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condemned, since Christ approved of them. Therefore Paul to the Ephesians, speaks of his prayer thus, “ For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”. And to Timothy, i. 2, " I will therefore, that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands,” &c. Although I should not think it wrong if a person prayed unto God even while picking up sticks, if it were but from the heart.
This however is most certainly true, that if there be only an acting like a stage-player, consisting of murmuring and vociferation, just as we have hitherto stood in the churches, day and night counting the grains of rosaries, (as they call it) turning over the leaves, and howling in the choir like wolves, that is certainly no prayer at all. For such prayers as these are without the heart and the soul, nor does any one who prays in this manner ever once think of asking or obtaining any thing from God. But where these gestures are used in praying, speaking, singing, or reading, with a view to rouse the spirit that it might feel a pleasure and devotion in praying, then they are good and useful. For it is to this end, that the Psalms are appointed to be sung and read daily among Christians, that by the Word heard or used bodily, the devotion may be raised to speak forth or sigh in prayer.
Moreover, we have not a few examples of this way of praying, and of these external incitements in the scripture: as that of the prophet Elisha, 2 Kings iii. whose custom it was, as we read, when he found that he was not sufficiently devout, ready, and alive, that he caused a minstrel to be sent to him," at the sound of whose harp he was revived and roused to prophesy. How powerful others are in the Spirit, I for my part cannot tell, but as for myself, when I am without the Word, or do not remember it, or am 'not speaking from it, I find Christ no where, see him no where, and have lost all my devotion and spiritual mind too. But as soon as ever I propose to myself, any one of the Psalms, or any sentence of the scripture, then by its light my heart is quickened, and immediately another mind and another feeling are begotten in me: and I know that every one experiences the same in himself daily.
And the cause of this is, that which we all find in ourselves,—that our ideas and thoughts are so slippery and unstable, that although we begin to offer up any serious prayer or enter upon any meditation concerning God, without the Word and the scripture, we generally find that before we can look around us, our mind has run away from our first thought above six hundred miles. Let
any one try this if he will, and then tell me how long he can remain fixed in one thought. Or choose out any one hour of thy life, and promise to tell me all thy thoughts during that hour. "I will be bound to venture any pledge, that thou wilt be ashamed of thyself, and wilt be afraid to speak out those things which have happened unto thee, and that men would think thee worse than a mad dog while uttering the whole, and such as should be bound in chains : and this has often been my experience even when engaged in the best of meditations :50 shattered and depraved a thing is the human heart, that it is evident that no water or wind is so moveable and unstable.
I may as well give an example of this. It is read concerning St. Bernard, who continually experienced this, that at a certain time he complained to a particular friend of the difficulty that he found in praying rightly, and that he could not say the Lord's Prayer once over without wandering thoughts. Which thing filled his friend with the greatest wonder, who thought it to be a matter of no such trouble and difficulty. St. Bernard began to say, that he would offer as a pledge a highbred horse, if he would make the trial, and would agree to tell him the truth of the result. His friend refused not the offer, hoping that he should without difficulty accomplish the matter, and therefore he begins to pray,
Our Father,' &c.: but, before he had got through the first petition, a thought came into his mind,- But, if I win the horse I shall have the bridle and saddle along with him !' And in a short time, he found himself wandered away so widely, that he was obliged to leave
off on a sudden, and declare that St. Bernard had gained his point, and was right.
And, in a word, if thou art able to repeat the Lord's Prayer without any wandering thoughts, then I will adjudge thee a perfect master in this matter. I, for my part, cannot do it: nay, I am truly glad, if the interrupting thoughts even go away as they came.
