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Prescribed forms of prayer examined.
There are also great pleas for the use of prescribed limited forms of prayer, in opposition to that spiritual ability in prayer which we have described and proved to be a gift of the Holy Ghost, Where these forms are contended for by men with respect unto their own use and practice only, as suitable to their experience, and judged by them a serving of God with the best that they have, I shall not take the least notice of them, nor of any dissent about them; but whereas a persuasion not only of their lawfulness but of their necessity is made use of unto other ends and purposes, wherein the peace and edification of believers are highly concerned, it is necessary we should make some inquiry thereinto. I say, it is only with respect unto such a sense of their nature and necessity of their use as gives occasion or a supposed advantage unto men to oppose, deny, and speak evil of that way of prayer, with its causes and ends, which 339we have described, that I shall any way consider these forms of prayer, and their use: for I know well enough that I have nothing to do to judge or condemn the persons or duties of men in such acts of religious worship as they choose for their best, and hope for acceptance in, unless they are expressly idolatrous; for unless it be in such cases, or the like, which are plain either in the light of nature or Scripture revelation, it is a silly apprehension, and tending to atheism, that God doth not require of all men to regulate their actings towards him according to that sovereign light which he hath erected in their own minds.
What the forms intended are, how composed, how used, how in some cases imposed, are things so known to all that we shall not need to speak to them. Prayer is God’s institution, and the reading of these forms is that which men have made and set up in the likeness thereof, or in compliance with it; for it is said that “the Lord Christ having provided the matter of prayer, and commanded us to pray, it is left unto us or others to compose prayer, as unto the manner of it, as we or they shall see cause.” But besides that there is no appearance of truth in the inference, the direct contrary rather ensuing on the proposition laid down, it is built on the supposition that besides the provision of matter of prayer and the command of the duty, the Lord Christ hath not moreover promised, doth not communicate unto his church, such spiritual aids and assistances as shall enable them, without any other outward pretended helps, to pray according unto the mind of God; which we must not admit if we intend to be Christians. In like manner, he hath provided the whole subject-matter of preaching, and commanded all his ministers to preach; but it doth not hence follow that they may all or any of them make one sermon, to be constantly read in all assemblies of Christians without any variation, unless we shall grant also that he ceaseth to give gifts unto men for the work of the ministry. Our inquiry, therefore, will be, what place or use they may have therein, or in our duty as performed by virtue thereof; which may be expressed in the ensuing observations:—
1. The Holy Ghost, as a Spirit of grace and supplication, is nowhere, that I know of, promised unto any to help or assist them in composing prayers for others; and therefore we have no ground to pray for him or his assistance unto that end in particular, nor foundation to build faith or expectation of receiving him upon. Wherefore, he is not in any especial or gracious manner concerned in that work or endeavour. Whether this be a duty that falls under his care as communicating gifts in general for the edification of the church shall be afterward examined. That which we plead at present is, that he is nowhere peculiarly promised for that end, nor 340have we either command or direction to ask for his assistance therein. If any shall say that he is promised to this purpose where he is so as a Spirit of grace and supplication, I answer, besides what hath been already pleaded at large in the explication and vindication of the proper sense of that promise, that he is promised directly to them that are to pray, and not to them that make prayers for others, which themselves will not say is praying. But supposing it a duty in general so to compose prayers for our own use or the use of others, it is lawful and warrantable to pray for the aid and guidance of the Holy Ghost therein, not as unto his peculiar assistance in prayer, not as he is unto believers a Spirit of supplication, but as he is our sanctifier, the author and efficient cause of every gracious work and duty in us.
It may be the prayers composed by some holy men under the Old Testament, by the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost, for the use of the church, will be also pretended. But as the inspiration or assistance which they had in their work was a thing quite of another kind than any thing that is ordinarily promised, or that any persons can now pretend unto, so whether they were dictated unto them by the Holy Ghost to be used afterward by others as mere forms of prayer, may be yet farther inquired into.
