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hearing, how exceedingly zealous they had been in serving God in the use of the common prayer, and what great comfort and satisfaction they felt in themselves, even to an inward assurance, as they conceited, that they should go to heaven, and yet were, all the time of their zeal for God in that way of worship, heart strangers to Jesus Christ, and to that joy of the Holy Ghost which comes by believing. These, after conversion, have turned the back on the common prayer, and have vomited up, to use their own expression, by unfeigned repentance, that blind zeal of theirs which so deceived them.
Doth not the Spirit of God tell us how zealous the Israelties were in the use of their idols, even to an inflaming themselves ? Isa. lvii. 5. The apostle Paul tells the Jews what a zeal they had for God, but it was not according to knowledge. Rom. x. ii.
Too many there be who take the fire of their own blind zeal for the joy and comfort of God's Spirit; why else was that recorded, ; Isa. 1. 11? “ Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks which ye have kindled. This shall
ye have at my hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow."
As is the righteousness in which the most strict and shining moralist stands and appears when he approaches to God in prayer, such will be his inward peace and comfort; both the one and the
other will miserably deceive and confound him; and that because as the righteousness on which he builds his peace and comfort is not the righteousness of the Son of God, received and rested on by faith, so neither is the inward joy and peace whereon he values himself the joy and peace
of the Holy Ghost. Like begets like.
They who have received the witness of the Spirit of grace in their hearts in the work of effectual calling can tell, to the praise of God, that there is as much and as real a difference between the joy and elevation of their spirits in serving God with forms of prayer devised and imposed by men, and that joy and peace which accompanies the spirit of prayer in the soul of a believer in effectual conversion, as there is between the shining and warm beams of the natural sun at noon-tide, and the picture of the sun drawn by the most exquisite artist on the earth. And he that knows not this, knows as little what true and saving regeneration means as Nicodemus did. John iii. 10.
The thing to be proved is, whether the forms so hotly contended and pleaded for be instituted or appointed by God? If the objector cannot do this, he must not censure or persecute his dissenting neighbour for his noncompliance with a worship which he believes God will not accept, because not appointed by his own authority.
Thirdly, The revealed will of God, not men's private fancies and opinions, is the standard for
trying and proving what is pleasing to God, and what is not so. Isa. viii. 20.
As the natural man accounts the wisdom of God but foolishness in comparison of his own devisings, so the only wise God accounts the wisdom of all worldly men to be no better than enmity against him. The things which man's judgment highly approves of and commends are an abomination to God. Luke xvi, 15.
Object. 5. The opposers and enemies of stated forms of prayer are, in praying extempore, full of extravagant expressions, yea, sometimes downright nonsense; for avoiding which inconveniences the fathers of the church have judged it convenient to tie themselves and the congregation up to a well-methodised form of sound words, which no dissenter from the church can mend.
Ans. This objection brings fresh to my remembrance a dispute which happened, some years ago, between a lady now in eternity and myself, about the necessity of praying by such forms as the bishops, the fathers of the church, should approve of, and that for avoiding the many impertinent and nonsensical excursions which drop from those men's mouths who presume to pray without a set form.
The place where the dispute happened was the nursery, where the lady's young infant was dressing and feeding by the fire, which providentially fell out well for me; for thereby the case and circumstances of that poor infant afforded me such
an argument as struck the lady into profound silence, after which she would no more attack me, nor so much as open her mouth against extemporary prayer, that I could learn. The affair was thus: Being one night in the lady's nursery, discoursing with the nurse and some other servants of the family about soul concerns, the lady with her lord came in to see the babe, and perceiving that we had been discoursing about religious matters, they both attacked me together with great zeal and seeming concernedness, fearing lest my discourse should infect the servants so as to draw them from the church to the meeting
The subject about which we chiefly disputed was prayer.
The lady greatly inveighed against dissenters, for that they were a prayerless people, in that they allowed not set forms of prayer, but with great sauciness and irreverence poured forth such raw and indigested stuff to God as, were the same to be examined by wise and learned men, would be found to abound with little else than nonsensical and blasphemous tautologies; or words to that purpose. To whom I replied, Madam, were dissenters to address the throne of such as are the patrons of set forms of prayer, and known enemies to the spirit of prayer, I doubt not but the same uncharitable judgment and rash censure, now passed by your ladyship, would pass on all their prayers. But, Madam, said I, dissenters from your
established church, such I mean as are real meme bers in Christ, present their prayers to a gracious God, whose ears are not tickled with the enticing words of man's wisdom, but are always open to hear and receive such requests as are put up to his throne in the name and only merit of his Son Jesus Christ, how broken and confused soeversuch requests and prayers may be. God perfectly knows how to distinguish between the human frailty and weakness which accompanies the true believer's prayer, and what of his Son's Spirit is in the same. What of human infirmity, be it what it may, he sees in the believer's prayer, he most graciously pardons and overlooks the same; and what he beholds of his Son's Spirit in the same prayer, he mercifully accepts as pleasing and delightful to him, and both on the account of the virtue and merit of his dear Son Jesus Christ's sacrifice and intercession for the real believer.
Man's uncircumcised ear, while in a state of nature, can hear nothing aright; so that whatever is truly spiritual and divine in the prayer of true believers is, by such ignorant and carnal minds, accounted nonsense and blasphemy, they being altogether strangers to that Spirit by which every regenerate believer
prays. “ He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," Matt. xi. 15; implying that all have not. This is the privilege of believers only, as Christ himself assures us in Matt. xiii. 16. " But blessed are your eyes, for they see ; and your ears, for they