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'quire, what course they take, what means they employ, or what helps they use, in prayer, who are not as yet partakers of this privilege of adoption: it is only those who are so, whom the Spirit of God assists in this duty. And the only question is, What such persons are to do, in compliance with his assistance, or what it is that they obtain thereby?
And we may compare the different expressions used by the apostle in this matter, whereby the general nature of the work of the Spirit herein, will farther appear. In this place he saith, God hath sent forth into our hearts rò πvevμa tov viov kpálov, 'the Spirit of his Son, crying, Abba Father;' Rom. viii. 15. He saith we have received τὸ πνεῦμα υἱοθεσίας ἐν ✈ кpáloμεv, the 'spirit of adoption,' the Spirit of the Son given us because we are sons, 'whereby,' or in whom we cry Abba Father.' His acting in us, and our acting by him, is expressed by the same word. And the inquiry here is, how in the same duty he is said to cry in us, and we are said to cry in him. And there can be no reason hereof, but only because the same work is both his and ours in divers respects. As it is an act of grace and spiritual power, it is his, or it is wrought in us by him alone. As it is a duty performed by us, by virtue of his assistance, it is ours; by him we cry Abba Father. And to deny his actings in our duties is to overthrow the gospel. And it is prayer formally considered, and as comprising the gift of it, with its outward exercise, which is intended. The mere excitation of the graces of faith, love, trust, delight, desire, self-abasement, and the like animating principles of prayer, cannot be expressed by crying, though it be included in it. Their actual exercise in prayer formally considered, is that which is ascribed unto the Spirit of God. And they seem to deal somewhat severely with the church of God and all believers, who will not allow that the work here expressly assigned unto the Spirit of adoption, or of the Son, is sufficient for its end, or the discharge of this duty, either in private or in the assemblies of the church. There is no more required unto prayer either way, but our crying, Abba Father, that is, the making our requests known unto him as our Father in Christ, with supplications and thanksgivings, according as our state and occasions do require. And is not the aid of the Spirit of God sufficient to enable us hereunto? It was so of old, and that
unto all believers, according as they were called unto this: duty, with respect unto their persons, families, or the church of God. If it be not so now, it is because either God will not now communicate his Spirit unto his children or sons according to the promise of the gospel, or because indeed, this grace and gift of his is by men despised, neglected, and lost. And the former cannot be asserted on any safe grounds whatever the latter is our interest to consider.
This two-fold testimony concerning the promise of the communication of the Holy Spirit, or a Spirit of supplication, unto believers under the New Testament, and the accomplishment of it, doth sufficiently evince our general assertion, that there is a peculiar work or special gracious operation of the Holy Ghost in the prayers of believers enabling them thereunto. For we intend no more hereby, but that as they do receive him by virtue of that promise, which the world cannot do, in order unto his gracious efficiency in the duty of supplication; so he doth actually incline, dispose, and enable them to cry Abba Father, or to call upon God in prayer as their Father by Jesus Christ. To deny this, therefore, is to rise up in contradiction unto the express testimony of God himself; and by our unbelief to make him a liar. And had we nothing farther to plead in this cause, this were abundantly sufficient to reprove the petulant folly of them by whom this work of the Holy Ghost, and the duty of believers thereon to pray in the Spirit,' if we may use the despised and blasphemed expressions of the Scripture, is scorned and derided.
For as to the ability of prayer which is thus received, some there are, who know no more of it as exercised in a way of duty, but the outside, shell, and appearance of it; and that not from their own experience, but from what they observed in others. Of these there are not a few who confidently affirm, that it is wholly a work of fancy, invention, memory, and wit, accompanied with some boldness and elocution, unjustly fathered on the Spirit of God, who is no way concerned therein. And, it may be, they do persuade many, no better skilled in these things than themselves, that so it is indeed. Howbeit, those who have any experience of the real aids and assistances of the Spirit of God in this work and duty, any faith in the express testimonies given by God himself hereunto, cannot but despise such fabulous imagi
nations. You may as soon persuade them that the sun doth not give light, nor the fire heat, that they see not with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, as that the Spirit of God doth not enable them to pray, or assist them in their supplications. And there might some probability be given unto these pretences, and unto the total exclusion of the Holy Ghost from any concernment herein, if those concerning whom and their duties they thus judge, were generally persons known to excel others in those natural endowments and acquired abilities whereunto this faculty of prayer ascribed. But will this be allowed by them who make use of this pretence, namely, that those who are thus able to pray as they pretend by virtue of a spiritual gift, are persons excelling in fancy, memory, wit, invention, and elocution? It is known that they will admit of no such thing; but in all other instances they must be represented as dull, stupid, ignorant, unlearned, and brutish. Only in prayer they have the advantage of those natural endowments. These things are hardly consistent with common ingenuity. For is it not strange that those who are so contemptible with respect unto natural and acquired endowments in all other things, whether of science or of prudence, should yet in this one duty or work of prayer so improve them, as to outgo the imitation of them by whom they are despised? For as they do not, as they will not pray as they do, so their own hearts tell them, they cannot, which is the true reason why they so despitefully oppose this praying in the Spirit, whatever pride or passion pretends to the contrary. But things of this nature will again occur unto us, and therefore shall not be here farther insisted on. Having, therefore, proved that God hath promised a plentiful dispensation of his Spirit unto believers under the New Testament, to enable them to pray according unto his mind; and that, in general, this promise is accomplished in and towards all the children of God; it remaineth, in the second place, as to what we have proposed, that we declare what is the work of the Holy Ghost in them unto this end and purpose, or how he is unto us a Spirit of prayer or supplication.
