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whereas the former may be done with very little wit, and no learning at all.
And now, can any sober person think it reasonable, that the public devotions of a whole congregation should be under the conduct and at the mercy of a pert, empty, conceited hold-forth, whose chief (if not sole) intent is to vent his spiritual clack, and (as Í may so speak) to pray prizes; whereas prayer is a duty that recommends itself to the acceptance of Almighty God, by no other qualification so much as by the profoundest humility, and the lowest esteem that a man can possibly have of himself?
Certainly the extemporizing faculty is never more out of its element than in the pulpit, though even here it is much more excusable in a sermon than in a prayer, forasmuch as in that a man addresses himself but to men -men like himself, whom he may therefore make bold with, as, no doubt, for so doing, they will also make bold with him. Besides the peculiar advantage attending all such sudden conceptions, that, as they are quickly born, so they quickly die, it being seldom known, where the speaker has so very fluent an invention, but the hearer also has the gift of as fluent a memory.
2. The other thing that has been hitherto so little befriended by a set form of prayer, and so very much by the extempore way, is faction and sedition. It has been always found an excellent way of girding at the government, in Scripture phrase. And we 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 pagan, yet to be converted to Christianity; with many other sly, virulent, and malicious insinuations, which we may every day hear of from (those mints of treason and rebellion) their conventicles; and for which, and a great 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 them all, the only spirit which those impostors do really and indeed pray by.
I have been so much the longer and the earnester against this intoxicating, bewitching cheat of extempore prayer, being fully satisfied in my conscience, that it has been all along the devil's master-piece and prime engine to overthrow our church by. For I look upon this as a most unanswerable truth, that whatsoever renders the public worship of God contemptible amongst us, must, in the same degree, weaken and discredit our whole religion. And I hope I have also proved it to be
a truth altogether as clear, that this extempore way naturally brings all the contempt upon the worship of God, that both the folly and faction of men can possibly expose it to; and therefore, as a thing neither subservient to the true purposes of religion, nor grounded upon principles of reason, nor, lastly, suitable to the practice of antiquity, ought, by all means, to be exploded and cast out of every sober and well-ordered church, or that will be sure to throw the church itself out of doors.
And thus I have at length finished what I had to say of the first ingredient of a pious and reverential prayer, which was premeditation of thought, prescribed to us in these words, "Let not thy mouth be rash, nor thy heart be hasty to utter any thing before God." Which excellent words and most wise advice of Solomon, whosoever can reconcile to the expediency, decency, or usefulness of extempore prayer, I shall acknowledge him a man of greater ability and parts of mind than Solomon himself.
The other ingredient of a revential and duly qualified prayer is, a pertinent brevity of expression, mentioned and recommended in that part of the text, "Therefore let thy words be few." But this I cannot despatch now, and therefore shall not enter upon at this time.
Now to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, three Persons and one God, be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for ever more. Amen.
all imaginable awe and reverence in such his addresses to God.
3dly and lastly, That this reverence required of him is to consist in a serious preparation of his thoughts, and a sober government of his expressions; neither is his mouth to be rash, nor his heart to be hasty in uttering any thing before God.
These three things, I shewed, were evidently contained in the words, and did as evidently contain the whole sense of them. But I gathered them all into this one proposition, namely,
That premeditation of thought, and brevity of expression, are the great ingredients of that reverence that is required to a pious, acceptable, and devout prayer.
The first of these, which is premeditation of thought, I then fully treated of, and despatched; and shall now proceed to the other, which is a pertinent brevity of expression"therefore let thy words be few."
Concerning which we shall observe, first, in general, that to be able to express our minds briefly, and fully too, is absolutely the greatest perfection and commendation that speech is capable of; such a mutual communication of our thoughts being (as I may so speak) the next approach to intuition, and the nearest imitation of the converse of blessed spirits made perfect, that our condition in this world can possibly raise us to. Certainly the greatest and the wisest conceptions that ever issued from the mind of man, have been couched under, and delivered in, a few, close, home, and significant words.
