Imatges de pàgina
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thou hast Health, and Riches, and Honours, they come from him; thou art fed and nourish'd and cloath'd with his Gifts, and every where surrounded by his Bleffings. How little haft thou deserved of him, and yet how much haft thou received from him? He has made thee wiser than the Beasts of the Field, but thou hast made thy self more stupid than they ; for the Ox knoweth his Owner, and the Afs his Master's Crib, but thou forgettest thy Maker, that made thee a reasonable Being, capable of understanding Benefits, as well as of receiving them; capable of resenting Obligations from himself, and of the Glory and Happiness of giving Thanks, and doing Honour to him for the same. But no wonder that these Things move thee not, if the everlasting Concern of thy future State, if the Promises and Threatnings of the Gofpel, if the Sense of thy own depraved Nature, if the Sense of the Dangers thou art in from the Temptations of the World, if the Guilt of thy manifold Sins, and the uneasy Apprehensions of a Divine Justice cannot force thee upon thy Knees, and drive thee to the Mer-су of God, who has thus long in vain stretched forth his Hand to thee; to such Reproach as this is every Man liable that neglects his Prayers and forgets his God. This is all I shall say to the Supposition of the Plainness of the Duty in general.

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2. The particular Supposition concerning Prayer is, that private Prayer in secret is a Duty, as well as publick or common Prayers : and indeed our Saviour's Cautions and Dire&ions in this Place concerning Prayer, are principally intended for the regulating of private Devotion, tho' the reason of them will extend to that which is publick. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the Hypocrites are, for they love to pray standing, in the Synagogues; lut thou when thou prayest, enter into thy Closet. Can we think our Saviour's Meaning to be this, that his Disciples should never pray but in their Closets ? No certainly; for 'tis a Precept of Natural Religion, that God is to be worshipped in the Societies of Men, and Christianity doth particularly oblige us to serve God according to the Gospel in religious Assemblies; the Meaning therefore is this: Thou when thou dost not pretend to join with others in the Service of God, but to make thine own single and private Prayers, enter into thy Closet that is, let them be private, and be content that God hear thee, and take notice of thee; but do not say those Prayers to be heard, nor contrive thy Devotions so as to be seen of Men. So that the true understanding of the Place is founded upon this Suppofition, that our Saviour here speaks of private or single Prayer; and therefore I say also, that the Duty of such Prayer is here particularly

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supposed, and withal it might be very reasonably supposed, that our Lord's Disciples were already convinced of it, and that the Reasons thereof are very obvious; I shall name but two, whereof the

First is, That the Differences between particular Persons do plainly require it. The Case of all Christians is thus far alike, that they have Sin to confess in common have common Blessings of Pardon and Grace, which they stand in need of, and they have common Benefits and Blessings which they have received from God to be thankful for; and therefore those Prayers and Thanksgivings which suppose all this, serve in common to unite the Desires and Devotions of all Christians, and to tender to God a publíck Service, and to make before the World a publick Profession of Religion according to the Gospel ; but then there is always a Difference in the Case of particular Perfons, and fometimes a very great one too, which requires' private Devotion. Every Man las his particular Sins to confess, his particular Needs of Grace to be supplied, and his partis cular Blessings to be thankful for, and his particular Friends to remember in his Pray . ers and Thanksgivings, and this is properly the Matter of private Devotion; And bow necessary private Devotion is with regard to thefe 'Things, may be made to appear by taking any one of them into Consideration, as

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the Confession of particular Sins for instance, The Confession of Sin in religious Assemblies must be made in general Terms, that the. best and the worst may join in the same Office, hereby all acknowledging that they have neglected what they ought to have done, and done what they ought not to have done, and that they are miserable Sinners; but because the Confessions of all are made in the same general Terms, is there therefore no Difference between those that make them? Shall the worst Sinner in the Congregation go away with an Opinion, that there is no Man better than himself because of the fame Confession made by all ? No surely, for the publick and standing Offices of Prayer are in their Nature and Design incapable of putting a Difference between Men and Men that join in them; or if such a Difference were attempted to be made, the ill Consequence of it would be intolerable, as any discerning Man may readily see. Publick Confessions of Sin are not to make a whole Congregation alike in respect of Sin, or to shew every Man in his true Colours, but they are to be so general, that the most different Degrees of Sin may with Truth be confess'd under them by all that assemble for this Service; but there is another place for private Confession of a Man's own Sins, whereby he is different from his- Neighbour that is more righteous than himself, and that

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is his Closet; there let him årraign himself before his God, there let him fet his Sins in order, and take the Shame of them to him, self, and own his particular Guile, and distinguish himself by his more grievous Offences fiom thofe that he feemed not to differ from while he joined with them in the famę common Confessions of Sin. No Man can reasonably doubt whether Confeffion ought not to be made to God according to the Proportion of a Man's Guilt, and the Heinoufness and Number of his known Sins, but this cannot be done in Forms that are suited to the Ends of religious Assemblies, and therefore it must be done in private Prayer, if it be done at all,

In like manner there are common Blerfings which God hath bestowed upon all of us, and these are to be acknowledged in publick Praises and Thanksgivings; and there is almost an infinite Variety of particular Benefits of Providence that are distributed ainongst particular Perfons, of which fome have a greater Share than others, and if there are to be acknowledged with Thankfulness, as most certainly they are, then is private Devotion necessary to a religious Man, since he cannot otherwise duly acknowledge them; and thus the Neceflity thereof appears from that which is the proper Matter and peculiar

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