« AnteriorContinuar »
that can be assigned for prolixity of speech in but with a greater exercise of their hearers' our converse with men cease, and become no patience ? Nay, does not he present his Maker, reasons for it at all, when we are to speak or not only with a more decent, but also a more pray to God.
free and liberal oblation, who tenders him 2dly, The second argument for paucity of much in a little, and brings him his whole words in prayer, shall be taken from the heart and soul wrapt up in three or four paucity of those things that are necessary to words, than he who, with full mouth and be prayed for. And surely, where few things loud lungs, sends up whole volleys of articuare necessary, few words should be sufficient. late breath to the throne of grace ?
For For where the matter is not commensurate to neither in the esteem of God or man ought the words, all speaking is but tautology; that multitude of words to pass for any more. In being truly and really tautology, where the the present case, no doubt, God accounts and same thing is repeated, though under never accepts of the former, as infinitely a more so much variety of expression, as it is but valuable offering than the latter, as that subthe same man still, though he appears every ject pays his prince a much nobler and more day or every hour in a new and different suit acceptable tribute, who tenders him a purse of clothes.
of gold, than he who brings him a whole The adequate subject of our prayers (I cart-load of farthings, in which there is weight shewed at first) comprehended in it things of without worth, and number without account. necessity and things of charity. As to the 3dly, The third argument for brevity, or first of which, I know nothing absolutely contractedness of speech in prayer, shall be necessary, but grace here, and glory hereafter. taken from the very nature and condition of And for the other, we know what the apostle the person who prays, which makes it impossays, (1 Tim. vi. 8,) “Having food and rai-sible for him to keep up the same fervour and ment, let us be therewith content.” Nature attention in a long prayer, that he may in a is satisfied with a little, and grace with less. short. For as I first observed, that the mind of And now, if the matter of our prayers lies man cannot with the same force and vigour within so narrow a compass, why should the attend to several objects at the same time, so dress and outside of them spread and diffuse neither can it with the same force and earnestitself into so wide and disproportioned a ness exert itself upon one and the same object largeness? by reason of which our words will for any long time ; great intension of mind be forced to hang loose and light, without any spending the spirits too fast to continue its first matter to support them, much after the same freshness and agility long. For while the soul rate that it is said to be in transubstantiation, is a retainer to the elements, and a sojourner where accidents are left in the lurch by their in the body, it must be content to submit its proper subject, that gives them the slip, and own quickness and spirituality to the dulness so leaves those poor slender beings to uphold of its vehicle, and to comply with the pace of and shift for themselves.
its inferior companion ; just like a man shut In brevity of speech, a man does not so up in a coach, who, while he is so, must be much speak'words, as things—things in their willing to go no faster than the motion of the precise and naked truth, and stripped of their coach will carry him. He who does all by rhetorical mask and their fallacious gloss; the help of those subtile refined parts of matand therefore in Athens they circumscribed ter, called spirits, must not think to persevero the pleadings of their orators by a strict law, at the same pitch of acting, while those princutting off prologues and epilogues, and com ciples of activity flag. No man begins and manding them to an immediate representation ends a long journey with the same pace. of the case, by an impartial and succinct de But now, when prayer has lost its due ferclaration of mere matter of fact. And this vour and attention, (which, indeed, are the was, indeed, to speak things fit for a judge to very vitals of it,) it is but the carcass of 4 hear, because it argued the pleader also a judge prayer, and consequently must needs be loathof what was fit for him to speak.
some and offensive to God; nay, though the And now, why should not this be both greatest part of it should be enlivened and decency and devotion too, when we come to carried on with an actual attention, yet if plead for our poor souls before the great tri that attention fails to enliven any one part of bunal of heaven? It was the saying of Solo- it, the whole is but a joining of the living mon, “A word to the wise ;" and if so, and the dead together, for which conjunction certainly there can be no necessity of many the dead is not at all the better, but the living words to him who is wisdom itself. For can very much the worse.
