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0000000000000 Of the Dotrines contained in the New
TESTA MEN T. Phil. I am afraid, . Credentius, we shall hardly have time to run thro’ the Doctrines of Christianity; I shall only pick out some, which I have some Exception against, and give you my Exceptions against them. And the first I shall mention is Prayer. For my part, I don't see any ground for this, in Natural Religion, or Reason, For why should Men pretend, to such a fawcy Familiarity with God Almighty, as to presume to direct him what to do? Certainly it is but good Manners, to let God distribute his Favours to us, as he shall think good, and not confidently to beg of him whatever comes into our Heads. The World is govern'd by a wife and settled - Providence, which is not to be alter'd, by the impertinent Petitions of vain Men, who think their Condition would be better'd by it. And methinks Christians should be ashamed of their Fondness, when they pray for Rain or fair Weather; to think, that God should interpofe his Power eo fufpend the settled Rules of Nature, and should work a Miracle, only to send them a better Crop. No, God is a Good and a Wife Being, who loves his Creatures, and knows what is best for them; and therefore the Christian Religion is out, when it teaches that. Men should pray for God's Blessings, which they ought only with Modesty to wait for; and not to think to weary him out by Importanities to send them. That Advice of Juvenal is worth twenty of your Christian Helps to Devotion.
Si consiliim vise
, aptissima quæq; dabsent Dij:
Take my Advice ; and think that human Gooda
ter than the Heathens.
Therefore I cannot frame my Mind to think, that Men do a pious Ą& in Praying to God, and spending their Time so dreamingly in Churches and their Closets, to so little Purpose as many Christians do. And as for Praisesthey are altogether as unreasonable ; for who can think that the All-wife Deity should take Pleasure in little Flatteries, and in hearing himself commended, when we look upon it as a Weakness in human Nature to do so, and when wise Men cannot endure it?
Cred. Sir, You do feem notfufficiently to have considered either the Nature of Prayer or of the Christian Religion, by the Judgment you pass upon them.
1. If the Generality of good Christians spent their Christians Times of Devotion as lillily as the Heathens, whom Ju- Prayersbet. venal reflects upon, did in praying for handsome. Wives and Children, great Estates, long Life, &c. there would be some tolerable Ground for this Censure. But our bleffed Saviour, in his Institution of Religion, has taught us how to regulate our Prayers. He tells us, we must not perform our Devotions in that hypocritical Way, which was in use among the Pharifaical Jews, to fall down upon their Knees in the Corners of the Streets, to be seen of Men: Nor to use those Battologies, or Ingeminations, fo frequent among the Heathens, as Jupiter, Jupiter, Jupiter, bone Jupiter, an hundred Times together, as if the Gods were Deaf; or, as the Man in the Comedy said to his Wife, who was full of Thanksgiving for finding her lost Daughter, D:fine Deos gratulando obtundere, nifi illos tuo efle ingenio judicas, ut nil credas intelligere nifi idem dictum eft centies. What a Work you make with bearing this News into the Ears of the Gods, as if the Gods were like you, to una derft and nothing bue what is told them, an hundred Times over.
These were ridiculous Notions of Prayer, which our Saviour has commanded his Followers to avoid, and moreover not to be positive in their Petitions, but to refer all to the good Pleasure and Wisdom of God, defiring after all, that his will be done.
2. Neither do Christians with Malepartness, or SauNo Saucia
ciness nefs to pray
their Prayers to God, but with that Mode10 God. sty and Humility which becomes Creatures toward their
Creator. 'Tis no Want of respect to ask my Sovereign a Request, when he has commanded me to ask him : But God Almighty has commanded us to pray to him, and to come with Boldness to the Throne of Grace; and therefore 'tis our Duty to do so. And whereas you tax our Notion of Prayer with attributing a Weakness to the Deity to be importun'd or praised, I think your Notion does the same much more. For you judge God Almighty to be like an earthly Prince, that is not to be addrest to by every one, by Reason of the Multiplicity of Affairs of a higher Nature, which take up most of his Time, and so is not to be disturbed by the Applications of little People, whose Suits are therefore deem'd impertinent. But, since we are sure there can be no Distraction of Thoughts, or Streightness of Time in God, we know he is as op n and free to receive at all Times, a Suit from the meanest of Mankind, as from the most exalted of the Angels.
3. Neither do Christians in their Prayers to God for Prayer for Riin
Rain, Fair-weather, or any other Benefit, expect that not for a God should miraculously disturb the Powers of Nature. Miracle.
God is the God of Nature, as well as of Mankind, and has promised to give us the Fruits of the Earth in their due Season, and all other needful Things to those that ask him. He sends Rains, and Droughts, and Floods, or Fair-weather, either for the Benefit or Punishment of Mankind. I grant that in the ordinary Course of Nature, such a Quanuity of Water is evaporated every Day from the Sea; which Vapours when they grow fo numerous and wejghry, that shey can no longer be suspended in the Air, fall down upon the Earth in Rains and 'Show
ers, a Man's
ers: But then God Almighty, by his Providence, fre-
4. Nor do we pray to God, as thinking thereby to Christians
a Man's Mind, than now and then a little philofophick Talk about them. This will give Men a firm Reliance upon God's Goodness, which the flu&uating Thoughts of all Sorts of Infidels, do in vain wish for; this will excite in cur Sculs such a new Principle of Grace, as shall enable us to conquer a corrupt Nature, and to despise the World; this will enable us to love God with the most ardent Affection, and by Degrees will fit and prepare us
for another more spiritual Life. Nor to flat- 5. Besides, you are guilty of another Mistake, when fer him by Thanksss.
you think that we Christians put up our Thanksgivings ying
to God, out of Opinion, that God has a fond liking to hear himself commended by us. This is a wanton Way you have got of representing Matters odiously; by which false Light you put a Fallacy upon your felf, making things at first look ridiculous,and then never afterwards examining them. But what intelligent Christian, I pray, had ever this Notion of Praise; we praise God, both because he has commanded this Tribute from us, and because it is a Moral Duty, and highly reasonable so to do; and not because we think to flatter him by it. If Gratitude be a Duty to God, Praise is fo; and if we are obliged to think of God's Favours, we ought to speak of them. For in such Cases Words do naturally follow our Thoughts, and when Men's Hearts are enlarged by a deep Sense of a noble Benefit, their Words will speak their inward Joy. And what Reason is there, that there should not be as great an Indication of our Gratitude towards God, as there is towards Men? Grateful Thoughts alone transitorily pass off from the Mind, but Words make them stay longer upon it, and help to fix them there. A bare Medication on God's Benefits is oftentimes cold and flat, whilft a vocal Praise is always accompanied with Warmth and Vigour, and a noble Elevation of the Soul. When a Man thinks only of God's Goodness, his Thoughts go no farther than himself, but in Oral Thanksgivings we invite others to an equal Praise, and excite that Gratitude in other Men's Minds, which our Hearts abound with. Ah! dear Friend, never let your ill Principles lead you to