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farther, That frequency and fervency of prayer presses it most emphatically ; “ Let not thy prove effectual to procure of God the things heart be hasty to utter any thing before God," prayed for, upon no other account but as that is, in other words, let it not venture to they are acts of dependence upon God; which throw out its crude, extemporary, sudden, and dependence we have already proved to be that misshapen conceptions in the face of infinite thing essentially included in prayer, for which perfection. Let not thy heart conceive and God has been pleased to make prayer the con bring forth together; this is monstrous and lition upon which he determines to grant unnatural. All abortion is from infirmity and men such things as they need and duly defect. And time is required to form the apply to him for. So that still there is nothing issue of the mind as well as that of the body. of persuasion in the case.
The fitness or unfitness of the first thoughts, And thus having shewn (and I hope fully cannot be judged of but by reflection of thé and clearly) how prayer operates towards the second ; and be the invention never so fruitobtaining of the divine blessings ; namely, as a ful, yet in the mind, as in the earth, that condition appointed by God for that purpose, which is cast into it must lie hid and covered and no otherwise; and withal, for what reason for a while, before it can be fit to shoot forth. it is singled out of all other acts of a rational These are the methods of nature, and it is nature, to be this condition; namely, because it seldom but the acts of religion conform to is the grand instance of such a nature's de them. pendence upon God; we shall now from the He who is to pray, would he seriously judge same principle infer also, upon what account of the work that is before him, has more to the highest reverence of God is so indispen- consider of, than either his heart can hold, or sably required of us in prayer, and all sort of his head well turn itself to. Prayer is one of irreverence so diametrically opposite to, and the greatest and the hardest works that a man destructive of, the very nature of it. And it has to do in this world ; and was ever any will appear to be upon this, that in what thing difficult or glorious achieved by a sudden degree any one lays aside his reverence of cast of a thought ? a flying stricture of the God, in the same he also quits his dependence imagination? Presence of mind is indeed good, upon him ; forasmuch as in every irreverent but haste is not so. And therefore, let this be act, a man treats God as if he had indeed no concluded upon, that in the business of prayer, need of him, and behaves himself as if he to pretend to reverence when there is no premestood upon his own bottom, absolute and ditation, is both impudence and contradiction. self-sufficient. This is the natural language, Now, this premeditation ought to respect the true signification and import, of all irre these three things,-1. The person whom we verence.
pray to; 2. The matter of our prayers ; and Now, in all addresses, either to God or man, 3. The order and disposition of them. by speech, our reverence to them must consist 1. And first, for the person whom we pray of, and shew itself in these two things, to. The same is to employ, who must needs
First, A careful regulation of our thoughts, also nonplus and astonish thy meditations, that are to dictate and to govern our words; and be made the object of thy thoughts, who which is done by premeditation; and, se- infinitely transcends them. For all the knowcondly, a due ordering of our words, that are ing and reasoning faculties of the soul are to proceed from, and to express our thoughts ; utterly baffled and at a loss, when they offer which is done by pertinence and brevity of at any idea of the great God. Nevertheless, expression.
since it is hard, if not impossible, to imprint David, directing his prayer to God, joins an awe upon the affections, without suitable these two together as the two great integral notions first formed in the apprehensions ; we parts of it, (Psalm xix. 14,)“ Let the words must in our prayers endeavour, at least, to of my mouth, and the meditations of my bring these as near to God as we can, by conheart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord.” sidering such of his divine perfections as have, So that it seems his prayer adequately and by their effects, in a great measure, manifested entirely consisted of those two things, medi themselves to our senses, and, in a much greater, tation and expression, as it were the matter
to the discourses of our reason. and form of that noble composure, there As first ; consider with thyself, how great being no mention at all of distortion of face, and glorious a Being that must needs be, that sanctified grimace, solemn wink, or foaming at raised so vast and beautiful a fabric as this the mouth, and the like, all which are cir world out of nothing, with the breath of his cumstances of prayer of a later date, and mouth, and can, and will, with the same, rebrought into request by those fantastic zealots, duce it to nothing again ; and then consider, who had a way of praying, as astonishing to that this is that high, amazing, incomprethe eyes, as to the ears, of those that heard hensible Being, whom thou addressest thy them. Well then, the first ingredient of a pitiful self to in prayer. pious and reverential prayer, is a previous Consider next, his infinite, all-searching regulation of the thoughts, as the text ex knowledge, which looks through and through
the most secret of our thoughts, ransacks nation to themselves to receive. No man is every corner of the heart, ponders the most to pray for any thing either sinful, or directly inward designs and ends of the soul in all a tending to sin.