It is not length, nor any man think, that God delights to hear him copiousness of language, that is devotion, any make speeches, and to shew his parts, (as the more than bulk and bigness is valour, or flesh word is,) or to jumble a multitude of misap- the measure of the spirit. A short sentenco plied Scripture sentences together, interlarded may be oftentimes a large and a mighty with a frequent, nauseous repetition of “Ah prayer--devotion so managed being like water Lord !” which some call exercising their gifts, I in a well, where you have fulness in a little
compass, which surely is much nobler than speak nor think any thing low or ordinary in the same carried out into many petit, crceping such a condition, presently rallied up, and disrivulets, with length and shallowness together. charged the whole concern of their desponding Let him who prays bestow all that strength, souls, in that short prayer of but three words, fervour, and attention upon shortness and though much fuller and more forcible than significance, that would otherwise run out one of three thousand, (ver. 25,) "Save us, and lose itself in length and luxuriancy of Lord, or we perish.” Death makes short speech to no purpose. Let not his tongue work when it comes, and will teach him who outstrip his heart, nor presume to carry a would prevent it to make shorter. For surely message to the throne of grace, while that no man who thinks himself a-perishing, can stays behind. Let him not think to support be at leisure to be eloquent, or judge it either so hard and weighty a duty with a tired, sense or devotion to begin a long prayer, languishing, and bejaded devotion; to avoid when, in all likelihood, he shall conclude' his which, let a man contract his expression where life before it. he cannot enlarge his affection, still remem 5thly, The fifth and last argument that I bering, that nothing can be more absurd in shall produce for brevity of speech or fewness itself,
nor more unacceptable to God, than for of words in prayer, shall be taken from the one engaged in the great work of prayer to examples which we find in Scripture, of such hold on speaking after he has left off praying, as have been remarkable for brevity, and of and to keep the lips at work when the spirit such as have been noted for prolixity, of can do no more.
speech, in the discharge of this duty. 4thly, The fourth argument for shortness 1. And first for brevity. To omit all those or conciseness of speech in prayer shall be notable examples which the Old Testament drawn from this, That it is the most natural affords us of it, and to confine ourselves only and lively way of expressing the utmost ago to the New, in which we are undoubtedly nies and outcries of the soul to God upon a most concerned, was not this way of praying quick, pungent sense, either of a pressing not only warranted, but sanctified, and set necessity, or an approaching calamity, which, above all that the wit of man could possibly we know, are generally the chief occasions of except against it, by that infinitely exact form prayer, and the most effectual motives to of prayer, prescribed by the greatest, the hobring men upon their knees, in a vigorous liest, and the wisest man that ever lived, even application of themselves to this great duty. Christ himself, the Son of God, and Saviour A person ready to sink under his wants, has of the world? Was it not an instance both neither time nor heart to rhótoricate or make of the truest devotion, and the fullest and flourishes. No man begins a long grace, when most comprehensive reason, that ever prohe is ready to starve. Such an one's prayers ceeded from the mouth of man? and yet, are like the relief he needs, quick and sudden, withal, the shortest and most succinct model short and immediate. He is like a man in that ever grasped all the needs and occasions torture upon the rack, whose pains are too of mankind, both spiritual and temporal, into acute to let his words be many, and whose so small a compass? Doubtless, had our Saviour desires of deliverance too impatient, to delay thought fit to amplify or be prolix, "He, in the thing he begs for by the manner of his whom were hid all the treasures of wisdom," begging it.
