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and holy affections, and centring our thoughts on God.* But the great question is whether the Holy Ghost dictates to God's children matter or expressions in prayer. I think the text is clear that it doth; for the text saith not "that we know not how to pray, but what we should pray for as we ought;" hence a schoolman saith, "it is most difficult to know what is to be desired;" a pious man knows that his chief end is God's glory, and the enjoyment of him, but unless the Spirit teach him he will miss it in the means, and as our Saviour saith, "ask he knows not what,"‡ as we have some instances in scripture, and much sad experience in ourselves, and though the Lord's prayer be a rule in general, yet we may be at a loss in particulars except the Spirit bring things into our thoughts, and often suggest scripture expressions to our memories, in earnest and appropriate pleading with the Lord; the Spirit enlightens us in our ignorance, assists us in our weakness, resolves us in our doubting, comforts us in our sadness, quickens us when lifeless, composeth us in our distractions; O therefore engage this blessed advocate within, who will plead for us in our hearts, as Christ makes intercession at God's right hand, and then you pray acceptably. God hears no language but that of his Spirit; and God's Spirit makes intercession by helping his people to intercede; he prays, by helping us to pray, not as Arians imagine, supposing that the Holy Ghost is below the Son, as supplicating the Son, or that the Son is less than the Father, as supplicating the
* Jubemur quidem pulsare, sed nemo sponte præmeditari vel unam syllabam poterit, nisi arcano Spiritus sui instinctu nos Deus pulset adeoque sibi corda nostra aperiat.-Calv. in loc.
+ Difficillimum est scire quid sit desiderandum. Matt. xx. 22.
Luke ix. 54, 55. Job vi. 8, 9. Jonah iv. 3.
Father, which is a gross mistake;* for Christ intercedes for us, by the virtue of his merit with the Father, and the Holy Ghost by helping us to cry, Abba, Father, Gal. iv. 6. Let none imagine that this is an enthusiastic fancy, or a miraculous gift, (as Chrysostom thought,) no, nor a melancholy dream; they that have any solid experience in the things of God, know that the assistance of the Spirit in prayer is the greatest reality in the world; nor was it a temporary gift, but a permanent grace abiding with the church for ever, enabling even private Christians to pray in the Spirit; yet differently, as God sees good, sometimes more enlarging their hearts, and at other times withdrawing his influences; and it becomes us to esteem highly his assistance, and pray earnestly for it.
THE MANNER OF PERFORMING FAMILY WORSHIP CONSIDERED.
THUS at last I have despatched the instructions which concern the matter of family prayer, to aid such as are sensible of their own insufficiency; and having been longer than I intended, I must contract the rest.
As to the due manner of performing such solemn family exercises, so much is written by others concerning the necessary essentials of all prayer, that it is needless here to add any thing. With respect to the
Spiritus interpellat faciendo nos interpellare, orat faciendo nos orare, clamat faciendo nos clamare.-Vide sis Pareum, in loc.
+ John xiv. 16. Eph. vi. 18. Jude, 20.
essence of all prayer, public, family, secret prayer, you must be sure it be from the heart, you must pray with the spirit, and understanding also ;* your family devotion must not be a mere customary formality, like the Papists' tongue threshing, as Luther calls their canting. You must engage your hearts to the exercise, and then draw nigh to God; you must also ask what is according to his will, ground your prayers upon a promise, as David did;† and God requires you also to prepare your heart, and then to stretch out your hands to him in prayer; wash before you worship; for if you regard iniquity God will not hear your prayer; you must stir up yourselves to take hold of God; come in sincerity, with all humility and with importunity. You must propose right ends in your prayers, not for selfcredit to be seen of men, as the Pharisees, nor for worldly profit to please a friend, but for God's glory and enjoying communion with him. But above all, see that you employ Christ as your advocate, in all your addresses to God, without whom your best sacrifices are rejected. I must not however insist on these things, but lay down some general directions how to prepare this family altar, and the sacrifice thereon.
