« السابقةمتابعة »
a prayer, as well as " that leviathan,” (Ib. 26,) who cannot be expected “ to make many supplications,” (Job xli. 3,) -and all in the primitive way of the spirit.
8, So far then as the mode relates to spiritual prayer alone, it may be said, that man is not singular in nature, from the number of creatures praying spiritually every where as well as he: but with regard to spiritual prayer related, or in certain respects, man is singular, and especially in respect of the sentiment, whether true or false, which generally accompanies his spirit or inclination. For in this respect he appears to be the only animal upon earth that either prays or sings with intelligence, so as to verify in himself that expression of St. Paul, “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also : I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” (Cor. I. xiv. 15.)
9, But the most unequivocal and distinguishing privilege of our race and calling as men and Christians in this high respect, is that of pouring out our wishes before the throne of grace not only in a systematic or intelligent form, but also in concert by help of a systematic expression, the word co-operating every way with the spirit in our favour. It is an heavenly privilege, is this: would to God, it were more justly appreciated than it generally is ! we should not find people then either so backward in coming to prayer, or so forward in blaming the apathy of the priest, as they generally are. And what may the priest be in public prayer? Why, with the most impassioned and sincere delivery he would be to his congregation no more than a general mouth, as Aaron was to Moses ; (Exod. iv. 16 ;) whether it were to deliver the word of God to his people, or their wishes and sentiments to God by the word. Yet should not the wishes of the priest as well be wanting to the word that escapes from his lips; these wishes however secret being of as much consequence at least as an affected earnestness of manner, or carelessness either.
10, The objects of public or common prayer being so multifarious as before signified, it would be difficult to enumerate even the most general of them by memory, without omitting some that any one might be loath to dispense with ; as for example, peace and grace-the duration of a paternal government among us, with the present knowledge of God, and his future enjoyment. One should be loath to omit objects like these and many others that are connected with them. And therefore a precomposed form of prayer may seem highly convenient if only in this respect, namely, to prevent any omissions of the kind here before deprecated.
11, But a precomposed form of prayer has also another considerable advantage for public use; which is, that the congregation or body of petitioners, even if they cannot read, yet from memory or habit, may generally know hereby at the commencement of every prayer and paragraph what is to follow, and be accordingly prepared to bestow their assent or amen if they approve it, (mentally I mean, and not making a noise or confusion in church,) at every turn as well as at the general conclusion*. This is an advantage that congregations cannot expect from the extempore method, being then carried along with the speaker-they know not how, nor where, according to his principles, if he do not forget them; as he very well might from the incumbency of other cares which an extempore preacher is liable to suffer as well as others, the worse for them and their congregations!
* In setting forth the advantages of a precomposed form of prayer, I do not mean to decry the extempore mode altogether: which may indeed be required on sudden and extraordinary occasions, like some public chastise. ments that were sent by God on his offending people ; when their inter. cessors, as Moses, and David, and Elias, if not some others, had no more time for preparation than the spirit allowed them in utterance : and in such cases what minister would not like to be blessed with such a gift, or to such a purpose ? One who has public authority to pray publicly needs not be afraid of overstepping his duty on such an occasion ; nor, as it may happen, one who has not either, when sufficiently assured of its propriety; which it is not an easy matter to be. But in general the most pressing occasion seems to be the best outward authority, and the spirit that prompts its application, the best inward for the purpose ; as for the sick bed, the hospital, the prison, the rising flood or sinking float—with other situations that may be imagined beyond the reach of a chaplain with his prayer-book. And it were especially curious, if one who was thought competent to in. struct a whole parish in the general objects of prayer might not be capable of an occasional experiment in situations like those which have now been adverted to.
