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A similar spirit, and delay to humble themselves under the afflicting hand of God, or to seek all their help and comfort from him; they may expect that their trials will be continued, till they are reduced to a better temper. Let us not then, under affliction, prolong our own misery by keeping at a distance from a throne of grace, standing out in our own vindication, expecting help from other quarters, or des; pairing of help from God; but let us call upon bim in our troubles, and he will hear us, and we shall praise hiin.
SCOTT. • PSALMS 51, 131. HYMNS 87, BOOK I. 150, BOOK JI.
« PRAYER, • 1. [ Adoration and Confession.] Great and holy God, how shall we come before thee! Thou art the Lord God Omnipotent: we are but dust and ashes. Thou art from everlasting to everlasting : we are of yesterday and know nothing. Our meanness alone ought to fill us with humility in thy presence. But, O gracious God, there is a still more affecting reason for our thus approaching thee; thou hast nourished and brought us up as children, and we have rebelled against thee. We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, and there is no health in us. Lord, thou knowest our foolishness, and oựr sins are not hidden from thee. Thine eyes have been upon all our ways and all our thoughts. No darkness, nor shadow of death, could hide our iniquities from thee. Thou didst make us wiser than the beasts of the field, yet we have degraded our, selves below them: for the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; yet we have not known thy judgments, we have not considered thy mercies.
.2. [Sin is without Eccuse.] O thou holy and heart-searching God, súffer us not to listen to those deceitful reasonings, which would make us think lightly of our sins. What plea can we offer for pride, for impurity, or for anger ? What shall we say in excuse for having loved this vain world so much, and thee so litile ! We stand chargeable with these, and many other offences: and, O God, preserve us from thinking lightly of their evil. Truly we have no righteousness of our own, or that which we think we have is unclean and hateful in thy sight. Verily,
Verily we are miserable offenders against thy holy majesty." o that we had delighted ourselves in thee! Then had we walked in the right path. But now thou art clear when thou judgest, and justified when thou condemnest. Thou art the judge of all the earth, and thou wilt not do unjustly. Shouldst thou condemn us for ever, thou wouldst not lay upon us more than is right.
63. [Supplication for Pardon.] But blessed be thy name, that thou art pot now our Judge on thy throne, but our Saviour on thy mercy seat. We repent, O Lord, and seek thy divine forgiveness. We fall into thy gracious hands, acknowledging our sins with true contrition of heart, and beseeching thee to shew mercy to us, on thine own terms. Instead of objecting to the way in which it pleaseth thee to pardon the guilty, we gladly and thankfully apply for thay forgiveness which, for Christ's sake, thou art willing to grant unto every penitent sinner. O Lord God, here is our only hope. Con, scious of many transgressions, and fearful that unobserved offences have been committed, we flee to the cross of Jesus, and there, with deep self-abasement, and an eye directed to him who bore our sins, we offer up these petitions.
6,4. [Prayer under any light Family Affliction.] We especially beseech thee, O Lord, to humble our minds under our present afffiction. Though it is not heavy, yet teach us to remember it might easily be increased ; and we deserve that it should. Enable us to bow beneath thy fatherly correction, for thou dost all things right. We will not excuse our sins, which deserve yet severer punishment, but humbly implore thy heavenly pardon through our Lord Jesus Christ. We repent and humble ourselves under thine afflicting hand, whilst yet it is laid but gently upon us. Remove our trials when thou seest fit; and, till then, grant us patient submission to thy will, and cheerful confidence in thy love.
