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till I obtain my desire. For it is not enough to recommend our desires to God with one hearty prayer, and then forget to ask him any more; but so long as our needs continue, so long, in all times, and upon all occasions, to renew and repeat our desires : and this is “ praying continually.” Just as the widow did to the unjust judge; she never left going to him, she troubled him every day with her clamorous suit; so must
pray always,” that is, every day, and many times every day, according to our occasions and necessities, or our devotion and zeal, or as we are determined by the customs and laws of a church; never giving over through weariness or distrust, often renewing our desires by a continual succession of devotions, returning at certain and determinate periods. For God's blessings, though they come infallibly, yet not always speedily; saving only that it is a blessing to be delayed, that we may increase our desire, and renew our prayers, and do acts of confidence and patience, and ascertain and increase the blessing when it comes. For we do not more desire to be blessed than God does to hear us importunate for blessing; and he weighs every sigh, and bottles up every tear, and records every prayer, and looks through the cloud, with delight to see us upon our knees, and, when he sees his time, his light breaks through it, and shines upon us. Only we must not make our accounts for God according to the course of the sun, but the measures of eternity, He measures us by our needs, and we must not measure him by our impatience, “ God is not slack, as some men count slackness,” saith the apostle; and we find it so, when we have waited long. All the elapsed time is no part of the tediousness; the trouble of it is past with itself: and for the future, we know not how little it may be ; for aught we know, we are already entered into the cloud that brings the blessing. However, pray till it comes: for we shall never miss to receive our desire, if it be holy, or innocent, and safe; or else we are sure of a great reward of our prayers.
19, And in this, so determined, there is no danger of blasphemy, or vain repetitions : for those repetitions are vain which repeat the words, not the devotion, which renew the expression, and not the desire; and he that may pray the same prayer to-morrow which he said to-day, may pray the same at night which he said in the morning, and the same at noon which he said at night, and so in all the hours of prayer, and in all the opportunities of devotion. Christ, in his agony, “ went thrice, and said the same words,” but he had intervals for repetition; and his need and his devotion pressed him forward : and whenever our needs do so, it is all one if we say the same words or others, so we express our desire, and tell our needs, and beg the remedy. In the same office, and the same hour of prayer, to repeat the same things often hath but few excuses to make it reasonable, and fewer to make it pious : but to think that the prayer is better for such repetition, is the fault which the holy Jesus condemned in the Gentiles, who in their hymns would say a name over a hundred times. But in this we have no rule to determine us in numbers and proportion, but right reason'. God loves not any words the more for being said often; and those repetitions which are unreasonable in prudent estimation, cannot in any account be esteemed pious. But where a reasonable cause allows the repetition, the same cause that makes it reasonable makes it also proper for devotion. He that speaks his needs, and expresses nothing but his fervour and greatness of desire, cannot be vain or long in his prayers; he that speaks impertinently, that is, unreasonably and without desires, is long, though he speak but two syllables; he that thinks for speaking much to be heard the sooner, thinks God is delighted in the labour of the lips : but when reason is the guide, and piety is the rule, and necessity is the measure, and desire gives the proportion, let the prayer be very long; he that shall blame it for its length, must proclaim his disrelish both of reason and religion, his despite of necessity, and contempt of zeal.
20. As a part and instance of our importunity in prayer, it is usually reckoned and advised, that in cases of great, sudden, and violent need, we corroborate our prayers with a
Ohe jam desine deos, uxor, gratulando obtundere
Λαλεϊν άριστος, αδυνατώτατος λέγειν.
vow of doing something holy and religious in an uncommanded instance, something to which God had not formerly bound our duty, though fairly invited our willk; or else, if we choose a duty in which we were obliged, then to vow the doing of it in a more excellent manner, with a greater inclination of the will, with a more fervent repetition of the act, with some more noble circumstance, with a fuller assent of the understanding, or else adding a new promise to our old duty, to make it become more necessary to us, and to secure our duty. In this case, as it requires great prudence and caution in the susception, lest what we piously intend obtain a present blessing, and lay a lasting snare; so, if it be prudent in the manner, holy in the matter, useful in the consequence, and safe in all the circumstances of the person, it is an endearing us and our prayer to God by the increase of duty and charity, and therefore a more probable way of making our prayers gracious and acceptable. And the religion of vows was not only hallowed by the example of Jacob at Bethel, of Hannah praying for a child, and God hearing her, of David vowing a temple to God, and made regular and safe by the rules and cautions in Moses' law; but left by our blessed Saviour in the same constitution he found it, he having innovated nothing in the matter of vows: and it was practised accordingly in the instance of St. Paul at Cenchrea; of Ananias and Sapphira', who vowed their possessions to the use of the church; and of the widows in the apostolical age, who therefore vowed to remain in the state of widowhood, because concerning them who married after the entry into religion, St. Paul says, “ They have broken their first faith :” and such were they of whom our blessed Saviour affirms, “ that some make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven,” that is, such who promise to God a life of chastity. And concerning the success of prayer, so seconded with a prudent and religious vow, besides the instances of Scripturem, we have the perpetual experience and witness of all Christendom; and, in particular, our Saxon kings have been remarked for this part of importunity in their own chronicles. Oswy” got a great victory with unlikely forces against Penda the Dane, after his earnest prayer, and an appendant vow: and Ceadwalla obtained of God power to recover the Isle of Wight from the hands of infidels, after he had prayed, and promised to return the fourth part of it to be employed in the proper services of God and of religion. This can have no objection or suspicion in it among wise and disabused persons; for it can be nothing but an increasing and a renewed act of duty, or devotion, or zeal, or charity, and the importunity of prayer, acted in a more vital and real expression.
