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ner the worthiest part of Christian duty towards God; who herein are subject to no certain order, but pray both what and how they list; to him, I say, which weigheth duly all these things, the reasons cannot be obscure, why God doth, in public prayer, so much respect the solemnity of places where the authority and calling of persons by whom, and the precise appointment, even with what words or fentences, his name should be called on amongst his people. The best stratagem that Satan hath, who knoweth his kingdom to be no one way more shaken than by the public devout prayers of God's church, is by traducing the form and manner of them to bring them into contempt; and so to shake the force of all men's devotion towards them. From this, and from no other forge, hath proceeded a strange conceit, that to serve God with any set form of common prayer is superstitious. As tho' God himself did not frame to his priests the very speech wherewith they were charged to bless the people: or as if our Lord, even of purpose to prevent this fancy of extemporal and voluntary prayers, had not left us, of his own framing, one which might both remain as a part of the church liturgy, and serve as a pattern whereby to frame all other prayers with efficacy, yet without superfluity of words."'*
* HOOKER's Eccl. Pol. book v.
But after all, it will perhaps be found, that this prevailing idea respe&ting spiritual prayer, in the sense in which it is too generally taken, has been grounded upon a misunderstanding of the Apostle's meaning upon this subject. “I will pray,” says the Apostle, “ with the spirit, I will pray with the understanding also.”
1 Cor. xiv. 15. To comprehend the meaning of the Apostle on this occasion, it is necessary to advert to the particular object he had in view. The Apostle then, it is observed, is here speaking of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, which were graciously vouchsafed to the infant church, for the purpose of effecting the more speedy and general propagation of the Christian cause. Among these gifts, that of praying by the spirit was confessedly one. But, alas! through the infirmity of human nature, these spiritual gifts, designed for the edification of the church, were not always employed to that purpose. Vanity and oftentation in the exercise of them fometimes took place of better motives. To correct this notorious abuse of Divine grace, and to regulate the exercise of fpiritual gifts in such a manner, that they might prove beneficial to the parties for whose fake they were originally granted, was the object the Apostle had in view in writing this part of his epistle.
That attendants upon a Divine ordinance should be benefited by the minister of it, it was absolutely necelfary that they should understand what they heard. To this end, he who had the gift of tongues, if he prayed in a tongue, unknown to his hearers, is required by the Apostle to interpret at the same time, that his congregation might be benefited as well as himself. “I would,” says the Apostle, “ that you all spake with tongues; (that you all partook of that miraculous gift whereby you might be enabled to speak languages you had never learned;) but rather that you prophesied; for greater is he that prophefieth, than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may be edified.” • Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue, pray
that he may interpret." And for the following very evident reason: “ for,” continues the Apostle, “ if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful:" not unfruitful to inyfelf, but to my congregation. As if he had said, if I pray in an unknown tongue, without at the fame time interpreting my prayer, the spirit within me prayeth, it is true; or I may be said to pray by the spirit; but my meaning being unintelligible must of course be unprofitable to my hearers. " What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, I will
pray with the understanding also.” In other words; if therefore I do make use of that gift bestowed upon me, of praying by the spirit, I will make use of it in a manner that I may be understood by my hearers; that they, not less than myself, may be edified by my prayer. That such is the sense in which praying by the spirit is here to be understood, we conclude from what the Apostle has subjoined in the following verses: “Elfe when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest; for thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all; yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
1 Cor. xvi. 19. Hence we see, that by praying by the
spirit is here meant, praying in a language unknown to the congregation; and by praying with the understanding, praying in a language with which they are acquainted. 'And to convince us of the little value the Apostle set upon this gift of praying by the spirit, compared
with the more important consideration of edifying his hearers, he tells us, that he had rather speak five words in the church to be understood, that by his voice he might teach others, than ten thousand words in an unknown language, though that language were dictated by the spirit.
But praying by the spirit, in the sense in which > enthusiasts now understand that phrase, is not one of
those extraordinary gifts with which the primitive Christians were furnished, but something very different; for it is rather an acquisition of art, attained by habit and practice, and dependent in a great measure for its success upon the particular genius and abilities of the party, rather than an inspired gift.
Considering it in this light, in which sound sense has ever considered it, we do not hesitate to prefer a settled form to any extemporary exertion of the mental faculties, for the following obvious reasons:
In the first place, certain it is, that so far as the congregation are concerned, the extemporary prayer of the minister is to them as much a form as any other. If, then, the congregation must have a form in either case, it remains only to be considered, what form is best calculated for their edification. Upon this head, it is presumed, there can be little dispute. For on