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PHIL. iv. part of 6th VERSE..
In every thing by prayer and fupplication, with thankf giving, let your requests be made known unto God.
fhould employ us as God's fervants and fel-, low-chriftians, there are none more neceflary and profitable for all conditions of men, at all times, and in all places, than the conftant and humble use of public prayer, and the facraments administered in Chrift's church; for by the first, we afk at God's hands all fuch things as otherwife we have no right. to expect will be bestowed upon us, fuch as his grace to correct our tempers, the power to fubdue our paffions, and likewife the gift of every needful. comfort in this life; and by the other, he accepteth us into his houfhold, or family, and offereth himself to us as our guardian to defend us from the fnares of the evil one. Must not they then who wilfully neglect both the one and the other, be ftrangely perverfe and blind? Can fuch be truly faid to belong to
God, or to be Chrift's difciples? Was not the whole office of our Bleffed Savior employed in bringing us to God? and if we turn our backs on the prayers offered in his Father's houfe, from any idle or illfupported plea of our own felfish fancy, can we reafonably hope that he will accept our prayers elfe where? Will any perfon, pretending to a proficiency in religion, prefume to fay they love Chrift, and that they wish to be benefited by his precious, blood-fhedding, who are indifferent about being baptized in his name? regardless of feeing their children early initiated into his church, and of partaking of the memorials of that living facrifice which he offered for weak and undeferving creatures; and yet how many are there who are very remifs in thefe particulars? Will any, having authority and influence over their poorer and ignorant brethren, neglect to enforce thefe pofitive duties, and at the fame time affect to be zealous christians! O vanity of vanities! fatal error! We muft in all things follow Chrift's example and commands, and not in a few of our own fond fancies only, or depend upon it we fhall not be able finally to ftand the teft that will be required of us as his pure difciples. Since then no well informed chriftian can be at any lofs to know how. very neceffary thefe holy exercises are to forward our falvation, as the means of grace, yet it may be highly profitable to thofe not equally well informed in religious knowledge, to give ferious attention to the following enquiries:
First, What prayer is, and what a facrament is; and fecondly, how many forts of prayer there are, and how many real facraments. By a plain explanation of each question, you will (by God's bleffing upon the endeavour) be better able to underftand how to use them to your foul's health. One
of the ancient fathers of the church gives us this account of thefe means of grace: Thefe are his words concerning prayer, "Prayer is the devotion or application of the mind to God, or in other words, the turning towards the mighty author of our being, through a pious and humble affection, or difpofition, and the ready defire of the foul towards him" and in another work + he calleth the facraments, boly figns; and concerning the baptifm of infants, he observes moft judiciously, that if facraments did not carry a plain refemblance, or likenefs of the things whereof they are figns or pledges, they would be no facraments at all; for generally fpeaking, they convey in their names, the nature of the things they fignify; whence, from this father's fentiments, it is very clear that he alloweth the ufual description of a facrament, as fpecified in our excellent Church Catechifm, viz. That they are outward vifible figns of an inward and spiritual grace, meaning, tokens of fuch things, as place before our eyes and fenfes the inward working of God's free mercy, and which in a manner feal in our hearts the promises of God; and in this light Jewish circumcifion (in the room of which chriftian baptifm took place) was a facrament which fignified or declared to the outward fenfes, the inward circumcifion or cleansing of the heart, and by that act of obedience to God's command, fealed and made fure in the hearts of the circumcifed, the promises of God refpecting the promised feed they looked for, even the Meffiah, the Savior of the world; and in like manner baptifm doth feal unto the faithful the gift of the grace of God, and regeneration of the creature.
St. Auguftine, in his Book concerning the Spirit or Soul of
+ His Book against the Enemies of the Law and the Prophets, in his Epiftle to Boniface.
We will now proceed to confider how many forts of prayer there are, and the juft number of facraments in Chrift's church. In fcripture we read of three kinds or defcriptions of prayer, two of them of a private nature, and one common or public. The first is that of which St. Paul fpeaketh in his Epiftle to Timothy, 1 Ep. iid. ch. 8th ver. and is thus expreffed, I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath or doubting* which feems to imply the devout raifing of the mind to God, without expreffing aloud the forrow or defire of the heart, by open voice. Of this fort of prayer we have an example in 1 Kings, in the cafe of Anna, the mother of Samuel, when, in the heavinefs of her heart, fhe prayed in the temple, and befought the Lord to make her fruitful. She prayed in her heart, faith the text, but there was no voice heard; and it is in this sense of prayer that St. Paul exhorteth the Theffalonians (1 Eph. v. 17.) To pray without ceafing, not once or twice in a week, or now and then every day, but to lift up the heart often in fecret to God: and the fame meaning we may fafely apply to St. James's affurance (in the vth chap. and 16th ver.) That the fervent prayer of a righteous, or good man availeth much, that is, the continual, humble, earnest, inward fupplication to the fupreme director of all events, to profper the charitable defire of the heart for the good of our neighbour, or to accomplish in, or for ourselves, whatever may tend to God's glory.
The fecond kind of prayer, is that which is defcribed by St. Matth. in the vith chap. and 6th ver. When thou prayeft, faith he, enter into thy closet,
*This, in respect to place, is fpoken of private prayer only, and that merely mental, as appears from what follows in the Homily: thefe words of the apoftle cannot therefore be conftrued as any en'couragement to public prayer, and affembling, iu unhallowed places,