* In re trepida Tullus Hostilius duodecim vovit salios fanaque Pallori et Pavori.--Livius.
Ego me majore religione quàm quisque fuit ullius voti obstrictum puto. ---Cicer. ad Atticum. Solebant autem et vota fieri gratitudinis indicia.
Voveram dulces epulas et album
Arboris ictil. Horat. lib. iii. Od. 8.
Ne Cypriæ Tyriæque merces
Addant avaro divitias mari.- Id. lib. iii. Od. 29. Et læta quidem in præsens omnia : sed benignitati deorum gratiam referendam, ne ritus sacroruin inter ambigua culti per prospera obliterarentur.- Tacit. Ann. lib. xi.
| Ananias et Sapphira ideo condemuati, quia post votum abstulerunt quasi sua.--S. Hieron. Ep. 8. ad Demet.
Quid enim est, fidem primam irritam fecerunt? voverunt, et non reddi. derunt.--S. August.
21. First : All else that is to be considered concerning prayer, is extrinsical and accidental to it. Prayer is public, or private; in the communion or society of saints, or in our closets : these prayers have less temptation to vanity; the other have more advantages of charity, example, fervour, and energy. In public offices we avoid singularity, in the private we avoid hypocrisy: those are of more edification, these of greater retiredness and silence of spirit: those serve the needs of all the world in the first intention, and our own
In vita nam æterna est quædam egregia gloria, non omnibus in æternum victuris, sed quibusdam ibi tribuenda; cui consequendæ parùm est liberatum esse à peccatis, nisi aliquid liberatori voveatur, quod non sit criminis non vovisse, sed vovisse ac reddidisse sit laudis.- Idem, de S. Virgin. c. 14.
Eccles. v. 4,5. Psal. cxxxii, 1, 2. Deut. xxiii. 21. Acts, xviii. 18. • Oswy vovit filiam in servitutem religionis et vitam cælibem, simulque duodecim possessiones ad construendas ædes sacras.
Nos humilem feriemus agnum.-Hor. lib. ii. Od. 17.
by consequence; these serve our own needs first, and the public only by a secondary intention: these have more pleasure, they more duty : these are the best instruments of repentance, where our confessions may be more particular, and our shame less scandalous; the other are better for eucharist and instruction, for edification of the church, and glorification of God.
22. Secondly: The posture of our bodies in prayer had as great variety as the ceremonies and civilities of several nations came to. The Jews most commonly prayed standing: so did the Pharisee and the publican in the temple'. So did the primitive Christians, in all their greater festivals and intervals of jubilee; in their penances they kneeled. The monks in Cassian sate when they sang the psalter P. And in every country, whatsoever, by the custom of the nation, was a symbol of reverence and humility, of silence and attention, of gravity and modesty, that posture they translated to their prayers. But, in all nations, bowing the head, that is, a laying down our glory at the feet of God, was the manner of worshippers : and this was always the more humble and the lower, as their devotion was higher; and was very often expressed by prostration, or lying flat upon the ground; and this all nations did, and all religions. Our deportment ought to be grave, decent, humble, apt for adoration, apt to edify; and when we address ourselves to prayer, not instantly to leap into the office, as the judges of the Areopage into their sentence,“ without preface or preparatory affections ;" but, considering in what presence we speak, and to what purposes, let us balance our fervour with reverential fear : and, when we have done, not rise from the ground as if we vaulted, or were glad we had done; but, as we begin with
• Nehem. ix. 5. Mark, xi. 25. Luke, xviii. 11.
P Adoraturi sedeant, dixit Numa Pompilins, apud Plutarch. id est, sint sedato animo. Εt καθήσθαι προσκυνήσοντας dictum proverbialiter ad eundem sensum. Vide S. Ang. lib. iii. c. 5. de Cura pro Mortuis.
Depositisqne suis ornamentis pretiosis,
S. Rosweid de Her. Impcr. et de Othon.