No man is to pray for a man's actions. And then consider, that this temptation, and much less to desire God to be is the God whom thou hast to deal with in his tempter, which he would certainly be, prayer; the God who observes the postures, should he, at the instance of any man's prayer, the frame, and motion of thy mind in all thy administer fuel to his sinful or absurd appeapproaches to him, and whose piercing eye it tites. Nor is any one to ask of God things is impossible to elude or escape, by all the mean and trivial, and beneath the majesty of tricks and arts of the subtilest and most re heaven to be concerned about, or solemnly fined hypocrisy. And lastly, consider the addressed to for. Nor, lastly, is any one to great, the fiery, and the implacable jealousy admit into his petitions things superfluous or that he has for his honour; and that he has extravagant, such as wealth, greatness, and no other use of the whole creation but to serve honour, which we are so far from being warthe ends of it; and, above all, that he will, ranted to beg of God, that we are to beg his in a most peculiar manner, “ be honoured of grace to despise and undervalue them ; and it those who draw near to him ;” and will by were much, if the same things should be the no means suffer himself to be mocked and proper objects both of our self-denial and of affronted, under a pretence of being worship our prayers too; and that we should be allowed ped ; nor endure that a wretched, con to solicit the satisfaction, and enjoined to entemptible, sinful creature, who is but a piece deavour the mortification, of the saine desires of living dirt at best, should at the same time The things that we are to pray for are either, bend the knee to him, and spit in his face. 1st, Things of absolute necessity; or, 2dly, And now consider, that this is the God whom Things of unquestionable charity. Of the tlou prayest to, and whom thon usest with first sort are all spiritual graces required in us such intolerable indignity in every unworthy as the indispensable conditions of our salvaprayer thou puttest up to him ; every bold, tion, such as are repentance, faith, hope, saucy, and familiar word (that upon confi- charity, temperance, and all other virtues that dence of being one of God's elect) thou pre are either the parts or principles of a pious sumest to debase so great a majesty with ; and life. These are to be the prime subject matfor an instance of the dreadful curse that at- ter of our prayers; and we shall find, that tends such a daring irreverence, consider how nothing comes this way so easily from heaven God used Nadab and Abihu for venturing to as those things that will assuredly bring us to offer “ strange fire before him ;" and then it. The Spirit dictates all such petitions, and know, that every unhallowed, unfitting prayer God himself is first the author, and then the is a strange fire; a fire that will be sure to de- fulfiller of them; owning and accepting them, stroy the offering, though mercy should spare both as our duty and his own production. the offerer. Consider these things seriously, The other sort of things that may allowably deeply, and severely, till the consideration of be prayed for, are things of manifest, unquesthem affects thy heart, and humbles thy spirit, tionable charity; such as are a competent with such awful apprehensions of thy Maker, measure of the innocent comforts of life, as and such abject reflections upon thyself
, as may health, peace, maintenance, and a success of lay thee in the dust before him; and know, our honest labours; and yet even these but that the lower thou fallest, the higher will conditionally, and with perfect resignation to thy prayer rebound; and thou art never so fit the will and wisdom of the sovereign disposer to pray to God, as when a sense of thy own of all that belongs to us, who (if he finds it unworthiness makes thee ashamed even to more for his honour to have us serve him with speak to him.
