« AnteriorContinuar »
TO THE READER.
ELIGION is so much the business of our lives, and
the worship of God so much the business of our religion, that what hath a fincere intention and probable tendency to promote and affift the acts of religious worship, I think cannot be unacceptable to any that wilh well to the interests of God's kingdom among men: for if we have fpiritual senses exercised, true devotion, that afpiring flame of pious affections to God, as far as in a judgment of charity we discern it in others (though in different shapes and dresses, which may seem uncouth to one another)cannot but appear beautiful and amiable, and as far as we feel it in our own breasts, cannot but be found very pleasant and comfortable.
Prayer is a principal branch of religionis worship which we are moved to by the very light of nature, and obliged by some of its fundamental laws. Pythagoras's golden verses begin with this precept, Whatever men make a god of they pray to; Deliver me, for thou art my God, Ifa. xliv 17. Nay, whatever they pray to, they make a god of,Deos qui rogat ille fecit. 'I'is a piece of respect and homage fo exactly consonantto the natural ideas which all men have of God, that it is certain those that live without prayer live without God in the world.
Prayer is the folemn and religious offering of devout acknowledgments and desires to God, or a fincere reprefentation of holy affections, with a design to give unto God the glory due unto his name thereby, and to obtain from him promised favours, and both thro' the Mediator. Our English word Prayer is too strait, that properly fignifies petition or requelt; whereas humble adoration of God & thanksgivings to him, are as necessary in prayer as any other part of it. The Greek word profeuche, from Euche, is a vow directed to God. The Latin word Votum is used for prayer ; Jonah's mariners with their facrifices made vows ; for prayer is to move and obliga ourselves,
JUN 25 1901 150306
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 conversing with God. And it is the scope of a discourse of his 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 bomoioos pepi teucotes, 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 bolon euchetai ton bion, prays all his life long. The fcripture defcribes prayer to be our drawing near to God, lifting up our souls to him, pouring out our hearts before him.
This is the life and foul of prayer; but this soul in the prefent state must have a body, and that must be such as becomes the foul, and is suited and adapted to it. Some words there must be, of the mind at least, in which, asin the finoke, this incenfe must ascend; not that God may understand us, for our thoughts afar of are known to hin; 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 ordinances 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 consecrated to God. But if when we pray alone, we see cause, for better fix. 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 prævisam rem non invi.. ta sequuntur. Nay, if the groanings be such as cannot be utterred, he that searcheth the heart knows them to be the mind of the Spirit, and will accept of them, and
answer the voice of our breathing, Lam. jii. 56. Yet thro' the infirmity of the flesh, and the aptness of our hearts to wander & trifle, it is often necefiary 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, i Cor. xiv. 16. And, as far as our joining with them will permit, we may intermix pious ejaculations of our own with their addrefies, provided they be pertinent, that not the least fragment of praying time may
be loft. But he that is the mouth ofothers in prayer; whether inpublic or in private, and therein useth that parrosia, that freedom of speech, that holy liberty of prayer which is allowed 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, (thoughthem principally, as putting most life and spirit into the performance, but the edification alto of thole that join with him ; and both in matter and words fhould 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 biflop of Chester, has left us an excellent performance, nuch of the same nature with this, in his discourse concerning the gift of prayer ; which, some may think, makes this of mine unneceffary : 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 eflay of mine will still find great advaritage by that, fo on the other hand, I think thofe who have that, may yet find soine farther aslistance by this,