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  • THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN PRAYER


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    WITH A BRIEF INQUIRY INTO THE NATURE AND USE OF MENTAL PRAYER AND FORMS.

    LONDON: 1682.

    PREFATORY NOTE.

    THE preface to the following treatise is of some interest, as an earnest pleading against liturgical impositions, on four different grounds: — as having been instrnmental in securing, at an early period, currency for the errors of the great apostasy; in introducing the gorgeous embellishments of carnal fancy into the pure worship of the Christian religion; in tempting ecclesiastical authorities to the employment of civil penalties in matters of faith; and in leading to the cessation of spiritual and ministerial gifts in the church. The treatise itself unfolds the evidence and nature of the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit in prayer, and would be esteemed meagre and incomplete if it were regarded as a treatise on the whole subject of prayer.

    To understand its precise scope, it must be considered simply as another book in the general work of our author on the dispensation and operations of the Holy Spirit. Given the subsidiary discussions, on the mental prayer, of the church of Rome, and the use of devotional formulas, are evidently connected with the peculiar and distinctive object of the treatise, — as designed to illustrate the operations of the Spirit in the devotional exercises of believers.

    ANALYSIS.

    The object of the discourse is explained. The two main divisions of it are: — I. The evidence of an especial work of the Spirit in prayer and praise; and, II. The illustration of the nature of this work, chap. I.

    I. The evidence of its reality consists in a minute explanation of two passages in Scripture, Zechariah 12:10, and Galatians 4:6,2,3.

    II. Its general nature is considered, — prayer having been defined to be a spiritual faculty of exercising Christian graces in the way of vocal requests and supplications to God, IV. The work of the Spirit in the matter of prayer is reviewed in greater detail: — as enlightening us into a perception of our spiritual wants; acquainting us with the promises of grace and mercy for our relief; and leading us to express desires for any blessing in order to right and proper ends, V. His work as to the manner of prayer is described: — as disposing us to obey God in this duty; implanting holy and gracious desires after the objects sought; giving us delight in God as the object of prayer; and keeping us intent on Christ, as the way and ground of acceptance, VI. The manner of prayer is farther considered with special reference to Ephesians 6:18, VII. In the course of an argument on the duty of external prayer, the promise of the Spirit is exhibited as superseding the necessity of recourse to external forms, on the following grounds: — 1. The natural obligation to call on God according to our ability; 2. The example of the saints in Scripture; 3. The circumstance that in all the commands to pray there is no respect to outward helps; 4. The existence of certain means for the improvement of our gift in prayer; 5. The use to which our natural faculties of invention, memory, and elocution, are thus put; and, 6. The necessary exercise of our spiritual abilities, VIII.

    Certain duties are inferred from the preceding discourse: — 1. The ascription to God of all the glory on account of any gift in prayer; and, 2. Constant attention to the duty of prayer, IX. TWO subsidiary discussions follow: — 1. A searching exposure of the mental prayer recommended by the Church of Rome, in which prayer is merged into spiritual contemplation, without any succession and utterance of thought; it is shown that language is nointerference with the workings of devotional sentiment, but serves, on the contrary, to define the objects of thought, and enhance the power of conception, X.: and, 2. A disquisition on the use and value of forms: the mere use of them by some men, as suited to their attainments and experience, is discriminated from the alleged necessity of them for the purposes of worship.; and against the latter these objections are urged: — 1. There is no promise of the Spirit to assist in the composition of prayers for others; 2. The Spirit is promised that we may be helped, not to compose prayers, but to pray; 3. Forms of prayer are no institution, either of the law or the gospel; 4. The alleged practical benefit held to result from them is very questionable, inasmuch as those who have the gift of prayer do not need them, and those deficient in the gift, if believers, have the promise of it, and can only cultivate it by actual exercise; 5. There are better ways in which we may have the matter of prayer suggested to us; and, 6. In the light of experience, forms of prayer are not so conducive to spiritual benefit as the exercise of the gift. Lastly, Some arguments for forms of prayer from instances occurring in Scripture are considered and set aside. —ED.

    PREFACE TO THE READER.

    IT is altogether needless to premise any thing in this place concerning the necessity, benefit, and use of prayer in general. All men will readily acknowledge that as without it there can be no religion at all, so the life and exercise of all religion doth principally consist therein. Wherefore, that way and profession in religion which gives the best directions for it, with the most effectual motives unto it, and most aboundeth in its observance, hath therein the advantage of all others. Hence also it follows, that as all errors which either pervert its nature or countenance a neglect of a due attendance unto it are pernicious in religion, so differences in opinion, and disputes about any of its vital concerns, cannot but be dangerous and of evil consequence; for on each hand these pretend unto an immediate regulation of Christian practice in a matter of the highest importance unto the glory of God and the salvation of the souls of men. Whereas, therefore, there is nothing more requisite in our religion than that true apprehensions of its nature and use be preserved in the minds of men, the declaration and defense of them, when they are opposed or unduly traduced, is not only justifiable but necessary also.

    This is the design of the ensuing discourse. There is in the Scripture a promise of the Holy Ghost to be given unto the church as “a Spirit of grace and of supplications.” As such, also, there are particular operations ascribed unto him. Mention is likewise frequently made of the aids and assistances which he affords unto believers in and unto their prayers.

    Hence they are said to “pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” Of the want of these aids and assistances to enable them to pray according to the mind of God some do profess that they have experience, as also of their efficacy unto that end when they are received.

    Accordingly, these regulate themselves in this whole duty in the expectation or improvement of them. And there are those who, being accommodated with other aids of another nature, to the same purpose, which they esteem sufficient for them, do look on the former profession and plea of an ability to pray by the aids and assistances of the Holy Spirit to be a mere empty pretense.

    And in the management of these different apprehensions those at variance seem to be almost barbarians one to another, the one being not able to understand what the other do vehemently affirm: for they are determined in their minds, not merely by notions of truth and falsehood, but by the experience which they have of the things themselves, a sense and understanding whereof they can by no means communicate unto one another; for whereas spiritual experience of truth is above all other demonstrations unto them that do enjoy it, so it cannot be made an argument for the enlightening and conviction of others, Hence those who plead for prayer by virtue of supplies of gifts and grace from the Holy Spirit do admire that the use or necessity of them herein should be contradicted; nor can they understand what they intend who seem to deny that it is every man’s duty, in all his circumstances, to pray as well as he can, and to make use in his so doing of the assistance of the Spirit of God.

    And by “prayer” they mean that which the most eminent and only proper signification of the word doth denote, namely, that which is vocal. Some, on the other side, are so far from the understanding of these things, or a conviction of their reality, that with the highest confidence they despise and reproach the pretense of them. To “pray in the Spirit” is used as a notable expression of scorn, the thing signified being esteemed fond and contemptible.

    Moreover, in such cases as this, men are apt to run into excesses in things and ways which they judge expedient, either to countenance their own opinions or to depress and decry those of them from whom they differ.

    And no instances can be given in this kind of greater extravagances than in that under consideration: for hence it is that some do ascribe the original of free prayer amongst us; by the assistance of the Spirit of God, unto an invention of the Jesuits, — which is no doubt to make them the authors of the Bible; and others do avow that all forms of prayer used amongst us in public worship are mere traductions from the Roman Breviaries and Missal. But these things will be afterward spoken unto. They are here mentioned only to evince the use of a sedate inquiry into the truth or the mind of God in this matter; which is the design of the ensuing discourse.

    That which should principally guide us in the management of this inquiry is, that it be done unto spiritual advantage and edification, without strife or contention. Now, this cannot be without a diligent and constant attendance unto the two sole rules of judgment herein, — namely, Scripture revelation and the experience of them that do believe; for although the latter is to be regulated by the former, yet where it is so, it is a safe rule unto them in whom it is. And in this case, as in water face answereth unto face, so do Scripture revelation and spiritual experience unto one another. All other reasonings, from customs, traditions, and feigned consequences, are here of no use. The inquiries before us are concerning the nature of the work of the Holy Spirit in the aids and assistances which he gives unto believers in and unto their prayers, according unto the mind of God; as also what are the effects and fruits of that work of his, or what are the spiritual abilities which are communicated unto them thereby. Antecedently hereunto it should be inquired whether indeed there be any such thing or no, or whether they are only vainly pretended unto by some that are deceived; but the determination hereof depending absolutely on the foregoing inquiries, it may be handled jointly with them, and needs no distinct consideration, lie that would not deceive nor be deceived in his inquiry after these things must diligently attend unto the two forementioned rules of Scripture testimony and experience. Other safe guides he hath none. Yet will it also be granted that from the light of nature, whence this duty springs, wherein it is founded, from whence as unto its essence it cannot vary, as also from generally-received principles of religion suited thereunto, with the uncorrupted practice of the church of God in former ages, much direction may be given unto the understanding of those testimonies and examination of that experience.

    Wherefore, the foundation of the whole ensuing discourse is laid in the consideration and exposition of some of those texts of Scripture wherein these things are expressly revealed and proposed unto us, for to insist on them all were endless. This we principally labor in, as that whereby not only must the controversy be finally determined, but the persons that manage it be eternally judged. What is added concerning the experience of them that do believe the truth herein claims no more of argument unto them that have it not than it hath evidence of proceeding from and being suited unto those divine testimonies. But whereas the things that belong unto it are of great moment unto them who do enjoy it, as containing the principal acts, ways, and means of our intercourse and communion with God by Christ Jesus, they are here somewhat at large, on all occasions, insisted on, for the edification of those whose concernment lieth only in the practice of the duty itself. Unless, therefore, it can be proved that the testimonies of the Scripture produced and insisted on do not contain that sense and understanding which the words do determinately express (for that only is pleaded), or that some have not an experience of the truth and power of that sense of them, enabling them to live unto God in this duty according to it, all other contests about this matter are vain and useless.

    But yet there is no such work of the Holy Spirit pleaded herein as ahould be absolutely inconsistent with or condemnatory of all those outward aids of prayer by set composed forms which are almost everywhere made use of; for the device being ancient, and in some degree or measure received generally in the Christian world (though a no less general apostasy in many things from the rule of truth at the same time, in the same persons and places, cannot be denied), I shall not judge of what advantage it may be or hath been unto the souls of men, nor what acceptance they have found therein, where it is not too much abused. The substance of what we plead from Scripture and experience is only this, That whereas God hath graciously promised his Holy Spirit, as a Spirit of grace and supplications, unto them that do believe, enabling then to pray according to his mind and will, in all the circumstances and capacities wherdin they are, or which they may be called unto, it is the duty of them who are enlightened with the truth hereof to expect those promised aids and assistances in and unto their prayers, and to pray accordinng to the ability which they receive thereby.

    To deny this to be their duty, or to deprive them of their liberty to discharge it on all occasions, riseth up in direct opposition unto the divine instruction of the sacred word.

    But, moreover, as was before intimated, there are some generally-allowed principles, which, though not always duly considered, yet cannot at any time be modestly denied, that give direction towards the right performance of our duty herein; and they are these that follow: — 1. It it the duty of every man to pray for himself. The light of nature, multiplied divine commands, with our necessary dependence on God and subjection unto him, give life and light unto this principle. To own a Divine Being is to own that which is to be prayed unto, and that it is our duty so to do. 2. It it the duty of some, by virtue of natural relation or of office, to pray with and for others also. So is it the duty of parents and masters of families to pray with and for their children and households. This also derivea from those great principles of natural light that God is to be worshipped in all societies of his own erection, and that those in the relations mentioned are obliged to seek the chiefest good of them that are committed unto their ears; and so is it frequently enjoined in the Scripture.

    In like manner it is the duty of ministers to pray with and for their flocks, by virtue of especial institution. These things cannot be, nor, so far as I know of, are questioned by any; but practically the moat of men live in an open neglect of their duty herein. Were this but diligently attended unto, from the first instance of natural and moral relations unto the instituted offices of ministers and public teachers, we should have less contests about the nature and manner of praying than at present we have. It is holy practice that must reconcile differences in religion, or they will never be reconciled in this world. 3. Every one who prayeth, either by himself and for himself or with others for them, it obliged, as unto all the new, properties, and circumstances of to pray as well as he it able; for by the light of nature every one is obliged in all instances to serve God with his best. The confirmation and exemplification, hereof was one end of the institution of sacrifices under the Old Testament; for it was ordained in them that the chief and best of every thing was to be offered unto God. Neither the nature of God nor our own duty towards him will admit that we should expect any acceptance with him, unless our design be to serve him with the best that we have, both for matter and manner. So is the mind of God himself declared in the prophet: “If ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and the sick, is it not evil? Ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick: should I accept this of your hand? saith theLORD. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith theLORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen,” Malachi 1:8,13,14. 4. In our reasonable service, the best wherewith we can serve God consists in the intense, sincere actings of the faculties and affections of our minds, according unto their respective powers, through the use of the best assistance we can attain. And if we omit or forego, in any instance, the exercise of them according to the utmost of our present ability, we offer unto God the sick and the lame. If men can take it on themselves, in the sight of God, that the invention and use of set forms of prayer, and other the like outward modes of divine worship, are the best that he hath endowed them withal for his service, they are free from the force of this consideration. 5. There is no man but, in the use of the aids which God hath prepared for that purpose, is able to pray according to the will of God, and as he is in duty obliged, whether he pray by himself and for himself, or with others and for them also. There is not by these means perfection attainable in the performance of any duty, neither can all attain the same measure and degree u unto the usefulness of prayer and manner of praying; but every one may attain unto that wherein he shall be accepted with God, and according unto the duty whereunto he is obliged, whether personally or by virtue of any relation wherein he stands unto others. To suppose that God requireth duties of men which they cannot perform in an acceptable manner, by virtue and in the use of those aids which he hath prepared and promised unto that end, is to reflect dishonor on his goodness and wisdom in his commands. Wherefore, no man is obliged to pray, in any circumstances, by virtue of any relation or office, but he is able so to do according unto what is required of him; and what he is not able for he is not called unto. 6. We are expressly commanded to pray, but are nowhere commanded to make prayers for ourselves, much less for others. This is superadded, for a supposed conveniency, unto the light of nature and Scripture institution. 7. There is assistance promised unto believers to enable them to pray according unto the will of God ; there is no assistance promised to enable any to make prayers for others. The former part of this assertion is explained and proved in the ensuing discourse, and the latter cannot be disproved. And if it should be granted that the work of composing prayers for others is a good work, falling under the general aids of the Holy Spirit necessary unto every good work whatever, yet are not those aids of the same kind and nature with his actual assistances in and unto prayer as he is the Spirit of grace and supplications: for in the use of those assistances by grace and gifts, every man that useth them doth actually pray, nor are they otherwise to be used; but men do not pray in the making and composing forms of prayer, though they may do so in the reading of them afterward. 8. Whatever forms of prayer were given out unto the use of the church by divine authority and inspiration, as the Lord’s Prayer and the Psalms or Prayers of David, they are to have their everlasting use therein, according unto what they were designed unto. And be their end and use what it will, they can give no more warranty for human compositions unto the same end, and the injunction of their use, than for other human writings to be added unto the Scripture.

    These and the like principles, which are evident in their own light and truth, will be of use to direct us in the argument in hand, so far as our present design is concerned therein; for it is the vindication of our own principles and practice that is principally designed, and not an opposition unto those of other men. Wherefore, as was before intimated, neither these principles nor the divine testimonies, which we shall more largely insist upon, are engaged to condemn all use of set forms of prayers as sinful in themselves, or absolutely unlawful, or such as so vitiate the worship of God as to render it wholly unacceptable in them that choose so to worship him; for God will accept the persons of those who sincerely seek him, though, through invincible ignorance, they may mistake in sundry things as unto the way and manner of his worship. And how far, as unto particular instances of miscarriage, this rule may extend he only knows, and of men, whatever they pretend, not one. And where any do worship God in Christ with an evidence of holy fear and sincerity, and walk in a conversation answerable unto the rule of the gospel, though they have manifold corruptions in the way of their worship, I shall never judge severely either of their present acceptance with God or of their future eternal condition.

    This is a safe rule with respect unto others: our own is, to attend with all diligence unto what God hath revealed concerning his worship, and absolutely comply therewith; without which we can neither please him nor come to the enjoyment of him.

    I do acknowledge, also, that the general prevalency of the use of set forms of prayer of human invention in Christian assemblies for many ages (more than any other argument that is urged for their necessity) requires a tenderness in judgment as unto the whole nature of them, and the acceptance of their persons in the duty of prayer by whom they are used.

    Yet no consideration of this usage, seeing it is not warranted by the Scriptures, nor is of apostolical example, nor is countenanced by the practice of the primitive churches, ought to hinder us from discerning and judging of the evils and inconveniences that have ensued thereon, nor from discovering how far they are unwarrantable as unto their imposition. And these evils may be here a little considered.

    The beginnings of the introduction of the use of set forms of prayer of human composition into the worship of the church are altogether uncertain, but that the reception of them was progressive, by new additions from time to time, is known to all; for neither Rome nor the present Roman Missal was built in a day. In that and the Breviaries did the whole worship of the church issue, at lease in these parts of the world.

    No man is so fond as to suppose that they were of one entire composition, the work of one age, of one man, or any assembly of men at the same time, unless they be so brutishly devout as to suppose that the Mass-book was brought from heaven unto the pope by an angel, as the Alcoran was to Mohammed. It is evident, indeed, that common people, at least of the communion of the papal church, do believe it to be as much of a divine original as the Scripture, and that on the same grounds of the proposal of it unto them, as the only means of divine worship, by their church. Hence is it unto them an idol. But it is well enough known how from small beginnings, by various accessions, it increased unto its present form and station. And this progress, in the reception of devised forms of prayer in the worship of the church carried along with it sundry pernicious concomitants, which we may briefly consider: — First, in and by the additions made unto the first received forms, the superstitious and corrupt doctrines of the apostasy in several ages were insinuated into the worship of the church. That such superstitious and corrupt doctrines were gradually introduced into the church is acknowledged by all Protestants, and is sufficiently known; the supposition of it is the sole foundation of the Reformation. And by this artifice of new additions to received forms, they were from time to time admitted into and stated in the worship of the church; by which principally to this very day they preserve their station in the minds of men. Were that foundation of them taken away, they would quickly fall to the ground. By this means did those abominations of transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the mass both leaven and poison the whole worship of the public assemblies, and imposed themselves on the credulity of the people. The disputes of speculative men, superstitious and subtile, about these things, had never infected the minds of the common people of Christians, nor ever been the means of that idolatry which at length spread itself over the whole visible church of these parts of the world, had not this device of prescribed forms of prayer, wherein those abominations were not only expressed but graphically represented and acted (so violently affecting the carnal minds of men superstitious and ignorant), imposed them on their practice, which gradually hardened them with an obdurate credulity; for although they saw no ground or reason doctrinally to believe what was proposed unto them about transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the mass, and might easily have seen that they were contradictory unto all the conductive principles of men and Christians, — namely, faith, reason, and sense, — yet they deceived themselves into an obstinate pretense of believing in the notion of [the] truth of what they had admitted in practice. Men, I say, of corrupt minds might have disputed long enough about vagrant forms, accidents without subjects , transmutation of substances without accidents, sacrifice bloody and unbloody , before they had vitiated the whole worship of the church with gross idolatry, had not this engine been made use of for its introduction, and the minds of men by this means been inveigled with the practice of it; but when the whole matter and means of it was gradually insinuated into, and at length comprised in, those forms of prayer which they were obliged continually to use in divine service, their whole souls became leavened and tainted with a confidence in and love unto these abominations.

    Hence it was that the doctrines concerning the sacraments, and the whole worship of God in the church, as they became gradually corrupted, were not at once objectively and doctrinally proposed to the minds and considerations of men, to be received or rejected, according to the evidence they had of their truth or error (a method due to the constitution of our nature), but gradually insinuated into their practice by additional forms of prayer, which they esteemed themselves obliged to use and observe. This was the gilding of the poisonous pill, whose operation, when it was swallowed, was to bereave men of their sense, reason, and faith, and make them madly avow that to be true which was contrary unto them all.

    Besides, as was before intimated, the things themselves that were the groundwork of idolatry, — namely, transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the mass, — were so acted and represented in those forms of worship as to take great impression on the minds of carnal men, until they were mad on their idols; for when all religion and devotion is let into the soul by fancy and imagination, excited by outward spectacles, they will make mad work in the world, as they have done, and yet continue to do. But hereof I shall speak in the next place.

    It had, therefore, been utterly impossible that an idolatrous worship should have been introduced into the church in general, had not the opinion of the necessity of devised forms of prayer been first universally received; at least, it had not been so introduced and so established as to procure and cause the shedding of the blood of thousands of holy persons for not complying with it. By this means alone was brought in that fatal engine of the church’s ruin, from whose murderous efficacy few escaped with their lives or souls. Had all churches continued in the liberty wherein they were placed and left by our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles, it is possible that many irregularities might have prevailed in some of them, and many mistakes been admitted in their practice; yet this monster of the mass, devouring the souls of the most, and drinking the blood of many, had never been conceived nor brought forth, at least not nourished into that terrible form and power wherein it appeared and acted for many ages in the world.

    And upon the account thereof it is not without cause that the Jews say that the Christians received their Tephilloth, or Prayer-books, from Armillus, — that is, Antichrist.

    It is true, that when the doctrine of religion is determined and established by civil laws, the laws of the nation where it is professed, as the rule of all outward advantages, liturgies composed in compliance therewithal are not so subject to this mischief; but this ariseth from that external cause alone.

    Otherwise, wherever those who have the ordering of these things do deviate from the truth once received, as it is common for the most so to do, forms of prayers answerable unto those deviations would quickly be insinuated; and the present various liturgies that are amongst the several sorts of Christians in the world are of little other use than to establish their minds in their peculiar errors, which by this means they adhere unto as articles of their faith.

    And hereby did God suffer contempt to be cast upon the supposed wisdom of men about his worship and the ways of it. They would not trust unto his institutions and his care of them, but did first put the ark into a cart, and then, like Uzzah, put forth a hand of force to hold it when it seemed to shake; for it is certain that, if not the first invention, yet the first public recommendation and prescription, of devised forms of prayer unto the practice of the churches, were designed to prevent the insinnation of false opinions and corrupt modes of worship into the public administrations. This was feared from persons infected with heresy that might creep into the ministry. So the orthodox and the Arians composed prayers, hymns, and doxologies, the one against the other, inserting in them passages confirming their own profession and condemning that of their adversaries. Now, however this invention might be approved whilst it kept within bounds, yet it proved the Trojan horse that brought in all evils into the city of God in its belly; for he who was then at work in the mystery of iniquity laid hold on the engine and occasion to corrupt those prayers which, by the constitution of them who had obtained power in them, the churches were obliged and confined unto. And this took place effectually in the constitution of the worship of the second race of Christians, or the nations that were converted unto the Christian faith after they had destroyed the western Roman empire. To speak briefly and plainly, it was by this means alone, — namely, of the necessary use of devised forms of prayer in the assemblies of the church, and of them alone, — that the mess, with its transubstantiation and sacrifice, and all the idolatrous worship wherewith they are accompanied, were introduced, until the world, inflamed with those idols, drenched itself in the blood of the saints and martyrs of Christ, for their testimony against these abominations. And if it had been sooner discovered that no church was intrusted with power from Christ to frame and impose such devised forms of worship as are not warranted by the Scripture, innumerable evils might have been prevented: for, that there were no liturgies composed, no imposed use of them, in the primitive churches for some ages, is demonstratively proved with the very same arguments whereby we prove that they had neither the mass nor the use of images in their worship; for besides the utter silence of them in the apostolical writings, and those of the next ensuing ages, — which is sufficient to discard their pretense unto any such antiqulty, — there are such descriptions given of the practice of the churches in their worship as are inconsistent with them and exclusive of them; besides, they give such a new face to divine worship, so different from the portraiture of it delivered in the Scripture, as is hardly reconcilable thereunto, and so not quickly embraced in the church.

    I do not say that this fatal consequence of the introduction of humanlydevised set forms of prayer in the worship of the church, in the horrible abuse made of it, is sufficient to condemn them as absolutely unlawful; for where the opinions leading unto such idolatrous practices are openly rejected and condemned, as was before intimated, there all the causes, means, and occasions of that idolatry may be taken out of them and separated from them, as it is in the liturgies of the reformed churches, whether imposed or left free; — but it is sufficient to lay in the balance against that veneration which their general observance in many ages may invite or procure; and it is so also to warrant the disciples of Christ to stand fast in the liberty wherewith he hath made them free.

    Another evil, which either accompanied or closely followed on the introduction of devised forms of prayer into the church, was a supposed necessity of adorning the observance of them with sundry arbitrary ceremonies . And this also in the end, as is confessed among all Protestants, increased superstition in its worship, with various practices leading unto idolatry. It is evident that the use of free prayer in church administrations can admit of no ceremonies but such as are either of divine institution, or are natural circumstances of the actions wherein the duties of worship do materially consist. Divine institution and natural light are the rules of all that order and decency which is needful unto it. But when these devised forms were introduced, with a supposition of their necessity, and sole use in the church in all acts of immediate worship, men quickly found that it was needful to set them off with adventitious ornaments. Hereon there was gradually found out, and prescribed unto constant observation, so many outward postures and gestures, with attires, music, bowings, cringes, crossings, venerations, censings, altars, images, crucifixes, responds, alternatives, and such a rabble of other ceremonies, as rendered the whole worship of the church ludicrous, burdensome, and superstitious. And hereon it came to pass that he who is to officiate in divine service is obliged to learn and practice so many turnings and windings of himself, eastward and westward, to the altar, to the wall, to the people; so many gestures and postures, in kneeling, rising, standings, bowings, less and profound, secret and loud speakings, in a due observance of the interposition of crossings, with removals from one place to another, with provision of attires, in their variety of colors and respect to all the furniture of their altars, — as are difficult to learn, and foolishly antic in their practice, above all the preparations of players for the stage.

    Injunctions for these and the like observances are the subject of the rubric of the Missal and the cautels of the Mass.

    That these things have not only no affinity with the purity, simplicity, and spirituality of evangelical worship, but were invented utterly to exclude it out of the church and the minds of men, needs no proof unto any who ever read the Scrip. ture with due consideration. Nor is the office of the ministry less corrupted and destroyed by it; for besides a sorry cunning in this practice, and the reading of some forms of words in an accommodation unto these rites, there was little more than an easy good intention to do what he doth, and not the quite contrary, required to make any one man or woman (as it once at least fell out) to admimster in all sacred worship.

    Having utterly lost the Spirit of grace and supplications, neglecting at best all his aids and assistances, and being void of all experience in their minds of the power and efficacy of prayer by virtue of them, they found it necessary by these means to set off and recommend their dead forms; for the lifeless carcass of their forms merely alone were no more meet to be esteemed prayer than a tree or a log was to be esteemed a god, before it was shaped, fashioned, gilded, and adorned. By this means they taught the image of prayer, which they had made, to speak and act a part to the satisfaction of the spectators; for the bare reading of a form of words, especially as it was ordered in an unknown tongue, could never have given the least contentment unto the multitude, had it not been set off with this variety of ceremonies, composed to make an appearance of devotion and sacred veneration. Yet, when they had done their utmost, they could never equal the ceremonies and rites of the old temple-worship, in beauty, glory, and order; nor yet those of the heathen, in their sacred Eleusinian mysteries, for number, solemnity, gravity, and appearance of devotion.

    Rejecting the true glory of gospel-worship, which the apostle expressly declares to consist in the “administration of the Spirit,” they substituted that in the room thereof which debased the profession of Christian religion beneath that of the Jews and Pagans, especially considering that the most of their ceremonies were borrowed of them or stolen from them. But I shall never believe that their conversion of the holy prayers of the church, by an open contempt of the whole work of the Spirit of God in them, into a theatrical, pompous observance of ludicrous rites and ceremonies, can give so much as present satisfaction unto any who are not given up to strong delusions to believe a lie. The exercise of ingrafted prevalent superstition will appease a natural conscience; outward forms and representations of things believed will please the fancy, and exercise the imagination; variety, and frequent changes of modes, gestures, and postures, with a sort of prayer always beginning and always ending, will entertain present thoughts and outward senses, so as that men, finding themselves by these means greatly affected, may suppose that they pray very well when they do nothing less: for prayer, consisting in a holy exercise of faith, love, trust, and delight in God, acting themselves in the representation of our wills and desires unto him, through the aid and assistance of the Holy Ghost, may be absent, where all these are most effectually present.

    This also produced all the pretended ornaments of their temples, chapels, and oratories, by crucifixes, images, a multiplication of altars, with relics, tapers, vestments, and other utensils.

    None of these things, whereby Christian religion is corrupted and debased, would ever have come into the minds of men, had not a necessity of their invention been introduced by the establishment of set forms of prayer, as the only way and means of divine worship; and wherever they are retained, proportionably unto the principles of the doctrine which men profess, some such ceremonies must be retained also. I will not, therefore, deny but that here lieth the foundation of all our present differences about the manner of divine worship. Suppose a necessity of confining the solemn worship of the church unto set forms of prayer, and I will grant that sundry rituals and ceremonies may be well judged necessary to accompany their observance; for without them they will quickly grow obsolete and unsatisfactory. And if, on the other hand, free prayer in the church be allowed, it is evident that nothing but the grace and gifts of the Holy Ghost, with a due regard unto the decency of natural circumstances, is required in divine service, or can be admitted therein.

    Neither yet is this consequent, how inseparable soever it seems from the sole public use of set forms of prayer in sacred administrations, pleaded to prove them either in themselves or their use to be unlawful. The design of this consideration is only to show that they have been so far abused, that they are so subject to be abused, and do so alway stand in need to be abused, that they may attain the ends aimed at by them, as much weakens the plea of the necessity of their imposition.

    For this also is another evil that hath attended their invention. The guides of the church, after a while, were not contented to make use of humanlydevised forms of prayer, confining themselves unto their use alone in all public administrations, but, moreover, they judged it meet to impose the same practice on all whom they esteemed to be under their power. And this at length they thought lawful, yea, necessary to do on penalties, ecclesiastical and civil, and in the issue capital. When this injunction first found a prevalent entertainment is very uncertain. For the first two or three centuries there were no systems of composed forms of prayer used in any church whatever, as hath been proved. Afterward, when they began to be generally received, on such grounds and for such reasons as I shall not here insist on (but may do so in a declaration of “the nature and use of spiritual gifts, with their continuance in the church, and an inquiry into the causes of their decay” ), the authority of some great persons did recommend the use of their compositions unto other churches, even such as had a mind to make use of them, as they saw good. But as unto this device of thdr imposition, confining churches not only unto the necessary use of them in general, hut unto a certain composition and collection of them, we are beholden for all the advantage received thereby unto the popes of Rome alone, among the churches of the second edition: for, from their own good inclination, and by their own authority, without the advice of councils or pretense of traditions, — the two Gorgons’ heads whereby in other cases they frighten poor mortals, and turn them into stones, — by various degrees they obtained a right to impose them, and did it accordingly; for when the use and benefit of them had been for a while pleaded, and thence a progress made unto their necessity, it was judged needful that they should be imposed on all churches and Christians by their ecclesiastical authority. But when afterward they had insinuated into them, and lodged in their bowels, the two great idols of transubstantiation and the unbloody sacrifice, not only mulcts personal and pecuniary, but capital punishments, were enacted and executed to enforce their observance. This brought fire and fagot into Christian religion, making havoc of the true church of Christ, and shedding the blood of thousands; for the martyrdom of all that have suffered death in the world for their testimony against the idolatries of the mass derives originally from this spring alone of the necessary imposition of complete liturgical forms of prayer; for this is the sole foundation of the Roman Breviary and Missal, which have been the Abaddons of the church of Christ in these parts of the world, and are ready once more to be so again. Take away this foundation, and they all fall to the ground. And it is worth consideration of what kind that principle is, which was naturally improved unto such pernicious effects, which quickly was found to be a meet and effectual engine in the hand of Satan to destroy and murder the servants of Christ.

