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that the unavoidable conclusion is, that either our Saviour instructed them to use this form of words, or else he did not answer the design of their request to him.
But the safest way to avoid being misled by any critical disputes upon the meaning of original words, is to receive the injunction in both the senses, as before advised; viz. to make it the rule or pattern as to the matter and manner of all our prayers, and to use it as a form in hopour of our Lord; for, as it was formed by our glorious Advocate, who knew both his Father's infinite sufficieney, and our essential wants, we may be assured it contains every thing fit for us to ask of God his Father to bestow. And for which reason the wisdom of our church has justly appoined it to be added to all her holy forms and offices, to make up their defects, and to recommend them to our heavenly Father; who, if he cannot deny us when we apply to him properly in his Son's name, will much less do so, when we address him in his words likewise.
Further, from becoming reverence to the divine Author of this Prayer, and a full sense of its efficacy, the Church directs that the congregation shall always join the minister in an audible voice, whenever this Prayer is said, partly for this good reason, that people ignorantly brought up may the sooner learn it, and be supplied with words of unexceptionable expres
sion to recommend them to the favour of the Almighty, and partly to signify how boldly all Christians may approach the Father, when they address him in his Son's words.
And there is an humble and valuable design even in the frequent repetition of this Prayer (to which many, from a spirit of vain refinement and busy innovation, are too ready to except); since by such practice, at judicious distances in the service, this manifest advantage is afforded us, that if, through natural infirmity, we have not put up our petitions in it with sufficient warmth and spiritual devotion before, we may make some amends by renewing our petitions with redoubled earnestness.
In discoursing on the introductory words of this Prayer, I have judged it no unsuitable opportunity to give you a short history and defence of set forms in general, as supported by the practice of Christ and his Apostles, the testimony of Scripture, and the usage of the earliest Christian times.
Another matchless character of this holy Prayer is, that as, by its shortness, it is easily retained in memory, so, by the purity and plainness of its expressions, the affections and understanding may more easily keep pace with its petitions, and thus render the use of it of singular benefit to the unlearned. Though (as a pious Prelate of our church observes on this
very subject) it is a great unhappiness where people cannot read, yet God forbid that should ever hinder them from praying; so, in the constant application of this single Prayer, a considerable remedy is at hand for this muchto-be-lamented neglect of education. Whoever (says the same pious divine) has sense to know that he is a sinner, and that he wants God's help, is bound to pray as well as he can; and, by this gracious provision of his Saviour, he is supplied at once with such a form of prayer, as cannot fail to answer every purpose for which he possibly can have occasion to address his Maker. Of this I hope to be able most fully to convince you, in the following explanation of each particular petition. If these portions of the Prayer are offered up with humility and sincerity, God, who knoweth the heart, and what is best for us, much better than we do ourselves, will most assuredly hear and grant any prayer and supplication presented in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ. If, therefore, all ranks of people would conform to the pious practice of most seriously employing this Prayer, both morning and evening, as well in public with their families, as in private for themselves, there is every reason to believe, upon the principle of evangelical admonition and assurance, that they would escape a variety of accidents, and obtain more blessings than
they meet with in their journey through this vale of sorrow and uncertainty; it being doubtless owing to neglect of prayer to God, and a becoming dependence on his favour and protection, that we see such an increase of wickedness and misfortune among all orders of people. And that we may all become thoroughly sensible of the great benefit and blessing of having such an inestimable legacy left us, as this heavenly Prayer holds out, and that we may never fail to use it according to the gracious purpose of the divine Testator, let us now unite to glorify God's holy name for this great and undeserved privilege of laying our wants before him, in a form so highly qualified by the wisdom of his Holy Spirit, and the tender love of his dear Son, our Lord; in whose blessed name, as we begun this feeble effort of magnifying his goodness to us, so by his grace we will conclude it, in those very words, which, out of compassion to our infirmities, he hath taught and commanded us at all times, when we call upon him, to employ, and say, Our Father, &c.