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III. The conclusion: the reason and termination of our desires, in their ultimate end :(
here praised: beginning at the lowest, and
ascending to the highest:
I. What we praise; or the mat-. ter; or interest of God:
II. Whom we praise:
III. The duration :
1. His universal reign, FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM,' administered variously, agreeably to the subjects all owe this absolute obedience: who commandest and executest what thou wilt.
2. His own perfections, 'THE POWER:' both right and all-sufficiency including his omniscience and goodness, as well as omnipotence.
3. His incomprehensible excellency and blessedness, as he is the ultimate end of us and all things; AND THE GLORY.' Rom. xi. 36. 1 Cor. x. 31.
GOD, in the word 'THINE:' in him, the first efficient cause of all things, we begin: his help as the dirigent cause, we seek and in him as the final cause, we terminate.
'FOR EVER AND EVER,' to eternity: and 'AMEN' Is the expression of our consent. For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things: to Him be glory for ever, Amen. Rom. ix. 36.
So that it is apparent that the method of the Lord's prayer is circular, partly analytical, and partly synthetical : beginning with God, and ending in God: beginning with such acknowledgments as are prerequisite to petition, and ending in those praises which petition and grace bestowed tend to beginning our petitions for God's interest and the public good, according to the order of estimation and intention, till we come to the mere means, and then beginning at the lowest, and ascending according to the order of execution. As the blood passing from the greater to the smaller numerous vessels, is there received by the like, and repasseth to its fountain; such a circular method hath mercy and duty, and consequently our desires.
Tit. 2. Some Questions about Prayer answered.
The rest of the general questions about prayer, I think will be best contrived into the resolving of these following doubts.
Quest. 1. Is the Lord's prayer a directory only, or a form of words to be used by us in prayer?'
Answ. 1. It is principally the rule to guide our inward desires, and outward expressions of them; both for the matter, what we must desire, and for the order, which we must desire first and most. 2. But this rule is given in a form of words, most apt to express the said matter and order. 3. And this form may fitly be used in due season by all, and more necessarily by some. 4. But it was never in
tended to be the only words which we must use, no more than the creed is the only words that we must use to express the doctrine of faith, or the decalogue the only words to express our duty by ".
Quest. 11. What need is there of any other form of prayer, if the Lord's prayer be perfect?'
Answ. Because it is only a perfect summary, containing but the general heads: and it is needful to be more particular in our desires; for universals exist in particulars; and he that only nameth the general, and then another and another general, doth remember but few of the particulars. He that shall say, "I have sinned, and broken all thy commandments," doth generally confess every sin; but it is not true repentance, if it be not particular, for this, and that, and the other sin; at least as to the greater which may be remembered. He that shall say, "I believe all the Word of God, or I believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost," may know little what is in the Word of God, or what these generals signify, and therefore our faith must be more particular. So must desires after grace be particular also: otherwise it were enough to ask for mercy in the general. If you say, that God knoweth what those general words signify, though we do not; I answer, this is the Papists' silly argument for Latin prayers, God knoweth our desires without any expressions or prayers at all, and he knoweth our wants without our desires. But it followeth not that prayers or desires are unnecessary. The exercise of our own repentance and desire doth make us persons fit to receive forgiveness, and the grace desired; when the impenitent and those that desire it not are unfit. And it is no true repentance, when you say, "I am sorry that I have sinned," but you know not, or remember not, wherein you have sinned, nor what your sin is; and so repent not indeed of any one sin at all. And so it is no true desire, that reacheth not to the particular, necessary graces, which we must desire; though I know some few very quick, comprehensive minds
m Selden in Eutychii Alexandr. Orig. p. 42, 43. sheweth that before Ezra the Jews prayed without forms, and that Ezra and the elders with him, composed them a form which had eighteen benedictions and petitions, that is, the three first and the three last for the glorifying God, and the rest intermediate for personal and public benefits. And page 48. That they might omit none of these, but might add others.
can in a moment think of many particulars, when they use but general words: and I know that some smaller, less necessary things, may be generally passed over; and greater matters in a time of haste, or when we, besides those generals, do also use particular requests.
Quest. III. Is it lawful to pray in a set form of words? Answ. Nothing but very great ignorance can make you really doubt of it". Hath God any where forbid it? You will say, that it is enough that he hath not commanded it. I answer, That in general he hath commanded it to all whose edification it tendeth to, when he commandeth you, that all be done to edification; but he hath given no particular command, nor prohibition. No more he hath commanded you to pray in English, French, or Latin; nor to sing psalms in this tune or that; nor after this or that version or translation; nor to preach in this method particularly or that; nor always to preach upon a text; nor to use written notes; nor to compose a form of words, and learn them, and preach them after they are composed, with a hundred suchlike, which are undoubtedly lawful; yea, and needful to some, though not to others. If you make up all your prayer of Scripture sentences, this is to pray in a form of prescribed words, and yet as lawful and fit as any of your own. The psalms are most of them forms of prayer or praise, which the Spirit of God indited for the use of the church, and of particular persons. It would be easy to fill many pages with larger reasonings, and answers to all the fallacious objections that are brought against this; but I will not so far weary the reader and myself.