    Had the churches of Christ been left unto their primitive liberty under the enjoined duties of reading and expounding the Scripture, of singing psalms unto the praise of God, of the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper, and of diligent preaching the word, all of them with prayer, according unto the abilities and spiritual gifts of them who did preside in them, as it is evident that they were for some ages, it is impossible for any man to imagine what evils would have ensued thereon that might be of any consideration, in comparison of those enormous mischiefs which followed on the contrary practice. And as unto all the inconveniences which, as it is pretended, might ensue on this liberty, there is sufficient evangelical provision for their prevention or cure made in the gospel constitution and communion of all the true churches of Christ.

    But this was not the whole of the evil that attended this imposition, for by this means all spiritual, ministerial gifts were caused to cease in the church; for as they are talents given to trade withal, or manifestations of the Spirit given to profit or edify the church, they will not reside in any subject, they will not abide, if they are by any received, if they are not improved by continual exercise. We see every day what effects the contempt or neglect of them doth produce. Wherefore, this exercise of them being restrained and excluded by this imposition, they were utterly lost in the church, so that it was looked on as a rare thing for any one to be able to pray in the administration of divine worship, yea, the pretense of such an ability was esteemed a crime, and the exercise of it a sin scarce to be pardoned; yet do I not find it in any of the ancient canons reckoned among the faults for which a bishop or a presbyter was to be deposed. But that hereon arose, in those who were called to officiate in public assemblies, as unto the gifts which they had received for the edification of the church in divine administrations, that neglect which hath given a fatal wound unto the light and holiness of it, is openly evident; for when the generality of men of that order had provision of prayers made for them, which they purchased at an easy rate, or had them provided for them at the charge of the people, they were contented to be at rest, freed from that labor and travail of mind which are required unto the constant exercise and improvement of spiritual gifts. This imposition was the grave wherein they were buried; for at length, as it is manifest in the event, our Lord Jesus Christ being provoked with their sloth and unbelief, did withhold the communication of such gifts from the generality of those who did officiate in divine worship. And hereby they lost, also, one great evidence of the continuance of his mediatory life in heaven for the preservation of the church.

    It is known that this was and is the state of things in the Roman church with reference unto their whole worship in their public assemblies; and, therefore, although they have indulged divers enthusiasts, whose revelations and actings, pretended from the Holy Spirit, have tended to the confirmation of their superstitions, and some of them have ventured at notions about mental prayer which they understand not themselves, yet as unto free prayer by the assistance of the Holy Ghost, in the church assemblies or otherwise, they were the first, and continue to be the fiercest opposers of it: and it is their interest so to be; for shake this foundation of the imposition of an entire system of humanly-clerked prayers for the only way and means of the worship of the church, and the whole fabric of the mass, with all the weight of their religion (if vanity and imagination may be said to have any weight) which is laid thereon, will tumble into the pit from whence it came. And, therefore, I must here acquaint the reader that the first occasion of writing this discourse was the perusal of Mr Cressy’s preface to his Church History, wherein, out of a design to advance the pretended mental prayer of some of his enthusiasts, he reflects with much contumely and reproach upon that free praying by the aids of the Spirit of God which we plead for; and he will find that all his pretences are examined in the latter part of this discourse.

    But notwithstanding these things, those of the Roman church do at this day boast themselves of their devotions in their prayers private and public, and have prevailed thereby on many, disposed unto a compliance with them by their own guilt, ignorance, and superstition. The vanity of their pretense hath been well detected, by evincing the idolatry whereby all or the most of their devotions are vitiated and rendered unacceptable.

    But this also is of weight with me, that the provision of the system and order of their whole devotion, and its exercise, are apparently composed and fitted unto the exclusion of the whole work of the Spirit of God in prayer; and yet do they continue under such an incredible delusion as to oppose, revile, and condemn the prayers of others who are not of their communion. on this consideration, that those who make them have not the Holy Spirit nor his aids, which are all confined unto their church! But if any society of men in the world maintaining the outward profession of Christian religion can do more to exclude the Holy Ghost and all his operations, in prayer and divine worship, than their church hath done, I shall acknowledge myself greatly mistaken. It is nothing but ignorance of him and his whole work, with all the ends for which he is promised unto the church (that I say not a hatred and detestation of them) that causeth any to embrace their ways of devotion.

    But to return. The things pleaded for may be reduced unto the ensuing heads: — 1. No persons, no churches, are obliged, by virtue of any divine constitution, precept, or approved example, to confine themselves, in their public or private worship, unto set or humanly-devised forms of prayer. If any such constitution, precept, or example can be produced (which hitherto hath not been done) it ought to be complied withal. And whilst others are left unto their liberty in their use, this is sufficient to enervate all pleas for their imposition. 2. There is a promise in the Scripture, there are many promises, made and belonging unto the church unto the end of the world, of the communication of the Holy Spirit unto it, as unto peculiar aids and assistance in prayer.

    To deny this, is to overthrow the foundation of the holiness and comfort of all believers, and to bring present ruin to the souls of men in distress. 3. It is the duty of believers to look after, to pray for, those promised aids and assistances in prayer. Without this all those promises are despised, and looked on as a flourish of words, without truth, power, or efficacy in them. But, — 4. This they are commanded to do, and have blessed experience of success therein. The former is plain in the Scripture, and the latter must be left unto their own testimony living and dying. 5. Beyond the divine institution of an the ordinances of worship in the church, with the determination of the matter and form which are essential unto them, contained in the Scripture, and a due attendance unto natural light in outward circumstances, there is nothing needful unto the due and orderly celebration of an public worship in its assembly. If any such thing be pretended, it is what Christ never appointed, nor the apostles ever practiced, nor the first churches after them, nor hath it any promise of acceptance. 6. For the preservation of the unity of faith, and the communion of churches among themselves therein, they may express an agreement, as in doctrine by a joint confession of faith, so in a declaration of the material and substantial parts of worship, with the order and method thereof; on which foundation they may in an things communicate with each other as churches, and in the practice of their members. 7. Whereas the differences about prayer under consideration concern Christian practice in the vitals of religion, great respect is to be had unto the experience of them that do believe, where it is not obstructed and clouded by prejudices, sloth, or adverse principles and opinions, Therefore, the substance of the greatest part of the ensuing discourse consists principally in the declaration of those concernments of prayer which relate unto practice and experience. And hence it follows, — 8. That the best expedient to compose these differences amongst us, is for every one to stir up the gift and grace of God that is in him, and all of us to give up ourselves unto that diligence, frequency, fervency, and Perseverance in prayer which God requireth of us; especially in such a season as that wherein we live, — a time wherein they, whoever they be, who trouble others may, for aught they know, be near unto trouble themselves. This will be the most effectual means to lead us an unto the acknowledgment of the truth, and without which an agreement in notions is of little use or value.

    But, I confess, hopes are weak concerning the due application of this remedy unto any of our evils or distempers. The opinions of those who deny all internal, real, efficacious operations of the Holy Spirit on the souls of men, and deride all their effects, have so far diffused and riveted themselves into the minds of many that little is to be expected from a retreat unto those aids and reliefs. This evil in the profession of religion was reserved for these latter ages; for although the work and grace of the Holy Spirit in divine worship was much neglected and lost in the world, yet no instances can be given in ages past of such contempt cast upon all his internal grace and operations as now abounds in the world. If the Pelagians, who were most guilty, did fall into any such excesses, they have escaped the records and monuments that remain of their deportment. Bold efforts they are of atheistical inclinations in men openly avowing their own ignorance and utter want of all experience in things spiritual and heavenly. Neither doth the person of Christ or his office meet with better entertainment amongst many; and by some they have been treated with scurrility and blasphemy. In the meantime, the contests about communion with churches are great and fierce. But where these things are received and approved, those who live not on a traditionary faith will not forsake Christ and the gospel, or renounce faith and experience, for the communion of any church in the world.

    But all flesh almost hath corrupted its way. The power of religion, and the experience of it in the souls of men, being generally lost, the profession of it is of no great use, nor will long abide; yea, multitudes, all the world over, seem to be weary of the religion which themselves profess, so far as it is pleaded to be of divine revelation, be it true or false, unless it be where they have great secular advantages by their profession of it. There is no greater pretense of a flourishing state in religion than that of some churches of the Roman communion, especially one at this day; — but if the account which is given us from among themselves concerning it be true, it is not much to be gloried in; for set aside the multitude of atheists, and scripturists, and avowed disbelievers of the supernatural mysteries of the gospel, and the herd that remains influenced into a hatred and persecution of the truth by a combination of men upholding themselves and their way by extravagant secular interests and advantages, is not very highly considerable, yea, their present height seems to be on a precipice. What inroads in other places, — bold opinions concerning the authority of Scripture and the demonstration of it, the person and office of Christ, the Holy Spirit and all his operations, with the advancement of a pretense of morality in opposition to evangelical grace in its nature and efficacy, — are made every day is known unto all who consider these things. And although the effects of this poison discover themselves daily, in the decays of piety, the increase of immoralities of all sorts, and the abounding of flagitious sins, exposing nations unto the high displeasure of God, yet the security of most in this state of things proclaims itself in various fruits of it, and can never be sufficiently deplored.

    Whereas, therefore, one means of the preservation of the church, and its deliverance out of these evils, is a due attendance unto the discharge of this duty of prayer, the declaration of its nature, with a vindication of the springs and causes from whence it derives its efficacy, which are attempted in the ensuing discourse, may, I hope, through the blessing of God, he of some use unto such whose minds are sincere in their inquiries after truth.

    CHAPTER 1.

    THE USE OF PRAYER, AND THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT THEREIN.

    THE works of the Spirit of God towards believers are either general, and not confined with a respect unto any one duty more than another, or particular, with respect unto some especial duty. Of the first sort are regeneration and sanctification, which, being common unto them all, are the general principles of all actings of grace or particular duties in them.

    But there are, moreover, sundry especial works or operations of this Holy Spirit in and towards the disciples of Christ, which, although they may be reduced unto the general head of sanctification, yet they fall under an especial consideration proper unto themselves. Of this sort is the aid or assistance which he gives unto us in our prayers and supplications.

    I suppose it will be granted that prayer, in the whole compass and extent of it, as comprising meditation, supplication, praise, and thanksgiving, is one of the most signal duties of religion. The light of nature in its most pregnant notions, with its practical language in the consciences of mankind, concurs in its suffrage with the Scripture in this matter; for they both of them jointly witness that it is not only an important duty in religion, but also that without it there neither is nor can be the exercise of any religion in the world. Never any persons lived in the acknowledgment of a Deity, but under the conduct of the same apprehension they thought the duty of vows, prayers, and praises, incumbent on them, as they found occasion; yea, although they found out external, ceremonious ways of solemnizing their devotions, yet it was this duty of prayer alone which was their natural, necessary, fundamental acknowledgment of that Divine Being which they did own. Neither are there any considerable stories extant recording the monuments of the ancient heathen nations of the world, wherein (to the shame of degenerate Christianity it may be spoken) there are not more frequent accounts given of their sacred invocations and supplications unto their supposed gods than are to be found in any of the historical monuments and stories concerning the actions of Christian nations in these latter ages. This, therefore, is the most natural and most eminent way and means of our converse with God, without which converse we have no present advantage above the beasts that perish but such as will turn unto our eternal disadvantage in that misery whereof they are incapable. This is the way whereby we exercise towards him all that grace which we do receive from him, and render him an acceptable acknowledgment of that homage and revenue of glory which w~ are never able to exhibit in their due kind and measure. Of what use and advantage the due performance of this duty is unto ourselves no man is able fully to express; every one can add somewhat of his own experience. But we need not insist on the commendation of prayer, for it will be said, “By whom was it ever discommended?”

    And I wish I saw reason to acquiesce in that reply; for not only the practice of the most, but the declared opinions of many, do evidence that neither the excellency of this duty nor its necessity doth fred such acceptance and esteem in the minds of men as is pretended. But this being not my present design, I shall not farther insist upon it; for my purpose is not to treat of the nature, necessity, properties, uses, effects, and advantages, of this gracious duty, as it is the vital breath of our spiritual life unto God. Its original in the law of nature, as the first and principal means of the acknowledgment of a Divine Power, whereof the neglect is a sufficient evidence of practical atheism (for he that prayeth not says in his heart, “There is no God”); its direction in the Scripture, as to the rule, manner, and proper object of it; the necessity of its constant use and practice, both from especial commands and our state in this world, with the whole variety of inward and outward occasions that may befall us, or we may be exercised withal; arguments, motives, and encouragements unto constancy, fervency, and perseverance in the performance of the duty of it, with known examples of its mighty efficacy and marvellous success; the certain advantages which the souls of believers do receive thereby, in spiritual aids and supplies of strength, with peace and consolation; with sundry other of its concernments, although much treated of already by many, might yet be farther considered and improved. But none of these is my present design. The interest of the Holy Spirit of God by his gracious operations in it is that alone which I shall inquire into.

    And it cannot be denied but that the work and actings of the Spirit of grace in and towards believers with respect unto the duty of prayer are more frequently and expressly asserted in the Scripture than his operations with respect unto any other particular grace or duty whatever. If this should be called into question, the ensuing discourse, I hope, will sufficiently vindicate and confirm its truth. But hereby believers are instructed, as in the importance of the duty itself, so in the use and necessity of the aid and assistance of the Spirit of God in and unto the right discharge or performance of it; for where frequent plain revelations concur, in multiplied commands and directions, with continual experience, as it is with them in this case, their instruction is firm, and in a way of being fixed on their minds. As this rendereth an inquiry hereinto both necessary and seasonable, (for what can be more so than that wherein the spiritual life and comfort of believers are so highly concerned, and which exhibiteth unto us so gracious a condescension of divine love and goodness?) so, moreover, the opposition that is made in the world against the work of the Spirit of God herein, above all other his operations, requires that something be spoken in the vindication of it.

    But the enmity hereunto seems to be peculiar unto these latter ages, I mean among such as pretend unto any acquaintance with these things from the Scripture. It will be hard to find an instance in former ages of any unto whom the Spirit of God, as a Spirit of grace and supplication, was a reproach. But as now the contradiction herein is great and fierce, so is there not any difference concerning any practical duty of religion wherein parties at variance are more confident and satisfied in and about their own apprehensions than they are who dissent about the work of the Spirit of God in our prayers and supplications; for those who oppose what is ascribed by others unto him herein are not content to deny and reject it, and to refuse a communion in the faith and practice of the work so ascribed unto him, but, moreover, such is the confidence they have in their conceptions, that they revile and speak evil contemptuously and despitefully of what they do oppose. Hence ability to pray, as is pleaded, by the assistance of the Holy Ghost is so far from being allowed to be a gift, or a grace, or a duty, or any way useful among men, that it is derided and scorned as a paltry faculty, fit to be exploded from among Christians; and at length it is traduced as an invention and artifice of the Jesuits, to the surprisal and offense of many sober persons; the unadvisedness of which insinuation the ensuing discourse will manifest.

    Others, again, profess that of all the privileges whereof they are made partakers in this world, of all the aids, assistances, or gifts which they receive from or by the Spirit of God, that which he communicates and helps them withal in their prayers and supplications is the most excellent and inestimable; and herein they have, living and dying, in all troubles, distresses, temptations, and persecutions, such assurance and satisfaction in their minds, as that they are not in the least moved with all the scorn and contempt that are cast upon their profession and practice in the exercise of the gift which they have received, but rather judge that they contract the guilt of great sin to themselves by whom this work of the Spirit is reproached. Hence I know not any difference about religious things that is managed with greater animosities in the minds of men and worse consequents than this which is about the work of the Spirit of God in prayer; which, indeed, is the hinge on which all other differences about divine worship do turn and depend. It may, therefore, be well worth our while, yea, it is our duty, sedately and diligently to inquire into what the Scripture teacheth us in this matter; wherein we must acquiesce, and whereby all experiences on the one side or the other must be tried and regulated. Two things, therefore, I do propose unto myself in the ensuing discourse, concerning both which I shall plainly and briefly endeavor the satisfaction of indifferent and unprejudiced readers; — and these are, first, To evince that there is promised and actually granted an especial work of the Spirit of God in the prayers or praises of believers under the New Testament; secondly, To declare the nature of that work, wherein it doth consist, or the manner of the operation of the Holy Spirit therein. And if in these things no impression can be made on the minds of men possessed with those mighty prejudices which reject their very proposal and all consideration of them with contempt, yet it may be of use unto them who, being not biassed with the undue love or hatred of parties of men, nor elated with high valuations of their own conceptions above those of others, whom they think they have reason if not to hate, yet to scorn, do sincerely desire to live unto God, and to prefer the performance of their duty unto all other considerations, endeavoring to subdue their inclinations and affections thereunto. Nor do I desire more of any reader but that he will grant that he is herein conversant about things which will have an influence into his everlasting account.

    CHAPTER 2. ZECHARIAH 12:10 OPENED AND VINDICATED.

    THE especial promise of the administration of the Spirit of God unto the end under consideration is that which I shall lay as the foundation of the ensuing discourse. Zechariah 12:10, “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications.”

    The Spirit here promised is the Spirit of God, “the Holy Spirit,” with respect unto the especial end for which he is promised. And the manner of his administration in the accomplishment of the promise is expressed by yTik]p’v;w] , “I will pour out.” The same word is used to the same purpose, Ezekiel 39:29, Joel 2:28, as are also other words of the same importance, which we render by “pouring out,” as Proverbs 1:23; Isaiah, 32:15, 44:3, 52:15. 1. Two things have been elsewhere declared concerning this expression, applied unto the communication of the Holy Ghost: — (1.) That a plentiful dispensation of him unto the end for which he is promised, with respect unto a singular and eminent degree in his operations, is intended therein. The apostle expresseth this word, or the accomplishment of what is promised in it, by ejxe>ceen plousi>wv , Titus 3:6, “he hath richly,” or abundantly, “poured out his Spirit.” Not, therefore, a mere grant and communication of the Spirit, but a plentiful effusion of him, is intended; which must have some eminent effects as pledges and tokens thereof, for it is absurd to speak of a “plentiful, abundant effusion,” with degrees above what was before granted, and yet there be no certain ways or means whereby it may be evidenced and demonstrated. The Spirit, therefore, is so promised in this place as to produce some notable and peculiar effects of his communication. (2.) That this promise is peculiar unto the days of the gospel; I mean, every promise is so where mention is made of pouring out the Spirit on men; which may be evinced by the consideration of every place where this expression is used. But in this place it is most unquestionable, the immediate effect of it being a looking unto Christ as he was pierced. And it may be yet farther observed, that there is a tacit comparison in it with some other time or season, or some other act of God, wherein or whereby he gave his Spirit before, but not in that way, manner, or measure that he now promiseth to bestow him. Of the whole of these observations, Didymus gives us a brief account, De Spir. Sanc. 1:1: “Significat autem effusionis verbum, largam, et divitem muneris abundantiam; itaque cure unus quis alicubi, aut duo Spiritum Sanctum accipiunt, non dicitur, ‘Effundam de Spiritu meo,’ sed tunc, quando in universas gentes munus Spiritus Sancti redundaverit.” 2. Those unto whom he is thus promised are “the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” — that is, the whole church, expressed in a distribution into the ruling family and the body of the people under their rule. And the family of David, which was then in supreme power among the people in the person of Zerubbabel, is expressly mentioned for three reasons: — (1.) Because the faithfulness of God in his promises was concerned in the preservation of that family, whereof the Messiah was to spring, Christ himself being thereby, in the rule of the church, typed out in an especial manner. (2.) Because all the promises in a peculiar manner were first to be fulfilled in the person of Christ, so typed by David and his house. On him the Spirit, under the New Testament, was first to be poured out in all fullness; and from him to be communicated unto others. (3.) It may be to denote the especial gifts and graces that should be communicated unto them who were to be employed in the rule and conduct of the church under him, the king and head thereof. And “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” is a phrase expressive of the whole church, because that was the seat of all their public ordinances of worship. See Psalm 122. Wherefore, the whole spiritual church of God, all believers, are the object of this promise, as represented in the “house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” 3. The especial qualifications of the promised Spirit are two; for, — (1.) He is to be ãje j’Wr , a “Spirit of grace.” ˆje which the Greek constantly renders ca>riv , and we from the Latin gratia, “grace,” is derived from ˆn’j; , as is also the following word, which signifies to “have mercy,” or “compassion,” to be “gracious;” as all the words whereby God’s gracious dealings with sinners [are expressed] in the Hebrew do include the signification of pity, compassion, free goodness, and bounty. And it is variously used in the Scripture: sometimes for the grace and favor of God, as it is the fountain of all gracious and merciful effects towards us, Romans 1:7, 4:16, 5:2,15,20, 6:1, 11:5; 1 Corinthians 1:3; and in other places innumerable; — and sometimes for the principal effect thereof, or the gracious favor of God whereby he accepts us in Christ, Ephesians 2:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:12; which is the grace the apostle prays for in the behalf of the church, Romans 16:20; 1 Corinthians 16:23. And sometimes it is applied unto the favor of men, and acceptation with them, called the “finding grace” or “favor” in the sight of any, Genesis 39:4,21; 1 Samuel 2:26; Proverbs 3:4; Esther 2:15,17, 5:2; Luke 2:52; Acts 4:33; — and sometimes for the free effectual efficacy of grace in those in whom it is, Acts 14:26; 1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 12:9; — and sometimes for our justification and salvation by the free grace or favor of God in Christ, John 1:17; Peter 1:13; — for the gospel itself, as the instrument of the declaration and communication of the grace of God, 2 Corinthians 6:1; Ephesians 3:2; Colossians 1:6; Titus 2:11; — for the free donation of the grace and gifts of the Spirit, John 1:16; Ephesians 4:7. And many other significations it hath, which belong not unto our purpose.

    Three things may be intended in this adjunct of grace . [1.] A respect of the sovereign cause of his dispensation, which is no other but the mere grace of God. He may be called a “Spirit of grace,” because his donation is an effect of grace, without the least respect unto any desert in those unto whom he is given. This reason of the appellation is declared, Titus 3:4-7. The sole cause and reason, in opposition unto our own works or deservings, of the pouring out of the Spirit upon us, is the love and kindness of God in Jesus Christ; whence he may be justly called a “Spirit of grace.” [2.] Because he is the author of all grace in and unto them on whom he is poured out; so God is called the “God of all grace,” because he is the fountain and author of it. And that the Holy Spirit is the immediate efficient cause of all grace in us hath been elsewhere proved, both in general and in the principal instances of regeneration and sanctification; and it shall be yet farther confirmed in what doth ensue. [3.] ˆje is commonly used for that grace or favor which one hath with another: “Let me find grace in thy sight;” as in the instances before quoted.

    And so the Spirit also may be called a “Spirit of grace,” because those on whom he is poured out have grace and favor with God; they are gracious with him, as being “accepted in the Beloved,” Ephesians 1:6. Whereas, therefore, all these concur wherever this Spirit is communicated, I know no reason why we may not judge them all here included, though that in the second place be especially intended. The Spirit is promised to work grace and holiness in all on whom he is bestowed. (2.) He is, as thus poured out, a “Spirit µyniWnj\t’ , of supplications;” that is, of prayer for grace and mercy. The word is formed from ˆn’j; , as the other, to be gracious or merciful, and, expressing our act towards God, it is prayer for grace, — supplication;’ and it is never used but to express vocal prayer, either in the assemblies of the people of God or by private persona “Hearken to the voice of my supplications,” is rendered by the apostle Paul iJkethri>av , Hebrews 5:7; in which place alone in the Scripture that word is used. Originally it signifies a bough or olive-branch wrapped about with wool or bays, or something of the like nature, which those carried in their hands and lifted up who were suppliants unto others for the obtaining of peace or the averting of their displeasure. Hence came the phrase of velamenta proeferre, to hold out such covered branches. So Livy, De Bel. Punic., lib. 24 cap. 30, “Ramos oleae, ac velamenta alia supplicantium porrigentes, orare, ut reciperent sese;” — “Holding forth olive-branches, and other covered tokens used by suppliants, they prayed that they might be received” into grace and favor. Which custom Virgil declares in his A Eneas addressing himself to Evander: — “Optime Grajugenum, cui me fortuna precari Et vitta comptos voluit praetendere ramos” — Virg. AEn. 8:127.

    And they called them iJkethri>ouv zallou>v , “branches of supplication,” or prayer. And they constantly called those prayers which they made solemnly unto their gods, supplicia and supplications, Liv., lib. 10 cap. 23, “Eo anno prodigia multa fuerunt: quorum averruncandorum causua supplicationes in biduum senatus decrevit;” a form of which kind of prayer we have in Cato, De Re Rustica, cap. 13, “Mars pater te precor quaesoque ut calamitates — —.”

    Some render µyniWnj\t’ by miserationes or lamentationes, and interpret it of men’s bemoaning themselves in their prayers for grace and mercy, — which in the issue varies not from the sense insisted on; but whereas it is derived from ˆn’j; which signifies to be merciful or gracious, and expresses an act of ours towards God, it can properly signify nothing but supplications for mercy and grace, nor is it otherwise used in the Scripture. See Job 41:3; Proverbs 18:23; Daniel 9:3; Jeremiah 31:9; 2 Chronicles 6:21; Jeremiah 3:21; Psalm 28:2,6, 31:22, 116:1, 130:2, 140:6, 143:1; Daniel 9:18,23; Psalm 86:6; which are all the places, besides this, where the word is used; in all which it denotes deprecation of evil and supplication for grace, constantly in the plural number, to denote the earnestness of men. µyniWnj\t’ , therefore, are properly supplications for grace and mercy, for freedom and deliverance from evil, put by a synecdoche for all sorts of prayer whatever. We may, therefore, inquire in what sense the Holy Spirit of God is called a “Spirit of supplications,” or what is the reason of this attribution unto him. And he must be so either formally or efficiently, either because he is so in himself or unto us. If in the former way, then he is a Spirit who himself prayeth, and, according to the import of those Hebraisms, aboundeth in that duty. As a “man of wickedness,” Isaiah 55:7, or a “man of blood,” is a man wholly given to wickedness and violence; so, on the other hand, a “Spirit of supplications” should be a Spirit abounding in prayer for mercy and the diverting of evil, as the word imports. Now, the Holy Ghost cannot be thus a Spirit of supplication, neither for himself nor us. No imagination of any such thing can be admitted with respect unto himself without the highest blasphemy. Nor can he in his own person make supplications for us; for besides that any such interposition in heaven on our behalf is in the Scripture wholly confined unto the priestly office of Christ and his intercession, all prayer, whether oral or interpretative only, is the act of a nature inferior unto that which is prayed unto. This the Spirit of God hath not; he hath no nature inferior unto that which is divine. We cannot, therefore, suppose him to be formally a Spirit of supplication, unless we deny his deity. He is so, therefore, efficiently with respect unto us, and as such he is promised unto us. Our inquiry, therefore, in general, is how or in what sense he is so. And there are but two ways conceivable whereby this may be affirmed of him: — [1.] By working gracious inclinations and dispositions in us unto this duty; [2.] By giving a gracious ability for the discharge of it in a due manner.

    These, therefore, must belong unto and do comprise his efficiency as a Spirit of supplication.

    Both of them are included in that of the apostle, “The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us,” Romans 8:26. Those who can put any other sense on this promise may do well to express it. Every one consistent with the analogy of faith shall be admitted, so that we do not judge the words to be void of sense and to have nothing in them. To deny the Spirit of God to be a Spirit of supplication in and unto believers is to reject the testimony of God himself.

    By the ways mentioned we affirm that he is so, nor can any other way be assigned. [1.] He is so by working gracious inclinations and dispositions in us unto this duty. It is he who prepareth, disposeth, and inclineth the hearts of believers unto the exercise thereof with delight and spiritual complacency.

    And where this is not, no prayer is acceptable unto God. He delights not in those cries which an unwilling mind is pressed or forced unto by earthly desires, distress, or misery, James 4:3. Of ourselves, naturally, we are averse from any converse and intercourse with God, as being alienated from living unto him by the ignorance and vanity of our minds.

    And there is a secret alienation still working in us from all duties of immediate communion with him It is he alone who worketh us unto that frame wherein we pray continually, as it is required of us; our hearts being kept ready and prepared for this duty on all occasions and opportunities, being in the meantime acted and steered under the conduct and influence of those graces which are to be exercised therein. This some call the “grace of prayer” that is given us by the Holy Ghost, as I suppose improperly, though I will not contend about it; for prayer absolutely and formally is not a peculiar grace distinct from all other graces that are exercised in it, but it is the way and manner whereby we are to exercise all other graces of faith, love, delight, fear, reverence, self-abasement, and the like, unto certain especial ends. And I know no grace of prayer distinct or different from the exercise of these graces. It is, therefore, a holy commanded way of the exercise of other graces, but not a peculiar grace itself. Only, where any person is singularly disposed and devoted unto this duty, we may, if we please, though improperly, say that he is eminent in the grace of prayer. And I do suppose that this part of his work will not be denied by any, no, not that it is intended in the promise. If any are minded to stand at such a distance from other things which are ascribed unto him, or have such an abhorrenc of allowing him part or interest in our supplications as that we may in any sense be said to pray in the Holy Ghost, that they will not admit of so much as the work of his grace, and that wrought in believers by virtue of this promise, they will manage an opposition unto his other actings at too dear a rate to be gainers by it. [2.] He is so by giving an ability for prayer, or communicating a gift unto the minds of men, enabling them profitably unto themselves and others to exercise all his graces in that especial way of prayer. It will be granted afterward that there may be a gift of prayer used where there is no grace in exercise, nor perhaps any to be exercised, — that is, as some improperly express it, “the gift of prayer, where the grace of prayer is not;” but in declaring how the Spirit is a Spirit of supplication, we must take in the consideration of both. He both disposeth us to pray, that is, to the exercise of grace in that especial way, and enableth us thereunto. And where this ability is wholly and absolutely wanting, or where it is rejected or despised, although he may act and exercise those very graces which are to be exercised in prayer, and whose exercise in that way is commonly called the “grace of prayer,” yet this work of his belongs unto the general head of sanctification, wherein he preserves, excites, and acts all our graces, and not unto this especial work of prayer, nor is he a Spirit of supplication therein. He is, therefore, only a Spirit of supplication, properly, as he communicates a gift or ability unto persons to exercise all his graces in the way and duty of prayer. This is that which he is here promised for, and promised to be poured out for; that is, to be given in an abundant and plentiful manner. Wherever he is bestowed in the accomplishment of this promise, he both disposeth the hearts of men to pray and enableth them so to do. This ability, indeed, he communicates in great variety, as to the degrees of it, and [as to its] usefulness unto others in its exercise, but he doth it unto every one so far as is necessary unto his own spiritual concernments, or the discharge of his duty towards God and all others. But whereas this assertion contains the substance of what we plead for, the farther confirmation of it must be the principal subject of the ensuing discourse.

    That this is the sense of the place, and the mind of the Holy Ghost in the words, needs no other demonstration but that it is expressive of their proper signification, neither can any other sense tolerably be affixed on them. To deny the Holy Spirit to be denominated a Spirit of supplication, because he inclineth, disposeth, and enableth them to pray unto whom he is promised, and on whom he is bestowed as such, is to use a little too much liberty in sacred things.

