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whereas the former may be done with very a truth altogether as clear, that this extemlittle wit, and no learuing at all.
pore way naturally brings all the contempt And now, can any sober person think it upon the worship of God, that both the folly reasonable, that the public devotions of a and faction of men can possibly expose it to; whole congregation should be under the con and therefore, as a thing neither subservient duct and at the mercy of a pert, empty, con to the true purposes of religion, nor grounded ceited hold-forth, whose chief (if not sole) upon principles of reason, nor, lastly, suitable intent is to vent his spiritual clack, and (as 1 | to the practice of antiquity, ought, by all may so speak) to pray prizes ; whereas prayer means, to be exploded and cast out of every is a duty that recommends itself to the accep sober and well-ordered church, or that will be tance of Almighty God, by no other qualifica sure to throw the church itself out of doors. tion so much as by the profoundest humility, And thus I have at length finished what I and the lowest esteem that a man can possibly had to say of the first ingredient of a pious have of himself?
and reverential prayer, which was premediCertainly the extemporizing faculty is never tation of thought, prescribed to us in these more out of its element than in the pulpit, words, “ Let not thy mouth be rash, nor thy though even here it is much inore excusable heart be hasty to utter any thing before God.” in a sermon than in a prayer, forasmuch as Which excellent words and most wise advice in that a man addresses himself but to men of Solomon, whosoever can reconcile to the - men like himself, whom he may therefore expediency, decency, or usefulness of extemmake bold with, as, no doubt, for so doing, pore prayer, I shall acknowledge him a man they will also make bold with him. Besides of greater ability and parts of mind than the peculiar advantage attending all such sud- Solomon himself. den conceptions, that, as they are quickly The other ingredient of a revential and duly bori), so they quickly die, it being seldom qualified prayer is, a pertinent brevity of exknown, where the speaker has so very fluent pression, mentioned and recommended in that an invention, but the hearer also has the gift part of the text, " Therefore let thy words be of as fluent a memory.
few.” But this I cannot despatch now, and 2. The other thing that has been hitherto | therefore shall not enter upon at this time. so little befriended by a set form of prayer, Now to God the Father, God the Son, and and so very much by the extempore way, is God the Holy Ghost, three Persons aud one faction and sedition. It has been always God, be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, found an excellent way of girding at the all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both government, in Scripture phrase. And we now and for ever more. Amen. all know the common dialect in which the great masters of this art used to pray for the king, and which may justly pass for only a cleanlier and more refined kind of libelling him in the Lord. As, “ that God would turn his heart, and open his eyes,” as if he were a SERMON XVI. pagan, yet to be converted to Christianity; with many other sly, virulent, and malicious insinuations, which we may every day hear
AGAINST LONG EXTEMPORE PRAYERS. of from (those mints of treason and rebellion) their conventicles; and for which, and a great
PART II. deal less, some princes and governments would make them not only eat their words, but the tongue that spoke them too. In fine, let all their extempore harangues be considered and duly weighed, and you shall find a spirit of pride, faction, and sedition, predominant in
“ Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be them all, the only spirit which those impos
hasty to utter any thing before God; for God is in heaven,
and thou upon earth : therefore let thy words be few.". tors do really and indeed pray by.
ECCLESIASTES, v. 2. I have been so much the longer and the earnester against this intoxicating, bewitching I FORMERLY began a discourse upon these cheat of extempore prayer, being fully satis- words, and observed in them these three fied in my conscience, that it has been all things, along the devil's master-piece and prime en 1st, That whosoever appears in the house gine to overthrow our church by. For I look of God, and particularly in the way of prayer, upon this as a most unanswerable truth, that ought to reckon himself
, in a more especial whatsoever renders the public worship of God manner, placed in the sight and presence of contemptible amongst us, must, in the same God; and degree, weaken and discredit our whole reli 2dly, That the vast and infinite distance gion. And I liope I have also proved it to be between God and him, ought to create in him
IN BEHALF OF THE LITURGY OF THE CHURCH OF
all imaginable awe and reverence in such his by this heathen of Moses, sprang only from addresses to God.
the majestic brevity of this one expression 3dly and lastly, That this reverence re an expression so suited to the gre ss of a quired of him is to consist in a serious prepara- Creator, and so expressive of his boundless tion of his thoughts, and a sober government creative power, as a power infinitely above of his expressions ; neither is bis inouth to be all control or possibility of finding the least rash, nor his heart to be hasty in uttering obstacle or delay in achieving its mightiest any thing before God.
