Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

according to the fervency of spirit, and the charity of the prayer. That prayer, which is short, by reason of an impatient spirit, or dulness, or despite of holy things, or indifferency of desires, is very often criminal, always imperfect; and that prayer, which is long out of ostentation, or superstition, or a trifling spirit, is as criminal and imperfect as the other, in their several instances. This rule relates to private prayer. In public, our devotion is to be measured by the appointed office, and we are to support our spirit with spiritual arts, that our private spirit may be a part of the public spirit, and be adopted into the society and blessings of the communion of saints.

9. In all forms of prayer, mingle petition with thanksgiving, that you may endear the present prayer and the future blessing, by returning praise and thanks for what we have already received. This is St. Paul's advice, " Be careful for nothing; but, in every thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto Godq.

10. Whatever we beg of God, let us also work for it; if the thing be matter of duty, or a consequent to industry. For God loves to bless labour and to reward it, but not to support idlenessr. And, therefore, our blessed Saviour, in his sermons, joins watchfulness with prayer: for God's graces are but assistances, not new creations of the whole habit, in every instant or period of our life. Read Scriptures; and then pray to God for understanding. Pray against temptation: but you must also resist the devil, and then he will flee from you. Ask of God competency of living: but you must also work with your hands the things that are honest, that ye may have to supply in time of need. We can but do our endeavour, and pray for blessing, and then leave the success with God: and beyond this, we cannot deliberate, we cannot take care; but so far, we must.

11. To this purpose let every man study his prayers, and read his duty in his petitions, for the body of our prayer is the sum of our duty: and as we must ask of God, what

<1 Phil. iv. 6. Eira Xiyof&iv, Ki/otl o Qtos, orus fih xyuvioi; ftufti, %U%xs ovx t%as ; ovtt iTotviffl rot

.Anion. 1. ii. c. 16

soever we need; so we must labour for all that we ask. Because it is our duty, therefore we must pray for God's grace: but because God's grace is necessary, and without it we can do nothing, we are sufficiently taught, that in the proper matter of our religious prayers is the just matter of our duty: and if we shall turn our prayers into precepts, we shall the easier turn our hearty desires into effective practices.

12. In all our prayers, we must] be careful to attend our present work*, having a present mind, not wandering upon impertinent things, not distant from our words, much less contrary to them : and if our thoughts do at any time wander, and divert upon other objects, bring them back again with prudent and severe arts; by all means striving to obtain a diligent, a sober, an untroubled, and a composed spirit.

13. Let your posture and gesture of body in prayers, be reverent, grave, and humble: according to public order, or the best examples, if it be in public: if it be in private, either stand, or kneel, or lie flat upon the ground on your face, in your ordinary and more solemn prayers; but in extraordinary, casual and ejaculatory prayers, the reverence and devotion of the soul, and the lifting up the eyes and hands to God with any other posture not indecent, is usual and commendable; for we may pray in bed, on horseback, "every where'," and at all times, and in all circumstances: and it is well if we do so: and some servants have not opportunity to pray so often as they would, unless they supply the appetites of religion by such accidental devotions.

14. "Let prayers and supplications and giving of thanks be made for all men: for kings, and all that are in authority. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour"." We, who must love our neighbours as ourselves, must also pray for them, as for ourselves; with this only difference; that we may enlarge in our temporal desires for kings, and pray for secular prosperity to them with more importunity than for ourselves; because they need more to enable their duty and government, and for the interests of religion and justice. This part of prayer is by the apostle called intercession; in which, with special care, we are to remember our relatives, our family, our charge, our benefactors, our creditors; not forgetting to beg pardon and charity for our enemies, and protection against them.

* Inter sacra et vota, verbis etiam profanis abstinere.— Tacit. '1 Tim. ii. 8. u 1 Tim. ii. 2.

15. Rely not on a single prayer in matters of great concernment; but make it as public as you can, by obtaining of others to pray for you: this being the great blessing of the communion of saints, that a prayer united is strong, like a well-ordered army; and God loves to be tied fast with such cords of love, and constrained by a holy violence.

16. Every time, that is not seized upon by some other duty, is seasonable enough for prayer: but let it be performed as a solemn duty morning and evening, that God may begin and end all our business, that "the outgoing of the morning and evening may praise him;" for so we bless God, and God blesses us. And yet fail not to find, or make, opportunities to worship God at some other times of the day; at least by ejaculations and short addresses, more or less, longer or shorter, solemnly or without solemnity, privately or publicly, as you can, or are permitted: always remembering, that as every sin is a degree of danger and unsafety; so every pious prayer and well-employed opportunity is a degree of return to hope and pardon.

Cautions for making Vows.

