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appointment of occasion and time of publick prayer; making the performance of it, on any occasion or time, dependent on certain emotions of the mind, which may or may not be felt; and which, when felt, are ascribed to the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit: and secondly, of those who consent to the appointment of time and place, but contend for the right of the officiating minister, to dictate the devotions to be offered; without being overruled in this respect by the will of the Church at large, declared in a prescribed form.
In regard to the former of these opinions, subjecting publick prayer to the uncertainty of present feeling; it would be in vain to argue from set times under the law; because the ground on which the opinion rests, is that of the higher genius of Christianity. And yet, if holy men under the preceding dispensation are to be put entirely out of the account; it might have been expected, that respect would be paid to the countenance extended to the same worship, by the divine founder of the new and better dispensation of the gospel. Our Lord gave attendance on the publick worship of his countrymen: and this, after he had delivered instructions on the subject of prayer; which were designed to be operative in his Church to the end of time.
The record of the delivery of the instructions referred to, is very much to the present point: as is also the circumstance which gave occasion to them. The circumstance is thus recorded by St. Luke, in the eleventh chapter, and first verse" And it came to pass, when he [Jesus] was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." Here was a juncture, eminently favourable to the opening to the disciples, of the true nature of prayer: and if John the baptist can be supposed to have erred, in giving a sensible directory in regard to the exercise, instead of referring to a sufficient guide within; it may be presumed, that his heavenly master would now have rectified the errour; instead of sanctioning
it to those his followers, by whom it would be handed down from age to age. For there immediately follows the unparalleled composition, known by the name of the Lord's Prayer. It is not here forgotten, that some affirm of this, its being rather a pattern, than a prescribed form. Although the errour of this sentiment was noticed in another lecture, and will be again referred to, yet the distinction is irrelative to the present question. The professors now in view, reject all preparation for the holy exercise; except that of waiting on the divine spirit, who is supposed to suggest immediately to the mind of the supplicant, both the matter and the form of his petitions. What is here contended for is, that on this ground, there was no room, either for the request of the disciples, or for the instructions consequently given.
When social prayer is mentioned in the New Testament, there is generally some attendant circumstance, making the sentiment inconsistent with the principle here opposed. For instance, in one place, where St. Paul is giving to Timothy instructions for the government of Churches, he tells him-"I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks, be made for all men."* Here is an enjoined part of publick worship; of which we nevertheless hear it affirmed, that without a sensible call, there should be no vocal expression accompanying the act. Now such a supposition ill agrees with the apostle's view in writing. This, as may appear from what follows in the chapter, was to give directions, not only which should be obeyed in the Church; but which Timothy, through whom they were given, should cause to be carried into effect. But this was beyond his power, as to the retired movements of the mind.
Again, the same apostle, in the first epistle to the Corinthians, speaks of their "coming together into one place," for the express purpose of "eating the Lord's Supper;"+ although he denies, that what was done by
# 1 ii, 1.
† xi. 20.
them amounted to such a solemnity, because of some impropriety in the performance. It is foreign to the present question, to discuss that of the perpetuity of this ordinance. That the apostle speaks of the eating of bread and the drinking of wine, in imitation of what had been done at the paschal supper before the passion, is conceded to us. And that the transaction was accompanied by prayer, appears in what is said on the same subject, in the preceding chapter-" The cup of blessing which we bless"—that is, over which we invoke a blessing" is it not the commuion of the blood of Christ."* These facts are not denied to us; although it is imagined, that the practice was designed to be temporary. But if the people were to come together in one place for the celebration spoken of-a bodily act, in the use of material elements-and if it were or ought to have been an act of devotion; the incongruity of resting the performance of it on the uncertain event of a peculiar motion in each worshipers mind, at the very crisis when the purpose was to be carried into effect, is too manifest to require any further proof.