I have mentioned these things, that we may not pass by this text negligently, as the fanatical spirits do, but may rather learn how much those external words and gestures serve and profit, as tending to assist in collecting the thoughts of the heart that are scattered and dispersed, that it might not slip away and be taken with other things, and that we might not stray from our proper thoughts and wander out of the way; even as we take hold of a tree or a wall with our hands to support ourselves from falling. And this is where our fanatical spirits fail.— They think that all is then excellently well with them, when they are enrapt in their sublime and spiritual thoughts; but they see not that they are without the Word, and wandering entirely out of the way. Wherefore, beware of such high-flying thoughts, and be assured within thyself, that nothing can be transacted with God without the external Word and prayer. Nevertheless, a right distinction is to be made; that is, that the prayer be not altogether external, wherein nothing else but the work itself is sought after, and where it is believed, that if the prayer be only said or read it is an excellent prayer, although the heart may not have once felt what the mouth was speaking, or have thought what was going on--but, prayer must so be offered up, that the heart may begin, and then the words follow, accompanied with suitable gestures. And, in a word, the prayer that comes forth from the heart is good and effectual, with whatever gestures it may be accompanied.
Father, the hour is come: glorify thy Son. Here we see the virtues of the prayer. First, there are in this prayer three principal things : and especially,
that which is of the greatest importance in prayer, that we give thanks unto God; and that, with an honouring thanksgiving, we extol and enumerate the blessings he has already bestowed upon us; as Christ does here, recounting those things which the Father had given him and bestowed upon him ; whose example we ought also to imitate at this day, and say,
O Almighty and dearest Father, thou hast given unto us thy precious and holy Gospel ; wherein thou hast abundantly poured upon us unspeakable grace.' Then, are to be introduced prayers and a mention of our necessity, Grant therefore, o dearest Father, such a portion of grace, that we may hold fast the Gospel which thou hast thus communicated unto us, and may abide therein.' And then, we are to remember others in our prayers, • That he would condescend to give his help unto all.”
In this way every prayer is to be offered up, even where it is on account of temporal necessities, and with this exercise of the graces; and also with confession, whereby we may confess that all the blessings which we enjoy are God's.; for which cause also we ought to pray, that he would preserve and increase them both unto ourselves and others. This is the
of rightly entering upon prayer, and of making a proper access and approach whereby to gain the favour of God, that he might willingly and freely hear us. And an example of the same kind you will meet with also in another place, where he highly extols and preaches the Father, and speaks forth a great sermon in the midst of his prayer, as it were; as in Matt. xi. towards the end.
And thus he here begins,—" Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son may also glorify thee.” These words are in appearance so trifling and simple, that, in the judgment of human ears, they do not seem to be worth a straw; but who can by searching find out unto the full the weight of the matter contained in them, and the solemnity with which they were uttered by Christ? The meaning of them is, briefly this: -I entreat the O Father, to glorify me.” But not content with this he adds, - that I also may glorify thee.'
To“ glorify;" signifies to praise, to extol, and to magnify and make of great fame; that his name and fame may become every where renowned, and may be spoken of and honoured by all. But in this expression, he shews in what a situation he is now placed, and with what a necessity he is now urged to put up this prayer: ' The hour, (as he would say,) is now approaching, and is at hand, in which I am to suffer, and to die a death the most ignominious of all deaths; by which, all my renown, the splendour of my life and name, and my dignity, will be obscured and darkened. For Christ had now done great things, had preached with great authority, had wrought most miraculous signs, and had given a splendid proof of his excellency, so that he in just right deserved to be praised, honoured, and adored by all. Whereas, he meets with just the contrary: and instead of having honour and glory shewn and given unto him, he is loaded with ignominy and disgrace. For he is compelled to hang on the cross, to die between two thieves as the worst and most abandoned of malefactors that ever the earth produced, and to be treated with greater ignominy and turpitude than any criminal was ever treated.
For the most part, the world has that feeling of humanity, that, when even the most depraved and desperate ruffians and murderers are led to punishment, there is no one who does not pity their state, grieve for their misery, and feel sorrow for them.' But, Christ the Saviour of the world is the only one who is destined to see his death a matter of gratification and joy to all. Nor were the Jews, even when they had had all their hearts' desire in putting him brutally to death, satisfied after all. And, in a word, there was no one engaged in the scene, who did not think that the highest and most acceptable service would be done unto God, and the world reduced to safety and tranquillity, if this man were killed and taken out of the way. For they considered him to be the most pernicious and poisonous worm that ever was upon the face of the earth, and worthy to suffer every bitterness, affliction, and plague.--And this was indeed