« EelmineJätka »
not his praises as the highest part of your prayers. But for the expressing of these desires, particular occasions may warrant you ofttimes to begin in another order : as when you pray for the sick, or pray for directions, or a blessing before a sermon or some particular work, you may begin and end with the subject that is before you, as the prayers of holy men in all ages have done. 2. You must distinguish also, as between desires and expressions, so between an universal and a particular prayer. The one containeth all the parts of prayer, and the other is but about some one :subject or part, or but some few; this last being but one or few, particular petitions cannot possibly be uttered in the method of an universal prayer which hath all the parts. There is no one petition in the Lord's prayer, but may be made a prayer itself; and then it cannot have the other petitions as parts. 3. And you must distinguish between the even and ordinary case of a Christian, and his extraordinary case, when some special reason, affection, or accident calleth him to look most to some one particular.
In his even and ordinary case, every universal prayer should be expressed in the method of the Lord's prayer; but in cases of special reason and inducement it may be otherwise.
Quest. VIII. Must we pray always when the Spirit moveth us, and only then, or as reason guideth us ?
Answ. There are two sorts of the Spirit's motions; the one is by extraordinary inspiration or impulse, as he moved the prophets and apostles, to reveal new laws, or precepts, or events, or to do some actions without respect to any other command than the inspiration itself. This Christians are not now to expect, because experience telleth us that it is ceased; or if any should pretend to it as not yet ceased, in the prediction of events, and direction in some things otherwise indifferent, yet it is most certain that it is ceased as to legislation ; for the Spirit itself hath already given us those laws, which he hath declared to be perfect, and unchangeable till the end of the world. The other sort of the Spirit's working, is not to make new laws or duties, but to guide and quicken us in the doing of that which is our duty before by the laws already made. And these are the motions that all true Christians must now expect. By which you may see, that the Spirit and reason are not to be here disjoined, much less opposed. As reason sufficeth not without the Spirit, being dark and alseep; so the Spirit worketh not on the will but by the reason; he moveth not a man as a beast or stone, to do a thing he knoweth not why, but by illumination giveth him the soundest reason for the doing of it. And duty is first duty before we do it; and when by our own sin we forfeit the special motions or help of the Spirit, duty doth not thereby cease to be duty, nor our omission to be sin. If the Spirit of God teach you to discern the meetest season for prayer, by considering your affairs, and when you are most free, this is not to be denied to be the work of the Spirit, because it is rational, (as fanatic enthusiasts imagine). And if you are moved to pray in a crowd of business, or at any time when reason can prove that it is not your duty but your sin, the same reason proveth that it was not the Spirit of God that moved you to it: for the Spirit in the heart is not contrary to the Spirit in the Scripture. Set upon the duty which the Spirit in the Scripture commandeth you, and then you may be sure that you obey the Spirit: otherwise you disobey it. Yea, if your hearts be'cold, prayer is a more likely means to warm them, than the omission of it. To ask whether you may pray while your hearts are cold and backward, is as to ask whether you may labour or come to the fire before you are warm. God's Spirit is more likely to help you in duty, than in the neglect of it.
Quest. ix. 'May a man pray that hath no desire at all of the grace which he prayeth for?'
Answ. No; because it is no prayer but dissembling; and dissembling is no duty. He that asketh for that which he would not have, doth lie to God in his hypocrisy. But if a man have but cold and common desires (though they reach not to that which will prove them evidences of true grace), he may pray and express those desires which he hath.
Quest. x. 'May a man pray that doubteth of his interest in God, and dare not call him father as his child?'
Answ. 1. There is a common interest in God, which all mankind have, as he is good to all, and as his mercy through Christ is offered to all: and thus those that are not regenerate are his children by creation, and by participation of his mercy; and they may both call him father and pray to himself, though yet they are unregenerate P. 2. God hath an interest in you, when you have no special interest in him : therefore his command must be obeyed, which bids you pray. 3. Groundless doubts will not disoblige you from your duty; else men might free themselves from almost all their obedience.
Quest, xv. May a wicked or unregenerate man pray, and is he accepted? Or is not his prayer abominable to God ?
Answ. 1. A wicked man as a wicked man, can pray no how but wickedly, that is, he asketh only for things unlawful to be asked, or for lawful things to unlawful ends; and this is still abominable to God2. A wieked man may have in him some good that proceedeth from common grace, and this he may be obliged to exercise; and so by prayer to express his desires so far as they are good. 3. A wicked man's wicked prayers are never accepted; but a wicked man's prayers which are for good things, from common grace, are so far accepted as that they are some means conducing to his reformation, and though his person be still unjustified, and these prayers sinful, yet the total omission of them is a greater sin. 4, A wicked man is bound at once to repent and pray'. And whenever God bids him ask for grace, he bids him desire grace; and to bid him pray, is to bid him repent and be of a better mind: therefore those that reprove ministers for persuading wicked men to pray, reprove them for persuading them to repentance and good desires. But if they pray without that repentance which God and man exhort them to, the sin is theirs : but all their labour is not lost if their desires fall short of saving sincerity; they are under obligations to many duties, which tend to bring them nearer Christ, and which they may do without special, saving grace.
