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pray in spirit—"grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger,” without our spirit bearing witness that sin is distasteful to us, and that we take pains to avoid all kinds of danger? No ungodly man ever did, ever can pray with his spirit—“Hallowed be thy Name," because he is conscious, if conscious of anything, that his soul is not affected by the holiness of God, or concerned about his own holiness. May the Holy Spirit be pleased to teach us, and may He pour out upon us the spirit of grace and of supplication. But let me urge on you, my brethren, the great and manifest importance of praying with the spirit.
Suppose that, just now, whilst we were praying, or making shew of prayer, it had pleased God to confer on me the gift of discerning of spirits ; and that, through the flimsy veil of your flesh I really saw your souls, and how they looked, and how they acted. And suppose that now, after such revelation, standing up in this place of instruction, He should inspire me with the word of wisdom, to tell you exactly what sort of spirits ye possess.
How should we feel ? In one I should see the spirit of pride ; in another the spirit of covetousness; in a third the spirit of vanity ; in very many (Oh, forgive me) the spirit of the world ; in but few (forgive me, forgive me the spirit of Christ; the spirit of holiness ; the spirit of prayer.
Why do we try to blind one another so? Why do we seek to hide our real spirit behind the forms and shews of devotion? Why do we put on, over our com
mon garments, the white raiment of the Religion of Christ? All these things shall be taken away soon. Time is now eating at them like the moth. When our mortal robes are slipped off by Death, then shall our real character stand before God—the spirit, the spirit will then be everything, as now the appearance, the appearance is everything with too many.
We cannot think for a moment that a man prays with his understanding, unless he knows the meaning of the words he uses. In Corinth, it seems, there was something ajar to the mind of the Apostle, when he contemplated the working of the Church's system, Gifts were very abundant, and as it too often happens in such a case, the spirit of grace did not so much abound. There was unseemly contention ; one vieing with another for greatness and excellence. Some were fond of praying in an unknown tongue, and the Apostle sets forth the necessity of interpretation in such a case, for the edifying of the whole body of worshippers. “Except ye utter by the tongue,” he says, “ words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? If I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. What is it then ? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray
with the understanding also. Else, when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest ?" Paul
speaks like a man of sense you see, my brethren, for good sense never runs contrary to good religion. The Church of Rome follows (or sets) a bad example, and is guilty of a breach of good common-sense, when she uses prayers in the congregation not understood of the common people : the Priest and the People are, practically, like barbarians to each other; for whilst there is a noise, and voice, and words, there is no medium for the spirit and the understanding. Let us, who are more highly favoured, and possess forms for public worship of so excellent and simple a mould, take pains to pray really with the understanding ; for if a man may be excused from saying Amen when his priest utters words in an unknown tongue, there can be no excuse for us, when the minister gives utterance to good sound words in his mother tongue. Let us all take great pains to pray with the spirit and with the understanding also.
Forms will always tempt to formality, and yet forms are the witnesses of truth. There could have been no form at first without an informing spirit. Oh, may we never use our forms of sound words without our spirit and understanding informing the reality. And yet there is something in you now, is there not, that entertains formality, and that formality feeds on? I am not alluding to worldly things. I do not mean money or money's worth. I do not refer to honor, and greatness, and houses, and land ; my talk, my thoughts are about God, and heaven, and spiritual realities; and there is something in you, is there not, which says
“ Make a form of it, make a form of it.” Oh, it's the
and Scripture, and standing, and sitting, and kneeling, and silence, and holy mirth, and responsive intercourse, she sets before her children, to stir them up to ardour and heavenly exercise. If in our Common Prayer, if in the assemblies of our Church, our spirit and understanding can slumber, Alas! for our prospects, for we cannot be even tuning our instrument, much less engaged in the rehearsal for the everlasting chant of Heaven. I said forms are the witnesses of truth; yes, and I bless God for my Prayer Book on this account (among others) Am I sluggish or dull ; does the murky atmosphere of this world cap the mountains of my soul, that I cannot climb up nearer and nearer to heaven; in more common phrase, am I cold in
devotions the prayers,
and the Hymns, and the forms in my Prayer Book, serve as witnesses, and assure me of the reality of intercourse with God. I use them ; and many a time has the fire been kindled, and the genial warmth of Heaven has dissipated the clouds, and I have taken a fresh view of heaven from the highest summit of my experience. My spirit and my understanding in holy rivalry have offered responsive strains of prayer and praise to God. Ask yourselves questions, my brethren, about your prayers. Do I mean this? (say) Do I feel that? Is my spirit with my devotions? Is my understanding ?
“I desire you to pray with me,” said Mr. George Herbert, to a friend. “What prayers ?" To which Mr. Herbert's answer was, “O Sir, the
my mother the Church of England.
No other prayers are equal to them. But, at this time, I beg of you to pray only the Litany, for I am weak and faint”. and his friend did so.
There are drawbacks in forms, of course ; there is often felt (I think) a want in our assemblies, on special occasions, of an aptness to meet the emergency; the outbreak of war; the inroads of pestilence; the abundant harvest; the return of peace, each claims an utterance to God in our public worship; but our Church is so cumbered with circumstance, so restrained by precedent, so pinioned by state, that she could not, if she would, manifest a becoming elasticity. (Forgive me, my brethren, I always speak out my mind, I would not