But, to derive the credit of this way of speaking much higher, and from an example infinitely greater, than the greatest human wisdom, was it not authorized and ennobled by God himself in his making of the world? Was not the work of all the six days transacted in so many words? There was no circumlocution or amplification in the case, which makes the rhetorician Longinus, in his book of the Loftiness of Speech, so much admire the height and grandeur of Moses's style in his first chapter of Genesis: 'O Ty 'Iovδαίων θεσμοθέτης, οὐχ ὁ τυχὼν ἀνὴρ. “The lawó giver of the Jews," says he, (meaning Moses,) was no ordinary man,” ἐπειδὴ τὴν τοῦ Θεοῦ δύναμιν κατὰ τὴν ἀξίαν ἐγνώρισε καξέφηνεν• “ because," says he, "he set forth the divine power suitably to the majesty and greatness of it." But how did he this? Why, sveùs iv τῇ εἰσβολῇ γράψας τῶν νόμων, Εἶπεν ὁ Θεὸς, Φησὶ, τί; Γενέσθω φῶς, καὶ ἐγένετο· γενέσθω γῆ, zal iyivero, &c. "for that," says he, "in the very entrance of his laws he gives us this short and pleasant account of the whole creation, "God said, Let there be light, and there was light; Let there be an earth, a sea, and a firmament, and there was so."" So that all this high elogy and encomium, given
by this heathen of Moses, sprang only from the majestic brevity of this one expression an expression so suited to the greatness of a Creator, and so expressive of his boundless creative power, as a power infinitely above all control or possibility of finding the least obstacle or delay in achieving its mightiest and most stupendous works. Heaven and earth, and all the host of both, as it were, dropped from his mouth, and nature itself was but the product of a word—a word, not designed to express, but to constitute and give a being; and not so much the representation, as the cause, of what it signified.
This was God's way of speaking in his forming of the universe; and was it not so in the next grand instance of his power, his governing of it too? For are not the great instruments of government, his laws, drawn up and digested into a few sentences, the whole body of them containing but ten commandments, and some of those commandments not so many words? Nay, and have we not these also brought into yet a narrower compass by Him who best understood them? "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and thy neighbour as thyself;" precepts nothing like the tedious, endless, confused trash of human laws-laws so numerous, that they not only exceed men's practice, but also surpass their arithmetic; and so voluminous, that no mortal head, nor shoulders neither, must ever pretend themselves able to bear them. In God's laws the words are few, the sense vast and infinite. In human laws you shall be sure to have words enough, but, for the most part, to discern tho sense and reason of them you had need read them with a microscope.
And thus having shewn how the Almighty utters himself when he speaks, and that upon the greatest occasions, let us now descend from heaven to earth, from God to man, and shew that it is no presumption for us to conform our words, as well as our actions, to the supreme pattern, and, according to our poor measures, to imitate the wisdom that we adore. And for this, has it not been noted by the best observers and the ablest judges both of things and persons, that the wisdom of any people or nation has been most seen in the proverbs and short sayings commonly received amongst them? And what is a proverb but the experience and observation of several ages gathered and summed up into one expression? The Scripture vouches Solomon for the wisest of men; and they are his Proverbs that prove him so. The seven wise men of Greece, so famous for their wisdom all the world over, acquired all that fame each of them by a single sentence, consisting of two or three words; and yet σEAUTO" still lives and flourishes in the mouths of all, while many vast volumes are extinct and sunk into dust and utter obli
vion. And then, for books, we shall generally find that the most excellent in any art or science, have been still the smallest and most compendious; and this not without ground, for it is an argument that the author was a master of what he wrote, and had a clear notion and a full comprehension of the subject before him. For the reason of things lies in a little compass, if the mind could at any time be so happy as to light upon it. Most of the writings and discourses in the world are but illustration and rhetoric, which signifies as much as nothing to a mind eager in pursuit after the causes and philosophical truth of things. It is the work of fancy to enlarge, but of judgment to shorten and contract; and therefore, this must needs be as far above the other as judgment is a greater and a nobler faculty than fancy or imagination. All philosophy is reduced to a few principles, and those principles comprised in a few propositions. And as the whole structure of speculation rests upon three or four axioms or maxims, so that of practice also bears upon a very small number of rules. And surely there was never yet any rule or maxim that filled a volume, or took up a week's time to be got by heart; no, these are the apices rerum, the tops and sums, the very spirit and life of things extracted and abridged, just as all the lines drawn from the vastest circumference do at length meet and unite in the smallest of things, a point; and it is but a very little piece of wood with which a true artist will measure all the timber in the world. The truth is, there could be no such thing as art or science, could not the mind of man gather the general natures of things out of the numberless heap of particulars, and then bind them up into such short aphorisms or propositions, that so they may be made portable to the memory, and thereby become ready and at hand for the judgment to apply and make use of as there shall be occasion.
