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2. The offering them up with a proper Attention of Mind, and Fervency.
3. With a suitable Behaviour of Body.
1. The first Thing to be considered is, the Prayers themselves. For, if when we approach the Throne of an earthly Prince, or attend the Levies of a prime Minister, or a more private Friend, with a Petition, we take care that it be drawn up in the most respectful and handsome manner, both as to Substance, Form, and Expression, surely, when we approach the Throne of the Great King of Heaven, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, to humble ourselves before him for our many provoking Sins, to acknowledge his most glorious Perfections, and most gracious Favours, and to supplicate the Continuance of them, the utmost Care should be taken that every Part of our Addrestes be the most proper, as to the Matter of them, disposed into the best Order, and clothed in the most decent and apt Terms. This is the Argument of the great Preacher at the 5th of Ecclesiafies, ver. 2. * Be not hasty with thy Mouth, and let not e thine Heart be hasty to utter any thing before 'God, for God is in Heaven, and thou upon 'Earth.' This awful Regard, in our Addresses to the Divine Majesty, we have abundant Reason, from Scripture, to imagine that God expects from us. Did he, himself, direct that the House, in which he was to be worshipped, should be the most stately and magnificent that ever was built; that every Thing made use of in the publick Service should be rich and cost
ly, in some measure answerable to his glorious Majesty j that all the Sacrifices should be the most perfect in their Kinds, without Spot, or Blemish; that all the Persons who had the Honour to wait at his Altar mould be free from any personal Defebls % And will he not require that the Addresies of our Understanding and Heart mould be as perfect as it is possible for our Weakness to make them? Besides, the more perfeSl our Prayers are, the better fitted they are to have the proper Influence upon our Minds. It may be said, that God, who sees the Heart, will accept of a good Intention, be our Prayers ever so imperseSl. But the Answer to this is short and easy. It is impossible that there should be a right good Intention, unless we pray in the best Manner that we can. I am speaking ofslated Prayers, at set Times, whether in the Closet, or in publick, not of occasional Ejaculations, or such circumstantial Additions as may be necessary to be made in our private Prayers ^Ivhere there was no Opportunity for Premeditation. I will illustrate this Matter by the Instance just mentioned. If an ignorant illiterate Subject should have a sudden Occasion to speak to his Prince, the Prince, if he were a wise and good Man, would certainly hear him with Patience and Candor, and make just Allowances for the Incapacity of the Person, and the Imperfections of his Speech; but if he knew beforehand, that at such a set Time it was expected that he should offer an Address, and had an Opportunity of getting the Assistance of some sen
L 2 sible sible discreet Friend to draw it up for him in a decent Manner, and yet would offer up a low, nonsensical Piece of Stuff of his own penning, his Majesty would look upon such a disrespectful Application as an Affront, and reject his Petition with Contempt and Indignation, So, likewise, toe may have sudden Occasions of speaking to God, and in all such Cases he will most assuredly accept of the most imperfect Prayers, provided we express ourselves in the best Manner that we can; but if we should rashly presume to address God extempore, when we have Time and Opportunity to consider beforehand, and to have our Prayers drawn up in a much better Manner, more suitably to the high Dignity of God's Nature, and the Meanness and Vileness of ours> \s there not all imaginable Reason to conclude that he would think himself very rudely treated, instead of being honoured. Now, let us apply this plain State of the Cafe to our private and publick Prayers. • The main Substance of our Morning and Evening Prayers in our Closet, are of so general a Nature, that the same Form may be used constantly, and consequently it may be drawn up with the utmost Care; so that the most illiterate and ignorant People have the Opportunity, not only of Premeditation, but of the Assistance of others; and therefore are inexcusable if they trust to their own Capacity, and still more culpable if they trust to their extempory Conceptions.* In publick, whether in a Family,
• .. or
* Dr. Warn, at P. 70 of his Book on Prayer, says, " We "sliould seek to be furnished with a Variety of Exprfjfion, that
"our or at Church, there is the fame Opportunity, and the fame Reason, for Premeditation, as in: our private Prayers, since no Man, let his Abilities be ever so great, can at all Times, if at any Time, pray so fully and accurately if he prays extempore, as if he uses Premeditation; for which Reason Dr. Watts strongly recommends it to his Brethren; and as far as Prayers are premeditated, they are so far a Form of Prayer to him that frays; and all Publick Prayers, whether they be premeditated, or conceived extempore, must, in the Nature of Things, be a Form to the Congregation; and the Teacher imposes the Use of it upon them as much as the ejiablijh'd Church imposes the Use of the Liturgy upon us. I hope the Dijsenters will not take Offence where there is none intended, or any just Occasion given: I must endeavour to do Justice to my Subject,
L 3 •. but
"our Prayers rnay always have something new, and something "entertaining in them." This is a most extraordinary Paflage, and I Was greatly surprised to rind it in so serious a Writer. Are People to attend puhlick Worship as they frequent Plays,, fof Amusement? Are our Passions to be railed by the Sound of Words, and by having our Imaginations play'd upon, or by the Alteration of the Understanding to the Nature of the Pljetf, and the Subjett Matter of our Prayers? If God be every Day the fame, and the Su'$jec2 Matter of our Prayers, in the main, the fame, why may we not every Day use the fame Set cf Words? His Reaion is this, beeause, That is apt to make us formal and dull. Then we must take the more'Care; and, if we beg the Assistance of the Spirit, he can, and will, as effectually assist' our Attention and Devotion in the Use of the fame Set of Words, as in the Use of new and entertaining Phrases. Nay, the .Understanding can more readily attend to the Sense of the sa mi Setof Words, than to new ones, where the Ear is constantly attending to new Sounds, and the Fancy to new Images. There is one fundamental: Error that leads them into all the rest, -viz. That hearing a Person pray, and being" nffeftei by what they hear, is praying. No such Thing.
but I mean to do it as inoffensively as possibly I can; and, as to the Argument, I will as freely retraB what I cannot defend, as I now advance it. To go on, therefore, to speak my Mind freely. 1 have in a former Chapter shewn, from the Nature of Prayer, that it is impossible for a Congregation to join in Prayer with a Person that uses a Prayer of which they knew nothing beforehand, any sarther, than by giving their Assent to it by saying Amen at the Conclusion of it. Neither, indeed, do I see how that can be safely done, without a Persuasion that the Person prays by Inspiration. For, saying Amen to a Prayer, is declaring their Approbation of the 'whole and every Part of it, whereas they had not Time to confder and weigh every Part so fully as will warrant such an absolute Assent. But, at present, I wave these Points. 1 am now speaking about Forms of Prayer, and I repeat it again, that all fublick Prayer must be a Form of Prayer to the Congregation. If the Congregation be under the Necessity of using a Prayer, the Use of that Prayer is imposed upon them, and they are under an absolute Necessity of using that or none; and if they be under the Necessity of using it without the Liberty of varying from any Part of it, it is a Form to them. If not, I should be much obliged to any one that would be at the trouble of teaching me what a Form of Prayer is. Now if this be a true State of the Cafe, (as it most certainly is) we have brought the Matter to this single Question, viz. Whether the Dissenters may not as safely use a Form drawn up by a 7 Committee