and most stupendous works. Heaven and These three things, I shewed, were evidently earth, and all the host of both, as it were, contained in the words, and did as evidently dropped from his mouth, and nature itself contain the whole sense of them. But I was but the product of a word - a word, not gathered them all into this one proposition, designed to express, but to constitute and give namely,
a being; and not so much the representation, That premeditation of thought, and brevity as the cause, of what it signified. of expression, are the great ingredients of that This was God's way of speaking in his first reverence that is required to a pious, accep- forming of the universe ; and was it not so in table, and devout prayer.
the next grand instance of his power, his The first of these, which is premeditation governing of it too? For are not the great of thought, I then fully treated of, and de instruments of government, his laws, drawn spatched; and shall now proceed to the other, up and digested into a few sentences, the whole which is a pertinent brevity of expression body of them containing but ten command“therefore let thy words be few."
ments, and some of those commandments not Concerning which we shall observe, first, so many words ? Nay, and have we not these in general, that to be able to express our also brought into yet a narrower compass by minds briefly, and fully too, is absolutely the Him who best understood them? “ Thou shalt greatest perfection and commendation that love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and speech is capable of; such a mutual commu with all thy soul, and thy neighbour as thynication of our thoughts being (as I may so self;" precepts nothing like the tedious, endspeak) the next approach to intuition, and less, confused trash of human laws- laws so the nearest imitation of the converse of blessed numerous, that they not only exceed men's spirits made perfect, that our condition in practice, but also surpass their arithmetic; this world can possibly raise us to. Certainly and so voluminous, that no mortal head, nor the greatest and the wisest conceptions that shoulders neither, must ever pretend themever issued from the mind of man, have been selves able to bear them. In God's laws the couched under, and delivered in, a few, close, words are few, the sense vast and infinite. In home, and significant words.
human laws you shall be sure to have words But, to derive the credit of this way of enough, but, for the most part, to discern tho speaking much higher, and from an example sense and reason of them you had need read infinitely greater, than the greatest human them with a microscope. wisdom, was it not authorized and ennobled And thus having shewn how the Almighty by God himself in his making of the world ? utters himself when he speaks, and that upon Was not the work of all the six days trans the greatest occasions, let us now descend from acted in so many words? There was no heaven to earth, from God to man, and shew circumlocution or amplification in the case, that it is no presumption for us to conform which makes the rhetorician Longinus, in his our words, as well as our actions, to the subook of the Loftiness of Speech, so much ad-preme pattern, and, according to our poor mire the height and grandeur of Moses's style incasures, to imitate the wisdom that we in his first chapter of Genesis : 'O Tãn lov adore. And for this, has it not been noted by δαίων θεσμοθέτης, ουχ ο τυχών ανήρ. «The law
“ The law- the best observers and the ablest judges both giver of the Jews,” says he, (meaning Moses,) of things and persons, that the wisdom of any
was no ordinary man,” ÉTELÒD Ton to Ocov people or nation has been most seen in the δύναμιν κατά την αξίαν εγνώρισε καξέφηνεν: «be- proverbs and short sayings commonly received cause,” says he," he set forth the divine amongst them? And what is a proverb but power suitably to the majesty and greatness the experience and observation of several ages of it.” But how did he this? Why, cúdús év gathered and summed up into one expression? τη εισβολή γράψας των νόμων, Είπεν ο Θεός, The Scripture vouches Solomon for the wisest φησί, τί; Γενέσθω φώς, και εγένετο γενέσθω γη, of men ; and they are his Proverbs that prove ral éyéveto, &c. " for that,” says he, “ in the
The seven wise men of Greece, so very entrance of his laws he gives us this famous for their wisdom all the world over, short and pleasant account of the whole crea acquired all that fame each of them by a single tion, — 'God said, Let there be light, and sentence, consisting of two or three words ; there was light ; Let there be an earth, a sea, and yoão geauto still lives and flourishes in and a firmament, and there was so.'” So the mouths of all, while many vast volumes that all this high'elogy and encomium, given are extinct and sunk into dust and utter obli
rion. And then, for books, we shall generally prayer is an address to that eternal mind, find that the most excellent in any art or which, as we have shewn before, such as science, have been still the smallest and most rationally invocate pretend not to inform. compendious; and this not without ground, Nevertheless, since the nature of man is such, for it is an argument that the author was a that, while we are yet in the body, our revemaster of what he wrote, and had a clear rence and worship of God must of necessity potion and a full comprehension of the subject proceed in some analogy to the reverence that before him. For the reason of things lies in we shew to the grandees of this world, we will a little compass, if the mind could at any time here see what the judgment of all wise men be so happy as to light upon it. Most of the is concerning fewness of words, when we apwritings and discourses