Quest. IV. But are those forms lawful which are prescribed by others, and not by God?'
Answ. Yea; or else it would be unlawful for a child or scholar to use a form prescribed by his parents or master. And to think that a thing lawful doth presently become unlawful, because a parent, master, pastor, or prince doth prescribe it or command it, is a conceit that I will not wrong my reader so far, as to suppose him guilty of. Indeed if an usurper, that hath no authority over us in such matters,
" See Selden ubi supra, proving that the Jews had a form of prayer since Ezra's time; therefore it was in Christ's time. Yet he and his apostles joined with them, and never contradicted or blamed them for forms.
do prescribe it, we are not bound to formal obedience, that is, to do it therefore because he commandeth it; but yet I may be bound to it on some other accounts; and though his command do not bind me, yet it maketh not the thing itself unlawful.
Quest. v. But is it lawful to pray extempore without a premeditated form of words?'
Answ. No Christian of competent understanding doubteth of it. We must premeditate on our wants, and sins, and the graces and mercies we desire, and the God we speak to; and we must be able to express these things without any loathsome and unfit expressions. But whether the words are fore-contrived or not, is a thing that God hath no more bound you to by any law, than whether the speaker or hearers shall use sermon-notes, or whether your Bibles shall be written or in print.
Quest. vI. If both ways be lawful, which is better?'
Answ. If you are to join with others in the church, that is better to you which the pastor then useth: for it is his office and not yours to word the prayers which he puts up to God. And if he choose a form, (whether it be as most agreeable to his parts, or to his people, or for concord with other churches, or for obedience to governors, or to avoid some greater inconvenience,) you must join with him, or not join there at all. But if it be in private, where you are the speaker yourself, you must take that way that is most to your own edification, (and to others, if you have auditors joining with you). One man is so unused to prayer (being ignorantly bred,) or of such unready memory or expression, that he cannot remember the tenth part so much of his particular wants, without the help of a form, as with it; nor can he express it so affectingly for himself or others: nay, perhaps not in tolerable words. And a form to such a man may be a duty; as to a dim-sighted man to read by spectacles, or to an unready preacher to use prepared words and notes. And another man may have need of no such helps; nay, when he is habituated in the understanding and feeling of his sins and wants, and hath a tongue that is used to ex
Three or four of these cases as to church-prayers are more largely answered afterward, Part iii. Socrates alius Cous deorum precationes, invocationesque conscripsit. Diog. Laert. in Socrate. lib. ii. sect. 47. p. 109.
press his mind even in these matters, with readiness and facility, it will greatly hinder the fervor of such a man's affections, to tie himself to premeditated words: to say the contrary, is to speak against the common sense and experience of such speakers and their hearers. And let them that yet deride this as uncertain and inconsiderate praying, but mark themselves, whether they cannot if they be hungry beg for bread, or ask help of their physician, or lawyer, or landlord, or any other, as well without. a learned or studied form, as with it? Who knoweth not that it is true which the new philosopher saith; Cartes. de Passion. part i. art. 44. Et cum inter loquendum solum cogitamus de sensu illius rei, quam dicere volumus, id facit ut moveamus linguam et labra celerius et melius, quam si cogitaremus ea movere omnibus modis requisitis ad proferenda eadem verba ; quia habitus quem acquisivimus cum disceremus loqui,' &c. Turning the thoughts too solicitously from the matter to the words, doth not only mortify the prayers of many, and turn them into a dead form, but also maketh them more dry and barren even as to the words themselves. The heavy charge and bitter, scornful words which have been too common in this age, against praying without a set form by some, and against praying with a book or form by others, is so dishonourable a symptom or diagnostic of the church's sickness, as must needs be matter of shame and sorrow to the sounder, understanding part. For it cannot be denied, but it proveth men's understandings and charity to be both extremely low.
Quest. VII. Must we always pray according to the method of the Lord's prayer, and is it a sin to do otherwise?' Answ. 1. The Lord's prayer is first a rule for your desires and it is a sin, if your desires follow not that method. If you do not begin in your desires with God, as your ultimate end, and if you first desire not his glory, and then the flourishing of his kingdom, and then the obeying of his laws, and herein the public welfare of the world, before and above your particular benefit. And it is a sin if you desire not your daily bread (or necessary support of nature), as a lower mercy in order to your higher spiritual mercies; and if you desire not pardon of sin, as a means to your future sanctity, duty, and felicity; and if you desire not these, as a means to the glory of God, and take