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the one hand, we have an excellent form of
prayer, composed with great judgment and piety, which the congregation may, and which it is defigned they should, make tlieir own, by joining in it; on the other, we have (generally speaking) an imperfect and unconnected form, in which they cannot join, because, on account of its being strange to their ears, they must, in a great degree, be unprepared to accompany it. Without meaning, therefore, to reflect upon the abilities of teachers out of the church, or to impute to all the improprieties of which fome have been notoriously guilty; I think it may be said, that the only choice left to the hearers upon this subject, is, whether they will have a good form or a bad one; a form of found words, with which they are previously acquainted, on the one hand; or, on the other, a form, upon the propriety of which they cannot at any time depend: experience having proved, that both the words and matter of it are ofttimes ill digested, sometimes indecent, and occasionally unsound.
Taking the fubject, then, in this light only, it appears, that, so far at least as the edification of the congregation is concerned, the change that enthusiasın has introduced into the public worship of Christians, has been much for the worse; and that the Christian, in leaving the established service of the church, has gained nothing to balance against the essential advan
tages he has lost.
But there is this further consideration attached to an established form of prayer in preference to any other, namely, the promise of favourable attention being paid to it by the Deity; a confideration which, it is probable, may never have been taken into the
“ If two of you shall agree upon earth, (says our blessed Saviour) as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my FATHER which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” Matt. xviii. 19, 20. On which ORIGEN makes this comment: 6. This is the cause we are not heard when we pray, in that we agree not in all things. For as in musick there must be harmony and agreement of voices, or else it delights not the hearers; so in the church* an assent and agreement is necessary, or else God is not pleased, neither will He hear the voice of our prayers.” It is to this agreement in prayer, that denominates our public worship of God common-prayer, that CHRIST hath promised his presence. This promise consequently seems to belong only to the public prayers of the church; which, by being previously composed for general use, become consequently the joint prayers of the congregation; a circumstance which furnishes a powerful argument in favour of that practice, which has ever taken place in the Christian church. Whereas in other assemblies of Christians, where the extemporary prayer of the minister constitutes the substance of religious worship, the condition upon which this promise of our Saviour is fufpended, cannot, properly speaking, be performed.
* The unreasonableness of private prayer in public will appear, by considering, that all prayers offered up to God in public must be publicly known, consented to, and agreed upon, by all them that join therein. Thus it ever was in the church of CHRIST—the faithful knew what they prayed for. 66 You that are faithful (says ST. CHRYSOSTOM, Hom. vi. on Tim.) know what things are to be defired in prayer, because all prayer (that is public) ought to be eommon. It is the exhortation of IGNATIUS, " that we assemble together in one place, and use one prayer common to all.” Epist. ad Magn. And the establishment of a public form for public prayer, if not an effec-ual, is at least the best, security that can be devised against falfe doctrine, because it constitutes that public, ftandard of the church, to which an appeal is at all times to be made
There are, indeed, among separatists from the church, those who, from an unhappy perversity of character, which is continually manifesting itself in a settled opposition to every thing that is established, carry their objections to settled modes of worship to that extent, as to reject even the Lord's prayer, because it is a form. To reason with such persons would, probably, answer no better purpose, than it would have done heretofore to have reasoned with the Scotch covenanter; who, upon the word of command being given in the field to wheel to the right, stood stock still; and upon being questioned, why he did not obey, gave for answer, that his conscience would not permit him, for the word of command was a form, and they had taken up arms to fight against forms.
It may be proper, however, to say one short word on this head, for the confideration of those, who, whilst they affect to pray by the spirit, reject the LORD's prayer, as laying a restraint upon that Divine impulse, by which they imagine themselves to be governed. For, in conformity with this idea, the Holy Spirit, whom our Saviour fent into the world for the purpose of bringing all things to the remembrance of his disciples which He had said unto them, is supposed to act in opposition to a command which CHRIST, when on earth, had given for their direction:
“ After this manner (says CHRIST to his disciples) pray ye; Our FATHER,” &c. Matth. vi.
go A forin of prayer, which, from its construction, appears to have been originally designed for the use of a congregation; and which the church, in conformity with our Saviour's original direction, has always thought proper to make a part of our religious worship. The conclusion in this cafe is too obvious, it is presumed, to require being drawn at length.
It may, perhaps, be objected by those from whom we differ upon the subject of extemporary prayer, that our reasoning upon it tends in a great meafure to deny the aflistance of the Holy Spirit. On this head, therefore, we observe briefly, what we are fully persuaded of, that whoever is not aslisted by the Holy Spirit in prayer, whatever be the form which he may adopt for the purpose, will never pray to effect. But whilst we admit this position in its proper sense, we at the fame time do not hesitate to differ in opinion from enthusiasts, with respect to what is meant by the spirit of prayer. With them it means a spirit of ready invention, and extemporary effusion, which is by no means the certain effect of Divine influence. With us it means, what can proceed from God alone, a spirit of devotion and pious affection; such as holy David may be supposed to