Page images
[ocr errors]

whole churches (and perhaps from most part of the Christian world) for such faults as are no greater than others of our own ? and to say, They are too bad for such as you to communicate with ?

2. Whether it be not much contrary to the clemency of Jesus Christ, by which he pardoneth the failings of believers; and which we have need of ourselves as well as others? And whether it be not an horrid injury to our Lord, to ascribe his inheritance to the devil, and to cast those out of his church whom he himself receiveth, and to deny so many of his servants to be his?

3. How great a loss is it, to lose your part in all those prayers of the churches (how weak soever) which you disown? And how can you justly expect the benefit of such prayers

I would not take all their riches for my part of the benefit of those prayers of the churches of Christ, which some reject because they are extemporate, and others because they are forms, or book-prayers, or imposed ; nor would I take all their wealth and honour, for my part in all the prayers of the universal church, which are guilty of more disorders, tautologies, unmeet expressions, and manifold defects, than any that I ever yet heard from those ministers that pray either by habit or book.

Direct. 9. • Take heed both of carelessness and curiosity in the worshipping of God.' Avoid carelessness, because it is profaneness and contempt: therefore watch against idleness of mind, and wandering thoughts, and remember how great a work it is, to speak to God, or to hear from him about your everlasting state.

And yet curiosity is a heinous sin: when men are so nice, that unless there be quaint phrases, and fine cadences and jingles, or at least a very laudable style, they nauseate all, and are weary of hearing a homely style, or common things : when every unmeet expression, or tautology of the speaker, doth turn their stomachs against the wholesomest food. This curiosity cometh from a weak and an unhealthful state of soul.

Direct. 10. Lastly, Let your eye of faith be all the while upon the heavenly host, or church triumphant: remember how they worship God: with what wisdom, and purity, and fervour of love, and sacred pleasure, and with what unity,

and peace, and concord! and let your worship be as much composed to the imitation of them, as is agreeable to the likeness of our condition unto their's.

There is no hypocrisy, dulness, darkness, errors, selfconceitedness, pride, division, faction, or uncharitable contention : 0 how they burn in love to God! and how sweet that love is to themselves ! and how those souls work up in heavenly joys to the face of God, in all his praises. Labour as it were to join yourselves by faith with them, and as far as standeth with your different case, to imitate them. They are more imitable and amiable, than the purest churches upon earth. Their love and blessed concord is more lovely, than our uncharitable animosities, and odious factions and divisions are.

And remember also the time when you must meet all those upright souls in heaven, whose manner of worship you vilified, and spake reproachfully of on earth, and from whose communion you turned away: and only consider how far they should be disowned, who must be dear to Christ and you for ever.

The open disowning and avoiding the ungodly and scandalous, is a great duty in due season, when it is regularly done, and is necessary to cast shame on sin and sinners, and to vindicate the honour of Christianity before the world. But otherwise it is but made an instrument of pernicious pride, and of divisions in the church, and of hindering the successes of the Gospel of Christ.


How to pray in Faith.

PASSING by all the other particular parts of worship as handled elsewhere (in my “ Christian Directory'), I shall only briefly touch the duty of prayer ; especially as in private.

Direct. 1. ' Let your heart lead your tongue, and be the fountain of your words ; and suffer not your tongues in a customary volubility to overrun your hearts.' Desire first, and pray next; and remember that desire is the soul of

[blocks in formation]

prayer; and that the heart-searching God doth hate hypocrisy, and will not be mocked;" Matt. vi. 1.3, 4. Direct. 2. - Yet do not forbear

prayer, because


de. sires are not so earnest as you would have them.' For, 1. Even good desires are to be begged of God: 2. And such desires as you have towards God, must be exercised and expressed. 3. And this is the way of their usual increase. 4. And a profane turning away from God, will kill those weak desires which you have, when drawing near him in prayer may revive and cherish them.

Direct. 3. • Remember still that you pray to a heavenly Father, who is readier to give, than you are to receive or ask.' If you knew his fulness and goodness, how joyfully would you run to him, and cry, "Abba, Father!" John xx. 17. Luke xii. 30. 32. Mark xi. 25. Matt. vi. 8. 32.

