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By sentences that savor too much of party zeal, I mean such as would be useless, if not offensive to Christians of different judgments, thut join with us in prayer; we should not in our prayers too much insist on the corruptions of doctrine and worship in any church, when some of that communion join with us, especially on any point directly in dispute, between different denominations; as when Pedobaptists, and Baptists, are worship. ping together. Our prayers should not savor of anger and uncharitableness; for we “ to lift up holy hands without wrath.” 1 Tim. ii. 8.
When I recommend such expressions as are easy to be understood, it is evident that you should avoid long and entangled sentences; and place your thoughts and words in such an order as the heart of the hearers may be able to receive and join in the worship, as fast as their ears receive the words. As in all our conversations, and conferences, and discourses, we should labor to make every thing we say to be understood immediately; so especially in prayer, where the affections should be moved, which cannot well be done if the judgment must take much pains to understand the meaning of what is said.
Rule 3. Let your language be grave and decent; which is a medium between magnificence and meanness. Let it be plain, but not coarse. Let it be clear, but not at all lofty and glittering. Job speaks of “choosing his words to reason with God.” Job ix. 14. Some words are choice and beautiful, others are unseemly and disagreeable Have a care of all wild, irregular, and vain expres
sions, that are unsuited to so solemn a part of worship. The best direction I can give you in this case is, to make use of such language as you generally use in your serious discourses upon religious subjects, when you confer with one another about the things of God. For then the mind is composed to gravity, and the tongue should answer and interpret the mind. The language of a Christian in prayer, is the clothing of his thoughts, or the dress of the soul; and it should be composed like the dress of his body, decent and neat, but not pompous nor gaudy ; simple and plain, but not careless, uncleanly, or rude.
Avoid, therefore, glittering language and affected style. When you address God in worship, it is a fault to be ever borrowing phrases from the theatre and profane poets. This does not seem to be the language of Canaan. Many of their expressions are too light, and wild, and airy, for so awful a duty. An excessive fondness of elegance, and finery of style in prayer, discovers the same pride and vanity of mind, as an affectation of many jewels and fine apparel in the house of God; it betrays us into neglect of our hearts, and of experimental religion, by an affectation to make the nicest speech, and say the finest things we can,
instead of sincere devotion, and praying in the spirit. Besides, if we will deal in lofty phrases, scripture itself sufficiently abounds with
and these are the most agreeable to God, •and most affecting to his own people.
Avoid mean and coarse, and too familiar expressions ; such as excite any contemptible or ridiculous ideas; and such as raise any improper
or irregular thoughts in the mind, or base and improper images—for these much injure the devotion of our fellow-worshippers. And it is very culpable negligence to speak to God in such a rude and unseemly manner as would ill become us in the presence of our fellow-creatures, when we address our selves to them: not but that God hears the language of the meanest soul in secret, though he is not capable of expressing himself with all the decencies that are to be desired ; yet it is certain, that we ought to seek to furnish ourselves with becoming methods of expression, that so our performance of this duty may be rendered pleasing to those with whom we worship ; and there is no necessity for being rough and slovenly, in order to be sincere. Some have been guilty of great indecencies, and exposed religion to profane scoffs, by a too familiar mention of the name of Christ, and by irreverent freedoms when they speak to God. I cannot approve of the phrases of “rolling upon Christ, of swimming upon Christ to dry land, of taking a lease of Christ for all eternity.” I think we may fulfil that command of coming boldly to the throne of grace without such language, that can hardly be justified from rudeness and immodesty. Persons are sometimes in danger of indecencies, in borrowing mean and trivial or uncleanly similitudes; they rake all the sins of loathsomeness to fetch metaphors for their sins, and praying for the coming of Christ, they fold up the heavens like an old cloak, and shovel. days out of the way. By these few instances you may learn what to avoid; and remember that words as well as things, grow old and uncomely;
and some expressions that might appear decent threescore years ago, would be highly improper and offensive to tho ears of the present age. It is, therefore, no sufficient apology for these phrases, that men of great learning and most eminent piety have made use of them.
Rule 4. Seek after those ways of expression that are pathetical: such as denote the fervency of affection, and carry life and spirit with them: such as may awaken and exercise our love, our hope, our holy joy, our sorrow, our fear, and our faith, as well as express the activity of those graces. This is the way to raise, assist, and maintain devotion. We should therefore avoid such a sort of style as looks more like preaching, which some persons that affect long prayers, have been guilty of to a great degree. They have been speaking to the ople, and teaching them the doctrines of religion, and the mind and will of God, rather than speaking to God the desires of their own minds. They have wandered away from God to preach to men. But this is quite contrary to the nature of
is our own address to God, declaring our sense of divine things, and pouring out our hearts before him with warm and proper affections. And there are several modes of expression that promote this end. As,
1. Exclamations, which serve to set forth an affectionate wonder, a sudden surprise, or violent impression of any thing on the mind. "O how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee!” Ps. lxxxi. 19. “How precious are thy thoughts to me, O God; how great is the sum of them!” Ps. cxxxix. 17, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?” Rom. vii. 24.
2. Interrogations, when the plain sense of any thing we declare unto God is turned into a question, to make it more emphatical and affecting. “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Whither shall I flee from thy presence?-Do I not hate them that hate thee?” Ps. cxxxix. 7, 21. “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Rom. vii. 24.
3. Appeals to God, concerning our own wants or sorrows, our sincere and deep sense of the things we speak to him. “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.” John, xxi. 17. So David appeals to God. Ps. lxix. 5. “My sins are not hid from thee.” Ps. lvi. 8. “Thou tellest all our travels, or our wandering3; are not my tears in thy book?” Job, x. 7. Thou knowest that I am not wicked: my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high.” Job, xvi. 19.
4. Expostulations, which are indeed one particular sort of interrogations, and are fit to express not only deep dejections of the mind, but to enforce any argument that is used in pleading with God, either for mercy for his saints, or the destruction of his enemies. “Look down from heaven, behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory, where is thy zeal and thy strength? The sounding of thy bowels and thy mercies towards me, are they restrained? O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our hearts from thy fear?” Isa. lxiii. 15. 17. “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm