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by his Lordship for the instructing of the younger and more ignorant Christians in the knowledge and understanding of those divine and heavenly truths contained in this most excellent prayer.
And, for a Conclusion of all, there are added several Sermons preached by this learned Prelate, upon the “ Providence of God," and on the “ Excellency and Usefulness of Reading and Studying the Holy Scriptures t." All which have been diligently and carefully perused by several persons of the Author's acquaintance, both of the Clergy and others, with very good acceptance and satisfaction; and the whole is now, with approbation, exposed unto public view. .
And, that the present publication of them may tend much to the promoting of the honour and glory of God, and the edification of many souls in grace and holiness, is the hearty prayer of the publisher. Farewell.
* These Sermons are placed among the Author's other Sermons. EDITOR.
MATTH. VI. 9, 10,&c. After this manner, therefore, pray ye: Our Father, which art in heaven: Hallowed be thy name : Thy kingdom come : Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven: Give us this day our daily bread: And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors : And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
FLAVING often seriously considered with myself of the great use that is made of this most excellent Form of Prayer, composed by our Blessed Lord and Saviour himself; as also of the great benefit and advantage, that might accrue unto all those, that with understanding make a due use of it in their daily devotions ; I thought it might be very necessary for your instruction, and greatly conducible unto your salvation, to lay before your consideration, as brief and succinct an Exposition thereof, as the large extent and various copiousness of the matter contained therein will permit.
The Blessed Apostle, St. Paul, in 1 Cor. xiv. 15. tells us, that he would pray with the spirit, and he would pray with un. derstanding also. And, indeed, when we pray, to pray with understanding what we pray, is one great requisite to make our prayers spiritual; and, through the prevailing intercession of Jesus Christ, to become acceptable unto God the Father. But to mutter over a round of words only, as the Papists are taught and as multitudes of many ignorant persons among us do also, without understanding what they signify, of being duly affected with those wants and necessities which we beg of God the supplies of, is not to offer up a prayer unto the Almighty, but only to make a charm.
Now, because there is no Form of Prayer, that ever we have heard or read of, that is deservedly so much in use, as this of our Lord's is, I shall endeavour, in some Discourses thereupon, to unfold to you those Voluminous Requests which we offer up unto God, when we thus pray, as our Saviour here teacheth us: wherein, as I doubt not but as I may greatly instruct the ignorance of many, so possibly I may bring very much to the remembrance of those who have attained to great understand. ing in religion, those things, which may provoke their zeal and excite their affections : and both these undertakings, through the blessing of God upon it, may be very usefully profitable to enable them to pray with understanding and with the spirit also, when they approach the Throne of Grace, to present their petitions unto the Great God, as by the intercession, so in the words of his Dear Son.
In this chapter, which contains in it a great part of our Saviour's Sermon on the Mount, our Lord lays before his hearers several directions concerning two necessary duties in a Christian's practice; and they are Almsgiving and Prayer: the former, a duty relating more immediately unto men; the latter, a duty in a more especial manner respecting God himself; in both which he not only cautions us against, but strictly forbids all ostentation and vain-glory. Therefore, says he, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee : for this is the practice of hypocrites, that they may have glory of men: verse 2. And, when thou prayest, be not as the hypocrites : for they love to pray in the Synagogues and corners of the streets ; that they may be seen of men: verse 5. Thus must we not do in either of these cases: for, as we must not give alms that we may be seen of men, so neither must wę pray that we may be heard and observed of men: for what can be more absurd and
ridiculous, as well as wicked and impious, than to be begging applause from some, when we are giving alms to others; or, whilst we are praying to the Great God of Heaven and Earth, to make frail mortal men, like ourselves, our idols? which we do, whensoever we pray, rather that we may be heard and admired by men, than that God should hear us and accept us.
In the next words our Saviour proceeds ini laying down some other directions concerning the duty of prayer : and therein he forbids his hearers to use vain repetitions in prayer : verse 7. When ye pray; use nöt vain repetitions, as the heathens do. Not that all répétitions in prayer are vain babblings, in the sight of God: for our Lord himself prayed thrice, using the same words; for so we read Mat. xxvi. 44. For; doubtless, as copiousness and variety of fluent expressions, in any, usually flow from raised affections, so, when those affections are heightened and raised to an ecstasy and agony of soul in our wrestlings with God in prayer, ingeminations are then the most proper and most elegant way of expressing them, doubling and redoubling the same petitions again and again : not allowing God, if I may so speak with holy reverence, so much time, nor our selves so much leisure, as to form in our minds, much more with our lips to offer up, any new requests; till, by a holy violence in wrestling with God, we have extorted out of his hands those mercies and blessings our hearts are set upon the suing to him fór. Vain repetitions, therefore, are such as are made use of by any, without new and lively stirrings and motions of the heart and affections at the same time. And that, which makes à prayer vain, makes a repetition in prayer to be vain alsò. Now that is a vain prayer, and we shall certainly find it so, when the requests we offer up to God therein are heartless and lifeless. For we must know, God hath com: manded us to pray; not that he might be excited and moved by hearing the voice of our cries in prayer, to give unto us those mercies and blessings, which he himself was not resolved beforehand to bestow upon us; but that we ourselves might be fitted and prepared to receive from him, what he is always
ready and willing to confer upon us. He requires prayer from . us, not that he might be affected therewith; for, as the Apostle
St. James tells us, with him there is no variableness, nor shadow · of turning : James i. 17: but that we ourselves might have our
hearts raised and affected therewith. And, therefore, the chiefest effect of prayer being to affect ourselves, if prayer itself be not vain, neither are repetitions in prayer vain, if, whilst we are spreading the same requests before God, we do it with new affections and desires. No prayer, therefore, ought to be accused of idle babbling and vain repetitions; but those, that pray, may, I fear, too often be charged with it. And here, by the way, I desire all those, who are offended at or refuse to join with the stated Forms of Prayer that the Church hath appointed to be made use of either in public or private because the same requests do many times occur therein, to keep a strict eye upon their hearts and affections; and then the scruples and objections, that they make, will presently be removed: for it is much in their own power to make them to be, either vain repetitions, or the most fervent ingeminations of their most affectionate desires unto God, and the most spiritual and forcible part of all their prayers and supplications they offer up unto him.
But, then, further : as our Saviour forbids vain repetitions in prayer, so he likewise forbids much-speaking : For they think, says our Saviour, Mat. vi. 7. that they shall be heard for their much-speaking. Now, as the former prohibition doth not exclude all repetitions in prayer, so neither doth this latter exclude (as some ignorant persons, perhaps, who are soon wearied out with the service of God, may be apt to think) long prayers : for this would be a flat contradiction to his own practice; for it is said, in St. Luke vi. 12. that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer unto God.
Some, indeed, take the word apogeuXy prayer, to signify the House of Prayer: as if our Saviour continued only in such a dedicated House or Chapel all night; according as Juvenal useth the word, in quâ te quero proseuchá. Yet, as it will be hard to prove that the Jews had any such houses for prayer, besides their Synagogues, which were not seated in desolate (whither our Saviour went then to pray) but in populous cities and frequented places : so it will be more hard to imagine, that our Saviour would continue all night in the House of Prayer, if he had not been taken up in the performance of the Duty of Prayer. .
There is, therefore, a great deal of difference between muchspeaking in prayer, and speaking much in prayer : for, certainly, a man may speak much to God in prayer, when yet he