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CHAPTER IV.
OF EXTERNAL SERVICE.

THUS much of the internal service of God. We are now to speak of his external service, which is commonly denominated religion; not that internal worship is not also religion, but that it is not usually called so, except as it manifests itself in outward actions. Although external worship is, for the convenience of definition, distinguished from internal, it is our duty to unite them in practice, nor are they ever separated, except by the fault of the wicked.

True religion is that by which God is worshipped with sincerity after the form and manner which himself has prescribed. Mic. vi. 6. "wherewith shall I come before Jehovah-?" Worship is expressed in Scripture by the verb λατρεύειν, Matt. iv. 10, and δουλεύειν, vi. 24. Gal. iv. 8. The Papists therefore err in explaining λατρεία of the worship paid to God, δουλεία of that paid to holy men and angels[1].

Opposed to this is, first, superstition or will worship (ἐθελοθρησκεία,) the offspring of man's invention. Thus Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before <274> Jehovah, for which they were forthwith punished with death, Lev. x. 1, 2. 1 Sam. xiii. 12. "I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt-offering... thou hast done foolishly." xv. 15, 16. "they have brought them... to sacrifice unto Jehovah thy God... stay and I will tell thee what Jehovah hath said to me." 1 Kings xii. 31, 32. "he made an house of high places." 2 Kings xvi. 10. "he saw an altar that was at Damascus," &c. 1 Chron. xv. 13, 15. "Jehovah our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order... so the children of the Levites bare the ark of God... according to the word of Jehovah." Isai. xxix. 13. "their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men." Mark vii. 7, 8. "in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Matt. xv. 3, &c. "why do ye also transgress the commandment of God-?" Gal. vi. 12. "as many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised." Some of the early teachers of the church are chargeable with this grievous error, in that they, to facilitate the conversion of the heathen to Christianity,[2] retained <275> the pagan rites with a slight alteration of names or things, to the infinite detriment of religion, and in direct violation of the precept, Deut. xii. 30, 31. "take <276> heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them... and that thou inquire not after their gods saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise: thou shalt not do so unto Jehovah thy God."

Secondly, an hypocritical worship, in which the external forms are duly observed, but without any accompanying affection of the mind; which is a high offence against God. Lev. xxvi. 31. "I will make your cities waste," &c. 1 Sam. iv. 3. "let us fetch the ark of the covenant of Jehovah out of Shiloh unto us." 2 Chron. xii. 9. "so Shishak came up against Jerusalem, and took away the treasures of the house of Jehovah." Thus Joash repaired the temple, xxiv. 4-6.; as did also Herod, although the enemy of Christ. xxxvi. 7. "Nebuchadnezzar carried of the vessels of the house of Jehovah, and put them in his temple at Babylon." See also Ezra i. 7. Prov. xv. 8. "the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to Jehovah." See also xxi. 27. Isai. i. 11. "to what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?" Jer. vii. 4." trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of Jehovah..... are these." v. 12. "go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh." See also v. 14. Isai. xxix. 13. "forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me." See also Matt. xv. 8, 9. Isai. xlviii. 1. "hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel." lxvi. 3. "he that killeth an ox," &c. Jer. xviii. 18. "come and let us devise devices against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest." Ezek. xxxiii. 30-32. "they sit before thee as my <277> people... but their heart goeth after covetousness." Amos v. 21. "I hate, I despise your feast days." vi. 5. "that chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David." Mic. vi. 7, &c. "will Jehovah be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? he hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth Jehovah require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Matt. xii. 44. "he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished." xxi. 30, &c. "he answered and said, I go, sir; and went not." xxiii. 3. "they say and do not." v. 15. "woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites —." Luke xi. 40, 42. "ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also? " Philipp. i. 15, 16. "some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife."

The Shechemites, (Gen. xxxiv.) were punished with slaughter and destruction for having adopted a new religion inconsiderately, and from secular motives.

On the contrary, internal worship, or the worship of the heart, is accepted of God, even where external forms are not in all respects duly observed[3]. 1 Kings iii. 3. "Solomon loved Jehovah... only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places." 2 Chron. xxx. 18-20. "a multitude of the people... had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the Passover... but Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good <278> Jehovah pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, Jehovah God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary: and Jehovah hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people." John vii. 14. "now about the midst of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and taught."

The parts and circumstances of true religion, or of the worship of God, are next to be considered.