The great plea for some of these external aids of prayer is by this one consideration utterly removed out of the way. It is said that “some of these prayers were prepared by great and holy men, martyrs, it may be, some of them, for the truth of the gospel and testimony of Jesus;” and, indeed, had any men in the world a promise of especial assistance by the Spirit of God in such a work, I should not contend but the persons intended were as likely to partake of that assistance as any others in these latter ages. Extraordinary, supernatural inspiration they had not; and the holy apostles, who were always under the influence and conduct of it, never made use of it unto any such purpose as to prescribe forms of prayer, either for the whole church or single persons. Whereas, therefore, there is no such especial promise given unto any, this work of composing prayers is foreign unto the duty of prayer, as unto any interest in the gracious assistance which is promised thereunto, however it may be a common duty, and fall under the help and blessing of God in general. So some men, from their acquaintance with the matter of prayer above others, which they attain by spiritual light, knowledge, and experience, and their comprehension of the arguments which the Scripture directs unto to be used and pleaded in our supplications, may set down and express a prayer, — that is, the matter and outward form of it, — that shall declare the substance of things to be prayed for, much more accommodate to the conditions, wants, and desires of Christians 341than others can who are not so clearly enlightened as they are, nor have had the experience which they have had. For those prayers, as they are called, which men without such light and experience compose of phrases and expressions gathered up from others, taken out of the Scripture, or invented by themselves, and cast into a contexture and method such as they suppose suited unto prayer in general, be they never so well worded, so quaint and elegant in expression, are so empty and jejune as that they can be of no manner of use unto any, unless to keep them from praying whilst they live; and of such we have books good store filled withal, easy enough to be composed by such as never in their lives prayed according to the mind of God. From the former sort much may be learned, as they doctrinally exhibit the matter and arguments of prayer; but the composition of them for others, to be used as their prayers, is that which no man hath any promise of peculiar spiritual assistance in, with respect unto prayer in particular.
2. No man hath any promise of the Spirit of grace and supplication to enable him to compose a form or forms of prayer for himself. The Spirit of God helps us to pray, not to make prayers in that sense. Suppose men, as before, in so doing may have his assistance in general, as in other studies and endeavours, yet they have not that especial assistance which he gives as a Spirit of grace and supplication, enabling us to cry, “Abba, Father;” for men do not compose forms of prayer, however they may use them, by the immediate actings of faith, love, and delight in God, with those other graces which he excites and acts in those supplications which are according to the divine will. Nor is God the immediate object of the actings of the faculties of the souls of men in such a work Their inventions, memories, judgments, are immediately exercised about their present composition, and there they rest. Wherefore, whereas the exercise of grace immediately on God in Christ, under the formal notion of prayer, is no part of men’s work or design when they compose and set down forms for themselves or others, if any so do they are not under a promise of especial assistance therein in the manner before declared.
3. As there is no assistance promised unto the composition of such forms, so it is no institution of the law or gospel. Prayer itself is a duty of the law of nature, and being of such singular and indispensable use unto all persons, the commands for it are reiterated in the Scripture beyond those concerning any other particular duty whatever; and if it hath respect unto Jesus Christ, with sundry ordinances of the gospel to be performed in his name, it falls under a new divine institution. Hereon are commands given us to pray, to pray continually without ceasing, to pray and faint not, to pray for ourselves, 342to pray for one another, in our closets, in our families, in the assemblies of the church; but as for this work of making or composing forms of prayers for ourselves, to be used as prayers, there is no command, no institution, no mention in the scriptures of the Old Testament or the New. It is a work of human extract and original, nor can any thing be expected from it but what proceeds from that fountain. A blessing possibly there may be upon it, but not such as issueth from the especial assistance of the Spirit of God in it, nor from any divine appointment or institution whatever. But the reader must observe that I do not urge these things to prove forms of prayer unlawful to be used, but only at present declare their nature and original, with respect unto that work of the Holy Spirit which we have described.
4. This being the original of forms of prayer, the benefit and advantage which is in their use, which alone is pleadable in their behalf, comes next under consideration. And this may be done with respect unto two sorts of persons:— (1.) Such as have the gift or ability of free prayer bestowed on them, or however have attained it. (2.) Such as are mean and low in this ability, and therefore incompetent to perform this duty without that aid and assistance of them. And unto both sorts they are pleaded to be of use and advantage.