sick, crazy, languishing bodies, with poverty 2. The second object of our premeditation and extreme want of all things, and lastly, is, the matter of our prayers. For, as we are with our country all in a flame about our to consider whom we are to pray to, so are we ears) ought, in all this and much more, to to consider also, what we are to pray for, and overrule our prayers and desires into an absothis requires no ordinary application of thonght lute acquiescence in his all-wise disposal of to distinguish or judge of. Mep's prayers are things, and to convince us that our prayers generally dictated by their desires, and their are sometimes best answered when our desires desires are the issues of their affections, and are most opposed. their affections are, for the most part, influ- ' In fine, to state the whole matter of our enced by their corruptions. The first consti- prayers in one word, nothing can be fit for us tuent principle of a well conceived prayer is, to pray for, but what is fit and honourable for to know what not to pray for, which the our great mediator and master of requests, Scripture assures us that some do not, while Jesus Christ himself, to intercede for. This they “ pray for what they may spend upon is to be the unchangeable rule and measure of their lusts," (James, iv. 3,) asking such things all our petitions. And then, if Christ is to as it is a contumely to God to hear, and dam convey these our petitions to his Father, cau
any one dare to make him, who was holiness pleased with thee, or accept thy person, saith and purity itself, an advocate and solicitor for the Lord of bosts,”. (Mal. i. 8.) God rigidly his lusts? Him, who was nothing but meekness, expects a return of his own gifts; and where and lowliness, and humility, his providetore he has given ability, will be served by acts for such things as can only feed his pride and proportionable to it. And he who has parts flush his ambition ? No, certainly; when we to raise and propagate his own honour by, come as suppliants to the throne of grace, but none to employ in the worship of him where Christ sits as intercessor at God's right that gave them, does (as I may so express it) hand, nothing can be fit to proceed out of our refuse to wear God's livery in his own service, mouth but what is fit to pass through his. adds sacrilege to profaneness, strips and starves
3dly, The third and last thing that calls for his devotions, and, in a word, falls directly a previous meditation to our prayers is, the under the dint of that curse denounced in the order and disposition of them; for though last verse of the first of Malachi, “ Cursed be God does not command us to set off our the deceiver, that hath in his flock a male, prayers with dress and artifice, to flourish it and voweth, and sacrificeth to the Lord a corin trope and metaphor, to beg our daily bread rupt thing.' The same is here, both the dein blank verse, or to shew any thing of the ceiver and the deceived too; for God very poet in our devotions, but indigence and well knows what he gives men, and why ; want; I say, though God is far from requir- and where he has bestowed judgment, learning such things of us in our prayers, yet he ing, and utterance, will not endure that men requires that we should manage them with should be accurate in their discourse, and loose sense and reason. Fineness is not expected, in their devotions; or think that the great but decency is; and though we cannot de- “ author of every good and perfect gift” will claim as orators, yet he will have us speak be put off with ramble and confused talk, like men, and tender him the results of that | babble and tautology. understanding and judgment, that essentially And thus much for the order and disposiconstitute a rational nature.
tion of our prayers, which certainly requires But I shall briefly cast what I have to say precedent thought and meditation. God has upon this particular into these following declared himself the God of order in all assertions :
things, and will have it observed in what he 1st, That nothing can express our reverence commands others, as well as in what he does to God in prayer, that would pass for irreve- himself. Order is the great rule or art by rence towards a great man. Let any subject which God made the world, by which he tender liis prince a petition fraught with still governs it: nay, the world itself is nonsense and incoherence, confusion and im- nothing else; and all this glorious system pertinence, and can he expect, that majesty of things is but the chaos put into order : should answer it with any thing but a deaf and how then can God, who has so emiear, a frowning eye, or (at best) vouchsafe nently owned himself 'concerned for this it any other reward, but, by a gracious obli- excellent thing, brook such absurdity and vion, to forgive the person, and forget the confusion, as the slovenly and profane neglipetition ?
gence of some treats him with in their most 2dly, Nothing absurd and irrational, and solemn addresses to him? All which is the such as a wise man would despise, can be natural, unavoidable consequent of unpreacceptable to God in prayer.
