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little short of blasphemy. When there was no preaching, superstition and corruption prevailed; when there was overmuch, it was of a flatulent and inflammatory kind; and it appeared at length so ridiculous, that the style and manner of it was purposely avoided after the Restoration by most men who were regularly educated. But alas! when they did this, they fell into another error, under which we are now suffering. The spirit of prayer and of Christian godliness, having exposed itself in the intemperate and hypocritical effusions of fanatic zeal, was now more coldly affected, and preachers were shy of betraying any symptoms of religious warmth, lest they should be suspected for hypocrites. Interpretations of the scripture had been made so cheap, and had been so ill managed, that they had given great disgust. The preachers of the former time had made an ostentatious shew of understanding all mysteries. They could find the Pope's errors and their own fancies any where in the minor prophets ; and could tell you the mystical intention of the snuffers and fire-shovels * of the tabernacle. This evil was corrected by what was called moral preaching ; and unfor
tunately * The celebrated John Bunyan wrote a Mystical Exposit on of every ar.icle in Solomon's Temple.
tunately for the times, a generation of metaphysicians arose, who gave a new turn to the thoughts of Christian scholars, and furnished them with dry, speculative, unprofitable, and sometimes very dangerous matter. The Old Testament, with which the Puritans had held such ridiculous familiarity, came to be much neglected, and of course much misunderstood; of which I could give some frightful examples from writers of high reputation. Where this happens, the New Testament can never long maintain its authority; and we are all witnesses, that the neglect of its doctrines by our preachers has offended the common people, and laid them open to the attempts of mercenary enthusiasts, who preach without discre. tion, and act without authority. Our Dissenters also are, in general, much departed from their original profession, and, in their discours. es, preached and printed, some of them approach nearer to the cold philosophy of Bolingbroke, and the wildness of Voltaire, than to the faith and language of their forefathers : and this I would tell them, not out of any ill-will, but that they may consider' from whence they have departed, and learn, that soundness of teaching is always brought into great danger, when we affect separate ways of worship. The duty of a Christian minister requires him therefore to know and to avoid all these dangers; to keep up the knowledge of Christian doc, trine in the people, by the light of his preaching; and to warn them at all times of the necessity of praying. We may preach again and again ; but unless we can preach till we make men pray, it is all to no purpose. Be ye doers of the word, says the Apostle, and not hearers only. But how are we to do it? Hearing only shews us what it is; the grace of God enables us to perform it; and that grace is never to be obtained, but by prayer. St. Paul saw a great light from the heaven which struck him and his companions to the earth ; and he heard the voice of Christ himself speaking to him: then he went blind to Damascus, and remained for some time in this dreadful state of suspense, under the hand of God. All this train of miracles was designed only to turn his heart, and bring him to his prayers: and the means, with such an heart to work upon, had the proper effect. Upon which, Ananias received a commission to go and relieve him The Lord said to him, in a visionArise, and go into the street, which is called
s straight, (strait) and inquire in the house “ of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus, for “ behold, he prayeth.”
The importance and excellence of prayer may be collected from the words of the text; which do not relate to the duty of private devotion, however necessary, but to public prayer only. The house of God does not take its name from the practice of preaching there, but from the practice of praying --My house shall be called the House of Prayer. Accordingly we find, that when the temple of Solomon was finished, it was immediately applied to its proper use. We hear of no preaching on this great occasion, but only of prayers and religious offerings. The king, the priests, and all the people attended at the solemn service of its dedication. Sacrifices were offered without number, and the king, in his capacity of a prophet, prayed publicly for the blessing and favour of God upon the house which he had built. His words are very striking, and a part of them will furnish an excellent commentary upon the text. Will God indeed dwell on the earth ? Behold, the heaven, and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee ; how much less this house which I have builded? Yet have thou,
SERM. X111. respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to hearken unto the cry and unto the prayer which thy servant prayeth before thee this day. That thine eyes may be opened towards this house night and day; even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall, be there ; that thou maijst hearken to the prayer which thy servant shall make towards this place. And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray towards this place, and hear thou in heaven, thy dwelling place, and, when thou hearest, forgive. In this part of king Solomon's prayer, these things following are to be observed; Ist. That the temple was an habitation of God; a circumstance which the piety of the king dwells upon with wonder-Grill God indeed divell on earth! The cloud, which denoted the presence of God, had already filled the house, so that the Priest could not stand to minister: and in the ages after, as well as before, the divine presence was manifested about the ark, and be. tween the cherubims which overshadowed it. On special occasions it appeared in a visible manner, under the symbol of a cloud with a light or glory attending it; and, when the cloud