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young ones make conscience of practising the helps that are given them, and take pleasure in the duty, the Holy Spirit strikes in with his assistance, and lays suitable matter of prayer before them; so that even some very young persons have been found to pray with great fluency and fervour, to the admiration of those who happened to overhear them.
3. Pray frequently with your children; which will be an excellent means to instruct them both as to the matter and manner of the duty, and have a powerful influence upon them to induce them to pray for themselves. And indeed I must say, if parents made more conscience of this practice, in praying with their children, the young ones would not discover such aversion to the duty as many do; nor would there be such a numerous fry of young prayerless sinners among us, who, though they have not learned to pray, yet are great proficients in speaking vain and idle words, and in cursing and swearing.
4. Furnish them daily with proper materials of prayer, which ye can extract from the Lord's word, your own ob servation of the state and temper of your souls, the disposition and inclination of your children, the sins and vanities they are most addicted to, your knowledge of their peculiar wants and desires, and what appears to be suitable to their circumstances and situation.
5. Lastly, Carefully observe, whether they perform this duty or not; that you may encourage them when they do well, and check and rebuke them when they neglect it. Shew them that you are influenced by a regard to the command and authority of God, and are actuated with a hearty zeal and concern for the salvation of their souls, in all you do in this matter, whether respecting the encouragements and advices you give them, or the rebukes and chastisements you administer to them, in case of non-compliance, neglect, or careless performance, of the duty enjoined. This will have no small influence upon them to comply with your instructions and directions, and by degrees conquer their aversion to the exercise; and you may come, through the divine blessing, to see the happy fruit of your labours and endea
Thus I have endeavoured, as briefly as I could, to lay before you the nature, importance, and necessity, of this excellent duty of secret prayer, and have removed the most mate
rial objections that can be made against it. If any of you, then, shall continue in the habitual neglect of this exercise, and so perish, your blood will be upon your own head, for I have delivered my own soul. But I hope better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though I thus speak: and I hope there will no more henceforth be a prayerless person among us. Which God, of his infinite mercy, grant.
OF THE RULE OF DIRECTION IN PRAYER.
MATTH. vi. 9.-After this manner, therefore, pray ye,
UR Lord Jesus Christ, in his sermon on the mount, whereof this chapter is a part, retrieves religion from the false doctrines, and the corrupt and hypocritical practices, which the Scribes and Pharisees brought into it. They were not wanting in the matter of external duties, but they were far from the right manner of performing them. Wherefore, in the first four verses, he teaches them the right manner of doing alms. In the next place, he teaches them the right manner of praying. He taxes two faults in the manner of praying: (1.) Hypocritical ostentation, ver. 5. and points them to the right manner in this point. (2.) Idle multiplying of words, ver. 7, 8. In the text, for helping of this fault, and others about prayer, the Lord, being to give us a prayer to serve for a pattern, and to direct us in praying, bids us
pray after this manner;' i. e. in the manner following in the form of prayer here set down; not binding us to the very words, but to the manner of it, that we must pray after this manner, and to this purpose.
The right manner of performing the duty of prayer, is what God requires, and we should be concerned for. The Lord knows his people's weakness, and how ready they are to go wrong in this, and how much they need direction; and therefore gives this form and pattern of prayer, for their direction in that weighty duty: After this manner address yourselves to God in prayer. He had not left them, with
out direction altogether before: they had the word formerly written, but this is added as a special rule of direction. The text offers this doctrine:
DOCT. Though the whole word of God is of use to direct us in prayer, yet the special rule of direction is that form of prayer, which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called the Lord's prayer.'
Here I shall shew,
I. That we need direction in prayer.
II. What rule God hath given for our direction therein. III. Whether these rules are sufficient to enable us to pray acceptably.
IV. Deduce some inferences.
I. I am to shew, that we need direction in prayer. This is evident from,
1. God's greatness. It is to him who dwells in heaven that we must address ourselves in prayer: therefore, be not rash with thy mouth (says Solomon), nor let thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few,' Eccl. v. 2. Rash and fearless approaches speak unbecoming thoughts of God, and low thoughts of the throne in heaven, which one presents himself before. And to such may be said, These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes,' Psal. I. 21. Who of us, approaching the presence of our prince, to present our petition before him, would not seek direction as to the right and acceptable manner of doing it? How much more should we, who have petitions to present to him who is God of gods, and King of kings, ask direction as to the right manner of presenting our petitions?