In fine, brevity and succinctness of speech is that which, in philosophy or speculation, we call maxim, and first principle; in the counsels and resolves of practical wisdom, and the deep mysteries of religion, oracle; and lastly, in matters of wit and the finenesses of imagination, epigram: all of them, severally and in their kinds, the greatest and the noblest things that the mind of man can shew the force and dexterity of its faculties in.
And now, if this be the highest excellency and perfection of speech in all other things, can we assign any true solid reason why it should not be so likewise in prayer? Nay, is there not rather the clearest reason imaginable why it should be much more so, since most of the forementioned things are but addresses to a human understanding, which may need as many words as may fill a volume to make it understand the truth of one line? whereas
prayer is an address to that eternal mind, which, as we have shewn before, such as rationally invocate pretend not to inform. Nevertheless, since the nature of man is such, that, while we are yet in the body, our reverence and worship of God must of necessity proceed in some analogy to the reverence that we shew to the grandees of this world, we will here see what the judgment of all wise men is concerning fewness of words, when we appear as suppliants before our earthly superiors; and we shall find, that they generally allow it to import these three things,-1. Modesty ; 2. Discretion; and 3. Height of respect to the person addressed to. And 1st, for modesty. Modesty is a kind of shame or bashfulness, proceeding from the sense a man has of his own defects compared with the perfections of him whom he comes before. And that which is modesty towards men is worship and devotion towards God. It is a virtue that makes a man unwilling to be seen, and fearful to be heard; and yet, for that very cause, never fails to make him both seen with favour, and heard with attention. It loves not many words, nor indeed needs them. For modesty, addressing to any one of a generous worth and honour, is sure to have that man's honour for its advocate, and his generosity for its intercessor. And how, then, is it possible for such a virtue to run out into words? Loquacity storms the ear, but modesty takes the heart; that is troublesome, this gentle but irresistible. Much speaking is always the effect of confidence; and confidence still presupposes, and springs from, the persuasion that a man has of his own worth: both of them certainly very unfit qualifications for a petitioner.
2dly, The second thing that naturally shews itself in paucity of words is discretion, and particularly that prime and eminent part of it that consists in a care of offending, which Solomon assures us that in much speaking it is hardly possible for us to avoid; (Prov. x. 19,) "In the multitude of words," says he, "there wanteth not sin:" it requiring no ordinary skill for a man to make his tongue run by rule, and, at the same time, to give it both its lesson and its liberty too. For seldom or never is there much spoke, but something or other had better been not spoke, there being nothing that the mind of man is so apt to kindle and take distaste at as at words; and therefore, whensoever any one comes to prefer a suit to another, no doubt the fewer of them the better, since, where so very little is said, it is sure to be either candidly accepted, or, which is next, easily excused; but, at the same time, to petition and to provoke too is certainly very preposterous.
3dly, The third thing that brevity of speech commends itself by in all petitionary addresses is, a peculiar respect to the person addressed to; for whosoever petitions his superior in
such a manner, does, by his very so doing, confess him better able to understand than he himself can be to express his own case. He owns him as a pattern of a preventing judgment and goodness, and, upon that account, able, not only to answer, but also to anticipate his requests. For, according to the most natural interpretation of things, this is to ascribe to him a sagacity so quick and piercing, that it were presumption to inform, and a benignity so great, that it were needless to importune him. And can there be a greater and more winning deference to a superior than to treat him under such a character ? or can any thing be imagined so naturally fit and efficacious both to enforce the petition and to endear the petitioner? A short petition to a great man is not only a suit to him for his favour, but also a panegyric upon his parts.
