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without Measure, and serve and praise him without Weariness, and obey him without Reluctancy, and still be more and more delighted in knowing, and loving, and praising, and obeying him to all Eternity. Blessed is the Man whom thou chufest, o Lord, and receivest unto thee : He Mall dwell in tby Courts, and fall be satisfied with the Pleasures of thy House, even of thy holy Temple.
I. OF PRAYER.
RAYER is a solemn Act of worshipping the
eternal Power and Godhead; whereby we acknowledge that he is the Creator and Governor of the World; that we absolutely, in every Respect, depend on him ; that every good and perfe&t Gift cometh from him; and that, in all our Exigencies, he is ready to hear, and able to relieve us. So that the Reason of our making our Requests known unto God, is founded upon the Belief of his infinite Goodness, which disposes him to grant the Petitions of his Servants; of his unlimited Power, which inables him to fulfil all their Defires; and of his Truth and Veracity, which make it impossible for him not to keep the Promises which he hath made, of giving to those that ask. This is the Duty: And,
The Grounds and Reasonableness hereof; together, II. With the Conditions requisite to make it an acceptable Service to God, will be the Scope of this Discourse.
I. It has been the Opinion of the best and wisest Men of all Ages, that the chief Design of making 3
Man was, that there might be a Being able to apprehend and set forth the Glory of God in these lower Regions ; for the Creation seemed to be imperfect, and the Glory, which redounds to God from his Works, obfcure, while there was no Creature able to take Notice of them. Man therefore, the last, best Work of God, was formed to fupply this Want; and, as all other Creatures were made for his Use and Entertainment, he himself was fet apart for the Service and Worship of God. To this End he was endued with the angelic Faculty of Understanding, and the no less useful and noble Instrument of Speech, by which he was capable of cloathing his Thoughts with outward Expressions, that, by his Reason, he might apprehend, and, by his Voice, celebrate the Divine Perfections; and, as the Priest of Nature, offer up the Sacrifice of Praise and Thanksgiving for the whole Creation. And into what Raptures of Admiration, into what Expressions of Gratitude, may we suppose the first Man to break forth, when he awaked out of the Duft into Being, and beheld this goodly Fabrick of the World, and himself the greatest and happiest Creature in it! Whence the Order, whence the Beauty, whence the Variety of this blissful Paradise around him; nay, whence himself? Such wonderful Effects must necessarily raise him up to contemplate the first Cause, from whence they flowed; and we may piously prefume, that the first Time he opened his Lips was to shew forth. bis Creator's Praise.
Thus early did the Duty of Praise and Thankfgiving to God begin, commanded by no Laws, inforced by no Motives, but those of Gratitude and Inclination. For our first Parents had no Wants to be relieved, no Grievances to be redressed, even their Defires for future Mercies were prevented, and all they could ask of God, in that 3
blissful State, was only the Continuance of it, But when unhappily they fell from their Inno. cence, and thereupon contracted Guilt, and intailed Misery upon their Posterity, Supplication and Prayer became the necessary Duty of Mankind; and fo will continue, as long as we have Infirmi ties to be healed, and Wants to be relieved, and Sins to be pardoned, which will be as long as we abide in this State of Mortality. Our Dependence upon God makes it neceffary to sae to him for what we want, as well as to give him Praise for what we have : Our Guilt, by making us subject to his Justice, prompts us to seek his Favour by humble Contrition for Sin, and earnest Desire of his Pardon : Our Infirmities and Temptations Thew us, how absolutely needful it is to be aslifted by his Grace, both to recover ourselves by true Res pentance, and to persevere in doing the Things that he requires : And, lastly, the common Ties of Hu. manity and the Religion of Charity oblige us to pray for one another, as well as for ourselves : So that natural Light discovers this Duty, and shews it through all the Ways of Invocation, or Calling
And accordingly, if we look into the Heathen World, we shall find, that no Nation was ever yet so rude and barbarous, as not to have fome Form of religious Worship, and that, however the Vulgar might differ in the Obje£t of their Adoration, the wiseft, in most Nations, were generally of the Roman Orator's Opinion; “ That the Na
ture of God may justly challenge the Worship “ of Men, because of its superlative Excellence, " Blessedness, and Eternity, and that whoever “ doubts or denies this (as Aristotle asseres) ought “ not to be dealt with by Arguments, but by Pu“ nisẠments.” Their Acknowledgment therefore was, that all their Actions should begin with the
Gods, and that a Blessing could not be derived upon them, without imploring their Aid ; nay, that the Sacrifices were not duly offered, nor the Gods rightly worshipped, without Prayer. The Stoics indeed, who imputed so much to their own Strength, feemed to exclude the Divine Asistance, and, in Consequence of that, to shut out Prayer ; but we find them frequently retracting this Opinion, and teaching their Difciples, that, as no Man can be good without God, so their Business was, to pray for Health of Mind and Body, but more especially for the former. And indeed, whatever some profligate People may pretend, and, in the Height of their Jollity, say to themselves, Who is the Almighty, that we should fear and call upon him? There are some certain Intervals, viz. when Anguish and Distress come upon them, and all human
Means of Relief and Support fail, that they will naturally cry unto God, and endeavour to take Sanctuary in his All-fufficiency: Insomuch that it may justly be questioned, whether ever there was a Sinner, so wicked and obdurate, who, in the last Efforts of Life, (could we but fee what passed within) was able to overcome all secret Prayer, and Motion of the Soul towards God.
And indeed, if we consider the Matter rightly, what can we suppose more reasonable, than that the sovereign Lord of all the World should be acknowledged by us ? That we, who do continually depend upon him, should, ever and anon, be looking up to him, and expressing that Dependence ? For is it not fit, that we, who every Moment experience a thousand Instances of his Kindness, partake of a thousand Mercies and Favours from his Hand, and must perish the next Minute, unless they be continued to us; is it not highly fit and reasonable, I say, that we should take Notice of these Things to our bounteous Benefactor ? We should think it very ill Manners to pass by our
Prince, or even any of our Betters, without faluting them, or, some way or other, testifying our Respect to them, though they had no Way particularly obliged us; but, if we are beholden to them for our Daily Bread, to come into their Presence without taking Notice of them, or their Bounty to us, would be intolerable: How much more intolerable therefore must it be to pass by the Almighty, Day after Day, nay, to be in his Presence continually, (as indeed we always are) and yet neither pay any Homage and Reverence to him, as he is our supreme Lord, nor any Acknowledgments, as he is our daily Preserver? Especially considering, that this is one of the most delightful and honour. able Employments that our Natures are capable of.
Vicious Men perhaps may have other Conceptions ; but, as they have no Experience of Devotion, they are not competent Judges; those only, who have a good Sense and Relish of God upon their Minds, and have used and accustomed them. selves to fpiritual Exercises, can form right Notions of it : And to such we appeal, whether the Delights, and Satisfaction, and Consolation they receive from conversing with God, and an hearty pouring out their Souls unto him, be not inexpressible? Whether they do not find more Joy, and Peace, and comfort, in their Attendance upon God's Service, either in publick or private, than ever they did from the Pleasures and Gratifications of any
of their outward Senses. As much as the Soul is more pure and excellent than the Body, so much are the pleasures and Gratifications of that more exquisitely delicious than those, which arise from corporeal Objects : ' But, of all the Pleasures of the Soul, those that it receives from the Communications of God, in the Exercise of Devotion, are incomparably the highest and most affecting; infomuch that, however we talk of Pleasures