Direct. 4. Go boldly to him in the name of Christ alone.' Remember that he is the only way and Mediator. When guilt and conscience would drive you back, believe the sufficiency of his sacrifice and atonement. When your weakness and unworthiness would discourage you, remember that no one is so worthy, as to be accepted by God on any other terms, than Christ's mediation. Come boldly then to the throne of grace, by the new and living way, and put your prayers into his hand, and remember that he still liveth to make intercession for you, and that he appeareth before God in the highest, in your cause; Heb. X. 19. Ephes. iii. 12. Rom. v. 2. Heb. ix. 24. vii. 25, 26.

Direct. 5. • Desire nothing in your hearts which you dare not pray for, or which is unmeet for prayer:' Let the rule of

prayer be the rule of your desires. And undertake no business in the world, which you may not lawfully pray for a blessing on.

Direct. 6. ' Desire and pray to God, first, for God himself, and nothing lower ; and next for all those spiritual blessings in Christ, which may fit you for communion with him. And lastly, for corporal mercies, as the means to these;' Matt. vi. 33. Psal. xlii. 1-3, &c. Psal. lxxiii. 25, 26.

Direct. 7. Pray only for what is promised you, or you are commanded to pray for:' and make not promises to yourselves, and then look that God should fulfil them, be

cause you confidently believe that he will do it; and do not so reproach God, as to call such self-conceits and expectations, by the name of a particular faith : for where there is no word, there is no faith.

Direct. 8. •What God hath promised, confidently expect; though you feel no answer at the present. For most of our prayers are to be granted (or the things desired to be given) at the harvest time, when we shall have all at once. Whether you find yourselves the better at present for prayer or not; believe that a word is not in vain, but you shall reap the fruit of all in season; Luke xviii. 1. 7. 8. James v. 7, 8.

Direct. 9. ' Let the Lord's Prayer be the rule, for the matter and method of your desires and prayers. But with this difference: It must always be the rule which your desires must be formed to, both in matter and method. You must always first, and most desire the hallowing of God's name, the coming of his kingdom, and the doing of his will on earth as it is in heaven, before your own being, or wellbeing : but this is only a rule for your general prayers (which take in all the parts): for when you either intend to pray only, or chiefly for some one particular thing, you may begin with that, or be most upon it.

Therefore all Christians should specially labour to understand the true sense and method of the Lord's Prayer (which, God willing, I hope elsewhere to open).

Direct. 10. Be more careful in secret of your affections, than of the order of your words (yet choosing such as are aptest to the matter, and fittest to excite your hearts); but in your families, or with other, be very careful to speak to God, in words which are apt, and orderly, and moving ;' and to do all with such skill, and reverence, and seriousness, as tendeth (not to increase, but) to cure the dulness, hypocrisy and unreverence of others ; Eccles. v. 1, 2. Matt. vi. 7-10, &c.

Direct. 11. 'Pray as earnestly as if God himself were to be moved with your prayers:' yet so as to remember, that the change is not to be made upon him, but upon you. As when the boatman layeth hold upon the bank, he draweth the boat to it, and not the bank unto the boat. Prayer fitteth you to receive the mercy; both naturally as it exciteth your desires after it, and morally as it is a condition

on which God hath promised to give it. When you pray you tell God nothing which before he knew not better than you: but you tell him that in confession and petition, which he will hear from your own mouths, before he will judge you meet for the mercies which


for. In sum, pray, because you believe that praying believers shall have the promised blessing : and believe particularly and absolutely, that you shall have that promised blessing through Christ, because you are praying believers, and therefore the persons to whom it is promised.

you are to


How to live by Faith towards Children, and other Relations.

Direct. 1. 'Believe God's promises made to believers and their seed :' (of which I have written at large in my “ Treatise of Infant Baptism.") And labour to understand how far those promises extend, both as to the persons and the blessings. There was never an age in the world, in which God did not distinguish the holy seed, even believers and their children, from the rest of the world, and take them as those that were specially in his covenant.

Direct. 2. 'Let not your conceits of the bare birth-privilege, make you omit your serious, solemn, and believing dedication of them unto God, and entering them into his covenant.'

For the reason why your seed is called holy, and in a better case than the seed of infidels, is not merely because they are the offspring of your bodies, and have their natures from you; much less as deriving any grace or virtue from you by generation : but because you are persons yourselves who have dedicated yourselves with all that you have, absolutely to God by Christ: and they being your own, and therefore at your disposal, your wills are taken for their wills, so far as you act in their names, and on their behalf : and therefore when you dedicate them to God, you do but that which you have both power and command to do: and therefore God accepteth what you so dedicate to him. And baptism is the regular way in which this dedication should be solemnly made: but if through the want of a minister,

« PreviousContinue »