(1.) It is pleaded that there is so much good and so much advantage in the use of them that it is expedient that those who can pray otherwise unto their own and others’ edification yet ought sometimes to use them. What this benefit is hath not been distinctly declared, nor do I know, nor can I divine wherein it should consist. Sacred things are not to be used merely to show our liberty. And there seems to be herein a neglect of stirring up the gift, if not also the grace of God, in those who have received them. “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every one to profit withal;” and to forego its exercise on any lust occasion seems not warrantable. We are bound at all times, in the worship of God, to serve him with the best that we have; and if we have a male in the flock, and do sacrifice that which, in comparison thereof, is a corrupt thing, we are deceivers. Free prayer, unto them who have an ability for it, is more suited to the nature of the duty in the light of nature itself, and to Scripture commands and examples, than the use of any prescribed forms. To omit, therefore, the exercise of a spiritual ability therein, and voluntarily to divert unto the other relief, — which yet, in that case at least, is no relief, — doth not readily present its advantage unto a sober consideration. And the reader may observe that at present I examine not what men or churches may agree upon by common consent, as judging and avowing it best for their own edification, which is a matter 343of another consideration, but only of the duty of believers as such in their respective stations and conditions.
(2.) It is generally supposed that the use of such forms is of singular advantage unto them that are low and mean in their ability to pray of themselves. I propose it thus because I cannot grant that any [man] who sincerely believeth that there is a God, [and who] is sensible of his own wants and his absolute dependence upon him, is utterly unable to make requests unto him for relief without any help but what is suggested unto him by the working of the natural faculties of his own soul. What men will wilfully neglect is one thing, and what they cannot do, if they seriously apply themselves unto their duty, is another. Neither do I believe that [there is] any man who is so far instructed in the knowledge of Christ by the gospel as that he can make use of a composed prayer with understanding, but also that in some measure he is able to call upon God in the name of Christ, with respect unto what he feels in himself and is concerned in; and farther no man’s prayers are to be extended. I speak, therefore, of those who have the least measure and lowest degree of this ability, seeing none are absolutely uninterested therein. Unto this sort of persons I know not of what use these forms are, unless it be to keep them low and mean all the clays of their lives; for whereas, both in the state of nature and the state of grace, in one whereof every man is supposed to be, there are certain heavenly sparks suited unto each condition, the main duty of all men is to stir them up and increase them. Even in the remainders of lapsed nature there are “cœlestes igniculi,” in notices of good and evil, accusations and apologies of conscience. These none will deny but that they ought to be stirred up and increased; which can be no otherwise done but in their sedulous exercise. Nor is there any such effectual way of their exercise as in the soul’s application of itself unto God with respect unto them; which is done in prayer only. But as for those whom in this matter we principally regard, — that is, professed believers in Jesus Christ, — there is none of them but have such principles of spiritual life, and therein of all obedience unto God and communion with him, as, being improved and exercised under those continual supplies of the Spirit which they receive from Christ their head, will enable them to discharge every duty that in every condition or relation is required of them in an acceptable manner. Among these is that of an ability for prayer; and to deny them to have it, supposing them true believers, is expressly to contradict the apostle affirming that “because we are sons, God sendeth forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” But this ability, as I have showed, is no way to be improved but in and by a constant exercise. Now, whether the use of the forms inquired into, which certainly 344taketh men off from the exercise of what ability they have, doth not tend directly to keep them still low and mean in their abilities, is not hard to determine.
“But suppose those spoken of are not yet real believers, but only such as profess the gospel, not yet sincerely converted unto God, whose duty also it is to pray on all occasions; these have no such principle or ability to improve, and therefore this advantage is not by them to be neglected.” I answer, that the matter of all spiritual gifts is spiritual light; according, therefore, to their measure in the light of the knowledge of the gospel, such is their measure in spiritual gifts also. If they have no spiritual light, no insight into the knowledge of the gospel, prayers framed and composed according unto it will be of little use unto them. If they have any such light, it ought to be improved by exercise in this duty, which is of such indispensable necessity unto their souls.
