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A DISSERTATION, &c. passages appointed to be read that day out of a pointed copy, and thereby make himself master of the exact reading of them, that fo the day following he may
read them without hesitation or stop, and pronounce, as he does, exactly in conformity to the present punctuation': and after all, it follows not, because the Jews now have, and have had for ages past, unpointed Bibles in their fynagogues, which men of learning could read, that they have not, nor had any pointed ones for the common people. It is certain that they had formerly, and have such now; wherefore this is no sufficient objection against the antiquity and use of the points, but an argument in favour of them ; since the true reason of having unpointed copies in the synagogue, is, that none might be admitted readers in them, but fuch who are so perfect in the Hebrew language as to be able to read exactly in an unpointed copy, agreeable to the points and accents in a pointed one.
y Carpzov. Critic facr. par. 1. p. 267.
TWO DI S COURSES ; THE ONE ON PRA Y ER,
In which are shewn the Obligation to these DUTIES; the Nature of
them; and the Manner and Usefulness of performing them.
I COR. xiv. 15. former Part. What is it then? I will pray with the Spirit, and will pray with
the understanding also. THE THE design of this epistle is chiefly to reprove the Church at Corinth for
the divisions and contentions, which were there fomented and kept up on account of their ministers; some being for Paul, some for Apollo, and others for Cephas ; and to remove some irregular practices from among them, which were either openly avowed, or connived at by them ; such as continuing a wicked person in their communion, going to law with one another before heathen magistrates, and the disorderly attendance of many of them at the Lord's table. The apostle having finished this part of his design, does, in the twelfth chapter, largely insist on the subject of spiritual gifts; where he gives an account of the diversity of them, of their author, and of their various usefulness in the church of Christ; for which reason he exhorts the members of this church to cover them earnestly, though he would not have VOL. III. 4 C
them depend on them, since they are not saving. In the thirteenth chapter, he prefers charity, or love, to them, and thews, that without this they are useless and unprofitable to those who have them. In this fourteenth chapter, he presses them to follow after charity, and defire spiritual gifts, but raiber, says he, that ye may propbesy. He proves, by many arguments, and especially by that taken from edification, that prophesying in a known language, in the mother tongue, which is understood by the people, is preferable to the gift of speaking in an unknown language, not understood by the people, and so unedifying to them. It is evident, that by prophesying, he means not only preaching, but praying, since he instances in it, and argues, in the words preceding my text, thus : For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayerb, but my understanding is unfruitful; that is, when I pray in an unknown language, being under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, I make use of that extraordinary gift which he has bestowed upon me, and my own spirit is indeed refreshed by it: But what I myself conceive, understand, and express, is useless and unprofitable to others, who do not understand the language in which I pray; therefore, says he, in the words of my text, What is it then? What is to be done in this case? What is most prudent and adviseable? What is most eligible and desirable ? Must I not pray with the Spirit at all ? Shall I not make use of that extraordinary gift which the Spirit has bestowed upon me? Shall I entirely neglect it, and lay it aside ? No, I will pray with ibe Spirit; I will make use of the gift I have; but then it shall be in such a way and manner, as that I shall be understood by others, I will pray with the understanding also. In these words may be considered, I. The work and business of prayer, which the apostle resolved in the
strength of Christ, and, by the affiftance of his Spirit, to be found in
the performance of; I will pray, &c. II. The manner in which he is desirous of performing this duty; with the
Spirit, and with the understanding also. I. I shall consider the work and business of prayer, which the apostle resolved, in the strength of Christ, and by the asistance of his Spirit, to be found in the performance of. It will not be amiss, under this head co enquire into the object of prayer, the several parts of it, and its different kinds. I
1. With the object of prayer, which is not any mere creature. Prayer is a part of religious worship, which is due to God only. To address a creature in such a solemn manner is idolatry. This is a sin the Gentiles have been notoriously guilty of", who have paid their devoirs this way, both to animate and inanimate creatures. The idolatrous Heathen is thus described by the prophet b; He maketh a god bis graven image ; be falleth down unto it, and worshippetb it, and prayeth unto it, and faith, Deliver me, for thou art my god. Such a practice as this, is an argument of great ignorance and stupidity "; They have no knowledge, that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. It is no wonder that their prayers should be in vain, since their idols are silver and gold, the work of mens hands : They have mouths, but they Speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; they bave ears, but they bear d not. They are insensible of the wants of their votaries, and unable to help them ; they are not in a capacity to give them the least relief, or bestow the least temporal mercy on them : Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain ? Or can the heavens give powers ? Art not thou be, O Lord, our God? Therefore we will wait upon thee; for thou hast made all these things. The Papists have followed the Pagans in their idolatrous prayers to angels', the virgin Mary, and other saints departed, and even to many that were not saints ; but it may be said to them, what Eliphaz said to jobs, in another case; Call now, if there be any that will answer thee ; and to which of the saints wilt thou turn ?
