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king, and bless him and us, with his royal offspring, and all his family; that he will teach our fenators wisdom, and give his spirit of wisdom, understanding, and justice, to all that are employed in publick affairs, or are appointed to execute juftice, or to inftruct others in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jefus Chrift: that he will blefs all forts and conditions of men, For all states whether young or old; fetting out in the world, or of men. in long poffeffion thereof; whether rich or poor; those that are profperous in this world, or fuch as are under afflictions; thofe that hate, as well as thofe that love, us. So that,
For our king, &c.
XII. By this account we have given of prayer, it appears not only that it is a duty that we owe to God, but that it is a duty we owe to him alone, and that no being in the world befides himself hath right to be prayed unto. Because, if prayer be one of the principal inftances of that honour, and an expreffion of that dependance that we owe to the Creator and Governor of the world; then certainly to be prayed unto is, and for ever will be, one of the rights and prerogatives of his Sovereign Majefty, never to be given to any thing created. Confequently, to invoke, or pray to any creature in a religious way, though it be the highest creature in heaven, whether angel or faint, not excepting the blessed Virgin herself, must needs be an affront done to God, as giving that honour to one of his creatures that is only proper to the Creator.
XIII. David fays, the Lord is nigh unto all The power them that call upon him in truth; he will fulfil or efficacy of the defires of thofe that fear him, he alfo will hear prayer. their prayers, and will fave them: the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers and our Saviour faith to his apostles, whatsoever ye fhall afk in my name, that will I do; and again he repeats it, if ye fhall afk any thing in my name, I will do it. Yet if it fhould be thought that this promife was made to the apostles only, and doth not concern us, let us hear what St John writes to us; brethren, if our hearts condemn us not, then we have confidence towards God; and whatsoever we ask we receive
be the only object of our
of him. Ask, saith he, and it shall be given you, feek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you; for every one that asketh receiveth, and he that feeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened; than which promise nothing can be more gracious, nothing more comfortable: which is ftill enforced moft pathetically in the following verfe: What man is there among you, whom if his fon afk bread will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish will he give him a ferpent? If ye then being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more will your heavenly Father give good things unto them that afk him? Befides, the holy fcriptures not only contain many promifes and affurances
that God will hear our prayers, but afford us many inftances of his making good those promises at all times, and to all perfons, and that in a moft wonderful manner. For,
By prayer Mofes quenched the devouring fire. By prayer Elias brought down fire from heaven. By prayer Elisha restored the dead to life. By prayer Hezekiah flew an hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Affyrians in one night. By prayer David stopped the deftroying angel, when his hand was lifted up to deftroy Jerufalem. And by prayer Jonah was delivered out of the fifh's belly. Yet,
XIV. Notwithstanding this usefulness, advantage, and neceffity of prayer; nay, though God has declared abfolutely, that we shall not have the good things Objections. we stand in need of, except we pray for them; there have been, and doubtlefs are ftill, fome emiffaries of the devil, who pretend to argue against the duty and efficacy of prayer; founding their fophiftry upon the unchangeable decrees of God, and, devil-like, quote fcripture to fupport their own impiety.
Is it not written, fay they, that with God there is no variableness nor shadow of turning? This is a mere fallacy. God's hearkning to, or being moved by, the prayers we put up to him, doth not in the leaft clash with his unchangeable decrees. We grant, when God is pleased to give us those things, which without our prayers he would not have done, there is a change in him or us; but not in God: "for, God refolved, that if we humL 3
bly and heartily begged fuch or fuch things at his hands, we fhould have them; but, if not, we should go without what we want. Therefore, when upon cur prayers we obtain that grace, or that bleffing, which we had not before, it is not he that is changed, but we. We, by performing the conditions he required of us, looking with another afpect to him, do entitle ourselves to quite different treatment from him, than we could claim before we were changed from our wicked courfe of life, by making ourselves capable of receiving those benefits, which before we were not capable of.