Solomon ex paredness and want of premeditation, withpressly tells us, (Eccles. v. 4,) that “God out which, whosoever presumes to pray, canhas no pleasure in fools ;” nor is it possible not be so properly said to approach to, as to that an infinite wisdom should. The Scrip- break in upon God. And surely he who is so ture all along expresses sin and wickedness hardy as to do so, has no reason in the earth by the name of fofly: and therefore certainly to expect that the success which follows his folly is too near of kin to it, to find any ap prayers
should be greater than the preparaprobation from God in so great a duty: it is tion that goes before them. the simplicity of the heart, and not of the Now from what has been hitherto discoursed head, that is the best inditer of our petitions. of, this first and grand qualification of a pious That which proceeds from the latter is un and devout prayer, to wit, premeditation of doubtedly the sacrifice of fools; and God is thought, what can be so naturally and so usenever more weary of sacrifice, than when a fully inferred, as the high expediency, or fool is the priest, and folly the oblation. rather the absolute necessity of a set form of
3dly and lastly, Nothing rude, slight, and prayer to guide our devotions by? We have careloss, or indeed less than the very best that lived in an age that has despised, contradicted, a man can offer, can be acceptable or pleasing and counteracted all the principles and practo God in prayer : “If ye offer the blind for tices of the primitive Christians, in taking the sacrifice, is it not evil? If ye offer the lame measures of their duty both to God and man, and the sick, is it not evil? Offer it now to and of their behaviour both in matters civil thy governor, and see whether he will be and religious; but in nothing more scandal
ously, than in their vile abuse of the great that they have as little cause to father their duty of prayer ; concerning which, though it | prayers, as their practices, upon the Spirit of may with the clearest truth be affirmed, that God. there has been no church yet of any account These two things are certain, and I do parin the Christian world, but what has governed ticularly recommend them to your observaits public worship of God by a liturgy or set tion,-One, That this way of praying by the form of prayer; yet these enthusiastic inno- Spirit, as they call it, was begun and first vators, the bold and blind reformers of all brought into use here in England in Queen antiquity, and wiser than the whole catholic Elizabeth's days, by a Popish priest and church besides, introduced into the room of it Dominican friar, one Faithful Commin by a saucy, senseless, extemporary way of speak- name, who counterfeiting himself a Proing to God, affirming, that this was a pray- testant, and a zealot of the highest form, set ing by the Spirit; and that the use of all set up this new spiritual way of praying, with a forms was stinting of the Spirit. A pretence, design to bring the people first to a contempt, I confess, popular and plausible enough with and from thence to an utter hatred and disuse such idiots as take the sound of words for the of our Common Prayer, which he still reviled sense of them. But for the full confutation as only a translation of the mass, thereby to of it, (which, I hope, shall be done both distract men's minds, and to divide our church. easily and briefly too,) I shall advance this and this he did with such success, that we one assertion in direct contradiction to that; have lived to see the effects of his labours in namely,
the utter subversion of church and state. That the praying by a set form, is not a Which hellish negotiation, when this malistinting of the Spirit; and the praying ex cious hypocrite came to Rome to give the tempore truly and properly is so.
Pope an account of, he received of him, (as so For the proving and making out of which, notable a service well deserved,) besides a we will first consider, what it is to pray by thousand thanks, two thousand ducats for his the Spirit: a thing much talked of, but not rains. So that now you see here the original so convenient for the talkers of it, and pre- of this extempore way of praying, by the tenders to it, to have it rightly stated and Spirit. The other thing that I would observe understood. In short, it includes in it these to you is, that in the neighbour nation of two things,
Scotland, one of the greatest * monsters of 1st, A praying with the heart, which is men that I believe ever lived, and actually sometimes called the spirit, or inward man ; in league with the devil, was yet, by the conand so it is properly opposed to hypocritical fession of all that heard him, the most excellip-devotions, in which the heart or spirit lent at this extempore way of praying by the does not go along with a man's words. Spirit of any man in his time ; none was able
2dly, It includes in it also a praying accor to come near him, or to compare with him. ding to the rules prescribed by God's Holy But surely now, he who shall venture to Spirit, and held forth to us in his revealed ascribe the prayers of such a wretch, made up word, which word was both dictated and con of adulteries, incest, witchcraft, and other firmed by this Spirit; and so it is opposed to villainies, not to be named, to the Spirit of the praying unlawfully, or unwarrantably ; | God, may as well strike in with the Phariand that either in respect of the matter or sees, and ascribe the miracles of Christ to the manner of our prayers. As, when we desire devil. And thus having shewn, both what of God such things, or in such a way, as the ought to be meant by praying by the Spirit, Spirit of God, speaking in his holy word, does and what ought not, cannot be meant by it; by no means warrant or approve of. So that let us now see whether a set form, or this to pray by the Spirit, siguifies neither more extemporary way, be the greater hinderer nor less but to pray knowingly, heartily, and and stinter of it: in order to which, I shall affectionately for such things, and in such a lay down these three assertions. manner, as the Holy Ghost in Scripture either 1st, That the soul or mind of man is but of commands or allows of. As for any other a limited nature in all its workings, and conkind of praying by the Spirit, upon the best sequently cannot supply two distinct faculties inquiry that I can make into these matters, I at the same time, to the same height of opecan find none. And if some say, (as I know ration. they both impudently and blasphemously do,) 2dly, That the finding words and expresthat to pray by the Spirit, is to have the sions for prayer, is the proper business of the Spirit immediately inspiring them, and by brain and the invention, and that the findsuch inspiration speaking within them, and ing devotion and affection to accompany and so dictating their prayers to them, let them go along with those expressions, is properly either produce plain Scripture, or do a miracle the work and business of the heart. to prove this by. But till then, he who shall 3dly, That this devotion and affection is consider what kind of prayers these pretenders to the Spirit have been notable for, will find * Major John Weir. See Ravaillac Rediviv.