The parts into which religion is divided, are the invocation or adoration of God, and the sanctification of his name in all the circumstances of life.

Under invocation are included, first, supplication and thanksgiving; secondly, oaths and the casting of lots.

Supplication is that act whereby under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we reverently ask of God things, lawful, either for ourselves or others, through faith in Christ. Psal. 1. 15. "call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me." lxxxvi. 4, 5. "unto thee, O Jehovah, do I lift up my soul; for thou, Jehovah, art good and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee." Matt. vii. 7-10. "ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Philipp. iv. 6. "be careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God."

Through faith. Mark xi. 24. "what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." Rom. x. 14. "how then shall they call on him in whom they have not believ <279> ed?" 1 Tim. ii. 8. "without doubting." James i. 6, 7. "let him ask in faith, nothing wavering; for he that wavereth," &c.

In Christ. John xiv. 13, 14 "whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." xvi. 23. "whatsover ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you." Rev. v. 8. "having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints." viii. 3, 4. "there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne; and the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God."

Things lawful; and above all, the best things. 1 Kings iii. 11, 12. "because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life, neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies, but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; behold, I have done according to thy words." Matt. vi. 33. "seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."

Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Zech. xii. 10. "I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and of supplications." Rom. viii. 26, 27. "likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought." Ephes. vi. 18. "praying always... in the Spirit." Jude 20. "praying in the Holy Ghost;" that is, quickening and calling into action, as much as possible, the gift of the Holy Ghost within us."

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The Lord's Prayer was intended rather as a model of supplication, than as a form to be repeated verbatim by the apostles, or by Christian churches at the present day,[4] Hence the superfluousness of set forms of worship; seeing that, with Christ for our master, and the Holy Spirit for our assistant in prayer, we can have no need of any human aid in either respect.[5]

Reverently. Reverence comprehends, first, the internal affection of the mind, and secondly, the voice and outward deportment of the body.

Under the former is included, first, that we ask every thing aright, that is to say, to a right end. James iv. 3. "ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." Secondly, that our supplications proceed from a pure and penitent heart. Hence 2 Sam. xxii. 42. "they look <281> ed, but there was none to save; even unto Jehovah, but he answered them not." Psal. lxvi. 18. "if I regard iniquity in my heart, Jehovah will not hear me." Isai. i. 16-18. "wash you, make you clean... come now, and let us reason together —." Ezek. viii. 18. "though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them". xx. 30, 31. "are ye polluted, after the manner of your fathers?... and shall I be inquired of by you?" John ix. 31. "God heareth not sinners." Thirdly, that we pray in a spirit of kindness and forgiveness towards our brethren. Matt. v. 24. "leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother —." vi. 12. "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." See also xviii. 23. the parable of the two debtors. 1 Tim. ii. 8. "I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." Fourthly, that we seek the Lord early. Prov. i. 24-28. "because I have called, and ye refused... they shall call upon me, but I will not answer." Psal. xxxii. 6. "for this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found." Isai. lv. 6. "seek ye Jehovah, while he may be found." Fifthly, that we pray with all humility. Luke xviii. 9, &c. "standing afar off... saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." Sixthly, that we pray earnestly; see the parable of the man who came to borrow bread of his friend, Luke xi. 5. and of the unjust judge, xviii. 2, &c. Lastly, that we persevere in prayer. Coloss. iv. 2. "continue in prayer."

It is not necessary that our prayers should be always audible; the silent supplication of the mind, whispers, even groans and inarticulate exclamations in <282> private prayer, are available.[6] Exod. xiv. 15. "Jehovah said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me?" though he was saying nothing with his lips, and only praying inwardly. 1 Sam. i. 13. "now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard." Thus, too, our devotions will be less conspicuous; according to the command, Matt. vi. 6.

Prayer may be offered either alone, or in company. Christ appears seldom to have prayed in conjunction with his disciples, or even in their presence, but either wholly alone, or at some distance from them. It is moreover evident that the precepts, Matt. vi. have reference to private prayer alone. When however he inculcated on his disciples the duty of prayer in general, he gave no specific direction whether they should pray alone, or with others. It is certain that they were in the frequent practice of praying in assemblies; and that either individually, each framing within himself his own particular petition relative to some subject on which they had agreed in common, Matt. xviii, <283> 19. or by the mouth of one chosen from their number, who spoke in the name of the rest; both which modes of prayer appear to have been used indiscriminately by the primitive Christians. Acts ii. 42. "in breaking of bread and in prayers." iv. 24. "they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said —." xii. 12. "where many were gathered together praying." xvi. 13. "by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made." xx. 36. "he kneeled down and prayed with them all." xxi. 5. "we kneeled down on the shore and prayed." 1 Cor. xiv. 15, 16. "I will pray with the understanding... how shall he... say Amen at thy giving of thanks?"

