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I have now finished the observations, which I thought proper to make concerning forms of prayer, and concerning the Lord's prayer, considered as either requiring, or warranting, us to pray by a form. It may, however, be proper to add, as a mere opinion of my own, that it is perfectly proper, and will be wise, for all such persons, as are in danger of losing their self-possession, or of being otherwise embarrassed, when they are to perform this duty, whether in public, or in private, to obtain well written forms of prayer; and make them their directories in the performance of this duty. This practice I should recommend also, so long as the danger of embarrassment should continue ; even if it should continue through life. To pray by a form may not be the best method of directing this duty at large ; and may yet be the best method, which, in given circumstances, will be in our power. It certainly will be far more desirable to use a form of prayer, than to pray in an embarrassed and interrupted
In the beginning of this discourse, I have suggested, that the Lord's prayer was intended to teach us the subjects, the spirit, and the manner, of our prayers. Concerning the subjects we are taught particularly, that we ought to pray continually, and extensively, for the prosperity of the kingdom and worship of God, and the conversion and obedience of mankind; to ask daily for our daily bread; for the forgiveness of our sins; for a spirit of forgiveness towards others; for security against temptation; and for protection and deliverance from evil, both natural and moral. We are also here directed to look to God, as our Father and Friend, for parental love, tenderness, and blessings; and to rejoice that the kingdom, the power, and the glory, are his, and will be his only, and for ever.
These things are all plainly taught in this very remarkable form of prayer. They are, however, far from being all that are taught. No composition, it is presumed ever contained more, or more valuable instruction. Among the truths, which are obviously involved in it, are the following.
1. That we are not to expect a gracious audience of God for our much speaking, but for the sincerity, humility, and piety, witly
which we pray.
2. That all places, where we can pray with decency, and without ostentation and interruption, are proper places for the performance of this duty.
All men are to use this prayer, at least in substance : but all men cannot resort for this purpose to the Temple of Jerusalem, to a Church, nor to any other places, supposed to be consecrated.
3. That prayer is a social employment.
Our Father is the language of numbers; of a family, or of a congregation; not of an individual. Similar phraseology runs, also, through the whole form.
4. That we are to pray for others.
Three of these petitions are employed as prayer for others; viz. the three first.
5. That we are equally dependent on God for spiritual good, as for temporal; and for safety from moral, as well as from natural, evil.
6. That our desires for natural good must always be moderate and humble.
We are here taught to pray daily, not for wealth, but for daily bread.
7. That we cannot pray acceptably, unless we exercise a spirit of forgiveness towards our enemies.
8. That we are to pray equally for those things, which God has foretold, as for those, which to us are unknown and uncertain.
God has foretold, that his name shall be hallowed, his kingdom come, and his will be done, in the manner here specified: yet for these things we are directed to pray.
9. That the predetermination of God, therefore, ought never to be a hindrance, nor discouragement, to prayer.
That God has predetermined, that his kingdom shall be built up, his name hallowed, and his will done, throughout the earth, will not be questioned by any man, who reads and believes, the Bible. Yet for these things we are here required to pray.
Finally. We are taught by this prayer, that he, who does not sincerely desire that the name of God may be hallowed, that his kingdom may come, and his will be done ; who cannot heartily rejoice, that the kingdom, the power, and the glory, are his, and will be his, throughout eternity; and who cannot subjoin to all these things his own solemn Amen ; does not, and cannot, pray in the manner, required by the Redeemer of mankind.
THE ORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.
INTERCOURSE WITH RELIGIOUS MEN.
PROVERBS xiii. 20.
He, that walketh with wise men, shall be wise.
Having finished the proposed examination of the great Christian duty of Prayer, I shall now proceed to the next subject in the order formerly mentioned : viz.
Intercourse with religious men.
The text informs us, that he, who walketh with wise men, shall be wise. Wisdom, it is well known, is extensively employed by the divine writers, particularly by Solomon, to denote Religion. Wise men, therefore, are, in the language of the Scriptures, Religious men.
To walk, denotes, in the same language, to converse familiarly, and frequently, or to have our whole course of life intimately and familiarly connected, with the persons, or objects, wilh whom, or amid which, we are supposed to walk.
The following doctrine is, therefore, obviously contained in the text, That he who lives, and converses, frequently, and intimately, with religious men, may ordinarily be expected to become religious. The declaration in the text is absolute: but I underVor: V.
stand such declarations, as usually meaning no more than I have here expressed. Thus, Train up a child in the way, he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it, another expression of the same nature, intends not, that every child, thus educated, will certainly become religious, but that this will ordinarily be the fact, and may, therefore, always be fairly expected.
There are two senses, in which the text, without any violence, may be understood : the obvious one,
That persons, hitherto destitute of religion, will assume this character; and the more remote one,
That persons, already religious, will by this intercourse become more so. He, that walketh with wise men, shall be wise : that is, emphatically, or eminently.
I shall take the liberty to consider the subject with respect to both these senses.
I. Those, who are destitute of religion, and converse frequently, and religiously, with religious men, may ordinarily be expected to become religious.
In proof of this position, I observe,
1. Religion, in the conduct of a man, really and eminently possessed of this character, appears to others to be real.
The Bible exhibits religion with abundant proof, and with supreme force and beauty. It presents this great subject to us in the form of doctrines, precepts, and, so far as history can furnish them, of examples also. It presents us, at the same time, with the most satisfactory arguments, to prove that these exhibitions are made by the hand of God himself. Still, although the mind is unable to deny the sufficiency, force, and beauty, of the representation, or to refute the arguments by which it is supported, it can withdraw itself from both; and in this manner can avoid the conviction, which it is intended to produce, and the emotions, which it is fitted to inspire. The subject is naturally uncongenial to the taste of man: and from every such subject, man almost instinctively wishes to withdraw his attention, and turn his eye away. To do this is almost always in his power; and however dangerous may be the conduct, and however desirahle the contrary conduct, will, almost of course, be the dictate