. 5. [Prayer for Humility.] And we pray, that not only when we are kneeling before thee, but at all times, we may be preserved from thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. May a just view of ourselves be continually present to our minds; that i all our conduct towards thee, O God, we may act like penitent sinners : and that in all our transactions with men,
we may bebave with lowliness and meekness; as becometh those who stand in continual need of forgiveness. And let no gifts, or talents, which thou hast bestowed upon us, make us forget what we are in thy sight. Lord, when we recollect the use we have made of them, we have reason to be filled with sliame, instead of being proud on the account of them. How little have they been employed to thy glory! What un. profitable servants are we, with all the gifts thou hast conferred on us! And now, O Lord, grant unto us the spirit to think, as well as to do, always such things as are right; for we know, by experience, that we may be lifted up with pride, even though convinced that we ought to be filled with shame. Do thou then give unto us an humble mind. Preserve us from all confidence in ourselves. Let us dever, forget, that in the Lord alone have we either righteousness or strength.
6. [Evening Petitions and Intercessions.] O Lord, we commit our. bodies and souls to thy care, as weak and unworthy creatures, unable to defend ourselves, and undeserving of thy protection. Accept our thanks for the mercies we have received ; and bring us, we humbly beseech thee, in safety to the beginning of another day, with a renew. ed sense of what we owe to thy providence and grace. Command thy blessing graciously to rest on our relatives and neighbours, our friends and enemies. Bless thy ministers, and favour thy people, Succour the distressed, whether in mind or body, and let all flesh see thy glory.
Our Father, &c. We shall not offer any criticism on these prayers ; their general character is comprehensive, scriptural, and devotional. The chief defect is one which they have in common with al. most every work of the kind, want of more entire simplicity and naturalness. We highly approve of the use made of the prayers of the Liturgy, which are for the most part (there are exceptions) models of devotional composition. A very free use appears to have been made of Bean's Prayers, unless both writers have drawn from a common source. This required to be explained. We cannot say that the work is altogether free from slight improprieties, or rather inappropriatenesses of expression, but they are neither numerous nor glaring, and every facility is afforded for omitting what may appear unsuitable. In place of further animadversions on the volume, which we think adapted to be very generally useful and acceptable, we shall take the liberty to throw out a few general suggestions, applicable alike to written forms and extemporaneous devotion.
It is not, we think, so distinctly borne in mind as it ought to be, that social prayer is not the act of one for many, but ought to be the joint act of many with one. It may be common prayer with or without a book, but this it ought to be. It is a good rule for ministers to follow, to pray with the people in the pulpit, for their people in their closet, at them no where; and the same rule will apply to masters of families. It may be very proper to offer specific intercessions on behalf of the. various members of a household, but the general character of the prayer ought to be such as that all present should feel themselves not the audience, but the petitioners.
Nothing tends more to give a wrong idea of the design and nature of prayer, than that expatiation on doctrine,-that didactic method of rehearsing texts or articles of belief, whichi we have heard indulged in, as if the object of the speaker was to insinuate a sermon under the disguise of a prayer. We are quite persuaded that devotional services are not at all a proper vehicle for information of any kind. Long descriptions, whe ther of character, or of feeling, or of matters of belief, are quite unsuitable. And so are long sentences of any kind, and tong paragraphs. But the worst of all styles is, that which perpetually injects parentheses, to quality or to explain the unfinished sentence. This impropriety is, of course, almost peculiar to extemporaneous effusions: if transferred to the written page, it would be too palpable.
Written prayers are always with great propriety divided into paragraphs; it is to be wished that those who conduct the extemporaneous service, would observe the same marked division, which is not less necessary in speaking than in writing. A long prayer of one paragraph is as tedious to the ear as to the eye. There should be a pause in the sense as well in the voice; and the language of appropriate invocation should, as
in the church service, be more generally interposed at every change of the subject.