1. Set your souls in God's presence :|| remember who it is you have to deal with; not with men like yourselves, but with the infinite, eternal, incomprehensible majesty of the great God, a heart-searching, all-seeing, and holy God, "that is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity; whose throne is in heaven, who loveth righteousness; but a hypocrite cannot come before him ;§ endeavour to affect your hearts with an awe of his divine majesty: consider his
* 1 Cor. xiv. 15.
↑ Jer. xxx. 21. 2 Sam. vii. 27. Job xi. 13. Psal. xxvi. 6. lxvi. 18. Isa. Ixiv. 7. § Hab. i. 13. Psal. xi. 4, 7. Job xiii. 16.
infinite perfections, and the great distance between the glorious God and poor worms, yea, between the holy God and your degenerate souls; remember God is a "consuming fire,"* and you are as dried stubble, therefore serve him with reverence and godly fear; give him the glory due unto his name,† internally and externally, in your conceptions of him, affection for him, and prostration before him; he is to be had in reverence of all that are round about him; it is more to appear before God than the holiest men, or greatest princes on earth, regard not auditors or those that unite in worship, so much as the object of worship; say as Abraham the friend of God," Behold, now I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes."|| O that my soul were weighted with the glorious majesty of God!
2. Call in divine assistance; the first thing you do, stand up, and implore God's blessing upon you in the present undertaking (except you find it convenient to begin with a psalm to call the family together,) and desire the Lord to unite your hearts unto him,§ and prevent distractions, and Satan's temptations, and vain, worldly cogitations in that duty, and lift up your souls to himself, with such an ejaculation as this, "Let us lift up our hearts with our hands to God in the heavens; look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven and bless thy servants!" We are taking thy blessed book into our hands, "Lord, open our eyes to behold wondrous things out of thy law, let it be a light to our feet, and a lanthorn to our paths: let it be as our necessary food, yea, sweeter than honey or honeycomb;"** more profitable than thousands of gold
Heb. xii. 28, 29. + Psal. xxix. 2. Psal. lxxxix. 7. || Gen. xviii. 27. § Psal. lxxxvi. 11. ¶ Lam. iii. 41. Deut. xxvi. 15. ** Psal. cxix. 18. Job xxiii. 12. Psal. xix. 10.
and silver; help us to understand, apply, and practise what we read: "let our prayer be set before thee as incense, and the lifting up of our hands as an evening sacrifice: let thine ears be now attentive, and thine eyes open, to hear the prayer of thy servants; to us belongeth shame and confusion of face; but to the Lord our God, belong mercies and forgivenesses. Thou hast proclaimed thy name, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, &c. To this name of the Lord do we flee, pleading for mercy, only for the sake of Christ; "look upon the face of thine anointed."‡
3. Immediately commence this practice of erecting an altar to the Lord: embrace the first conviction; the evening of that day when you have heard the duty pressed on you, set about it; plead no excuse to put it off till a more convenient season; Felix lost his time and soul by such a demur :|| set about it while your spirits are warm: give not Satan advantage by delay: imperatives have no future tense, present despatch is essential to God's commands: anon, anon, at my leisure, is no obedience; now or never; there is danger in delays; "I made haste," saith David," and delayed not to keep thy commandments." Remember his holy resolution in a weighty matter of the like nature, for settling God's worship, Psal. cxxxii. 2-5. Your spirits will cool by delays, Satan will get advantage; some have confessed that the holy Spirit hath departed from them, upon their not yielding to his dictates, and they have run into the dead sea of profaneness by degrees, if you miss your opportunity you are undone you may die before morning, if you go prayerless to bed, and where will you be then? You
Psal. cxli. 2. + Exod. xxxiv. 6. || Acts xxiv. 25.
Neh. i. 6. Dan. ix. 8, 9.
§ Psal. cxix. 60.
Psal. lxxxiv. 9.