in the world are but pear as suppliants before our earthly superiors; illustration and rhetoric, which signifies as and we shall find, that they generally allow much as nothing to a mind eager in pursuit it to import these three things, - 1. Modesty; after the causes and philosophical truth of 2. Discretion; and 3. Height of respect to the things. It is the work of fancy to enlarge, person addressed to. And ist, for modesty. but of judgment to shorten and contract ; and Modesty is a kind of shame or bashfulness, therefore, this must needs be as far above the proceeding from the sense a man has of his other as judgment is a greater and a nobler own defects compared with the perfections of faculty than fancy or imagination. All phi- him whom he comes before. And that which losophy is reduced to a few principles, and is modesty towards men is worship and devothose principles comprised in a few proposi- tion towards God. It is a virtue that makes tions. And as the whole structure of specu a man unwilling to be seen, and fearful to be lation rests upon three or four axioms or heard ; and yet, for that very cause, never fails maxims, so that of practice also bears upon a to make him both seen with favour, and heard very small number of rules. And surely there with attention. It loves not many words, nor was never yet any rule or maxim that filled a indeed needs them. For modesty, addressing volume, or took up a week's time to be got by to any one of a generous worth and honour, heart ; no, these are the apices rerum, the tops is sure to have that man's honour for its advoand sums, the very spirit and life of things cate, and his generosity for
its intercessor. And extracted and abridged, just as all the lines how, then, is it possible for such a virtue to drawn from the vastest circumference do at run out into words ? Loquacity storms the length meet and unite in the smallest of ear, but modesty takes the heart; that is things, a point; and it is but a very little troublesome, this gentle but irresistible. Much piece of wood with which a true artist will speaking is always the effect of confidence; measure all the timber in the world. The and confidence still presupposes, and springs truth is, there could be no such thivg as art from, the persuasion that a man has of his or science, could not the mind of man gather own worth: both of them certainly very unfit the general natures of things out of the num qualifications for a petitioner. berless heap of particulars, and then bind 2dly, The second thing that naturally shews them up into such short aphorisms or propo- | itself in paucity of words is discretion, and sitions, that so they may be made portable to particularly that prime and eminent part of the memory, and thereby become ready and it that consists in a care of offending, which at hand for the judgment to apply and make Solomon assures us that in much speaking it use of as there shall be occasion.
is hardly possible for us to avoid ; (Prov. x. In fine, brevity and succinctness of speech 19,) “ In the multitude of words," says he, is that which, in philosophy or speculation, “ there wanteth not sin :" it requiring no we call maxim, and first principle; in the ordinary skill for a man to make his tongue counsels and resolves of practical wisdom, and run by rule, and, at the same time, to give it the deep mysteries of religion, oracle ; and both its lesson and its liberty too. For seldom lastly, in matters of wit and the finenesses of or never is there much spoke, but something imagination, epigram: all of them, severally or other had better been not spoke, there being and in their kinds, the greatest and the noblest nothing that the mind of man is so apt to things that the mind of man can shew the kindle and take distaste at as at words; and force and dexterity of its faculties in. therefore, whensoever any one comes to prefer
And now, if this be the highest excellency a suit to another, no doubt the fewer of them and perfection of speech in all other things, the better, since, where so very little is said, can we assign any true solid reason why it it is sure to be either candidly accepted, or, should not be so likewise in prayer? Nay, is which is next, easily excused; but, at the there not rather the clearest reason imaginable same time, to petition and to provoke too is why it should be much more so, since most of certainly very, preposterous. the forementioned things are but addresses to 3dly, The third thing that brevity of speech a human understanding, which may need as commends itself by in all petitionary addresses many words as may fill a volume to make it is, a peculiar respect to the person addressed understand the truth of one line? whereas I tó; for whosoever petitions his superior in
such a manner, does, by his very so doing, designed for information, must it not be inconfess him better able to understand than he finitely sottish and unreasonable to go about himself can be to express his own case. He to inform him who can be ignorant of nothing? owns him as a pattern of a preventing judg or to persuade him whose unchangeable nament and goodness, and, upon that account, ture makes it impossible for him to be moved able, not only to answer, but also to anticipate or wrought upon? or, lastly, by long and his requests. For, according to the most na much speaking, to think to weary him out, tural interpretation of things, this is to ascribe whose infinite power all the strength of men to him a sagacity so quick and piercing, that and angels, and the whole world put together, it were presumption to inform, and a benig- is not able to encounter or stand before? Só nity so great, that it were needless to impor- that the truth is, by loquacity and prolixity tune him. And can there be a greater and of prayer, a man does really and indeed (whemore winning deference to a superior than to ther he thinks so or no) rob God of the honour treat him under such a character ? or can of those three great attributes, and neither any thing, be imagined so naturally fit and treats him as a person omniscient, or unefficacious both to enforce the petition and to changeable, or omnipotent; for, on the other endear the petitioner? A short petition to a side, all the usefulness of long speech, in hugreat man is not only a suit to him for his man converse, is founded only upon the defects favour, but also a panegyric upon his parts. and imperfections of human nature. For he,