    A learned man of late, out of hatred unto the Spirit of prayer, or prayer as his gift, hath endeavored to deprive the church of God of the whole benefit and comfort of this promise (Amyrald. Praefat. in Psal.); for he contends that it belong not unto the Christian church, but unto the Jews only. Had he said it belonged unto the Jews in the first place who should be converted unto Christ, he had not gone so wide from the truth nor from the sense of other expositors, though he had said more than he could prove. But to suppose that any grace, any mercy, any privilege by Jesus Christ, is promised unto the Jews, wherein Gentile believers shall be no sharers, that they should not partake of the same kind, whoever hath the prerogative as to degrees, is fond and impious; for if they also are children of Abraham, if the blessing of faithful Abraham do come upon them also, if it is through them that he is the heir of the world, his spiritual seed inhabiting it by right in all places, then unto them do all the promises belong that are made unto him and his seed. And whereas most of the “exceeding great and precious promises” of the Old Testament are made to Jacob and Israel, to Jerusalem and Zion, it is but saying that they are all confined unto the Jews, and so at once to despoil the church of God of all right and title to them; which impious folly and sacrilege hath been by some attempted. But whereas all the promises belong unto the same covenant, with all the grace contained in them and exhibited by them, whoever is interested by faith in that covenant is so in all the promises of God that belong thereunto, and hath an equal right unto them with those unto whom they were first given. To suppose, now that the Jews are rejected for their unbelief, that the promises of God made unto them whilst they stood by faith are ceased and of no use, is to overthrow the covenant of Abraham, and, indeed, the whole truth of the New Testament.

    But the apostle assures us that “all the promises of God in Christ are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us;” that is, in their accomplishment in us and towards us, 2 Corinthians 1:20. So, also, he positively affirms that all believers have received those promises which originally were made unto Israel 2 Corinthians 6:16-18, 7:1. And not only so, but he declareth also that the promises which were made of old unto particular persons on especial occasions, as to the grace, power, and love contained in them and intended by them, do yet belong unto all individual believers, and are applicable by them unto all their especial occasions, Hebrews 13:5,6. And their right unto or interest in all the promises of God is that which those who are concerned in the obedience of faith would not forego for all that this world can supply them withal.

    This, therefore, is only a particular instance of the work and effect of the Spirit, as he is in general promised in the covenant. And, as we have declared, the promises of him as a Spirit of grace and holiness in the covenant belong unto the believers of the Gentiles also. If they do not, they have neither share nor interest in Christ; which is a better plea for the Jew than this peculiar instance will afford. But this promise is only an especial declaration of what in one case this Spirit shall do, who is promised as a Spirit of grace and holiness in the covenant. And, therefore, the author of the evasion, suspecting that the fraud and sacrilege of it would be detected, betakes himself to other subterfuges, which we shall afterward meet with, so far as we are concerned.

    It may be more soberly objected, “That the Spirit of grace and supplication was given unto believers under the Old Testament; and, therefore, if there be no more in it, if some extraordinary gift be not here intended, how comes it to be made an especial promise with respect unto the times of the New Testament? It may, therefore, be supposed that not the ordinary grace or gift of prayer, which believers, and especially the officers of the church, do receive, but some extraordinary gift bestowed on the apostles and first converts to the church, is here intended. So the prophecy concerning the effusion of the Spirit on all sorts of persons, Joel 2:28-32, is interpreted by Peter, and applied unto the sending of the Holy Ghost in miraculous gifts on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:15-21.” Ans . 1. I have elsewhere already, in general, obviated this objection by showing the prodigious folly of that imagination, that the dispensation of the Spirit is confined unto the first times of the gospel; whereof this objection is a branch, as enmity unto the matter treated of is the occasion of the whole. 2. We nowhere find grace and prayer , the things here promised, to be reckoned among the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit under the New Testament. Prayer, indeed, in an unknown tongue was so; but prayer itself was not so, no more than grace; which if it were, the whole present church is graceless. 3. The promise in Joel had express respect unto the extraordinary gifts of prophecy and visions , and therefore had its principal accomplishment on the day of Pentecost. This promise is quite of another nature. 4. That which is necessary for and the duty of all believers, and that always, is not an extraordinary gift, bestowed on a few for a season. Now, if there are any who think that grace and prayer are not necessary unto all believers, or that they may have abilities, and exercise them, without any aid of the Holy Spirit, I will not at present contend with them; for this is not a place to plead with those by whom the principles of the Christian faith are denied. Divine commands are the rule of our duty, not man’s imaginations. 5. If this be not an especial promise of the New Testament, because the matter of it, or grace promised, was in some degree and measure enjoyed under the Old, then is there no promise made with respect unto that scion; for the saints under the Old Testament were really made partakers of all the same graces with those under the New. Wherefore, 6. Two things are intended in the promise with respect unto the times of the gospel: — (1.) An application and enlargement of this grace or favor, as unto the subjects of it extensively. It was under the Old Testament confined unto a few, but now it shall be communicated unto many, and diffused all the world over. It shall be so poured out as to be shed abroad, and imparted thereby unto many. That which before was but as the watering of a garden by an especial hand is now as the clouds pouring themselves forth on the whole face of the earth. (2.) An increase of the degrees of spiritual abilities for the performance of it, Titus 3:5,6. There is now a rich communication of the Spirit of grace and prayer granted unto believers in comparison of what was enjoyed under the Old Testament. This the very nature of the dispensation of the gospel, wherein we receive from Jesus Christ “grace for grace,” doth evince and confirm. I suppose it needless to prove that, as unto all spiritual supplies of grace, there is brought in an abundant administration of it by Jesus Christ, the whole Scripture testifying unto it.

    There were, indeed, under the Old Testament, prayers to and praises of God dictated by a Spirit of prophecy, and received by immediate divine revelation, containing mysteries for the instruction of the church in all ages. These prayers were not suggested unto them by the aid of the Spirit as a Spirit of supplication, but dictated in and to them by the Spirit as a Spirit of prophecy. Nor did they themselves comprehend the mind of the Holy Spirit in them fully, but inquired diligently thereinto, as into other prophecies given out by the Spirit of Christ which was in them, 1 Peter 1:10-12; — an instance whereof we may have in Psalm 22; a prayer it is with thanksgiving from first to last. Now, although David, unto whom it was given by inspiration, might find in his own condition things that had some low and mean resemblance of what was intended in the words suggested unto him by the Holy Spirit, as he was a type of Christ, yet the depth of the mysteries contained therein, the principal scope and design of the Holy Ghost, was in a great measure concealed from himself, and much more from others. Only it was given out unto the church by immediate inspiration, that believers might search and diligently inquire into what was signified and foretold therein; that so thereby they might be gradually led into the knowledge of the mysteries of God, according as he was pleased graciously to communicate of his saving light unto them. But withal it was revealed unto David and the other prophets, that in these things “they did not minister unto themselves, but unto us,” as having mysteries in them which they could not, which they were not to comprehend. But as this gift is ceased under the New Testament, after the finishing of the canon of the Scripture, nor is it by any pretended unto, so was it confined of old unto a very few inspired persons, and belongs not unto our present inquiry; for we speak only of those things which are common unto all believers, and herein a preference must in all things be given unto those under the New Testament.

    If, therefore, it could be proved, which I know it cannot be, that the generality of the church under the Old Testament made use of any forms of prayers, as mere forms of prayer, without any other end, use, or mystical instruction (all which concurred in their prophetical composures), for the sole end of prayer, yet would it not, whatever any pretend or plead, thence follow that believers under the New Testament may do the same, much less that they may be obliged always so to do; for there is now a more plentiful and rich effusion of the Spirit of grace and supplication upon them than was upon those of old. And as our duty is to be regulated by God’s commands, so God’s commands are suited unto the dispensation of his grace. For persons under the New Testament, who are commanded to pray, not to make use constantly in their so doing of the gifts, aids, and assistances of the Spirit, which are peculiarly dispensed and communicated therein, on pretense of what was done under the Old, is to reject the grace of the gospel, and to make themselves guilty of the highest ingratitude. Wherefore, although we may and ought to bear with them who, having not received any thing of this promised grace and assistance, nor believing there is any such thing, do plead for the use of forms of prayer to be composed by some and read by others or themselves, and that only, in the discharge of this duty; yet such as have been made partakers of this grace, and who own it their duty constantly to use and improve the promised aids of the Spirit of God, will be careful not to admit of any such principles or practice as would plainly annihilate the promise.

    Thus much, then, we may suppose ourselves to have obtained in the consideration of this testimony, That God hath promised under the New Testament to give unto believers, in a plentiful manner or measure, the Spirit of grace and of supplications, or his own Holy Spirit, enabling them to pray according to his mind and will. The way and manner of his work therein shall be afterward declared. And it may suffice to oppose, in general, this one promise unto the open reproaches and bold contempts that are by many cast on the Spirit of prayer; whose framers, unless they can blot this text out of the Scripture, will fail at last in their design. We shall not, therefore, need to plead any other testimony to the same purpose in the way of promises. Only we may observe, that this being expressly assigned as a part of the gracious work of the Holy Spirit, as promised under the New Testament, there is no one promise to that purpose wherein this grace is not included; therefore, the known multiplication of them addeth strength unto our argument.

    CHAPTER 3. GALATIANS 4:6 OPENED AND VINDICATED.

    THE next general evidence given unto the truth under consideration is the account of the accomplishment of this promise under the New Testament, where also the nature of the operation of the Holy Spirit herein is in general expressed; and this is Galatians 4:6, “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”

    An account, as was said, is here given of the accomplishment of the promise before explained; and sundry things may be considered in the words: — First, The subjects on whom he is bestowed, and in whom he worketh, are believers, or those who by the Spirit of adoption are made the children of God. We receive the adoption of sons; and because we are sons, he sendeth his Spirit into our hearts. And this privilege of adoption we obtain by faith in Christ Jesus: John 1:12, “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”

    Secondly, there is an especial appellation or description of the Spirit as promised and given unto this purpose, — he is the “Spirit of the Son.”

    That the original ground and reason hereof is his eternal relation to the Son, as proceeding from him, hath been elsewhere evinced; but there is something more particular here intended. He is called the “Spirit of the Son” with respect unto his communication to believers. There is, therefore, included herein that especial regard unto Jesus Christ the Son of God which is in the work mentioned, as it is an evangelical mercy and privilege.

    He is, therefore, called the “Spirit of the Son,” not only because of his eternal procession from him, but, — 1. Because he was in the first place given unto him, as the head of the church, for the unction, consecration, and sanctification of his human nature. Here he laid the foundation, and gave an example of what he was to do in and towards all his members. 2. It is immediately from and by him that he is communicated unto us, and that two ways: — (1.) Authoritatively, by virtue of the covenant between the Father and him, whereon, upon his accomplishment of the work of the mediation in a state of humiliation, according to it, he “received the promise of the Holy Ghost;” that is, power and authority to bestow him on whom he would, for all the ends of that mediation, Acts 2:33, 5:32. (2.) Formally, in that all the graces of the Spirit are derived unto us from him, as the head of the church, as the spring of all spiritual life, in whom they were all treasured and laid up unto that purpose, Colossians 1:19, 2:19; Ephesians 4:16; Co1ossians 3:1-4.

    Secondly, The work of this Spirit in general, as bestowed on believers, is partly included, partly expressed, in these words. In general (which is included) he enables them to behave themselves suitably unto that state and condition whereinto they are taken upon their faith in Christ Jesus.

    They are made children of God by adoption, and it is meet they be taught to carry themselves as becomes that new relation. “Because ye are sons, he hath given you the Spirit of his Son;” without which they cannot walk before him as becometh sons He teacheth them to bear and behave themselves no longer as foreigners and strangers, nor as servants only, but as “children” and “heirs of God,” Romans 8:15,17. He endoweth them with a frame and disposition of heart unto holy, filial obedience; for as he takes away the distance, making them to be nigh who were aliens and far from God, so he removes that fear, dread, and bondage, which they are kept in who are under the power of the law: 2 Timothy 1:7, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind;” not “the spirit of fear,” or a “spirit of bondage unto fear,” as Romans 8:15, — that is, in and by the efficacy of the law, filling our minds with dread, and such considerations of God as will keep us at a distance from him. But he is in the sons, on whom he is bestowed, a Spirit of power, strengthening and enabling them unto all duties of obedience.

    This Pneu~ma duna>mewv is that whereby we are enabled to obedience, which the apostle gives thanks for, 1 Timothy 1:12, Ca>rin e]cw tw~| ejndunamw>santi> me Cristw~| , “To Christ that enableth me;” that is, by his Spirit of power: for without the Spirit of adoption we have not the least strength or power to behave ourselves as sons in the family of God.

    And he is also, as thus bestowed, a Spirit of love, who worketh in us that love unto God and that delight in him which becometh children towards their heavenly Father. This is the first genuine consequent of this relation.

    There may be many duties performed unto God where there is no true love to him, at least no love unto him as a Father in Christ, which alone is genuine and accepted. And, lastly, he is also a Spirit swfronismou~ , of a modest, grave, and sober mind. Even children are apt to wax wanton, and curious, and proud in their Father’s house; but the Spirit enables them to behave themselves with that sobriety, modesty, and humility, which becometh the family of God. And in these three things, spiritual power, love, and sobriety of mind, consists the whole deportment of the children of God in his family. This is the state and condition of those who, by the effectual working of the Spirit of adoption, are delivered from the “spirit of bondage unto fear,” which the apostle discourseth of, Romans 8:15.

    Those who are under the power of that Spirit, or that efficacious working of the Spirit by the law, cannot, by virtue of any aids or assistance, make their addresses unto him by prayer in a due manner; for although the means whereby they are brought into this state be the Spirit of God acting upon their souls and consciences by the law, yet formally, as they are in the state of nature, the spirit whereby they are acted is the unclean “spirit of the world,” or the influence of him who “ruleth in the children of disobedience.” The law that they obey is the “law of the members” mentioned by the apostle, Romans 7:23. The works which they perform are the “unfruitful works of darkness;” and the fruits of these unfruitful works are “sin” and “death.” Being under this bondage, they have no power to approach unto God; and their bondage tending unto fear, they can have no delight in an access unto him. Whatever other provisions or preparations such persons may have for this duty, they can never perform it unto the glory of God, or so as to find acceptance with him.

    With those who are delivered from this state, all things are otherwise. The Spirit whereby they are acted is the Spirit of God, — the Spirit of adoption, of power, love, and a sound mind. The law which they are under obedience unto is the holy law of God, as written in the fleshy tables of their hearts. The effects of it are faith and love, with all other graces of the Spirit; whereof they receive the fruits in peace, with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

    Thirdly, An instance is given of his effectually working these things in the adopted sons of God, in the duty of prayer crying, “Abba, Father.” The object of the especial duty intended is “God, even the Father,” Ephesians 2:18. “Abba, oJ Path>r .” Abba is the Syriac or Chaldee name for Father, then in common use among the Jews, and Path>r was the same name amongst the Greeks or Gentiles; so that the common interest of Jews and Gentiles in this privilege may be intended, or rather, a holy boldness and intimate confidence of love is designed in the reduplication of the name. The Jews have a saying in the Babylonian Talmud, in the Treatise of Blessings, tynwlp ama alw ynw ynwlp aba al µtwa ˆyrwq ˆya twjpçjw µydb[h , — “Servants and handmaids” (that is, bondservants) “do not call on such a one Abba or Ymma.” Freedom of state, with a fight unto adoption, whereof they are incapable, is required unto this liberty and confidence. God gives unto his adopted sons hb;yDin] j’Wr , a free Spirit,” Psalm 51:12, — a Spirit of gracious, filial ingenuity. This is that Spirit which cries “Abba.” That is the word whereby those who were adopted did first salute their fathers, to testify their affection and obedience. For “abba” signifies not only “father,” but “my father;” for ybia; , “my father,” in the Hebrew, is rendered by the Chaldee paraphrast only aB;a’ , “abba” See Genesis 19:34, and elsewhere constantly. To this purpose speaks Chrysostom:

    Boulo>menov dei~xai gnhsio>that , kai< th~| tw~n JEzrai>wn ejcrh>sato glw>ssh|? ouj ganon oJ pathdwn ma>lista> ejsti tw~n gnhsi>wn prora rJh~ma — “Being willing to show the ingenuity” (that is in this duty), “he useth also the language of the Hebrews, and says not only ‘Father,’ but ‘Abba, Father;’ which is a word proper unto them who are highly ingenuous.’’ And this he effecteth two ways: — 1. By the excitation of graces and gracious affections in their souls in this duty, especially those of faith, love, and delight. 2. By enabling them to exercise those graces and express those affections in vocal prayer; for cra>zon denotes not only crying, but an earnestness of mind expressed in vocal prayer. It is praying fwnh~| mega>lh| , as it is said of our Savior, Matthew 27:50; for the whole of our duty in our supplications is expressed herein. Now, we are not concerned, or do not at present inquire, what course they take, what means they employ, or what helps they use in prayer, who are not as yet partakers of this privilege of adoption. It is only those who are so whom the Spirit of God assists in this duty; and the only question is, what such persons are to do in compliance with his assistance, or what it is that they obtain thereby.

    And we may compare the different expressions used by the apostle in this matter, whereby the general nature of the work of the Spirit herein will farther appear. In this place he saith, “God hath sent forth into our hearts to< Pneu~ma tou~ uiJou~ kra>zon , — the Spirit of his Son, crying, Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15, he saith we have received to< Pneu~rma uiJoqesi>av , ejn w=| kra>zomen , “the Spirit of adoption,” — the Spirit of the Son, given us because we are sons, — “whereby,” or in whom, “we cry, Abba, Father.” His acting in us, and our acting by him, are expressed by the same word; and the inquiry here is, how, in the same duty, he is said to “cry” in us, and we are said to “cry” in him. And there can be no reason hereof but only because the same work is both his and ours in diverse respects. As it is an act of grace and spiritual power it is his, or it is wrought in us by him alone. As it is a duty performed by us, by virtue of his assistance, it is ours, — by him we cry, “Abba, Father;” and to deny his actings in our duties is to overthrow the gospel. And it is prayer formally considered, and as comprising the gift of it, with its outward exercise, which is intended. The mere excitation of the graces of faith, love, trust, delight, desire, self-abasement, and the like animating principles of prayer, cannot be expressed by crying, though it be included in it. Their actual exercise in prayer, formally considered, is that which is ascribed unto the Spirit of God. And they seem to deal somewhat severely with the church of God and all believers who will not allow that the work here expressly assigned unto the Spirit of adoption, or of the Son, is sufficient for its end, or the discharge of this duty, either in private or in the assemblies of the church. There is no more required unto prayer either way but our crying, “Abba, Father,” — that is, the making our requests known unto him as our Father in Christ, — with supplications and thanksgivings, according as our state and occasions do require. And is not the aid of the Spirit of God sufficient to enable us hereunto? It was so of old, and that unto all believers, according as they were called unto this duty, with respect unto their persons, families, or the church of God. If it be not so now, it is either because God will not now communicate his Spirit unto his children or sons, according to the promise of the gospel; or because, indeed, this grace and gift of his is by men despised, neglected, and lost; — and the former cannot be asserted on any safe grounds whatever; the latter it is our interest to consider.

    This twofold testimony, concerning the promise of the communication of the Holy Spirit or a Spirit of supplication unto believers under the New Testament, and the accomplishment of it, doth sufficiently evince our general assertion, that there is a peculiar work or special gracious operation of the Holy Ghost in the prayers of believers enabling them thereunto; for we intend no more hereby but that as they do receive him by virtue of that promise (which the world cannot do), in order unto his gracious efficiency in the duty of supplication, so he doth actually incline, dispose, and enable them to cry “Abba, Father,” or to call upon God in prayer as their Father by Jesus Christ. To deny this, therefore, is to rise up in contradiction unto the express testimony of God himself, and by our unbelief to make him a liar. And had we nothing farther to plead in this cause, this were abundantly sufficient to reprove the petulant folly of them by whom this work of the Holy Ghost, and the duty of believers thereon to “pray in the Spirit,” — if we may use the despised and blasphemed expressions of the Scripture, — is scorned and derided.

    For as to the ability of prayer which is thus received, some there are who know no more of it, as exercised in a way of duty, but the outside, shell, and appearance of it; and that not from their own experience, but from what they [have] observed in others. Of these there are not a few who confidently affirm that it is wholly a work of fancy, invention, memory, and wit, accompanied with some boldness and elocution, unjustly fathered on the Spirit of God, who is no way concerned therein; and, it may be, they do persuade many, no better skilled in these things than themselves, that so it is indeed. Howbeit, those who have any experience of the real aids and assistances of the Spirit of God in this work and duty, any faith in the express testimonies given by God himself hereunto, cannot but despise such fabulous imaginations. You may as soon persuade them that the sun doth not give light, nor the fire heat, that they see not with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, as that the Spirit of God doth not enable them to pray, or assist them in their supplications. And there might some probability be given unto these pretences, and unto the total exclusion of the Holy Ghost from any concernment herein, if those concerning whom and their duties they thus judge were generally persons known to excel others in those natural endowments and acquired abilities whereunto this faculty of prayer is ascribed. But will this be allowed by them who make use of this pretense, — namely, that those who are thus able to pray, as they pretend, by virtue of a spiritual glib, are persons excelling in fancy, memory, wit, invention, and elocution? It is known that they will admit of no such thing; but in all other instances they must be represented as dull, stupid, ignorant, unlearned, and brutish: only in prayer they have the advantage of those natural endowments! These things are hardly consistent with common ingenuity; for is it not strange that those who are so contemptible with respect unto natural and acquired endowments in all other things, whether of science or of prudence, should yet in this one duty or work of prayer so improve them as to outgo the imitation of them [by those] by whom they are despised? for as they do not, as they will not, pray as they do, so their own hearts tell them they cannot; which is the true reason why they so despitefully oppose this praying in the Spirit, whatever pride or passion pretends to the contrary. But things of this nature will again occur unto us, and therefore shall not be here farther insisted on. Having, therefore, proved that God hath promised a plentiful dispensation of his Spirit unto believers under the New Testament, to enable them to pray according unto his mind, and that, in general, this promise is accomplished in and towards all the children of God, it remaineth, in the second place, as to what we have proposed, that we declare what is the work of the Holy Ghost in them unto this end and purpose, or how he is unto us a Spirit of prayer or supplication.

    CHAPTER 4.

    THE NATURE OF PRAYER — ROMANS 8:26 OPENED AND VINDICATED.

    PRAYER at present I take to be a gift ability, or spiritual faculty of exercising faith, love, reverence, fear, delight, and other graces, in a way of vocal requests, supplications, and praises unto God: “In every thing let your requests be made known unto God,” Philippians 4:6.

    This gift and ability I affirm to be bestowed, and this work by virtue thereof to be wrought in us, by the Holy Ghost, in the accomplishment of the promise insisted on, so crying “Abba, Father,” in them that do believe.

    And this is that which we are to give an account of; wherein we shall assert nothing but what the Scripture plainly goeth before us in, and what the experience of believers, duly exercised in duties of obedience, doth confirm. And in the issue of our endeavor we shall leave it unto the judgment of God and his church, whether they are “ecstatical, enthusiastical, unaccountable raptures” that we plead for, or a real gracious effect and work of the Holy Spirit of God.

    The first thing we ascribe unto the Spirit herein is, that he sup-plieth and furnisheth the mind with a due comprehension of the matter of prayer, or what ought, both in general and as unto all our particular occasions, to be prayed for. Without this I suppose it will be granted that no man can pray as he ought; for how can any man pray that knows not what to pray for?

    Where there is not a comprehension hereof, the very nature and being of prayer is destroyed. And herein the testimony of the apostle is express: Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

    It is that expression only which at present I urge, “We know not what we should pray for as we ought.” This is generally supposed to be otherwise, — namely, that men know well enough what they ought to pray for; only they are wicked and careless, and will not pray for what they know they ought so to do. I shall make no excuse or apology for the wickedness and carelessness of men; which, without doubt, are abominable. But yet I must abide by the truth asserted by the apostle, which I shall farther evidence immediately, — namely, that without the especial aid and assistance of the Holy Spirit no man knoweth what to pray for as he ought.

    But yet there is another relief in this matter, and so no need of any work of the Holy Ghost therein. And we shall be accounted impudent if we ascribe any thing unto him whereof there is the least colorable pretense that it may be otherwise effected or provided for. So great an unwillingness is there to allow him either place, work, or office in the Christian religion or the practice of it! Wherefore, it is pretended that although men do not of themselves know what to pray for, yet this defect may be supplied in a prescript form of words, prepared on purpose to teach and confine men unto what they are to pray for.

    We may, therefore, dismiss the Holy Spirit and his assistance as unto this concernment of prayer; for the due matter of it may be so set down and fixed on ink and paper that the meanest capacity cannot miss of his duty therein! This, therefore, is that which is to be tried in our ensuing discourse, — namely, that whereas it is plainly affirmed that “we know not” of ourselves “what we should pray for as we ought” (which I judge to be universally true as unto all persons, as well those who prescribe prayers as those unto whom they are prescribed), and that the Holy Spirit helps and relieveth us herein, whether we may or ought to relinquish and neglect his assistance, and so to rely only on such supplies as are invented or used unto that end for which he is promised; that is, plainly, whether the word of God be to be trusted unto in this matter or not.

    It is true, that whatever we ought to pray for is declared in the Scripture, yea, and summarily comprised in the Lord’s Prayer; but it is one thing to have what we ought to pray for in the book, another thing to have it in our minds and hearts, — without which it will never be unto us the due matter of prayer. It is out of the “abundance of the heart” that the mouth must speak in this matter, Matthew 12:34. There is, therefore, in us a threefold defect with respect unto the matter of prayer, which is supplied by the Holy Spirit, and can be so no other way nor by any other means; and therein is he unto us a Spirit of supplication according to the promise.

    For, — 1. We know not our own wants; 2. We know not the plies of them that are expressed in the promises of God; and, 3. We know not the end whereunto what we pray for is to be directed, which I add unto the former. Without the knowledge and understanding of all these, no man can pray as he ought; and we can no way know them but by the aid and assistance of the Spirit of grace.

    And if these things be manifest, it will be evident how in this first instance we are enabled to pray by the Holy Ghost.

    First, Our wants, as they are to be the matter of prayer, may be referred unto three heads, and none of them of ourselves do we know aright, so as to make them the due subject of our supplications, and of some of them we know nothing at all: — 1. This first consists in our outward straits, pressures, and difficulties, which we desire to be delivered from, with all other temporal things wherein we are concerned. In those things it should seem wondrously clear that of ourselves we know what to pray for. But the truth is, whatever our sense may be of them and our natural desires about them, yet how and when, under what conditions and limitations, with what frame of heart and spirit, [with] what submission unto the pleasure of God, they are to be made the matter of our prayers, we know not. Therefore doth God call the prayers of most about them “howling,” and not a crying unto him with the heart, Hosea 7:14. There is, indeed, a voice of nature crying in its distress unto the God of nature, but that is not the duty of evangelical prayer which we inquire after; and men ofttimes most miss it when they think themselves most ready and prepared. To know our temporal wants so as to make them the matter of prayer according to the mind of God requires more wisdom than of ourselves we are furnished withal; for “who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow?” Ecclesiastes 6:12; and ofttimes believers are never more at a loss than how to pray aright about temporal things. No man is in pain or distress, or under any wants, whose continuance would be destructive to his being, but he may, yea, he ought to make deliverance from them the matter of his prayer. So in that case he knows in some measure, or in general, what he ought to pray for, without any peculiar spiritual illumination. But yet the circumstances of those things, and wherein their respect unto the glory of God and the supreme end or chiefest good of the persons concerned doth stand (with regard whereunto they can alone be made the matter of prayer acceptable unto God in Christ), are that which of themselves they cannot understand, but have need of an interest in that promise made to the church, that “they shall be all taught of God;” and this is so much more in such things as belong only unto the conveniences of this life, whereof no man of himself knows what is good for him or useful unto him. 2. We have internal wants that are discerned in the light of a natural conscience: such is the guilt of sin, whereof that accuseth, — sins against natural light and the plain outward letter of the law. These things we know somewhat of without any especial aid of the Holy Spirit, Romans 2:14,15, and desires of deliverance are inseparable from them. But we may observe here two things: — (1.) That the knowledge which we have hereof of ourselves is so dark and confused as that we are no ways able thereby to manage our wants in prayer aright unto God. A natural conscience, awakened and excited by afflictions or other providential visitations, will discover itself in unfeigned and severe reflections of guilt upon the soul; but until the Spirit doth convince of sin, all things are in such disorder and confusion in the mind that no man knows how to make his address unto God about it in a due manner. And there is more required, to treat aright with God about the guilt of sin, than a mere sense of it. So far as men can proceed under that sole conduct and guidance, the heathens went in dealing with their supposed gods, without a due respect unto the propitiation made by the blood of Christ. Yea, prayer about the guilt of sin, discerned in the light of a natural conscience, is but an “abomination.” Besides, (2.) We all know how small a portion of the concernment of believers doth lie in those things which fall under the light and determination of a natural conscience; for, — 3. The things about which believers do and ought to treat principally and deal with God, in their supplications, are the inward spiritual frames and dispositions of their souls, with the actings of grace and sun in them.

    Hereon David was not satisfied with the confession of his original and all known actual sins, Psalm 51:1-5; nor yet with an acknowledgment that” none knoweth his own wanderings,” whence he desireth cleansing from “unknown sins,” Psalm 19:12; but, moreover, he begs of God to undertake the inward search of his heart, to find out what was amiss or [not] right in him, <19D923> Psalm 139:23,24, as knowing that God principally required “truth in the inward parts,” Psalm 51:6. Such is the carrying on of the work of sanctification in the whole spirit and soul, Thessalonians 5:23.

    The inward sanctification of all our faculties is what we want and pray for.

    Supplies of grace from God unto this purpose, with a sense of the power, guilt, violence, and deceit of sin, in its inward actings in the mind and affections, with other things innumerable thereunto belonging, make up the principal matter of prayer as formally supplication.

    Add hereunto that unto the matter of prayer, taken largely for the whole duty so called, every thing wherein we have intercourse with God in faith and love doth belong. The acknowledgment of the whole mystery of his wisdom, grace, and love in Christ Jesus, with all the fruits, effects, and benefits which thence we do receive; all the workings and actings of our souls towards him, with their faculties and affections; in brief, every thing and every conception of our minds wherein our spiritual access unto the throne of grace doth consist, or which doth belong thereunto, with all occasions and emergencies of spiritual life, are in like manner comprised herein. And that we can have such an acquaintance with these things as to manage them acceptably in our supplications, without the grace of spiritual illumination from the Holy Ghost, few are so ignorant or profane as to assert. Some, I confess, seem to be strangers unto these things, which yet renders them not of the less weight or moment.

    But hence it comes to pass that the prayers of believers about them, especially their confessions of what sense they have of the power and guilt of the inward actings of sin, have been by some exceedingly traduced and reproached; for whereas they cannot out of their ignorance understand such things, out of their pride, heightened by sensuality of life, they despise and contemn them.

    Secondly, The matter of prayer may be considered with respect unto the promises of God. These are the measure of prayer, and contain the matter of it. What God hath promised, all that he hath promised, and nothing else, are we to pray for; for “secret things belong unto theLORD our God” alone, but the declaration of his will and grace belongs unto us, and is our rule. Wherefore, there is nothing that we really do or may stand in need of but God hath promised the supply of it, in such a way and under such limi-rations as may make it good and useful unto us; and there is nothing that God hath promised but we stand in need of it, or are some way or other concerned in it as members of the mystical body of Christ.

    Wherefore, “we know not what we should pray for as we ought,” unless we know or understand the goodness, grace, kindness, and mercy, that is prepared and proposed in the promises of God; for how should we, seeing we are to pray for all that God hath promised, and for nothing but what God hath promised, and as he hath promised it? The inquiry, therefore, that remains is, whether we of ourselves, without the especial assistance of the Holy Spirit, do understand these things or no. The apostle tells us that the “things of God,” spiritual things, “knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God;” and that we must receive the Spirit which is of God to know the things that are freely given to us of God,” 1 Corinthians 2:11,12; which are the grace, mercy, love, and kindness of the promises, 2 Corinthians 7:1. To say that of ourselves we can perceive, understand, and comprehend these things, without the especial assistance of the Holy Ghost, is to overthrow the whole gospel and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, as hath been elsewhere demonstrated.

    But it may be it will be said, “There is more stir than needs made in this matter. God help poor sinners, if all this be required unto their prayers!

    Certainly men may pray at a cheaper rate, and with much less trouble, or very few will continue long in that duty.” For some can see no necessity of thus understanding the grace and mercy that is in the promises unto prayer, and suppose that men know well enough what to pray for without it.

