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singular and indispensable use unto all persons, the commands for it are reiterated in the Scripture, beyond those concerning any other particular duty whatever. And if it hath respect unto Jesus Christ with sundry ordinances of the gospel, to be performed in his name, it falls under a new divine institution. Hereon are commands given us to 'pray,' to prayʻcontinually without ceasing,''to pray and faint not,'to ‘pray for ourselves,' to pray for one another,'in our closets, in our families, in the assemblies of the church. But as for this work, of making or composing forms of prayers for ourselves to be used as prayers, there is no command, no institution, no mention in the Scriptures of the Old Testament or the New. It is a work of human extract and original, nor can any thing be expected from it, but what proceeds from that fountain. A blessing possibly there may be upon it, but not such as issueth from the especial assistance of the Spirit of God in it, nor from any divine appointment or institution whatever. But the reader must observe, that I do not urge these things to prove forms of prayer unlawful to be used, but only at present declare their nature and original, with respect unto that work of the Holy Spirit, which we have described.
4. This being the original of forms of prayer, the benefit and advantage which is in their use, which alone is pleadable in their behalf, comes next under consideration. And this may be done with respect unto two sorts of persons : (1.) Such as have the gift or ability of free prayer bestowed on them, or however have attained it. (2.) Such as are mean and low in this ability, and therefore incompetent to perform this duty without that aid and assistance of them. And unto both sorts they are pleaded to be of use and advantage.
(1.) It is pleaded that there is so much good and so much advantage in the use of them, that it is expedient that those who can pray otherwise unto their.own and others' edification, yet ought sometimes to use them. What this benefit is, hath not been distinctly declared, nor do I know, nor can divine wherein it should consist. Sacred things are not to be used merely to shew our liberty. And there seems to be herein a neglect of stirring up the gift, if not also of the grace of God, in those who have received them. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every one to profit withal.' And to forego its exercise on any just occasion, seems not warrantable, We are bound at all times in the worship of God to serve him with the best that we have. And, if we have a male in the flock, and do sacrifice that, which in comparison thereof, is a corrupt thing, we are deceivers. Free prayer unto them who have an ability for it, is more suited to the nature of the duty in the light of nature itself, to Scripture commands and examples, than the use of any prescribed forms. To omit, therefore, the exercise of a spiritual ability therein, and voluntarily to divert unto the other relief; which yet, in that case, at least, is no relief; doth not readily present its advantage unto a sober consideration. And the reader may observe, that at present I examine not what men or churches may agree upon by common consent, as judging and avowing it best for their own edification, which is à matter of another consideration ; but only of the duty of believers as such in their respective stations and conditions. :- (2.) It is generally supposed that the use of such forms are of singular advantage unto them that are low and mean in their ability to pray of themselves. I propose it thus, because I cannot grant that any who sincerely believeth that there is a God, is sensible of his own wants, and his abso lute dependance upon him, is utterly unable to make requests unto him for relief, without any help, but what is suggested unto him by the working of the natural faculties of his own soul. What men will wilfully neglect is one thing, and what they cannot do, if they seriously apply themselves únto their duty, is another. Neither do I believe that any man who is so far instructed in the knowledge of Christ by the gospel, as that he can make use of a composed prayer with understanding, but also that in some measure he is able to call upon God in the name of Christ, with respect unto what he feels in himself and is concerned in; and farther, no man's prayers are to be extended. I speak, therefore, of those who have the least measure and lowest degree of this ability, seeing none are absolutely uninterested therein. Unto this sort of persons I know not of what use these forms are, unless it be to keep them low and mean all the days of their lives. For whereas both in the state of nature and the state of grace, in one whereof every man is supposed to be, there are certain heavenly sparks suited unto each condition; the main duty of all men; is to stir them up and increase them. Even in the remainders of lapsed nature, there are cælestes igniculi, in notices of good and evil, accusations and apologies of conscience. These none will deny, but that they ought to be stirred up; and increased; which can be no otherwise done but in their sedulous exercise. Nor is there any such effectual way of their exercise, as in the soul's application of itself unto God with respect unto them, which is done in prayer only. But as for those whom in this matter we principally regard, that is, professed believers in Jesus Christ, there is none of them but have such principles of spiritual life, and therein of all obedience unto God and communion with him, as being improved and exercised under those continual supplies of the Spirit which they receive from Christ their head, will enable them to discharge every duty, that in every condition or relation is required of them in an acceptable manner. Among these is that of an ability for prayer; and to deny them to have it, supposing them true believers, is, expressly to contradict the apostle, affirming, that because we are sons, God sends forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, whereby we cry Abba, Father.! But this ability, as I have shewed, is no way to be improved but in and by a constant exercise. Now, whether the use of the forms inquired into, which certainly taketh men off from the exercise of what ability they have, do not tend directly to keep them still low and mean in their abilities, is not hard to determine.
