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of the Lord: Art not thou it that liath cut Rahab and wounded the dragon? Art thou not it that hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep?" Isa. li. 9, 10. “Will the Lord cast off forever, and will he be favorable no more?” Ps. lxxvii. 8. “O Lord God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry?" Ps. lxxx. 4. “Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction?” Ps. xliv. 24. God invites his people thus to argue with him. “Come, now, let us reason together, saith the Lord.” Isa. i. 18. And holy men, in humble and reverent expostulations, have, with many reasons, pleaded their cause before God; and their words are recorded as our patterns.
5. Options or wishes, fit to set forth serious and earnest desires. “O that I might have my request!” Job, vi. 8. “O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!” Ps. cxix. 5.
6. Apostrophes; that is, when in the midst of our addresses to God, we turn off the speech abruptly to our own souls, being led by the vehemence of some sudden devout thought. So David, in the beginning of Psalm xvi. “Preserve me, 0, God; for in thee do I put my trust.
my soul, thou hast said to the Lord, thou art my Lord,” &c. In meditations, psalms, hymns, or other devotional compositions, these apostrophes may be longer and more frequent: but in prayer they should be very short, except when the speech is turned from one person of the blessed Trinity to another. Thus—“Great God, hast thou not promised, that thy Son shall have the heathen for his inheritance, and that he should rule the nations? Blessed Jesus, how long ere thou assumest this kingdom? When wilt thou send thy Spirit to enlighted and convert the world? When, O eternal Spirit, wilt thou come and shed abroad thy light and thy grace, through all the earth?”
7. Ingeminations, or redoubling our expressions, which argue an eager and inflamed affection “O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth, O God to whom vengeance belongeth, show thyself.” Ps. xciv. 1, 2. “My soul waits for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning; I say, more than they that watch for the morning.” Ps. cxxx. 6. And the conclusion of Psalm lxxii. is, “Blessed be the Lord forevermore; amen, and amen." But here let us take care to distinguish between those repetitions that arise from real fervency of spirit, and those that are used merely to lengthen out a prayer, or that arise from mere barrenness of heart, the want of matter. It is far better, at least in public prayer, to yield to our present indisposition, and shorten the duty, than to fill up our time with constant repetitions: such as, “O Lord, our God, if it be thy blessed will, we entreat thee, we beseech thee, O Lord, have mercy upon us.” For though some of these expressions may be properly enough repeated several times in a prayer, yet filling up every empty space, by stretching out almost every sentence with them, is not agreeable to our fellowworshippers, nor an ornament, nor a help to our devotion, or theirs.
Rule 5. Do not always confine yourselves to one set form of words, to express any particular request, nor take too much pains to avoid an expression, merely because you have used it in prayer heretofore. Be not over fond of a nice uniformity of words, nor of perpetual diversity of expression in every prayer. It is best to keep the middle, between these two extremes. We should seek indeed to be furnished with a rich variety of holy language, that our prayers may always have something new, and something entertaining in them, and not tie ourselves to express one thing always in one set of words, lest this make us grow formal and dull, and indifferent in those petitions. But, on the other hand, if we are guilty of a perpetual affectation of new words, which we never before used, we shall sometimes miss our own best and most spiritual meanings, and many times be driven to great impropriety of speech; and at best, our prayers by this mean, will look like the fruit of our fancy and invention, and labor of the head, more than the breathings of the heart. The imitation of those Christians and ministers, that have the best gifts, will be an excellent direction in this, as well as the former cases.
OF THE VOICE IN PRAYER.
The fourth thing to be considered in the gift of prayer, is the voice.
Though the beauty of our expressions, and the tuneableness of our voice, can never render our worship more acceptable to God, the infinite Spirit; yet our natures, being composed of flesh and spirit, may be assisted in worship by the harmony of the voice of him that speaks. Should the matter, method, and expression, be ever so well chosen in prayer, yet it is possible for the voice to spoil the pleasure, and injure the devotion of our fellow-worshippers. When speeches of the best composure, and warmest language, are recited in a cold, harsh, or ungraceful way, the beauty of them is almost lost.
Some persons, by nature, have a very sweet and tuneful voice, that whatsoever they speak appears pleasing Others must take much more pains, and attend with dilligence to rules and directions, that their voice may be formed to an agreeable pronunciation; for we find, by sad experience, that all the advantages that nature can obtain, or apply, to assist our devotions, are all little enough to keep our hearts from wandering, and to maintain delight: at least, it is a necessary duty to know and avoid those disagreeable ways of pronunciation, that may rather disgust than edify such as join with us.
I confess, in secret prayer, there is no necessity of a voice ; for God hears a whisper, as well as a sigh and a groan. Yet some Christians cannot pray with any advantage to themselves, without the use of a voice in some degree ; nor can I judge it at all improper, but rather preferable, so that you
have a convenient place for secrecy: for hereby you will not only excite your own affections the more, but by practice in secret, if you take due care of your voice there, you may also learn to speak in public the better.
The great and general rule I would lay down for managing the voice in prayer, is this: Let us use the same voice with which we usually speak in grave and serious conversation, especially upon pathetical and affecting subjects. This is the best direction that I know, to regulate the sound as well as the words. Our own native and common voice appears most natural, and may be managed with the greatest ease. And some persons have taken occasion to ridicule our worship, and to censure us as hypocrites, when we fondly seek and affect any new and different sort of sounds or voices in our prayers.
The particular directions are such as these:
Direction 1. Let your words be all pronounced distinctly, and not made shorter by cutting off the last syllable ; nor longer by the addition of hems and Oh's ; of long breaths, affected groanings, and useless sounds; of coughing or spitting, &c. which some have heretofore been guilty of, and have sufficiently disgraced religion.
If you cut off and lose the last syllable of your word, or mumble the last words of the sentence, and sink in your voice, so that others cannot hear, they will be ready to think it is because you did not speak properly, and so were afraid to be heard.
If on the other hand, you lengthen out your sentences with ridiculous sounds, you endanger the devotion even of the wisest and the best of your fellow-worshippers, and expose the worship to the profane raillery of idle and corrupt fancies. While you seem to be designing to rub off the roughness of your throat, or to express greater affection by such methods, others will suspect that it is a method only to prolong your senten