indispensably required in prayer, as the their minds both to apprehend and understand principal and most essential part of it, and the meaning of what they hear; and withal, that in which the spirituality of it does most to judge whether it be of such a nature, as to properly consist.
be fit for them to join and concur with him Now from these three things put together, in. So that the people also are, by this course, this must naturally and necessarily follow, put to study, and to employ their apprehendthat as spiritual prayer, or praying by the ing and judging faculties, while they should Spirit, taken in the right sense of the word, be exerting their affections and devotions ; consists properly in that affection and devo- and consequently, by this means, the spirit of tion, that the heart exercises and employs in prayer is stinted, as well in the congregation the work of prayer; so, whatsoever gives the that follows, as in the minister who first consoul scope and liberty to exercise and employceives a prayer after their extempore way; this affection and devotion, that does most which is a truth so clear, and indeed selfeffectually help and enlarge the spirit of evident, that it is impossible that it should prayer ; and whatsoever diverts the soul from need any farther argument to demonstrate or employing such affection and devotion, that make it out. does most directly stint and hinder it. Accor The sum of all this is, that since a set dingly let this now be our rule whereby to form of prayer leaves the soul wholly free to judge of the efficacy of a set form, and of the employ its affections and devotions, in which extemporary way in the present business. As the spirit of prayer does most properly confor a set form, in which the words are ready sist, it follows, that the spirit of prayer is prepared to our hands, the soul has nothing thereby, in a singular manner, helped, proto do but to attend to the work of raising the moted, and enlarged; and since, on the other affections and devotions, to go along with hand, the extempore way withdraws and those words ; so that all the powers of the takes off the soul from employing its affecsoul are took up in applying the heart to this tions, and engages it chiefly, if not wholly, great duty; and it is the exercise of the heart about the use of its invention, it as plainly (as has been already shewn) that is truly and follows, that the spirit of prayer is by this properly a praying by the Spirit. On the means unavoidably cramped and hindered, contrary, in all extempore prayer, the powers and (to use their own word) stinted : which and faculties of the soul are called off from was the proposition that I undertook to dealing with the heart and the affections ; prove. But there are two things, I confess, and that both in the speaker and in the that are extremely hindered and stinted by a hearer — both in him who makes, and in him set form of prayer, and equally farthered and who is to join in such prayers.
enlarged by the extempore way, which, And first, for the minister who makes and without all doubt, is the true cause why the utters such extempore prayers. He is wholly former is so much decried, and the latter so employing his invention, both to conceive much extolled, by the men whom we are now matter, and to find words and expressions to pleading with. The first of which is pride and clothe it in; this is certainly the work which ostentation ; the other, faction and sedition. takes up his mind in this exercise; and since 1. And first for pride. I do not in the least the nature of man's mind is such, that it can- question, but the chief design of such as use not with the same vigour, at the same time, the extempore way, is to amuse the unthinkattend the work of invention, and that of ing rabble with an admiration of their gifts ; raising the affections also, nor measure out their whole devotion proceeding from no the same supply of spirits and intention for other principle, but only a love to hear themthe carrying on the operations of the head, selves talk. And I believe it would put and those of the heart too; it is certain, that Lucifer himself hard to it to outvie the pride while the head is so much employed, the of one of those fellows pouring out his extemheart must be idle and very little employed, pore stuff amongst his ignorant, whining, and perhaps not at all : and consequently, if factious followers, listening to, and applauding to pray by the Spirit, be to pray with the his copious flow and cant, with the ridiculous heart and the affections, it is also as certain, accents of their impertinent groans. And that while a man prays extempore, he does the truth is, extempore prayer, even when not pray by the Spirit ; nay, the very truth best and most dexterously performed, is noof it is, that while he is so doing, he is not thing else but a business of invention and praying at all, but he is studying, he is beat wit, (such as it is,) and requires no more to ing his brain, while he should be drawing out it, but a teeming imagination, a bold front, his affections.
and a ready expression ; and deserves much And then for the people that are to hear the same commendation (were it not in a and join with him in such prayers ; it is matter too serious to be sudden upon) which manifest that they, not knowing beforehand is due to extempore verses, only with this difwhat the minister will say, must, as soon as ference, that there is necessary to these latter they do hear him, presently busy and bestir a competent measure of wit and learning,