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of thy people Israel, when they shall pray towards this place, and hear thou in heaven, thy dwelling place, and when thou hearest, forgive. In this part of king Solomon's prayer, these things following are to be observed; Ist. That the temple was an habitation of God; a circumstance which the piety of the king dwells upon with wonder-will God indeed dwell on earth! The cloud, which denoted the presence of God, had already filled the house, so that the Priest could not stand to minister : and in the ages after, as well as before, the divine presence was manifested about the ark, and between the cherubims which overshadowed it. On special occasions it appeared in a visible manner, under the symbol of a cloud with a light or glory attending it; and, when the cloud was not seen, the place was always understood as being inhabited in a particular manner by the glory of the God-head.
In the words that follow, the use of the temple is signified-have thou respect unto the prayer which thy servant prayeth before thee this day. This house was the place, where God would give audience, and have respect to the petition, out of regard to the place in which it was offered. They, who expect to be heard, when they address a king, go into his court, and present themselves in the proper place for an audience. The temple is the court of the great King; and though he can hear the voice of men in every place, yet it was expedient, that one place should be honoured above all others, to stir up reverence in men, and give them a reasonable ground of hope, when they should offer their petitions. It seems by the expression, that the people were encouraged not only to pray within the temple, but to have respect to it, and turn themselves toward it in their devotions,
MT HOUSI SHALL BE CALLED THE HOUSE OF PRAYER,
MATTH. xxi. 13.
ABOUT four hundred years ago, when the corruptions of Popery had overspread this kingdom, and were become insupportable, the office of preaching was almost totally neglected in country parishes : and there were indeed but few of the clergy who were qualified to preach, so that the ministerial duty was reduced in a manner to the offices of baptizing, confessing, praying and administering the sacrifice of the mass.
Such gross errors were mixed with the doctrines of the church, and so many abuses were practised in the discipline of that time to supply the avarice of the bishop of Rome, and render the priesthood at home a more profitable trade, that it was thought more adviseable to keep the common people in ignorance; who were therefore but meanly provided with preachers. But when the eyes of men began to be opened by the remonstrances of the Reformers, the clergy themselves became sensible of the defect, and preaching was again in fashion. As the people grew more enlightened, their inclination to preaching increased, and the clergy found it their interest, as well as their duty, to gratify it, and to adorn their preaching with a proper degree of learning and eloquence.
But such is the weakness of mankind, that they are always prone to correct one error by running into another. Religion, which in one age had little or no preaching, in the next had scarcely any thing else. Men of seditious inclinations, who were poisoned with foreign prejudices, took advantage of this humour of the people to inflame them against their governors, and turn their hearts from the apostolical constitution of the Church. In the days of Elizabeth, this spirit wrought furiously, but was kept under by authority, and prevented at that time from doing the mischief it meditated. In the next reign, it was reasoning and plotting, but the nation was not enough prepared till the days of Charles the First; when the combustible materials, which had been gradually introduced, and laid
in store for many years past, by artful and insinuating preachers, took fire at last, and spread a flame over the land, which devoured both Church and State, and was visible to all the western parts of Christendom. Then there was nothing but preaching. The ears of all orders of men, from the highest to the lowest, were filled with it. When one preacher had finished his sermon, another got up into the same pulpit, and then another; so that on great days there was no intermission from morning till night. The people, however, awaking at length from the delusion which had seized upon them, and feeling the misery and oppression with which they had been loaded by their new masters, were surfeited with that preaching which had deceived their understandings, and driven them upon their own ruin, instead of leading them to true Christian godliness. They discovered that there was a great difference betwixt walking with God, and talking with him : the former was the profession of their leaders, but the latter was their practice; and the freedom and sauciness of their language was often
but little short of blasphemy. When there was no preaching, superstition and corruption prevailed ; when there was overmuch, it was of a flatulent and inflammatory kind; and it appeared at length so ridiculous, that the style and manner of it was purposely avoided after the Restoration by most men who were regularly educated. But alas ! when they did this, they fell into another error, under which we are now suffering. T'he spirit of prayer and of Christian godliness, having exposed itself in the intemperate and hypocritical effusions of fanatic zeal, was now more coldly affected, and preachers were shy of betraying any symptoms of religious warmth, lest they should be suspected for hypocrites. Interpretations of the scripture had been made so cheap, and had been so ill managed, that they had given great disgust. The preachers of the former time had made an ostentatious shew of understanding all mysteries. They could find the Pope's errors and their own fancies any where in the minor prophets; and could tell you the mystical intention of the snuffers and fire-shovels * of the tabernacle. This evil, was corrected by what was called moral preaching; and unfortunately for the times, a generation of metaphysicians arose, who gave a new turn to the thoughts of Christian scholars, and furnished them with dry, speculative, unprofitable, and sometimes very dangerous matter. The Old Testament, with which the Puritans had held such ridiculous familiarity, came to be much neglected, and of course much misunderstood; of which I could give some frightful examples from writers of high reputation. Where this happens,
* The celebrated John Bunyan wrote a Mystical Exposition of every article ia Solomon's Temple.
the New Testament can never long maintain its authority; and we are all witnesses, that the neglect of its doctrines by our preachers has offended the common people, and laid them open to the attempts of mercenary enthusiasts, who preach without discre. tion, and act without authority. Our Dissenters also are, in general, much departed from their original profession, and, in their discourses, preached and printed, some of them approach nearer to the cold philosophy of Bolingbroke, and the wildness of Vol. taire, than to the faith and language of their forefathers; and this I would tell them, not out of any ill-will, but that they may consider from whence they have departed, and learn, that soundness of teaching is always brought into great danger, when we affect separate ways of worship. The duty of a Christian minister requires him therefore to know and to avoid all these dangers; to keep up the knowledge of Christian doctrine in the people, by the light of his preaching; and to warn them at all times of the necessity of praying. We
We may preach again and again ; but unless we can preach till we make men pray, it is all to no purpose.
doer & of the word, says the Apostle, and not hearers only. But how are we to do it? Hearing only shews us what it is; the grace of God enables us to perform it; and that grace is never to be obtained, but by prayer. St. Paul saw a great light from the heaven which struck him and his companions to the earth ; and he heard the voice of Christ himself speaking to him : then he went blind to Damascus, and remained for some time in this dreadful state of suspense, under the hand of God. All this train of miracles was de signed only to turn his heart, and bring him to his prayers; and the means, with such an heart to work