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as stinted forms are by the patrons of them stiled, is the way for himself and his flock, which resolves to follow him in his practice, never to get or be acquainted with the spirit of prayer; and in them will be fulfilled that terrible scripture, Hosea iv. 9. “ And there shall be like people like priest. And I will punish them for their ways, and reward them for their doings.” The people as well as the minister, who will not hear of or endure the spirit of prayer, God will judicially smite with spiritual barrenness. And God knows England at this day abounds herewith.
By reason of such judicial smitings as this, Israel of old became an empty vine, that produced 110 fruit which the Holy One of Israel could delight in or accept, Hosea x. 1. Now is this scripture fulfilled in England; though the patrons and advocates for stinted forms of prayer, the chief occasion of England's barrenness to God, will not endure to hear of it.
These crutches, to use their own comparison, have been used ever since the church of England's separation from the apostatical synagogue of Rome. Had the church of England thrown away those crutches, and left them where they found them, England had been a happy, a blessed England this day. But, as Ephraim of old was joined to idols, so the church of England is joined to these crutches; and when she will learn or strive to go without them God only knows.
Object. 5. It is judged fit that a stinted liturgy
should be generally imposed for the sake of uniformity in religion, and for preserving peace in the church.
Ans. This objection consists of two members, or branches, to each of which I will reply distinctly in their order.
First, For the sake of uniformity in religion.
To this first branch of the objection I answer in three particulars.
First, For every pastor to recommend to his flock the spirit of prayer, and to teach them the absolute necessity of getting it, and of uniting firmly and zealously in opposing the statutes of Omri, Micah vi. 16, and standing up as one man to maintain the instituted worship of Christ in all the several parts of it, is the uniformity in religion which must keep England from being spewed out of God's mouth; such an uniformity as this is promised in Zech, xiv.9. And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one."
The uniformity here promised is that mutual agreement between those nations and people whom God will gather to himself, whose hearts and affections he will firmly unite in the latter days to depose idolatry and superstition, and to join themselves together to worship God with such a pure and spiritual worship as he himself hath instituted and appointed in gospel times. Mal. i. 11. John iv. 24.
Secondly, If uniformity in stinted forms of
prayer be judged fit, why not also uniformity in stinted forms of sermons, and set and stated homilies? The one is as rational as the other. Now, in case a minister should always preach, or rather repeat, the very same sermon, the people would neither be advanced in knowledge, nor would they be pleased with such an idle and lazy practice. Why then should there not be the same dislike shewn in the business of prayer?
Thirdly, The tying up ministers to such set and stinted forms is the greatest injury and harm to the souls of both ministers and people that
appear in three particulars. First, It is a great hindrance to a minister, in that such a practice takes him off from his study. For, if he must be tied up to a stinted form of words, either in praying or preaching, made ready to his hand, why need he take any pains in study? The Spirit of God enjoins ministers that they study and take pains to grow in spiritual gifts, that their profiting in the mystery of godliness might appear to all. 1 Tim. iv. 13, 14, 15.
Secondly, This practice necessarily binds up the minister's talents, if he hath any left him, in a napkin, and so lays him open to be cast out for an unfaithful and an unprofitable servant. Matt. XXV. 25, 30.
Thirdly, This practice brings and continues a spiritual barrenness on the people, in that it robs their souls of the benefit of ministerial gifts. The
apostle assures us that “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal,” 1 Cor. xii. 7. Now, in case ministers are not allowed to exercise and improve their own ministerial gifts, how can their people be otherwise than grossly ignorant in the mysteries of gospel religion? Let those ministers, who willingly subject their consciences to such unreasonable and intolerable yokes of men's laying on them, consider and tremble at those scriptures, Mal. íi. 7, 8; Hosea iv. 6; Matt. xv. 14.
Branch 2. For securing peace in the church.
First, The event of imposing stinted forms of prayer makes it plain and evident to every discerning eye that the forms imposed are not according to the revealed will of God.
Whatever in itself tends to rend and tear the hearts and affections of magistrates from their subjects, and of the subjects from their magistrates, can never be proved to be the ordinance of God.
Too evident it is that the violence, which in former reigns hath been used and practised in imposing liturgies and stinted forms of
hath not only exasperated the spirit of the magistrates against the best of their subjects, but it hath greatly alienated the hearts and affections of those subjects from their migistrates; and, if this be the way to secure peace, for my part I do not know what peace is. No man of common sense will call a continued persecution for conscience
sake peace, or the way to promote it, either in church or state.
Secondly, The imposing such stinted forms of prayer, by force and violence, is altogether repugnant to the law of charity. And that which is so can never be the way either to procure or secure peace.
It will be altogether in vain for those to expect a right peace, who have no regard to practise the golden rule laid down by Christ in Matt. vii. 12, “ Therefore all things, whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them.” A negative peace they may for a time enjoy, but true and real peace they will remain strangers to while their necks refuse to stoop to the yoke of the Prince of peace. Isa. lix. 8. “The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings : they have made them crooked paths; whosoever goeth therein shall not
Let not that person, family, or nation, expect peace, whose hearts refuse to embrace the truth of God as it is in Jesus. That peace, which proceeds not from a cordial reception of the truth in faith and love, will in the end prove but a bastard peace. And they who boast of such a peace will be found no better than sélf-deceivers, Isa. Ivii. 21. Luke x. 6.
Thirdly, The imposing stinted forms of prayer, contrary to the law of charity, instead of procuring or securing peace, either in church or civil