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impatient under the hands of our heavenly physician: perfect recovery will at length be the certain consequence of his treatment of us : and every single ingredient in the great remedy, his holy word, and every direction for the use of it, will contribute its share to our cure. Let us therefore conscientiously observe all his orders, each in their due place; and as the only one, for which there is room left at present, let us intreat his blessing on our humble endeavours, that receiving the seed of the word into a good and honest heart, we may bring forth fruit with patience *: using for that purpose the petitions of his servant David. Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes, and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law : yea, I shall keep it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments : for therein is my desire t. Luke viii. 15.
+ Psalm cxix. 33, 34, 35.
1 COR. XIV. 15.
-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.
THESE words, in their first and strictest sense, relate to those gifts of inspiration, which the primitive church enjoyed: the Holy Ghost then frequently enabling many members of it, besides the Apostles, to speak in tongues, which they had never learned, the wonderful works of God*; and dictating to them petitions and praises fitted to their circumstances. But, as the ordinary gifts of Heaven to mankind are left to be managed according to the discretion of those, who enjoy them: so the divine wisdom preserved an uniformity of conduct, and kept to the same rule, in respect of these extraordinary ones. The spirits of the prophets, as the Apostle tells us, ver. 32, were subject to the prophets. It was in their choice, when they would use the power of speaking with divers tongues : and on what occasions they would produce the prayers and hymns, with which they were inspired. In this, (and no wonder), they did not all of them judge always prudently; their thankful zeal to publish these miraculous favours, and perhaps a too great, but very natural, self-complacency in being possessed of such remarkable privileges, prompting some of them sometimes to give demonstrations of it in their assemblies, when few or none were present, who understood the language they spoke: in which case the exercise of their endowments was only a hindrance to the stated, and though less admired, yet more useful devotions and instructions of the congregation in their native dialect. And therefore St. Paul, in the true spirit of Christianity, reproves this ostentation: reminds them, that the gift of tongues was designed to convince unbelievers by a seasonable use of it, not to provoke their scorn, or bring disorder into the Church, by an unseasonable one; that the other gift of PROPHESYING, teaching men their Christian duty, and exhorting them to the practice of it, (for this the word means here, and this the Jewish prophets made their chief business,) was a much more valuable thing, than that of speaking to them, or to God, in languages known to few of them; which therefore they should do modestly and sparingly; never indeed, but when the speaker, or some one present, was able to interpret what he said so readily and properly, as might edify the hearers; for their constant endeavour should be to exert all the powers of this kind, which the Holy Ghost had bestowed on them, rationally and discreetly, so as to inform and improve others. 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 : that is, every person endowed with supernatural abilities, of this or any other sort, was to think himself bound to employ them in so discreet a manner, that all around him might be instructed and benefited, as much as possible.
* Acts ii. 11.
This, you will find, on carefully reading it, is the meaning of the text, and of the chapter in which it
And the whole shews, both the truth of extraordinary and miraculous gifts at that time; (for had they not been real, no directions about them could have been wanted, or would have been given;) and also the admirable 'wisdom and genuine goodness of the Apostle, in which we may well presume the rest to have been like him. He permitted not these accomplishments, wonderful and shining as they were, to interfere with the plain rules of order and edification; or to be at all set on a level with the humble virtue of Christian charity, doing good to men from love of God. Now such things as these are great confirmations of our holy religion, and do it great honour.
But though the first and immediate meaning of the text be what I have now explained; a more general instruction, and applicable to every age of the Church, may be justly drawn from it. The same Divine Comforter, who inspired the devotions of believers then, influences their hearts in the performance of them now: the same duty of using due precautions to make the service of the Church intelligible, which the Apostle pressed so strongly in his own time, equally subsists in ours : and therefore the words which I have read to you, comprehend two points of doctrine, as needful at present as ever they were.
I. That good Christians are assisted by the Holy Ghost in offering up their petitions and praises. I will pray with the spirit: I will sing with the spirit.
II. That we should be very solicitous rightly to apprehend the sense and fitness of what what we say and do in God's worship. I will pray, I will sing, with the understanding also.
I. That good Christians are assisted by the Holy Ghost in offering up their petitions and praises to
their heavenly Father. The spirit of God hath striven with bad persons *, and therefore doubtless effectually operated on pious ones, from the beginning of the world. The Psalmist, on his falling into sin, prays that God would not take his holy Spirit from him +. And more especially God promises, in the Prophet Zechariah, that he will pour on his people the spirit of grace and of supplication 1. In the New Testament we are told, that if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his g; that the spirit helpeth our infirmities in prayer, making intercession for us || ; that we are to pray always with all prayer or supplication in the spirit |, and praying in the Holy Ghost to keep ourselves in the love of God **.
But though it be undeniable, that the Holy Spirit, who indeed excites us to, and fits us for, every duty, doth not withhold his influence in this : yet how far they extend, is matter of dispute : and particularly between those who approve, and those who disapprove, liturgies or forms of prayer. And which are in the right, it shall be the principal business of this discourse to shew : not with intention to raise in you either hatred or contempt of any, who dissent from our Church on that head, (God forbid !) but only to make you more sensible of the propriety and advantages of the way you are in; and incline you to that proportionable improvement by it, which God will expect.
Some then apprehend, that there is such a gift or spirit of prayer, bestowed by the Holy Ghost on true Christians, and peculiarly on all that are worthy to be ministers of God's Word, as enables them to address themselves to Heaven, on all occasions, copiously and * Gen. vi. 3. + Psalm li. 11. Zech. xi. 10. s Rom. viii. 9. ll Rom. viii. 26. 9 Eph. vi. 18.
** Jude 20, 21.