5. But yet the advantage which all sorts of persons may have hereby, in having “the matter of prayer prepared for them and suggested unto them,” is also insisted on. “This they may be much to seek in who yet have sincere desires to pray, and whose affections will comply with what is proposed unto them.” And this, indeed, would carry a great appearance of reason with it, but that there are other ways appointed of God unto this end, and which are sufficient thereunto, under the guidance, conduct, and assistance of the blessed Spirit, whose work must be admitted in all parts of this duty, unless we intend to frame prayers that shall be an abomination to the Lord. Such are, men’s diligent and sedulous consideration of themselves, their spiritual state and condition, their wants and desires; a diligent consideration of the Scripture, or the doctrine of it in the ministry of the word, whereby they will be both instructed in the whole matter of prayer and convinced of their own concernment therein; with all other helps of coming to the knowledge of God and themselves; all which they are to attend unto who intend to pray in a due manner. To furnish men with prayers to be said by them, and so to satisfy their consciences, whilst they live in the neglect of these things, is to deceive them, and not to help or instruct them; and if they do conscientiously attend unto these things, they will have no need of those other pretended helps. For men to live and converse with the world, not once inquiring into their own ways, or reflecting on their own hearts (unless under some charge of conscience, accompanied with fear or danger); never endeavouring to examine, try, or compare their state and condition with the Scripture, nor scarce considering either their own wants or God’s promises; to have a book lie ready for them wherein they may read a prayer, and so suppose they have discharged their duty in that matter; is a course which 345surely they ought not to be countenanced or encouraged in. Nor is the perpetual rotation of the same words and expressions suited to instruct or carry on men in the knowledge of any thing, but rather to divert the mind from the due consideration of the things intended; and, therefore, commonly issues in formality. And where men have words or expressions prepared for them and suggested unto them that really signify the things wherein they are concerned, yet if the light and knowledge of those principles of truth whence they are derived, and whereinto they are resolved, be not in some measure fixed and abiding in their minds, they cannot be much benefited or edified by their repetition.
6. Experience is pleaded in the same case; and this with me, where persons are evidently conscientious, is of more moment than a hundred notional arguments that cannot be brought to that trial. Some, therefore, say that they have had spiritual advantage, the exercise of grace, and holy intercourse with God, in the use of such forms, and have their affections warmed and their hearts much bettered thereby; — and this they take to be a clear evidence and token that they are not disapproved of God; yea, that they are a great advantage, at least unto many, in prayer. Ans. Whether they are approved or disapproved of God, whether they are lawful or unlawful, we do not consider; but only whether they are for spiritual benefit and advantage, for the good of our own souls and the edification of others, as set up in competition with the exercise of the gift before described. And herein I am very unwilling to oppose the experience of any one who seems to be under the conduct of the least beam of gospel light; only, I shall desire to propose some few things to their consideration: as, —
(1.) Whether they understand aright the difference that is between natural devotion occasionally excited, and the due actings of evangelical faith and lose, with other graces of the Spirit, in a way directed unto by divine appointment? All men who acknowledge a Deity or Divine Power which they adore, when they address themselves seriously to perform any religious worship thereunto in their own way, be it what it will, will have their affections moved and excited suitably unto the apprehensions they have of what they worship, yea, though in particular it have no existence but in their own imaginations; for these things ensue on the general notion of a Divine Power, and not on the application of them to such idols as indeed are nothing in the world. There will be in such persons dread, and reverence, and fear, as there was in some of the heathen, unto an unspeakable horror, when they entered into the temples and merely imaginary presence of their gods; the whole work being begun and finished in their fancies And sometimes great joys, satisfactions, 346and delights, do ensue on what they do; for as what they so do is suited to the best light they have, and men are apt to have a complacency in their own inventions, as Micah had, Judges xvii. 13, and upon inveterate prejudices, which are the guides of most men in religion, their consciences find relief in the discharge of their duty. These things, I say, are found in persons of the highest and most dreadful superstitions in the world, yea, heightened unto inexpressible agitations of mind, in horror on the one side, and raptures or ecstasies on the other. And they are all tempered and qualified according to the mode and way of worship wherein men are engaged; but in themselves they are all of the same nature, — that is, natural, or effects and impressions upon nature. So it is with the Mohammedans, who excel in this devotion; and so it is with idolatrous Christians, who place the excellency and glory of their profession herein. Wherefore, such devotion, such affections, will be excited by religious offices, in all that are sincere in their use, whether they be of divine appointment or no. But the actings of faith and love on God through Christ, according to the gospel, or the tenor of the new covenant, with the effects produced thereby in the heart and affections, are things quite of another kind and nature; and unless men do know how really to distinguish between these things, it is to no purpose to plead spiritual benefit and advantage in the use of such forms, seeing possibly it may be no other but of the same kind with what all false worshippers in the world have, or may have, experience of.