Hence the impropriety of offering up public prayer in an unknown tongue, 1 Cor. xiv. 15, 16, as above; inasmuch as in public prayer consent is necessary.[7] Matt. xviii. 19. "if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them."

Both in private and in public prayer, vain repetitions and empty words are to be avoided. Matt. vi. 7. Eccles. v. 2. "be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God, for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth, therefore let thy words be few." Such repetitions, however, as proceed from vehement emotion of mind, are not to be accounted vain.[8] Mark xiv. 39. "again he went away and prayed, and spake the same words."

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No particular posture of the body in prayer was enjoined, even under the law.[9] 2 Sam. vii. 18. "then went king David in, and sat before Jehovah, and he said —." xii. 16. "he lay all night upon the earth." Psal. xcv. 6. "O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before Jehovah our maker." cxlix. 5. "let them sing aloud upon their beds." 1 Kings viii. 22. "Solomon stood before the altar of Jehovah." v. 54. "he arose from kneeling on his knees." See also 2 Chron. vi. 12, 13. xx. 5. "Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah —." v. 13. "all Judah stood before Jehovah." Dan. vi. 10. "he kneeled upon his knees and prayed." Luke xviii. 13. "the publican standing afar off."

Connected with the posture of the body, is the deportment to be observed in prayer. On this subject Paul says, 1 Cor. xi. 4. "every man praying or prophesying having his head covered, dishonoured <285> his head; but every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoured her head." Why was this? Because at that time covering the head was, with both sexes alike,[10] a token of subjection; on which account it was usual for men to pray or prophesy with their heads uncovered. Now, on the contrary, since the covering the head has become a token of authority, and the uncovering it of submission, it is the custom with most churches, especially those of Europe, in compliance not so much with the letter as with the spirit of the law (which is always to be preferred) to worship God uncovered, as being the mark of reverence prescribed by modern custom; but to prophesy covered, in token of the authority with which the speaker is invested; and likewise to listen to his instructions covered, as the deportment most emblematic, according to modern ideas, of our freedom and maturity as sons of God.[11] On the other hand, it will be easily inferred from hence, that in countries where the cold is intense, as Livonia or Russia, or where custom will not allow the head to be uncovered without great impropriety, as in Asia or Africa, it is allowable to pray covered; as has been shown by Cappellus in a learned note on this passage,[12] and by other commentators.

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With regard to the place of prayer, all are equally suitable.[13] 1 Tim. ii. 8. "I will therefore that men pray every where." For private prayer, a retired place is most proper. Matt. vi. 6. "enter into thy closet." xiv. 23. "he went up into a mountain apart to pray." To offer private prayer in public is hypocritical. Matt. vi. 5. "they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men." It was lawful however to offer private prayer in the sanctuary, and afterwards in the temple at Jerusalem, as in the instances of Hannah, David, and others, quoted above. Neither is there any time at which prayer may not be properly offered. Psal. cxix. 55. "I have remembered thy name, O Jehovah, in the night." v. 62. "at midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee." v. 164. "seven times a day do I praise thee, because of thy righteous judgments." Luke xviii. 1. "men ought always to pray, and not to faint." Eph. vi. 18. "praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto —." Col. iv. 12. "always labouring fervently for you in prayers." 1 Thess. v. 17. "pray without ceasing." The seasons most appropriate for prayer, however, are evening, morning, and noon-day. Psal. lv. 17. "evening and <287> morning and at noon will I pray, and cry aloud, and he shall hear my voice." v. 3. "my voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Jehovah; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee." lxxxviii. 13. "in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee." xcii. 1, 2. "it is a good thing to give thanks unto Jehovah... to show forth thy loving-kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night." cxix. 147. "I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried." v. 148. "mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word." Dan. vi. 10. "he kneeled upon his knees three times a day." Mark i. 35. "in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." Acts x. 9. "Peter went up on the house-top to pray about the sixth hour."