There are not here known any scriptural authorities, set up on the other side; except those in which we read of waiting and watching, as religious duties. That we should wait on the Lord, not only in the dealings of his providence, but in the drawings of his grace; and that we should add watchfulness to prayer; are truths which no Christian will deny. But it may be confi dently denied, and the places may be appealed to for the fact, that not in a single place usually brought forward, is social prayer the subject in contemplation. When called to this by the returns of the appointed seasons, it is our own delinquency, if we have not a state of mind, suited to the intended occupation. But this, far from being a dispensation, is an additional reason for the laying open of our hearts before the Father of mercies; in order that, as our liturgy expresses it,
* Verse 16.
"we may love the things which he commandeth, and desire that which he doth promise."
There shall only be added on the present subject, its not being alleged, that in the ages of the martyrs, there is an instance on record of any Church, which kept its publick devotions dependent on the uncertain condition here adverted to. On the contrary, we have evidence, that no such system could have been in operation. The first detailed account of the worship of the primitive Church, is in the Apology of Justin Martyr, who is mentioned in a preceding lecture, as writing within half a century of the decease of the last of the apostles. That holy man gives a narrative of the manner, in which Christian assemblies employed themselves on Sunday as he calls what was otherwise named the Lord's day. In that account of his, there is not a word which can give the idea of occasions spent in silent worship: on the contrary, the whole is inconsistent with such a modern fancy *
The author conceives, that he cannot more effectually prove the entire want of scriptural foundation for the opinion on the other side, than by referring to the texts brought for ward in favour of it, by so ingenious and well informed a man as Robert Barclay. If such a man was obliged to sustain his opinion by texts which spoke of waiting on the Lord in his providence, and by others which enjoin watchfulness against temptation; in both cases, with very slight reference to prayer of any sort, and with none to social prayer; how evidently impossible must it have been, to find any going directly to the point, of making the latter dependent on emotions of the mind, excited at the precise times when it is to be engaged in. The author desires, however, to distinguish between what is pleaded for on the other side, and the propriety of a reasonable time of solemn recollection before the act of prayer, whether publick or private; which is much to be recommended.
The texts are as follow: Ps. xxvii. 14 and xxxvii. 7, 34.-Prov. xx. 22.-[s. xxx. 18.-Hosea xii. 6.-Zeph. iii. 8. Matt. xxiv. 42 and xxv. 13 and xxvi. 41.-Mark. xiii. 33, 35, 37.-Luke xxi. 36-Acts i. 4 and xx 31.-1 Cor. xvi. 13.Col. iv. 2-1 Thess. v. 6.-2 Tim. iv. 5.-1 Pet. iv. 7.—Ps. xxv. 3 and xxxvii. 9 and lxix. 6,-Is. xlii. 23.-Lam. iii. 25, 26-xl. 31.
From those who differ from us to the extent stated, there is now a transition to another description of professors; who consent with us as to stated times of prayer, but object to its being by a prescribed form.
These have a grade of difference among themselves. For while some object to all prayer, that has been preconceived; others favour such a circumstance, and find a use in it; provided the act itself be governed by the discretion of the minister.
Relative to the first of these opinions, the errour already combated has the advantage of carrying it to its obvious consequences, and of thus making it consistent with itself. For if the great Hearer of prayer will receive none, of which the sentiments are not suggested to the mind by the immediate and instant operations of the Holy Spirit, no prayer of any one man can be a rule for any other: and thus there can be no devotions of a congregation; unless the blessed agent should inspire the minds of all, at the same instant of time, with
In every one of the above passages, the stress is evidently laid on the word "wait," or else on the word "watch" The meaning of "wait" in any of the above texts may be exemplified from the first of them--"Wait on the Lord and be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart." The Psalmist had just before vented himself in strains expressive of distress, under which he should have fainted, but that he believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" It amounts simply to trust in Providence.
The quotations embracing "watching," shall be exempli. fied by the first of them. It is Matt. xxiv. "Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." It means habitual preparation for the event.
Such are the passages of which it is held, that they favour a species of worship inconsistent with the appointment of time. The places have no reference to publick prayer, nor even to prayer in general, except some of them by implication; and except the two following places-Col. iv. 2, which speaks of watching in prayer-not of preparation for it; and 1 Peter iv. 7, which speaks indeed of watching unto prayer, but evi. dently with a reference to " the end of all things:" whether it mean the destruction of the globe, or, as some think, that of the Jewish polity.