could not want matter ; nor he who was himIt is a common saying, “If a man does not self the Word, want variety of the fittest to know how to pray, let him go to sea, and that have expressed his mind by. But he chose will teach him." "Avd we have a notable in- rather to contract the whole concern of both stance of what kind of prayers men are taught worlds into a few lines, and to unite both in that school, even in the disciples themselves, heaven and earth in his prayer, as he had when a storm arose, and the sea raged, and done before in his person. And indeed one the ship was ready to be cast away, (Matt. was a kind of copy or representation of the viii.) In which case we do not find that they other. fell presently to harangue it about seas and So, then, we see here brevity in the rule or winds, and that dismal face of things that pattern; let us see it next in the practice ; must needs appear all over the devouring ele- and, after that, in the success of prayer. And ment at such a time, all which, and the like, first, we have the practice, as well as the patmight no doubt have been very plentiful | terií of it, in our Saviour himself; and that in topics of eloquence to a man who should have the most signal passage of his whole life, even looked upon these things from the shore, or his preparation for his approaching death, In discoursed of wrecks and tempests safe and which dolorous scene, when his whole soul warm in his parlour. But these poor wretches, was nothing but sorrow, (that great moving who were now entering, as they thought, intó spring of invention and elocution,) and when the very jaws of death, struggling with the nature was put to its last and utmost stretch, last efforts of nature upon the sense of a de- and so had no refuge or relief but in prayer ; parting life, and consequently could neither | yet even then all this horror, agony, and dis
tress of spirit, delivers itself but in two very and if the worth of a prayer may at all be short sentences, (Matth. xxvi. 39,) “O my measured by the success of it, I suppose no Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass prayers whatsoever can do more; and I never from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as yet heard or read of any long prayer that did thou wilt.” And again, the second time, with so much. Which brings on the other part of the like brevity and the like words, “ O my this our fifth and last argument, which was Father, if this cup may not pass from me, to be drawn from the examples of such as except I drink it, thy will be done." And have been noted in Scripture for prolixity or lastly, the third time also, he used the same length of prayer. And of this there are only short form again; and yet in all this he was two mentioned, the heathens and the Phari(as we may say without a metaphor) even sees. The first, the grand instance of idolatry; praying for life, so far as the great business he the other, of hypocrisy: but Christ forbids us was then about, to wit, the redemption of the
the imitation of both, “ When ye pray,” says world, would suffer him to pray for it. All our Saviour in the 6th of Matthew, which prayers of our Saviour, and others of not like the heathen :" but in what? Why, like brevity, are properly such as we call in this, “ That they think they shall be heard ejaculations; an elegant similitude from a for their much speaking,” in the 7th verse. dart or arrow, shot or thrown out; and It is not the multitude that prevails in armies, such an one, (we know,) of a yard long, will and much less in words. And then for the fly farther, and strike deeper, than one of Pharisees, whom our Saviour represents as the twenty.
very vilest of men, and the greatest of cheats. And then, in the last place, for the success We have them amusing the world with preof such brief prayers, I shall give you but tences of a more refined devotion, while their three instances of this; but they shall be of heart was all that time in their neighbour's persons praying under the pressure of as great coffers. For does not our Saviour expressly miseries as human nature could well be aict tell us (in Luke xx., and the two last verses,) ed with. And the first shall be of the leper, that the great tools, the liooks or engines, (Matth. viii. 2,) or, as Saint Luke describes by which they compassed their worst, their him, “a man full of leprosy, who came to our wickedest, and most rapacious designs, were Saviour, and worshipped him;" and, as Saint long prayers? prayers made only for a show Luke again has it more particularly, “ fell on or colour; and that to the basest and most his face before him," (which is the lowest and degenerous sort of villainy, even the robbing most devout of all postures of worship,) say the spittal, and devouring the houses of poor, ing, “ Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me helpless, forlorn widows. Their devotion served clean." This was all his prayer; and the all along but as an instrument to their avarice, answer to it was, that he was immediately as a factor or under-agent to their extortioncleansed. The next instance shall be of the a practice, which, duly seen into, and stripper poor blind man, (Luke, xviii
. 38,) following of its hypocritical blinds, could not but look our Saviour with this earnest prayer, “ Jesus, very odiously and ill-favouredly; and therethou son of David, have mercy upon me." fore, in come their long robes, and their long His whole prayer was no more: for it is said prayers together, and cover all. And the truth in the next verse, that he went on repeating is, neither the length of one nor of the other it again and again, “ Jesus, thou son of David, is ever found so useful, as when there is somehave mercy upon me.” And the answer he thing more than ordinary that would not be received was, that his eyes were opened, and This was the gainful godliness of the his sight restored.