God only is, and ought to be the object of prayer. My prayer, says David, Mall be unto the God of my life". God has a right to this part of worship from us, as he is the God of our lives, in whom we live, move, and have our being ; who grants us life and favour, and whose visitation preserves our spirits ; who daily follows us with his goodness, and loads us with his benefits; to whom we are obliged for every mercy, and on whom the whole support and continuance of our beings depend; and we are under greater obligation still, as well as have greater encouragement, to address the throne of his grace, as he is the God of all grace, wbo bas blessed us with all spiritual blessings, in heavenly places, in Cbrif Jesus; all which may assure us, that his eyes are upon us, his ears are open to our cries, that he has both a heart and a hand to help and 4 C 2
relieve . What the Heathens prayed to their gods for, and what rites and ceremonies they used in prayer, see Alex, ab Alex. Genial. Dierum, 1. 4. C. 17. b Isa. xliv. 17.
« Isa xlv. 20. d Pfal. cxv. 4-6.
Jer. xiv. 22. Vide Roman, Breviar. & Job v. 1.
b Psal. xlii. 8.
relieve us; he is a God that hears and answers prayer, to whom all Aesh shall come, who are sensible of their need of him, and dependance upon him ; bis arm is not shortened, that it cannot save, nor his ear beavy that it cannot hear; nor did be ever say to any of the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.
Though the Lord our God is but one Lord; there is but one God, which, with the Scriptures, we assert, in opposition to the polytheism of the Gentiles, who had gods many, and lords many; yet there is a plurality of persons in the Deity', which are neither more nor fewer than Three, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, which Three are One; the Father is God, the Word is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; and yet there are not three Gods, but one God. Though the Persons in the Godhead are more than one, yet the Godhead itself is single and undivided. Now God in either and each of the Three divine Persons, may be prayed unto.
It is lawful for us to address in prayer either God the Father, or God the Son, or God the Holy Ghost distinctly, though not any of them to the exclusion of the others. This I mention, to disentangle the minds of some, who may have some scruples and hesitations about praying to the distinct Persons in the Deity. Now it is easy to observe, that there are petitions directed to each of the three Persons distinctly; of which I shall give some few instances from the Scriptures.
God the Father is sometimes singly and distinctly prayed unto, though not to the exclusion of the Son or Spirit. It would be too tedious to reckon up all the instances of this kind : The epistle to the Ephefans will furnish us with a sufficient number to our purpose. In one place the apostle says to them *; I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; where God the Father is prayed unto, as distinct from the Lord Jesus Christ, whose God and Father he is, and distinct from the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, who as such is prayed for. And in another place, he says', For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he would grant you, according to the riches of bis glory, to be strengthened with might, by bis Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; in which passage God the Father is addressed, as the object of prayer, distinct from Christ and the Spirit; the former of which he desires might dwell in their hearts by faith, and that they might be strengthened by the latter in their inner man. If these instances were not sufficient, others
might i See my Do&rine of the Trinity stated and vindicated, &c. chap. 2, * Eph. i, 16, 17
Eph, iii. 14, 16, 17.