Зображення сторінки

not to move and oblige God. Clem. Alexandrinus, Strom. 7. p. 722. Edit. Colon. calls prayer (with an excuse for the boldness of the expression) Homilia pros ton Theon, 'tis converfing with God. And it is the scope of a discourse of bis there, to thew that his ho gnosticos ; i. e. his believer (for faith is called knowledge, and p.719 he makes his companions to be hoi bomocioos pepifleucotes, those that have in like manner believed) lives a life of communion with God, and so is praying always; that he studies by his prayers continually to converse with God. Some (faith he) have their ftated hours of prayer, but he para kolon euchetai ton bion, prays all his life long. The scripture defcribes prayer to be Our drawing near to God, lifting up our souls to him, pouring out our hearts before hin.

This is the life and soul of prayer; but this soul in the present state must have a body, and that must be such as becomes the foul, and is suited and adapted to it. Some qvords there must be, of the mind at leait, in which, asin the finoke, this incense must ascend; not that God may understand us, for our thoughts afar of are known to hinı ; but that we may the better understand ourselves."

A golden thread of heart prayer must run thro' the web of the whole Christian life; we must be frequently addrefing ourselves to God in short and sudden ejacula. tions, by which we must keep up our communion with God in providences and common actions, as well as orar dinances and religious services. Thus prayer must be sparsim (a sprinkling of it) in every duty, and our eyes must be ever towards the Lord..

In mental prayer thoughts are words, and they are the firstborn of the soul, which are to be confecrated to God. But if when we pray alone, we see cause, for better fixo ing of our minds and exciting of our devotion, to clothe our conceptions with words; if the conceptions be the genuine products of a new nature, we would think words Thould not be far to seek: Verbaque prævifam rem non invi.. ta fequuntur. Nay, if the groanings be fuch as cannot be utterred, he that searcheth the heart knows them to be the mind of the Spirit, and will accept of them, and

time may

answer the voice of our breathing, Lam. iii. 56. Yet thro' the infirmity of the flesh, and the aptness of our hearts to wander & trifle, it is often neceflary that words should go first, and be kept in mind for the directing and exciting of devout affections, and in order thereunto, the affistance here offered, I hope, will be of some use.

When we join with others in prayer who are our mouth to God, our minds must attend them, by an intelligent, believing concurrence with what is the sense, feope, and substance of what they say, and affections working in us suitable thereunto; and this the scripture directs us to signify, by saying Amen mentally, if not vocally, at their giving of thanks, 1 Cor. xiv. 16. And, as far as our joining with them will permit, we may intermix pious ejaculations of our own with their addresses, provided they be pertinent, that not the least fragment of praying

be loft. But he that is the mouth ofothers in prayer, whether in public or in private, and therein useth that parrofa, that freedom of speech, that holy liberty of prayer which is alsowed us, and which we are sure many good Christians have found by experience to be very comfortable and advantageous in this duty, ought not only to consult the workings of his own heart, (though them principally, as putting most life tind spirit into the performance, but the edification alto of thote that join with him ; and both in matter and words faould have an eye to that; and for service in that case, I principally design this endeavour.

That bright ornament of the church, the learned Dr Wilkins bifliop of Chester, has left us an excellent performance, much of the same nature aith this, in his discourse concerning the gift of prayer; which, some may think, makes this of mine unnecessary : but the multiplying of books of devotion is what few serious Chriftians will complain of; and as on the one hand, I am sure those that have this poor effay of mine will still find great advantage by that, fo on the other hand, I think thofe who have that, may yet find foine farther aflistance by this,

It is desirable that our prayers should be copious and full: our burlens, cares, and wants, are many, so are our fins and mercies. The promises are numerous and

very rich, our God gives liberally, and hath bid us open our mouths wide and he will fill them, will satisfy them with good things. We are not straitened in him, why then should we be stinted or straitened in our bosoms ? Christ had taught his disciples the Lord's prayer, and yet tells them, Jobn xvi 24, that hitherto they had asked nothing ; i e. nothing in compaison with what they should ask when the spirit should be poured out, to abide with the church forever; and they should fee greater things than these. Then ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full, we are encouraged to be particular in prayer,and in every thing make our request known to God, as we ought also to be particular in the adoration of the divine perfections, in the confession of our sins, and our thankful acknowledgment of God's mercies.

