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English nation, or to affront the governors thereof, who are such great countenancers of the vanity I am now decrying ; but from the sense of that duty I owe to the offended majesty of God, whose presence and gospel are now ready to take wing, in order to their departing from a nation which hath been so many years hardening itself against God in the ways of sin and folly. And more especially their refusing to lay the neck under the yoke of his Son's gospel government, fearing lest thereby they should let the statutes of Omri fall into contempt, and so the foundation of their own sensual kingdom come to be not only shaken, but even quite overthrown.
I say from a sense of the duty I owe to God, and the great love and honourable respect I have for poor, languishing, bleeding England, and the government thereof, I deal thus plainly. If any son of violence offers to lay a persecuting hand upon me for the plainness and faithfulness here used, both for God and the kingdom's good, let such know that, through God's rich grace to me, the unworthiest of saved sinners, I shall be found fitter for a prison than he will be for the impending judgments of God, which threaten to destroy the land.
Object. 2. That extempore prayer is, to them who hear and join in it, a form.
I answer to this objection in two particulars.
a form to any
Prayer, conceived and made by the abilities given by God, is to the people the benefit of a gift bestowed for their edification.
That only can be called a form of prayer which a man useth as such, and to the use of which he tieth himself up. The nature of a form of prayer depends on the use of it. No man is, in praying, tied up
to the words of the minister. Secondly, People joining together with him that
prays according to the ability given him by God for edification is a duty. This objection is vain and frivolous.
Object. 3. Every one hath not the Spirit to help him to pray; and therefore such must be holpen by forms of devotion.
Hereto I shall reply in three particulars.
First, They who are by faith united to Jesus Christ have the Spirit of Adoption, which enables them to pray believingly; why therefore should they be hindered, and by human laws persecuted for not using a form?
Secondly, Such as have not the Spirit of Christ will never get it by using and pleading for human forms of prayer. I have already shewn how that that which is not itself an ordinance of God, appointed for converting sinners to Christ, will never bring a soul to God.
Thirdly, Though the persons intended in the objection have not the spirit of Christ savingly in them to enable them to pray, yet they have a share of the common gifts of the Spirit, whereby they are
rendered capable of praying to God for the Spirit. The very light of nature teaches men to put up prayers to God according to the danger they apprehend themselves to be in: this is evident from the practice of those heathen mariners in Jonah i. 5, 6, from which I observe that where and when a poor sinner finds himself pinched with the sight and sense of his misery, he will not want words to cry and to beg for relief.
In case a poor beggar be both hungry and naked, and reduced to such extremity of misery as that he perceives nature in a sinking starving condition, can any man rationally think that such a man stands in need of a monitor to instruct or teach him what words to use in begging? Surely it must be granted that sinking, starving nature is the best monitor in such a case.
Oh! if we could once but startle and awaken dead sinners out of their damning security, by the terrors of God's law set home on the conscience, so as that they once become apprehensive of the miserable cursed state they are in; how busy and active would natural conscience be in throwing off that sloth and security of the soul, in which the generality of England's professors, both nonconformists and conformists, are in danger of perishing eternally; how soon would nature be called in to the relief of the wounded, bleeding soul? The man's knowledge, his wit, his memory, his tongue, his lips, his all, must hasten in to help the awakened
guilty sinner to make a prayer suited to the distressed, deplorable condition he feels himself in.
All that can be expected from the forms contended for is, that they make secure, dead sinners, more dead and secure; in that the using and practising them will take the poor sinners off from improving the gifts of nature, and lulling the hypocritical formalist in such a deep sleep of security and vain confidence of the goodness and happiness of his condition, as nothing short of some amazing judgment from above, or the unquenchable flames of hell, will awaken him out of.
Object. 4. A stated liturgy is a good help to weak ministers, &c.
To this I answer in three particulars.
First, It is most certain that, by the law of Christ, no man is to be accounted capable of the sacred office of the ministry but that man who is by the spirit of Christ fitted, in measure, for so sacred an office. “And the things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” 2 Tim. ii. 2.
As it would reflect great dishonour on a king to send an ignorant and insufficient person upon an embassy, so likewise it reflects great dishonour on the Lord Jesus Christ to have ignorant and insufficient men put into the office of the ministry. “ All scripture is given by inspiration of God,
and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished to every good work.” 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17.
Secondly, Stinted forms of prayer are so far from helping weak ministers, that they are rather a means of increasing and feeding a spirit of sloth and laziness, which is to be carefully shunned and watched against. He that hath no gift and parts at all is not fit for the work of the ministry: he who hath but ordinary gifts ought to stir up and improve those gifts, that they might grow. "Wherefore I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee, by the laying on of my hands."
hands.” 2 Tim. i. 6. The tying ministers up to stinted forms will rather cherish and increase their weakness than any way help to remove it.
Let that text in Matt. xxv. 29, be consulted; • For unto every man that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”
The best expositors on this text do understand by the word, hath, the faithful and diligent improvement of the gifts and talents which a man is possessed of, according to Prov. x. 4. By, hath not, they understand the neglecting to improve those gifts and talents.
Thirdly, Let it be seriously considered that for a minister to go always on his religious crutches,