    But those who so speak neither know what it is to pray, nor, it seems, are willing to learn; for we are to pray in faith, Romans 10:14, and faith respects God’s promises, Hebrews 4:1, Romans 4. If, therefore, we understand not what God hath promised, we cannot pray at all. It is marvelous what thoughts such persons have of God and themselves, who without a due comprehension of their own wants, and without an understanding of God’s promises, wherein all their supplies are laid up, do “say their prayers,” as they call it, continually. And indeed in the poverty, or rather misery, of devised aids of prayer, this is not the least pernicious effect or consequent, that they keep men off from searching the promises of God, whereby they might know what to pray for. Let the matter of prayer be so prescribed unto men as that they shall never need either to search their own hearts or God’s promises about it, and this whole work is despatched out of the way. But then is the soul prepared aright for this duty, and then only, when it understands its own condition, the supplies of grace provided in the promises, the suitableness of those supplies unto its wants, and the means of its conveyance unto us by Jesus Christ. That all this we have by the Spirit, and not otherwise, shall be immediately declared.

    Thirdly, Unto the matter of prayer, I join the end we aim at in the things we pray for, and which we direct them unto. And herein, also, are we in ourselves at a loss; and men may lose all the benefit of their prayers by proposing undue ends unto themselves in the things they pray for. Our Savior saith, “Ask, and ye shall receive;” but the apostle James affirms of some, chap. 4:3, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it on. your pleasures.”

    To pray for any thing, and not expressly unto the end whereunto of God it is designed, is to ask amiss, and to no purpose; and yet, whatever confidence we may have of our own wisdom and integrity, if we are left unto ourselves, without the especial guidance of the Spirit of God, our aims will never be suited unto the will of God. The ways and means whereby we may fail, and do so in this kind, when not under the actual conduct of the Spirit of God, — that is, when our own natural and distempered affections do immix themselves in our supplications, — are, innumerable. And there is nothing so excellent in itself, so useful unto us, so acceptable unto God, in the matter of prayer, but it may be vitiated, corrupted, and prayer itself rendered vain, by an application of it unto false or mistaken ends. And what is the work of the Spirit to guide us herein we shall see in its proper place.

    CHAPTER 5.

    THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AS TO THE MATTER OF PRAYER.

    THESE things are considerable as to the matter of prayer; and with respect unto them, of ourselves we know not what we should pray for, nor how, nor when. And the first work of the Spirit of God, as a Spirit of supplication in believers, is to give them an understanding of all their wants, and of the supplies of grace and mercy in the promises, causing [such] a sense of them to dwell and abide on their minds as that, according unto their measure, they are continually furnished with the matter of prayer, without which men never pray, and by which, in some sense, they pray always; for, — First, He alone doth, and he alone is able to give us such an understanding of our own wants as that we may be able to make our thoughts about them known unto God in prayer and supplication. And what is said concerning our wants is so likewise with respect unto the whole matter of prayer, whereby we give glory to God, either in requests or prayers. And this I shall manifest in some instances, whereunto others may be reduced. 1. The principal matter of our prayers concerneth faith and unbelief. So the apostles prayed in a particular manner, “Lord, increase our faith;” and so the poor man prayed in his distress, “Lord, help thou mine unbelief.” I cannot think that they ever pray aright who never pray for the pardon of unbelief, for the removal of it, and for the increase of faith. If unbelief be the greatest of sins, and if faith be the greatest of the gifts of God, we are not Christians if these things are not one principal part of the matter of our prayers. Unto this end we must be convinced of the nature and guilt of unbelief, as also of the nature and use of faith; nor without that conviction do we either know our own chiefest wants, or what to pray for as we ought. And that this is the especial work of the Holy Ghost our Savior expressly declares, John 16:8,9, “He will convince the world of sin, because they believe not on me.” I do and must deny that any one is or can be convinced of the nature and guilt of that unbelief, either in the whole or in the remainders of it, which the gospel condemneth, and which is the great condemning sin under the gospel, without an especial work of the Holy Ghost on his mind and soul; for unbelief, as it respecteth Jesus Christ, — not believing in him, or not believing in him as we ought, — is a sin against the gospel, and it is by the gospel alone that we may be convinced of it, and that as it is the ministration of the Spirit. Wherefore, neither the light of a natural conscience nor the law will convince any one of the guilt of unbelief with respect unto Jesus Christ, nor instruct them in the nature of faith in him. No innate notions of our minds, no doctrines of the law, will reach hereunto. And to think to teach men to pray, or to help them out in praying, without a sense of unbelief, or the remainders of it, in its guilt and power, the nature of faith, with its necessity, use, and efficacy, is to say unto the naked and the hungry, “Be ye warmed and filled,” and not give them those things that are needful to the body. This, therefore, belongs unto the work of the Spirit as a Spirit of supplication.

    And let men tear and tire themselves night and day with a multitude of prayers, if a work of the Spirit of God in teaching the nature and guilt of unbelief, and the nature, efficacy, and use of faith in Christ Jesus, go not with it, all will be lost and perish. And yet it is marvellous to consider how little mention of these things occurreth in most of those compositions which have been published to be used as forms of prayer. They are generally omitted in such endeavors, as if they were things wherein Christians were very little concerned. The gospel positively and frequently determines the present acceptation of men with God or their disobedience, with their future salvation and condemnation, according unto their faith or unbelief; for their obedience or disobedience are infallible consequents thereon. Now, if things that are of the greatest importance unto us, and whereon all other things wherein our spiritual estate is concerned do depend, be not a part of the subject-matter of our daily prayer, I know not what deserveth so to be. 2. The matter of our prayer respects the depravation of our nature, and our wants on that account. The darkness and ignorance that is in our understandings; our unacquaintedness with heavenly things, and alienation from the life of God thereby; the secret workings of the lusts of the mind under the shade and covert of this darkness; the stubbornness, obstinacy, and perverseness of our wills by nature, with their reluctancies unto and dislike of things spiritual, with innumerable latent guiles thence arising, — all keeping the soul from a due conformity unto the holiness of God, — are things which believers have an especial regard unto in their confessions and supplications. They know this to be their duty, and find by experience that the greatest concernment between God and their souls, as to sin and holiness, doth lie in these things; and they are never more jealous over themselves than when they find their hearts least affected with them. And to give over treating with God about them, — for mercy in their pardon, for grace in their removal, and the daily renovation of the image of God in them thereby, — is to renounce all religion and all designs of living unto God.

    Wherefore, without a knowledge, a sense, a due comprehension of these things, no man can pray as he ought, because he is unacquainted with the matter of prayer, and knows not what to pray for. But this knowledge we cannot attain of ourselves. Nature is so corrupted as not to understand its own depravation. Hence some absolutely deny this corruption of it, so taking away all necessity of laboring after its cure and the renovation of the image of God in us; and hereby they overthrow the prayers of all believers, which the ancient church continually pressed the Pelagians withal. Without a sense of these things, I must profess I understand not how any man can pray. And this knowledge, as was said, we have not of ourselves. Nature is blind, and cannot see them; it is proud, and will not own them; stupid, and is senseless of them. It is the work of the Spirit of God alone to give us a due conviction of, a spiritual insight into, and a sense of the concernment of, these things. This I have elsewhere so fully proved as not here again to insist on it.

    It is not easy to conjecture how men pray, or what they pray about, who know not the plague of their own hearts; yea, this ignorance, want of light into, or conviction of, the depravation of their nature, and the remainders thereof even in those that are renewed, with the fruits, consequents, and effects thereof, are the principal cause of men’s barrenness in this duty, so that they can seldom go beyond what is prescribed unto them. And they can thence also satisfy themselves with a set or frame of well-composed words; wherein they might easily discern that their own condition and concernment are not at all expressed if they were acquainted with them. I do not fix measures unto other men, nor give bounds unto their understandings; only I shall take leave to profess, for my own part, that I cannot conceive or apprehend how any man doth or can know what to pray for as he ought, in the whole compass and course of that duty, who hath no spiritual illumination, enabling him to discern in some measure the corruption of his nature and the internal evils of his heart. If men judge the faculties of their souls to be undepraved, their minds free from vanity, their hearts from guile and deceit, their wills from perverseness and carnality, I wonder not on what grounds they despise the prayers of others, but should do so to find real humiliation and fervency in their own.

    Hereunto I may add the irregularity and disorder of our affections. These, I confess, are discernible in the light of nature, and the rectifying of them, or an attempt for it, was the principal end of the old philosophy; but the chief respect that on this principle it had unto them is as they disquiet the mind, or break forth into outward expressions, whereby men are defiled, or dishonored, or distressed. So far natural light will go; and thereby, in the working of their consciences, as far as I know, men may be put to pray about them: but the chief depravation of the affections lies in their aversation unto things spiritual and heavenly.

    They are, indeed, sometimes ready of themselves to like things spiritual under false notions of them, and divine worship under superstitious ornaments and meretricious dresses; in which respect they are the spring and life of all that devotion which is in the church of Rome: but take heavenly and spiritual things in themselves, with respect unto their proper ends, and there is in all our affections, as corrupted, a dislike of them and aversation unto them, which variously act themselves, and influence our souls unto vanities and disorders in all holy duties. And no man knows what it is to pray who is not exercised in supplications for mortifying, changing, and renewing of these affections as spiritually irregular; and yet is it the Spirit of God alone which discovereth these things unto us, and gives us a sense of our concernment in them. I say, the spiritual irregularity of our affections, and their aversation from spiritual things, is discernible in no light but that of supernatural illumination; for if without that spiritual things themselves cannot be discerned, as the apostle assures us they cannot, 1 Corinthians 2:14, it is impossible that the disorder of our affections with respect unto them should be so. If we know not an object in the true nature of it, we cannot know the actings of our minds towards it. Wherefore, although there be in our affections an innate, universal aversation from spiritual things, seeing by nature we are wholly alienated from the life of God, yet can it not be discerned by us in any light but that which discovers these spiritual things themselves unto us; nor can any man be made sensible of the evil and guilt of that disorder who hath not a love also implanted in his heart unto those things which it finds obstructed thereby. Wherefore, the mortification of these affections, and their renovation with respect unto things spiritual and heavenly, being no small part of the matter of the prayers of believers, as being an especial part of their duty, they have no otherwise an acquaintance with them or sense of them but as they receive them by light and conviction from the Spirit of God; and those who are destitute hereof must needs be strangers unto the fife and power of the duty of prayer itself.

    As it is with respect unto sin, so it is with respect unto God and Christ, and the covenant, grace, holiness, and privileges. We have no spiritual conceptions about them, no right understanding of them, no insight into them, but what is given us by the Spirit of God; and without an acquaintance with these things, what are our prayers, or what do they signify? Men without them may say on to the world’s end without giving any thing of glory unto God, or obtaining of any advantage unto their own souls.

    And this I place as the first part of the work of the Spirit of supplication in believers, enabling them to pray according to the mind of God, which of themselves they know not how to do, as is afterward in the place of the apostle insisted on. When this is done, when a right apprehension of sin and grace, and of our concernment in them, is fixed on our minds, then have we in some measure the matter of prayer always in readiness; which words and expressions will easily follow, though the aid of the Holy Spirit be necessary thereunto also, as we shall afterward declare.

    And hence it is that the duty performed with respect unto this part of the aid and assistance of the Spirit of God is of late by some (as was said) vilified and reproached. Formerly their exceptions lay all of them against some expressions or weakness of some persons in conceived prayer, which they liked not; but now scorn is poured out upon the matter of prayer itself, especially the humble and deep confessions of sin, which, on the discoveries before mentioned, are made in the supplications of ministers and others. The things themselves are traduced as absurd, foolish, and irrational, as all spiritual things are unto some sorts of men.

    Neither do I see how this disagreement is capable of any reconciliation; for they who have no light to discern those respects of sin and grace which we have mentioned cannot but think it uncouth to have them continually made the matter of men’s prayers. And those, on the other hand, who have received a light into them and acquaintance with them by the Spirit of God are troubled at nothing more than that they cannot sufficiently abase f16 themselves under a sense of them, nor in any words fully express that impression on their minds which is put on them by the Holy Ghost, nor clothe their desires after grace and mercy with words sufficiently significant and emphatical. And therefore this difference is irreconcilable by any but the Spirit of God himself. Whilst it doth abide, those who have respect only unto what is discernible in the light of nature, or of a natural conscience, in their prayers will keep themselves unto general expressions and outward things, in words prepared unto that purpose by themselves or others, do we what we can to the contrary; for men will not be led beyond their own light, neither is it meet they should. And those who do receive the supplies of the Spirit in this matter will in their prayers be principally conversant about the spiritual, internal concernments of their souls in sin and grace, let others despise them and reproach them whilst they please. And it is in vain much to contend about these things, which are regulated not by arguments but by principles. Men will invincibly adhere unto the capacity of their light. Nothing can put an end to this difference but a more plentiful effusion of the Spirit from above; which, according unto the promise, we wait for.

    Secondly, We know not what to pray for as we ought, but the Holy Ghost acquaints us with the grace and mercy which are prepared in the promises of God for our relief. That the knowledge hereof is necessary, to enable us to direct our prayers unto God in a due manner, I declared before, and I suppose it will not be denied; for, what do we pray for? what do we take a prospect and design of in our supplications? what is it we desire to be made partakers of? Praying only by saying or repeating so many words of prayer, whose sense and meaning those who make use of them perhaps understand not, as in the Papacy, or so as to rest in the saying or repetition of them without an especial design of obtaining some thing or things which we make known in our supplications, is unworthy the disciples of Christ, indeed of rational creatures. “Deal thus with thy governor, will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person?” as Malachi 1:8. Neither ruler, nor friend, nor neighbor, would accept it at our hands, if we should constantly make solemn addresses unto them without any especial design. We must “pray with our understanding;” that is, understand what we pray for. And these things are no other but what God hath promised; which if we are not regulated by in our supplications, we “ask amiss.” It is, therefore, indispensably necessary unto prayer that we should know what God hath promised, or that we should have an understanding of the grace and mercy of the promises. God knoweth our wants, what is good for us, what is useful to us, what is necessary to bring us unto the enjoyment of himself, infinitely better than we do ourselves; yea, we know nothing of these things but what he is pleased to teach us.

    These are the things which he hath “prepared” for us, as the apostle speaks, 1 Corinthians 2:9; and what he hath so prepared he declareth in the promises of the covenant, for they are the declaration of the grace and good pIeasure which he hath purposed in himself. And hence believers may learn what is good for them, and what is wanting unto them in the promises, more clearly and certainly than by any other means whatever.

    From them, therefore, do we learn what to pray for as we ought. And this is another reason why men are so barren in their supplications, they know not what to pray for, but are forced to betake themselves unto a confused repetition of the same requests, — namely, their ignorance of the promises of God, and the grace exhibited in them. Our inquiry, therefore, is, by what way or means we come to an acquaintance with these promises, which all believers have in some measure, some more full and distinct than others, but all in a useful sufficiency. And this, we say, is by the Spirit of God, without whose aid and assistance we can neither understand them nor what is contained in them.

    I do confess that some, by frequent reading of the Scripture, by only the help of a faithful memory, may be able to express in their prayers the promises of God, without any spiritual acquaintance with the grace of them; whereby they administer unto others, and not unto themselves: but this remembrance of words or expressions belongs not unto the especial work of the Holy Ghost in supplying the hearts and minds of believers with the matter of prayer. But this is that which he doth herein: — he openeth their eyes, he giveth an understanding, he enlighteneth their minds, so that they shall perceive the things that are of God prepared for them, and that are contained in the promises of the gospel; and represents them therein in their beauty, glory, suitableness, and desirableness unto their souls: he maketh them to see Christ in them and all the fruits of his mediation in them, all the effect of the grace and love of God in them; the excellency of mercy and pardon, of grace and holiness, of a new heart, with principles, dispositions, inclinations, and actings, all as they are proposed in the truth and faithfulness of God. Now, when the mind and heart is continually filled with an understanding and due apprehension of these things, it is always furnished with the matter of prayer and praise unto God; which persons make use of according as they have actual assistance and utterance given unto them. And whereas this Holy Spirit together with the knowledge of them doth also implant a love unto them upon the minds of believers, they are not only hereby directed what to pray for, but are excited and stirred up to seek after the enjoyment of them with ardent affections and earnest endeavors; which is to pray. And although, among those on whose hearts these things are not implanted, some may, as was before observed, make an appearance of it, by expressing in prayer the words of the promises of God retained in their memories, yet for the most part they are not able themselves to pray in any tolerable useful manner, and do either wonder at or despise those that are so enabled.

    But it may be said, “That where there is any defect herein, it may be easily supplied; for if men are not acquainted with the promises of God themselves in the manner before described, and so know not what they ought to pray for, others, who have the understanding of them, may compose prayers for their use, according to their apprehensions of the mind of God in them, which they may read, and so have the matter of prayer always in a readiness.”

    I answer, — 1. I do not know that any one hath a command or promise of assistance to make or compose prayers to be said or read by others as their prayers; and therefore I expect no great matter from what any one shall do in that kind.

    The Spirit of grace and supplication is promised, as I have proved, to enable us to pray, not to enable us to make or compose prayers for others. 2. It savors of some unacquaintance with the promises of God and the duty of prayer, to imagine that the matter of them, so as to suit the various conditions of believers, can be pent up in any one form of man’s devising. Much of what we are to pray about may be in general and doctrinally comprised in a form of words, as they are in the Lord’s Prayer, which gives directions in and a boundary unto our requests; but that the things themselves should be prepared and suited unto the condition and wants of them that are to pray is a fond imagination. 3. There is a vast difference between an objective proposal of good things to be prayed for unto the consideration of them that are to pray, which men may do, and the implanting an acquaintance with them and love unto them upon the mind and heart, which is the work of the Holy Ghost. 4. When things are so prepared and cast into a form of prayer, those by whom such forms are used do no more understand them than if they had never been cast into any such form, unless the Spirit of God give them an understanding of them, which the form itself is no sanctified means unto; and where that is done, there is no need of it. 5. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to give unto believers such a comprehension of promised grace and mercy as that they may constantly apply their minds unto that or those things in an especial manner which are suited unto their present daily wants and occasions, with the frame and dispositions of their souls and spirit. This is that which gives spiritual beauty and order unto the duty of prayer, — namely, the suiting of wants and supplies, of a thankful disposition and praises, of love and admiration, unto the excellencies of God in Christ, all by the wisdom of the Holy Ghost. But when a person is made to pray by his directory for things, though good in themselves, yet not suited unto his present state, frame, inclination, wants, and desires, there is a spiritual confusion and disorder, and nothing else.

    Again; what we have spoken concerning the promises must also be applied unto all the precepts or commands of God. These in like manner are the matter of our prayers, both as to confession and supplication; and without a right understanding of them, we can perform no part of this duty as we ought. This is evident in their apprehension who, repeating the words of the decalogue, do subjoin their acknowledgments of a want of mercy, with respect unto the transgression of them I suppose, and their desires to have their hearts inclined to keep the law. But the law with all the commands of God are spiritual and inward, with whose true sense and importance, in their extent and latitude, we cannot have a useful acquaintance but by the enlightening, instructing efficacy of the grace of the Spirit. And where this is, the mind is greatly supplied with the true matter of prayer; for when the soul hath learned the spirituality and holiness of the law, its extent unto the inward frame and disposition of our hearts, as well as unto outward actions, and its requiring absolute holiness, rectitude, and conformity unto God, at all times and in all things, then doth it see and learn its own discrepancy from it and coming short of it, even then when as to outward acts and duties it is unblamable. And hence do proceed those confessions of sin, in the best and most holy believers, which they who understand not these things do deride and scorn. By this means, therefore, doth the Holy Spirit help us to pray, by supplying us with the due and proper matter of supplications, even by acquainting us and affecting our hearts with the spirituality of the command, and our coming short thereof in our dispositions and frequent inordinate actings of our minds and affections. He who is instructed herein will on all occasions be prepared with a fullness of matter for confession and humiliation, as also with a sense of that grace and mercy which we stand in need of with respect unto the obedience required of us, Thirdly, He alone guides and directs believers to pray or ask for any thing in order unto right and proper ends: for there is nothing so excellent in itself, so useful unto us, so acceptable unto God, as the matter of prayer; but it may be vitiated, corrupted, and prayer itself be rendered vain, by an application of it unto false or mistaken ends. And that in this case we are relieved by the Holy Ghost, is plain in the text under consideration; for helping our infirmities, and teaching us what to pray for as we ought, he “maketh intercession for us according to God,” — that is, his mind or his will, Romans 8:27. This is well explained by Origen on the place: “Velut si magister suscipiens ad rudimenta discipulum, et ignorantem penitus literas, ut eum docere possit et instituere, necesse habet inclinare se ad discipuli rudimenta, et ipse prius dicere nomen litere, ut respondendo discipulus discat, et sit quodammodo magister incipienti discipulo similis, ea loqueus et ea meditans, quae incipiens loqui debeat ac meditari; ita et Sanctus Spiritus, ubi oppugnationibus carnis perturbari nostrum spiritum viderit, et neseientem quid orare debeat secundum quod oportet, ipso velut magister orationem praemittit, quam noster spiritus (si tamen discipulus esse Sancti Spiritus desiderat) prosequatur, ipse gemitus offert quibus noster spiritus discat ingemiscere, ut repropitiet sibi Deum.” To the same purpose speaks Damascen, lib. 4 chap. 3; and Austin in sundry places, collected by Beda, in his comment on this He doth it in us and by us, or enableth us so to do; for the Spirit himself without us hath no office to be performed immediately towards God, nor any nature inferior unto the divine wherein he might intercede. The whole of any such work with respect unto us is incumbent on Christ; he alone in his own person performeth what is to be done with God for us. What the Spirit doth, he doth in and by us. He therefore directs and enableth us to make supplications “according to the mind of God.” And herein God is said to “know the mind of the Spirit;” that is, his end and design in the matter of his requests. This God knows; that is, approves of and accepts. So it is the Spirit of God who directs us as to the design and end of our prayers, that they may find acceptance with God.

    But yet there may be, and I believe there is, more in that expression, “God knoweth the mind of the Spirit;” for he worketh such high, holy, spiritual desires and designs in the minds of believers in their supplications as God alone knoweth and understandeth in their full extent and latitude. That of ourselves we are apt to fail and mistake hath been declared from James 4:3.

    I shall not here insist on particulars, but only mention two general ends of prayer which the Holy Spirit keeps the minds of believers unto in all their requests, where he hath furnished them with the matter of them according to the mind of God; for he doth not only make intercession in them, according unto the mind of God, with respect unto the matter of their requests, but also with respect unto the end which they aim at, that it may be accepted with him. He guides them, therefore, to design, — 1. That all the success of their petitions and prayers may have an immediate tendency unto the glory of God. It is he alone who enables them to subordinate all their desires unto God’s glory. Without his especial aid and assistance we should aim at self only and ultimately in all we do. Our own profit, ease, satisfaction, mercies, peace, and deliverance, would be the end whereunto we should direct all our supplications; whereby they would be all vitiated and become abominable. 2. He keeps them unto this also, that the issue of their supplications may be the improvement of holiness in them, and thereby their conformity unto God, with their nearer access unto him. Where these ends are not, the matter of prayer may be good and according to the word of God, and yet our prayers an abomination. We may pray for mercy and grace, and the best promised fruits of the love of God, and yet for want of these ends find no acceptance in our supplications. To keep us unto them is his work, because it consists in casting out all self ends and aims, bringing all natural desires unto a subordination unto God, which he worketh in us if he worketh in us any thing at all.

    And this is the first part of the work of the Spirit towards believers as a Spirit of grace and supplication, — he furnisheth and filleth their minds with the matter of prayer, teaching them thereby what to pray for as they ought; and where this is not wrought in some measure and degree, there is no praying according to the mind of God.

    CHAPTER 6.

    THE DUE MANNER OF PRAYER, WHEREIN IT DOTH CONSIST.

    THE Holy Spirit having given the mind a due apprehension of the things we ought to pray for, or furnished it with the matter of prayer, he moreover works a due sense and valuation of them, with desires after them, upon the will and affections; wherein the due manner of it doth consist. These things are separable. The mind may have light to discern the things that are to be prayed for, and yet the will and affections be dead unto them or unconcerned in them; and there may be a gift of prayer founded hereon, in whose exercise the soul doth not spiritually act towards God, for light is the matter of all common gifts. And by virtue of a perishing illumination, a man may attain a gift in prayer which may be of use unto the edification of others; for “the manifestation of the Spirit is given unto every man to profit withal.” In the meantime, it is with him that so prayeth not much otherwise than it was with him of old who prayed in an unknown tongue: “his spirit prayeth, but his understanding is unfruitful.” He prayeth by virtue of the light and gift that he hath received, but his own soul is not benefited nor improved thereby. Only sometimes God makes use of men’s own gifts to convey grace into their own souls; but prayer, properly so called, is the obediential acting of the whole soul towards God.

    Wherefore, first, where the Holy Spirit completes his work in us as a Spirit of grace and supplication, he worketh on the will and affections to act obedientially towards God in and about the matter of our prayers.

    Thus when he is poured out as a Spirit of supplication, he fills them unto whom he is communicated with mourning and godly sorrow, to be exercised in their prayers as the matter doth require, Zechariah 12:10.

    He doth not only enable them to pray, but worketh affections in them suitable unto what they pray about. And in this work of the Spirit lies the fountain of that inexpressible fervency and delight, of those enlarged laborings of mind and desires, which are in the prayers of believers, especially when they are under the power of more than ordinary influences from him: for these things proceed from the work of the Spirit on their wills and affections, stirring them up and carrying them forth unto God, in and by the matter of their prayers, in such a manner as no vehement working of natural affections can reach unto; and therefore is the Spirit said to “make intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered,” Romans 8:26,27, uJperentugca>nei . As he had before expressed his work in general by sunantilamza>netai , which intendeth a help by working, carrying us on in our undertaking in this duty beyond our own strength (for he helpeth us on under our infirmities or weaknesses), so his especial acting is here declared by uJperentugca>nei , that is, an additional interposition, like that of an advocate for his client, pleading that in his case which he of himself is not able to do. Once this word is used in the service of a contrary design. Speaking of the prayer of Elijah, the apostle says, J JWv ejntugca>nei tw~| Qew~| kata< tou~ jIsrah>l? — “How he maketh intercession to God against Israel,” Romans 11:2; as rc’B; , which is constantly used in the Old Testament for “to declare good tidings, tidings of peace,” is once applied in a contrary signification unto tidings of evil and destruction, 1 Samuel 4:17. The man that brought the news of the destruction of the army of the Israelites and the taking of the ark by the Philistines is called rCeb’m]h’ . But the proper use of this word is to intercede for grace and favor; and this he doth stenagmoi~v ajlalh>toiv . We ourselves are said stena>zein , to “groan,” Romans 8:23; that is, humbly, mournfully, and earnestly to desire. And here the Spirit is said to “intercede for us with groanings;” which can be nothing but his working in us and acting by us that frame of heart and those fervent, laboring desires, which are so expressed, and these with such depth of intension and laboring of mind as cannot be uttered. And this he doth by the work now mentioned.

    Secondly, Having truly affected the whole soul, enlightened the mind in the perception of the truth, beauty, and excellency of spiritual things, engaged the will in the choice of them and prevalent love unto them, excited the affections to delight in them and unto desires after them, there is in the actual discharge of this duty of prayer, wrought in the soul by the power and efficacy of his grace, such an inward laboring of heart and spirit, such a holy, supernatural desire and endeavor after a union with the things prayed for in the enjoyment of them, as no words can utter or expressly declare, — that is, fully and completely, — which is the sense of the place.

    To avoid the force of this testimony, some (one at least) would have this intercession of the Spirit to be the intercession of the Spirit in Christ for us now at the right hand of God; so that no work of the Spirit itself in believers is intended. Such irrational evasions will men sometimes make use of to escape the convincing power of light and truth; for this is such a description of the intercession of Christ at the right hand of God as will scarcely be reconciled unto the analogy of faith. That it is not an humble, oral supplication, but a blessed representation of his oblation, whereby the efficacy of it is continued and applied unto all the particular occasions of the church or believers, I have elsewhere declared, and it is the common faith of Christians. But here it should be reported as the laboring of the Spirit in him with unutterable groans; the highest expression of an humble, burdened, solicitous endeavor. Nothing is more unsuited unto the present glorious condition of the Mediator. It is true that “in the days of his flesh” he prayed “with strong crying and tears,” in an humble deprecation of evil, Hebrews 5:7; but an humble prostration and praying with unutterable groans is altogether inconsistent with his present state of glory, his fullness of power, and fight to dispense all the grace and mercy of the kingdom of God. Besides, this exposition is as adverse to the context as any thing that could be invented. Romans 8:15, it is said that we “receive the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father;” which Spirit “God sends forth into our hearts,” Galatians 4:6. And the blessed work of this Spirit in us is farther described, Romans 8:16,17. And thereon, verse 23, having received “the first-fruits of this Spirit,” we are said to “groan within ourselves;” to which it is added, that of ourselves not knowing what we ought to pray for, aujto< to< Pneu~ma , “that very Spirit,” so given unto us, so received by us, so working in us, “maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Wherefore, without offering violence unto the context, there is no place for the introduction of the intercession of Christ in heaven, especially under such an expression as is contrary to the nature of it. It is mentioned afterward by the apostle, in its proper place, as a consequent and fruit of his death and resurrection, verse 35. And there he is said simply ejntugca>nein? but the Spirit here is said uJperentugca>nein , which implies an additional supply unto what is in ourselves.

    Yet, to give countenance unto this uncouth exposition, a force is put upon the beginning of both the verses 26, 27: for whereas ajsqe>neia doth constantly in the Scripture denote any kind of infirmity or weakness, spiritual or corporeal, it is said here to be taken in the latter sense, for diseases with troubles and dangers, which latter it nowhere signifies; for so the meaning should be, that in such conditions we know not what to pray for, whether wealth, or health, or peace, or the like, but Christ intercedes for us. And this must be the sense of sunantilamza>netai tai~v ajsqenei.aiv hJmw~n , which yet in the text doth plainly denote a help and assistance given unto our weaknesses, that is, unto us who are weak, in the discharge of the duty of prayer, as both the words themselves and the ensuing reasons of them do evince. Wherefore, neither the grammatical sense of the words, nor the context, nor the analogy of faith, will admit of this new and uncouth exposition.

    In like manner, if it be inquired why it is said “that he who searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit,” — which plainly refers to some great and secret work of the Spirit in the heart of man, — if the intercession of Christ be intended, nothing is offered but this paraphrase, “And then God, that, by being a searcher of hearts, knoweth our wants exactly, understands also the desire and intention of the Spirit of Christ.”

    But these things are ajprosdio>nusa , and have no dependence the one on the other; nor was there any need of the mentioning the searching of our hearts, to introduce the approbation of the intercession of Christ. But to return.

    That is wrought in the hearts of believers in their duty which is pervious to none but Him that searcheth the heart. This frame in all our supplications we ought to aim at, especially in time of distress, troubles, and temptations, such as was the season here especially intended, when commonly we are most sensible of our own infirmities: and wherein we come short hereof in some measure, it is from our unbelief, or carelessness and negligence; which God abhors. I do acknowledge that there may be, that there will be, more earnestness and intension of mind, and of our natural spirit therein, in this duty, at one time than another, according as outward occasions or other motives do excite them or stir them up. So our Savior in his agony prayed more earnestly than usual; not with a higher exercise of grace, which always acted itself in him in perfection, but with a greater vehemency in the working of his natural faculties. So it may be with us at especial seasons; but yet we are always to endeavor after the same aids of the Spirit, the same actings of grace in every particular duty of this kind.

