« AnteriorContinuar »
we perform, the Preparation of the Heart is from the Lorde. And that Faith, which is che Fountain of all Actiuns truly good, is not of ourselves, it is the Gift of God. But he giveth liberally to all', who ask him: and therefore no one hath Cause of Complaint.
It is true, we are feldom able to distinguish this heavenly Influence from the natural Workings of our own Minds: as indeed we are often influenced one by another without perceiving it. But the Assurance, given in Scripture, of its being vouchsafed to us, is abundantly fufficient: to which, Experience also would add Atrong Confirmation, did we but attend with due Seriousness to what passes within our Breasts.
Our natural Freedom of Will is no more impaired by these secret Admonitions of our Maker, than by the open Perfuafions of our Fellow-Creatures. And the Advantage of having God's Help, far from making it unneceffary to help ourselves, obliges us to it peculiarly. We are therefore to work out our own Salvation, hecause He worketh in us both to will and to do s. For it is a great Aggravation of every Sin, that, in committing it, we quench the pious Motions excited by the Spirit of God in our Hearts: and a great Incitement to our Endeavours of performing every Duty, that with such Aid we may be sure of Success. Our own natural Strength cannot increase, as Temptations and Difficulties do: but that, which we receive from Heaven,
And thus it is, that we learn Courage and Hunility at once; by knowing, that we can do all Things, but only through Christ which frengtheneth usu; and therefore net we, but the Grace of God, which is with
This Grace therefore being of such Importance to us, our Catechism, with great Reason, directs us at all Times to call for it by diligent Prayer. For our hea
P Prov. xvi. 1. • Phil. ii, 12, 13.
I Cor. xv. 10,
9 Eph. ii. 8.
* James i. 5. u Phil. iv. 13
venly Father hath not promised, nor can we hope, that He will give the Holy Spirit to them who proudly disdain, or negligently omit, to ask Him *. And hence it becomes peculiarly necessary, that we thould underftand how to pray to Him: a Duty mentioned in the former Part of the Catechism, but reserved to be explained more fully in this.
God having bestowed on us the Knowledge, in some Meature, of what He is in Himself, and more especially of what He is to us; we are doubtless bound to be suitably affected by it: and to keep alive in our Minds, with the utmost Care, due Sentiments of our continual Dependance on Him, of Reverence and Submission to his Will, of Love and Gratitude for his Goodness, of Humility and Sorrow for all our Sins against Him; and earnest Defire, that his Mercy and Favour may be fhewn, in such Manner as He snall think fit, to us and to all our Fellow-Creatures.
Now, if these Sentiments ought to be felt, they ought also to be some Way expressed: not only that others may see we have them, and be excited to them by our Example: but that we ourselves may receive both the Comfort and the Improvement, which must naturally flow from exercising such valuable Affections. And unquestionably the most lively and most respectful Manner of exercifing them is, that we direct them to Him who is the object of them; and pour out our Hearts before Him in suitable Acts of Homage, Thanksgiving, and Confession ; in humble Petitions for ourselves, and Intercessions for all Mankind. Not that God is ignorant, till we inform Him, either of our outward Circumstances, or the inward Temper of our Hearts. If He were, our Prayers would give Him but very imperfect Knowledge of either : for we are greatly ignorant of both ourselves. But the Design of Prayer is, to bring our own Minds into a right Frame;
* Luke xi. 13.
and so make ourselves fit for those Bleffings, for which we are very unfit, while we are too vain or too careless to ask them of God.
