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And in the New Testament the same holy Temple was honoured with no less title than the figure of the heavens; the pattern of that true tabernacle not made with hands, where the glorious Majesty of God more peculiarly resides.
Now though we cannot compare any of our Churches with that glorious and magnificent structure of King Solomon, to which those honourable titles did so eminently belong, the Temple of Jerusalem being the place above all others in which God was pleased to fix his Name; yet we trust hisName, his Dwelling and favourable Presence is equally in every one of them, and in this also, which is here erected for his service and worship.
In this therefore the Christian Chuch becomes not inferior to the Jewish Temple for matter of spiritual use and benefit; inasmuch as in the one the daily sacrifice of slain beasts was constantly to be offered to the God of Israel, in the other the daily sacrifice of Prayer and Praise is continually to be performed to the same God ; nay the Christian Church hath this preeminence above the Jewish place of worship, not only as it presenteth a more perfect sacrifice, but because it is designed for a much larger extent and communication; the one having admitted but few proselytes to its devotion, the other being capable of receiving whole nations to the faith; according to that remarkable prediction of the Prophet here before us.
Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the Name of the Lord, t; be his servants, every one that keepetb the sabbath from polluting it, and that taketh hold of my covenant: even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my House of Prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices jhall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine House stall be called an House of Prvyer for all people.
From the consideration of which words, I shall endeavour to do these three things:
I. I (hall enquire into the necessary duty and benefit or Prayer, especially that which is publicly made use of in the House of God.
II. I shall recommend to you the manner of performing this our public devotion, with some useful circumstances conducive thereunto.
III. I shall lay before you the universality of this duty, by the enlargement of Christ's Church, here foretold in my text, with some proper inferences suitable to this solemnity.
I. Then I am to enquire into the necessary duty and benefit of Prayer, especially that which is publicly made use of in the House of God. Amongst the several duties enjoined us in holy scripture, there is none more acceptable to God, nor of greater use and benefit to mankind, than Prayer; a duty which we ought continually to be engaged in, as long as we remain in this sublunary world, and which must be constantly attended both in public and private as our neverceasing sacrifice.
Prayer is of all others a duty of that importance, that it is productive of the greatest blessings we enjoy; a duty the oftenest inculcated to us, by reason of the necessity and advantages that attend it; it is as necessary as any, because we always stand in need of the divine assistance for
our our daily support and preservation; and as beneficial as any, because without it, nothing can well be expected at God's hand: For as every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights; so is he always ready to grant whatsoever we shall ask or call upon him for, who givet-h it is said liberally, and upbraideth not; who is nigh unto all them that call upon him. faithfully; it is also as acceptable as any, because we thereby acknowledge an almighty providence over us, and give God the glory of his divine attributes.
And this is what we are obliged to, not because God either will not or cannot give without asking; but because he appointed Prayer, as the usual means of obtaining what we want, or call upon him for; he knows no doubt what we have need of before we aflc him, and is ready to give us more than either we desire or deserve; yet to the intent that we might acknowledge him to be the Author and Giver of all good things, and behave ourselves thankfully to him for the fame, he hath wifely ordained, that we mould humble ourselves in his sight, and pour out our hearts before him in Prayer; that so by this means we may have a continual supply of comfort upon any Occasion, and find grace to help intimeor need.
And here by Prayer, we may understand all manner of service we owe to God, whether it be reading, hearing, praiscorthanksgiving; all these being included as a part of God's service•, but Prayer of all others being accounted the chiefest, God's House is therefore in all probability emphatically called, the House of Prayer. As Prayer then was the chief end of our creation, so it ought to be the, principal part of our most solemn devotion, whensoever we come into the House of God,
to to praise and honour his holy Name in whose preTence we are, to worship and fall down, and l^neel before him.
To this constant and religious course of duty towards God we owe all the benefits and blessings we enjoy; it is this that keeps up the intercourse ^nd communion between God and us, which otherwise would cease, be interrupted and broken off, should we discontinue our addresses and sup
J'jTicatjons before him,; it is this that continues a ucceffipri ucjf Gop's mercies, and the more thankful we ^re for them, the more they are increased. And forasmuch as Prayer and Thanksgiving give us frequent opportunities, as at all times so more especially at this, to prostrate ourselves in the presence of God, with hearts full of joy, gratitude and chearfulness, for those unspeakable mercies vouchsafed to us by our Saviour, and for the additional solemnity of this great day.
For the due solemnization therefore of these and such like public instances of God's favour, the royal Psalmist sends us directly to the House of God; O go your way into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and speak good of his Name, Psal. c. 3.
For which reason the public Service and Prayers of the Church have always been esteemed preferable to those that are done in private; and this we have universally confirmed by the voice of nature, reason and experience; inasmuch as the more public and unanimous our acknowledgments are, the more do they tend to the glory of God, and the edification of his people.
Besides, God hath ordered his never-failing blessing to wait continually at his own House; here it is that Christ hath promised his gracious assistance in a more especial manner: For where
two two or three are gathered, together in my Name, faith our Saviour, there am I in the midst of them. And if the Prayers of a few be so prevalent and powerful, how much more effectual are the united devotions of many of us here met together in the House of God.
Now as to the particular form of such public devotions, there have been in all ages of the Church divers Liturgies or forms of Common Prayer prescribed and suited to the various exigencies of times and places; such as that of St James of Jerusalem, St Mark at Alexandria, as likewise those of St Clement, St Basil, St Chrysostom, and St Ambrose; each having their several forms of devotion composed for the use of the several Churches they presided over; from the several forms of such ancient Liturgies both of theGreek and Latin Churches, though corrupted by length of time in matters of faith as well as ceremonies, the Church of England.hath compiled her most excellent form of Prayer, extracting from them nothing but what was truly primitive, pure and uncorrupted, being exactly agreeable to the rule of holy scripture, which is the standard of our faith.
And as to the real excellencies of our English Liturgy, the form of Common Prayer made use of by the Church of England, and appointed to be read every Morning and Evening; I shall here beg leave to transcribe that public testimony and mark of approbation given of it by the general consent of our nation in King Edward VI. reign, anno 1548, when the book of Common Prayer was at first compiled, terming it; "The "form of a very godly order, agreeable to the "word of God, and the primitive Church, very •* comfortable to all good people desiring to live