12, If prayers are to be heard in public, it seems but right, that they should also, as far as possible, be publicly understood. It may be, that with us when prayers are read in English a part of the audience shall take no more heed to them, than as if they were read in Latin : but some may take heed, and grace too, of prayers in English as a language they understand; while those who can take nothing of what they understand, or might understand if they would, will lose no more by it than by what they do not understand, nor could if they would. No one can deny, that the English Liturgy owes much of its excellence to“ other tongues," or at least to tongues that are not generally understood of the people : but it does not follow because these good things were produced in a foreign language, that they must therefore be always enjoyed in the same. We enjoy many excellent productions of the earth that did not originate, but have been naturalized, among us; and do not think it necessary to go from home to enjoy them, nor yet to enjoy others which cannot be naturalized but are conveyed to us at a moderate expense. The translation of any matter from a foreign language into the vernacular idiom is like an importation of mercantile produce in ships by persons who make it their business : let us be thankful that we have scholars and seamen, to bring such things home to us. And as for wishing to see our national liturgy, or any part of it, in Latin again; instead of that, we would rather see it in more current English.
13, It may be thought by some, that Endeavours are the best prayers. And no doubt they are a very indis
pensable accompaniment: but endeavours, however strenuous, will not be found sufficient without the other means before mentioned, and such as are necessary to them. For,
14, Some helps are but secondary, and yet very important for the sake of those which they prepare or lead to: as creeds and records for faith, preaching for intelligence, psalmody for joyful devotion or deep contrition. Even outward providences, such as sorrow, need, sickness and other forms of adversity, may be required as helps to humility, and other helps for other primary accompaniments to prayer, which may be conceived by the sample now given. Lastly,
15, Our prayers to the Almighty, if expressed only in thought, should be earnest as well as sincere in mode or effect. For sincere prayer is not exactly the same with earnest. We have an example of earnest prayer in the agonizing crisis of our Saviour's ministry; when self-lore yielded to the love of God, or rather became absorbed therein, as the existence of a river springing from the earth might be lost or absorbed in its confluence with the ocean. We have examples of such earnestness in many a trying occasion for mercy from man to man. As earnest as either should our own prayers be to the throne of grace; or, if not always as earnest according to circumstances-at least always as sincere. And while we ad. dress the Father of mercies with sincerity, regretting at the same time, that we cannot feel all, nor any thing like, the importance of such a part, we may hope, that he will mercifully pardon this as well as our many other imperfections, for the sake of one who prayed as he did every thing else, without any, so that it might well be said of him, as it was, "He hath done all things well;" (Mark vii. 37 ;) his dutiful addresses to the Father exceeding other men's in mode and preparation, as far as the form that he has taught them exceeds all theirs IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH.
ON THE LORD'S PRAYER.-2. THE
“Our Father, which art in heaven ; hallowed be thy name."
MATT. vi. 9.
By an account of THE NATURE AND USE OF THE LORD'S PRAYER, which I have undertaken to propose, may well be denoted something more than a bare description of that “most perf
most perfect form of words,” which the Lord was pleased to teach his disciples, that they might know how to pray when they had the grace to think of it, saying, “ After this manner therefore pray ye,” and repeating the form which begins with my text. But it does not appear whether our Lord exhibited at the time any model for the action as well as for the voice and spirit of prayer: it is not said, whether he fell on his knees, or continued in his former posture of standing or sitting; whether be lifted his
eyes toward heaven, or turned them on his disciples, or any other particular that might be thought of. We read how he kneeled down, as if he could sink into the earth, and prayed; (Luke xxii, 41 ;) also how he lifted up his eyes to heaven and prayed: (John xvii. 1:) on other occasions; but not how he did upon this. His action no doubt was suited to the word, as he did all things well: (Mark vii. 37 :) but neither the action nor the particular words of the prayer which he then delivered are so much to our purpose as its nature and use; these being, as I before signified, what I propose chiefly to consider as well in reference to the Lord's Prayer generally, as to the Invocation, with which it begins and which forms the chief subject of my present discourse.
It will be observed that of these two parts; 1, the Nature; and 2, the Use of the Lord's Prayer, one is more