Pharisees; and, I believe, upon good observaThe third and last instance shall be of the tion, you will hardly find any like the Pharipublican, in the same chapter of Saint Luke, sees for their long prayers, who are not also praying under a lively sense of as great a extremely like them for something else. And leprosy and blindness of soul, as the other thus having given you five arguments for two could have of body; in the 13th verse, brevity, and against prolixity of prayer, let us “ he smote upon his breast, saying, God be now make this our other great rule, whereby merciful to me a sinner.” He spoke
no more ; to judge of the prayers of our Church, and tho though it is said in the 10th verse, that he prayers of those who dissent and divide from went solemnly and purposely up to the temple it. And, to pray: the issue and success of which prayer First, for that excellent body of prayers was, that he went home justified, before one contained in our Liturgy, and both compiled of those whom all the Jewish Church revered and enjoined by public authority. Have wo as absolutely the highest and most heroic ex not here a great instance of brevity and fulamples of piety, and most beloved favourites ness together, cast into several short significant of Heaven, in the whole world. And now, collects, each containing a distinct, entire, and if the force and virtue of these short prayers well-managed petition ? the whole set of them could rise so high as to cleanse a leper, to give being like a string of pearls, exceeding rich sight to the blind, and to justify a públican; l in conjunction; and therefore, of no small
price or value, even single and by themselves. sently and immediately understand what they Nothing could have been composed with hear, when, possibly, Holder-forth himself greater judgment; every prayer being so understands not what he says. From all which short, that it is impossible it should weary ; we may venture to conclude, that that exceland withal so pertinent, that it is impossible lent thing, common prayer, which is the joint it should cloy the devotion. And, indeed, so address of a whole congregation with united adınirably fitted are they all to the common voice, as well as heart, sending up their devoconcerns of a Christian society, that when tions to Almighty God, is no where to be the rubric enjoins but the use of some of found in these kingdoms, but in that best and them, our worship is not imperfect; and nearest copy of primitive Christian worship, when we use them all, there is none of them the divine service, as it is perforined according superfluous.
to the orders of our Church. And the reason assigned by some learned As for those long prayers so frequently used men for the preference of many short prayers by some before their sermons, the constitution before a continued long one, is unanswerable, and canons of our Church are not at all renamely, that by the former there is a more sponsible for them, having provided us better frequently repeated mention made of the things, and with great wisdom appointed a name, and some great attribute of God, as form of prayer to be used by all before their the encouraging ground of our praying to
But as for this way of praying, him; and withal, of the merits and mediation now generally in use, as it was first took up of Christ, as the only thing that can promise upon an humour of novelty and popularity, us success in what we pray for: every distinct and by the same carried on till it had passed petition beginning with the former, and end into a custom, and so put the rule of the Church ing with the latter : by thus annexing of first out of use, and then out of countenance which to each particular thing that we ask also ; so, if it be rightly considered, it will, in for, we do manifestly confess and declare, that the very nature of the thing itself, be found a we cannot expect to obtain any one thing at very senseless and absurd practice. For can the hands of God, but with a particular re there be any sense or propriety in beginning newed respect to the merits of a Mediator; a new, tedious prayer in the pulpit, just after and withal, remind the congregation of the the Church has, for near an hour together, same, by making it their part to renew a dis with great variety of offices, suitable to all thé tinct Amen to every distinct petition.
needs of the congregation, been praying for all Add to this the excellent contrivance of a that can possibly be fit for Christians to pray great part of our Liturgy into alternate re for? Nothing certainly can be more irrasponses ; by which means, the people are put tional. For which cause, amongst many more, to bear a considerable share in the whole ser that old sober form of bidding prayer, which, vice, which makes it almost impossible for both against law and reason, has been justled them to be only idle hearers, or, which is out of the Church by this upstart, puritanical worse, mere lookers on, as they are very encroachment, ought, with great reason, to be often, and may be always, (if they can but restored by authority; and both the use and keep their eyes open,) at the long tedious users of it, by a strict and solemn reinforceprayers of the nonconformists. And this in- ment of the canon upon all, without exception, deed is that which makes and denominates our be rescued from that unjust scorn of the facLiturgy truly and properly a Book of Common tious and ignorant, which the tyranny of the Prayer. For I think I may truly avouch, contrary usurping custom will otherwise ex(how strange soever it may seem at first,) that pose them to. For surely it can neither be there is no such thing as common or joint decency nor order for our clergy to conform prayer any where amongst the principal dis to the fanatics, as many in their prayers besenters from the Church of England; for in fore sermon now-a-days do. the Romish communion, the priest says over And thus having accounted for the prayers the appointed prayers only to himself; and of our Church, according to the great rule the rest of the people, not hearing a word of prescribed in the text, “Let thy words be what he says, repeat also their own particular few ;” let us now, according to the same, conprayers to themselves, and when they have sider also the way of praying, so much used done, go their way: not all at once, as neither and applauded by such as have renounced the do they come at once, but scatteringly, one communion and liturgy of our Church; and after another, according as they have finished it is but reason that they should bring us their devotions. And then, for the noncon something better in the room of what they formists, their prayers being all extempore, it have so disdainfully cast off. But, on the is, as we have shewn before, hardly possible contrary, are not all their prayers exactly for any, and utterly impossible for all, to join after the heathenish and pharisaical copy? in them: for surely people cavnot join in a always notable for those two things, length
