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before it prove too late! It would prove no small mercy to England could we but look on the tyrant of France to be no other than, as indeed he is, a rod in the hand of the all-effecting providence of that God against whom we all have sinned greatly and heinously; and that we would with greatest concernedness consider, that it is not so much with the rod of God's wrath we have to do as with the hand that holds it. If God hath not judicially given England up to be a prey to its enemies, he will, I doubt not, send forth such an effusion of his good Spirit into the souls of the believers in England, as will stir up and set on work the Spirit of
prayer, which will give God no rest until he let this rod fall to the ground, or else cast it into the fire. Right prayer
greater force, both to hasten the enemy's utter overthrow and the church's deliverance, than all the resolves in both houses of parliament to encourage a war with France; and than all the arms in the new armory in the Tower of London, &c.; to which I add, and than all the fleets we have at sea, and the allies we have abroad, if we had ten thousand times as many as we have; and that on the account of its engaging Omnipotency to arise for the church's lielp and deliverance.,
SOME short time after the publication of this Discourse on Right Prayer, there came to my hands some other objections against extemporary prayer, and in vindication of stinted, imposed forms of prayer; the which, when I had duly weighed in the balance of an unprejudiced consideration, I could not satisfy my own conscience, that to pass them by without a seasonable reply to each of the said objections, was my duty, and that for two reasons :
First, Because such a silence would look like a betraying the truth to its enemies, which, through the grace of God, I cannot do, whatever it cost
Such as are cordial friends to God's cause and interest can do nothing against the truth, but for it. 2 Cor. xiii. 8.
Secondly, Because that silence in such a cause as this, as it would stagger and wound the weak believer, whose attainments in grace, especially that of spiritual prayer, are yet but small and weak; so it would be an occasion of rooting the authors of such objections, &c. in a stedfast belief that those their seeming plausible objections are not to be answered for the honour of God's truth, and the further establishment of weak believers
in the truth asserted in the foregoing discourses. For preventing therefore such as are professed enemies to extemporary prayer settling on the lees of their vain confidence, that they themselves are in the right, and that all who herein oppose them are led and acted by an enthusiastical spirit of error and delusion; I here set down the objections, to each of which I will, in the strength of Christ, put in plain, and I hope convincing,
Object. 1. John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray, therefore it is lawful for, and commendable in, the prelates, who are the fathers of the church, to make and impose such forms of
prayer as may be instructive to the people how they are
This objection will appear to be of no force either against extemporary prayer or on behalf of set forms of prayer, composed and imposed by those styled the fathers of the church, if the unprejudiced reader seriously considers four things.
First, John the Baptist, as all know who understand and know any thing in gospel religion aright, was, both in respect of his endowments, and likewise of the office to which he was called, an extraordinary man; in regard whereof it will be readily acknowledged by all orthodox divines, that we must not argue from persons extraordinarily gifted, and as extraordinarily called, to office in the church, to persons who are known to have but ordinary gists, and as ordinary an
office in the church. If the objectors can prove that the prelates, styled the Fathers of the church, are equal to John, either in respect of their gifts graces,
and also of their office in the church, the objection may seem to have some strength in it for the intent to which it is brought; otherwise it will prove like a cannot shot at a wall without a bullet; it makes a frightful noise, but does no execution.
Secondly, There being no particular form of prayer recorded in the word of God, which either John composed to that end, or which his disciples used as their prayer, I cannot conceive on what basis the objection can stand, any other than man's device. Neither can it be disproved, by what is recorded in holy writ, that by John's teaching his disciples to pray, any more is intended than John's zealous and diligent improvement of the spirit and grace of prayer wherewith he was extraordinarily furnished, and that in the hearing and company of his disciples; from which practice of John, his disciples, I doubt not, did gradually imbibe those general rules whieh were needful to be known about prayer.
Thirdly, What though John the Baptist had prescribed some general rule, whereby his raw disciples might be holpen in understanding the nature of prayer, which was sufficient until that given by Christ himself succeeded, doth it therefore follow, that either John or Christ did compose and enjoin on all their followers to suc
ceeding ages, such a liturgical service book as is now contended for? or that Christ, the mystical head of his church, hath empowered the antichrist of Rome, or any else, who, in point of lording it over the conscience of God's heritage, prove themselves to be one with that man of sin, to do it for him?
Fourthly, If it be without prejudice considered how zealous a man for God John the Baptist was, and how greatly he was blessed with the rich endowments of the Spirit, no man can rationally think or believe that ever the Spirit of God in him would allow him to favour or countenance the practice of setting up his own, or any other human, threshold, by God's threshold, and his, or their post, by God's post, Ezek. xliii. 8. John could not but know how provoking such a practice as this would be to that holy and jealous God whom he so zealously served and worshipped in the Spirit. John was too well acquainted with the mind of Christ, whose forerunner he owned himself to be, John i. 15; and too sweetly enriched with that celestial fire which comes from heaven into the soul of the true convert in the very instant of the Holy Ghost begetting or forming the new creation in a dead soul, to favour or countenance such a hindrance or quench-coal to the grace of prayer as all lively experienced Christians know human imposed forms of prayer to be.
Object. 2. The practice of praying by a liturgy, or stated forms of
very ancient, handed