    Thirdly, The Holy Spirit gives the soul of a believer a delight in God as the object of prayer. I shall not insist on his exciting, moving, and acting all other graces that are required in the exercise of this duty, as faith, love, reverence, fear, trust, submission, waiting, hope, and the like. I have proved elsewhere that the exercise of them all, in all duties, and of all other graces in like manner, is from him, and shall not therefore here again confirm the same truth. But this delight in God as the object of prayer hath a peculiar consideration in this matter; for without it ordinarily the duty is not accepted with God, and is a barren, burdensome task unto them by whom it is performed. Now, this delight in God as the object of prayer is, for the substance of it, included in that description of prayer given us by the apostle, — namely, that it is crying “Abba, Father.”

    Herein a filial, holy delight in God is included, such as children have in their parents in their most affectionate addresses unto them, as hath been declared. And we are to inquire wherein this delight in God as the object of prayer doth consist, or what is required thereunto. And there is in it, — 1. A sight or prospect of God as on a throne of grace. A prospect, I say, not by carnal imagination, but spiritual illumination. “By faith we see him who is invisible,” Hebrews 11:27; for it is the “evidence of things not seen” making its proper object evident and present unto them that do believe. Such a sight of God on a throne of grace is necessary unto this delight. Under this consideration he is the proper object of all our addresses unto him in our supplications: chap. 4:16, “Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” The duty of prayer is described by the subjectmatter of it, namely, “mercy” and “grace,” and by the only object of it, “God on a throne of grace.”

    And this “throne of grace” is farther represented unto us by the place where it is erected or set up, and that is in the holiest or most holy place; for in our coming unto God as on that throne, we have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” Hebrews 10:19. And hereby the apostle shows, that in the expression he has respect or alludes unto the mercy-seat upon the ark, covered with the cherubims, which had a representation of a throne; and because of God’s especial manifestation of himself thereon, it was called his throne; and it was a representation of Jesus Christ, as I have showed elsewhere.

    God, therefore, on a throne of grace is God as in a readiness through Jesus Christ to dispense grace and mercy to suppliant sinners. When God comes to execute judgment, his throne is otherwise represented. See Daniel 7:9,10. And when sinners take a view in their minds of God as he is in himself, and as he will be unto all out of Christ, it ingenerates nothing but dread and terror in them, with foolish contrivances to avoid him or his displeasure, Isaiah 33:14; Micah 6:6,7; Revelation 6:16,17. All these places and others testify that when sinners do engage into serious thoughts and conceptions of the nature of God, and what entertainment they shall meet with from him, all their apprehensions issue in dread and terror. This is not a frame wherein they can cry, “Abba, Father.” If they are delivered from this fear and bondage, it is by that which is worse, namely, carnal boldness and presumption, whose rise lieth in the highest contempt of God and his holiness. When men give up themselves to the customary performance of this duty, or rather “saying of their prayers,’ I know not out of what conviction that so they must do, without a due consideration of God and the regard that he hath unto them, they do but provoke him to his face in taking his name in vain; nor, however they satisfy themselves in what they do, have they any delight in God in their approaches unto him.

    Wherefore, there is required hereunto a prospect of God, by faith, as on a “throne of grace,” as exalted in Christ to show mercy unto sinnera So is he represented, Isaiah 30:18, “Therefore will theLORD wait, that he may be gracious, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy.”

    Without this we cannot draw nigh to him, or call upon him with delight, as becometh children, crying, “Abba, Father.” And by whom is this discovery made unto us? Is this a fruit of our own fancy and imagination?

    So it may be with some, to their ruin. But it is the work of the Spirit, who alone, in and through Christ, revealeth God unto us, and enableth us to discern him in a due manner. Hence our apostle prays for the Ephesians “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give unto them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; that the eyes of their understanding being enlightened, they might know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,” chap. 1:17,18.

    All the acquaintance which we have with God, in a way of grace, is from the revelation made in us by his Spirit. See Colossians 2:1,2. By him doth God say unto us that “fury is not in him,” and that if we lay hold on his arm, that we may have peace, we shall have peace, Isaiah 27:4,5. 2. Unto this delight is required a sense of God’s relation unto us as a Father. By that name, and under that consideration, hath the Lord Christ taught us to address ourselves unto him in all our supplications. And although we may use other titles and appellations in our speaking to him, even such as he hath given himself in the Scripture, or those which are analogous thereunto, yet this consideration principally influenceth our souls and minds, that God is not ashamed to be called our Father, that “the Lord Almighty hath said that he will be a Father unto us, and that we shall be his sons and daughters,” 2 Corinthians 6:18.

    Wherefore, as a Father is he the ultimate object of all evangelical worship, of all our prayers. So is it expressed in that holy and divine description of it given by the apostle, Ephesians 2:18, “Through Christ we have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” No tongue can express, no mind can reach, the heavenly placidness and soul-satisfying delight which are intimated in these words. To come to God as a Father, through Christ, by the help and assistance of the Holy Spirit, revealing him as a Father unto us, and enabling us to go to him as a Father, how full of sweetness and satisfaction is it! Without a due apprehension of God in this relation no man can pray as he ought. And hereof we have no sense, herewith we have no acquaintance, but by the Holy Ghost; for we do not consider God in a general manner, as he may be said to be a Father unto the whole creation, but in an especial, distinguishing relation, — as he makes us his children by adoption. And as it is “the Spirit that beareth witness with our spirit that we are thus the children of God,” Romans 8:16, giving us the highest and utmost assurance of our estate of sonship in this world; so being the Spirit of adoption, it is by him alone that we have any acquaintance with our interest in that privilege.

    Some may apprehend that these things belong but little, and that very remotely, unto the duty of prayer, and the assistance we receive by the Spirit therein; but the truth is, those who are so minded, on consideration, know neither what it is to pray nor what doth belong thereunto. There is nothing more essential unto this duty than that, in the performance of it, we address ourselves unto God under the notion of a Father; that is, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in him our Father also. Without this we cannot have that holy delight in this duty which is required in us, and the want whereof ordinarily ruins our design in it. And this we can have no spiritual, satisfactory sense of but what we receive by and from the Spirit of God. 3. There belongeth thereunto that boldness which we have in our access into the holy piece, or unto the throne of grace: “Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,” Hebrews 10:19,22.

    Where there is on men a “spirit of fear unto bondage,” they can never have any delight in their approaches unto God. And this is removed by the Spirit of grace and supplication: Romans 8:15, “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”

    These things are opposed, and the one is only removed and taken away by the other. And where the “spirit of bondage unto fear” abides, there we cannot cry, “Abba, Father,” or pray in a due manner; but “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” 2 Corinthians 3:17. And this, as we render the word, consists in two things: — (1.) In orandi libertate; (2.) In exauditionis fiducia. (1.) There is in it an enlarged liberty and freedom of speech in prayer unto God; so the word signifies. ParjrJhsi>a is as much as panrhsi>a , a freedom to speak all that is to be spoken, a confidence that countenanceth men in the freedom of speech, according to the exigency of their state, condition, and cause. So the word is commonly used, Ephesians 6:19.

    Where there is servile fear and dread, the heart is straitened, bound up, knows not what it may, what it may not utter, and is pained about the issue of all it thinks or speaks; or it cannot pray at all beyond what is prescribed unto it to say, as it were, whether it will or no. But where this Spirit of liberty and boldness is, the heart is enlarged with a true, genuine openness and readiness to express all its concerns unto God as a child unto its father. I do not say that those who have this aid of the Spirit have always this liberty in exercise, or equally so. The exercise of it may be variously impeded, by temptations, spiritual indispositions, desertions, and by our own negligence in stirring up the grace of God. But believers have it always in the root and principle, even all that have received the Spirit of adoption, and are ordinarily assisted in the use of it. Hereby are they enabled to comply with the blessed advice of the apostle, Philippians 4:6, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

    The whole of our concerns in this world is to be committed unto God in prayer, so that we should not retain any dividing cares in our own minds about them. And herein the apostle would have us to use a holy freedom and boldness in speaking unto God on all occasions, as one who concerns himself in them; to hide nothing from God, — which we do what lieth in us when we present it not unto him in our prayers, — but use a full, plainhearted, open liberty with him: “In every thing let your requests be made known unto God.” He is ready to hear all that you have to offer unto him or plead before him. And in so doing, the “peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ,” verse 7; which is ordinarily the condition of those who are found in diligent obedience unto this command. (2.) There is also in it a confidence of acceptance, or being heard in prayer; that is, that God is well pleased with their duties, accepting both them and their persons in Jesus Christ. Without this we can have no delight in prayer, or in God as the object of it; which vitiates the whole duty. When Adam thought there was no acceptance with God for him, he had no confidence of access unto him, but, as the first effect of folly that ensued on the entrance of sin, went to hide himself. And all those who have no ground of spiritual confidence for acceptance with Christ do in their prayers but endeavor to hide themselves from God by the duty which they perform. They cast a mist about them, to obscure themselves from the sight of their own convictions, wherein alone they suppose that God sees them also. But in such a frame there is neither delight, nor enlargement, nor liberty, nor indeed prayer itself.

    Now, this confidence or boldness, which is given unto believers in their prayers by the Holy Ghost, respects not the answer of every particular request, especially in their own understanding of it, but it consists in a holy persuasion that God is well pleased with their duties, accepts their persons, and delights in their approaches unto his throne. Such persons are not terrified with apprehensions that God will say unto them, “What have ye to do to take my name into your mouths, or to what purpose are the multitude of your supplications? When ye make many prayers, I will not hear.” “Will he,” saith Job, “plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me,” chap. 23:6. Yea, they are assured that the more they are with God, the more constantly they abide with him, the better is their acceptance; for as they are commanded to pray always and not to faint, so they have a sufficient warranty from the encouragement and call of Christ to be frequent in their spiritual addresses to him. So he speaks to his church, Song of Solomon 2:14, “O my dove, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voiceq and thy countenance is comely.”

    And herein also is comprised a due apprehension of the goodness and power of God, whereby he is, in all conditions, ready to receive them and able to relieve them. The voice of sinners by nature, let presumption and superstition pretend what they please to the contrary, is, that God is austere, and not capable of condescension or compassion. And the proper acting of unbelief lies in limiting the Most Holy, saying, “Can God do this or that thing, which the supplies of our necessities do call fort are they possible with God?” So long as either of these worketh in us with any kind of prevalency, it is impossible we should have any delight in calling upon God. But we are freed from them by the Holy Ghost, in the representation he makes of the engaged goodness and power of God in the promises of the covenant; which gives us boldness in his presence.

    Fourthly, It is the work of the Holy Spirit in prayer to keep the souls of believers intent upon Jesus Christ, as the only way and means of acceptance with God. This is the fundamental direction for prayer now under the gospel. We are now to ask in his name; which was not done expressly under the Old Testament. Through him we act faith on God in all our supplications; by him we have an access unto the Father. We enter into the holiest through the new and living way that he hath consecrated for us. The various respect which faith hath unto Jesus Christ as mediator in all our prayers is a matter worthy a particular inquiry, but is not of our present consideration, wherein we declare the work of the Spirit alone; and this is a part of it, that he keeps our souls intent upon Christ, according unto what is required of us, as he is the way of our approach unto God, the means of our admittance, and the cause of our acceptance with him.

    And where faith is not actually exercised unto this purpose, all prayer is vain and unprofitable. And whether our duty herein be answered with a few words, wherein his name is expressed with little spiritual regard unto him, is worth our inquiry.

    To enable us hereunto is the work of the Holy Ghost. He it is that glorifies Jesus Christ in the hearts of believers, John 16:14; and this he doth when he enableth them to act faith on him in a due manner. So speaks the apostle expressly, Ephesians 2:18, “Through him we have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” It is through Jesus alone that we have our access unto God, and that by faith in him. So we have our access unto him for our persons in justification: Romans 5:2, “By whom we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.” And by him we have our actual access unto him in our supplications when we draw nigh to the throne of grace; but this is by the Spirit. It is he who enables us hereunto, by keeping our minds spiritually intent on him in all our addresses unto God.

    This is a genuine effect of the Spirit as he is the “Spirit of the Son;” under which consideration in an especial manner he is bestowed on us to enable us to pray, Galatians 4:6. And hereof believers have a refreshing experience in themselves; nor doth any thing leave a better savor or relish on their souls than when they have had their hearts and minds kept close, in the exercise of faith, on Christ the mediator in their prayers.

    I might yet insist on more instances in the declaration of the work of the Holy Ghost in believers, as he is a Spirit of grace and supplication; but my design is not to declare what may be spoken, but to speak what ought not to be omitted. Many other things, therefore, might be added, but these will suffice to give an express understanding of this work unto them who have any spiritual experience of it, and those who have not will not be satisfied with volumes to the same purpose.

    Yet something may be here added to free our passage from any just exceptions; for, it may be, some will think that these things are not pertinent unto our present purpose, which is to discover the nature of the duty of prayer, and the assistance which we receive by the Spirit of God therein. “Now, this is only in the words that we use unto God in our prayers, and not in that spiritual delight and confidence which have been spoken unto, which, with other graces, if they may be so esteemed, are of another consideration.” Ans . 1. It may be that some think so; and also, it may be, and is very likely, that some who will be talking about these things are utterly ignorant what it is to pray in the Spirit, and the whole nature of this duty. Not knowing, therefore, the thing, they hate the very name of it; as indeed it cannot but be uncouth unto all who are no way interested in the grace and privilege intended by it. The objections of such persons are but as the strokes of blind men; whatever strength and violence be in them, they always miss the mark. Such are the fierce arguings of the most against this duty; they are full of fury and violence, but never touch the matter intended. 2. My design is so to discover the nature of praying in the Spirit in general as that therewith I may declare what is a furtherance thereunto and what is a hinderance thereof; for if there be any such ways of praying, which men use or oblige themselves unto, which do not comply with, or are not suited to promote, or are unconcerned in, or do not express, those workings of the Holy Ghost which are so directly assigned unto him in the prayers of believers, they are all nothing but means of quenching the Spirit, of disappointing the work of his grace, and rendering the prayers themselves so used, and as such, unacceptable with God. And apparent it is, at least, that most of the ways and modes of prayer used in the Papacy are inconsistent with, and exclusive of, the whole work of the Spirit of supplication.

    CHAPTER 7.

    THE NATURE OF PRAYER IN GENERAL, WITH RESPECT UNTO FORMS OF PRAYER AND VOCAL PRAYER — EPHESIANS 6:18 OPENED AND VINDICATED.

    THE duty I am endeavoring to express is that enjoined in Ephesians 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”

    Some have made bold to advance a fond imagination (as what will not enmity unto the holy ways of God put men upon?) that “praying in the Spirit” intends only praying by virtue of an extraordinary and miraculous gift; but the use of it is here enjoined unto all believers, none excepted, men and women, who yet, I suppose, had not all and every one of them that extraordinary, miraculous gift which they fancy to be intended in that expression. And the performance of this duty is enjoined them, in the manner prescribed, ejn panti< kairw~| , — “always,” say we, “in every season;” that is, such just and due seasons of prayer as duty and our occasions call for. But the apostle expressly confines the exercise of extraordinary gifts unto some certain seasons, when, under some circumstances, they may be needful or useful unto edification, Corinthians 14. There is, therefore, “a praying in the Spirit,” which is the constant duty of all believers; and it is a great reproach unto the profession of Christianity where that name itself is a matter of contempt. If there be any thing in it that is “foolish, conceited, fanatical,” the holy apostle must answer for it, yea, He by whom he was inspired. But if this be the expression of God himself of that duty which he requireth of us, I would not willingly be among the number of them by whom it is derided, let their pretences be what they please. Besides, in the text, all believers are said thus “to pray in the Spirit at all seasons,” dia< pa>shv proseuch~v kai< deh>sewv , and ejn pa>sh| proseuch~| kai< deh>sei , “with all prayer and supplication;” that is, with all manner of prayer, according as our own occasions and necessities do require. A man, certainly, by virtue of this rule, can scarce judge himself obliged to confine his performance of this duty unto a prescript form of words: for a variety in our prayers, commensurate unto the various occasions of ourselves and of the church of God, being here enjoined us, how we can comply therewith in the constant use of any one form I know not; those who do are left unto their liberty.

    And this we are obliged unto, eijv aujto< tou~to ajgrupnou~ntev , “diligently watching unto this very end,” that our prayers may be suited unto our occasions. He who can divide this text, or cut it out into a garment to clothe set forms of prayer with, will discover an admirable dexterity in the using and disposal of a text of Scripture.

    But yet neither do I conclude from hence that all such forms are unlawful; only, that another way of praying is here enjoined us is, I suppose, unquestionable unto all impartial searchers after truth; and, doubtless, they are not to be blamed who endeavor a compliance therewith. And if persons are able, in the daily, constant reading of any book whatever, merely of a human composition, to rise up in answer to this duty of “praying always with all manner of prayer and supplication in the Spirit,” or the exercise of the aid and assistance received from him, and his holy acting of them as a Spirit of grace and supplication, endeavoring, laboring, and watching thereunto, I shall say no more but that they have attained what I cannot understand.

    The sole inquiry remaining is, how they are enabled to pray in whose minds the Holy Ghost doth thus work as a Spirit of grace and supplication. And I do say, in answer thereunto, that those who are thus affected by him do never want a gracious ability of making their addresses unto God in vocal prayer, so far as is needful unto them in their circumstances, callings, states, and conditions. And this is that which is called the gift of prayer. I speak of ordinary cases; for there may be such interpositions of temptations and desertions as that the soul, being overwhelmed with them, may for the present be able only to “mourn as a dove,” or to “chatter as a crane,” — that is, not to express the sense of their minds clearly and distinctly, but only as it were to mourn and groan before the Lord in brokenness of spirit and expressions. But this also is sufficient for their acceptance in that condition; and hereof there are few believers but at one time or other they have more or less experience. And as for those whose devotion dischargeth itself in a formal course of the same words, as it must needs be in the Papacy, wherein for the most part they understand not the signification of the words which they make use of, they are strangers unto the true nature of prayer, at least unto the work of the Spirit therein. And such supplications as are not variously influenced by the variety of the spiritual conditions of them that make them, according to the variety of our spiritual exercises, are like one constant tone or noise, which hath no harmony nor music in it.

    I say, therefore, — 1. That the things insisted on are in some degree and measure necessary unto all acceptable prayer. The Scripture assigns them thereunto, and believers find them so by their own experience. For we discourse not about prayer as it is the working of nature in its straits and difficulties towards the God of nature, expressing thereby its dependence on him, with an acknowledgment of his power, in which sense all flesh, in one way or other, under one notion or other, come to God; nor yet upon those cries which legal convictions will wrest from them that fall under their power: but we treat only of prayer as it is required of believers under the gospel, as they have an “access through Christ by one Spirit unto the Father.”

    And, 2. That those in whom this work is wrought by the Holy Spirit in any degree do not, in ordinary cases, want an ability to express themselves in this duty, so far as is needful for them. It is acknowledged that an ability herein will be greatly increased and improved by exercise, and that not only because the exercise of all moral faculties is the genuine way of their strengthening and improvement, but principally because it is instituted, appointed, and commanded of God unto that end. God hath designed the exercise of grace for the means of its growth, and giveth his blessing in answer to his institution. But the nature of the thing itself requires a performance of the duty suitably unto the condition of him that is called unto it; and if men grow not up unto farther degrees in that ability by exercise in the duty itself, by stirring up the gifts and graces of God in them, it is their sin and folly. And hence it follows, 3. That although set forms of prayer may be lawful unto some, as is pretended, yet are they necessary unto none, that is, unto no true believers, as unto acceptable, evangelical prayer; but whoever is made partaker of the work of the Spirit of God herein, which he doth infallibly effect in every one who through him is enabled to cry, “Abba, Father,” as every child of God is, he will be able to pray according to the mind and will of God, if he neglect not the aid and assistance offered unto him for that purpose. Wherefore, to plead for the necessity of forms of prayer unto believers, beyond what may be doctrinal or instructive in them, is a fruit of inclination unto parties, or of ignorance, or of the want of a due attendance unto their own experience.

    Of what use forms of prayer may be unto those that are not regenerate, and have not, therefore, received the Spirit of adoption, belongs not directly unto our disquisition; yet I must say that I understand not clearly the advantage of them unto them, unless a contrivance to relieve them in that condition, without a due endeavor after a deliverance from it, may be so esteemed. For these persons are of two sorts: — (1.) Such as are openly under the power of sin, their minds being not effectually influenced by any convictions. These seldom pray, unless it be under dangers, fears, troubles, pains, or other distresses. When they are smitten they will cry, “even to theLORD they will cry,” and not else; and their design is to treat about their especial occasions, and the present sense which they have thereof. And how can any man conceive that they should be supplied with forms of prayer expressing their sense, conceptions, and affections, in their particular cases? And how ridiculously they may mistake themselves in reading those prayers which are no way suited unto their condition, is easily supposed. A form to such persons may prove little better than a charm, and their minds be diverged by it from such a performance of duty as the light of nature would direct to. Jonah’s mariners in the storm “cried every one unto his god,” and called on him also to do so too, chap. 1:5, 6. The substance of their prayer was, that God would “think upon them, that they might not perish.” And men in such condition, if not diverted by this pretended relief, which indeed is none, will not want words to express their minds, so far as there is any thing of prayer in what they do; and beyond that, whatever words they are supplied withal, they are of no use or advantage unto them. And it is possible when they are left to work naturally towards God, however unskilled and rude their expressions may be, a deep sense may be left upon their minds, with a reverence of God, and remembrance of their own error, which may be of use to them. But the bounding and directing of the workings of natural religion by a form of words, perhaps little suited unto their occasions and not at all to their affections, tends only to stifle the operation of an awakened conscience, and to give them up unto their former security. (2.) Others there are, such as by education and the power of convictions from the word, by one means or other, are so far brought under a sense of the authority of God and their own duty as conscientiously, according unto their light, to attend unto prayer, as unto other duties also. Now, the case of these men will be more fully determined afterward, when the whole use of the forms of prayer will be spoken unto. For the present I shall only say, that I cannot believe, until farther conviction, that any one whose duty it is to pray is not able to express his requests and petitions in words, so far as he is affected with the matter of them in his mind; and what he doth by any advantage beyond that belongeth not to prayer. Men may, by sloth, and other vicious distempers of mind, especially by a negligence in getting their hearts and consciences duly affected with the matter and object of prayer, keep themselves under a real or supposed disability in this matter; but whereas prayer in this sort of persons is an effect of common illumination and grace, which are also from the Spirit of God, if persons do really and sincerely endeavor a due sense of what they pray for and about, he will not be wanting to help them to express themselves so far as is necessary for them, either privately or in their families. But those who will never enter the water but with flags or bladders under them will scarce ever learn to swim; and it cannot be denied but that the constant and unvaried use of set forms of prayer may become a great occasion of quenching the Spirit, and hindering all progress or growth in gifts or graces When every one hath done what he can, it is his best, and will be accepted of him, it being according unto what he hath, before that which is none of his.

    CHAPTER 8.

    THE DUTY OF EXTERNAL PRAYER BY VIRTUE OF A SPIRITUAL GIFT EXPLAINED AND VINDICATED.

    WHAT we have hitherto discoursed concerning the work of the Spirit of grace and supplication enabling believers to pray, or to cry “Abba, Father,” belongeth principally unto the internal, spiritual nature of the duty, and the exercise of grace therein, wherein we have occasionally only diverted unto the consideration of the interest of words, and the use of set forms, either freely or imposed. And, indeed, what hath been evinced from Scripture testimony herein doth upon the matter render all farther dispute about these things needless; for if the things mentioned be required unto all acceptable prayer, and if they are truly effected in the minds of all believers by the Holy Ghost, it is evident how little use there remains of such pretended aids.

    But, moreover, prayer falleth under another consideration, namely, as to its external performance, and as the duty is discharged by any one in lesser or greater societies, wherein upon his words and expressions do depend their conjunction with him, their communion in the duty, and consequently their edification in the whole. This is the will of God, that in assemblies of his appointment, as churches and families, and occasional meetings of two or three or more in the name of Christ, one should pray in the name of himself and the rest that join with him. Thus are ministers enabled to pray in church-assemblies, as other Christians in occasional meetings of the disciples of Christ in his name, parents in their families, and, in secret, every believer for himself.

    There is a spiritual ability given unto men by the Holy Ghost, whereby they are enabled to express the matter of prayer, as taught and revealed in the manner before described, in words fitted and suited to lead on their own minds and the minds of others unto a holy communion in the duty, to the honor of God and their own edification. I do not confine the use of this ability unto assemblies; every one may, and usually is to make use of it, according to the measure which he hath received, for himself also; for if a man have not an ability to pray for himself in private and alone, he can have none to pray in public and societies. Wherefore, take prayer as vocal, without which adjunct it is not complete, and this ability belongs to the nature and essence of it And this also is from the Spirit of God.

    This is that which meets with such contradiction and opposition from many, and which hath other things set up in competition with it, yea, to the exclusion of it, even from families and closets also. What they are we shall afterward examine. And judged it is by some not only to be separable from the work of the Spirit of prayer, but no way to belong thereunto. “A fruit,” they say, “it is of wit, fancy, memory, elocution, volubility and readiness of speech,” — namely, in them in whom on other accounts they will acknowledge none of these things to be, at least in no considerable degree! Some while since, indeed, they defended themselves against any esteem of this ability, by crying out that “all those who thus prayed by the Spirit, as they call it, did but babble and talk nonsense.” But those who have any sobriety and modesty are convinced that the generality of those who do pray according to the ability received do use words of truth and soberness in the exercise thereof. And it is but a sorry relief that any can find in cavilling at some expressions, which, perhaps good and wholesome in themselves, yet suit not their palates; or if they are such as may seem to miss of due order and decency, yet is not their failure to be compared with the extravagances (considering the nature of the duty) of some in supposed quaint and elegant expressions used in this duty. But herein they betake themselves unto this countenance, that this ability is the effect of the natural endowments before mentioned only, which they think to be set off by a boldness and confidence but a little beneath an intolerable impudence.

    Thus, it seems, is it with all who desire to pray as God enables them, that is, according to his mind and will, if any thing in the light of nature, the common voice of mankind, examples of Scripture, express testimonies and commands, are able to declare what is so. I shall, therefore, make way unto the declaration and confirmation of the truth asserted by the ensuing observations. 1. Every man is to pray or call upon God, according as he is able, with respect unto his own condition, relations, occasions, and duties. Certainly there is not a man in the world who hath not forfeited all his reason and understanding unto atheism, or utterly buried all their operations under the fury of brutish affections, but he is convinced that it is his duty to pray to the deity he owns, in words of his own, as well as he is able; for this, and none other, is the genuine and natural notion of prayer. This is implanted in the heart of mankind, which they need not be taught nor directed unto.

    The artificial help of constant forms is an arbitrary invention. And I would hope that there are but few in the world, especially of those who are called Christians, but that at one time or other do so pray. And those who, for the most part, do betake themselves to other reliefs (as unto the reading of prayers, composed unto some good end and purpose, though not absolutely to their occasions, as to the present state of their minds and the things they would pray for, which is absolutely impossible), cannot, as I conceive, but sometimes be conscious to themselves not only of the weakness of what they do, but of their neglect of the duty which they profess to perform. And as for such who, by the prevalency of ignorance, the power of prejudice, and infatuation of superstition, are diverted from the dictates of nature and light of Scripture directions to say a “paternoster,” it may be an “ave,” or a “credo,” for their prayer, intending it for this or that end, the benefit, it may be, of this or that person, or the obtaining of what is no way mentioned or included in what they utter, there is nothing of prayer in it, but a mere taking the name of God in vain, with the horrible profanation of a holy ordinance.

    Persons tied up unto such rules and forms never pray in their lives, but in their occasional ejaculations, which break from them almost by surprisal.

    And there hath not been any one more effectual means of bringing unholiness, with an ungodly course of conversation, into the Christian world, than this one of teaching men to satisfy themselves in this duty by their saying, reading, or repetition of the words of other men, which, it may be, they understand not, and certainly are not in a due manner affected withal; for it is this duty whereby our whole course is principally influenced. And, let men say what they will, our conversation in walking before God, which principally regards the frame and disposition of our hearts, is influenced and regulated by our attendance unto and performance of this duty. He whose prayers are hypocritical is a hypocrite in his whole course; and he who is but negligent in them is equally negligent in all other duties. Now, whereas our whole obedience unto God ought to be our “reasonable service,” Romans 12:1, how can it be expected that it should be so when the foundation of it is laid in such an irrational supposition, that men should not pray themselves what they are able, but read the forms of others instead thereof, which they do not understand? 2. All the examples we have in the Scripture of the prayers of the holy men of old, either under the Old Testament or the New, were all of them the effects of their own ability in expressing the gracious conceptions of their minds, wrought in them by the Holy Ghost in the way and manner before described. I call it their own ability, in opposition to all outward aids and assistances from others, or an antecedaneous prescription of a form of words unto themselves. Not one instance can be given to the contrary. Sometimes it is said they “spread forth their hands,” sometimes that they “lifted up their voices,” sometimes that they “fell upon their knees and cried,” sometimes that they “poured out their hearts” when overwhelmed; all according unto present occasions and circumstances. The solemn benediction of the priests, instituted of God, like the present forms in the administration of the sacraments, were of another consideration, as shall be showed; and as for those who, by immediate inspiration, gave out and wrote discourses in the form of prayers, which were in part mystical and in part prophetical, we have before given an account concerning them.

    Some plead, indeed, that the church of the Jews, under the second temple, had sundry forms of prayers in use among them, even at the time when our Savior was conversant in the temple and their synagogues; — but they pretend and plead what they cannot prove, and I challenge any learned man to give but a tolerable evidence unto the assertion; for what is found to that purpose among the Talmudists is mixed with such ridiculous fables (as the first, suiting the number of their prayers to the number of the bones in the back of a man!) as fully defeats its own evidence. 3. The commands which are given us to pray thus according unto our own abilities are no more nor less than all the commands we have in the Scripture to pray at all. Not one of them hath any regard or respect unto outward forms, aids, or helps of prayer. And the manner of prayer itself is so described, limited, and determined, as that no other kind of prayer can be intended: for whereas we are commanded to “pray in the Spirit;” to pray earnestly and fervently, with “the spirit and understanding;” continually, with all manner of “prayer and supplication,” to “make our requests known unto God,” so as not to take care ourselves about our present concerns; to “pour out our hearts unto God;” to cry, “Abba, Father,” by the Spirit, and the like, — I do not understand how these things are suited unto any kind of prayer but only that which is from the ability which men have received for the entire discharge of that duty; for there are evidently intimated in these precepts and directions such various occasional workings of our minds and spirits, such actings of gracious affections, as will not comply with a constant use of a prescribed form of words. 4. When we speak of men’s own ability in this matter, we do include therein the conscientious, diligent use of all means which God hath appointed for the communication of this ability unto them, or to help them in the due use, exercise, and improvement of it. Such means there are, and such are they to attend unto; as, — (1.) The diligent searching of our own hearts, in their frames, dispositions, inclinations, and actings, that we may be in some measure acquainted with their state and condition towards God. Indeed, the heart of man is absolutely unsearchable unto any but God himself, — that is, as unto a complete and perfect knowledge of it (hence David prays that God would “search and try him,” and lead and conduct him by his grace according unto what he found in him, and not leave him wholly to act or be acted according unto his own apprehensions of himself, <19D923> Psalm 139:23,24); but yet where we do in sincerity inquire into them, by the help of that spiritual light which we have received, we may discern so much of them as to guide us aright in this and all other duties. If this be neglected, if men live in the dark unto themselves, or satisfy themselves only with an acquaintance with those things which an accusing conscience will not suffer them to be utterly ignorant of, they will never know either how to pray or what to pray for in a due manner. And the want of a due discharge of this duty, which we ought continually to be exercised in, especially on the account of that unspeakable variety of spiritual changes which we are subject unto, is a cause of that barrenness in prayer which is found among the most, as we have observed. He that would abound in all manner of supplication, which is enjoined us, who would have his prayers to be proper, useful, fervent, must be diligent in the search and consideration of his own heart, with all its dispositions and inclinations, and the secret guilt which it doth variously contract. (2.) Constant, diligent reading of the Scriptures is another duty that this ability greatly depends upon. From the precepts of God therein may we learn our own wants, and from his promises the relief which he hath provided for them; and these things, as hath been showed, supply us with the matter of prayer. Moreover, we thence learn what words and expressions are meet and proper to be used in our accesses unto God. No words nor expressions in themselves or their signification are meet or acceptable herein, but from their analogy unto those in the Scripture, which are of God’s own teaching and direction. And where men are much conversant in the word, they will be ready for and furnished with meet expressions of their desires to God always. This is one means whereby they may come so to be; and other helps of the like nature might be insisted on. 5. There is a use herein of the natural abilities of invention, memory, and elocution. Why should not men use in the service and worship of God what God hath given them that they may be able to serve and worship him? Yea, it setteth off the use and excellency of this spiritual gift, that in the exercise of it we use and act our natural endowments and abilities, as spiritualized by grace; which, in the way set up in competition with it, cannot be done. The more the soul is engaged in its faculties and powers, the more intent it is in and unto the duty.