(2.) Let them diligently inquire whether the effects on their hearts which they plead do not proceed from a precedent preparation, a good design and upright ends, occasionally excited. Let it be supposed that those who thus make use of and plead for forms of prayer, especially in public, do in a due manner prepare themselves for it by holy meditation, with an endeavour to bring their souls into a holy frame of fear, delight, and reverence of God; let it also be supposed that they have a good end and design in the worship they address themselves unto, namely, the glory of God and their own spiritual advantage; — the prayers themselves, though they should be in some things irregular, may give occasion to exercise those acts of grace which they were otherwise prepared for. And I say yet farther, —
(3.) That whilst these forms of prayer are clothed with the general notions of prayer, — that is, are esteemed as such in the minds of them that use them; are accompanied in their use with the motives and ends of prayer; express no matter unlawful to be insisted on in prayer; directing the souls of men to none but lawful objects of divine worship and prayer, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and whilst men make use of them with the true design of prayer, looking after due assistance unto prayer; — I do not judge there is any such evil in them 347as that God will not communicate his Spirit to any in the use of them, so as that they should have no holy communion with him in and under them. Much less will I say that God never therein regards their persons, or rejects their praying as unlawful; for the persons and duties of men may be accepted with God when they walk and act in sincerity according to their light, though in many things, and those of no small importance, sundry irregularities are found both in what they do and in the manner of doing it. Where persons walk before God in their integrity, and practice nothing contrary to their light and conviction in his worship, God is merciful unto them, although they order not every thing according to the rule and measure of the word. So was it with them who came to the passover in the days of Hezekiah; they had not cleansed themselves, but did “eat the passover otherwise than it was written,” 2 Chron. xxx. 18: for whom the good king made the solemn prayer suited to their occasion, “The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. And the Lord hearkened unto Hezekiah, and healed the people,” verses 18–20. Here was a duty for the substance of it appointed of God; but in the manner of its performance there was a failure, — they did it not according to what was written, which is the sole rule of all religious duties. This God was displeased withal, yet graciously passed by the offence, and accepted them whose hearts were upright in what they did. In the meantime, I do yet judge that the use of them is in itself obstructive of all the principal ends of prayer and sacred worship. Where they are alone used, they are opposite to the edification of the church; and where they are imposed to the absolute exclusion of other prayer, [they] are destructive of its liberty, and render a good part of the purchase of Christ of none effect.
Things being thus stated, it will be inquired whether the use of such forms of prayer is lawful or no. To this inquiry something shall be returned briefly in way of answer, and an end put unto this discourse. And I say, —
1. To compose and write forms of prayer to be directive and doctrinal helps unto others, as to the matter and method to be used in the right discharge of this duty, is lawful, and may in some cases be useful. It were better, it may be, if the same thing were done in another way, suited to give direction in the case, and not cast into the form of a prayer, which is apt to divert the mind from the due consideration of its proper end and use unto that which is not so; but this way of instruction is not to be looked on as unlawful merely for the form and method whereinto it is cast, whilst its true use only is attended unto.
3482. To read, consider, and meditate upon, such written prayers, as to the matter and arguments of prayer expressed in them, composed by persons from their own experience and the light of Scripture directions; or to make use of expressions set down in them, where the hearts of them that read them are really affected, because they find their state and condition, their wants and desires, declared in them, is not unlawful, but may be of good use unto some, though I must acknowledge I never heard any expressing any great benefit which they had received thereby, — rebut it is possible that some may so do: for no such freedom of prayer is asserted as should make it unlawful for men to make use of any proper means the better to enable them to pray, nor is any such ability of prayer granted as to supersede the duty of using means for the increase and furtherance of it.
3. To set up and prescribe the use of such forms universally, in opposition and unto the exclusion of free prayer by the aid of the Spirit of grace, is contrary not only to many divine precepts before insisted on, but to the light of nature itself, requiring every man to pray, and on some occasions necessitating them thereunto. But whatever be the practice of some men, I know not that any such opinion is pleaded for, and so shall not farther oppose it.