And thus I have given you the three commendatory qualifications of brevity of speech in our applications to the great ones of the world. Concerning which, as I shewed before, that it was impossible for us to form our addresses, even to God himself, but with some proportion and resemblance to those that we make to our fellow-mortals in a condition much above us; so it is certain, that whatsoever the general judgment and consent of mankind allows to be expressive and declarative of our honour to those, must (only with due allowance of the difference of the object) as really and properly declare and signify that honour and adoration that is due from us to the great God. And, consequently, what we have said for brevity of speech with respect to the former, ought equally to conclude for it with relation to him too.
But, to argue more immediately and directly to the point before us, I shall now produce five arguments enforcing brevity, and cashiering all prolixity of speech, with peculiar reference to our addresses to God.
1. And the first argument shall be taken from this consideration, that there is no reason allegeable for the use of length or prolixity of speech that is at all applicable to prayer; for whosever uses multiplicity of words, or length of discourse, must of necessity do it for one of these three purposes,-either to inform, or persuade, or, lastly, to weary and overcome the person whom he directs his discourse to. But the very first foundation of what I had to say upon this subject was laid by me in demonstrating that prayer could not possibly prevail with God any of these three ways; forasmuch as, being omniscient, he could not be informed; and, being void of passion or affections, he could not be persuaded; and, lastly, being omnipotent and infinitely great, he could not by any importunity be wearied or overcome. And if so, what use then can there be of rhetoric, harangue, or multitude of words in prayer? For, if they should be
designed for information, must it not be infinitely sottish and unreasonable to go about to inform him who can be ignorant of nothing? or to persuade him whose unchangeable nature makes it impossible for him to be moved or wrought upon? or, lastly, by long and much speaking, to think to weary him out, whose infinite power all the strength of men and angels, and the whole world put together, is not able to encounter or stand before? So that the truth is, by loquacity and prolixity of prayer, a man does really and indeed (whether he thinks so or no) rob God of the honour of those three great attributes, and neither treats him as a person omniscient, or unchangeable, or omnipotent; for, on the other side, all the usefulness of long speech, in human converse, is founded only upon the defects and imperfections of human nature. For he, whose knowledge is at best but limited, and whose intellect, both in apprehending and judging, proceeds by a small diminutive light, cannot but receive an additional light by the conceptions of another man, clearly and plainly expressed, and by such expression conveyed to his apprehension. And he, again, whose nature subjects him to want and weakness, and consequently to hopes and fears, cannot but be moved this way or that way, according as objects suitable to those passions shall be dexterously represented and set before his imagination by the arts of speaking, which is that that we call persuasion. And, lastly, he whose soul and body receive their activity from, and perform all their functions by, the mediation of the spirits, which ebb and flow, consume, and are renewed again, cannot but find himself very uneasy upon any tedious verbose application made to him, and that sometimes to such a degree, that, through mere fatigue, and even against judgment and interest both, a man shall surrender himself, as a conquered person, to the overbearing vehemence of such solicitations; for when they ply him so fast, and pour in upon him so thick, they cannot but wear and waste the spirits, as unequal to so pertinacious a charge, and this is properly to weary a man. But now all weariness, we know, presupposes weakness; and, consequently, every long, importune, wearisome petition, is truly and properly a force upon him that is pursued with it; it is a following blow after blow upon the mind and affections, and may, for the time, pass for a real though short persecution.
This is the state and condition of human nature, and prolixity or importunity of speech is still the great engine to attack it by, either in its blind or weak side; and I think I may venture to affirm, that it is seldom that any man is prevailed upon by words, but, upon a true and philosophical estimate of the whole matter, he is either deceived or wearied before he is so, and parts with the thing desired of
it falls out with men, or, when he is incapable of being informed, as it is always with God. But the proper use of words, whensoever we speak to God in prayer, is thereby to pay him im-honour and obedience, God having, by an express precept, enjoined us the use of words in prayer, commanding us, in Psalm 1. 15, and many other Scriptures," to call upon him," and, in Luke, xi. 21, “When we pray, to say, Our Father," &c. But no where has he commanded us to do this with prolixity or multiplicity of words. And though it must be confessed that we may sometimes answer this command of calling upon God, and saying, "Our Father," &c. by mental or inward prayer, yet, since these words, in their first and most proper signification, import a vocal address, there is no doubt but the direct design of the command is to enjoin this also, wheresoever there is ability aud power to perform it.
