men, and not with it also
supplicate and bless God ?

Is anyone inquiring after truth? What place
more appropriate for asking " What is truth," than
the closet ? Who so likely to be taught of God as
they who ask of God ? Some men carry that ques-
tion to the Bible, and press it there, as indeed they
should ; but they carry it not to the throne of grace,
and press it there also. They read to know what
truth is, but do not pray to know it.

Oh, how an hour in the morning, spent v/ith God,
prepares us pleasantly and profitably to pass the



PRACTICAL THOUGHTS. 13

Other hours of the day with men ; and at night, what
so composing as communion with God ! In resign-
ing ourselves into the arms of sleep — that image of
death, what security like that of prayer I It engages
Him whr never slumbers nor sleeps, to watch
over us.

Has any one become remiss in secret devotion ?
What ! tired of God ? weary of communion with
him ? How sad the state of such a soul !



a. Do you Pray in your Family 1

There are families that call not on the name of
the Lord. Nor is it a new thing. There were such
so long ago as when Jeremiah lived. He takes no-
tice of them. He has a prayer about them. It seems
he was divinely inspired to call down the indigna-
tion of the Lord upon such families. " Pour out thy
fury," he says, " upon the families that call not on
thy name." I would not like to have been a mem-
ber of one of those families ; and much less the head
of one of them. It must have been very offensive to
the Lord that there were families in which he was
not acknowledged and worshiped. And if there
were such families among • the heathen nations that
offended him, how much more must it have dis-

2 Pr. Thoughts.



14 PRACTICAL THOUGHTS.

pleased him that there should be such families even
among his people Israel ! families that did not in
the family capacity invoke him ! I do not know
why it should be less offensive now. I do not be-
lieve it is. Families are now under as great obliga-
tions to God as ever they were.

Some persons ask why we insist on family prayer
as a duty. They say we cannot produce any precept
enjoining it. That is true enough. But I wonder if
that is not a duty, the omission of which is the sub-
ject of prophetic denunciation. I wonder if that is
not by implication commanded, the neglect of which
brings down the wrath of God on those guilty of
the neglect. There are some things so manifestly
reasonable, and of such self-evident obligation, that
they need no law expressly enjoining them. It is
not necessary that they should be taught in so many
words.

But if we have no express precept on the subject,
we have pretty good examples in favor of it. I sus-
pect Abraham, who was so careful to instruct his
household in the way of the Lord, did not neglect
to pray with them. And David, I am quite confi-
dent, prayed in his family. It is said of him on one
occasion, that " he returned to bless his household."
No doubt there were both prayer and praise in that
family. Certainly Joshua must have prayed in his
house. How otherwise could he have fulfilled his
resolution that his house as well as himself should



PRACTICAL THOUGHTS. 15

serve the Lord ? What ! resolve that his house
should serve the Lord, and not join with them in
supplication for the grace to serve him ! That is
not at all likely.

Now I would ask if it is not proper and right that
every head of a family should adopt the resolution
of him who said, "as for me and my house, we will
serve the Lord ?" But can there be religion in a
house without prayer? Is there not inconsistency
in saying, " I and my family will serve God, but we
will have no family altar nor offering ?" Is not prayer
an essential part of the service of God ? I wonder if
any one ever lived who supposed that family prayer
was not more pleasing to God than the omission of
it. I wonder if any one ever omitted it for fear of
being guilty of will-worship, or through dread that
it might for some reason offend God 1 I wonder if
the practice of family prayer ever distressed any con-
science. The omission of it has troubled many.

It is admitted, I believe, to be the will of God that
we should pray to him socially. The Lord's prayer
was constructed for social use. The disciples were
directed to use it when they should pray together ;
and it is accordingly in the plural number : not my
Father, but " our Father." Now, is God to be so- '
cially worshiped, and yet not worshiped in that
first, most permanent, and most interesting form of
society — the form of society instituted by God him-
self—the family 1 Is that to be believed ? But the



16 PRACTICAL THOUGHTS.

Lord's prayer seems not only intended for social, but
for daily use. " Give us this day our daily bread''
is one of its petitions. It does not contemplate the
morrow. It asks supplies but for one day. Now if, as
it appears from this reasoning, social prayer should
be daily, where but in the family, the society which
Is abiding, and which a single roof covers, can it
with propriety be daily? Should there be public re-
ligious services daily, or daily prayer-meetings for
this purpose ? Then, how suitable it is that those
who together share their daily bread, should together
daily ask it.

How reasonable and comely is household reli-
gion — family worship ! Common blessings, such as
families daily share, call for common thanksgivings.
Common wants, such as families together feel, call
for common supplications. Is it not fit that families,
in retiring to rest at night, should together commit
themselves to the divine keeping; and in the morn-
ing unite in praising the Lord for having been their
protector ? It is a clear case, it seems to me. Besides,
fathers are directed to bring up their children "in
the nurture and admonition of the Lord." But can
the^/ do this while they pray not with them and for
them ? I do not know how we are to comply with
the apostolical exhortation to pray " every where,"
unless we pray in the family, as well as under
other circumstances.

