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taining some of the nobler prizes in heaven, and of wearing some of the brighter crowns. Let'each of us then say to ourselves, “ Open thine eyes, O my soul, and take a just and wise survey what are thy talents, what are thy advantages : has thy improvement in divine knowledge, thy advances in grace, thy superior practices of virtue and piety been proportionable to the blessings and privileges that God has conferred upon thee? Awake at this voice of warning! Awake, and bethink thyself, and mourn for thy former sloth, for thy shameful negligence, for thy dulness in the christian race, and all thine abuse of the favours of heaven : awaken all thy active powers, and press for ward with new zea! and activity : strive to answer all the demands of thy high and lioly and heavenly calling, and of the peculiar advantages which thou hast enjoyed, that when Jesus thy judge, sball at last repeat tuis solemn question, What hast thou done more than others ? thy tongue and thy conscience may give a happy account of thy past behaviour: then shalt thou receive this blessed sentence from the lips of thy Lord, “ Well done good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful to the many oblie gations under which I laid thee, thou hast improved the numerous talents and advantages with which I entrusted thee in the days of thy flesh; here, take thou from my hands one of these fairer crowns, and ascend thou into some of the higher regions of immortality and blessedness. Amen."
The duty of prayer is so great and necessary a part of religion, that every degree of assistance toward the discharge of it will be always acceptable to pious minds. The inward and spiritual performance of this worship is taught us in many excellent discourses, but a regular scheme of prayer as a christian exercise or a piece of boly skill, has been much neglected. The form, method, and expression, together with other attendants of it, such as voice and gesture, have been so little treated of, that few christians have
any clear or distinct knowledge of them: and yet all these bave too powerful an influence upon the soul in its most spiritual exercises; and they properly fall under various directions of nature and scripture. Now while institntions of logic and rhetoric abound, that teaches us to reason aright, and to speak well among men, why should the rules of speaking to God be so much untaught ?
It is a glory to our profession that there is a great pumber of ministers in our day and nation, who are happy in the gift of prayer, and exercise it continually in an honourable and useful manner. Yet they have been contented to direct others to this attainment merely by the influence of a good example. Thus we are taught to pray, as some profess to teach French and Latin, i. e. by rote. Whereas those that learn by rule, as well as by imitation, acquire a greater readiness of just and proper expression in speaking those languages upon every
occasion. I am persuaded that one reason of this neglect has been the angry zeal for parties among us, which has discouraged men of sober and moderate principles from attempting much on this subject, while the zealots have been betrayed into two extremes. Some contend earnestly for precomposed set forms of prayer, and will worship God no other way. These have little need of any other instructions but to be taught to read well, since the words, matter, and method of their prayers are already appointed. Other violent meu, in extreme opposition to them, bave indulged the irregular wanderings of thought and expression, lest by a confinement to rules they should seem to restrain the Spirit, and return to carnal ordinances.
But if the leaders of one party had spent as much in learning to pray, as they have done in reading liturgies, and vindicating their imposition ; and if the warm writers of the other side, together with their just cautions against quenching the spirit, had more cultivated this divine skill themselves, and taught christians regularly, how to pray ; I believe the practice of free prayer had been more universally approved, and the fire of this controversy bad never raged to the destruction of so much charity.
My design in this treatise has been to write a prayer-book without forms. And I have sought to maintain the middle way between the distant mistakes of contending christians.
In describing the nature of the duty of prayer, though I have not enlarged much on each particular, por multiplied subdivisions ; yet I have ondeavoured with the utmost care and exactness to divide the duty into all its
necessary parts, that the memory of younger christians might be always furnished with some proper matter and method for their addresses to God.
The gift, grace, and spirit of prayer, have of late years been made the subject of plentiful ridicule ; and while some bave utterly abandoned all pretences to them, and turned the very terms to jest and reproach , it must be confessed that others have given too just occasion for such scandal, by explaining all these words in so exalted a sense, as befits nothing but divine inspiration. I have endeavoured therefore to reduce these terms to their more proper and rational meaning, and explain them in such a way as the wisest and best men of all persuasions, who have not heen warmed with party-zeal, have generally allowed. And I have had this design in my view, that plainer christians among the dissenters, might understand wbat they themselves mean when they speak of praying by a gift, and praying by the spirit ; that they might not expose themselves to the censure of talking without a meaning, not be charged with entbusiasm by their conforming neighbours.
In discoursing of the gift or ability to pray, I have been large and particular, both in directions to attain it, and describing the mistakes, and inde: cencies that persons may be in danger of committing in this duty; being well assured that we learn to avoid what is culpable, by a plain representation of faults and follies, much better than a bare proposal of the best rules and directions.
But here I am prest between a double difficulty, and already feel the pain of displeasing some of my readers. If I should describe these impro. prieties of speech and action in a moderate degree, scoffers would reproach a whole party of christians, and say that I had copied all from the life ; while my friends would be ready to suspect that I had published some of the errors of weaker brethren. On the other hand, if I should represent these faults in their utmost degree of offensiveness, the adversary indeed could scarce have malice enough to believe any preacher in our day was guilty of them : but my friends would tell me, I had played at impertinencies, by exposing such faults as no body practises.
Now when two evils lie before me, I would chase the least. It is better to be impertinent than a publisher of folly; and therefore I have set forth those indecencies in their very worst appearance, that they might never be practised. Upon this account, I have been forced to borrow instances of improper expressions from antiquated writers; and several of the descriptions of irregular voices and gesture from some obscure persons of the last age, whose talent of assurance was almost the only qualification that made them speakers in public: and this I was constrained to do, because my observations of the prayers I have heard could never have supplied my design.
Besides, had I described some tolerable follies, perhaps weak mon might have been really to vindicate them, because they did not see deformity enough to be blamed. But now the instances I have given appear so disagreeable and ridiculous, that all men must be convinced they ought to be avoided : and younger christians when they learn to pray, will keep at the greatest distauce from all such examples.
But it is a hard matter to attempt reformation in any kind without giving offence. I have also added one short chapter of the grace the work might not appear too imperfect, though that has been abundantly and happily pursued in many treatises, and is the subject of daily sermons.