The nature of prayer. Rom. viii. 26. opened and vindicated.
PRAYER, at present, I take to be a gift, ability, or spiritual faculty of exercising faith, love, reverence, fear, delight, and other graces in a way of vocal requests, supplications, and praises unto God. In every thing making our request known unto God; Phil.
This gift and ability, I affirm to be bestowed, and this work by virtue thereof to be wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, in the accomplishment of the promise insisted on, so crying 'Abba Father' in them that do believe. And this is that which we are to give an account of, wherein we shall assert nothing but what the Scripture plainly goeth before us in, and what the experience of believers duly exercised in duties of obedience, doth confirm. And in the issue of our endeavour, we shall leave it unto the judgment of God and his church, whether they are ecstatical, enthusiastical, unaccountable raptures that we plead for, or a real gracious effect and work of the Holy Spirit of God.
The first thing we ascribe unto the Spirit herein is, that he supplieth and furnisheth the mind, with a due comprehension of the matter of prayer, or what ought, both in general, and as unto all our particular occasions, to be prayed for. Without this, I suppose it will be granted, that no man can pray as he ought. For how can any man pray, that knows not what to pray for? Where there is not a comprehension hereof, the very nature and being of prayer is destroyed. And herein the testimony of the apostle is express; Rom. viii. 26. Likewise also the Spirit helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groans that cannot be uttered.'
It is that expression only which at present I urge, 'We know not what we should pray for as we ought.' This is generally supposed to be otherwise; namely, that men know well enough what they ought to pray for, only they are wicked and careless, and will not pray for what they know
they ought so to do. I shall make no excuse or apology for the wickedness and carelessness of men, which without doubt are abominable. But yet I must abide by the truth asserted by the apostle, which I shall farther evidence immediately, namely, that without the especial aid and assistance of the Holy Spirit 'no man knoweth what to pray for as he ought.'
But yet there is another relief in this matter, and so no need of any work of the Holy Ghost therein. And we shall be accounted impudent, if we ascribe any thing unto him, whereof there is the least colourable pretence, that it may be otherwise effected or provided for: so great an unwillingness is there to allow him either place, work, or office in the Christian religion, or the practice of it. Wherefore, it is pretended that although men do not of themselves know what to pray for, yet this defect may be supplied in a prescript form of words, prepared on purpose to teach, and confine men unto what they are to pray for.
We may, therefore, dismiss the Holy Spirit and his assistance as unto this concernment of prayer; for the due matter of it may be so set down and fixed on ink and paper, that the meanest capacity cannot miss of his duty therein. This, therefore, is that which is to be tried in our ensuing discourse; namely, that whereas it is plainly affirmed that we know not of ourselves what we should pray for as we ought' (which I judge to be universally true, as unto all persons, as well those who prescribe prayers, as those unto whom they are prescribed), and that the Holy Spirit helps. and relieveth us herein, whether we may or ought to relinquish and neglect his assistance, and so to rely only on such supplies as are invented or used unto that end, for which he is promised; that is plainly, whether the word of God be to be trusted unto in this matter or not.
It is true, that whatever we ought to pray for,' is declared in the Scripture; yea, and summarily comprised in the Lord's prayer. But it is one thing to have what we ought to pray for in the book; another thing to have it in our minds and hearts, without which it will never be unto us, the due matter of prayer. It is out of the abundance of the heart' that the mouth must speak in this matter; Matt. xii. 34. There is, therefore, in us a threefold defect with respect unto the matter of prayer; which is supplied by the Holy Spirit,