For ourselves or others; inasmuch as we are commanded not to pray for ourselves only, but for all mankind. 1 Tim. ii. 1-3. "I exhort therefore that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men." Particularly for the universal church and its ministers. Psal. xxviii. 9. "save thy people, and bless thine inheritance." See also iii. 8.[14] li. 18. "do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion." lxxiv. 2, &c. "remember thy congregation." cii. 13. "thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion; for the time to favour her, yea, the set time is come." cxxii. 6. "pray for the peace of Jerusalem." Matt. ix. 38. "pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send <288> forth labourers into his harvest." Eph. vi. 18, 19. "with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit... for all saints, and for me, that," &c —. Col. iv. 3. "withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ." For all magistrates: especially with a view to the peace of the church. Psal. lxxii. 1. "give the king thy judgments —." Jer. xxix. 7. "seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto Jehovah for it; for in the peace thereof ye shall have peace." 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2. "for kings, and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." Even for our enemies. Matt. v. 44. "pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you." Luke xxiii. 34. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Acts vii, 60. "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Much more for the brethren. Rom. i. 8-10. "without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers —." If however there be any whom we know certainly to be past remedy, we are not to pray for them. Jer. vii. 16. "pray not thou for this people —." See also xiv. 11, 12. John xvii. 9. "I pray not for the world." 1 John v. 16. "there is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it."

We are even commanded to call down curses publicly on the enemies of God and the church; as also on false brethren, and on such as are guilty of any grievous offence against God, or even against our selves. The same may be lawfully done in private prayer, after the example of some of the holiest of men. Gen. ix. 25. "cursed be Canaan," Deut. xxvii. <289> 13-26. "these shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse —." Judges v. 23. "curse ye Meroz, said the angel of Jehovah." Psal. v. 10. "destroy thou them, O God." cix. 6, &c. "set thou a wicked man over him, and let Satan stand at his right hand." cxl. 10. "let burning coals fall upon them." Similar imprecations occur in many other Psalms. 2 Kings ii. 24. "he cursed them in the name of Jehovah." Jer. xviii. 19, &c... "deliver up their children to the... famine for they have digged a pit to take me —." Neh. iv. 4. &c. "give them for a prey in the land of captivity." vi. 14. "think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works." xiii. 25. "I contended with them, and cursed them." Acts viii. 20. "thy money perish with thee." Gal. v. 12. "I would they were even cut off that trouble you." 2 Tim. iv. 14. "the Lord reward him according to his works."

It is expressly promised that supplications offered in a spirit of faith and obedience shall be heard. Psal. cxlv. 18. "Jehovah is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth." Isai. lix. 1, 2. "neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear; but... your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." lxv. 24. "it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer, and while they are yet speaking, I will hear." Dan. ix. 20, &c. "whiles I was speaking and praying ... even the man Gabriel... touched me, &c —." x. 12. "from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to under stand... thy words were heard." John ix. 31. "if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth."

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Hence our knowledge of God's will, or of his providence in the government of the world, ought not to render us less earnest in deprecating evil and desiring good, but the contrary. Exod. xxxii. 10. "now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them, and I will make of thee a great nation: and Moses besought Jehovah his God, and said —." 1 Chron. xvii. 25, 26. "thou, O my God, hast told thy servant that thou wilt build him an house; therefore thy servant hath found in his heart to pray before thee." John xvii. 1. "Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son." v. 5. "O Father, glorify thou me."

It frequently happens, however, that believers are not heard in all that they ask for themselves or others; namely, when they seek what is contrary to their own good, or to the glory of God. Deut. iii. 25, 26. "I pray thee, let me go over and see... but Jehovah said unto me, Let it suffice thee, speak no more unto me of this matter." 1 Sam. xv. 11. "it grieved Samuel, and he cried unto Jehovah all night." 2 Sam. xii. 16-18. "David besought God for the child —." 1 Kings xix. 4. "he requested for himself that he might die." Ezek. xiv. 14. "though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it," &c. —. Matt. xx. 22. "ye know not what ye ask." 2 Cor. xii. 8, 9. "for this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me; and he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee."

The prayers even of unbelievers sometimes prevail with God, to the obtaining of bodily comforts or worldly advantages; for he is kind to all, and "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good." Matt. <291> v. 45. Hence he occasionally grants the requests even of devils. Job i. 11, 12. "put forth thy hand now... and Jehovah said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power." See also ii. 5, 6. Matt. viii. 31, 32. "the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine; and he said unto them, Go." See also Mark v. 10-13.