    Nor do I deny but that this gift may be varied in degrees and divers circumstances according unto these abilities, though it have a being of its own distinct from them. Even in extraordinary gifts, as in the receiving and giving out of immediate revelations from God, there was a variety in outward modes and circumstances which followed the diversity and variety of the natural abilities and qualifications of them who were employed in that work. Much more may this difference both be and appear in the exercise of ordinary gifts, which do not so absolutely influence and regulate the faculties of the mind as the other.

    And this difference we find by experience among them who are endowed with this spiritual ability. All men who have the gift of prayer do not pray alike, as to the matter of their prayers, or the manner of their praying; but some do greatly excel others, some in one thing, some in another. And this doth in part proceed from that difference that is between them in the natural abilities of invention, judgment, memory, elocution, especially as they are improved by exercise in this duty. But yet neither is this absolutely so, nor doth the difference in this matter which we observe in constant experience depend solely hereon; for if it did, then those who, having received this spiritual ability, do excel others in these natural endowments, would also constantly excel them in the exercise of the gift itself, which is not so, as is known to all who have observed any thing in this matter. But the exercise of these abilities in prayer depends on the especial assistance of the Spirit of God. And, for the most part, the gift, as the scion ingrafted or inoculated, turns the nature of those abilities into itself, and modifieth them according unto its own efficacy and virtue, and is not itself changed by them. Evidently, that which makes any such difference in the discharge of this duty as wherein the edification of others is concerned, is the frequent conscientious exercise of the gift received; without which, into whatever stock of natural abilities it may be planted, it will neither thrive nor flourish. 6. Spiritual gifts are of two sorts: — (1.) Such as are distinct from all other abilities, having their whole foundation, nature, and power in themselves. Such were the extraordinary gifts of miracles, healing, tongues, and the like. These were entire in themselves, not built upon or adjoined unto any other gifts or graces whatever. (2.) Such as were adjuncts of, or annexed unto, any other gifts or graces, without which they could have neither place nor use, as the gift of utterance depends on wisdom and knowledge; for utterance without knowledge, or that which is any thing but the way of expressing sound knowledge unto the benefit of others, is folly and babbling. And of this latter sort is the gift of prayer, as under our present consideration, with respect unto the interest of words in that duty. And this we affirm to be a peculiar gift of the Holy Ghost, and shall now farther prove it so to be; for, — (1.) It is an inseparable adjunct of that work of the Spirit which we have described, and is therefore from him who is the author of it; for he who is the author of any thing as to its being is the author of all its inseparable adjuncts. That the work of enabling us to pray is the work of the Spirit hath been proved; and it is an immeasurable boldness for any to deny it, and yet pretend themselves to be Christiana And he is not the author of any one part of this work, but of the whole, all that whereby we cry, “Abba, Father.” Hereunto the expression of the desires of our souls, in words suited unto the acting of our own graces and the edification of others, doth inseparably belong. When we are commanded to pray, if our necessity, condition, edification, with the advantage and benefit of others, do require the use of words in prayer, then are we so to pray. For instance, when a minister is commanded to pray in the church or congregation, so as to go before the flock in the discharge of that duty, he is to use words in prayer. Yet are we not in such cases required to pray any otherwise than as the Spirit is promised to enable us to pray, and so as that we may still be said to pray in the Holy Ghost. So, therefore, to pray falls under the command and promise, and is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

    And the nature of the thing itself, — that is, the duty of prayer, — doth manifest it; for all that the Spirit of God works in our hearts with respect unto this duty is in order unto the expression of it, for what he doth is to enable us to pray. And if he give not that expression, all that he doth besides may be lost as to its principal end and use: and, indeed, all that he doth in us where this is wanting, or that in fixed meditation, which in some particular cases is equivalent thereunto, riseth not beyond that frame which David expresseth by his keeping silence; whereby he declares an estate of trouble, wherein yet he was not freely brought over to deal with God about it, as he did afterward by prayer, and found relief therein.

    That which with any pretense of reason can be objected hereunto, — namely, that not any part only, but the whole duty of prayer as we are commanded to pray, is an effect in us of the Holy Spirit as a Spirit of grace and supplication, or that the grace of prayer and the gift of prayer, as some distinguish, are inseparable, — consists in two unsound consequents, which, as is supposed, will thence ensue; as, — (1.) “That every one who hath the grace of prayer, as it is called, or in whom the Holy Spirit worketh the gracious disposition before described, hath also the gift of prayer, seeing these things are inseparable.” And, (2.) “That every one who hath the gift of prayer, or who hath an ability to pray with utterance unto the edification of others, hath also the grace of prayer, or the actings of saving grace in prayer,” which is the thing intended. But these things, it will be said, are manifestly otherwise, and contrary to all experience. Ans . [1.] For the first of these inferences, I grant it follows from the premises, and therefore affirm that it is most true, under the ensuing limitations: — 1st . We do not speak of what is called the grace of prayer in its habit or principle, but in its actual exercise. In the first respect it is in all that are sanctified, even in those infants that are so from the womb. It doth not hence follow that they must also have the gift of prayer, which respects only grace in its exercise. And thus our meaning is, that all those in whom the Spirit of God doth graciously act faith, love, delight, desire, in a way of prayer unto God, have an ability from him to express themselves in vocal prayer. 2dly. It is required hereunto that such persons be found in a way of duty, and so meet to receive the influential assistance of the Holy Spirit.

    Whoever will use or have the benefit of any spiritual gift must himself, in a way of duty, stir up, by constant and frequent exercise, the ability wherein it doth consist: “Stir up the gift of God which is in thee,” Timothy 1:6. And where this duty is neglected, — which neglect must be accounted for, wit is no wonder if any persons who may have, as they speak, the “grace of prayer,” should not yet have the gift or faculty to express their minds and desires in prayer by words of their own. Some think there is no such ability in any, and therefore never look after it in themselves, but despise whatever they hear spoken unto that purpose.

    What assistance such persons may have in their prayers from the Spirit of grace I know not, but it is not likely they should have much of his aid or help in that wherein they despise him. And some are so accustomed unto and so deceived by pretended helps in prayer, as making use of or reading prayers by others composed for them that they never attempt to pray for themselves, but always think they cannot do that which, indeed, they will not; as if a child being bred up among none but such impotent persons as go on crutches, as he groweth up should refuse to try his own strength, and resolve himself to make use of crutches also. Good instruction, or some sudden surprisal with fear, removing his prejudice, he will cast away this needless help, and make use of his strength. Some gracious persons brought up where forms of prayer are in general use may have a spiritual ability of their own to pray, but neither know it nor ever try it, through a compliance with the principles of their education, yea, so as to think it impossible for them to pray any otherwise. But when instruction frees them from this prejudice, or some sudden surprisal with fear or affliction casts them into an entrance of the exercise of their own ability in this kind, their former aids and helps quickly grow into disuse with them. 3dly. The ability which we ascribe unto all who have the gracious assistance of the Spirit in prayer is not absolute, but suited unto their occasions, conditions, duties, callings, and the like. We do not say that every one who hath received the Spirit of grace and supplication must necessarily have a gift enabling him to pray as becomes a minister in the congregation, or any person on the like solemn occasion, — no, nor yet it may be to pray in a family, or in the company of many, if he be not in his condition of life called thereunto; but every one hath this ability according to his necessity, condition of life, and calling. He that is only a private person hath so, and he who is the ruler of the family hath so, and he that is a minister of the congregation hath so also. And as God enlargeth men’s occasions and calls, so he will enlarge their abilities, provided they do what is their duty to that end and purpose; for the slothful, the negligent, the fearful, those that are under the power of prejudices, will have no share in this mercy. This, therefore, is the sum of what we affirm in this particular: — Every adult person who hath received, and is able to exercise, grace in prayer, any saving grace, without which prayer itself is an abomination, if he neglect not the improvement of the spiritual aids communicated unto him, doth so far partake of this gift of the Holy Spirit as to enable him to pray according as his own occasions and duty do require. He who wants mercy for the pardon of sin, or supplies of grace for the sanctification of his person, and the like, if he be sensible of his wants, and have gracious desires after their supply wrought in his heart, will be enabled to ask them of God in an acceptable manner, if he be not woefully and sinfully wanting unto himself and his own duty. [2.] As to the second inference, namely, that if this ability be inseparable from the gracious assistance of the Spirit of prayer, then whosoever hath this gift and ability, he hath in the exercise of it that gracious assistance, or he hath received the Spirit of grace, and hath saving graces acted in him, I answer, — 1st . It doth not follow on what we have asserted: for although wherever is the grace of prayer there is the gift also in its measure, yet it follows not that where the gift is there must be the grace also; for the gift is for the grace’s sake, and not on the contrary. Grace cannot be acted without the gift, but the gift may without the grace. 2dly . We shall assent that this gift doth grow in another soil, and hath not its root in itself. It followeth on and ariseth from one distinct part of the work of the Holy Spirit as a Spirit of supplication, from which it is inseparable; and this is his work on the mind, in acquainting it with the things that are to be prayed for, which he doth both in the inward convictions of men’s own souls, and in the declaration made thereof in the Scripture. Now, this may in some be only a common work of illumination, which the gift of vocal prayer may flow from and accompany, when the Spirit of grace and supplication works no farther in them. Wherefore, it is acknowledged that men in whom the Spirit of grace did never reside nor savingly operate may have the gift of utterance in prayer unto their own and others’ edification; for they have the gift of illumination, which is its foundation, and from which it is inseparable. Where this spiritual illumination is not granted in some measure, no abilities, no industry, can attain the gift of utterance in prayer unto edification; for spiritual light is the matter of all spiritual gifts, which in all their variety are but the various exercise of it. And to suppose a man to have a gift of prayer without it, is to suppose him to have a gift to pray for he knows not what; which real or pretended enthusiasm we abhor. Wherefore, wherever is this gift of illumination and conviction, there is such a foundation of the gift of prayer as that it is not ordinarily absent in some measure, where due use and exercise are observed.

    Add unto what hath been spoken that the duty of prayer ordinarily is not complete unless it be expressed in words. It is called “pleading with God,” “filling our mouths with arguments,” “crying unto him,” and “causing him to hear our voice;” which things are so expressed, not that they are any way needful unto God, but unto us. And whereas it may be said that all this may be done in prayer by internal meditation, where no use is made of the voice or of words, as it is said of Hannah that “she spake in her heart, but her voice was not heard,” 1 Samuel 1:13, I grant in some cases it may be so, where the circumstances of the duty do not require it should be otherwise, or where the vehemency of affections, which causes men to cry out and roar, will permit it so to be. But withal I say, that in this prayer by meditation, the things and matter of prayer are to be formed in the mind into that sense and those sentences which ,nay be expressed; and the mind can conceive no more in this way of prayer than it can express. So of Hannah it is said, when she prayed in her heart, and, as she said herself, “out of the abundance of her meditation,” verse 16, that “her lips moved,” though “her voice was not heard;” she not only framed the sense of her supplications into petitions, but tacitly expressed them to herself. And the obligation of any person unto prescribed forms is as destructive of prayer by inward meditation as it is of prayer conceived and expressed; for it takes away the liberty and prevents the ability of framing petitions, or any other parts of prayer, in the mind according to the sense which the party praying hath of them. Wherefore, if this expression of prayer in words do necessarily belong unto the duty itself, it is an effect of the Holy Spirit, or he is not the Spirit of supplication unto us. (2.) Utterance is a peculiar gift of the Holy Ghost: so it is mentioned, Corinthians 1:5; 2 Corinthians 8:7; Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3.

    And hereof there are two parts, or there are two duties to be discharged by virtue of it: — [1.] An ability to speak unto men in the name of God in the preaching of the word; [2.] An ability to speak unto God for ourselves, or in the name and on the behalf of others. And there is the same reason of utterance in both these duties; and in each of them it is equally a peculiar gift of the Spirit of God.

    See 1 Corinthians 1:5; 2 Corinthians 8:7; Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3. The word used in these places is lo>gov , “speech,” which is well rendered “utterance,” — that is, parjrJhsi>a ejn tw~| ajpofqe>ggesqai , “facultas et libertas dicendi,” an ability and liberty to speak out the things we have conceived: Lo>gov ejn ajnoi>zei tou~ sto>matov ejn parjrJhsi>a| , Ephesians 6:19, — “Utterance in the opening of the mouth with boldness,” or rather freedom of speech. This in sacred things, in praying and preaching, is the gift of the Holy Spirit; and as such are we enjoined to pray for it that it may be given unto us or others, as the edification of the church doth require. And although this gift may by some be despised, yet the whole edification of the church depends upon it; yea, the foundation of the church was laid in it, as it was an extraordinary gift, Acts 2:4; and its superstructure is carried on by it, for it is the sole means of public or solemn intercourse between God and the church. It is so if there be such a thing as the Holy Ghost, if there be such things as spiritual gifts. The matter of them is spiritual light, and the manner of their exercise is utterance.

    This gift or ability, as all others of the like nature, may be considered either as to the habit or as to the external exercise of it. And those who have received it in the habit have yet experience of great variety in the exercise, which in natural and moral habits, where the same preparations precede, doth not usually appear; for as the Spirit of grace is free, and acts arbitrarily with respect unto the persons unto whom he communicates the gift himself, for “he divideth to every man as he will,” so he acteth also as he pleases in the exercise of those gifts and graces which he doth bestow.

    Hence believers do sometimes find a greater evidence of his gracious working in them in prayer, or of his assistance to pray, as also enlargement in utterance, than at other times; for in both he breatheth and acteth as he pleaseth. These things are not their own, nor absolutely in their own power; nor will either the habitual grace they have received enable them to pray graciously, nor their gift of utterance unto edification, without his actual excitation of that grace and his assistance in the exercise of that gift.

    Both the conceiving and utterance of our desires in an acceptable manner are from him; and so are all spiritual enlargements in this duty. Vocal prayer, whether private or public, whereof we speak, is the uttering of our desires and requests unto God, called “the making of our requests known unto him,” Philippians 4:6. This utterance is a gift of the Holy Ghost; so also is prayer as to the manner of the performance of it, by words in supplication. And if any one say he cannot so pray suitably unto his own occasions, he doth only say that he is a stranger to this gift of the Holy Ghost; and if any one will not, by him it is despised. And if these things are denied by any because they understand them not, we cannot help it. (3.) It is the Holy Spirit that enables men to discharge and perform every duty that is required of them in a due manner, so that without his enabling of us we can do nothing as we should. As this hath been sufficiently confirmed in other discourses on this subject, so we will not always contend with them by whom such fundamental principles of Christianity are denied or called into question. And he doth so with respect unto all sorts of duties, whether such as are required of us by virtue of especial office and calling, or on the more general account of a holy conversation according to the will of God. And vocal prayer is a duty under both these considerations; for, — [1.] It is the duty of the ministers of the gospel by virtue of especial office. “Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks,” are to be made in the assemblies of the church, 1 Timothy 2:1. Herein it is the office and duty of ministers to go before the congregation, and to be as the mouth of the church unto God. The nature of the office and the due discharge of it, with what is necessary unto the religious worship of public assemblies, manifest it so to be. The apostles, as their example, “gave themselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word,” Acts 6:4.

    It is therefore the gift of the Holy Ghost whereby these are enabled so to do; for of themselves they are not able to do any thing. This is one of those “good gifts” which are “from above, and come down from the Father of lights,” James 1:17. And these gifts do they receive “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” Ephesians 4:12. Utterance, therefore, in praying and preaching, is in them the gift of the Holy Ghost with respect unto their office; and that such a gift as those who are utterly destitute of it cannot discharge their office unto the edification of the church.

    Let men pretend what they please, if a spiritual ability in praying and preaching belong not necessarily unto the office of the ministry, no man can tell what doth so, or what the office signifies in the church; for no other ordinance can be administered without the word and prayer, nor any part of rule itself in a due manner. And to deny these to be gifts of the Holy Ghost is to deny the continuance of his dispensation unto and in the church; which at once overthrows the whole truth of the gospel and the sole foundation that the ministry of it is built upon. [2.] The like may be spoken with respect unto duties to be performed by virtue of our general vocation. Such are the duties of parents and masters of families. I know not how far any are gone in ways of profaneness, but hope none are carried unto such a length as to deny it to be the duty of such persons to pray with their families as well as for them. The families that call not on the name of the Lord are under his curse. And if this be their duty, the performance of it must be by the aid of the Spirit of God, by virtue of the general rule we proceed upon. (4.) The benefit, profit, advantage, and edification of particular persons, o f families, but especially of the church in its assemblies, in and by the use and exercise of this gift, are such and so great as that it is impious not to ascribe it to the operation of the Holy Spirit. Men are not of themselves, without his especial aid, authors or causers of the principal spiritual benefit and advantage which the church receiveth in the world. If they are so, or may be so, what need is there of him or his work for the preservation and edification of the church? But that it hath this blessed effect and fruit, we plead the experience of all who desire to walk before God in sincerity, and leave the determination of the question unto the judgment of God himself. Nor will we at present refuse in our plea a consideration of the different conditions, as to a holy conversation, between them who constantly, in their life and at their death, give this testimony, and theirs by whom it is opposed and denied. We are none of us to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, nor of any effect of his grace. It must therefore be said, that the experience which believers of all sorts have of the spiritual benefit and advantage of this ability, both in themselves and others, is not to be moved or shaken by the cavils or reproaches of such as clare profess themselves to be strangers thereunto. (5.) The event of things may be pleaded in evidence of the same truth: for were not the ability of praying a gift of Him who divideth to every one according unto his own will, there would not be that difference, as to the participation of it among those who all pretend unto the faith of the same truth, as there is openly and visibly in the world; and if it were a matter purely of men’s natural abilities, it were impossible that so many, whose concern it is in the highest degree to be interested in it, should be such strangers to it, so unacquainted with it, and so unable for it. They say, indeed, “It is but the mere improvement of natural abilities, with confidence and exercise.” Let it be supposed for once that some of them at least have confidence competent unto such a work, and let them try what success mere exercise will furnish them withal. In the meantime I deny that, without that illumination of the mind which is a peculiar gift of the Holy Ghost, the ability of prayer treated of is attainable by any. And it will be a hard thing to persuade persons of any ordinary consideration that the difference which they do or may discover between men as to this gift and ability proceeds merely from the difference of their natural and acquired abilities; wherein, as it is strenuously pretended, the advantage is commonly on that side which is most defective herein.

    Some, perhaps, may say that they know there is nothing in this faculty but the exercise of natural endowments, with boldness and elocution, and that because they themselves were expert in it, and found nothing else therein; on which ground they have left it for that which is better. But, for evident reasons, we will not be bound to stand unto the testimony of those men, although they shall not here be pleaded. In the meantime, we know that “from him which hath not is taken away that which he had.”

    And it is no wonder if persons endowed sometimes with a gift of prayer proportionable unto their light and illumination, improving neither the one nor the other as they ought, have lost both their light and gift also.

    And thus, suitably unto my design and purpose, I have given a delineation of the work of the Holy Ghost as a Spirit of grace and supplication, promised unto and bestowed on all believers, enabling them to cry, “Abba, Father.”

    CHAPTER 9.

    DUTIES INFERRED FROM THE PRECEDING DISCOURSE.

    THE issue of all our inquiries is, how we may improve them unto obedience in the life of God; for “if we know them, happy are we if we do them,” and not otherwise. And our practice herein may be reduced unto these two heads: — 1. A due and constant returning of glory unto God on the account of his grace in that free gift of his whose nature we have inquired into. 2. A constant attendance unto the duty which we are graciously enabled unto thereby. And, — 1. (1.) We ought continually to bless God and give glory to him for this great privilege of the Spirit of grace and supplication granted unto the church. This is the principal means on their part of all holy intercourse with God, and of giving glory unto him. How doth the world, which is destitute of this fruit of divine bounty, grope in the dark and wander after vain imaginations, whilst it knows not how to manage its convictions, nor how at all to deal with God about its concerns! That world which cannot receive the Spirit of grace and truth can never have aught to do with God in a due manner. There are by whom this gift of God is despised, is reviled, is blasphemed; and under the shades of many pretences do they hide themselves from the light in their so doing. But they know not what they do, nor by what spirit they are acted. Our duty it is to pray that God would pour forth his Spirit even on them also, who will quickly cause them to “look on him whom they have pierced, and mourn.”

    And it appears two ways how great a mercy it is to enjoy and improve this privilege: — [1.] In that both the psalmist and the prophet pray directly, in a spirit of prophecy, and without limitation, that God would “pour out his fury on the families that call not on his name,” Psalm 79:6; Jeremiah 10:25.

    And, [2.] In that the whole work of faith in obedience is denominated from this duty of prayer, for so it is said that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” Romans 10:13; for invocation or prayer, in the power of the Spirit of grace and supplication, is an infallible evidence and fruit of saving faith and obedience, and therefore is the promise of salvation so eminently annexed unto it, or it is placed by a synecdoche for the whole worship of God and obedience of faith. And it were endless to declare the benefits that the church of God, and every one that belongeth thereunto, hath thereby. No heart can conceive that treasury of mercies which lies in this one privilege, in having liberty and ability to approach unto God at all times, according unto his mind and will. This is the relief, the refuge, the weapons, and assured refreshment, of the church in all conditions. (2.) It is a matter of praise and glory to God, in an especial manner, that he hath granted an ampliation of this privilege under the gospel. The Spirit is now poured forth from above, and enlarged in his dispensation, both intensively and extensively. Those on whom he is bestowed do receive him in a larger measure than they did formerly under the Old Testament.

    Thence is that liberty and boldness in their access unto the throne of grace, and their crying “Abba, Father,” which the apostle reckons among the great privileges of the dispensation of the Spirit of Christ, which they of old were not partakers of. If the difference between the Old Testament state and the New lay only in the outward letter and the rule thereof, it would not be so easily discerned on which side the advantage lay; especially, methinks, it should not be so by them who seem really to prefer the pomp of legal worship before the plainness and simplicity of the gospel. But he who understands what it is not to “receive the spirit of bondage to fear,” but to “receive the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father,” and what it is to “serve God in the newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter,” understands their difference well enough. And I cannot but admire that some will make use of arguments, or a pretense of them, for such helps and forms of prayer as seem not compliant with the work of the Spirit of supplication before described, from the Old Testament, and the practice of the church of the Jews before the time of our Savior, though indeed they can prove nothing from thence; for do they not acknowledge that there is a more plentiful effusion of the Spirit on the church under the New Testament than under the Old? To deny it is to take away the principal difference between the law and the gospel. And is not the performance of duties to be regulated according to the supplies of grace? If we should suppose that the people, being then carnal, and obliged to the observation of carnal ordinances, did in this particular stand in need of forms of prayer, — which indeed they did not, of those which were merely so and only so, nor had, that we know of, any use of them, — doth it follow that therefore believers under the New Testament, who have unquestionably a larger portion of the Spirit of grace and supplication poured on them, should either stand in need of them or be obliged unto them? And it is in vain to pretend a different dispensation of the Spirit unto them and us, where different fruits and effects are not acknowledged. He that hath been under the power of the law, and hath been set free by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, knows the difference, and will be thankful for the grace that is in it.

    Again; it is extensively enlarged, in that it is now communicated unto multitudes, whereas of old it was confined unto a few. Then the dews of it only watered the land of Canaan, and the posterity of Abraham according to the flesh; now the showers of it are poured down on all nations, even on “all that in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” In every assembly of mount Zion through the world, called according to the mind of Christ, prayers and supplications are offered unto God through the effectual working of the Spirit of grace and supplication, unless he be despised. And this is done in the accomplishment of that great promise, Malachi 1:11, “From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith theLORD of hosts.”

    Prayer and praises in the assemblies of the saints is the pure offering and that sacrifice which God promiseth shall be offered unto him. And this oblation is not to be kindled without the eternal fire of the Spirit of grace.

    No sacrifice was to be offered of old but with fire taken from the altar. Be it what it would, if it were offered with strange fire, it was an abomination; hence they were all called µyViai , the “firings” of theLORD. And this was in a resemblance of the Holy Ghost; whence Christ is said to “offer himself to God through the eternal Spirit.” And so must we do our prayers. In the fruits and effects of his works lies all the glory and beauty of our assemblies and worship. Take them away, and they are contemptible, dead, and carnal. And he carrieth this work into the families of them that do believe. Every family apart is enabled to pray and serve God in the spirit; and such as are not do live in darkness all their days. He is the same to believers all the world over, in their closets or their prisons.

    They have all, wherever they are, an “access by one Spirit unto the Father,” Ephesians 2:18. And for this enlargement of grace God justly expects a revenue of glory from us. 2. (1.) It is, assuredly, our duty to make use of the gift of the Spirit, as that which is purchased for us by Christ, and is of inestimable advantage unto our souls. There are two ways whereby men may be guilty of the neglect of this heavenly favor: — [1.] They are so when the gift itself is not valued nor sought after, nor endeavored to be attained. And this is done under various pretences. Some imagine that it is no gift of the Spirit, and so despise it; others think that either by them it is not attainable, or that if it be attained it will not answer the labor in it and diligence about it which it doth require, and therefore take up with another way and means, which they know to be more easy, and hope to be as useful; by many the whole duty is despised, and consequently all assistance in the performance of it is so also. None of these do I speak unto at present. But, [2.] We are guilty of this neglect when we do not constantly and diligently, on all occasions, make use of it for the end for which it is given us, yea, abound in the exercise of it. Have you an ability to pray always freely given you by the Holy Ghost? why do you not pray always, in private, in families, according to all occasions and opportunities administered? Of what concernment unto the glory of God, and in our living unto him, prayer is, will be owned by all. It is that only single duty wherein every grace is acted, every sin opposed, every good thing obtained, and the whole of our obedience in every instance of it is concerned. What difficulties lie in the way of its due performance, what discouragements rise up against it, how unable we are of ourselves in a due manner to discharge it, what aversation there is in corrupted nature unto it, what distractions and weariness are apt to befall us under it, are generally known also unto them who are any way exercised in these things. Yet doth the blessedness of our present and future condition much depend thereon.

    To relieve us against all these things, to “help our infirmities,” to give us freedom, liberty, and confidence in our approaches to the throne of grace, to enable us as children to cry, “Abba, Father,” with delight and complacency, is this gift of the Spirit of grace and supplication given unto us by Jesus Christ. Who can express how great a folly and sin it is not to be found in the constant exercise of it? Can we by any means more “grieve this Holy Spirit” and endamage our own souls? Hath God given unto us the Spirit of grace and supplication, and shall we be remiss, careless, and negligent in prayer? Is not this the worst way whereby we may “quench the Spirit,” which we are so cautioned against? Can we go from day to day in the neglect of opportunities, occasions, and just seasons of prayer?

    How shall we answer for the contempt of this gracious aid offered us by Jesus Christ? Do others go from day to day in a neglect of this duty in their closets and families? Blame them not, or at least they are not worthy of so much blame as we; they know not how to pray, they have no ability for it. But for those to walk in a neglect hereof who have received this gift of the Holy Ghost enabling them thereunto, making it easy unto them and pleasant unto the inner man, how great an aggravation is it of their sin!

    Shall others at the tinkling of a bell rise and run unto prayers to be said or sung, wherein they can have no spiritual interest, only to pacify their consciences, and comply with the prejudices of their education, and shall we be found in the neglect of that spiritual aid which is graciously afforded unto us? How will the blind devotion and superstition of multitudes, with their diligence and pains therein, rise up in judgment against such negligent persons? We may see in the Papacy how, upon the ringing of a bell, or the lifting up of any ensign of superstition, they will some of them rise at midnight; others in their houses, yea, in the streets, fall on their knees unto their devotions. Having lost the conduct of the Spirit of God, and his gracious guidance unto the performance of duty in its proper seasons, they have invented ways of their own to keep up a frequency in this duty after their manner; which they are true and punctual unto. And shall they who have received that Spirit which the world cannot receive be treacherous and disobedient unto his motions, or what he constantly inclines and enables them unto? Besides all other disadvantages which will accrue hereby unto our souls, who can express the horrible ingratitude of such a sin? I press it the more, and that unto all sorts of prayer, in private, in families, in assemblies for that end, because the temptations and dangers of the days wherein we live do particularly and eminently call for it. If we would talk less and pray more about them, things would be better than they are in the world; at least, we should be better enabled to bear them, and undergo our portion in them with the more satisfaction. To be negligent herein at such a season is a sad token of such a security as foreruns destruction. (2.) Have any received this gift of the Holy Ghost? — let them know that it is their duty to cherish it, to stir it up and improve it . It is freely bestowed, but it is carefully to be preserved. It is a gospel talent given to be traded withal, and thereby to be increased. There are various degrees and measures of this gift in those that do receive it; but whatever measure any one hath, from the greatest to the least, he is obliged to cherish, preserve, and improve. We do not assert such a gift of prayer as should render our diligence therein unnecessary, or the exercise of our natural abilities useless; yea, the end of this gift is to enable us to the diligent exercise of the faculties of our souls in prayer in a due manner. And, therefore, as it is our duty to use it, so it is to improve it. And it is one reason against the restraint of forms, because there is in them too little exercise of the faculties of our minds in the worship of God. Therefore, this being our duty, it may be inquired by what way or means we may stir up this grace and gift of God, so at least as that if, through any weakness or infirmity of mind, we thrive not much in the outward part of it, yet that we decay not nor lose what we have received. The gifts of the Holy Ghost are the fire that kindleth all our sacrifices to God. Now, although that fire of old on the altar first came down from heaven, or “forth from theLORD,” Leviticus 9:24, yet after it was once there placed it was always to be kept alive with care and diligence; for otherwise it would have been extinguished as any other fire, chap. 6:12,13. Hence the apostle warns Timothy, ajnazwpurei~n to< ca>risma , 2 Timothy 1:6, to excite and “quicken the fire of his gift,” by blowing off the ashes and adding fuel unto it. Now, there are many things that are useful and helpful unto this end; as, — [1.] A constant consideration and observation of ourselves, our own hearts, with our spiritual state and condition. Thence are the matters of our requests or petitions in prayer to be taken, Psalm 16:7. And as our state in general, by reason of the depths and deceitfulness of our hearts, with our darkness in spiritual things, is such as will find us matter of continual search and examination all the days of our lives, as is expressed in those prayers, Psalm 19:12, 139:23,24, so we are subject unto various changes and alterations in our spiritual frames and actings every day, as also unto temptations of all sorts. About these things, according as our occasions and necessities do require, are we to deal with God in our supplications, Philippians 4:6. How shall we be in a readiness hereunto, prepared with the proper matter of prayer, if we neglect a constant and diligent observation of ourselves herein, or the state of our own souls?

    This being the food of the gift, where it is neglected the gift itself will decay. If men consider only a form of things in a course, they will quickly come to a form of words.