And thus I have given you the three com whose knowledge is at best but limited, and mendatory qualifications of brevity of speech whose intellect, both in apprehending and in our applications to the great ones of the judging, proceeds by a small diminutive light, world. Concerning which, as I shewed before, cannot but receive an additional light by the that it was impossible for us to form our conceptions of another man, clearly and plainly addresses, even to God himself
, but with some expressed, and by such expression conveyed proportion and resemblance to those that we to his apprehension. And he, again, whose make to our fellow-mortals in a condition nature subjects him to want and weakness, much above us, so it is certain, that whatso and consequently to hopes and fears, cannot ever the general judgment and consent of but be moved this way or that way, according mankind allows to be expressive and declara as objects suitable to those passions shall be tive of our honour to those, must (only with dexterously represented and set before his due allowance of the difference of the object) | imagination by the arts of speaking, which is as really and properly declare and signify that that that we call persuasion. And, lastly, he honour and adoration that is due from us to whose soul and body receive their activity the great Gol. And, consequently, what we from, and perform all their functions by, the have said for brevity of speech with respect mediation of the spirits, which ebb and flow, to the former, ought equally to conclude for consume, and are renewed again, cannot but it with relation to him too.
find himself very uneasy upon any tedious But, to argue more immediately and directly verbose application made to him, and that to the point before us, I shall now produce sometimes to such a degree, that, through five arguments enforcing brevity, and cashier mere fatigue, and even against judgment and ing all prolixity of speech, with peculiar refe- interest both, a man shall surrender himself, rence to our addresses to God.
as a conquered person, to the overbearing 1. And the first argument shall be taken vehemence of such solicitations; for when they from this consideration, that there is no reason ply him so fast, and pour in upon him so allegeable for the use of length or prolixity of thick, they cannot but wear and waste the speech that is at all applicable to prayer; for spirits, as unequal to so pertinacious a charge, whosever uses multiplicity of words, or length and this is properly to weary a man.
But of discourse, must of necessity do it for one of now all weariness, we know, presupposes these three purposes, - either to inform, or weakness; and, consequently, every long, persuade, or, lastly, to weary and overcome importune, wearisome petition, is truly and the person whom he directs his discourse to properly a force upon him that is pursued But the very first foundation of what I had with it, it is a following blow after blow upon to say upon this subject was laid by me in the mind and affections, and may, for the demonstrating that prayer could not possibly time, pass for a real though short persecution. prevail with God any of these three ways ; This is the state and condition of human forasmuch as, being omniscient, he could not nature, and prolixity or importunity of speech be informed; and, being void of passion or is still the great engine to attack it by, either affections, he could not be persuaded ; and, in its blind or weak side; and I think I may lastly, being omnipotent and infinitely great, venture to affirm, that it is seldom that any he could not by any importunity be wearied man is prevailed upon by words, but, upon a or overcome. And if so, what use then can true and philosophical estimate of the whole there be of rhetoric, harangue, or multitude matter, he is either deceived or wearied before of words in prayer ? For, if they should be he is so, and parts with the thing desired of
u to call upon
him upon the very same terms that either a it falls out with men, or, when he is incapable
And now, if this be the case, when any one commanded us to do this with prolixity or
To which I answer, first, by concession, notice of, any more than for a pian to hope that, if the sole use of words or speech were for a pardon of those sins that he cannot find to inform the person whom we speak to, the in his heart to confess. And yet, I suppose, consequence would be firm and good, and no man in his right senses does or can imaequally conclude against the use of any words gine, that God is informed or brought to the at all in prayer. But, therefore, in the second knowledge of those sins by any such confesplace, I deny information to be the sole and sion. adequate use of words or speech, or indeed any And so much for the clearing of this objecuse of them at all, when either the person tion, and, in the whole, for the first argument spoken to needs not to be informed, and produced by us for brevity, and against prowithal is known not to need it, as sometimes I lixity, of prayer, namely, That all the reasons