Is any one in doubt whether the practice or omis-



PRACTICAL THOUGHTS, 17

sion of family prayer Avill be the more pleasing sub-
ject of retrospect from the dying bed, or the eternal
world? Parents should not forget, that presently
will come the long deferred and greatly dreaded
season of taking the last look, and the last leave of
those whom their decease is to make orphans. O
then, what a sweet thought it will be to enter into
the dying meditation, that they have been in the
daily habit of bowing down with their children in
prayer, and commending them to the care and grace
of their heavenly Father, and that they may now
indulge the confident hope that he will infinitely
more than supply the paternal place which they are
to leave vacant.

But what need of more argument ? I suspect every
body secretly admits the obligation of family prayer.
I judge so from the trouble many are at to apologize
for the neglect. It tries them not a little to satisfy
even themselves with an excuse. The usual plea is
inability. They have not the gift, they say. What
gift ? Can they not collect their family together night
and morning ? Have they not so much authority in
their own house as that? And then can they not
read a portion of Scripture to them ; and kneeling
down, express their common desires to God. If they
cannot frame a prayer at the moment, yet can they
not use a form ?^ It requires no great gift to read a
prayer in an audible voice. But what if it be hard
at firsts it will soon be easy, if persevered in. The



IS PRACTICAL THOUGHTS.

beginning of almost every good habit is difficult
The most of those who make this apology, presuw.c
on their inability. They say they cannot before they
have tried. But until they have tried, they do not
know whether they can or not. What if some have
tried once and failed. One failure should not dis-
hearten them, nor two, nor even twenty. Demos-
thenes tried speaking many times before he became
an orator. Besides, how do those who presume on
their inability to conduct family Avorship, know what
assistance they might receive from God, if they were
to make an humble and faithful experiment.

If any one shall condescend to read this, who does
not pray in his family, I advise him to commence
immediately. He knows that he will never be sorry
for it, if he does ; but he is not so sure that he may
not be sorry for it if he does not. If there were no
other reason in favor of the practice, this alone would
be sufficient. I think it is Jay who says that a fa-
mily without prayer is like a house without a roof —
it has no protection. Who would like to live in such
a house?



3. I must Pray more.

1 habitually feel this necessity, but the other day
the conviction came to my mind with strange power,



PRACTICAL THOUGHTS. 19

and I said with greater emphasis than ever, / must
fray more. It struck me with indescribable wonder
that so little time should be employed, and so little
energy expended in prayer, even by those who are
prompt to acknowledge its dignity as a privilege, and
its efficacy as a^ means of obtaining good. It is not
noAv as it was in patriarchal times. We do not pray
as Jacob did. He wrestled until the breaking of the
day. Yes, his praying was wrestling, and it lasted
all night. We put forth no such power in prayer, and
we do not allow the repose of our nights to be inter-
rupted by it. It is not because our wants are all sup-
plied that we are so feeble and brief in prayer — nor
is it that God's bounty is exhausted. We are as
poor as creatures ever were, and He as rich and mu-
nificent as ever. His hand is not shortened, neither
his ear heavy.

Only think how small a portion of each succes-
sive day is spent in praj'-er. I wonder if any Chris-
tian ever thought of it without being so dissatisfied
as to resolve that he would spend more time in pray-
er the next day. Just add together the minutes you
daily occupy in supplication, and the kindred exer-
cises of devotion, scriptural reading and meditation,
and see to what it will amount. Will the sum total
be one. hour? What ! less than an hour a day in de-
votion ? — not one twenty-fourth part of time ! And is
this all which can be afforded ? Let us see. How
much time has business ? CouJd not a little be saved



20 PRACTICAL THOUGHTS.

from business for prayer? Do you not give an houi
or two more to business every day than it absolutely
requires ?■ Then how much time has sleep for the re-
freshment of the body ? Might not some little time
be redeemed from sleep and spent in prayer, with
more profit to the whole man than if it were given
to repose ? Would not the soul thereby obtain a rest,
which would most favorably react on the body ? I
do not believe that the Psalmist suffered any thing
in the day for the hours of night he spent in com-
muning on his bed with his own heart and with God,
I do not believe that even " tired nature " had any
reason to complain of that interruption of the repose
due to her. I suspect he enjoyed as good health,
and was as vigorous through the day as we, though
he rose at midnight to give thanks unto God, and
prevented the dawning of the morning with his pray-
er. Such interruptions of sleep are no loss even to
the body. I am sure, and I think no one can doubt,
that considerably more time might be afforded for
prayer than is actually given to it. If we take none
from business and none from sleep, yet could not
some be spared from the table, or conversation, which
is not always the most profitable? Perhaps some
of us spend more time in barely receiving the body's
nourishment, than we do in the entire care of the
soul ! But not to dwell to tediousness on this topic.
You have only to look back on a day, to perceive
how much of it might have been spent in prayer and



PRACTICAL THOUGHTS. 21

devotion without interfering with any thing which
ought not to be interfered with.

Seeing then that we can pray more — that time
can be afforded for it, I am amazed that we do not
pray more. If prayer was nothing but a duty, we
ought to pray more. We do not pray enough to dis-
charge the mere obligation of prayer. We are com-
manded to pray more than we do, aye, to pray " with-
out ceasing." But prayer, while it is a duty, is ra-


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