by John Preston
To the Anti-Arminian:
OR, To every good Christian Reader.
Pliny the great Naturalist criticised some Greek and Latin Writers in his time, accusing them of folly, at the very least, for distributing their empty and worthless pamphlets with exaggerated praise in the title, promising much upon first glance but ultimately disappointing the reader upon further examination. However, any reader who approaches this Sermon with discernment will discover more than just an impressive title to commend it. Sometimes the workman adorns the work, and at other times, the work adorns the workman. But in this Treatise, they complement each other, united like a white rose and a red rose in one delightful bouquet. Sadly, in the initial publication of this work, both the work and the workman have been mishandled, as is evident from the manuscript. Certain passages that might challenge the Arminians and, without a doubt, cause them to stumble to some extent, have been removed by the person who approved the printing, as if Arminianism were the true doctrine of England. However, for your consolation, dear Christian, you now have the Author's Sermon exactly as it was preached before King James, without any alterations. I release it to you with the same prayer or blessing that Jacob bestowed upon his sons when they journeyed into Egypt: "May God Almighty grant you mercy in the sight of the man. In the sight of the great man, that you may humble him. In the sight of the poor man, that you may content him. In the sight of the stubborn man, that you may shape and soften him. In the sight of the penitent man, that you may bind up his wounds and sores. And in the sight of every man, that you may touch his conscience and wound his soul. Amen."
Yours in the Lord Jesus, P. B.
Christ's Fullness, and Man's Emptiness
JOHN 1:16 From his Fullness, we have all received Grace upon Grace.
Saint Augustine, in his book "De Civitate Dei," appears to be struck by the majesty that shines in this passage from John above all other passages in Holy Scripture. Calvin, likewise, states that he is struck by a sense of divinity in this chapter, giving it the highest praise as a divine and awe-inspiring authority that surpasses all human writings. Innins attests that he had never apprehended the deity until he read this first chapter, affirming it to be the primary and foremost cause of his conversion from atheism to a sincere acceptance of Christianity. You can find this in his autobiography written by himself. In all this chapter, I do not find a richer and fuller sentence than this one that describes the fullness of Christ.
This sentence consists of three parts.
First, a Fullness is ascribed to Christ.
Second, this is not a limited Fullness but an overflowing Fullness, a Fullness that does not confine itself but spills over for our benefit and use.
From his Fullness, we have all received. That is, everyone who ever had any grace drew it from this storehouse, derived it from this source.
Third, these receipts are amplified by their variety: Grace upon Grace. This means that Christ has given us, for all the graces He received from His Father on our behalf, graces that correspond to them. It is as if the seal were said to impart to the wax impression for impression, character for character, or as a father is said to give to his son limb for limb, member for member, though not of the same size and measure. In the same sense, Christ is said to give us Grace upon Grace. So now you see there is a full store, many recipients, a choice of goods, or rather, to use a biblical analogy, a full table with many guests and a variety of dishes: From his Fullness, we have all received Grace upon Grace.
Let's start with the first aspect. This Fullness is attributed to Christ in four respects. [1. In terms of His person, He was full. First, with an uncreated Fullness. Just as the glory of God filled the temple, preventing Moses from entering, the humanity of Christ, which corresponded to that type, was filled not only with the effects of the Deity as then but with the Deity itself, which is said to dwell in Him corporeally or essentially. [2. He was also filled with a created Fullness, and thus, He was said to be full of all divine blessings, which John reduces to two categories: Grace and Truth. Truth encompasses all virtues of understanding, while Grace encompasses all the beauties and perfections of the will.
Second, this Fullness is attributed to Christ in terms of His offices. First, as a Prophet, He was full of all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, so that all the light the world ever had came from Him as a Prophet.
All the revelations that Adam, Abraham, and Noah ever received; all the visions seen by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the other prophets; all the mysteries declared to Paul and John—all of these came from Him. They all received their light from this Sun, which shone upon the dark world since the beginning of time, without setting, although the darkness did not comprehend it.
Secondly, He was full in His role as a Priest—full of favour with God, allowing Him to have constant access, full of compassion for humankind, always ready to hear their pleas, and full of merit, guaranteeing success in all His requests and intercessions.
Thirdly, He was full as a King—full of authority, with all power granted to Him in heaven and on earth, full of strength and might to defend His servants and resist His enemies until He made them His footstool. Lastly, He was full of royal generosity, ready to supply the needs of His servants and provide them with a generous reward in the end.
Thirdly, this Fullness is attributed to Christ concerning righteousness. He was full of all righteousness, both original and actual, active and passive, general and particular. Thus, we have the following blessings:
- He who was so full Himself is able to make us full, even if we lack faith, love, or any other grace.
- We have a Mediator full of love, patience, and tender compassion, inviting us to come to Him.
- Despite our weak and limited righteousness, in Him, we are complete.
Fourthly, this Fullness is attributed to Him in terms of His actions. Almost every action performed by Christ displays a Fullness. At the first miracle He ever worked, He filled six water pots with wine. Later, He filled 5000 guests with five loaves and two fishes, leaving twelve baskets full of broken pieces. He filled the nets with fish until they were ready to break, and most importantly, He filled the disciples with the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost and many times afterward, making them full of joy and the Holy Ghost.
The reasons behind this Fullness lie partly in Christ Himself, for He was the Cornerstone and the Prince of our Salvation. He deserved to be exalted above all principalities and powers.
But chiefly, it was for our sake and our emptiness that He might fill our emptiness with His Fullness. Otherwise, we could neither have seen Him nor received from Him. The glorious beauty of His Godhead was too bright for our eyes to behold, so it was put into the lantern or veil of Christ's humanity that we might behold it. The Deity is an inaccessible fountain, so Christ's humanity became the cistern or conduit-head to receive it for our benefit.