But suppose these spoken of, are not yet real believers, but only such as profess the gospel, not yet sincerely converted unto God, whose duty also it is to pray on all occasions: these have no such principle or ability to improve, and therefore this advantage is not by them to be neglected. I answer, that the matter of all spiritual gifts is spiritual light; according, therefore, to their measure in the light of the knowledge of the gospel, such is their measure in spiritual gifts also. If they have no spiritual light, no insight into the knowledge of the gospel, prayers framed and composed according unto it will be of little use unto them. If they have any such light, it ought to be improved by exercise in this duty, which is of such indispensable necessity unto their souls.
5. But yet the advantage which all sorts of persons may have hereby, in having the matter of prayer prepared for them and suggested unto them, is also insisted on. This they may be much to seek in, who yet have sincere desires to pray, and whose affections will comply with what is proposed unto them. And this indeed would carry a great appearance of reason with it, but that there are other wảys appointed of God unto this end; and which are sufficient thereunto, under the guidance, conduct, and assistance, of the blessed Spirit, whose work must be admitted in all parts of this duty, unless we intend to frame prayers that shall be an abomination to the Lord. Such are men's diligent and sedulous consideration of themselves, their spiritual state and condition, their wants and desires; a diligent consideration of the Scripture, or the doctrine of it in the ministry of the word, whereby they will be both instructed in the whole matter of prayer, and convinced of their own concernment therein, with all other helps of coming to the knowledge of God and themselves; all which they are to attend unto, who intend to pray in a due manner. To furnish men with prayers to be said by them, and so to satisfy their consciences whilst they live, in the neglect of these things, is to deceive them, and not to help or instruct them. And if they do conscientiously attend unto these things, they will have no need of those other pretended helps. For men to live and converse with the world, not once inquiring into their own ways, or reflecting on their own hearts (unless under some charge of conscience accompanied with fear or danger), never endeavouring to examine, try, or compare their state and condition with the Scripture, nor scarce considering either their own wants or God's promises, to have a book lie ready for them wherein they may read a prayer, and so suppose they have discharged their duty in that matter, is a course which surely they ought not to be countenanced or encouraged in. Nor is the perpetual rotation of the same words and expressions, suited to instruct or carry on men in the knowledge of any thing, but rather to divert the mind from the due consideration of the things intended, and therefore commonly issues in formality. And where men have words or expressions prepared for them, and suggested unto them, that really signify the things wherein they are concerned, yet if the light,
and knowledge of those principles of truth, whence they are derived, and whereinto they are resolved, be- not in some measure fixed and abiding in their minds, they cannot be much benefited or edified by their repetition.
6. Experience is pleaded in the same case; and this with me, where persons are evidently conscientious, is of more moment than a hundred notional arguments that cannot be brought to that trial. Some, therefore,
Some, therefore, say that they have had spiritual advantage, the exercise of grace, and holy intercourse with God in the use of such forms, and have their affections warmed, and their hearts much bettered thereby. And this they take to be a clear evidence and token that they are not disapproved of God; yea, that they are a great advantage, at least unto many, in prayer. Ans. Whether they are approved or disapproved of God, whether they are lawful or unlawful, we do not consider; but only whether they are for spiritual benefit and advantage, for the good of our own souls and the edification of others, as set up in competition with the exercise of the gift before described. And herein I am very unwilling to oppose the experience of any one who seems to be under the conduct of the least beam of gospel light. Only I shall desire to propose some few things to their consideration. As,
1. Whether they understand aright the difference that is between natural devotion occasionally excited, and the due actings of evangelical faith and love, with other graces of the Spirit, in a way directed unto by divine appointment? All men who acknowledge a Deity or Divine Power which they adore, when they address themselves seriously to perform any religious worship thereunto in their own way, be it what it will, will have their affections moved and excited suitably unto the apprehensions they have of what they worship; yea, though in particular it have no existence but in their own imaginations. For these things ensue on the general notion of a Divine Power, and not on the application of them to such idols, as indeed are nothing in the world. There will be in such persons, dread, and reverence, and fear; as there was in some of the Heathen unto an unspeakable horror, when they entered into the temples, and merely imaginary presence of their gods, the whole work being begun and finished in their fancies. And sometimes great joys, satisfactions,