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THE RE A DER.
It is altogether needless to premise any thing in this place, concerning the necessity, benefit, and use, of Prayer in general. All men will readily acknowledge, that as without it there can be no religion at all, so the life and exercise of all religion doth principally consist therein. Wherefore, that way and profession in religion, which gives the best directions for it, with the most effectual motives unto it, and most aboundeth in its observance, hath therein the advantage of all others. Hence also it follows, that as all errors which either pervert its nature, or countenance a neglect of a due attendance unto it, are pernicious in religion ; so differences in opinion, and disputes about any of its vital concerns, cannot but be dangerous, and of evil consequence. For on each hand, these pretend unto an immediate regulation of Christian practice in a matter of the highest importance unto the glory of God, and the salvation of the souls of men. Whereas therefore, there is nothing more requisite in our religion, than that true apprehensions of its nature and use be preserved in the minds of men, the declaration and defence of them, when they are opposed or unduly traduced, is not only justifiable but necessary also.
This is the design of the ensuing Discourse. There is in the Scripture a promise of the Holy Ghost to be given unto the church as a Spirit of grace and supplications. As such also, there are particular operations ascribed unto him. Mention is likewise frequently made of the aids and assistances which he affords unto
believers in and unto their prayers. Hence they are said to 'pray always, with all prayer and supplications in the Spirit.' Of the want of these aids and assistances to enable them to pray according to the mind of God, some do profess that they have experience, as also of their efficacy unto that end when they are received. Accordingly, these regulate themselves in this whole duty, in the expectation or improvement of them. And there are those who, being accommodated with other aids of another nature, to the same purpose, which they esteem sufficient for them, do look on the former profession and plea of an ability to pray by the aids and assistances of the Holy Spirit to be a mere empty pretence.
And in the management of these different apprehensions, those at variance seem to be almost barbarians one to another, the one being not able to understand what the other do vehemently affirm. For they are determined in their minds, not merely by notions of truth and falsehood, but by the experience which they have of the things themselves; a sense and understanding whereof they can by no means communicate unto one another. For whereas spiritual experience of truth, is above all other demonstrations unto them that do enjoy it; so it cannot be made an argument for the enlightening and conviction of others. Hence those who plead for prayer by virtue of supplies of gifts and grace from the Holy Spirit, do admire that the use or necessity of them herein should be contradicted. Nor can they understand what they intend, who seem to deny, that it is every man's duty in all his circumstances, to pray as well as he can, and to make use in his so doing of the assistance of the Spirit of God. And by prayer they mean that, which the most eminent and only proper signification of the word doth denote, namely, that which is vocal. Some, on the
other side, are so far from the understanding of these things, or a conviction of their reality, that with the highest confidence they despise and reproach the pretence of them. To 'pray in the Spirit is used as a notable expression of scorn; the thing signified being esteemed fond and contemptible.
Moreover, in such cases as this, men are apt to run into excesses in things and ways, which they judge expedient, either to countenance their own opinions, or to depress and decry those of them from whom they differ. And no instances can be given in this kind of greater extravagances, than in that under consideration. For hence it is, that some do ascribe the original of free
prayer amongst us, by the assistance of the Spirit of God, unto an invention of the Jesuits; which is no doubt, to make them the authors of the Bible. And others do avow that all forms of prayer used amongst us in public worship, are mere traductions from the Roman breviaries and missal. But these things will be afterward spoken unto. They are here mentioned only to evince the use of a sedate inquiry into the truth or the mind of God in this matter, which is the design of the ensuing Discourse.
That which should principally guide us in the management of this inquiry, is, that it be done unto spiritual advantage and edification, without strife or contention. Now this cannot be without a diligent and constant attendance unto the two sole rules of judgment herein, namely, Scripture-revelation and the experience of them that do believe. For, although the latter is to be regulated by the former; yet where it is so, it is a safe rule unto them in whom it is. And in this case, as in water, face answereth unto face; so do Scripture-revelation and spiritual experience unto one another. All other reasonings from customs, traditions, and feigned consequences, are here of no use. The
inquiries before us are concerning the nature of the work of the Holy Spirit in the aids and assistances which he gives unto believers in and unto their prayers, according unto the mind of God, as also what are the effects and fruits of that work of his, or what are the spiritual abilities which are communicated unto them thereby. Antecedently hereunto, it should be inquired, Whether indeed there be any such thing or no, or whether they are only vainly pretended unto by some that are deceived. But the determination hereof, depending absolutely on the foregoing inquiries, it may be handled jointly with them, and needs no distinct consideration. He that would not deceive nor be deceived in his inquiry after these things, must diligently attend unto the two forementioned rules of Scripture testimony and experience. Other safe guides he hath
Yet will it also be granted, that from the light of nature, whence this duty springs, wherein it is founded, from whence as unto its essence it cannot vary; as also from generally received principles of religion suited thereunto, with the uncorrupted practice of the church of God in former ages, much direction may be given unto the understanding of those testimonies, and examination of that experience.
Wherefore, the foundation of the whole ensuing Discourse is laid in the consideration and exposition of some of those texts of Scripture wherein these things are expressly revealed and proposed unto us; for to insist on them all, were endless. This we principally labour in, as that whereby not only must the controversy be finally determined, but the persons that manage it be eternally judged. What is added, concerning the experience of them that do believe the truth herein, claims no more of argument' unto them that have it not, than it hath evidence of proceeding from, and being suited unto, those divine testimonies. But