    To assist us in this search and examination of ourselves, to give light into our state and wants, to make us sensible thereof, is part of the work of the Spirit as a Spirit of grace and supplication; and if we neglect our duty towards him herein how can we expect that he should continue his aid unto us, as to the outward part of the duty? Wherefore, let a man speak in prayer with the tongues of men and angels, to the highest satisfaction, and, it may be, good edification of others, yet if he be negligent, if he be not wise and watchful, in this duty of considering the state, actings, and temptations of his own soul, he hath but a perishing, decaying outside and shell of this gift of the Spirit. And those by whom this self-search and judgment is attended unto shall ordinarily thrive in the power and life of this duty. By this means may we know the beginnings and entrances of temptation; the deceitful actings of indwelling sin; the risings of particular corruptions, with the occasions yielding them advantages and power; the supplies of grace which we daily receive, and ways of deliverance. And as he who prayeth without a due consideration of these things prayeth at random, “fighting uncertainly as one beating the air,” so he whose heart is filled with a sense of them will have always in a readiness the due matter of prayer, and will be able to fill his mouth with pleas and arguments whereby the gift itself will be cherished and strengthened. [2.] Constant searching of the Scripture unto the same purpose is another subservient duty unto this of prayer itself. That is the glass wherein we may take the best view of ourselves, because it at once represents both what we are and what we ought to be; what we are in ourselves, and what we are by the grace of God; what are our frames, actions, and ways, and what is their defect in the sight of God. And a higher instruction what to pray for, or how to pray, cannot be given us, Psalm 19:7-9. Some imagine that to “search the Scriptures,” thence to take forms of speech or expressions accommodated unto all the parts of prayer, and to set them in order, or retain them in memory, is a great help to prayer. Whatever it be, it is not that which I intend at present. It is most true, if a man be “mighty in the Scriptures,” singularly conversant and exercised in them, abounding in their senses and expressions, and have the help of a faithful memory withal, it may exceedingly further and assist him in the exercise of this gift unto the edification of others. But this collection of phrases, speeches, and expressions, where perhaps the mind is barren in the sense of the Scripture, I know not of what use it is. That which I press for is, a diligent search into the Scriptures as to the things revealed in them: for therein are our wants in all their circumstances and consequents discovered and represented unto us; and so are the supplies of grace and mercy which God hath provided for us; — the former with authority, to make us sensible of them; and the latter with that evidence of grace and faithfulness as to encourage us to make our requests for them. The word is the instrument whereby the Holy Spirit reveals unto us our wants, when we know not what to ask, and so enables us to make intercessions according to the mind of God, Romans 8:26,27; yea, who is it who almost at any time reading the Scripture, with a due reverence of God, and subjection of conscience unto him, hath not some particular matter of prayer or praise effectually suggested unto him? And Christians would find no small advantage, on many accounts not here to be insisted upon, if they would frequently, if not constantly, turn what they read into prayer or praise unto God, whereby the instructions unto faith and obedience would be more confirmed in their minds, and their hearts be more engaged into their practice. An example hereof we have, Psalm 119, wherein all considerations of God’s will and our duty are turned into petitions. [3.] A due meditation on God’s glorious excellencies tends greatly to the cherishing of this gracious gift of the Holy Spirit. There is no example that we have of prayer in the Scripture but the entrance into it consists in expressions of the name, and most commonly of some of the glorious titles of God, whereunto the remembrance of some mighty acts of his power is usually added. And the nature of the thing requires it should be so; for besides that God hath revealed his name unto us for this very purpose, that we might call upon him by the name which he owns and takes to himself, it is necessary we should by some external description determine our minds unto him to whom we make our addresses, seeing we cannot conceive any image or idea of him therein. Now, the end hereof is twofold: — 1st . To ingenerate in us that reverence and godly fear which is required of all that draw nigh to this infinitely holy God, Leviticus 10:3; Hebrews 12:28. The most signal encouragement unto boldness in prayer, and an access to God thereby, is in Hebrews 10:19-22, with chap. 4:16. Into the holy place we may go with boldness, and unto the throne of grace. And it is a throne of grace that God in Christ is represented unto us upon; but yet it is a throne still whereon majesty and glory do reside, and God is always to be considered by us as on a throne. 2dly . Faith and confidence are excited and acted unto a due frame thereby; for prayer is our betaking ourselves unto God as our shield, our rock, and our reward, Proverbs 18:10. Wherefore, a due previous consideration of those holy properties of his nature which may encourage us so to do, and assure us in our so doing, is necessary. And this being so great a part of prayer, the great foundation of supplication and praise, frequent meditation on these holy excellencies of the divine nature must needs be an excellent preparation for the whole duty, by filling the heart with a sense of those things which the mouth is to express, and making ready those graces for their exercise which is required therein. [4.] Meditation on the mediation and intercession of Christ, for our encouragement, is of the same importance and tendency. To this end spiritually is he proposed unto us as abiding in the discharge of his priestly office, Hebrews 4:15,16, 10:19-22. And this is not only an encouragement unto and in our supplications, but a means to increase and strengthen the grace and gift of prayer itself; for the mind is thereby made ready to exercise itself about the effectual interposition of the Lord Christ at the throne of grace in our behalf, which hath a principal place and consideration in the prayers of all believers. And hereby, principally, may we try our faith of what race and kind it is, whether truly evangelical or no. Some relate or talk that the eagle tries the eyes of her young ones by turning them to the sun; which if they cannot look steadily on, she rejects them as spurious. We may truly try our faith by immediate intuitions of the Sun of Righteonsness. Direct faith to act itself immediately and directly on the incarnation of Christ and his mediation; and if it be not of the right kind and race it will turn its eye aside unto any thing else. God’s essential properties, his precepts and promises, it can bear a fixed consideration of; but it cannot fix itself on the person and mediation of Christ with steadiness and satisfaction. There is, indeed, much profession of Christ in the world, but little faith in him. [5.] Frequency in exercise is the immediate way and means of the increase of this gift and its improvement. All spiritual gifts are bestowed on men to be employed and exercised; for “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every one to profit withal,” 1 Corinthians 12:7. God both requireth that his talents be traded withal, that his gifts be employed and exercised, and will also call us to an account of the discharge of the trust committed unto us in them. See 1 Peter 4:10,11. Wherefore, the exercise of this and of the like gifts tends unto their improvement on a double account; for, 1st . Whereas they reside in the mind after the manner and nature of a habit or a faculty, it is natural that they should be increased and strengthened by exercise, as all habits are by a multiplication of acts proceeding from them.

    So also by desuetude they will weaken, decay, and in the issue be utterly lost and perish. So is it with many as to the gift of prayer. They were known to have received it in some good measure of usefulness unto their own edification and that of others; but upon a neglect of the use and exercise of it in public and private, — which seldom goes alone without some secret or open enormities, — they have lost all their ability, and cannot open their mouths on any occasion in prayer beyond what is prescribed unto them or composed for them. But the just hand of God is also in this matter, depriving them of what they had, for their abominable neglect of his grace and bounty therein. 2dly. The increase will be added unto, by virtue of God’s blessing on his own appointment; for having bestowed these gifts for that end, where persons are faithful in the discharge of the trust committed unto them, he will graciously add unto them in what they have. This is the eternal law concerning the dispensation of evangelical gifts, “Unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath,” Matthew 25:29. It is not the mere having or not having of them that is intended, but the using or not using of what we have received, as is plain in the context. Now, I do not say. that a man may or ought to exercise himself in prayer merely with this design, that he may preserve and improve his gift. It may, indeed, in some cases be lawful for a man to have respect hereunto, but not [to this] only; as where a master of a family hath any one in his family who is able to discharge that duty and can attend unto it, yet he will find it his wisdom not to omit his own performance of it, unless he be contented that his gift, as to the use of his family, should wither and decay. But all that I plead is, that he who conscientiously, with respect unto all the ends of prayer, doth abound in the exercise of this gift, shall assuredly thrive and grow in it, or at least preserve it in answer unto the measure of the gift of Christ: for I do not propose these things as though every man in the diligent use of them may constantly grow and thrive in that part of the gift which consists in utterance and expression; for there is a “measure of the gift of Christ” assigned unto every one, whose bounds he shall not pass, Ephesians 4:7. But in these paths and ways the gift which they have received will be preserved, kept thrifty and flourishing; and from the least beginnings of a participation of it, they will be carried on unto their own proper measure, which is sufficient for them. [6.] Constant fervency and intension of mind and spirit in this duty works directly towards the same end. Men may multiply prayers as to the outward work in them, and yet not have the least spiritual advantage by them. If they are dull, dead, and slothful in them, if under the power of customariness and formality, what issue can they expect? Fervency and intension of mind quickeneth and enlargeth the faculties, and leaveth vigorous impressions upon them of the things treated about in our supplications. The whole soul is cast into the mould of the matter of our prayers, and is thereby prepared and made ready for continual fresh spiritual engagements about them. And this fervency we intend consists not in the vehemency or loudness of words, but in the intension of the mind; for the earnestness or vehemency of the voice is allowable only in two cases: 1st . When the edification of the congregation doth require it, which being numerous cannot hear what is spoken unless a man lift up his voice; 2dly. When the vehemency of affections will bear no restraint, Psalm 22:1, Hebrews 5:7.

    Now, as all these are means whereby the gift of prayer may be cherished, preserved, and improved, so are they all of them the ways whereby grace acts itself in prayer, and have, therefore, an equal respect unto the whole work of the Spirit of supplication in us. (3.) Our duty it is to use this gift of prayer unto the ends for which it is freely bestowed on us. And it is given, — [1.] With respect unto themselves who do receive it; and, [2.] With respect unto the benefit and advantage of others, And, [1.] With respect unto them that receive it, its end is, and it is a blessed means and help, to stir up, excite, quicken, and act all those graces of the Spirit whereby they have communion with God in this duty. Such are faith, love, delight, joy, and the like; for, 1st . Under the conduct of this gift, the mind and soul are led unto the consideration of, and are fixed on, the proper objects of those graces, with the due occasions of their exercise. When men are bound unto a form, they can act grace only by the things that are expressed therein; which, whatever any apprehend, is strait and narrow, compared with the extent of that divine intercourse with God which is needful unto believers in this duty. But in the exercise of this gift there is no concernment of faith, or love, or delight, but it is presented unto them, and they are excited unto a due exercise about them. Unto this end, therefore, is it to be used, — namely, as a means to stir up and act those graces and holy affections in whose working and exercise the life and efficacy of prayer doth consist. 2dly . Although the exercise of the gift itself ought to be nothing but the way of those graces acting themselves towards God in this duty (for words are supplied only to clothe and express gracious desires, and when they wholly exceed them they are of no advantage), yet as by virtue of the gift the mind is able to comprehend and manage the things about which those graces and gracious desires are to be exercised, so in the use of expressions they are quickened and engaged therein. For as when a man hath heard of a miserable object, he is moved with compassion towards it, but when he cometh to behold it “his own eye affecteth his heart,” as the prophet speaks, Lamentations 3:51, whereby his compassion is actually moved and increased; so, although a man hath a comprehension in his mind of the things of prayer, and is affected with them, yet his own words also will affect his heart, and by reflection stir up and inflame spiritual affections. So do many, even in private, find advantage in the use of their own gift, beyond what they can attain in mere mental prayer; which must be spoken unto afterward.

    Again, [2.] This gift respecteth others, and is to be used unto that end: for as it is appointed of God to be exercised in societies, families, churchassemblies, and occasionally for the good of any, so it is designed for their edification and profit; for there is in it an ability of expressing the wants, desires, and prayers of others also. And as this discharge of the duty is in a peculiar manner incumbent on ministers of the gospel, as also on masters of families and others, as they are occasionally called thereunto, so they are to attend unto a fourfold direction therein: — 1st. Unto their own experience. If such persons are believers themselves, they have experience in their own souls of all the general concernments of those in the same condition. As sin worketh in one, so it doth in another; as grace is effectual in one, so it is in another; as he that prayeth longeth for mercy and grace, so do they that join with him. Of the same kind with his hatred of sin, his love to Christ, his laboring after holiness and conformity to the will of God, are also those in other believers. And hence it is that persons “praying in the Spirit” according to their own experience are oftentimes supposed by every one in the congregation rather to pray over their condition than their own. And so it will be whilst the same corruption in kind, and the same grace in kind, with the same kind of operations, are in them all. But this extends not itself unto particular sins and temptations, which are left unto every one to deal about between God and their own souls. 2dly. Unto Scripture light . This is that which lively expresseth the spiritual state and condition of all sorts of persons, — namely, both of those that are unregenerate, and of those which are converted unto God.

    Whatever that expresseth concerning either sort may safely be pleaded with God in their behalf; and hence may abundant matter of prayer be taken for all occasions. Especially may it be so in a peculiar manner from that holy summary of the church’s desires to God given us in the Lord’s Prayer. All we can duly apprehend, spiritually understand, and draw out of that mine and heavenly treasury of prayer, may be safely used in the name and behalf of the whole church of God; but without understanding of the things intended, the use of the words profiteth not. 3dly. Unto an observation of their ways and walking, with whatever overt discovery they make of their condition and temptations. He who is constantly to be the mouth of others to God is not to pray at random, as though all persons and conditions were alike unto him. None prayeth for others constantly, by virtue of especial duty, but he is called also to watch over them and observe their ways. In so doing he may know that of their state which may be a great direction unto his supplications with them and for them. Yea, without this no man can ever discharge this duty aright in the behalf of others, so as they may find their particular concernments therein. And if a minister be obliged to consider the ways, light, knowledge, and walking of his flock, in his preaching unto them, that what he teacheth may be suited unto their edification, he is no less bound unto the same consideration in his prayers also with them and for them, if he intend to pray unto their use and profit. The like may be said of others in their capacity. The wisdom and caution which are to be used herein I may not here insist upon. 4thly. Unto the account which they receive from themselves concerning their wants, their state and condition. This, in some cases, persons are obliged to give unto those whose duty it is to help them by their prayers, James 5:16. And if this duty were more attended unto, the minds of many might receive inconceivable relief thereby. (4.) Let us take heed, — [1.] That this gift be not solitary or alone; and, [2.] That it be not solitarily acted at any time. [1.] When it is solitary, — that is, where the gift of prayer is in the mind, but no grace to exercise in prayer in the heart, — it is at best but a part of that form of godliness which men may have, and deny the power thereof; and is, therefore, consistent with all sorts of secret lusts and abominations.

    And it were easy to demonstrate that whatever advantage others may have by this gift in them who are destitute of saving grace, yet themselves are many ways worsted by it; for hence are they lifted up with spiritual pride, which is the ordinary consequent of all unsanctified light, and hereby do they countenance themselves against the reflections of their consciences on the guilt of other sins, resting and pleasing themselves in their own performances. But, to the best observation that I have been able to make, of all spiritual gifts which may be communicated for a time unto unsanctified minds, this doth soonest decay and wither. Whether it be that God takes it away judicially from them, or that themselves are not able to bear the exercise of it, because it is diametrically opposite unto the lusts wherein they indulge themselves, for the most part it quickly and visibly decays, especially in such as with whom the continuance of it, by reason of open sins and apostasy, might be a matter of danger or scandal unto others. [2.] Let it not be acted solitarily. Persons in whom is a principle of spiritual life and grace, who are endowed with those graces of the Spirit which ought to be acted in all our supplications, may yet, even in the use and exercise of this gift, neglect to stir them up and act them. And there is no greater evidence of a weak, sickly, spiritual constitution, than often to be surprised into this miscarriage. Now, this is so when men in their prayers engage only their light, invention, memory, and elocution, without especial actings of faith and delight in God. And he who watcheth his soul and its actings may easily discern when he is sinfully negligent in this matter, or when outward circumstances and occasions have made him more to attend unto the gift than unto the grace in prayer; for which he will be humbled.

    And these few things I thought meet to add concerning the due use and improvement of this gift of the Spirit of God.

    CHAPTER 10.

    OF MENTAL PRAYER AS PRETENDED UNTO BY SOME IN THE CHURCH OF ROME.

    HAVING described or given an account of the gift of prayer, and the use of it in the church of God, and the nature of the work of the Spirit therein, it will be necessary to consider briefly what is by some set up in competition with it, as a more excellent way in this part of divine worship.

    And, in the first place, mental prayer, as described by some devout persons of the church of Rome, is preferred above it. They call it “pure spiritual prayer, or a quiet repose of contemplation; that which excludes all images of the fancy, and in time all perceptible actuations of the understanding, and is exercised in signal elevations of the will, without any force at all, yet with admirable efficacy.” And to dispose a soul for such prayer, there is previously required “an entire calmness and even death of the passions, a perfect purity in the spiritual affections of the will, and an entire abstraction from all creatures.” — Cressy, Church Hist. pref. parag. 42,43. 1. The truth is, I am so fixed in a dislike of that mere outside, formal course of reading or singing prayers which is in use in the Roman church (which though, in Mr Cressy’s esteem, it have a show of a very civil conversation with God, yet is it indeed accompanied with the highest contempt of his infinite purity and all divine excellencies), and do so much more abhor that magical incantation which many among them use, in the repetition of words which they understand not, or of applying what they repeat to another end than what the words signify, — as saying so many prayers for such an end or purpose, whereof it may be there is not one word of mention in the prayers themselves, — that I must approve of any search after a real internal intercourse of soul with God in this duty. But herein men must be careful of two things: (1.) That they assert not what they can fancy, but what indeed, in some measure, they have an experience of. For men to conjecture what others do experience (for they can do no more), and thence to form rules or examples of duty, is dangerous always, and may be pernicious unto those who shall follow such instructions. And herein this author fails, and gives nothing but his own fancies of others’ pretended experience. (2.) That what they pretend unto an experience of be confirmable by Scripture rule or example; for if it be not so, we are directed unto the conduct of all extravagant imaginations in every one who will pretend unto spiritual experience. Attend unto these rules, and I will grant in prayer all the ways whereby the soul, or the faculties of it, can rationally act itself towards God in a holy and spiritual manner. But if you extend it unto such kind of actings as our nature is not capable of, at least in this world, it is the open fruit of a deceived fancy, and makes all that is tendered from the same hand to be justly suspected. And such is that instance of this prayer, that it is in the will and its affections without any actings of the mind or understanding; for although I grant that the adhesion of the will and affections unto God by love, delight, complacency, rest and satisfaction, in prayer, belongs to the improvement of this duty, yet to imagine that they are not guided, directed, acted by the understanding, in the contemplation of God’s goodness, beauty, grace, and other divine excellencies, is to render our worship and devotion brutish or irrational, whereas it is, and ought to be, our “reasonable service.”

    And that this very description here given us of prayer is a mere effect of fancy and imagination, and not that which the author of it was led unto by the conduct of spiritual light and experience, is evident from hence, that it is borrowed from those contemplative philosophers who, after the preaching of the gospel in the world, endeavored to refine and advance heathenism into a compliance with it; at least is fancied in imitation of what they ascribe unto a perfect mind. One of them, and his expressions in one place, may suffice for an instance, — Plotinus, Ennead. 6, lib. 9, cap. 10; for after many other ascriptions unto a soul that hath attained union with the chiefest good, he adds: — Ouj ga>r ti ejkinei~to par j aujtw~| , ouj zumoa a]llou parh~n aujtw~| , ajnazezhko>ti? ajll j ouj de< lo>gov , ouj de< tiv nogein? ajll j w\sper aJrpasqeisav hJsuch~ ejn ejrh>mw| katasta>sei gege>nhtai ajtremei~ , th~| aujtou~ oujsi>a| oujdamou~ ajpokli>nwn , oujde< peri< aujtomenov , eJstwnth kai< oi=on sta>siv genoGod, it comes into a quiet, still, immovable repose and state, no way declining” (by any sensible actings) “from its own essence, nor exercising any reflex act upon itself, is wholly at rest, as having attained a perfect state;” — or to this purpose, with much more to the same. And as it is easy to find the substance of our author’s notion in these words, so the reader may see it more at large declared in that last chapter of his Enneads; and all his companions in design about that time speak to the same purpose. 2. The spiritual intense fixation of the mind, by contemplation on God in Christ, until the soul be as it were swallowed up in admiration and delight, and being brought unto an utter loss, through the infiniteness of those excellencies which it doth admire and adore, it returns again into its own abasements, out of a sense of its infinite distance from what it would absolutely and eternally embrace, and, withal, the inexpressible rest and satisfaction which the will and affections receive in their approaches unto the eternal Fountain of goodness, are things to be aimed at in prayer, and which, through the riches of divine condescension, are frequently enjoyed.

    The soul is hereby raised and ravished, not into ecstasies or unaccountable raptures, not acted into motions above the power of its own understanding and will; but in all the faculties and affections of it, through the effectual workings of the Spirit of grace and the lively impressions of divine love, with intimations of the relations and kindness of God, is filled with rest, in “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” And these spiritual acts of communion with God, whereof I may say with Bernard, Rara hora, brevis mora, may be enjoyed in mental or vocal prayer indifferently. But as the description here given of mental, spiritual prayer hath no countenance given it from the Scriptures, yea, those things are spoken of it which are expressly contrary thereunto, as perfect purity and the like, and as it cannot be confirmed by the rational experience of any, so it no way takes off from the necessity and usefulness of vocal prayer, whereunto it is opposed; for still the use of words is necessary in this duty, from the nature of the duty itself, the command of God, and the edification of the church. And it is fallen out unhappily, as to the exaltation of the conceived excellency of this mental prayer, that our Lord Jesus Christ not only instructed his disciples to pray by the use of words, but did so himself, and that constantly, so far as we know, Matthew 26:39,42; yea, when he was most intense and engaged in this duty, instead of this pretended still prayer of contemplation, he prayed meta< kraugh~v ijscura~v , “with a strong outcry,” Hebrews 5:7, which, Psalm 22:1, is called the “voice of his roaring.” And all the reproaches which this author casts on fervent, earnest, vocal prayer, — namely, that it is a tedious, loud, impetuous, and an uncivil conversation with God, a mere artificial alight and facility, — may with equal truth be cast on the outward manner of the praying of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was ofttimes long, sometimes loud and vehement. And unto the example of their Lord and Master we may add that of the prophets and apostles, who mention nothing of this pretended elevation, but constantly made use of and desired God to hear their “voices,” their “cry,” their “words,” in their supplication, the words of many of them being accordingly recorded. Wherefore, words proper, suggested by the Spirit of God, and taken either directly or analogically out of the Scripture, do help the mind and enlarge it with supplications. “Interdum voce nos ipsos ad devotionem et acrius incitamus,” August.

    Epist. 121 ad Probam. The use of such words, being first led unto by the desires of the mind, may and doth lead the mind on to express its farther desires also, and increaseth those which are so expressed. It is from God’s institution and blessing that the mind and will of praying do lead unto the words of prayer, and the words of prayer do lead on the mind and will, enlarging them in desires and supplications. And without this aid many would oftentimes be straitened in acting their thoughts and affections towards God, or distracted in them, or diverted from them. And we have experience that an obedient, sanctified persistency in the use of gracious words in prayer hath prevailed against violent temptations and injections of Satan, which the mind in its silent contemplations was not able to grapple with. And holy affections are thus also excited hereby. The very words and expressions which the mind chooseth to declare its thoughts, conceptions, and desires about heavenly things, do reflect upon the affections, increasing and exciting of them. Not only the things themselves fixed on do affect the heart, but the words of wisdom and sobriety whereby they are expressed do so also. There is a recoiling of efficacy, if I may so speak, in deep impressions on the affections, from the words that are made use of to express those affections by. But we treat of prayer principally as it is to be performed in families, societies, assemblies, congregations, where this mental prayer would do well to promote the edification which is attainable in the silent meetings of the Quakers.

    And because this kind of prayer, as it is called, is not only recommended unto us, but preferred before all other ways and methods of prayer, and chosen as an instance to set off the devotion of the church of Rome, to invite others thereunto, I shall a little more particularly inquire into it. And I must needs say, that, on the best view I can take, or examination of it, it seems to be a matter altogether useless, uncertain, an effect of and entertainment for vain curiosity, whereby men “intrude themselves into those things which they have not seen, being vainly puffed up by their own fleshly mind;” for, not to call over what was before intimated in things that are practical in religion, no man can understand any thing whereof he can have no experience. Nothing is rejected by virtue of this rule whereof some men, through their own default, have no experience; but every thing is so justly, whereof no man in the discharge of his duty can attain any experience. He that speaks of such things unto others, if any such there might be belonging unto our condition in this world, must needs be a barbarian unto them in what he speaks. And whereas also he speaks of that wherein his own reason and understanding have no interest, he must be so also unto himself; for no man can by the use of reason, however advanced by spiritual light, understand such actings of the souls of other men or his own as wherein there is no exercise of reason or understanding, such as these raptures are pretended to consist in. So whereas one of them says, “Fundus animae meae tangit fundum essentiae Dei,” it had certainly been better for him to have kept his apprehensions or fancy to himself, than to express himself in words which in their own proper sense are blasphemous, and whose best defensative is that they are unintelligible. And if it be not unlawful, it is doubtless inexpedient, for any one, in things of religion, to utter what it is impossible for any body else to understand, with this only plea, that they do not indeed understand it themselves, it being what they enjoyed without any acts or actings of their own understanding. To allow such pretences is the ready way to introduce Babel into the church, and expose religion to scorn. Some pretending unto such raptures among ourselves I have known; wherein for a while they stirred up the admiration of weak and credulous persons; but through a little observation of what they did, spake, and pretended unto, with an examination of all by the unerring rule, they quickly came into contempt.

    All I intend at present is, that whatever be in this pretense, it is altogether useless unto edification, and therefore ought the declaration of it to be of no regard in the church of God. If the apostle would not allow the use of words, though miraculously suggested unto them that used them, without an immediate interpretation of their signification, what would he have said of such words and things as are capable of no interpretation, so as that any man living should understand them? for those by whom at present they are so extolled and commended unto us do themselves discourse at random, as blind men talk of colors, for they pretend not to have any experience of these things themselves. And it is somewhat an uncouth way of procedure to enhance the value of the communion of their church, and to invite others unto it, by declaring that there are some amongst them who enjoyed such spiritual ecstasies as could neither by themselves nor any others be understood; for nothing can be so wherein or whereabout there is no exercise of reason or understanding. Wherefore, the old question, cui bono? will discharge this pretense from being of any value or esteem in religion with considerate men.

    Again; as the whole of this kind of prayer is useless as to the benefit and edification of the church or any member of it, so it is impossible there should ever be any certainty about the raptures wherein it is pretended to consist, but they must everlastingly be the subject of contention and dispute; for who shall assure me that the persons pretending unto these duties or enjoyments are not mere pretenders? Any man that lives, if he have a mind unto it, may say such things, or use such expressions concerning himself. If a man, indeed, shall pretend and declare that he doth or enjoyeth such things as are expressed in the word of God as the duty or privilege of any, and thereon are acknowledged by all to be things in themselves true and real, and likewise attainable by believers, he is ordinarily, so far as I know, to be believed in his profession, unless he can be convicted of falsehood by any thing inconsistent with such duties or enjoyments. Nor do I know of any great evil in our credulity herein, should we happen to be deceived in or by the person so professing, seeing he speaks of no more than all acknowledge it their duty to endeavor after.

    But when any one shall pretend unto spiritual actings or enjoyments which are neither prescribed nor promised in the Scripture, nor are investigable in the light of reason, no man is upon this mere profession obliged to give credit thereunto; — nor can any man tell what evil effects or consequences his so doing may produce; for when men are once taken off from that sure ground of Scripture and their own understandings, putting themselves afloat on the uncertain waters of fancies or conjectures, they know not how they may be tossed, nor whither they may be driven.

    If it shall be said that the holiness and honesty of the persons by whom these especial privileges are enjoyed are sufficient reason why we should believe them in what they profess, I answer, they would be so in a good measure if they did not pretend unto things repugnant unto reason and unwarranted by the Scripture, which is sufficient to crush the reputation of any man’s integrity; nor can their holiness and honesty be proved to be such as to render them absolutely impregnable against all temptations, which was the pre-eminence of Christ alone. Neither is there any more strength in this plea but what may be reduced unto this assertion, that there neither are nor ever were any hypocrites in the world undiscoverable unto the eyes of men; for if such there may be, some of these pretenders may be of their number, notwithstanding the appearance of their holiness and honesty. Besides, if the holiness of the best of them were examined by evangelical light and rule, perhaps it would be so far from being a sufficient countenance unto other things as that it would not be able to defend its own reputation. Neither is it want of charity which makes men doubtful and unbelieving in such cases, but godly jealousy and Christian prudence, which require them to take care that they be not deceived or deluded, do not only warrant them to abide on that guard, but make it their necessary duty also; for it is no new thing that pretences of raptures, ecstasies, revelations, and unaccountable, extraordinary enjoyments of God, should be made use of unto corrupt ends, yea, abused to the worst imaginable.

    The experience of the church, both under the Old Testament and the New, witnesseth hereunto, as the apostle Peter declares, 2 Peter 2:1: for among them of old there were multitudes of false pretenders unto visions, dreams, revelations, and such spiritual ecstasies, some of whom wore a “rough garment to deceive;” which went not alone, but [was] accompanied with all such appearing austerities as might beget an opinion of sanctity and integrity in them. And when the body of the people were grown corrupt and superstitious, this sort of men had credit with them above the true prophets of God; yet did they for the most part show themselves to be hypocritical liars. And we are abundantly warned of such spirits under the New Testament, as we are foretold that such there would be, by whom many should be deluded; and all such pretenders unto extraordinary intercourse with God we are commanded to try by the unerring rule of the word, and desire only liberty so to do.

    But suppose that those who assert these devotions and enjoyments of God in their own experience are not false pretenders unto what they profess, nor design to deceive, but are persuaded in their own minds of the reality of what they endeavor to declare, yet neither will this give us the least security of their truth; for it is known that there are so many ways, partly natural, partly diabolical, whereby the fancies and imaginations of persons may be so possessed with false images and apprehensions of things, and that with so vehement an efficacy as to give them a confidence of their truth and reality, that no assurance of them can be given by a persuasion of the sincerity of them by whom they are pretended. And there are so many ways whereby men are disposed unto such a frame and actings, or are disposed to be imposed on by such delusions, especially where they are prompted by superstition, and are encouraged doctrinally to an expectation of such imaginations, that it is a far greater wonder that more have not fallen into the same extravagancies than that any have so done. We find by experience that some have had their imaginations so fixed on things evil and noxious by satanical delusions, that they have confessed against themselves things and crimes that have rendered them obnoxious unto capital punishments, whereof they were never really and actually guilty. Wherefore, seeing these acts or duties of devotion are pretended to be such as wherein there is no sensible actuation of the mind or understanding, and so cannot rationally be accounted for, nor rendered perceptible unto the understanding of others, it is not unreasonable to suppose that they are only fond imaginations of deluded fancies, which superstitious, credulous persons have gradually raised themselves unto, or such as they have exposed themselves to be imposed on withal by Satan, through a groundless, unwarrantable desire after them or expectation of them. But whatever there may be in the height of this “contemplative prayer,” as it is called, it neither is prayer nor can on any account be so esteemed. That we allow of mental prayer, and all actings of the mind in holy meditations, was before declared. Nor do we deny the usefulness or necessity of those other things, of mortifying the affections and passions, of an entire resignation of the whole soul unto God, with complacency in him, so far as our nature is capable of them in this world. But it is that incomparable excellency of it in the silence of the soul, and the pure adhesion of the will, without any actings of the understanding, that we inquire into. And I say, whatever else there may be herein, yet it hath not the nature of prayer, nor is to be so esteemed, though under that name and notion it be recommended unto us. Prayer is a natural duty, the notion and understanding whereof is common unto all mankind; and the concurrent voice of nature deceiveth not. Whatever, therefore, is not compliant therewith, at least what is contradictory unto it or inconsistent with it, is not to be esteemed prayer. Now, in the common sense of mankind, this duty is that acting of the mind and soul wherein, from an acknowledgment of the sovereign being, self-sufficiency, rule, and dominion of God, with his infinite goodness, wisdom, power, righteousness, and omniscience and omnipresence, with a sense of their own universal dependence on him, his will and pleasure, as to their beings, lives, happiness, and all their concernments, they address their desires with faith and trust unto him, according as their state and condition doth require, or ascribe praise and glory unto him for what he is in himself and what he is to them. This is the general notion of prayer, which the reason of mankind centers in; neither can any man conceive of it under any other notion whatever. The gospel directs the performance of this duty in an acceptable manner with respect unto the mediation of Christ, the aids of the Holy Ghost, and the revelation of the spiritual mercies we all do desire; but it changeth nothing in the general nature of it. It doth not introduce a duty of another kind, and call it by the name of that which is known in the light of nature but is quite another thing. But this general nature of prayer all men universally understand well enough in whom the first innate principles of natural light are not extinguished or woefully depraved. This may be done among some by a long traditional course of an atheistical and brutish conversation. But as large and extensive as are the convictions of men concerning the being and existence of God, so are their apprehensions of the nature of this duty; for the first actings of nature towards a Divine Being are in invocation.