17. A vow to God is an act of prayer, and a great degree and instance of opportunity, and an increase of duty by some new uncommanded instance, or some more eminent degree of duty, or frequency of action, or earnestness of spirit in the same. And because it hath pleased God, in all ages of the world, to admit of intercourse with his servants in the matters of vows, it is not ill advice, that we make vows to God in such cases, in which we have great need, or great danger. But let it be done according to these rules and by these cautions.

1. That the matter of the vow be lawful. 2. That it be useful, in order to religion or charity. 3. That it be grave, not trifling or impertinent; but great in our proportion of duty towards the blessing. 4. That it be an uncommanded instance ; that is, that it be of something, or in some manner, or in some degree, to which formerly we were not obliged, or which we might have omitted, without sin. 5. That it be done with prudence; that is, that it be safe in all the cir

VOL. IV. Q

cumstances of person, lest we beg a blessing, and fall into a snare. 6. That every vow of a new action be also accompanied with a new degree and enforcement of our essential and unalterable duty: such as was Jacob's vow, that (besides the payment of a tithe) God should be his God: that so he might strengthen his duty to him, first in essentials and precepts; and then in additionals and accidentals. For it is but an ill tree, that spends more in leaves and suckers and gums, than in fruit: and that thankfulness and religion is best, that first secures duty, and then enlarges in counsels. Therefore let every great prayer, and great need, and great danger, draw us nearer to God by the approach of a pious purpose to live more strictly; and let every mercy of God, answering that prayer, produce a real performance of it. 7. Let not young beginners in religion enlarge their hearts and straiten their liberty by vows of long continuance: nor indeed any one else, without a great experience of himself, and of all accidental dangersT. Vows, of single actions, are safest, and proportionable to those single blessings, ever begged in such cases of sudden and transient importunities. 8. Let no action, which is matter of question and dispute in religion, ever become the matter of a vow. He vows foolishly, that promises to God to live and die in such an opinion, in an article not necessary, nor certain; or that, upon confidence of his present guide, binds himself for ever to the profession of what he may, afterwards, more reasonably, contradict, or may find not to be useful, or not profitable, but of some danger, or of no necessity.

If we observe the former rules, we shall pray piously and effectually: but, because even this duty hath in it some special temptations, it is necessary, that we be armed by special remedies against them. The dangers are, 1. Wandering thoughts; 2. Tediousness of spirit. Against the first these advices are profitable.

Remedies against Wandering Thoughts in Prayer.
If we feel our spirits apt to wander in our prayers, and

r Angustum annulum non gesta, dixit Pythag. id est, vitae genus liberum sectare, nee vinculo temetipsum obstringe.—Plutarch. Sic Novatus novitios suns

compulit ad jurandum, nv nquam ad Catholicos episcopos redirent. Euseb.

1. ii. Eccl. Hist.

to retire into the world, or to things unprofitable, or vain and impertinent;

1. Use prayer to be assisted in prayer: pray for the spirit of supplication, for a sober, fixed, and recollected spirit :• and when to this you add a moral industry to be steady in your thoughts, whatsoever wanderings after this do return irremediably, are a misery of nature and an imperfection, but no sin, while it is not cherished and indulged to.

2. In private, it is not amiss to attempt the cure by reducing your prayers into collects and short forms of prayer, making voluntary interruptions, and beginning again, that the want of spirit and breath may be supplied by the short stages and periods.

3. When you have observed any considerable wanderings of your thoughts, bind yourself to repeat that prayer again with actual attention, or else revolve the full sense of it in your spirit, and repeat it in all the effect and desires of it: and, possibly, the tempter may be driven away with his own art, and may cease to interpose his trifles, when he perceives, they do but vex the person into carefulness and piety; and yet he loses nothing of his devotion, but doubles the earnestness of his care.

4. If this be not seasonable or opportune, or apt to any man's circumstances, yet be sure, with actual attention, to say a hearty Amen to the whole prayer with one united desire, earnestly begging the graces mentioned in the prayer: for that desire does the great work of the prayer, and secures the blessing, if the wandering thoughts were against our will, and disclaimed by contending against them.

5. Avoid multiplicity of businesses of the world; and in those, that are unavoidable, labour for an evenness and tranquillity of spirit, that you may be untroubled and smooth, in all tempests of fortune: for so we shall better tend religion, when we are not torn in pieces with the cares of the world, and seized upon with low affections, passions, and interest.

6. It helps much to attention and actual advertisement in our prayers, if we say our prayers, silently, without the voice, only by the spirit. For, in mental prayer, if our thoughts wander, we only stand still; when our mind returns, we go on again: there is none of the prayer lost, as it is, if our mouths speak, and our hearts wander.

« AnteriorContinuar »