It is the practice of some of the Christian Hottentots, in order to enjoy the privilege of secret prayer with greater privacy and freedom than they could do in their own confined and incommodious dwellings-to retire among the trees and bushes, that they may carry on their devotions without being intruded on by others, and also derive all that tranquilizing influence which would be produced by a spot, with which no other occupations, thoughts, and feelings are associated, than such as are holy.
Each individual selects for his own use a particular bush, behind which, and concealed by it, he may commune with his heavenly Father in secret.
By the others, this bush is considered as sacred to the one by whom it had been appropriated; and which, therefore, is never to be violated by the foot, or even by the gaze of another, during the season it is occupied by its proprietor.
The constant tread of the worshipers, in their repeated visits to these hallowed spots, would, of necessity, wear a path in the grass which lay between their huts, and the sylvan scene of their communion with God.
On one occasion, a Christian Hottentot woman said to another member of their little community, "Sister, I am afraid you are somewhat declining in piety."
The words were accompanied with a look of affection, and were uttered with a tone that savored nothing of accusation, nor of reproachful severity...but was expressive of tender concern, and the meekness of wisdom.
The individual thus addressed, asked her friend for the reason of her fears.
Because, replied this good and gentle spirit, "the grass has grown over your path to your bush.
Nature carrying on its usual progress, had disclosed the secret.
The backslider could not deny the fact. There, in the growing grass, was the indisputable evidence that the feet which had once trodden it down had ceased to frequent the spot.
She did not attempt to excuse it, but fell under the sweet influence of this sisterly reproof, and confessed, with ingenuous shame and sorrow, that her heart had turned away from the Lord.
The admonition had its desired effect...the sinner was converted from the error of her ways, and her watchful and faithful reprover had the satisfaction and reward of seeing the wanderer restored-not only to the path to the bush, but to the renewed favor of that God with whom she there again communed in secret.
Note the value of private prayer, and the connection between its regular and spiritual performance, and a healthy state of the soul.
When the bush was neglected, and the path to it forsaken-then did the religion
of this poor Hottentot woman begin to spiritually decline.
And how could it be otherwise? Who ever kept up a vigorous piety when secret prayer was neglected?
It is in the closet of private devotion, that our cares are lightened, our sorrows mitigated, our corruptions mortified, our graces strengthened, and we shake off the dust of the earth!
~John Angell James~