Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hannah More on Prayer

an excerpt from The Spirit of Prayer, by Hannah More. New York: Swords, Stanford, and Co., 1883, pages 22-25.

From chapter XI, of Perseverance in Prayer and Praise, pages 154-158.

We think, perhaps, that had [God] commanded us "to do some great thing," to raise some monument of splendor, some memorial of notoriety and ostentation, something that would perpetuate our own name with his goodness, we should gladly have done it. How much more when he only requires
"Our thanks how due!"
when he only asks the homage of the heart, the expression of our dependence, the recognition of his right!

But he to whom the duty of prayer is unknown, and by whom the privilege of prayer is unfelt, or he by whom it is neglected, or he who uses it for form and not from feeling, may probably say, Will this work, wearisome even if necessary, never know an end? Will there be no period of God will dispense with its regular exercise? Will there never be such an attainment of the end proposed, as that we may be allowed to discontinue the means?

To these interrogatories there is but one answer, an answer which shall be also made, by an appeal to the inquirer himself.

If there is any day in which we are quite certain that we shall meet with no trial from Providence, no temptation from the world, any day in which we shall be sure to have no wrong tempers excited in ourselves, no call to bear with those of others, no misfortune to encounter, and no need of Divine assistance to endure it, on that morning we may safely omit prayer.

If there is any evening in which we have received no protection from God, and experienced no mercy at his hands; if we have not lost a single opportunity of doing or receiving good, if we are quite certain that we have not once spoken unadvisedly with our lips, nor entertained one vain or idle thought in our heart, on that night we may safely omit to praise God, and to confess our own sinfulness; on that night we may safely omit humiliation and thanksgiving. To repeat the converse would be superfluous.

When we can conscientiously say, that religion has given a tone to our conduct, a law to our actions, a rule to our thoughts, a bridle to our tongue, a restraint to every wrong passion, a check to every evil temper, then some will say, We may safely be dismissed from the drudgery of prayer, it will then have answered all the ends which you so tiresomely recommend. So far from it, we really figure to ourselves, that if we could hope to hear of a human being brought to such perfection of discipline, it would unquestionably be found that this would be the very being who would continue most perseveringly in the practice of that devotion, which had so materially contributed to bring his heart and mind into so desirable a state, who would most tremble to discontinue prayer, who would be most appalled at the thought of the condition into which such discontinuance would be likely to reduce him. Whatever others do, he will continue for ever to "sing praises unto Thee, O Thou most Highest; he will continue to tell of they loving kindness early in the morning, and of thy truth in the night season."

It is true that while he considered religion as something nominal and ceremonial, rather than as a principle of spirit and life, he felt nothing encouraging, nothing refreshing, nothing delightful in prayer. But since he began to feel it as the means of procuring the most substantial blessings to his heart, since he began to experience something of the realization of the promises to his soul, in the performance of this exercise, he finds there is no employment so satisfactory; none that his mind can so little do without; none that so effectually raises him above the world; none that so opens his eyes to its empty shadows; none which can make him look with so much indifference on its lying vanities; none that can so powerfully defend him against the assaults of temptation, and the allurements of pleasure; none that can so sustain him under labour, so carry him through difficulties; none that can so quicken him in the practice of every virtue, and animate him in the discharge of every duty.

An additional reason why we should live in the perpetual use of prayer, seem to be, that our blessed Redeemer, after having given both the example and the command, while on earth, condescends still to be our unceasing intercessor in heaven. Can we ever cease petitioning for ourselves, when we believe that he never ceases interceding for us?

Hannah More on Prayer

An Excerpt from The Spirit of Prayer, by Hannah More. New York: Swords, Stanford, and Co., 1883.

from Chapter XI, Of Perseverance in Prayer and Praise, page 153.

"Prayer draws all the Christian graces into its focus. It draws Charity, followed by her lovely train, her forbearance with faults, her forgiveness of injuries, her pity for errors, her compassion for want. It draws Repentance, with her holy sorrows, her pious resolutions, her self-distrust. It attracts Faith, with her elevated eye,-- Hope, with her grasped anchor,-- Beneficence, with her open hand,-- Zeal, looking far and wide to serve,-- Humility, with introverted eye, looking at home. Prayer, by quickening these graces in the heart, warms them into life, fits them for service, and dismisses each to its appropriate practice. Prayer is mental virtue; virtue is spiritual action. The mould into which genuine prayer casts the soul is not effaced by the suspension of the act, but retains some touches of the impression till the act is repeated. "

Gillespie's Miscellany Questions: Why Truth must be Declared and Defended

A Treatise of Miscellany Questions: Wherein Many useful Questions and Cases of Conscience are discussed and resolved: for the satisfaction of those, who desire nothing more, than to search for and find out the precious truths, in the controversies of these times.

By Mr. George Gillespie, late minister at Edinburgh.

Published posthumously by his brother, Mr. Patrik Gillespie, minister at Glasgow.
Edinburgh, 1649.

Publisher to the Reader.

It hath been a grand design of the Devil and Instruments acted by him, with much controversy to darken the light in the very breaking up of this present Reformation, and to hid the precious Truth that the simple should not find it, such pure malice doth he carry against the high way of the Lord, [Isa. 35.8] and so afraid he is, that the Way-faring men shall not err therein: but they know now the Counsel of the Lord, [Mich. 4.12] nor the thoughts of his heart, who is about to clear the Truth, by the manifold Errors which have risen in these late Times, to work His peoples hearts to a deep detestation of Error, as well as ungodliness, and to declare his Truth, to be proof of all the controversy that can be moved against it, when every Work shall be tried by the fire. There must be heresies, for making manifest who are approved, [1 Cor. 13.19; Zech. 14.7] and what is precious and praiseworthy Truth, but at the Evening time it shall be light, and the Lord shall make Truth shine the more brightly, that it hath been for a time darkened and born down, this cloudy Morning shall end in a clear day. This little treatise doth help to blow away and dispel the mists of Error, and clear many questioned Truths, beside some points which are practically handled therein. [....] I shall only wish that it may prove as useful and acceptable to the judicious and godly, as other pieces which came from [George Gillespie’s] Pen.