Sometimes he complies with our prayers in anger; as when the Israelites asked flesh, Num. xi. 18, &c. "ye shall eat flesh, for ye have wept in the ears of Jehovah, saying, &c... ye shall eat... until it come out at your nostrils." See also Psal. lxxviii. 30. So likewise when they asked a king, Hos. xiii. 11.[15]

Among errors under the head of prayer may be classed rash imprecations, whereby we invoke God or the devil to destroy any particular person or thing: Rom. xii. 14. "bless and curse not;" an intemperance to which even the pious are occasionally liable; Job iii. 2, 3. "let the day perish wherein I was born —." Jer. xx. 14. "cursed be the day wherein I was born." Undeserved curses, however, are of no force, and therefore not to be dreaded. Gen. xii. 3. "I will curse him that curseth thee." Numb. xxiii. 8. "how shall I curse whom God hath not cursed?" Prov. xxvi. 2. "as the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come." Psal. cix. 28. "let them curse, but bless thou."

Prayer is assisted by fasting and vows. Matt. ix. 15. "the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast."

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A religious fast is that whereby a man abstains, not so much from eating and drinking, as from sin, that he may be enabled to devote himself more closely to prayer, for the obtaining some good, or deprecating some evil. Isai. lviii. 5, 6. "is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day unto Jehovah? is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burthens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?" Joel ii. 12, 13. "turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and mourning; and rend your heart, and not your garments —." Jonah iii. 6-9. "word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him... saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock taste anything... but let them cry mightily unto God; yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands." Zech. vii. 5. "when ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, did ye at all fast unto me, even unto me?"

Religious fasts are either private or public.

A private fast is one imposed by an individual on himself or his family, for private reasons. 2 Sam. xii. 16. "David besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth." Psal. xxxv. 13. "as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting." Neh. i. 4. "it came to pass when I heard these words that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain <293> days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven." Dan. ix. 3. "I set my face unto the Lord God to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes." x. 2, 3. "in those days I Daniel was mourning full three weeks; I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all." Luke ii. 37. "she served God with fastings and prayers night and day." 1 Cor. vii. 5. "except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer." To this head belongs the precept, Matt. vi. 16-18. "when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance; for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast: verily I say unto you, They have their reward: but thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast."

A public fast is that which is proclaimed by the church or civil power for public reasons. Lev. xvi. 29. "this shall be a statute for ever unto you, that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all —." 1 Sam. vii. 6. "they fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against Jehovah." xxxi. 13. "they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days." Ezra viii. 21. "then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him —." Esther iv. 3, 15, 16. "there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing, and many lay in sackcloth and ashes... then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer; Go, <294> gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night nor day; I also and my maidens will fast likewise." ix. 31, 32. "to confirm those days of Purim in their time appointed... the matters of the fastings and their cry;" to which allusion is made Zech. vii. 5. viii. 19. Joel ii. 15, 16. "blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast." Acts xiii. 2, 3. "as they ministered to the Lord, and fasted." xiv. 23. "when they had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord."

To fasting were anciently added various inflictions for the mortification of the body, conformably to the customs of those nations. Compare Ezra ix. 3. Jonah iii. 6. and the passages quoted above.

Even outward fasting sometimes averts the anger of God for a season. 1 Kings xxvii. 29. "because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days."

There is also a fasting which works miracles. Matt. xvii. 21. "this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."

A vow is a promise respecting some lawful matter, solemnly made to God, sometimes with the sanction of an oath, and by which we testify our readiness and hearty resolution to serve God, or the gratitude with which we shall receive the fulfilment of our prayers. Gen. xxviii; 20. "Jacob vowed a vow, saying —." 1 Sam. i. 11. "she vowed a vow, and said —." Psal. cxix. 106. "I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments." Neh. x. 29. "they entered into a curse and into an oath to walk in God's law."

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Vows are general or special.

General vows relate to things which God has commanded; and are either public or private.

A public vow is one which is vowed by the whole church; and is usually called in Scripture a covenant. Josh. xxiv. 22, 23. "ye are witnesses against yourselves, that you have chosen you Jehovah to serve him; and they said, We are witnesses." 2 Chron. xv. 12-14. "they entered into a covenant to seek Jehovah God of their fathers..... and they sware unto Jehovah." Ezra x. 5. "he made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel to swear that they should do according to this word."

