factory. And if, on the other hand, free prayer in the church be allowed, it is evident that nothing but the grace and gifts of the Holy Ghost, with a due regard unto the decency of natural circumstances is required in divine service, or can be admitted therein,

Neither yet is this consequent, how inseparable soever it seems from the sole public use of set forms of prayer in sacred administrations, pleaded to prove them either in themselves or their use to be unlawful. The design of this consideration is only to shew, that they have been so far abased, that they are so subject to be abused, and do so alway stand in need to be abused, that they may attain the ends aimed at by them, as much weakens the plea of the necessity of their imposition.

For this also is another evil that hath attended their invention. The guides of the church after a while, were not contented to make use of humanly devised forms of prayer, confining themselves unto their use alone in all public administrations; but moreover they judged it meet to impose the same practice on all whom they esteemed to be under their power. And this at length they thought lawful, yea necessary to do on penalties, ecclesiastical and civil, and in the issue capital. When this injunction first found a prevalent entertainment is very uncertain. For the first two or three centuries there were no systems of composed forms of prayer used in any church whatever, as hath been proved. Afterward, when they began to be generally received, on such grounds, and for such reasons as I shall not here insist on (but may do so in a declaration of the nature and use of spiritual gifts, with their continuance in the church, and an inquiry into the causes of their decay), the authority of some great perons did recommend the use of their compositions unto other churches, even such as had a mind to make use

of them, as they saw good. But as unto this device of their imposition, confining churches not only unto the necessary use of them in general, but unto a certain composition and collection of them, we are beholden for all the advantage received thereby, unto the Popes of Rome alone, among the churches of the second edition. For, from their own good inclination, and by their own authority, without the advice of councils, or pretence of traditions, the two Gorgon's heads, whereby in other cases they frighten poor mortals, and turn them into stones; by various degrees they obtained a right to impose them, and did it accordingly. For when the use and benefit of them had been for a while pleaded, and thence a progress made unto their necessity, it was judged needful that they should be imposed on all churches and Christians by their ecclesiastical authority. But when afterward they had insinuated into them, and lodged in their bowels, the two great idols of transubstantiation and the unbloody sacrifice, not only mulcts personal and pecuniary, but capital punishments, were enacted and executed to enforce their observance. This brought fire and faggot into Christian religion, making havoc of the true church of Christ, and shedding blood of thousands. For the martyrdom of all that have suffered death in the world for their testimony against the idolatries of the mass, derives originally from this spring alone of the necessary imposition of complete liturgical forms of prayer. For this is the sole foundation of the Roman breviary and missal, which have been the Abaddons of the church of Christ in these parts of the world, and are ready once more to be so again. Take away this foundation, and they all fall to the ground. And it is worth consideration, of what kind that principle is, which was naturally improved unto such pernicious effects; which quickly was found to be a meet and effectual engine in

the hand of Satan, to destroy and murder the servants of Christ.

Had the churches of Christ been left unto their primitive liberty under the enjoined duties of reading and expounding the Scripture, of singing psalms unto the praise of God, of the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper, and of diligent preaching the word, all of them with prayer according unto the abilities and spiritual gifts of them who did preside in them, as it is evident that they were for some ages, it is impossible for any man to imagine what evils would have ensued thereon, that might be of any consideration, in comparison of those enormous mischiefs which which followed on the contrary practice. And as unto all the inconveniences, which, as it is pretended, might ensue on this liberty, there is sufficient evangelical provision for their prevention or cure, made in the gospel constitution and communion of all the true churches of Christ.

But this was not the whole of the evil that attended this imposition. For by this means all spiritual ministerial gifts were caused to cease in the church. For as they are talents given to trade withal, or manifestations of the Spirit given to profit or edify the church, they will not reside in any subject, they will not abide, if they are by any received, if they are not improved by continual exercise. We see every day what effects the contempt or neglect of them doth produce. Wherefore, this exercise of them being restrained and excluded by this imposition, they were utterly lost in the church; so as that it was looked on a rare thing for any one to be able to pray in the administration of divine worship; yea, the pretence of such an ability was esteemed a crime, and the exercise of it a sin, scarce to be pardoned; yet do I not find it in any of the ancient canons reckoned among the faults for which a

bishop or a presbyter were to be deposed. But that hereon arose in those who were called to officiate in public assemblies, as unto the gifts which they had received for the edification of the church in divine administrations, that neglect which hath given a fatal wound unto the light and holiness of it, is openly evident. For when the generality of men of that order, had provision of prayers made for them, which they purchased at an easy rate, or had them provided for them at the charge of the people, they were contented to be at rest, freed from that labour and travail of mind, which are required unto the constant exercise and improvement of spiritual gifts. This imposition was the grave wherein they were buried. For at length, as it is manifest in the event, our Lord Jesus Christ being provoked with their sloth and unbelief, did withhold the communication of such gifts from the generality of those who did officiate in divine worship. And hereby they lost also one great evidence of the continuance of his mediatory life in heaven for the preservation of the church.

It is known that this was and is the state of things in the Roman church, with reference unto their whole worship in their public assemblies. And, therefore, although they have indulged divers enthusiasts, whose revelations and actings, pretended from the Holy Spirit, have tended to the confirmation of their superstitions; and some of them have ventured at notions about mental prayer which they understand not themselves; yet as unto free prayer by the assistance of the Holy Ghost, in the church assemblies or otherwise, they were the first, and continue to be the fiercest, opposers of it; and it is their interest so to be. For shake this foundation of the imposition of an entire system of humanly devised prayers for the only way and means of the worship of the church, and the whole fabric of the mass, with all the weight of their religion (if vanity and

imagination may be said to have any weight), which is laid thereon, will tumble into the pit from whence it came. And therefore, I must here acquaint the reader, that the first occasion of writing this Discourse, was the perusal of Mr. Cressie's Preface to his Church History; wherein, out of a design to advance the pretended mental prayer of some of his enthusiasts, he reflects with much contumely and reproach upon that free praying by the aids of the Spirit of God which we plead for. And he will find that all his pretences are examined in the latter part of this Discourse.

But notwithstanding these things, those of the Roman church do at this day boast themselves of their devotions in their prayers private and public; and have prevailed thereby on many disposed unto a compliance with them, by their own guilt, ignorance, and superstition. The vanity of their pretence hath been well detected by evincing the idolatry whereby all or the most of their devotions are vitiated and rendered unacceptable. But this also is of weight with me, that the provision of the system and order of their whole devotion, and its exercise, is apparently composed and fitted unto the exclusion of the whole work of the Spirit of God in prayer. And yet do they continue under an incredible delusion as to oppose, revile, and condemn the prayers of others who are not of their communion, on this consideration, that those who make them, have not the Holy Spirit nor his aids, which are all confined unto their church. But if any society of men in the world, maintaining the outward profession of Christian religion, can do more to exclude the Holy Ghost and all his operations, in prayer and divine worship, than their church hath done, I shall acknowledge myself greatly mistaken. It is nothing but ignorance of him and his whole work, with all the ends for which he is promised unto the church (that I say not a ha

« VorigeDoorgaan »