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Ceremony, which in other places are fit and necessary to be practised towards one another ; because, when we are offering our Requests to the great God of Heaven and Earth, our Attention should be so fixed, that we should have no Leisure to regard any Thing else. To this End, when we put our Bodies into a praying Posture, with which I think leaning and lolling seems very inconsistent, we should do well to fix our Eyes downwards, that we may not be diverted by any: Objects near us; at the same Time resolving not to suffer them to gaze about, whereby they do but fetch in Matter for wandering Thoughts. A farther Help to this Attention is great Silence ; therefore we should never join aloud with the Minister but where it is enjoined, endeavouring to make it our own by an hearty Amen. Great Care must be taken not to repeat after the Minister what peculiarly relates to his Office; which I mention the rather, because I have frequently observed fome devout People following him that officiates in the Exhortation and Absolution, as well as the Confession; which, if thoroughly considered, must be adjudged a very absurd and improper Expression of the Peoples' Devotion, because a distinguishing Part of the Priest's Office.
Q. What Preparation of Mind is necessary for our joining in the public Prayers ?
A. To abstract our Thoughts as much as we can from our worldly Business and Concerns, that we may call upon God with Attention and Application of Souls : To keep our Passions in order and Subjection, that none of them may interrupt us when we approach the Throne of Grace: To pofsess our Minds with such an awful Sense of God's Presence, that we may behave ourselves with Gravity and Reverence; to work in ourselves such a Sense of our own Weakness and Insufficiency, as
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may make us earnest for the Supplies of supernatural Grace ; such a Sorrow for our Sins, such Humiliation for them, and such a Readiness to forgive others, as may prevail upon God for the Sake of Christ's Sufferings to forgive us : To recollect those many Blessings which we have received, that we may shew forth his Praise, not only with our Lips, but in our Lives, by giving up ourselves to his Service.
A more particular Account of Prayer, and the necessary Qualifications to make it an acceptable Sacrifice, may be found in the Chapter on Rogation Days.
Q. How ought we to bear the Word of God read and preached to us?
A. With a Resolution of Mind to perform what we shall be convinced is our Duty; and with such a Submillion of our Understanding, as is due to the Oracles of God: With a particular Application of general Instructions to the State of our own Minds, that we may grow in Grace, and in the Knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In order
to this, we should give our Attention with great Luke viii. Reverence, and take Heed bow we hear, left our
Negligence be interpreted as a Contempt of that
Q. How comes ir to pass, that among those who hear God's holy Word read and preached to them, so fewo are influenced thereby to reform their Lives?
A. It chiefly proceeds from the Strength of vicious Habits, which blind their Understandings, and dispose them not to apprehend the Force of such Arguments as are urged to expose the Folly of Sin, and the mischievous Consequence of a wicked Life. Where Men's Affections are engaged, their Judgments are strangely perverted ; this makes them ftifle the Checks of their Consciences, and quench those Sparks of Piety which
were kindled in their Education. When therefore Curiosity or Decency engages them to hear a Sermon, they fix their Attention upon the Ornaments of their Discourse, and find Fault with the Manner of the Composition, when their Thoughts never dwell upon the main Subject recommended. But when Men have long refifted the Solicitations of God's Ministers, he may justly give them up to a reprobate Sense, and withdraw that Grace which they have abused ; and then it is no Wonder they turn the most serious Things into Ridicule, and hear the Terrors of the Lord without the least Emotion.
Q. But why do not the good Desires, which are. raised in some People's Minds by hearing God's Word, produce the Fruit of Virtue in their Conversations ?
A. Because many imagine when they have been affected with a Sermon, that the great End of hearing is fulfilled; when, alas ! the main Matter, which is the putting useful Instructions into Practice, is still behind. God indeed hath done his Part when he enlightens our Minds ; but then it is our Business to walk as Children of the Light. Others suffer the Cares and Pleasures of this Life to destroy the good Seed that is sown in their Hearts; they apply their Minds so immediately to other Objects, that even the Memory of those good Impressions is erased. Some find their evil Habits so strong, that they despair of conquerig them, and therefore are discouraged in prosecuting the Convictions of their own Consciences ; but a mighty Resolution, with the Asistance of God's Grace, will overcome great Difficulties; and it is a good Sign God will enable us to perform our Duty, when he so earnestly solicits us to undertake it. Others sink under a Sense of their own Weakness, and fearing they should not persevere, aban
don an Enterprize which they think themselves not able
to go through with. But Perseverance is a Gift of God, which he ordinarily bestows on those that are not wanting to themselves, and who depend upon him in the Use of all those Means, which he hath established for the making their Calling and Election fure.
0. How ought we to prepare ourselves to receive the boly Sacrament?
A. They who have never received the boly sacrament, ought to inform themselves carefully in the Nature and End of this sacred Institution, what is meant by this Holy Aetion, to what Purpose it was ordained, what Benefits and Advantages may be expected from it. This necessary Knowledge önce attained, and which may be compassed without great Difficulty, is a standing Qualification in all our future Communions. And as for all other pious Dispositions of Mind which make us fit Guests at the Lord's Table, they are the same we are obliged to by our Baptismal Vow, and are neceffary in the Course of a Christian Life, and in the Use of all other Means of Grace: For, except we confess our Sins with an humble, penitent, and obedient Heart, and are ready to forgive those that have offended us, and ask with Faith, even our Prayers and Praises will find no Acceptance at the Throne of Grace. The best Preparation for the Sacrament is a constant Endeavour to live as becomes Christians; for they who really believe the Christian Religion, and fincerely govern their Lives by the Doctrines and Precepts of the Gospel, have all that substantial Preparation that qualifies Men to partake of this holy Ordinance; and ought to receive at any Time when there is an Opportunity, though they were not before-hånd acquainted with it. Indeed when they have a Foresight of their communicating, it is very adviseable they should trim their Lamps, examine the State of their Minds, renew their Repentance, exercise their Charity, enlarge their Devotions, spiritualize their Affections; and, in order to this purpose, should retire from Business and Pleafure; that by Prayer and Fasting, and Alms-deeds, their Minds may be raised to relifh fpiritual Enjoyments ; but still great Care must be taken, when a Man is habitually prepared, that he doth not impose upon himself so much actual Preparation as shall make him lose an Opportunity of receiving the Sacrament, when he hath not had Time to go through with that Method he hath prescribed to himself.
Q. What makes a Man absolutely unfit to receive the holy Sacrament?
1. The living in the constant habitual Practice of any known Sin, without Repentance; such a Man's Approach to the holy Table would be a mocking of God, and a great Contempt of his Authority; and though the ancient Discipline of the Church is at a low Ebb among us, yet there is ftill Power to debar such scandalous and open Sin- Can. so, ners the holy Communion, and a particular Order to Parocbial Ministers not to admit such. And this Impenitence makes our Prayers also an Abomination to the Lord; for to profess ourselves Sorry for our Sins, and resolved to forsake them, ' when we have no Sense of the one, nor are deter
mined to do the other, is the greatest Affront imaginable to our Maker, by supposing either that he doth not know our Hearts, or that he will be pleased, when we draw near to him with our Lips, though our Hearts are far from him.
Q. What is that unworthy receiving, and the Punishment of it, taken Notice of by St. Paul in bis : Cor. xi. Epistle to the Corinthians ?