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1. A confining ourselves entirely to precomposed forms of prayer.

II. An entire dependence on sudden motions and suggestions of thought.

I. The first extreme to be avoided is, a confining ourselves to set precomposed forms of prayer.

I grant it lawful and prudent for weaker Christians to use a form in prayer, rather than not perform that duty at all. Christ himself seems to have indulged it to his disciples, in their infant state of Christianity. [Luke xi. 1, 2, &c.] I grant also, that sometimes the most improved saihts may find their own wants aud desires, and the frames of their own hearts so happily expressed in the words of other men, that they cannot find better ; and may, therefore, in a very pious manner use the same, especially when they labor under a present deadness of spirit, and great indisposition for the duty. It is also evident, that many assistances may be borrowed by younger and elder Christians, from forms of prayer well composed, without the use of the whole form as a prayer. And if I may have leave to speak the language of a judicious author, who wrote more than forty years ago, I would say, with him, “that forms may be useful, and in some cases necessary: for,

1. “Some, even among Christians and professors, are so rude and ignorant, (though it may be spoken to their shame,) that they cannot tolerably express their desires in prayer:-and must such utterly neglect the duty? Is it not better, during their gross ignorance, to use the help of

other gifts and composures, than not to pray at all? Or to utter that which is senseless and impious? I speak it not to excuse their ignorance, or that they should be encouraged to rest satisfied herein, but for the present necessity.

2. “Some again, though they can do it privately, and so far as may suffice in their secret addresses to God; yet, when they are to pray before others, want either dexterity or fitness of expression, readiness of utterance, or confidence to use those abilities they have, whom yet I will not excuse from a sinful bashfulness.

3. “It is possible that some bodily distemper or sudden distraction, may befall such as are otherwise able, which may becloud their minds, weaken their memories, and dull their parts, that they may be unfit to express themselves extemporary conceptions. This may happen in cases of melancholy, cold, palsies, or the like distempers.

“ I conclude then, that in the cases aforesaid, or the like, a form may be profitable and helpful. Nor is it a tying up of the Spirit, but if conscientiously used, may be both attended with the Spirit's assistance, and find acceptance with God. Yet it will not hence follow, that any should satisfy themselves in such stated and stinted forms : Much less, that those who have praying abilities, should be enforced by others to rest in them. If ignorance, bashfulness, defect of memory, or other distempers, may render it excusable and necessary to some, is it fii that all should rest in their measure? Where then will be that coveting earnestly the best gifts? or why should those that

are excellently gifted that way, be hindered from the use and exercise of that gift, because others want it?"

Thus far this worthy writer. Now though the use of forms in such cases be not unlawful, yet a perpetual confinement to them will be attended with such inconveniences as these:

1. It much hinders the free exercise of our own thoughts and desires, which is the chief work and business of prayer, viz. to express our desires to God: and whereas our thoughts and affections should direct our words, a set form of words directs our thoughts and affections; and while we bind ourselves to those words only, we damp our inward devotion, and prevent the holy fire from kindling within us; we discourage our active powers and passions from running out on divine subjects, and check the breathings of our souls heaven-ward. The wise man tells us us, Prov. xiv. 10, “ The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger intermeddles not with its joy." There are secret joys and unknown bitterness, which the holy soul longs to spread before God, and for which it cannot find any exact and correspondent expressions in the best of prayer books: Now must such a Christian suppress all those thoughts, and forbid himself all that sweet conversation with his God, because it is not written down in the appointed form?

2. The thoughts and affections of the heart that are truly pious and sincere, are wrought in us by the Spirit of God; and if we deny them utterance, because they are not found in prayer books, we run the danger of resisting the Holy


Ghost, quenching the Holy Spirit, and fighting against the kind designs of God towards us, which we are so expressly cautioned against, [1 Thess. v. 19.] and which an humble Christian trembles to think of.

3. A confinement to form cramps and imprisons those powers that God hath given us for improvement and use ; it silences our natural abilities, and forbids them to act; and it puts a bar upon our spiritual faculties, and prevents their growth. To satisfy ourselves with mere forms, to confine ourselves wholly to them, and neglect to stir up and improve our own gifts, is one kind of spiritual sloth, and highly to be disapproved. It is hiding a talent in the earth, which God has given us on purpose to carry on a trade with heav

It is an abuse of our knowledge of divine things, to neglect the use of it in our converse with God. It is as if a man that had once used crutches to support him when he was feeble, would always use them; or because he has sometimes found his own thoughts happily expressed in conversation with another person, therefore he will assent to what the other person shall always speak, and never speak his own thoughts himself.

4. It leads us into the danger of hypocrisy, and mere lip-service. Sometimes we shall be tempted to express those things which are not the very thoughts of our own souls, and so use words that are not suited to our present wants, or sorrows, or requests; because those words are put together and made ready before-hand.

5. The confinement of ourselves to a form.

though it is not always attended with formality and indifference, yet it is very apt to make our spirits cold and flat, formal and indifferent in our devotion. The frequent repetition of the same words doth not always awaken the same affections in our hearts, which perhaps they were well suited to do, when we first heard, or made use of them. When we continually tread one constant road of sentences, or track of expressions, they become like an old beaten path in which we daily travel, and we are ready to walk on without particular notice of the several paths of the way; so in our daily repetition of a form, we neglect due attention to the full sense of the words. But there is something more suited to awaken the attention of the mind in a conceived prayer: when a Christian is making his own way toward God, according to the present inclination of his soul, and urgency of his present wants; and to use the words of a writer lately cited, “While we are clothing the sense of our hearts in fit expressions, and, as it were, diging the matter of our prayers out of our own feelings and experiences, it must needs keep the heart closer at work."

6. The duty of prayer is very useful to discover to us the frame of our own spirits; but a constant use of forms will much hinder our knowledge of ourselves, and prevent our acquaintance with our own hearts; which is one great spring of maintaining inward religion in the power of it.

Daily observation of our own spirits, would teach us what our wants are, and how to frame our prayers before God; but if we tie ourselves down to the same words always,

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