The very Act of Prayer therefore will do us Good, if we pray with Attention, elle it is Nothing; and with Sincerity, else it is worse than Nothing. And the Confequences of praying, God hath promised, fhall be further Good. All Things whatsoever ye shall ask in Prayer, believing, ye shall receiveř. Not absolutely all Things whatsoever we defire : for some of our Defires may be on several Accounts unfit, and some would prove extremely hurtful to us. Therefore we ought to consider well what we pray for: and especially in all temporal Matters refer ourselves wholly to God's good Pleasure. Nor doth He always grant immediately what He designs to grant, and hath given us the fullest Right to ask: but delays it perhaps a while to exercise our Patience and Trust in Him: for which Reafon our Saviour directs us always to pray, and not to faint ?. But whatever is really good, He will undoubtedly, as soon as it is really necessary, give us upon our Request : provided further, that with our earnest Petitions we join our honest Endeavours : for Prayer was never designed to serve inftead of Diligence, but to afist it. And therefore, if in our temporal Affairs we are idle or inconfi. derate, we muft not expect that our Prayers will bring us good Success : and if, in our spiritual ones, we wilfully or thoughtlessly neglect ourselves; we must not imagine, that God will amend us against our Wills, or whilft we continue supinely indifferent. But let us do our Duty to the best of our Power, at the same Time that we pray for his Blefling: and we may be assured, that Nothing but an injurious Disbelief can prevent our obtaining it: on which Account St. James requires, that we ask in Faith, nothing wavering a.
Matth, axi. 22.
Luke xviii. K
* Jam, i, 6.
Indeed, without the Encouragement given us in Scripture, it might well be with some Diffidence, and it should still be with the utmost Reverence, that we take upon us to speak unto the Lord, who are but Duft and Ashes b. The Heathens therefore addrefled their Prayers to imaginary Deities of an inferior Rank, as judging themselves unworthy to approach the supreme One. But our Rule is, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only fhalt thou serve . The affected Humility of worshipping even Angels, and therefore much more Saints, (who, if really such, are yet lower than Angels 4) may, as we are taught, beguile us of our Reward: whereas we may come boldly to the Throne of our Maker's Grace', though not in our own Right, yet through the Mediator whom he hath appointed and who hath both procured us the Privilege ; and instructed us how to use it, by delivering to us a Prayer of his own Composition; which might be at once a Form for us frequently to repeat, and a Pattern for us always to imitate.
That the Lord's Prayer was designed as a Form, appears from bis own Words : After this Manner įray ye ; or, translating more literally, Thus pray ye 5; and, which is yet more express, When ye pray, Jay, Our Father h, &c. Besides it was given by Him to his Disciples on their Request, that He would teach them to pray, as John also taught bis Disciples'; which undoubtedly was, as the great Rabbis amongst the Jews commonly taught theirs, by a Form. And accordingly this Prayer hath been considered and used as such, from the earliest Ages of Christianity down to the present.
Yet our Saviour's Design was not, that this should be the only Prayer of Chriftians: as appears both from the Precepts and the Practice of the Apostles, as well as from the Nature and Reason of the Thing. But
o Gen. xviii, 27.
c Matth. iv. 10. • Col. ii. 18 Heb, iv. 16, 6 Matth, yi. i Ver. 3.
Luke xi, 2.
when it is not used as a Form, it is however of unspeakable Advantage as a Model. He proposes it indeed more particularly as an Example of Shortness. Not that we are never to make longer Prayers : for He himself continued all Night in Prayer to Godk: and we have a much longer, made by the Apostles, in the fourth Chapter of the Acts. But his Intention was, to teach by this Instance, that we are not to affect unmeaning Repetitions, or any needless Multiplicity of Words, as if we thought that we should be heard for our much speaking! And not only in this Respect, but every other, is our Lord's Prayer an admirable Institution and Direction for praying aright: as will abundanily appear, when the several Parts of it come to be distinctly explained. But tho? fuch Explanation will shew, both the Pyrport and the Excellency of it, more fully; yet they are to every Eye visible in the Main, without any Explanation at all And therefore Jet us conclude at present with devoutly offering it up
Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done in Earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this Day our daily Bread. And forgive us our Trespalles, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into Temptation, but deliver us from Evil. For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
* Luke vi. 120
• Matth. vi. 7.