I am

Thy servant,

Pat; Gillespie.

Gillespie's Miscellany Questions: Stability and Firmness in the Truth

A Treatise of Miscellany Questions: Wherein Many useful Questions and Cases of Conscience are discussed and resolved: for the satisfaction of those, who desire nothing more, than to search for and find out the precious truths, in the controversies of these times.

By Mr. George Gillespie, late minister at Edinburgh.

Published posthumously by his brother, Mr. Patrik Gillespie, minister at Glasgow. Edinburgh, 1649, Pages 138-142.

Chap XI.

Of Stability and firmness in the truth.

It is good Divinity to maintain that Skepticism, fluctuation and wavering concerning those things which God hath revealed, to be believed or done by us, is a sin: and to be firm fixed and established in the truth, to hold fast the profession thereof, to stand fast in the faith, is a duty commanded...

Now the preservatives against Wavering, and helps to steadfastness in the faith, are these:

  1. Grow in knowledge and circumspection; be not simple as Children in understanding. There is a slight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive: so speaks the Apostle of these that spread diverse and strange Doctrines, Eph. 4.14 and Rom 16.18. he warns us that they do by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. Thou hast therefore need of the wisdom of the serpent that thou be not deceived, as well as of the simplicity of the Dove, that thou be not a deceiver, Phil: 1.9:10. Do not rashly engage into any new opinion, much less into the spreading of it. With the well-advised is wisdom: Pythagoras would have us Scholars only to hear, and not to speak for five years. Be swift to hear but not to speak or engage: Prove all things, and when thou hast proved, the be sure to hold fast that which is good. 1 Thess 5.21. Mat: 7.15.17. There was never an Heresy yet broached, but under some fair plausible pretence; beguiling unstable souls, as Peter speaks, 2. Pet 2.14. Pro: 14.15. The simple believes every word. Be not like the two hundred that went in the simplicity of their hearts after Absalom in his rebellion, not knowing anything, but that he was to pay his vow in Hebron, 2 Sam: 15:11.
  2. Grow in grace and holiness, and the love of the truth, for the stability of the heart in grace, go hand in hand together, Heb: 13.9. David’s rule is good, Ps.24.12. What man is he that fears the Lord, him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose. Which is also Christ’s rule, John 7.17. If any man will do his will he shall know of the Doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. See also Deut 11.13,16. Elisha healed the unwholesome waters of Jericho by casting salt into the fountain, 2. Kings 2.21, so must the bitter streams of pernicious errors be healed by getting the salt of mortification, and true sanctifying grace in the fountain.
  3. Be sure to cleave to thy faithful and sound teachers, the sheep that follows the shepherd, are best kept from the wolf. I find the exhortation to stability in the faith, joined with the fruitful labors of faithful teachers, Phil 3.16.17 Heb:13 7,9. So the Apostle Eph 4. from the work of the Ministry verse 11.12,13. draws this consequence v.14. that we henceforth be no more Children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of Doctrine. The Galatians were easily seduced, als soon as they were made to disgust Paul.
  4. Watch and be vigilant against the first beginnings of declining, against the first seeds of error, Gal 5.9. It was while men slept, that the enemy came and sowed tears among the Wheat, and when he had done, went his way, Mat.13.25. Therefore watch ye, stand fast in the faith, I Cor 16.13. go hand in hand together.
  5. Avoid and withdraw from the Authors and spreaders of Heresies and dangerous errors, Rom. 16.17. I Tim: 6,5. 2 epist John, 10.11. Phil 3.2. He that would be godly should not use ungodly company, and he that would be Orthodox should not sue heretical company, unless he have some good hopes to convert some who have erred from the truth, and come into their company only for that end, Ja.5.19,20: I remember Chrysostom in diverse places warns his hearers how much they endangered their souls by going into the Jewish synagogues, and there was a great zeal in the Ancient Church to keep Christians that were Orthodox from the Assemblies and company of Heretics.
  6. Get Church Discipline established & duly exercised, which is ordained to purge the Church from false Doctrine. Rev. 2.14.20.
  7. Lean not to thy own understanding, and be not wise in thine own eyes, Prov. 3.5.7. Let reason be brought in captivity to the obedience of Christ, 2 Cor: 10.5. That which made the Antitrinitarians and Socinians fall away from the belief of the Trinity of persons in the godhead, and of the union of the two natures of God and Man in the person of Christ, was because their reason could not comprehend these articles: which is the ground of their opinion professed by themselves. When I speak of Captivating reason, I do not mean implicit faith: the eyes of my understanding must be so far opened by the holy Ghost, that I may know such an article is held forth in Scripture to be believed, and therefore I do believe that it is, though my reason cannot comprehend how it is.
  8. Count thy cost, and be well resolved before hand what it will cost thee to be a Disciple of Christ, to be a constant professor of the Truth. Luk. 14.26. to verse 34. Act 14.22. Confirming the souls of the Disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God. This is surer than to confirm our selves with the hopes of a golden age of prosperity in which we shall fell no affliction.
  9. Search the Scriptures, Joh. 5.39, Act, 17.11. Do not take upon trust new Lights from any man, be he never so eminent for parts or for grace, but to the law and the Testimony.

The upshot of all is that we ought to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, and be steadfast and even unmovable in the truth, and not to give place to the adversaries, no not for an hour, Gal, 4,5...