A private vow is one which is vowed by an individual; as for instance the baptismal vow.

Special vows relate to things lawful, but not expressly commanded; and are undertaken for special reasons. Acts xviii. 1-8. "having shorn his head in Cenchrea; for he had a vow." xxi. 23. "we have four men which have a vow on them."

We must be careful, however, not to interdict our selves or others from those things which God intended for our use, as meat or drink; except in cases where the exercise of our liberty may be a stumbling-block to any of the brethren. Matt. xv. 17,18. "do not ye yet understand that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?" Mark vii. 15, 16. "there is nothing from without a man that entering into him can defile him," &c. The reason is given v. 19. "because it entereth not into his heart, but into his belly," &c. Rom. xiv. 14. "I am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself." v. 17. "for the kingdom of God <296> is not meat and drink —." 1 Cor. vi. 13. "meats for the belly, and the belly for meats; but God shall destroy both it and them." viii. 8. "meat commendeth us not to God; for neither if we eat, are we the better, neither if we eat not, are we the worse." Coloss. ii. 20, &c. "if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why as though living in the world are ye subject to ordinances? touch not, taste not, handle not; which all are to perish with the using —." 1 Tim. iv. 3, 4. "forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth; for every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused." Heb. xiii. 9. "not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein." Acts x. 13. "rise, Peter, kill and eat." v. 15. "what God hath cleansed, that call not thou common." The same rule applies to marriage: Matt. xix. 11. "all men cannot receive this saying, save them to whom it is given." 1 Cor. vii. 9. "but if they cannot contain, let them marry." v. 26. "I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress." v. 36, 37. "if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely towards his virgin," &c. 1 Tim. iv. 3. "forbidding to marry;" and to other subjects of a similar nature. 1 Tim. iv. 8. "bodily exercise profiteth little; but godliness is profitable unto all things."

Vows of voluntary poverty are also to be accounted superstitious: Prov. xxx. 8. "give me neither poverty nor riches;" inasmuch as poverty is enumerated among the greatest evils: Deut. xxviii. 48. "in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of <297> all things." Acts xx. 35. "it is more blessed to give than to receive." Eph. iv. 28. "rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth."

No one can make a special vow who is not his own master, and exempt from subjection to any other authority; as a son or a daughter to a parent, a wife to her husband, a male or female servant to their lord. See Num. vi. and xxx. 13. "every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void." Neither can a general or special vow be made by one who has not yet arrived at the full use of his judgment. Considering how generally this rule is received among divines, it is strange that they should so far forget their own doctrine, as to require the special vow of baptism from infants.

Any one, who is in these respects qualified, may bind himself by a special vow; when once made, however, he is not at liberty to recal it, but must fulfil it at all hazards. Deut. xxiii. 20. "when thou shalt vow a vow unto Jehovah thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it; for Jehovah thy God will surely require it of thee, and it would be sin in thee." Num. xxx. 2. "if a man vow a vow unto Jehovah..... he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth." Eccles. v. 4, 5. "when thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed: better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay."

An impious vow, however, is not binding, any more than an unjust oath. Matt. xv. 5. "ye say, Who <298> soever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free." Here that which ought to have been applied to the support of the parents, had been vowed as a gift to God; so that either the vow could not be fulfilled, or the support of the parents must be with drawn. Christ therefore decides that the parents are to be supported, and that the impious vow is of no force.

The opposite of a vow is sacrilege; which consists in the non-performance of a vow, or in the appropriation to private uses of things dedicated to God.[16] Josh. vii. 11. "they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also." Prov. xx. 25. "it is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make inquiry." Mal. iii. 8. &c. "will a man rob God? yet ye have robbed me: but ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? in tithes and offerings: ye are cursed with a curse, for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation." i. 8. "if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil?"

Thus far of prayer and its auxiliaries.

Thanksgiving consists in returning thanks with gladness for the divine benefits. Job i. 21. "Jehovah gave, and Jehovah hath taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah." Eph. v. 20. "giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

<299>

Addresses to God, and particularly thanksgivings, are frequently accompanied by singing, and hymns in honour of the divine name.[17] Mark. xiv. 26. "when they had sung an hymn —." Eph. v. 19, 20. "speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always." Col. iii. 16. "teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." James. v. 13. "is any merry? let him sing psalms."