    Jonah’s mariners knew every one how to call on his god, when they were in a storm. And where there is not trust or affiance in God acted, whereby men glorify him as God, and where desires or praises are not offered unto him, — neither of which can be without express acts of the mind or understanding, — there is no prayer, whatever else there may be.

    Wherefore, this contemplative devotion, wherein, as it is pretended, the soul is ecstasied into an advance of the will and affections above all the actings of the mind or understanding, hath no one property of prayer, as the nature of it is manifest in the light of nature and common agreement of mankind. Prayer without an actual acknowledgment of God in all his holy excellencies, and the actings of faith in fear, love, confidence, and gratitude, is a monster in nature, or a by-blow of imagination, which hath no existence in rerum natura. These persons, therefore, had best find out some other name wherewith to impose this kind of devotion upon our admiration, for from the whole precincts of prayer or invocation on the name of God it is utterly excluded; and what place it may have in any other part of the worship of God, we shall immediately inquire.

    But this examination of it by the light of nature will be looked on as most absurd and impertinent: for if we must try all matters of spiritual communion with God, and that in those things which wholly depend on divine, supernatural revelation, by this rule and standard, our measures of them will be false and perverse; and, I say, no doubt they would.

    Wherefore, we call only that concern of it unto a trial hereby whose true notion is confessedly fixed in the light of nature. Without extending that line beyond its due bounds, we may by it take a just measure of what is prayer and what is not; for therein it cannot deceive nor be deceived. And this is all which at present we engage about. And in the pursuit of the same inquiry we may bring it also unto the Scripture, from which we shall find it as foreign as from the light of nature; for as it is described, so far as any thing intelligible may be from thence collected, it exceeds or deviates from whatever is said in the Scripture concerning prayer, even in those places where the grace and privileges of it are most emphatically expressed, and as it is exemplified in the prayers of the Lord Christ himself and all the saints recorded therein. Wherefore, the light of nature and the Scripture do by common consent exclude it from being prayer in any kind. Prayer, in the Scripture representation of it, is the soul’s access and approach unto God by Jesus Christ, through the aids of his Holy Spirit, to make known its requests unto him, with supplication and thanksgiving. And that whereon it is recommended unto us are its external adjuncts, and its internal grace and efficacy. Of the first sort, earnestness, fervency, importunity, constancy, and perseverance, are the principal. No man can attend unto these, or any of them, in a way of duty, but in the exercise of his mind and understanding. Without this, whatever looks like any of them is brutish fury or obstinacy.

    And as unto the internal form of it, in that description which is given us of its nature in the Scripture, it consists in the especial exercise of faith, love, delight, fear, all the graces of the Spirit, as occasion cloth require. And in that exercise of these graces, wherein the life and being of prayer doth consist, a continual regard is to be had unto the mediation of Christ and the free promises of God; through which means he exhibits himself unto us as a God hearing prayer. These things are both plainly and frequently mentioned in the Scripture, as they are all of them exemplified in the prayers of those holy persons which are recorded therein. But for this contemplative prayer, as it is described by our author and others, there is neither precept for it, nor direction about it, nor motive unto it, nor example of it, in the whole Scripture. And it cannot but seem marvelous, to some at least, that whereas this duty and all its concernments are more insisted on therein than any other Christian duty or privilege whatever, the height and excellency of it, — and that in comparison whereof all other kinds of prayer, all the actings of the mind and soul in them, are decried, — should not obtain the least intimation therein.

    For if we should take a view of all the particular places wherein the nature and excellency of this duty are described, with the grace and privilege wherewith it is accompanied, — such as, for instance, Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6, Hebrews 4:16, 10:19-22, — there is nothing that is consistent with this contemplative prayer. Neither is there in the prayers of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor of his apostles, nor of any holy men from the beginning of the world, either for themselves or the whole church, any thing that gives the least countenance unto it. Nor can any man declare what is or can be the work of the Holy Spirit therein, as he is a Spirit of grace and supplication, nor is any gift of his mentioned in the Scripture capable of the least exercise therein; so that in no sense can it be that “praying in the Holy Ghost” which is prescribed unto us. There is, therefore, no example proposed unto our imitation, no mark set before us, nor any direction given, for the attaining of this pretended excellency and perfection. Whatever is fancied or spoken concerning it, it is utterly foreign to the Scripture, and must owe itself unto the deluded imagination of some few persons.

    Besides, the Scripture doth not propose unto us any other kind of access unto God under the New Testament, nor any nearer approaches unto him, than what we have in and through the mediation of Christ, and by faith in him. But in this pretense there seems to be such an immediate enjoyment of God in his essence aimed at as is regardless of Christ, and leaves him quite behind. But God will not be all in all immediately unto the church, until the Lord Christ hath fully delivered up the mediatory kingdom unto him. And, indeed, the silence concerning Christ in the whole of what is ascribed unto this contemplative prayer, or rather the exclusion of him from any concernment in it as mediator, is sufficient with all considerate persons to evince that it hath not the least interest in the duty of prayer, name or thing.

    Neither doth this imagination belong any more unto any other part or exercise of faith in this world; and yet here we universally walk by faith, and not by sight. The whole of what belongs unto it may be reduced unto the two heads of what we do towards God, and what we do enjoy of him therein. And as to the first, all the actings of our souls towards God belong unto our “reasonable service,” Romans 12:1; more is not required of us in a way of duty. But that is no part of our reasonable service wherein our minds and understandings have no concernment. Nor is it any part of our enjoyment of God in this life; for no such thing is anywhere promised unto us, and it is by the promises alone that we are made partakers of the divine nature, or have any thing from God communicated unto us. There seems, therefore, to be nothing in the bravery of these affected expressions, but an endeavor to fancy somewhat above the measure of all possible attainments in this life, falling unspeakably beneath those of future glory. A kind of purgatory it is in devotion, — somewhat out of this world and not in another, above the earth and beneath heaven, where we may leave it in clouds and darkness.

    CHAPTER 11.

    PRESCRIBED FORMS OF PRAYER EXAMINED.

    THERE are also great pleas for the use of prescribed limited forms of prayer , in opposition to that spiritual ability in prayer which we have described and proved to be a gift of the Holy Ghost, Where these forms are contended for by men with respect unto their own use and practice only, as suitable to their experience, and judged by them a serving of God with the best that they have, I shalI not take the least notice of them, nor of any dissent about them; but whereas a persuasion not only of their lawfulness but of their necessity is made use of unto other ends and purposes, wherein the peace and edification of believers are highly concerned, it is necessary we should make some inquiry thereinto. I say, it is only with respect unto such a sense of their nature and necessity of their use as gives occasion or a supposed advantage unto men to oppose, deny, and speak evil of that way of prayer, with its causes and ends, which we have described, that I shall any way consider these forms of prayer, and their use: for I know well enough that I have nothing to do to judge or condemn the persons or duties of men in such acts of religious worship as they choose for their best, and hope for acceptance in, unless they are expressly idolatrous; for unless it be in such cases, or the like, which are plain either in the light of nature or Scripture revelation, it is a silly apprehension, and tending to atheism, that God doth not require of all men to regulate their actings towards him according to that sovereign light which he hath erected in their own minds.

    What the forms intended are, how composed, how used, how in some cases imposed, are things so known to all that we shall not need to speak to them. Prayer is God’s institution, and the reading of these forms is that which men have made and set up in the likeness thereof, or in compliance with it; for it is said that “the Lord Christ having provided the matter of prayer, and commanded us to pray, it is left unto us or others to compose prayer, as unto the manner of it, as we or they shall see cause.” But besides that there is no appearance of truth in the inference, the direct contrary rather ensuing on the proposition laid down, it is built on the supposition that besides the provision of matter of prayer and the command of the duty, the Lord Christ hath not moreover promised, doth not communicate unto his church, such spiritual aids and assistances as shall enable them, without any other outward pretended helps, to pray according unto the mind of God; which we must not admit if we intend to be Christians. In like manner, he hath provided the whole subject-matter of preaching, and commanded all his ministers to preach; but it doth not hence follow that they may all or any of them make one sermon, to be constantly read in all assemblies of Christians without any variation, unless we shall grant also that he ceaseth to give gifts unto men for the work of the ministry. Our inquiry, therefore, will be, what place or use they may have therein, or in our duty as performed by virtue thereof; which may be expressed in the ensuing observations: — 1. The Holy Ghost, as a Spirit of grace and supplication, is nowhere, that I know of, promised unto any to help or assist them in composing prayers for others; and therefore we have no ground to pray for him or his assistance unto that end in particular, nor foundation to build faith or expectation of receiving him upon. Wherefore, he is not in any especial or gracious manner concerned in that work or endeavor. Whether this be a duty that falls under his care as communicating gifts in general for the edification of the church shall be afterward examined. That which we plead at present is, that he is nowhere peculiarly promised for that end, nor have we either command or direction to ask for his assistance therein. If any shall say that. he is promised to this purpose where he is so as a Spirit of grace and supplication, I answer, besides what hath been already pleaded at large in the explication and vindication of the proper sense of that promise, that he is promised directly to them that are to pray, and not to them that make prayers for others, which themselves will not say is praying. But supposing it a duty in general so to compose prayers for our own use or the use of others, it is lawful and warrantable to pray for the aid and guidance of the Holy Ghost therein, not as unto his peculiar assistance in prayer, not as he is unto believers a Spirit of supplication, but as he is our sanctifier, the author and efficient cause of every gracious work and duty in us.

    It may be the prayers composed by some holy men under the Old Testament, by the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost, for the use of the church, will be also pretended. But as the inspiration or assistance which they had in their work was a thing quite of another kind than any thing that is ordinarily promised, or that any persons can now pretend unto, so whether they were dictated unto them by the Holy Ghost to be used afterward by others as mere forms of prayer, may be yet farther inquired into.

    The great plea for some of these external aids of prayer is by this one consideration utterly removed out of the way. It is said that “some of these prayers were prepared by great and holy men, martyrs, it may be, some of them, for the truth of the gospel and testimony of Jesus;” and, indeed, had any men in the world a promise of especial assistance by the Spirit of God in such a work, I should not contend but the persons intended were as likely to partake of that assistance as any others in these latter ages. Extraordinary, supernatural inspiration they had not; and the holy apostles, who were always under the influence and conduct of it, never made use of it unto any such purpose as to prescribe forms of prayer, either for the whole church or single persons. Whereas, therefore, there is no such especial promise given unto any, this work of composing prayers is foreign unto the duty of prayer, as unto any interest in the gracious assistance which is promised thereunto, however it may be a common duty, and fall under the help and blessing of God in general. So some men, from their acquaintance with the matter of prayer above others, which they attain by spiritual light, knowledge, and experience, and their comprehension of the arguments which the Scripture directs unto to be used and pleaded in our supplications, may set down and express a prayer, — that is, the matter and outward form of it, — that shall declare the substance of things to be prayed for, much more accommodate to the conditions, wants, and desires of Christians than others can who are not so clearly enlightened as they are, nor have had the experience which they have had. For those prayers, as they are called, which men without such light and experience compose of phrases and expressions gathered up from others, taken out of the Scripture, or invented by themselves, and cast into a contexture and method such as they suppose suited unto prayer in general, be they never so well worded, so quaint and elegant in expression, are so empty and jejune as that they can be of no manner of use unto any, unless to keep them from praying whilst they live; and of such we have books good store filled withal, easy enough to be composed by such as never in their lives prayed according to the mind of God. From the former sort much may be learned, as they doctrinally exhibit the matter and arguments of prayer; but the composition of them for others, to be used as their prayers, is that which no man hath any promise of peculiar spiritual assistance in, with respect unto prayer in particular. 2. No man hath any promise of the Spirit of grace and supplication to enable him to compose a form or forms of prayer for himself. The Spirit of God helps us to pray, not to make prayers in that sense. Suppose men, as before, in so doing may have his assistance in general, as in other studies and endeavors, yet they have not that especial assistance which he gives as a Spirit of grace and supplication, enabling us to cry, “Abba, Father;” for men do not compose forms of prayer, however they may use them, by the immediate actings of faith, love, and delight in God, with those other graces which he excites and acts in those supplications which are according to the divine will. Nor is God the immediate object of the actings of the faculties of the souls of men in such a work Their inventions, memories, judgments, are immediately exercised about their present composition, and there they rest. Wherefore, whereas the exercise of grace immediately on God in Christ, under the formal notion of prayer, is no part of men’s work or design when they compose and set down forms for themselves or others, if any so do they are not under a promise of especial assistance therein in the manner before declared. 3. As there is no assistance promised unto the composition of such forms, so it is no institution of the law or gospel. Prayer itself is a duty of the law of nature, and being of such singular and indispensable use unto all persons, the commands for it are reiterated in the Scripture beyond those concerning any other particular duty whatever; and if it hath respect unto Jesus Christ, with sundry ordinances of the gospel to be performed in his name, it falls under a new divine institution. Hereon are commands given us to pray, to pray continually without ceasing, to pray and faint not, to pray for ourselves, to pray for one another, in our closets, in our families, in the assemblies of the church; but as for this work of making or composing forms of prayers for ourselves, to be used as prayers, there is no command, no institution, no mention in the scriptures of the Old Testament or the New. It is a work of human extract and original, nor can any thing be expected from it but what proceeds from that fountain. A blessing possibly there may be upon it, but not such as issueth from the especial assistance of the Spirit of God in it, nor from any divine appointment or institution whatever. But the reader must observe that I do not urge these things to prove forms of prayer unlawful to be used, but only at present declare their nature and original, with respect unto that work of the Holy Spirit which we have described. 4. This being the original of forms of prayer, the benefit and advantage which is in their use, which alone is pleadable in their behalf, comes next under consideration. And this may be done with respect unto two sorts of persons: — (1.) Such as have the gift or ability of free prayer bestowed on them, or however have attained it. (2.) Such as are mean and low in this ability, and therefore incompetent to perform this duty without that aid and assistance of them. And unto both sorts they are pleaded to be of use and advantage. (1.) It is pleaded that there is so much good and so much advantage in the use of them that it is expedient that those who can pray otherwise unto their own and others’ edification yet ought sometimes to use them. What this benefit is hath not been distinctly declared, nor do I know. nor can I divine wherein it should consist. Sacred things are not to be used merely to show our liberty. And there seems to be herein a neglect of stirring up the gift, if not also the grace of God, in those who have received them. “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every one to profit withal;” and to forego its exercise on any lust occasion seems not warrantable. We are bound at all times, in the worship of God, to serve him with the best that we have; and if we have a male in the flock, and do sacrifice that which, in comparison thereof, is a corrupt thing, we are deceivers. Free prayer, unto them who have an ability for it, is more suited to the nature of the duty in the light of nature itself, and to Scripture commands and examples, than the use of any prescribed forms. To omit, therefore, the exercise of a spiritual ability therein, and voluntarily to divert unto the other relief, — which yet, in that case at least, is no relief, — doth not readily present its advantage unto a sober consideration. And the reader may observe that at present I examine not what men or churches may agree upon by common consent, as judging and avowing it best for their own edification, which is a matter of another consideration, but only of the duty of believers as such in their respective stations and conditions. (2.) It is generally supposed that the use of such forms is of singular advantage unto them that are low and mean in their ability to pray of themelves. I propose it thus because I cannot grant that any [man] who sincerely believeth that there is a God, [and who] is sensible of his own wants and his absolute dependence upon him, is utterly unable to make requests unto him for relief without any help but what is suggested unto him by the working of the natural faculties of his own soul. What men will willfully neglect is one thing, and what they cannot do, if they seriously apply themselves unto their duty, is another. Neither do I believe that [there is] any man who is so far instructed in the knowledge of Christ by the gospel as that he can make use of a composed prayer with understanding, but also that in some measure he is able to call upon God in the name of Christ, with respect unto what he feels in himself and is concerned in; and farther no man’s prayers are to be extended. I speak, therefore, of those who have the least measure and lowest degree of this ability, seeing none are absolutely uninterested therein. Unto this sort of persons I know not of what use these forms are, unless it be to keep them low and mean all the clays of their lives; for whereas, both in the state of nature and the state of grace, in one whereof every man is supposed to be, there are certain heavenly sparks suited unto each condition, the main duty of all men is to stir them up and increase them. Even in the remainders of lapsed nature there are “coelestes iguiculi,” in notices of good and evil, accusations and apologies of conscience. These none will deny but that they ought to be stirred up and increased; which can be no otherwise done but in their sedulous exercise. Nor is there any such effectual way of their exercise as in the soul’s application of itself unto God with respect unto them; which is done in prayer only. But as for those whom in this matter we principally regard, — that is, professed believers in Jesus Christ, — there is none of them but have such principles of spiritual life, and therein of all obedience unto God and communion with him, as, being improved and exercised under those continual supplies of the Spirit which they receive from Christ their head, will enable them to discharge every duty that in every condition or relation is required of them in an acceptable manner. Among these is that of an ability for prayer; and to deny them to have it, supposing them true believers, is expressly to contradict the apostle affirming that “because we are sons, God sendeth forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” But this ability, as I have showed, is no way to be improved but in and by a constant exercise. Now, whether the use of the forms inquired into, which certainly taketh men off from the exercise of what ability they have, doth not tend directly to keep them still low and mean in their abilities, is not hard to determine. “But suppose those spoken of are not yet real believers, but only such as profess the gospel, not yet sincerely converted unto God, whose duty also it is to pray on all occasions; these have no such principle or ability to improve, and therefore this advantage is not by them to be neglected.” I answer, that the matter of all spiritual gifts is spiritual light; according, therefore, to their measure in the light of the knowledge of the gospel, such is their measure in spiritual gifts also. If they have no spiritual light, no insight into the knowledge of the gospel, prayers framed and composed according unto it will be of little use unto them. If they have any such light, it ought to be improved by exercise in this duty, which is of such indispensable necessity unto their souls. 5. But yet the advantage which all sorts of persons may have hereby, in having “the matter of prayer prepared for them and suggested unto them,” is also insisted on. “This they may be much to seek in who yet have sincere desires to pray, and whose affections will comply with what is proposed unto them.” And this, indeed, would carry a great appearance of reason with it, but that there are other ways appointed of God unto this end, and which are sufficient thereunto, under the guidance, conduct, and assistance of the blessed Spirit, whose work must be admitted in all parts of this duty, unless we intend to frame prayers that shall be an abomination to the Lord. Such are, men’s diligent and sedulous consideration of themselves, their spiritual state and condition, their wants and desires; a diligent consideration of the Scripture, or the doctrine of it in the ministry of the word, whereby they will be both instructed in the whole matter of prayer and convinced of their own concernment therein; with all other helps of coming to the knowledge of God and themselves; all which they are to attend unto who intend to pray in a due manner. To furnish men with prayers to be said by them, and so to satisfy their consciences, whilst they live in the neglect of these things, is to deceive them, and not to help or instruct them; and if they do conscientiously attend unto these things, they will have no need of those other pretended helps. For men to live and converse with the world, not once inquiring into their own ways, or reflecting on their own hearts (unless under some charge of conscience, accompanied with fear or danger); never endeavoring to examine, try, or compare their state and condition with the Scripture, nor scarce considering either their own wants or God’s promises; to have a book lie ready for them wherein they may read a prayer, and so suppose they have discharged their duty in that matter; is a course which surely they ought not to be countenanced or encouraged in. Nor is the perpetual rotation of the same words and expressions suited to instruct or carry on men in the knowledge of any thing, but rather to divert the mind from the due consideration of the things intended; and, therefore, commonly issues in formality. And where men have words or expressions prepared for them and suggested unto them that really signify the things wherein they are concerned, yet if the light and knowledge of those principles of truth whence they are derived, and whereinto they are resolved, be not in some measure fixed and abiding in their minds, they cannot be much benefited or edified by their repetition. 6. Experience is pleaded in the same case; and this with me, where persons are evidently conscientious, is of more moment than a hundred notional argnments that cannot be brought to that trial. Some, therefore, say that they have had spiritual advantage, the exercise of grace, and holy intercourse with God, in the use of such forms, and have their affections warmed and their hearts much bettered thereby; — and this they take to be a clear evidence and token that they are not disapproved of God; yea, that they are a great advantage, at least unto many, in prayer. Ans .

    Whether they are approved or disapproved of God, whether they are lawful or unlawful, we do not consider; but only whether they are for spiritual benefit and advantage, for the good of our own souls and the edification of others, as set up in competition with the exercise of the gift before described. And herein I am very unwilling to oppose the experience of any one who seems to be under the conduct of the least beam of gospel light; only, I shall desire to propose some few things to their consideration: as, — (1.) Whether they understand aright the difference that is between natural devotion occasionally excited, and the due actings of evangelical faith and lose, with other graces of the Spirit, in a way directed unto by divine appointment? All men who acknowledge a Deity or Divine Power which they adore, when they address themselves seriously to perform any religious worship thereunto in their own way, be it what it will, will have their affections moved and excited suitably unto the apprehensions they have of what they worship, yea, though in particular it have no existence but in their own imaginations; for these things ensue on the general notion of a Divine Power, and not on the application of them to such idols as indeed are nothing in the world. There will be in such persons dread, and reverence, and fear, as there was in some of the heathen, unto an unspeakable horror, when they entered into the temples and merely imaginary presence of their gods; the whole work being begun and finished in their fancies And sometimes great joys, satisfactions, and delights, do ensue on what they do; for as what they so do is suited to the best light they have, and men are apt to have a complacency in their own inventions, as Micah had, Judges 17:13, and upon inveterate prejudices, which are the guides of most men in religion, their consciences find relief in the discharge of their duty. These things, I say, are found in persons of the highest and most dreadful superstitions in the world, yea, heightened unto inexpressible agitations of mind, in horror on the one side, and raptures or ecstasies on the other. And they are all tempered and qualified according to the mode and way of worship wherein men are engaged; but in themselves they are all of the same nature, — that is, natural, or effects and impressions upon nature. So it is with the Mohammedans, who excel in this devotion; and so it is with idolatrous Christians, who place the excellency and glory of their profession herein. Wherefore, such devotion, such affections, will be excited by religious offices, in all that are sincere in their use, whether they be of divine appointment or no. But the actings of faith and love on God through Christ, according to the gospel, or the tenor of the new covenant, with the effects produced thereby in the heart and affections, are things quite of another kind and nature; and unless men do know how really to distinguish between these things, it is to no purpose to plead spiritual benefit and advantage in the use of such forms, seeing possibly it may be no other but of the same kind with what all false worshippers in the world have, or may have, experience of. (2.) Let them diligently inquire whether the effects on their hearts which they plead do not proceed from a precedent preparation, a good design and upright ends, occasionally excited. Let it be supposed that those who thus make use of and plead for forms of prayer, especially in public, do in a due manner prepare themselves for it by holy meditation, with an endeavor to bring their souls into a holy frame of fear, delight, and reverence of God; let it also be supposed that they have a good end and design in the worship they address themselves unto, namely, the glory of God and their own spiritual advantage; — the prayers themselves, though they should be in some things irregular, may give occasion to exercise those acts of grace which they were otherwise prepared for. And I say yet farther, — (3.) That whilst these forms of prayer are clothed with the general notions of prayer, — that is, are esteemed as such in the minds of them that use them; are accompanied in their use with the motives and ends of prayer; express no matter unlawful to be insisted on in prayer; directing the souls of men to none but lawful objects of divine worship and prayer, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and whilst men make use of them with the true design of prayer, looking after due assistance unto prayer; — I do not judge there is any such evil in them as that God will not communicate his Spirit to any in the use of them, so as that they should have no holy communion with him in and under them. Much less will I say that God never therein regards their persons, or rejects their praying as unlawful; for the persons and duties of men may be accepted with God when they walk and act in sincerity according to their light, though in many things, and those of no small importance, sundry irregularities are found both in what they do and in the manner of doing it. Where persons walk before God in their integrity, and practice nothing contrary to their light and conviction in his worship, God is merciful unto them, although they order not every thing according to the rule and measure of the word. So was it with them who came to the passover in the days of Hezekiah; they had not cleansed themselves, but did “eat the passover otherwise than it was written,” Chronicles 30:18: for whom the good king made the solemn prayer suited to their occasion, “The goodLORD pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, theLORD God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. And theLORD hearkened unto Hezekiah, and healed the people,” verses 18-20. Here was a duty for the substance of it appointed of God; but in the manner of its performance there was a failure, — they did it not according to what was written, which is the sole rule of all religious duties. This God was displeased withal, yet graciously passed by the offense, and accepted them whose hearts were upright in what they did. In the meantime, I do yet judge that the use of them is in itself obstructive of all the principal ends of prayer and sacred worship. Where they are alone used, they are opposite to the edification of the church; and where they are imposed to the absolute exclusion of other prayer, [they] are destructive of its liberty, and render a good part of the purchase of Christ of none effect.

    Things being thus stated, it will be inquired whether the use of such forms of prayer is lawful or no. To this inquiry something shall be returned briefly in way of answer, and an end put unto this discourse. And I say, — 1. To compose and write forms of prayer to be directive and doctrinal helps unto others, as to the matter and method to be used in the right discharge of this duty, is lawful, and may in some cases be useful. It were better, it may be, if the same thing were done in another way, suited to give direction in the case, and not cast into the form of a prayer, which is apt to divert the mind from the due consideration of its proper end and use unto that which is not so; but this way of instruction is not to be looked on as unlawful merely for the form and method whereinto it is cast, whilst its true use only is attended unto. 2. To read, consider, and meditate upon, such written prayers, as to the matter and arguments of prayer expressed in them, composed by persons from their own experience and the light of Scripture directions; or to make use of expressions set down in them, where the hearts of them that read them are really affected, because they find their state and condition, their wants and desires, declared in them, is not unlawful, but may be of good use unto some, though I must acknowledge I never heard any expressing any great benefit which they had received thereby, — rebut it is possible that some may so do: for no such freedom of prayer is asserted as should make it unlawful for men to make use of any proper means the better to enable them to pray, nor is any such ability of prayer granted as to supersede the duty of using means for the increase and furtherance of it. 3. To set up and prescribe the use of such forms universally, in opposition and unto the exclusion of free prayer by the aid of the Spirit of grace, is contrary not only to many divine precepts before insisted on, but to the light of nature itself, requiring every man to pray, and on some occasions necessitating them thereunto. But whatever be the practice of some men, I know not that any such opinion is pleaded for, and so shall not farther oppose it. 4. It is not inquired whether forms of prayer, especially as they may be designed unto and used for other ends, and not to be read instead of prayer, have in their composition any thing of intrinsical evil in them, for it is granted they have not; but the inquiry is, whether in their use as prayers they are not hinderances unto the right discharge of the duty of prayer according to the mind of God, and so may be unlawful in that respect: for I take it as granted that they are nowhere appointed of God for such a use, nowhere commanded so to be used; whence an argument may be formed against their having any interest in divine, acceptable worship, but it is not of our present consideration. For if on the accounts mentioned they appear not contrary unto, or inconsistent with, or are not used in a way exclusive of, that work of the Holy Spirit in prayer which we have described from the Scripture, nor are reducible unto any divine prohibition, whilst I may enjoy my own liberty I shall not contend with any about them. Nor shall I now engage into the examination of the arguments that are pleaded on their behalf, which some have greatly multiplied, as I suppose, not much to the advantage of their cause; for in things of religious practice, one testimony of Scripture rightly explained and applied, with the experience of believers thereon, is of more weight and value than a thousand dubious reasonings, which cannot be evidently resolved into those principles. Wherefore some few additional considerations shall put an issue unto this discourse. 1. Some observe that there are forms of prayer composed and prescribed to be used both in the Old Testament and the New. Such, they say, was the form of blessing prescribed unto the priests on solemn occasions, Numbers 6:22-26, and the Psalms of David, as also the Lord’s Prayer in the New Testament. (1.) If this be so, it proves that forms of prayer are not intrinsically evil, which is granted, yet may the use of them be unnecessary. (2.) The argument will not hold, so far as it is usually extended at least: “God himself hath prescribed some forms of prayer, to be used by some persons on some occasions; therefore, men may invent, yea, and prescribe those that shall be for common and constant use.” He who forbade all images, or all use of them, in sacred things, appointed the making of the cherubims in the tabernacle and temple. (3.) The argument from the practice in use under the Old Testament in this matter, if any could thence be taken, when the people were carnal and tied up unto carnal ordinances, unto the duty and practice of believers under the New Testament and a more plentiful effusion of the Spirit, hath been before disproved. (4.) The words prescribed unto the priests were not a prayer properly, but an authoritative benediction, and an instituted sign of God’s blessing the people; for so it is added in the explication of that ordinance, “They shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them,” verse 27. (5.) David’s Psalms were given out by immediate inspiration, and were most of them mystical and prophetical, appointed to be used in the church, as all other Scriptures, only some of them in a certain manner, namely, of singing, and that manner also was determined by divine appointment. (6.) That any form of prayer is appointed in the New Testament, to be used as a form, is neither granted nor can be proved. (7.) Give us prayers composed by divine inspiration, with a command for their use, with the time, manner, and form of their usage, which these instances prove to be lawful, if they prove any thing in this case, and there will be no contest about them. (8.) All and every one of the precedents or examples which we have in the whole Scripture of the prayers of any of the people of God, men or women, being all accommodated to their present occasions, and uttered in the freedom of their own spirits, do all give testimony unto free prayer, if not against the use of forms in that duty. 2. Moreover, it seems that “when any one prayeth, his prayer is a form unto all that join with him, whether in families or church-assemblies;” which some lay great weight upon, though I am not able to discern the force of it in this case: for, — (1.) The question is solely about him that prayeth, and his discharge of duty according to the mind of God, and not concerning them who join with him. (2.) The conjunction of others with him that prayeth according to his ability is an express command of God. (3.) Those who so join are at liberty, when it is their duty, to pray themselves. (4.) That which is not a form in itself is not a form to any; for there is more required to make it so than merely that the words and expressions are not of their own present invention. It is to them the benefit of a gift, bestowed for their edification in its present exercise, according to the mind of God. That only is a form of prayer unto any which he himself useth as a form; for its nature depends on its use. (5.) The argument is incogent: “God hath commanded some to pray according to the ability they have received, and others to join with them therein; therefore, it is lawful to invent forms of prayer for ourselves or others, to be used as prayers by them or us.” 3. That which those who pretend unto moderation in this matter plead is, that “prayer itself isa commanded duty; but praying by or with a prescribed form is only an outward manner and circumstance of it, which is indifferent, and may or may not be used, as we see occasion;” — and might a general rule to this purpose be duly established, it would be of huge importance. But, (1.) It is an easy thing to invent and prescribe such outward forms and manner of outward worship as shall leave nothing of the duty prescribed but the empty name. (2.) Praying before an image, or worshipping God or Christ by an image, is but an outward mode of worship, yet such as renders the whole idolatrous. (3.) Any outward mode of worship, the attendance whereunto or the observance whereof is prejudicial unto the due Performance of the duty whereunto it is annexed, is inexpedient; and what there is hereof in the present instance must be judged from the preceding discourse.

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