« PreviousContinue »
of the Church, was never doubted, that I know of; and may be fully made good from what follows after in this Chapter.
But how comes the Apostle here to make a Difference between Prayers and Supplications, and those other Things? Why, certainly, his Design was, to make a just Enumeration of all those Offices or Parts, of which the publick Worship or Service of the Church is to consist.
And those are Four.
First of all, AEńces, which we here render Supplications, but may more properly be rendered Deprecations, that is to say, such Prayers as we put up to God for the Pardon of our Sins, and the averting from us all those Evils that we deserve upon Account of them.
Secondly, Ilpoosuojai, or Petitions, by which are meant those Prayers we put up for all the spiritual and temporal Blessings we 'stand in Need of.
Thirdly, 'Ev Tsvets, or Intercefsions, by which are meant those Prayers that we are to put up for other Men.
And, Lastly, Eugapıçiai, or Giving of Thanks, which every-body knows to be meant of that Tribute of Praise and Thanks giving we owe to God Almighty for all his Mercies and Befinets, both to ourselves and others
Of thefe four Things, according to St. Paul, ought the publick Liturgy of the Church to
be made up: And that Service, where any one of them is wanting, must consequently be def ctive.
But this is not the Point I mean now to dwell upon: That which lies uppermost in my Text, and most obvious to be observed from it, are these Three Things; which I shall therefore make the Heads of my following Dife course. .
First of all, in general, The Obligation that is upon us to have publick Prayers, and to resort to them. I exhort, first, that Supplications and Prayers be made.
Secondly, more particularly, The Obligation that is upon us, in our Addresses to GOD, to pray for others. I exhort, that Supplications, and Prayers, and Intercessions, be made for all Men. . ' · Thirdly (which more immediately concerns us on this Day), The Obligation that is upon us to pray and give Thanks for Kings efpecially; and that follows in the next Verse. For Kings, and all that are in Authority; that under them we may lead quiet and peaceable Lives, in all Godliness and Honesty. in
First, I begin with the Duty of having, and frequenting, publick Prayers, which is here. recommended to us. *. It is the Fault of a great many among us; and even of some that have otherwise an hearty Sense of Religion, that we do not set that Esteem and Value upon the publick Worship
of God, that, in the Nature of the Thing, and by the Laws of Christ, it doth call for. If we do but say our Prayers devoutly in our Closets (and I would to God that all of us did but that!), we think we have done enough : We have done all that is needful for the Dir
of that part of our Duty which concerns the Worship of God: The ChurchPrayers we may ipare well enough, and lo likewise Prayers in our Family. And, tho’we do perhaps now-and-then attend the publick Worship, yet it is not so much for the sake of the Prayers, as for the Curiosity of hearing a Sermon, or, it may be, for the avoiding the Scandal that our Absence at such times would bring upon us. But certainly this is not a right Notion of the Worship of God; so far from it, that, I must needs say, it is a very absurd one. We do readily own, that to serve God in private is a necessary Duty; nay, so necefsary, that there is no living an holy Christian Life without it: We acknowlege likewise, that, as the Thing is infinitely reasonable in itself, so it is attended with manifold Advantages of several Sorts: But then we say, that publick Prayer, joining with our Brethren in the Service of God, whether it be at Church, or in our own Families, must needs have the Pre-eminence in abundance of respects. Give me Leave to name a few of the many: Would we take the readiest Course to have our Prayers effectual, to obtain from God what we pray for ? Why, certainly, then we must pray with other devout People, that come together to obtain the very fame Thing that we defire. In common Reason one would think, that the united Force of a Number joining together, to make a Request, should have more Power than a Petition froin a single Man, whoever the Person be that is addressed to. But we have more Cause to think so with reference to those Prayers we make to GOD; Christ Jesus having given us his Promise, that, whereever two or three of us are gathered together in bis Name, there he will be in the Midft of us. Not but that he will be present to every devout Soul, that prays as he should do ; but the Promise is more express to those that join their Prayers together. Nay, our Saviour, even when the Occasion 'led him to discourse of private Prayer, such as ought to be performed in the Closet, yet, being to give a Form of Prayer, he delivers it in such Words as are most proper to be used in a Congregation, speaking in the plural Number; Our Father, which art in Heaven, give us this Day our daily Bread, forgive us our Trespasses, and so on: Intimating hereby, that it was his Design, that all his Disciples should join their Prayers together. But this is not all : Do we think it our Duty to pay Honour to GOD in our Devotions, to give him the Glory that is due unto his Name? Why, certainly, this is never so properly done, as when we afsem
ble together with our Fellow-Christians, to express our Dependence upon Him, and to fet forth his Praile. In true Speaking, to give Honour and Glory to God, is, to publish to others the Sense we have of his adorable Perfections, of his infinite Kindness and Benefits, and of the continual Need we stand in of his Bounty and Influences; but this can no-way be done so effectually, as by joining in the Expression of those Things, with the religious Affemblies of our Brethren. Nor indeed can we be more properly said to serve God, by our Devotions in private, than we can be said to honour him. And yet all of us think there is some Service due from us to God; and we think likewise, that we serve him by our Prayers. This is so common and obvious a Notion, that, if a Man do but hear the Service of God mentioned, he is naturally apt to apply that Word to praying to Him, and Worshiping of Him, as looking upon that as the principal part of that Service we owe to God. Why, this is true ; but praying to God in private is doing Him no Service, in the proper Sense of the Word; there we rather serve ourselves than God Almighty. To serve one, is properly to promote the Interest of that Person whom we pretend to serve; to do his Business with all those among whom we are employed. This now is truly and properly done with respect to God, when we resort to the public