ey understand it ; nor can it and tautology? Two whole hours for one be imagined that all capacities should pre prayer, at a fast, used to be reckoned but a
moderate dose ; and that, for the most part, ment to which it belongs, to protect us in our fraught with such irreverent, blasphemous spiritual as well as in our temporal concerns, expressions, that, to repeat them, would pro I shall only say this, that nothing can be more fane the place I am speaking in ; and, indeed, for the nour our Liturgy than to find it they seldom“ carried on the work of such a despised only by those who have made themday,". (as their phrase was,) but they left the selves remarkable to the world for despising church in need of a new consecration. Add the Lord's Prayer as much. to this the incoherence and confusion, the In the meantime, for ourselves of the Church endless repetitions, and the unsufferable non of England, who, without pretending to any sense, that never failed to hold out, even with new lights, think it equally a duty and comtheir utmost prolixity; so that in all their mendation to be wise, and to be devout only long fasts, from first to last, from seven in the to sobriety, and who judge it no dishonour to morning to seven in the evening, (which was God himself to be worshipped according to law their measure,) the pulpit was always the and rule, if the directions of Solomon, the emptiest thing in the church ; and I never precept and example of our Saviour, and lastly, knew such a fast kept by them, but their the piety and experience of those excellent hearers had cause to begin a thanksgiving as men and martyrs, who first composed, and soon as they had done. And the truth is, afterwards owned our Liturgy with their dearwhen I consider the matter of their prayers, est blood, may be looked upon as safe and so full of ramble and inconsequence, and in sufficient guides to us in our public worship every respect so very like the language of a of God; then, upon the joint authority of all dream ; and compare it with their carriage of these, we may pronounce our Liturgy the themselves in prayer, with their eyes for the greatest treasure of rational devotion in the most part shut, and their arms stretched out Christian world. And I know no prayer in a yawning posture; a man that should hear necessary, that is not in the Liturgy, but one, any of them pray, might, by a very pardon- which is this, – That God would vouchsafe to able error, be induced to think that he was all continue the Liturgy itself in use, honour, and the time hearing one talking in his sleep, be- veneration in this Church for ever. And I sides the strange virtue which their prayers doubt not but all wise, sober, and good Chrishad to procure sleep in others too. So that tians will, with equal judgment and affection, he who should be present at all their long give it their Amen. cant, would shew a greater ability in watch Now to God the Father, God the Son, and ing, than ever they could pretend to in pray God the Holy Ghost, three Persons and one ing, if he could forbear sleeping, having so God, be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, strong a provocation to it, and so fair an ex all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, botb cuse for it. In a word, such were their pray now and for evermore. Amen. ers, both for matter and expression, that could any one truly and exactly write them out, it would be the shrewdest and most effectual way of writing against them that could possibly be thought of. I should not have thus troubled either you
SERMON XVII. or myself, by raking into the dirt and dunghill of these men's devotions, upon the account
OF THE HEINOUS GUILT OF TAKING of any thing either done or said by them in the late times of confusion ; for, as they have
PLEASURE IN OTHER MEN'S SINS. the king's, so I wish them God's pardon also, whom, I am sure, they have offended much
PART I. more than they have both kings put together. But that which has provoked me thus to rip “Who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit up and expose to you their nauseous and ridi such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but culous way of addressing to God, even upon have pleasure in them that do them." - Rom. i. 32. tle most solemn occasions, is that intolerably ride and unprovoked insolence and scurrility From the beginning of the 18th verse to the with which they are every day reproaching end of the 31st, (the verse immediately going and scoffing at our Liturgy, and the users of before the text,) we have a catalogue of the it, and thereby alienating the minds of the blackest sins that human nature, in its highest people from it, to such a degree, that many depravation, is capable of committing ; and thousands are drawn by them into a fatal this so perfect, that there seems to be no sin schism; a schism that, unrepented of, and imaginable but what may be reduced to, and continued in, will as infallibly ruin their souls, comprised under, some of the sins here specias theft, whoredom, murder, or any other of fied. In a word, we have an abridgment of the most crying, damning sins whatsoever. the lives and practices of the whole heathen But leaving this to the justice of the govern-world ; that is, of all the baseness and villainy,