Quest. XII. 'May a wicked man pray the Lord's prayer, or be exhorted to use it?'
Answ. 1. The Lord's prayer in its full and proper sense, must be spoken by a penitent, believing, justified persons; for in the full sense no one else can call him 'Our Father,' (though in a limited sense the wicked may): and they cannot desire the glory of God, and the coming of his kingdom, nor the doing of his will on earth as it is in heaven, and this sincerely, without true graçe: (especially those enemies of holiness, that think it too much strictness to do God's will on earth, ten thousand degrees lower than it is done in heaven). Nor can they put up one petition of that prayer sincerely according to the proper sense; no not to pray for their daily bread, as a means of their support while they are doing the will of God, and seeking first his glory and his kingdom. But yet it is possible for them to speak these words from such common desires as are not so bad as none at all.
p Psal. xlii. 9. xxii. 1. John ij. 4. Jer. xxxi, 9. Luke xv. 12. 17. 19. Mal. ii. 10.
9 Acts xv. 17. xvii, 17. viii. 22. Psal. xiv. 4.
Quest. xiii. Is it idolatry to pray to saints or angels ? or is it always sinful?'
Answ. I love not to be too quarrelsome with other men's devotions; but 1. I see not how praying to an angel or a departed saint can be excused from sin Because it supposeth them to be every where present, or to be omniscient, and to know the heart, yea to know at once the hearts of all men; or else the speaker pretendeth to know when the saint or angel is present and heareth him, and when not: and because the Scripture doth no where signify that God would have us pray to any such saints or angels; but signifieth enough to satisfy us to the contrary. 2. But all prayer to them is not idolatry, but some is, and therefore we must distinguish, if we will judge righteously. (1.) To pray to saints or angels as supposed omnipresent, omniscient, or omnipotent, is flat idolatry. (2.) To pray to them to forgive us our sins against God, or to justify, or sanctify, or redeem, or save us from hell, or any thing which belongeth to God only to do, is no better than idolatry. (3.) But to pray to them only to do that which belongeth to the guardian, or charitable office that is committed to them, and to think that though they are not omnipresent nor omniscient, nor you know not whether they hear you at this time or not, yet you will venture your prayers at uncertainty, it being but so much labour lost; this I take to be * Psal. Ixv. 2.
1 Kings vii. 39. Acts i. 24. Rom. viii. 27.
Isa, Ixiii. 16. Psal. cxlv. 18. x. 14. Psal. Ixii. 8. Matt. iv. 9.
sinfully superstitions, but not idolatry“. (4.) But to pray to living saints or sinners, for that which belongeth to them to give, is no sin at all.
Quest. xiv. 'Is a man bound to pray ordinarily in his family ?
Answ. I have answered this affirmatively before, and proved it; one grain of grace would answer it better than arguments can do.
Quest. xv. 'Must the same man pray secretly that hath prayed with his family or with others ?
Answ. 1. Distinguish between those that were the speakers, and those that were not; and 2. Between those that have leisure from greater or more urgent duties, and those that have not. And so, (1.) Those that are free from the urgency of all other duties, which at that time are greater, should pray both in the family and in secret ; especially if they were not themselves the speakers, usually they will have the more need of secret prayer; because their hearts in public may more easily flag, and much of their case may be omitted. (2.) But those that have more urgent, greates duties, may take up at that time with family-prayer alone (with secret ejaculations, especially if they were the speakers): having there put up the same requests as they would do in secret.
Quest. XYI. Is it best to keep set hours for prayer, or to take the time which is fittest at present?'
Answ. Ordinarily set times will prove the fittest times ; and to leave the time undetermined and uncertain, will put all out of order, and multiply impediments, and hinder duty. But yet when extraordinary cases make the ordinary time unfit, a fitter time must be taken.
Quest. XVII, "Is it lawful to join in family (or church) prayers with ungodly men? '
Answ. I join both together, because the cases little differ; for the pastor hath the government of the people in church-worship, as the master of the family hath in familyworship : you may choose at first whether you will be a member of the church or family (if you were not born to it as your privilege). But when you are a member of either, you must be governed as members. And to the case, 1.
u Rev, xxii. 8, 9. Col. ii. 18. * Mark that I say but at that time.'