2. Our own guiltiness, Luke xviii. 13. Whoever would be rash or careless in approaching his prince's presence, one would think that a rebel, a traitor, and a criminal, would see well to the manner of his address, and would be very cautious. This is our case, and therefore that should be our way. Therefore the prodigal thinks before-hand what he will say to his offended father, Luke xv. 18, 19.
3. The weight of the matter we go upon. Our errand to the throne is, to worship God, who will be sanctified in them that come nigh him, and before all the people will he be glorified,' Lev. x. 3. which is awful and solemn work, and gives ground for that question, 'Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God,' Micah vi. 6. It is to present our supplications for our needs for time and for eternity. And if he help us not, all the world cannot do it. Our souls lie at stake, eternity is before us; and to treat with God on the business of eternity, is business that needs direction.
4. Our weakness and aptness to mistake and miscarry in the approach, Job xxxvii. 19. Teach us what we shall pray unto him: for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness.' We have no skill to manage the weighty matter; and we will be persuaded of it, if we know ourselves. We are ready to go wrong in the matter of prayer, Rom. viii. 26. to ask of God things not agreeable to his revealed will, being blinded with our own passions and prejudices, Luke ix. 54. And we are apt to go wrong in the manner of prayer, by insincerity, formality, and carnality, Jam. iv. 3. Isa. Ixiv, 7.
5. Lastly, The danger of mistaking and miscarrying in prayer, either of the ways. It may provoke the Lord against us, and bring down a curse instead of a blessing upon us, Mal. i. ult.Cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen,' Exod. xx. 7. 'Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain : for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.' At least it will frustrate our prayers, so that they will be rejected and not heard, Jam. iv. 3. our pe titions cast over the bar. Or what we seek not agreeable to his will, may be given us with a vengeance, Psal. cvi. 15,
II. The second head is, What rule hath God given for our direction in prayer? Our gracious God has not left us without direction in that matter. We have from himself the rule which we are to walk by in our addresses to the throne: and how else could we know it? who else could teach us
how guilty creatures should present their supplications to the most high God? And,
First, There is a general rule given us for that end; and that is the whole word of God, the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, in which God's will is revealed, as to all things to be believed or done by us, 1 John v. 14. By our Bible we may learn to pray; for there we are furnished with all sorts of helps and directions for this duty, as to matter, manner, and words; and therefore it is a complete directory for prayer.
1. It furnishes us abundantly with matter of prayer, in all the parts of it, petition, confession, &c. Psal. li. 4, 5. Phil. iv. 6. And whoso has the word of God dwelling richly in him, will not want of matter for prayer, for himself or for others. There is a storehouse of it there, of great variety; and we are welcome to the use of it, agreeable to our own case.
2. It fully directs us as to the manner of prayer: as, for instance, that we must pray with sincerity, Heb. x. 22. with humility, Psal. x. 17. in faith, Jam. i. 6. and with fervency, Jam. v. 16. And there is no qualification necessary in prayer, but what we may learn from the holy word.
3. It furnishes us with the most fit words to be used in prayer. Do ye want words to express your desires before the Lord? He has given us his own words in the Bible, that we may use them according to our needs, Hos. xiv. 2.
Secondly, There is a special rule given us by Jesus Christ for that end, namely, that form of words which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called the Lord's prayer;' that excellent pattern and example of prayer, composed by Jesus Christ himself for our direction in the text, which every Christian is obliged to receive with the utmost reve rence, as the Lord's own word. But it was never imposed by Jesus Christ, or his apostles, as a set form to which his church is bound to pray in these very words, and no other. It is true, in the year 618, the Council of Toledo imposed it on the clergy, under the pain of deposition; but then Antichrist had mounted the throne, and the Papists since have super, stitiously abused it to this day. I would all Protestants could plead, Not guilty. To clear this matter,
1. The Lord's prayer is given us as a directory for prayer, a pattern and an example, by which we are to regulate our