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unite with him through the whole, as to conclude with a cordial Amen. Now this emphatical So be it, implicitly, but strongly, forbids and reproves,
The use of such words and modes of speech as his fellow-worshippers do not understand. Our language in social prayer should always be so plain and simple, that those who cannot read, and are of narrow capacities, may know what we mean; or else how shall they be able to subjoin their Amen? Never is a desire of appearing learned, or of having the command of elegant language, so misapplied, so contemptible, and so abominable in the sight of God, as when addressing him in public prayer. For any one, designedly, to convert, what ought to be the prayer of sinners, prostrate at the throne of grace, and crying for mercy; into an occasion of displaying the brightness of his own parts, or the superiority of his literary excellence, is an evil of no common magnitude.-But though the impropriety of such conduct be so manifest, and its criminality so great; there are some, I presume, in this assembly, that can witness, from their own experience, the necessity of being constantly on their guard lest, instead of worshipping Him who is a consuming fire, with reverence and godly fear; they, in the figurative language of inspiration, should offer sacrifice to their own net, and burn incense to their own drag-lest the desire of making a respectable figure among their fellow-worms, and the lust of popular applause, be more operative in their hearts, than a sense of the Divine Presence, contrition for sin, faith in Christ, or a desire of communion with God. He, however, who has the honour of addressing you on the present occasion,
though now hoary in a profession of godliness, and in the gospel ministry, perceives great reason, on this account, for deep humiliation, and the strictest watchfulness.
The concluding and expressive Amen, loudly forbids, and powerfully reproves, all quaint expressions and low language, that are adapted to raise a smile; and every term and phruse, that savours of wit, or of contrivance. Because every thing of this kind, being adverse to devout attention, to united fervour, and to the very nature of prayer; must be inimical to an harmonious and solemn So be it. Nay, language, if not absolutely inadvertent, which has a natural tendency to provoke risibility in serious persons, treats them with rudeness, and insults the majesty of that Divine Presence in which the speaker stands. Far from serving Jehovah with fear; and equally far from imitating the profound humility and reverence of the Seraphim, in their sublime worship:* he, by levity, profanes the service of the Most Holy; wounds the devotional feelings of those who are truly pious; and shocks common sense, even in those that are ungodly.
The united and concluding Amen, very forcibly forbids, and keenly reproves, the use of all ambiguous phrases, or expressions of doubtful meaning. For, to petitions and thanksgivings in such language, who, besides the person that uses them, can say, So be it? Undesignedly to employ phraseology of this kind, interferes with the intention of social prayer; and to adopt it, by choice; or, to have a latent meaning under well-known terms, which the words themselves do not express; is to want inIsa. vi. 1-4.
tegrity, and to deceive those who unite in the solemn exercise. Never do ambiguities appear so hateful, as when presented to the heart-searching God, in social supplication, and claiming the Amen of private worshippers. For where, in whose presence, or on what occasion, ought simplicity and sincerity to appear in their highest exercise, if not in professed converse with Him whose eyes are as a flaming fire?
The devout and united Amen of all that are present, in social worship, entirely forbids, and sharply reproves, a polemical, or controversial turn, in prayer. For if he who is the mouth of a congregation, instead of addressing penitential confessions, ardent petitions, and grateful acknowledgements to God, undertake to confirm truth, or to confute error; the attention of his fellowworshippers is necessarily diverted from the proper object of their concluding Amen, to the pertinency and force, or the weakness and futility, of his arguments. The exercise of a praying frame is immediately suspended, and the spirit of devotion languishes. So that instead of adoring at the throne of grace, and being conscious of it, they are deeply engaged in mental controversy, and feel as if contending with opponents. But that all this is extremely foreign from the true nature, and real design of social prayer, is beyond a doubt.
Besides, however true the sentiment, or commendable the practice, which is thus defended in prayer, may be; it is not improbable, that some really pious persons in the assembly may have their doubts, respecting the truth of such sentiment, or the validity of such practice. But, in social suppli
cation, he who leads the devotion should endeavour so to express himself, that every real Christianthat every one who enjoys the Spirit of prayer, and is not under the immediate influence of some prejudice, or some temptation; may heartily unite in the closing Amen. Nor is it unworthy of remark, that though real converts very much differ, as to some points of doctrine, and certain modes of worship; yet observation has taught us, that, in their experience, and in their prayers, there is a pleasing harmony among them.-I will add, it is not in preaching the word, as it is in prayer. For, does a minister of Christ, as a public teacher, address an auditory on the doctrine of grace, or the doctrine of duty? appearing under that character, and in his individual capacity, he must, whether those around him approve or not, express his own views of truths and blessings, of obligations and of dangers; while the people hear, and judge for themselves. But, when taking the lead in prayer, he appears-not as a detached individual, nor yet as a public teacher-but as a member of the collective body; as the mouth of the congregation; or as the organ of the whole assembly, in making known their united requests to God.
The concluding and solemn Amen, absolutely forbids, and severely reproves, every appearance of angry, envious, and malevolent passions. For as our Lord has taught us, that the least degree of malevolence toward our neighbours is abhorrent from the nature of acceptable prayer, when performed by an individual;* so whatever wears the
* Mark xi. 25, 26.
aspect of private resentment, or that seems inconsistent with genuine benevolence to our fellowcreatures in general, must, so far as it appears, be an insuperable bar to that righteous, devout, and solemn Amen, which is required. For, as before demanded, where, when, in the presence of whom, and on what occasion, should the heart be filled with rectitude, and with kind affections toward our brethren of the human race, if not when professedly prostrate at the feet of Eternal Majesty; whether pleading for mercy, or presenting our thanks for benefits received? Where should humility and meekness; where should the overflowings of love to God and man, express themselves, if not at the throne of grace?
In a word, the united, the solemn, the emphatical Amen of silent worshippers in social prayer, forbids and reproves every impropriety and moral defect, in him who leads the devotion, that has a natural tendency to interfere with devout attention, with deep solemnity, and with the lively exercise of holy affections toward God. If he, therefore, who is the mouth in social supplication, do not appear to feel the solemnity of his own situation, as addressing the Most High; if he do not, apparently, pray with humility, with reverence, and from the heart; if his language and manner afford strong presumptive grounds of suspicion, that he performs the service in a merely official, or in a customary way; if he protract the service to such a length as wearies the attention of those who are not under the power of bodily indisposition, and have the Spirit of prayer: or,