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2dly, To pray by Forms hath the Advantage of the other Kind of praying, in Fomilies also; this might be shewn upon
diverse Accounts, but one Consideration shall suffice, that hath been mentioned already in behalf of publick Forms of Prayer, and that is this, that the whole Family being well acquainted with the Prayers that are wont to be used, are always well prepared to go along with them, and their Devotion need not be diverted by expecting new Petitions, which they have not yet heard, nor made any Judgment of; thus also the Prayer will be best secured from indecent Expression, from Incoherence, from Hesitation, and from Weakness unbecoming a Man when he speaks to the Majesty of God. If it be said that extemporary praying best provides for the several Emergencies in a Family, that are just Occasions for Prayer or giving of Thanks; I answer, that Variety of Forms, and no great. Variety neither, may serve this Need well enough; and it is no difficult Matter to provide for such Occasions by Premeditation; and when they are so sudden that there is no Time for that, then an extemporary Prayer is very good, and comes in its right place,
3dly, (And with that I shall have done) I will not doubt to say that the Advantage is on the side of using Forms, even in our Closets, and that for this reason, because
the Mind may more closely attend, and more devoutly affect it self, when it hath nothing else to do, than when it hath thap to do, and to invent besides. As to the Suddenness of Mens Circumstances, which may require new Confessions, Petitions and Thanksgivings, which a Form or two cannot provide for, the Answer given under the foregoing Head will serve the Turn, to wit, that more Forms, or at least a due Premeditation, may suffice in this Case; and here also sudden Emergencies will require and bear sudden Prayers.
That which I have said upon these two last Points seems to be plain and strong for the Purpose intended. And there was this Reason for taking this just Occasion to say thus much concerning the Advantage of Forms in Family and Closet Prayer; That several mistaken People being persuaded that to pray by a Form is useless and unprofitable, and that God is pleased with none but extemporary Prayers, and finding all the while that they have not Understanding, and Invention, and Utterance enough to pray without a Form, are under Temptation not to pray in their Families or Closets at all. Of so bad a Consequence is the Mistake of advancing the Raptures of extemporary Prayers, and disgracing the Use of Forms; a Mistake so remove from the Truth, that on the other hand the Use
of Forms is to be preferred before extemporary Effusions, even where a Man hath the Ability of the latter.
And therefore I may well desire all honest and good Christians to like even their private Prayers never the worse, but rather the better, for their praying by a Book, or using of those Forms that are composed by others, which they find suitable to their own Needs and Circumstances.
In a word, It is not the Labour of the Invention that God requires in order to the Acceptance of our Prayers, but an honest Heart, and a sincere Affection towards him, and a full Purpose to behave our felves in our Lives answerably to what we desire of him in our Prayers, and to our Pretences to praise him; for these are the Things that are valuable in God's Account, and which will make our Prayers effectual, so that God will hear us, and answer our Requests, and do exceeding abundantly above all that We ask or think.
And so much by way of Preface to the most excellent Form of Prayer that ever was composed.
SER MON III. The First Sermon on the LORD's
MATTH. VI. ix.
shewn the Advantages of praying by Forms, and vindicated it from such Objections as seemed upon any Account worth answering, I proceed now to the Explication and Illustration of that most excellent Form of Prayer which our Lord hath taught us.
And first of that folemn Invocation of God under the Title of Our Father which art in Heaven.
In which you may be certain I shall not pretend 10 explain an obscure, but to dilate upon a plentiful Argument. That Excellency which belongs to the whole Prayer may be truly affirmed of this Entrance into it, that it is short and comprehensive, that it hath but few Words, and these containing abundance of good Matter; and yet the
Fewness of the Words, with the Fulness of the Sense, maketh it not difficult to be un. derstood; the Brevity causeth no Obfcurity, the Meaning is very obvious, tho' the Matter be large, and the Words very plainly express the Meaning, tho' they be few; so that in the midst of that Plenty of Sense which is contained in them, our Minds, if duly attentive, cannot fail of being affected with some useful Thoughts or other which are proper and conducible to the Ends of Prayer.
It hath been always the Way of good Men in their solemn Prayers to begin with direct Invocation of God by some of his infinite Perfections, in which they seemed to regard these two Things.
1. To possess their own Minds with a reverent Sense of his great Majesty, and to excite in themselves such Dispositions towards him as might answer their Acknowledgment of his Divine Attributes, and qualify them for his Grace,
2. To encourage themselves to ask those Benefits in particular which they prayed for. If they confessed their Sins, and implored Forgiveness, they began with the Invocation of God, as the God of Mercy. If they prayed to be delivered from their Enemies, that were too strong for thern, they confessed his Almighty Power, and the like. This seemed to be the Rule of their Choice, when they chose any of the Di