So that we see here the necessity of vocal prayer, founded upon the authority of a divine precept, whereas, for long prolix prayer, no such precept can be produced; and, consequently, the divine omniscience may be a sufficient reason against multiplicity of words in prayer, and yet conclude nothing simply or absolutely against the bare use of them. Nevertheless, that we may not seem to allege bare command, unseconded by reason, (which yet, in the divine commands, it is impossible to do,) there is this great reason for, and use of, words in prayer, without the least pretence of informing the person whom we pray to, and that is, to acknowledge and own those wants before God, that we supplicate for a relief of; it being very proper and rational to own and acknowledge a thing, even to him who knew it before, forasmuch as this is so far from offering to communicate or make known to him the thing so acknowledged, that it rather presupposes in him an antecedent knowledge of it, and comes in only as a subsequent assent and subscription to the reality and truth of such a knowledge. For to acknowledge a thing, in the first sense of the word, does by no means signify a design of notifying that thing to another, but is truly and properly a man's passing sentence upon himself and his own condition; there being no reason in the world for a man to expect that God should relieve and supply those wants that he himself will not own or take notice of, any more than for a man to hope for a pardon of those sins that he cannot find in his heart to confess. And yet, I suppose, no man in his right senses does or can imagine, that God is informed or brought to the knowledge of those sins by any such confession.
him upon the very same terms that either a child parts with a jewel for an apple, or a man parts with his sword when it is forcibly wrested or took from him. And that he who obtains what he has been rhetorically or portunately begging for, goes away really a conqueror, and triumphantly carrying off the spoils of his neighbour's understanding, or his will; baffling the former, or wearying the latter into a grant of his restless petitions.
And now, if this be the case, when any one comes with a tedious, long-winded harangue to God, may not God properly answer him with those words, (Psalm 1. 21,)"Surely thou thinkest I am altogether such an one as thyself?" And perhaps, upon a due and rational examination of all the follies and indecencies that men are apt to be guilty of in prayer, they will be all found resolvable into this one thing, as the true and sole cause of them, namely, That men, when they pray, take God to be such an one as themselves, and so treat him accordingly. The malignity and mischief of which gross mistake may reach farther than possibly at first they can well be aware of. For if it be idolatry to pray to God the Father, represented under the shape of a man, can it be at all better to pray to him as represented under the weakness of a man? Nay, if the misrepresentation of the object makes the idolatry, certainly, by how much the worse and more scandalous the misrepresentation is, by so much the grosser and more intolerable must be the idolatry. To confirm which, we may add this consideration, that Christ himself, even now in his glorified estate in heaven, wears the body, and, consequently, the shape of a man, though he is far from any of his infirmitie or imperfections; and therefore, no doubt, to represent God to ourselves under these latter, must needs be more absurd and irreligious than to represent him under the former. But to one particular of the preceding discourse some may reply and object, that, if God's omniscience, by rendering it impossible for him to be informed, be a sufficient reason against prolixity or length of prayer, it will follow, that it is equally a reason against the using any words at all in prayer, since the proper use of words is to inform the person whom we speak to; and, consequently, where information is impossible, words must needs be useless and superfluous.
To which I answer, first, by concession, that, if the sole use of words or speech were to inform the person whom we speak to, the consequence would be firm and good, and equally conclude against the use of any words at all in prayer. But, therefore, in the second place, I deny information to be the sole and adequate use of words or speech, or indeed any use of them at all, when either the person spoken to needs not to be informed, and withal is known not to need it, as sometimes
And so much for the clearing of this objection, and, in the whole, for the first argument produced by us for brevity, and against prolixity, of prayer, namely, That all the reasons