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main burden of his private prayer. FAMILY PRAYER, on the other hand, as it comes next to private prayer, will be in some points particular; it will speak of the particular duties which men owe to each other as members of a Christian Family, but it will be more general (even in that respect) than private prayer, because a family is many more in number than an individual. PUBLIC PRAYER, On the other hand, must, by its very nature, be GENERAL; because, if the particular wants and wishes, failings and praises of each one in the congregation were to be made subjects of prayer, it would be almost endless; and yet, if only such things were spoken of as applied to and suited all alike, there would be scarcely any subject for prayer at all. It is plain, therefore, that Public Prayer, to be useful, and to answer the ends and purposes of prayer, must be in some respects general, suiting all the congregation; and where it is particular, it must not be, as in private prayer, the setting forth a great many different individuals' wants or failings, but those of different kinds and character of persons; so that while every Christian in the congregation will feel his own thoughts, as a member of Christ's Church, made known in Public Prayer, he will also, in other parts, find his own case touched, according to circumstances-according as his wants are of one or another particular kind, and as he himself is classed under this or that character.
I would now call your attention to these following points; I. The EXPEDIENCY OF A FORM OF PRAYER For congregATIONS. II. The AUTHORITY FOR USING FORMS. III. The EXCELLENCY
OF THAT FORM OF PRAYER WHICH IS USED IN THE
CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
I. As to the 'expediency of a Form of Prayer.'
The Minister is either to pray for or with his congregation. Now he prays for them in his secret chamber.-He vowed before God and men, before angels in heaven, and the Angel of his Church on earth, that he would be diligent in prayer for his flock; and, like Samuel, he knows that he "should sin against the Lord when he ceased to pray for them:"-but if, in the church, he is to pray with his people, and lead them to the throne of grace, it seems well (on the face of it) that they should know how to follow. If, however, in this he be left to his own judgment, left to utter the words which come uppermost to his mind, left to speak of such things as either rise on the moment, or he has set in order before, -how can his people then join heart and voice with him? How can it be called congregational, when it depends on one man's wit, or piety, or eloquence, what it shall be ?-If Christians are to come to Church to hear praying, rather than to pray, then a form of prayer is needless, and not wanted: but if they come to take a part, and join in prayer, (and not sit listening while another prays), then it would seem good and useful that there should be some "form of sound words," which all might learn, and in which all might join.
Again. We know that some men can speak more readily than others; but not all who speak most readily feel most deeply: nay, deep feeling, like deep streams, often is most silent. Moses was more pious than Aaron; yet Aaron was Moses's mouth-piece and spokesman. Now if there were no form of prayer among us, Brethren, you would sometimes hear a Minister, who was ready in speech, talking much in the form and
shape of prayers; and another, who was slow in speech, saying but little, and even that little with breaks between the words, with pain to himself and such as heard him ;—and yet he, whom men thought least in prayer, might feel by far the most. Now, in a form of prayer, if it is scriptural and fervent, this difficulty is avoided :-he that would say many words is kept down to a few plain and hearty ones; and he who, from infirmity, could say but few words, though his spirit was warm in him, finds that spirit mounting on the wings of Scripture words, free and unfettered, towards its kindred heaven. If, therefore, public worship is to be congregational-if the people are to have their part, and not go to see and hear the Minister pray-it seems, on the first view, to be highly expedient that there should be a form of prayer.
II. We next come to enquire 'the authority there is for using a form.'
If we are in any way to be guided by the practice of God's covenanted people, the Jews;-if we, as a Church, have succeeded and come into their place; -if "the adoption and the promises" belong to Christians as a body now, as they did to the Jews, as a body, in the times of old ;-if our sacrament of Baptism stands to us now as Circumcision to them, both representing the death unto sin, and "casting away the filth of the flesh;"-if their Passover was to keep in remembrance a deliverance, the accomplishment of which, in its real sense, our Christian Passover commemorates ;then, though the Law, with its burdensome rites and ceremonies, is done away, and we are free in "the liberty of Christ," yet what is useful, which they used, is not to be done away because they used it, but, rather, we may suppose, that the
occasion and the need which brought a form of prayer into use among them, and which God approved, would act now to make a form useful also among us. Nor must we think, for a moment, that because the Law, as the Law, is done away, that those things which were "written aforetime were not written for our learning."
Now that forms of prayer and thanksgiving were in use among the Jews, is very easily shewn. Moses wrote a Psalm, which he and the children of Israel sang, (Exod. xv. 1, 21, 22); and the women, led by Miriam the prophetess, joined in it now had not this been written and known, had it not been, as we should say, a form of prayer and praise, how could the immense congregation of Israel have joined in it? Again, (Deut. xxi. 6, 7, 8) when a man was found murdered, God himself taught a form of prayer, which the elders of the city nearest to the slain man should repeat. David appointed the Levites to stand every morning, to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at even. But, not to bring forward other examples, many parts of the book of Psalms are plainly congregational hymns, written by different men, but to be joined in by the people. The sixty-eighth Psalm, for instance, was composed and sung by David, when the ark was brought in from Shiloh, (where it had been kept for many years) to the tabernacle in Jerusalem. The twenty-fourth Psalm was written by Solomon, and repeated by one troop of Levites, and answered by another division, as the same ark was lifted up, and carried in solemn procession into the noble temple which Solomon had just builded to receive it. These all were plainly forms of public prayer and praise; and that the Almighty loved the united and uniform worship of his people, may
be fairly gathered from this; that "when as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, "For he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever;" that then the house was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister, by reason of the cloud for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God." Is it for nothing that the Holy Ghost has caused this to be written, -that the glorious and brilliant fire, which was the sign of the Almighty's presence—the same that burned in the blazing bush at Horeb, and that, in after times, shone on the mount of Transfiguration, and came down in the tongues of fire on Pentecost that this holy fire should have filled the new-built temple at the very moment when, according to the powerful words of Scripture, the people and ministers were as one-when with one heart, and voice, and words, they praised the Lord?
But to come to the times of our Redeemer.Christ, at the wish of his disciples, taught them a 'form of prayer,' which we, after him who spake it, call the Lord's Prayer. It was a custom with the Jewish doctors to teach their scholars a form of prayer, by which they should be known from those of other doctors. John the Baptist had, doubtless, given his disciples such a form :-the disciples of our Lord came to him, and asked that he would teach them how to pray, "" John also taught his disciples." Now, without straining the words very much, we cannot but suppose, that the disciples meant to ask, that their Master would give them a form of prayer,' as other teachers had. We know that Christ