[1]

See Grotius and Wetstein on Matt. iv. 10. and Leigh's Critica Sacra on the words δουλεύω and δουλεία;.

[2]

'He (Constantine) gave and administered occasion to bring in a deluge of ceremonies, thereby either to draw in the heathen by a resemblance of their rites, or to set a gloss upon the simplicity and plainness of Christianity, which, to the gorgeous solemnities of paganism, and the sense of the world's children, seemed but a homely and yeomanly religion.' Of Reformation in England. Prose Works, I. 18. 'This was that which made the old Christians paganize, while by their scandalous and base conforming to heathenism they did no more, when they had done their utmost, but bring some pagans to Christianize; for true Christians they neither were themselves, nor could make others in this fashion.' Animadversions upon the Remonstrant's Defence, Ibid. 171. For numerous instances of these corruptions, see the ecclesiastical historians and other authorities. The policy which led to what one of the most eloquent of living writers happily calls 'paganizing Christianity in order to christen paganism,' has found its supporters in Mosheim and Gibbon. The former says; 'in these early times it was both wise and necessary to show, in the establishment of outward forms of worship, some indulgence to the ancient opinions, manners and laws of the respective nations to whom the gospel was preached... In a word, the external forms of worship used in the times of old must necessarily have been regulated and modified according to the character, genius, and manners of the different nations, on which the light of the gospel arose.' Ecclesiastical History, I. p. 100. 'The bishops augmented the number of religious rites in the Christian worship by way of accommodation to the infirmities and prejudices both of Jews and heathens, in order to facilitate thus their conversion to Christianity,' &c. Ibid. p. 162. 'After the conversion of the Imperial city, the Christians still continued, in the month of February, the annual celebration of the Lupercalia; to which they ascribed a secret and mysterious influence on the genial powers of the animal and vegetable world.' Gibbon's Decline and Fail of the Roman Empire, chap, xxxvi. Barbeyrac (Traité la Morale des Pères, ch. v. sect. 59, &c.) accuses Clemens Alexandrinus of having permitted the heathen converts to worship the sun, moon, and other heavenly bodies; but the passage alluded to, when candidly considered, seems to admit of a different construction. See Strom. Lib. VI. Cap. xiv. p. 795, 796. Edit. Oxon. The author of the Life of Gregory Thaumaturgus mentions the following instance of a concession granted to the Christians of the second century. 'Cum animadvertisset (Gregorius) quod ob corporeas delectationes et voluptates simplex et imperitum vulgus in simulacrorum cultus errore permaneret..... permisit eis, ut in memoriam et recordationem sanctorum martyrum sese oblectarent, et in lætitiam effunderentur, quod successu temporis aliquando futurum esset ut sua sponte ad honestiorem et accuratiorem vitæ rationem transirent.' In the sixth century, Gregory the First, bishop of Rome, even went so far as to rebuke Serenus, Bishop of Marseilles, for breaking the images placed in churches, stating that he was desirous of conciliating the affections of the people by permitting the use of them, as pieces of history to instruct their minds in the leading facts of Christianity. See Milner's Church History, III. 55. Acting on the same principle, he also wrote to Mellitus, a missionary proceeding to Britain, recommending certain concessions to the early converts among our own countrymen, who had been accustomed to propitiate demons, and to indulge in sacrificial feasts. Ibid. p. 79. Tertullian seems to have formed a better judgment respecting the spirit of Christianity. See the treatise De Creatione, where he complains of the unnecessary introduction of additional rites into the church, borrowed from the enemies of the true religion.

[3]

This said unanimous, and other rites

Observing none, but adoration pure,

Which God likes best. Paradise Lost, IV. 736.

[4]

'If the Lord's Prayer had been "the warrant or pattern of set liturgies," as is here affirmed, why was neither that prayer, nor any other set form ever after used, or so much as mentioned by the apostles, much less commended to our use?' Answer to Eikon Basilike. Prose Works, III. 37.

[5]

'Conformably with his opinions on this subject, Milton ascribes extemporaneous effusions to our first parents:

Lowly they bow'd adoring, and began

Their orisons, each morning duly paid

In various style; for neither various style

Nor holy rapture wanted they to praise

Their Maker, in fit strains pronounc'd, or sung

Unmeditated. Paradise Lost, V. 144.