Metaphors, except of the most familiar kind, and even the figurative language of Scripture, when the allusion is obscure or not easily recognised, ought to be carefully abstained from. A minister ought not, at least in prayer, to disdain being understood by men of the plainest understanding. Such expressions as “Give them the valley of Achor for a door of hope' — May • he reign from the river to the end of the earth'- rush on the
thick bosses of thy buckler' - count thv love better than · wine-and others which might be particularized, are wholly improper, because forced, unnatural, and, to a large proportion of the audience, unintelligible. We never find the apostles praying in this style ; and it is an abuse of the word, to term it scriptural, merely because such phrases occur in Scripture. There are figures in the Old Testament which no one would venture to employ, and some which no one understands; but the use of figurative language which we are adverting to, is properly technical. We cannot conceive of a pious man adopting such a mode of expression in the unreserved effusions of his closet; yet it is even less suitable to the public service. A person not accustomed to the current phrases and figures of the particular school of theology, is apt to be utterly perplexed by this artificial language, which is, for the same reason, the most unaffecting
Broad assertions are seldom proper in public devotion ; we do not of course mean either confessions or thanksgivings; which are a species of assertion, but those which affirm respecting the state, character, or feelings of the worshippers, inore than is likely to be true of even the majority. The language of supplication all may join in ; that of deciaration scarcely to be called prayer, and yet, it is often copiously, and, we think, injudiciously employed.
The exclusive study of living models is disadvantageous to those who would cultivate a simple, chaste; and affecting devotional style. All that is aimed at, very usually, is facility and copiousness. Conciseness, purity, and selection are by far the more important requisites. A florid style is very inappropriate; yet, it sometimes passes for a gift. After all, though divines distinguish between the gift and the grace
of prayer, (and assuredly a devotional spirit may warm the heart of one who has but indifferent powers of utterance,) yet, we incline to believe, that what is termed the exercise of the gift, is much more closely allied to the exercise of the grace, than is sometimes suspected. The heart, when properly influenced, is the best directory, and that alone can teach us how to pray.
Art. VIII. The' Rural Walks of Cowper ; displayed in a Series of
Views near Olney, Bucks: representing the Scenery exemplised in the Poems; with descriptive Sketches and a Memoir of the Poet's Life. F-cap 8vo. 15 Engravings. Price 78. 6d. London.
1822. OUR UR attention has been drawn to this elegant little volume
by the notice bestowed upon it in Dr. Johnson's Preface to the Private Correspondence of Cowper, and we have his voucher for the fidelity of the delineations. Most of the subjects were engraved many years ago, for a work entitled Cowper Illustrated, which is now out of print. The present series of engravings are from new designs, with the addition of two new plates, Yardley Oak and the Vicarage, besides a fac-simile of the Poet's hand-writing. The memoir adds little value to the publication: it is of course slight and general, and, as it adheres closely to Hayley, gives an erroneous view of the whole circumstances of Cowper's history. : On looking over these views, one is amused to find the itlusion which the Poet has succeeded in creating. The materials which he had to work upon, were of the least promising description, as regarded their susceptibility of either poetic or picturesque effect. Olney itself, standing in the midst of a low, flat, marshy tract, is as dull a town as any in England. Weston is pretty in comparison; but the park itself, so gratefully celebrated, has very slender pretensions to a picturesque or ornamental character. Though the Engraver has made the best of them, yet are they but common scenes, such as present themselves almost every where. But has the Poet passed any deception upon us? Far from it. It was he who saw the landscape and every object in their true light; and he has taught us how to look at Nature, and to love her, in her homeliest dress. • I wish,' he says in one of his Letters,
" that I could see some of the mountains which you have seen; especially, becarise Dr. Johnson has pronounced that no man is * qualified to be a poet, who has never seen a mountain. But
mountains I shall never see, unless, perhaps, in a dream, or • unless there are such' in heaven.' The genuine love of nature, however, displays itself more unequivocally in an attachment to quiet, unobtrusive home scenes, which leave the mind at liberty to occupy itself with all the details of the landscape, and to make acquaintance with the minuter beauties which lie hidden from a common observer. Such scenes, too, minister far more to cheerfulness, than the grand and the magnificent. Cowper, describing his visit to Eartham, says: "The culti'vated appearance of Weston suits my frame of mind far better