But since at the same time we cannot go over the tenth part of the particulars fit to be the matter of prayer, without making the duty burdensome to the flesh which is weak, even where the spirit is willing (an extreme which ought carefully to be avoided) and without danger of entrenching upon other religious exercises, it will be requisite that what is but briefly touched upon at one time, thould be enlarged upon at another time : and herein this ftorehouse of materials for prayer may be of use to put us in remembrance of our several errands at the throne of grace, that none may be quite forgotten.

And it is requisite to the decent performance of the duty, that some proper method be observed, not only that what is said be good, but that it be said in its proper place and time : and that we offer not any thing to the glorious Majesty of heaven and earth which is confused, impertinent, and indigested.. Care mast be taken then more than ever that we be not rash with our mouth, nor hafty to utter any thing before God; that we say not what comes uppermoft, nor use such repetitions as evi


dence not the fervency, but the barenness and flightness of our spirits; but that the matters we are dealing with God about being of such vast importance, we observe a decorum in our words, that they be well chosen, well weighed, and well placed.

And as it is good to be methodical in Prayer, so it is to be sententious: the Lord's prayer is remarkably so ; and David's psalms, and many of St. Paul's prayers, which we have in his epistles : we must consider that the greatest part of those that join with us in prayer will be in danger of losing or mistaking the sense, if the period be long, and the parenthesis many; and in this, as in other things, they who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak. Jacob must lead, as the children and flocks can follow,

As to the words and expreffions we use in prayer, though I have here in my enlargements upon the several heads of prayer confined myself almoft wholly to scripture language, because I would give an instance of the sufficiency of the scripture to furnish us for every good work, yet I am far from thinking but that it is convenient and often necessary to use other expreflions in prayer, besides those that are purely fcriptural; only I would advise that the sacred dialect be most used, and made familiar to us and others in our dealing about facred things; that language, Christian people are most accustomed to, most afe fected with and will most readily agree to ; and where the scriptures are opened and explained to the people in the ministry of the word, scripture language will be most intelligible, and the sense of it best apprehended This is found speech that cannot be condemned ; and those that are able to do it, may do well to enlarge by way of descant or paraphrase upon the scriptures they make use of; still speaking according to that rule, and comparing spiritual things with spiritual, that they may illustrate each other.

And it is not to be reckoned a perverting of fcripturc, but it is agreeable to the usage of many Divines, especially the Fathers, and I think is warranted by divers quotations in the New Testament out of the Old, to allude to a scripture phrase, and to make use of it by way of accommo. dation to another sense, than what was the first intendment of it, provided it agree with the analogy of faith. As for inftance these words Pf. lxxxvii. 7, All mysprings are in thee -may very fitly be applied to God, tho' there it appears by the feminine article in the original, to be meant of Zion ;Nor has it ever been thought any wrong to the scripture phrase, to pray for the blessings of the upper Springs, and the nether Springs, tho' the expression from which it is.. borrowed, Judges i. 15. hath no reference at all to what we mean : but by common use every one knows the figni. fication, and many are pleased with the fignificancy of it.

Divers heads of prayer may no doubt be added to those which I have here put together. and many fcripture exprelfions too, under each head, (for I have only set down fuch, as first occurred to my thoughts) and many other expreffions too, not in fcripture words, which may be very comprehenlive and emphatical, and apt to excite devotion. And perohaps, those who covet earnestly this excellent gift, and co. vet to excel in it, may find it of use to them to have such a book as this interleav'd, in which to insert such other heads & expressions as they think will be most agreeable to them, and wanting here. And tho’ I have here recommended a good method for prayer, and that which has been generally approved, yet I am far from thinking we should always tie ourselves to it ; that may be varied as well as the expresfion : thanksgiving may very aptly be put sometimes before confeffion or petition, or our intercessions for others before. our petitions for ourselves, as the Lord's


Some times one of these parts of prayer may be enlarged upon much more than another ; or they may be decently interwoven in some other method : Ars est celare artem.

There are those (I doubt not) who at some times have their hearts so wonderfully elevated and enlarged in prayer, above themselves ; at other times such a fixedness and fulness of thought, such a fervour of pious and devout affections, the product of which, is such fluency and variety of pertinent and moving expressions, and in such a juft and natural method, that then to have an eye to such a seheme as this, would be a biodrance to them, and would be in danger to cramp and straiten them ; if the heart be full of its good matter, it may make the tongue as the pen of a

« НазадПродовжити »