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stands in no need of us; and yet he condescends to confer perpetual benefits upon us; that he is Sovereign and might dispose of his favors to thousands, and leave us out of the nunber of his favorites: That we are as vile and unworthy as others, and that our God beholds all our unwor. thiness, all our guilt, our repeated provocations, and his past mercies abused, and yet he continues to have mercy upun us, and waits to be gracious.
The eighth part of prayer consists in Blessing of God; which has a distinct sense from praise or adoration, and is distinguished also from thanksgiving. In Psalm cxlv. 10, it is said, “ All thy works praise thee, and thy saints bless thee;" i. e. Even the inanimate creation which are the works of God, manifest his attributes and praises; but his saints do something more ; they bless his name: which part of worship consists in these two things:
1. In mentioning the sereral attributes and glories of God with inward joy, satisfaction and pleasure. “ We delight O Lord to see thy name honored in the world, and we rejoice in thy real excellencies; we take pleasure to see thee exalted above all ; we triumph in the several perfections of thy nature, and we give thanks at the remembrance of thine holiness.” Thus we rejoice and bless the Lord for what is in himself, as well as for what he has done for us: And this is the most divine and unselfish act of worship.
2. Wishing the glories of God may forever continue, and rejoicing at the assurance of it. “May the name of God be forever blest ! May the kingdom, and the power, and the glory be forever ascribed to him ! May all the generations call him honorable, and make his name glorious in the earth. To thee, O Father, Son and Holy Spirit, belong everlasting power and honor.”
AMEN, OR THE CONCLUSION,
We are taught in several places of Scripture, to conclude our prayers with Amen ; which is a Hebrew word, that signifies Truth, or Faithfulness, Certainly, Surely, Sc. and it implies in it these four things.
1. A belief of all that we have said concerning God and ourselves ; of all our ascriptions of hon. or to God, in the mention of his name, and attributes and work; and a sensible inward persuasion of our own unworthiness, our wants and our sorrows, which we have before expressed.
2. A wishing and desiring to obtain all that we have prayed for, longing after it, and looking for it. “ Lord, let it be thus as we have said,” is the language of this little word, Amen, in the end of our prayers.
3. A confirmation of all our professions, promises and engagements to God. It is used as the form of the oath of God in some places in Scripture: - Verily, or surely, in blessing I will blesy
thee;" Heb. vi. 14. And it is, as it were, a šplemn oath on our lips, binding ourselves to the Lord, according to the professions that we have made in the foregoing part of worship.
4. It implics also the hope and sure expectation of the acceptance of our persons, and audience of our prayers. For while we thus confirm the dedication of ourselves to God, we also humbly lay claim to his accomplishment of the promises of his covenant, and expect and wait that he will fulfil all our petitions, so far as they are agreeable to our truest interest, and the designs of his own glory.
OF THE GIFT OF PRAYER.
Having already spoken of the nature of prayer, and distinguished it into its several parts, I proceed to give some account of the gift or ability to pray.
This holy skill of speaking to God in prayer, hath been usually called a gift: and upon this account, it hath been represented by the weakness and folly of some persons, like the gift of miracles, or prophecy, which are entirely the effects of divine inspiration; wholly out of our reach, and unattainable by our utmost endeavors. The malice of others hath hereupon taken occasion to reproach all pretences to it as vain fancies, and wild enthusiasm. But I shall attempt to give so rational account of it in the following sections, and lay down such plain directions how to at
tain it, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and his blessing on our own diligence and labor, that I hope those prejudices may be taken off, and the unjust reproach be wiped away forever.
WHAT THE GIFT OF PRAYER IS.
The Gift of Prayer may be thus described:
It is an ability to suit our thoughts to all the various parts and designs of this duty, and readiness to express those thoughts before God in the fittest manner, to profit our own souls, and the souls of others that join with us.
It is called a gift, because it was bestowed on the Apostles and primitive Christians, in an immediate and extraordinary manner, by the Spirit of God; and partly because there is the ordinary assistance of the Spirit of God required, even to the attainment of this holy skill, or ability to pray.
In the first propagation of the gospel, it pleased the Spirit of God to bestow various powers and abilities on believers; and these were called the gifts of the Spirit. 1 Cor. xii. 4, 8, 9. Such were the gifts of preaching, of exhortation, of psalmody, i. e. of making and singing of psalms, of healing the sick, of speaking several tongues, &c. Now, though these were given to men at once, in an extraordinary way then, and the habits wrought in them, by immediate Divine power, made them capable of exerting several acts proper thereto, on just occasions; yet these powers or abilities of speaking several tongues, of psalmody, of preaching and healing, are now to be obtained by human diligence, with due dependence on the concuring blessing of God. And the same must be said concerning the gift or faculty of prayer.
As the art of medicine or healing is founded on the knowledge of natural principles, and made up of several rules drawn from the nature of chings, from reason and observation; so the art of preaching is learned and attained by the knowledge of divine principles, and the use of rules and directions for explaining and applying divine truths: and so the holy skill of prayer is built on a knowledge of God and ourselves, and may be taught in as rational method, by proper directions and rules. But because, in a special manner, we expect the aids of the Holy Spirit, in things so serious and sacred, therefore the faculties of preaching and praying are called the Gifts of the Spirit, even to this day ; whereas, that word is not now-a-days applied to the art of medicine or skill in the languages.
OF FORMS OF PRAYER, OR FREE OR CONCEIVED
PRAYER, AND PRAYING EXTEMPORE. The gift of Prayer is one of the noblest and most useful in the Christian life, and therefore to be sought with earnest desire and diligence; and in order to obtain it, we must avoid these two