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living and when dead, the service of God should ever be performed in words which he has furnished, so imperfectly.
He can reckon on some esteemed connexions, whose partiality, as it has often admitted him into their circles as a friend, and employed him at their domestic altar as an expositor and intercessor, will retain him as an assistant, in this volume; and thus while absent in body, he will be present in spirit. He is also blessed with children, who will not neglect a practice, to which, in the order of a happy family, they were so early accustomed, and which was never rendered irksome by tediousness; and they will he knows they will-train up their children in the same holy and lovely usage ; and should relationship and endearment, serve to render the book the more valued and useful as a sacred bequest to his descendants ; this alone would keep him from thinking he had laboured in vain.
PERCY-PLACE, April 1820.
The author begs leave to offer a few words, or the execution of the work itself, here submitted to public attention.
Family prayers ought to be short, especially, where reading the Scriptures makes a part of the service--and it ought always to make a part. Hence the prayers for the week-days, may be read in five or six minutes : those for the sabbath are commonly a little longer, as families have then more leisure, and are more united : those for particular occasions, as they rarely return, and the events are remarka able, are the longest of all.
A prayer is distinguishable from the repetition of a creed; or the annunciation of a system of theology; how much more from the sparring and reflections of controversy! A tincture of the author's own particular sentiments, was hardly avoidable : but he has sought after nothing, that would be offensive to christians, who differ from him. And as religious persons accord much more when kneeling, than sitting ; he ventures to think, no one will be unable to join in these forms, who believes in the fall of man, the redemption of the cross, justification by faith, the necessity of divine influence, and of that holiness, without which we cannot see the Lord. The author braves the suspicion of those, who are illiberal enough to guage a man's orthodoxy, by the use of an invariable doxology ; in the words too, which man's wisdom teacheth. Not that he thinks it wrong to clase a prayer with a Scriptural meaning in buman terms ; hut he prefers the words which the Holy Ghost
useth; and where they afford a diversity, why should he be afraid to avail himself of it? In this respect, the sacred writers would not bear the ordeal of some system-critics.
The author thinks no one can blame him, for using so much of the language of the Scriptures : there is a sacredness in it; and it is well known : much of it too has been used evotionally : and contains the adorations, confessions, supplications, and thanksgivings uttered by men of God before us, while kneeling at a throne of grace."
Besides being Scriptural in the diction, he has endeavoured to be very plain and simple. There is a great difference between addressing men, and addressing God. The least artificial mode of uttering our thoughts in prayer is the best. Prayer admits of no brilliancies : every studied ornament it rejects with disdain. He who feels interested in prayer, will forget all critical and elaborate phraseology. And it is an infelicity to be deplored, rather than an excellency to be admired, when ingenuity of thought, or surprisingness of expression, catches and keeps off the attention from devotion. There are young divines, who not only err in preaching-by substituting finery for elegance, and the affectation of art for the eloquence of feeling ; but in their devotional exercises too showing off their tawdrinesses, even in the presence of God, and praying in a strained, inflated style, unintelligible to the ignorant, lamented by the pious, and contemned by the wise. The greatest men have always been distinguished by the plainness and simplicity of their devotional language. What a difference is there between the other compositions of Johnson, and his prayers ? No hard word, no elaborate sentence, no classical, no metaphorical allusion is to be found in any of the few forms of devotion which he has left us. The same excellency pervades the liturgy. And it is worthy of remark, that in no prayer recorded
in the Bible, is any figure employed, unless as familiar as the literal expression.
This, however, does not forbid the use of sen. tences not directly of the nature of petition. Prayer is designed, not only as a homage to God, but as
a moral exercise to affect ourselves: and to ac' complish this purpose, we must be informed, or reminded. What, therefore, tends to make us feel the things we implore, is not to be considered, as some call it, a preaching or talking in prayer. Read all the prayers given us in the Scriptures; there is not one of them which does not contain expressions of enlargement, not immediately petitionary-yet conducive to the design.
With regard to appropriateness, Jenks has observed, “That we may as well expect to find a shoe that will fit every foot, as a form of prayer to suit every purpose.” Family prayers must be necessarily general, or adapted to the state of a household, devoid of its peculiarities. No form can be made to include every particular circumstance, or occurrence; the very things that would render it suitable to one family, would even hinder the use of it by another. The author fears, whether in two or three instances, he has not forgotten this.
Yet events and circumstances are perpetually arising, and it is of great importance to notice them devotionally. Almost every prayer in the Scriptures arose out of particular occurrences, and was designed to improve them. Here is a difficulty which there is only one way of removing. It is by adding some short addresses, applicable to certain events and circumstances; and which the reader may insert, in their proper place, in the prayer; or use at the end of it. Many of these, therefore, the author has supplied in the close of the volume. Many more might have been added, had the prayers been designed for personal and private use.