4. It is not inquired whether forms of prayer, especially as they may be designed unto and used for other ends, and not to be read instead of prayer, have in their composition any thing of intrinsical evil in them, for it is granted they have not; but the inquiry is, whether in their use as prayers they are not hinderances unto the right discharge of the duty of prayer according to the mind of God, and so may be unlawful in that respect: for I take it as granted that they are nowhere appointed of God for such a use, nowhere commanded so to be used; whence an argument may be formed against their having any interest in divine, acceptable worship, but it is not of our present consideration. For if on the accounts mentioned they appear not contrary unto, or inconsistent with, or are not used in a way exclusive of, that work of the Holy Spirit in prayer which we have described from the Scripture, nor are reducible unto any divine prohibition, whilst I may enjoy my own liberty I shall not contend with any about them. Nor shall I now engage into the examination of the arguments that are pleaded on their behalf, which some have greatly multiplied, as I suppose, not much to the advantage of their cause; for in things of religious practice, one testimony of Scripture rightly explained and applied, with the experience of believers thereon, is of more weight and value than a thousand dubious reasonings, which cannot be evidently resolved into those principles. Wherefore some few additional considerations shall put an issue unto this discourse.
3491. Some observe that there are forms of prayer composed and prescribed to be used both in the Old Testament and the New. Such, they say, was the form of blessing prescribed unto the priests on solemn occasions, Num. vi. 22–26, and the Psalms of David, as also the Lord’s Prayer in the New Testament. (1.) If this be so, it proves that forms of prayer are not intrinsically evil, which is granted, yet may the use of them be unnecessary. (2.) The argument will not hold, so far as it is usually extended at least: “God himself hath prescribed some forms of prayer, to be used by some persons on some occasions; therefore, men may invent, yea, and prescribe those that shall be for common and constant use.” He who forbade all images, or all use of them, in sacred things, appointed the making of the cherubims in the tabernacle and temple. (3.) The argument from the practice in use under the Old Testament in this matter, if any could thence be taken, when the people were carnal and tied up unto carnal ordinances, unto the duty and practice of believers under the New Testament and a more plentiful effusion of the Spirit, hath been before disproved. (4.) The words prescribed unto the priests were not a prayer properly, but an authoritative benediction, and an instituted sign of God’s blessing the people; for so it is added in the explication of that ordinance, “They shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them,” verse 27. (5.) David’s Psalms were given out by immediate inspiration, and were most of them mystical and prophetical, appointed to be used in the church, as all other Scriptures, only some of them in a certain manner, namely, of singing, and that manner also was determined by divine appointment. (6.) That any form of prayer is appointed in the New Testament, to be used as a form, is neither granted nor can be proved. (7.) Give us prayers composed by divine inspiration, with a command for their use, with the time, manner, and form of their usage, which these instances prove to be lawful, if they prove any thing in this case, and there will be no contest about them. (8.) All and every one of the precedents or examples which we have in the whole Scripture of the prayers of any of the people of God, men or women, being all accommodated to their present occasions, and uttered in the freedom of their own spirits, do all give testimony unto free prayer, if not against the use of forms in that duty.
2. Moreover, it seems that “when any one prayeth, his prayer is a form unto all that join with him, whether in families or church-assemblies;” which some lay great weight upon, though I am not able to discern the force of it in this case: for, — (1.) The question is solely about him that prayeth, and his discharge of duty according to the mind of God, and not concerning them who join with him. (2.) The conjunction of others with him that prayeth according to his 350ability is an express command of God. (3.) Those who so join are at liberty, when it is their duty, to pray themselves. (4.) That which is not a form in itself is not a form to any; for there is more required to make it so than merely that the words and expressions are not of their own present invention. It is to them the benefit of a gift, bestowed for their edification in its present exercise, according to the mind of God. That only is a form of prayer unto any which he himself useth as a form; for its nature depends on its use. (5.) The argument is incogent: “God hath commanded some to pray according to the ability they have received, and others to join with them therein; therefore, it is lawful to invent forms of prayer for ourselves or others, to be used as prayers by them or us.”
3. That which those who pretend unto moderation in this matter plead is, that “prayer itself is a commanded duty; but praying by or with a prescribed form is only an outward manner and circumstance of it, which is indifferent, and may or may not be used, as we see occasion;” — and might a general rule to this purpose be duly established, it would be of huge importance. But, (1.) It is an easy thing to invent and prescribe such outward forms and manner of outward worship as shall leave nothing of the duty prescribed but the empty name. (2.) Praying before an image, or worshipping God or Christ by an image, is but an outward mode of worship, yet such as renders the whole idolatrous. (3.) Any outward mode of worship, the attendance whereunto or the observance whereof is prejudicial unto the due Performance of the duty whereunto it is annexed, is inexpedient; and what there is hereof in the present instance must be judged from the preceding discourse.
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