When this objection has failed, then they reft upon God's infinite and effential goodness. We grant that the goodnefs of God is infinite, and that he governs the world in the best way that is poffible, and confequently, he always will do that which is best, let us behave ourselves never fo badly. Yet doth it from hence follow, that we shall have all fuch things as we stand in need of, without praying for them? No. Because the fame God that will do always what is abfolutely best for his creatures, knows that it is best for them, that in order to the partaking of his benefits, they should pray for them; if they do not, why then, he knows it is beft that they should be denied fuch things. Whence the neceffity of God's acting for the best, doth not in the leaft destroy the neceffity of prayer in order to our obtaining what we stand in need of; God will do always that which is beft; but we are mistaken if we think it for the beft, that we should have our neceffities fupplied without the ufe of prayer, the means to obtain it by God's appointment. XV. And here I must take notice of a fault of
Of publick a great many profeffors, and even of fome that have otherwise a fincere fenfe of religion, that we do not fet that esteem and value upon the publick worship of God, that, in the nature of the thing, and by the laws of Chrift, is required. Some very erroneously think that when they have faid their prayers devoutly in a closet, then they have done enough; all that is needful for the discharge of that part of our duty, which concerns the worship of our Creator. They imagine that the church-prayers may be spared, and the prayers in our family superfeded. These men perhaps now and then
attend the publick worship, yet it is not fo much for the fake of the prayers, as for the curiofity of hearing a fermon, or it may be for the avoiding the fcandal that their abfence at fuch times would bring upon them: this is a great fault; a wrong and abfurd notion of the worship of God: for these readily own, that to ferve God in private is a neceffary duty; nay, fo neceffary, that there is no living a holy christian life without it: they acknowledge likewise, that as the thing is infinitely reasonable in itfelf, so it is attended with manifold advantages of feveral kinds. Wherefore,
rence to private prayer.
Let it be remarked, that those prayers are most acceptable to God, and moft neceffary for us, which are offered in publick affemblies, because they have these advantages above private devotions, that God is most honoured and glorified by fuch-addreffes, and a sense of his majefty is maintained in the world, fomewhat fuitable to his most excellent greatness and goodness; when by outward figns and tokens we publish and declare the inward regard and esteem we have for his divine attributes. And we do hereby declare ourselves members of the body of Chrift, which is his church; which we cannot be to any purpose, without having fellowship with God and one another, in all duties; the chief of which are prayer and praife. Our Saviour promises his fpecial prefence to fuch affemblies, and hath appointed a particular order of men to offer up our prayers in fuch places of worship. Befides, we may expect greater fuccefs, when our petitions are made with the joint and unanimous confent of our fellow-chriftians, and when our devotions receive warmth and heat from the exemplary zeal of pious ministers. These confiderations should make all good chriftians frequently attend the publick worship in the house of God. Therefore, it is to be wished, that all chriftians were constant in attending the faid worship on fundays and holidays; because it is likely it would difpofe them to repeat fuch exercises of devotions with greater zeal and love. Moreover, confidering that as among the Jews there was a morning and evening facrifice daily offered to God at the temple; and that the precepts of the gofpel oblige us to pray always, and to pray without ceafing; and that the antient proL 4
phets expressly declare that there should be as frequent devotions in the days of Chrift, as there had been in former times; that prayer should be made to him continually, and daily fhall he be praised; they that have opportunities, and are not lawfully hindered, should endeavour fo to regulate their time, as to be able constantly to attend on prayer, which is fuch a great advantage to the chriftian life, morning and evening. Wherefore, as thofe who have leisure cannot better employ it, fo they must have but little concern for the honour and glory of God, who neglect fuch opportunities of declaring and publishing his praise before men.
XVI. The next chriftian duty is family-prayer. Of family- Every mafter of a family is anfwerable to God for
the welfare of those fouls that are under his care. Nor can I well understand how a fense of religion can be maintained in a family without the exercise of daily devotion in it. By this method we are beft able to confirm and establish children and fervants in the practice of their chriftian obligations; and this an admirable means to draw down the bleffings of God, when in a body they daily acknowledge his divine perfections, and fupplicate his favour for the mercies they want. This devotion must be also rememOf bleffing, bred at our meals; for we ought to beg the blefmeals. fing of God upon thofe good creatures provided for our use; fince it is by the word of God and that they are fanctified to us. Natural religion itself teaches us thankfully to acknowledge the benefits we receive; and this particular inftance of it hath fufficient ground from the example of Chrift and his holy apostles, all the Evangelifts declaring that our Saviour bleffed and gave thanks before meat; the fame St Luke relates of St Paul; and even St Paul himself speaks of it, as the known practice of the church among chriftians in his time.
or grace at
Let us upon all occafions approach the Majefty of heaven, with fuch devout affections and holy difpofitions of mind, as are wrought in us by the powerful affiftance of the bleffed Spirit of God.
For, the conftant exercife of prayer, is the best method to get the mastery of our evil inclinations, and to overcome our