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Of Prayer in general. Being the first introductory Discourse
to the Exposition of the LORD's PRAYER.
MATTH. VI. v, vi, vii, viii. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the
Hypocrites are for they love to pray standing in the Synagogues, and in the Corners of the Streets, that they may be seen of Men. Verily, I say unto you, they have their" Re
ward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy
Closet, and when thou hast shut thy Door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret, Mall reward
thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain Repetitions,
as the Heathen do : for they think they shall
be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your
Father knoweth what Things ye have need
Caution and a Rule for the right Practice of Almsgiving, proceeds in the Text to inftruet them in another Duty of a like popular Nature. And likewise in the Words I have read to you, the Duty spoken of is plainly fuppofed under that which is exprefly and directly commanded. The Duty here supposed is that of Prayer, or Invocation of God; that which is expressed is, to pray without the Affectation of the Praise of Men, and without vain Repetitions.
The Supposition concerning Prayer is two fold, more general, and more particular.
The general Supposition is, That our Saviour's Disciples were already convinç'd and persuaded that Prayer is a necessary Duty, in like manner as his Doctrine about Almsgiving in the foregoing Verses supposes and implies that they undoubtedly held the Distribution of Alms to be a required Duty of Religion.
The particular Supposition is, That they were persuaded of the Necessity of private Prayer, as well as publick, of praying fingly by themselves, as well as jointly with others.
Something I shall say concerning both these. And,
1. Of the general Supposition. It was not necessary that our Saviour should instruct his Disciples that Prayer was one Part of Religion, for this they very well knew before, and withal his supposing of it implies that the
Obligations thereto are very clear and strong, very easy to be understood, very hard to be avoided or forgotten; they that heard oui Saviour, were instructed by their Morning and Evening Sacrifice, that Prayer was to be offered to God at least twice a Day; they knew the Examples of those holy Men recorded in the Scriptures, that pray'd with more Frequency than that, three times, and seven times a Day; nay, if they had not been bred up in the Practice of that Part of Religion; if they had not known such Examples of Dea votion, they could not have been well ignorant of their Duty in this Kind, since the Light of Nature had been sufficient to discover it. Is nor God our great Creator, and daily Benefactor? Do we not receive all the Good we enjoy from him? Do we not live upon his Provision? Are we not preserv'd by his Providence? And what Law is more engraven in the Heart of Man than that of Gratitude? But the very least Expression of Gratitude we can make, is to acknowledge that we have received a Benefit, and thankfully to confess the Bounty and Goodness of the Giver, and to yield him the Praise of it. Our Dependance upon God makes it as necefsary to seek that from him which we want, as to give him the Praise of what we have. Our Guilt and Liableness to his Justice does of it self prompt us to seek his Favour by humble Contrition for Sin, and earnest
Desire pf his Pardon. Our Infirmities and Temptations fhew us how absolutely needful it is that we be assisted with his Grace, and by his Providence to recover our selves by True Repentance, and to persevere in doing the Thing that he requires, and therefore that we are to implore his Help by humble and diligent Prayer. Finally, the common Ties of Humanity and the Religion of Charity oblige' us to pray, and to give Thanks for one another; so that natural Light discovers this Duty, which thus appears thro' all these Ways of Invocation, or calling upon God. The several Kinds or Instances of Prayer do carry their own Reason with them, and it is very hard for Men not to understand and feel their Obligations thereunto when they are so obvious and pressing. To
we may add the great Weight of those Advantages, which are either to be obtained or secured by religious calling upon God, and the great Honour that accrues to Mankind from our Relation to God, from that Service we perform to him, from that Capacity in which we are of receiving Favours and Benefits from him upon our Prayer, and the returning him the Praise of all. Now we are to consider that these Obligations and Encouragements are so far from lefsening upon Christians, thật they come upon us with greater Force, by the Addition of more ReaJons leading to this Practice; for we have
greater Benefits to acknowledge, than the World had before the Redemption of Mankind by the coming of the Son of God, and the Sacrifice of his Death; we have a fure Belief of the Resurrection, and of a blessed Immortality to quicken our Devotions; we have express and particular Promises that we fhall obtain what we ask; and lastly, we have a merciful High Priest, that intercedes with God for us, that recommends our Pray: ers to him, even that one Mediator between God and Men, the Man Christ Jesus, in whose Name we may come tobuly unto the Throne of Grace, to obtain Mercy and find Grace to help in Time of Need. All which Things considered, we are guilty of foul and inexcusable Impiety if we neglect to make daily Prayers and Thanksgivings to God our Maker and Saviour. No Day returns, when thou risest from thy Bed, but it was the good Providence of God that made thee find thy self alive in the Morning. The Night comes not, when thou committest thy felf to Rcft, but it was he that sustained and protected thee till the Evening, when perhaps thou haft not had the Grace to acknowledge it with the least Thankfulness. There is not a Danger thou hast ever escaped, there is not a Blessing thou hast ever enjoyed, but he delivered thee from the one, and he confer. red upon thee the other, when thou hasti förgotten this Days without Number. If