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The object of the discourse is explained. The two main divisions of it are:— I. The evidence of an especial work of the Spirit in prayer and praise; and, II. The illustration of the nature of this work, chap. i.
I. The evidence of its reality consists in a minute explanation of two passages in Scripture, Zech. xii. 10, and Gal. iv. 6, ii., iii. II. Its general nature is considered, — prayer having been defined to be a spiritual faculty of exercising Christian graces in the way of vocal requests and supplications to God, iv. The work of the Spirit in the matter of prayer is reviewed in greater detail:— as enlightening us into a perception of our spiritual wants; acquainting us with the promises of grace and mercy for our relief; and leading us to express desires for any blessing in order to right and proper ends, v. His work as to the manner of prayer is described:— as disposing us to obey God in this duty; implanting holy and gracious desires after the objects sought; giving us delight in God as the object of prayer; and keeping us intent on Christ, as the way and ground of acceptance, vi. The manner of prayer is farther considered with special reference to Eph. vi. 18, vii. In the course of an argument on the duty of external prayer, the promise of the Spirit is exhibited as superseding the necessity of recourse to external forms, on the following grounds:— 1. The natural obligation to call on God according to our ability; 2. The example of the saints in Scripture; 3. The circumstance that in all the commands to pray there is no respect to outward helps; 4. The existence of certain means for the improvement of our gift in prayer; 5. The use to which our natural faculties of invention, memory, and elocution, are thus put; and, 6. The necessary exercise of our spiritual abilities, viii. Certain duties are inferred from the preceding discourse:— 1. The ascription to God of all the glory on account of any gift in prayer; and, 2. Constant attention to the duty of prayer, ix.
Two subsidiary discussions follow:— 1. A searching exposure of the mental prayer recommended by the Church of Rome, in which prayer is merged into spiritual contemplation, without any succession and utterance of thought; it is shown that language is no interference with the workings of devotional sentiment, but serves, on the contrary, to define the objects of thought, and enhance the power of conception, x.: and, 2. A disquisition on the use and value of forms: the mere use of them by some men, as suited to their attainments and experience, is discriminated from the alleged necessity of them for the purposes of worship.; and against the latter these objections are urged:— 1. There is no promise of the Spirit to assist in the composition of prayers for others; 2. The Spirit is promised that we may be helped, not to compose prayers, but to pray; 3. Forms of prayer are no institution, either of the law or the gospel; 4. The alleged practical benefit held to result from them is very questionable, inasmuch as those who have the gift of prayer do not need them, and those deficient in the gift, if believers, have the promise of it, and can only cultivate it by actual exercise; 5. There are better ways in which we may have the matter of prayer suggested to us; and, 6. In the light of experience, forms of prayer are not so conducive to spiritual benefit as the exercise of the gift. Lastly, Some arguments for forms of prayer from instances occurring in Scripture are considered and set aside, xi. — Ed.
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