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“ and which serves the Ends of our Devotion beft, “ one common Liturgy, or Words and Expressions every Day new.
That set Forms of Prayer are no where prohibited in Scripture, nay, that, in some Places, they are expressly commanded and prescribed, is evident to every one, that is conversant in the Writings of either Testament. In the Old Testament, we find the Lord speaking unto Moses thus, Speak unto Aaron, and unto his Sons, Saying, On this wise ye fall bless the Children of Irrael, Saying unto them, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make his Face to shine upon thee; the Lord lift up his Countenance upon thee, and give thee Peace; nor can we suppose, that God was less ready to vouchsafe his Blessing to the People, because his Minister always implored it in the same Form of Words. And as the Priests, under the Law, were required to bless the People in a set Form, so were the People sometimes enjoined to offer up their Prayers to God in Words that were prepared before-hand for them. Thus, when a Murther was committed, and the Author of it unknown, the Elders of the adjoining City were directed to ask God's Pardon in this Form ; Our Hands have not shed this Blood, neither have our Eyes seen it: Be merciful, O Lord, unto thy People Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent Blood unto thy People of Israel's Charge : And so the Blood was to be forgiven.
In the New Testament, we find our Saviour prefcribing to his Disciples a set Form of Prayer, when he ordered them to pray after this Manner ; Our Father, &c. For it was not only the Custom of the Jews in general to use Forms of Prayer, but for their Doctors likewise to teach their Scholars some particular Form, composed by them, in order to distinguish them from other People. In Compliance to this Custom, John the Baptis, as
it appears by the Place in St Luke, taught his Disciples a peculiar Form ; and, for this Reason, one of our Saviour's Disciples comes and requests of him, that he would be pleased to compose one for their Use, Lord, teach us to pray, as John alfa taught bis Disciples ; upon which we find, that our Saviour complied with his Request, and accordingly prescribed them the Form, which he had given them before, as a Pattern of Prayer upon the Mount. And as our Saviour prescribed them this Form, 'tis hardly to be questioned, but that, in Obedience to his Command, they made Use of it, even though we have no exprefs Declaration in Holy Writ, that they did fo ; because, we may obferve farther, that, wherever we have any Prayers recorded, there is Presumption enough to believe, that they offered them up in a set Form. Thus we find the whole Company of primitive Christians, in Conjunction with the Apostles themfelves, lifting up their Voice with one Accord, and saying, Lord, thou art God, which haft made Heaven, and Earth, and the Sea, and all that is in them, &c. And as they all joined, not only with their Hearts, but with their Voices ; not only in the fame Thoughts, but in the same Words'; unless we will say, that all were immediately inspired to utter the fame Syllables, for which there is no Ground in the History, nor any Probability in Reason, we must allow, that they prayed by a Form composed before-hand.
What has been said upon this Head is sufficient to shew, if not the Necesity, at least the Lawfulness of praying by a Form: For since God was pleased to prescribe Forms to be used in his publick Worfhip in the Jewish Church; since Chrift taught his Disciples to pray after a Form; and they, upon sundry Occasions, in all Probability, made Use of premeditated Forms ; it will undeniably follow,
that to use set Forms of Prayer is not repugnant to the Will of God; is no stinting of ebe Spirit, no Impediment to Devotion, no Instance of Superstition, no Part of forbidden Will-Worship, no Invention of Antichrift, &c.
That all Things should be done to the Glory of God, we are very frequently warned in Scripture ; and we may leave it to the Judgment of any sober Person, whether the Glory of God is best promoted by such Prayers, wherein strict Care is taken, that nothing should be uttered unbecoming the Divine Majesty, or by such extemporary Conceptions, wherein many unseemly and irreverent Speeches, at least, are too commonly, and, in a Manner unavoidably, poured forth. That all Things should be done for Edification, is another Scripture-Precept; and whether those Prayers, which which are formed by the mature Advice of many Persons, eminent for Wisdom and Piety, and which are both known and understood by the People, or those, which are conceived, on a sudden, by one Man, whose Abilities, perhaps, are not very great, and which those, who join with them, must first ftudy to understand, before they can concur therein, are most likely to edify the Church, can, with unprejudiced Persons, bear no Dispute. If I know not the Meaning of the Voice, says the Apostle, I jball be unto bim, that speaketh, a Barbarian, and be, that speaketb, shall be a Barbarian unto me: Now the Meaning of the Voice may be as unknown to us, if a Prayer be made in a Phrase, as if it be made in a Language that we do not understand ; and he, that
prays in an untelligible Manner, is as much a Barbarian to those that hear him, as if he prayed in an unknown Tongue : So that, unless all Ministers are Masters of Perspicuity, which, perhaps, is a Talent as rare as any, then be, that occupieth the Room of the Unlearned, nay, he, indeed, that
is never so learned, may not always be able to say Amen to a Prayer, which he may not always be able to understand.
In a Word, if earnest Desires, if devout Affections, if close Attention and Fervour of Spirit do recommend our Prayers to God, all these Advantages may rather be hoped for by those, who, using a prepared and known Form, have nothing farther to do, than to excite, in their Minds, Palfions suitable to the Business they are upon ; than by such, who, depending wholly upon the Conceptions of another, must first endeavour to catch those Words, which fall from him ; then be employed in finding out their Meaning ; then confider whether that which is asked be lawful for them to ask, and whether they can heartily join with such a Petition, or Thanksgiving; which, before they can have determined in their own Thoughts, it may be too late for them to join in, because the Minister is, perhaps, by this Time, passed on to another quite different Matter. If therefore, by composed Forms, the Infirmities of some Men are best remedied ; if our Confent and Communion with other Christians is hereby best testified ; if Errors and Irregularities in Worship be by this Means best prevented ; if they are most subservient to Edification, to true Devotion, and to the Glory of God; we may safely conclude, that a well-composed Form of publick Worship, in the Church, is not only lawful, but expedient, and in fome Degree even necessary : And, upon this Account, we may well be allowed to congratulate our mutual Happiness, in being made Members of a Church, wherein there is so great a Treasure of rational Devotion; where all the Prayers are directed to a proper Object, all cloathed in proper and significant Language, and all disposed in exact and regular Order ; where the Praises are lofty,
and suitable to the Majesty of God; the Confessions humble, and such as become Sinners; the Intercespons comprehend all the Duties, and the Supplications are extended to all the Wants of Mankind : Where the Whole, indeed, is so admirably fitted to the common Concerns of a Christian Society, that when (as the Rubrick enjoins) we make but Use of some of them, our Worship is not imperfeet, and, when we use them all, there is none of them superfluous : And therefore, if we be but careful to bring with us, to the House of God, such Affections as become his Saints, we need not doubt, but that we shall there find such Prayers to express these Affections in, as will prove a reasonable Service, and make the Whole an Offering of a sweet-smelling Savour unto God.
3. Of Praise and Thanksgiving. RAISE and Thanksgiving, though they are
frequently used promiscuously, yet, in Strictness of Speech, have a different Signification. Our Praise properly terminates in God, on the Account of his natural Excellencies and Perfections, and is that Act of Devotion, by which we confefs and admire his several Attributes ; but Thanksgiving is a narrower Duty, and imports only a grateful Sense and Acknowledgment of God's Mercies. We praise God for all his glorious Acts of every Kind, that regard either us, or other Men ; for his very Acts of Vengeance, and those Judgments, which he sometimes sends abroad on the Earth ; but, properly speaking, we thank him only for the Instances of his Goodness, and only for such Instances too, as we ourselves are, some way or other, concerned in. This is properly the Distinction of the two Words : But, since the Language of the Scripture is generally less exact in this Matter, we, in