'It is not the goodness of matter, therefore, which is not, nor can be, owed to the liturgy, that will bear it out, if the form, which is the essence of it, be fantastic and superstitious, the end sinister, and the imposition violent.' Animadversions on the Remonstrant's Defence. Prose Works, I. 173. 'Neither can any true Christian find a reason why liturgy should be at all admitted, a prescription not imposed or practised by those first founders of the church, who alone had that authority,' &c. Answer to Eikon Basilike, III. 36. Compare also the whole of the chapter entitled 'On the Ordinance against the Common Prayer Book,' from which the last quotation is taken.'

[6]

..... Sighs now breath'd

Unutterable, which the spirit of prayer

Inspired, and wing'd for heav'n with speedier flight

Than loudest oratory. Paradise Lost, XI. 5.

..... Now therefore bend thine ear

To supplication, hear his sighs though mute,

Unskilful with what words to pray. Ibid. 30.

..... This will prayer,

Or one short sigh of human breath, upborne

Ev'n to the seat of God. Ibid. 146.

'Though we know not what to pray as we ought, yet he with sighs unutterable by any words, much less by a stinted liturgy, dwelling in us makes intercession for us.' Answer to Eikon Basilike. Prose Works, III.39.

[7]

'It is his promise also that where two or three gathered together in his name shall agree to ask him any thing, it shall he granted, for he is there in the midst of them.' Answer to Eikon Basilike. Prose Works, III. 39.

[8]

'There is a large difference in the repetition of some pathetical ejaculation raised out of the sudden earnestness and vigour of the inflamed soul, (such as was that of Christ in the garden) from the continual rehearsal of our daily orisons; which if a man shall kneel down in a morning, and say over, and presently in another part of the room kneel down again, and in other words ask but still for the same things as it were out of one inventory, I cannot see how he will escape that heathenish tautology of multiplying words, which Christ himself, that has the putting up of our prayers, told us would not be acceptable in heaven.' Animadversions upon the Remonstrant's Defence. I. 166.

[9]

'Adam and Eve are represented in Paradise Lost as praying, sometimes in a standing posture, sometimes kneeling, sometimes prostrate:

Thus they, in lowliest plight repentant stood,

Praying. XI. I.

where all the commentators have mistaken the true import of the phrase.

..... Since I sought

By prayer the offended Deity to appease,

Kneel'd, and before him humbled all my heart —. Ibid. 146.

..... They forthwith to the place

Repairing where he judg'd them, prostrate fell

Before him reverent, and both confessed

Humbly their faults, and pardon begg'd. X. 1098.

[10]

She as a veil down to the slender waist

Her unadorned golden tresses wore

.....

..... which implied

Subjection. IV. 304.

See 1 Cor. xi. 15. 'her hair is given her for a covering,' where the marginal reading is for a veil.

[11]

... Sanctitude severe and pure,

Severe, but in true filial freedom plac'd. Paradise Lost, IV. 293.

[12]

'Si forte in Livonia, Norvegia, Suedia, Moscovia, &c. hyberno tempore, capite adeoque et manibus tectis orant, ratio est manifesta; natura nempe cœli, ob aëris inclementiam, non patitur ut sint tum aperto capite: itaque etsi tum adversus τὸ ρ῾ητὸν hujus canonis forte faciunt non faciunt tamen adversus ejus mentem, et rationem qua nititur, consuetudinem nimirum civilem: nam tum apud eos ne supplices quidem caput forte aperire solent, aut inferiores coram superioribus, ob cœli, uti dixi, inclementiam stare.' Lud Capelli Spicilegium in 1 Cor. xi. 4. Compare however the whole passage, Sect. 1-15.

[13]

To teach thee that God attributes to place

No sanctity, if none be thither brought

By men who there frequent, or therein dwell. Paradise Lost, XI. 836.

[14]

Super populum tuum sit benedictio tua maxime. Tremell. The precatory form is not preserved in our authorized translation; thy blessing if upon thy people.

[15]

If God afterward gave or permitted this insurrection of episcopacy, it is to be feared he did it in his wrath, as he gave the Israelites a king.' Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty. Prose Works, I. 101.

[16]

Yet, sacrilegious, to himself would take

That which to God alone of right belongs.

Paradise Regained III. 140.

[17]

In the hymn of our first parents, when

..... prompt eloquence

Flow'd from their lips in prose or numerous verse,

Milton says of the angels extolling their Maker,

..... ye behold him, and with songs

And choral symphonies, day without night,

Circle his throne rejoicing. Paradise Lost V. 161.

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