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never have appeared with it in any pulpit, had it not been chosen for me on the present occasion. Nay, when I first heard that this detached and single word was allotted for me, I could not forbear to hesitate: because I have long detested the thought of selecting any part of Sacred Scripture, to be the subject of a trial of skill, in order to excite popular curiosity, and to afford amusement. For such conduct deserves the most marked reprobation; as being a disgrace to the pulpit, and a profanation of the sacred ministry.-But, when I reflected on the meaning of the word Amen; on the solemn connection in which it stands; and on its being, of itself, a sentence; I acquiesced in the choice which my Brethren had made for me. Because, though my text be extremely concise, and very singular; yet the subject is of considerable importance, to both Ministers of the word, and private Christians. Totally banishing from our minds, therefore, all vain curiosity, and every trifling thought; let us, with devout solemnity, and as in the presence of God, proceed to consider the meaning of the expressive term, as here used; and the edifying truths which are suggested by it.
As to the meaning of the term AMEN, of which my text consists, it may be observed, that, when prefixed to an assertion, it signifies, assuredly; certainly; or, emphatically, so it is. But when, as here, it concludes a prayer, whether longer or shorter, so be it, or so let it be, is its manifest import. In the former case, it is assertive: it assures of a truth, or a fact; and is an asseveration. In this acceptation it is frequently used by
our Lord in his divine discourses, especially in the Gospel according to John, and is properly translated verily. In the latter case it is petitionary; and, as it were, epitomizes all the requests with which it stands connected. It is a purely Hebrew term; but has been transplanted into many languages, both antient and modern. Its meaning, in the passage before us, is, therefore, so be it; or so let it be.
Thus it was used by the ancient Hebrews; of which we have abundant evidence in the Old Testament. So, for instance, when it first occurs, in our English Bible, relative to an Israelitish women suspected of adultery; who, on hearing the conditional curse pronounced upon her, was to reply, Amen, amen:* so be it, so be it. Thus, likewise, in the very last example of its use, by inspired writers. For, to the language of our Lord, Surely, I come quickly; the answer is, Amen. Ever so come, Lord Jesus.†
Nor was the emphatical term used among the ancient Hebrews, by detached individuals.only; but also, on certain occasions, by an assembly at large. Thus, for example, when six of the chosen tribes were convened at mount Ebal, and the Levites denounced a variety of curses on those who transgressed the laws of Jehovah; all the people were to unite in saying, Amen, amen. So, when Ezra blessed Jehovah, the great God, all the people answered, Amen, with lifting up of their hands.‡
This branch of religious practice, not being of a ceremonial kind, nor peculiar to the Jewish ritual,
was far from being confined to the Mosaic Dispensation: for it was adopted in the public worship of the primitive Christian churches, and received the sanction of apostolic authority; as appears by the following words. When thou shalt bless with the spirit, by the use of an extraordinary gift, in an unknown language, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say AMEN at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? By which remarkable passage we are taught, That it was customary in the apostolic churches, when he who led the worship concluded a devotional address to God, for all the Christians that composed the assembly to unite, either audibly, or mentally, in saying Amen-That this was practised, not only by churches which consisted principally of Jewish converts, who might be supposed to have transferred the usage from the synagogue worship; but also in the Gentile churches: of which number was the church at Corinth-And that it had the sanction of divine authority: for the inspired writer argues on this very ground, when reproving the misapplication of an extraordinary spiritual gift.-This practice in the primitive churches receiving a divine sanction, as relating to New Testament worship, has the force of an express apostolic precept, or of divine. law: and, consequently, being of a moral nature, it must be equally the duty of those individuals who constitute a worshipping assembly now, as it was of the church at Corinth, to unite in subjoining their solemn Amen, at the close of a devotional address to God.
* 1 Cor. xiv. 16. See Rev. v. 11-14.
↑ Vide Vitringam de Synag. Vet. 1. iii, pars ii. cap. 13.
The same custom was continued among the Christians in following times; as we learn from Justin Martyr, from Chrysostom, and from others. But as, in various instances, apostolic rites and customs were, in subsequent ages, either entirely laid aside, or extremely corrupted; so, there is reason to suppose, that the emphatical, the solemn, and the devout Amen which Paul approved, was, in process of time, converted into an unmeaning, a noisy, and a very indecent formality. For Jerome informs us of its being the custom, in his time, so to conclude every public prayer, that the united Amen of the people sounded like the fall of water, or the noise of thunder.
Nor is the practice of some professors in our own times to be commended; who, with a low, though audible voice, add their Amen to almost every sentence, as it proceeds from the lips of him who is the mouth in social prayer. Because, in certain instances which have come under my own observation, those who are in the habit of so doing, sometimes express their Amen before the sentence be completed; and therefore cannot understand the full import of it-Because it has a tendency to interrupt the devotion of those private worshippers that are near to them-And because it may sometimes disconcert the thoughts of him who leads the worship. A mental So be it, in this case, is all that should be used.
But whether, at the conclusion of social prayer, we annex our Amen with an audible voice, in a low whisper, or merely in a mental way, it should always include, like that of Benaiah, an ardent desire of having it ratified by the Amen of God
himself. When David, lying on his death-bed, nominated Solomon to succeed him on the throne of Israel, Benaiah answered, AMEN. The Lord God of my lord the king SAY SO TOO.*-Yes, my Brethren, when we say Amen, it should be with a solemn and believing regard to that divine Amen. To this Luther, it is probable, referred, when, writing to the timid Melancthon, he said, 'I do pray for you; I have prayed for you; and I will pray for you. Doubt not but I shall be heard: for I feel the Amen in my heart.'†
Now, my Brethren, such being the import of the expressive term Amen; and such its divinely authorized use, not only in private devotion, but also in worshipping assemblies, both Jewish and Christian; let us proceed to consider the edifying truths which are suggested by it, with regard to prayer, whether secret or social. It suggests,
FIRST, That we should pray with understanding, with fervour, and with expectation.
It strongly suggests, that we should pray with understanding. For as our Amen, whether in public or in private, is a mere formality, if we do not pay a solemn regard to the Amen of God himself; so it manifestly teaches the necessity of praying according to the divine revealed will. For why do we pray, if not that God may regard, approve, and accept our adorations, confessions, petitions, and thanksgivings, that are addressed to him? which there is no reason to expect, except in proportion as our prayers are conformable to his own directions. Now, his
* 1 Kings i. 36. † Apud Witsium
See Jer. xxviii. 6.
Exercitat, in Orat. Dom. Exercit. xiv. § 16.