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THERE was no need that my Expositions and Sermons should be every-where spread abroad throughout the whole world, as there were so many books in our. hands, that were so useful and proper to be set before. the people. But I know not by what permission of God it is that it has fallen to my lot, that my words should be every way caught hold of and handed about; by some through friendship, and by others through enmity. Wherefore a certain coincidence of circumstances induced me to publish abroad also this my little COMMENTARY on the LORD'S PRAYER; which before was put into the hands of a few friends only, who were good men. And this I now do, that I might the more fully make known my sentiments, and, if possible, serve those also who are my rivals: for it was always my maxim to profit all, and injure no one.
When the disciples of Christ asked him that he would teach them how to pray; he said, Matt. vi. 79, "When ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your heavenly Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye,
Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy
From these words of Christ, we learn both the words and the manner: that is, how we ought to pray and what we ought to pray for.
And FIRST, concerning the manner in which we ought to pray. This manner is,-that we pray in few words, but with a true and deep sense or feeling sensation. The fewer the words the more real the prayer. And, the more the words, the less real the prayer. Το pray with a few words and with a deep sensation, is to pray as a Christian. But, tó pray in many words and with little sensation, is to pray as a heathen. Therefore,, Christ saith, "When ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do." And, John iv. 23, he saith, "The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship him."And the prayer" in spirit," or spiritual prayer, is here mentioned in contradistinction to that which is bodily only and the prayer "in truth" to that which is only in feigned words. For feigned or bodily prayer is that external murmuring or rehearsing which is performed by the mouth only without any feeling sensation: it is seen outwardly by man, and is performed by the bodily mouth, but is not prayer "in truth." But spiritual prayer is prayer" in truth," and is that inward desire, groan, and expectation which proceed from the heart. The former, makes a vain and secure spirit; the latter, makes a man a saint and a fearing son of God. But we may here observe the different kinds of external prayer.
The first, is that which is of mere obedience: like that of the priests and monks when they sing and pray, and perform their enjoined penance and devoted rounds of prayers.
The second, is that which is without obedience, nay, even against the will, and which is heartily nau seated, and is performed either for the sake of money, honour, or applause. Such prayer had far better be left alone altogether than to be thus bawled forth merely for the sake of getting a little pecuniary gain, worldly property, or temporal honour, with which things God rewards his bond-servants, not his sons.
The third, is that which is attended with a heartfelt sensation. Then, the external form of words becomes
truth, and the external act an internal exercise. Nay it is the internal "truth" expressed outwardly, and shining forth in the external form. But it cannot be that one praying thus spiritually and inwardly should use many words for while the mind is attending to what is spoken, and employing its thoughts in an attention to words and things, it finds the necessity, either of disregarding the words and attending to the feelings, or, on the contrary, of disregarding the feelings and attending to the words. And therefore, these verbal prayers are to be understood and considered no farther than as being certain incitements and exhortations to stir us up to a feeling sense of, and to draw out the affection of the mind after, those things which the words contain. Hence it is, that most of the Psalms have this Inscription or Title,Of Victory,'' Hallelujah," &c. which, although they be expressed in few words, yet they are designed to stir up and quicken the mind to the meditating on, and desiring of, something good. And some of the Psalms also are divided into different parts by the mark-word Sela!' which signifies rest," and is neither read nor sung, but is intended to be as a word of admonition, whereby the people, where any thing particularly worthy of notice occurs, are desired to stop or rest for a time, and omit the rehearsal while they pause for meditation.
But SECONDLY, we have here the words in which we ought to pray. The words are these, "Our Father which art in heaven," &c.--As this Prayer has its origin from Christ, it ought undoubtedly to be considered the greatest, most excellent, and best of all prayers; for if that most perfect and faithful Master had known any prayer that was better, he certainly would have taught it us. Not that we are to understand by this, that other prayers which are not after this form of words are bad." Because, very many saints put up prayers before the nativity of Christ who had never heard of these words at all. But all those prayers are to be suspected which do not contain and embrace the inward spirit, design, and substance of this prayer. Thus, all the Psalms are