However, one question must be answered: Steven and other saints in Scripture are said to be full of the Holy Ghost. How does this differ from the Fullness of Christ?
Firstly, they were full according to their measure, while Christ was full beyond measure. They were full according to their limited capacity, but Christ's Fullness had no bounds.
Secondly, in them, there was a derived and participated Fullness, while in Christ, there was a Fullness like a fountain springing from Himself, distinct from theirs.
Thirdly, their Fullness was comparative—Steven was full in comparison to other saints. In Christ, there was absolute Fullness without limits or comparison.
What can we deduce from this for our own application?
First and foremost, we should be drawn to come to Christ and partake of this abundant treasure. This is the very purpose of the Evangelist in this passage. Paul often used the riches of Christ's fullness to ignite the desires of the Gentiles to come to Him. In the fullness of time, Christ began to be offered to all who seek Him. He was hidden before but is now fully revealed, seen previously only in types and shadows but now openly. He was preached to only a few before, but now the message goes out to every creature under heaven. Before, the Spirit was given sparingly, but now, He who has ascended on high and led captivity captive has given gifts to men, filling all things.
Therefore, let us be encouraged when we hear of such a fullness not to take God's grace in vain. Let us strive to have our share in it, just as the Corinthians were made rich in Christ, filled with all knowledge and every grace. Don't content yourselves with mere knowledge; it's a common fault to satisfy ourselves with notions without putting them into practice.
Instead, go to Christ as bees to a meadow full of flowers or merchants to the Indies with rich mines. Seek Him so that you may find yourselves returning full of the treasures of truth and grace.
Fullness attracts us in many other things. Joseph's full barns in Egypt drew Jacob and his sons there. Canaan was described as a land flowing with milk and honey, which attracted the Israelites. Solomon's abundance of wisdom drew the Queen of Sheba to his court. In everything, fullness allures and affects us. Even the covetous man, though he spends little, desires to take from a full heap. How much more should the fullness of Christ affect us, especially since in Him, there is not only a fullness but also generosity? Unfortunately, if we look at the ways and actions of people, we'll find that they seek fullness in almost everything else—pleasure, honour, and preferments. This full honeycomb is often overlooked. But happy is the one whose heart is turned toward seeking a fullness of faith, wisdom, and the Holy Spirit. They may lack in other things, but they are full of these, and they have chosen the better part that shall never be taken from them.
Secondly, if there is fullness in Christ, we should respond with fullness of affection. Fully believe and trust in Him, fully love and adore Him, and fully delight in Him. The depth of our affections should match the depth of His fullness. While other excellences in creation warrant limited love and esteem, His fullness demands our fullest affections. All the excellences in creation are like a drop compared to the ocean, like a spark compared to the whole element of fire. Therefore, if we proportion our affections to the object, which should be our guide, we should give only a drop of love and delight to the creature, but the full stream of our affections should flow towards Him in whom is the fullness of all perfection.
Thirdly, if there is fullness in Christ, we should be content with Him, having our hearts filled and satisfied with Him.
Firstly, in terms of spiritual matters, let us not seek Saints, merits, churches' treasury, or other earthly treasures like the broken cisterns and petty packs of Rome. There is no need, for in Christ, we find completeness.
Secondly, for temporal things, let us find contentment in Him alone, for He is our fullness even in these matters. To understand this better, we must recognize that the first Adam brought emptiness into the world. Though the world may seem full of pleasures, such as the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye, it is essentially empty because it lacks what it should have. It's like a well that's empty of water, even if it's filled with air. This emptiness isn't just an absence of existence but an absence of what should be there. This is why not only are men's hearts empty, but the entire creation is described as empty. Solomon declared in Ecclesiastes that "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity," meaning emptiness. In Romans 8, it says that the creation is subject to vanity, which means emptiness. This emptiness is brought about by the one who subjected it. Thus, not only are men's hearts unsatisfied with the world, but, as the prophet said, "They eat and are not filled; they drink and behold their soul is empty." The world is like a husk without the grain, a shell without the kernel, full of nothing but emptiness. It's empty in itself, and thus, it can't give us satisfaction. But the second Adam, Christ, has filled all things anew, as in Ephesians 1:23, "He fills all in all," not just the hearts of men but all things. This shows that many find a lack in the midst of plenty; their hearts don't find rest or satisfaction in all they possess. However, for the holy, regenerated person, it's quite the opposite. Even with little wealth, little food, and little clothing, there's a secret fullness placed into that little, making it sufficient for satisfaction. This is the essence of Psalm 37:16, "A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked," because, in that little, filled with the blessings of the second Adam, they find fullness. The wicked, on the other hand, find emptiness in the midst of their abundance.
If there is fullness in Christ, then even though there is fullness of sin and guilt in us, there is a fullness of grace in Him able to remove and erase it. There's a fullness of mercy to accept our supplications, a fullness of merit to make atonement for our gravest sins, and a fullness of favour to win over His Father's heart to our requests. If there's fullness of grace in Christ, and indeed there is, do not be discouraged even if your sins abound. His grace abounds far more, to the extent that your sins cannot be as sinful as His mercy is merciful. Remember two metaphors from Scripture: "I will scatter your sins as a mist" and "they shall be drowned in the bottom of the sea." Just as the sun, with its great strength, can scatter the thickest mist, so can Christ, with His vast fullness of grace, forgive the greatest sins as willingly as the smallest ones. Although grace is a quality in us, it is a nature in God. What is natural is without unwillingness or weariness, just as the eye isn't weary from seeing or the ear from hearing. Therefore, even if our sins are great and numerous, as long as we meet certain conditions, such as refraining from known sin and having a full and resolute purpose, confirmed by our consciences, to avoid any evil and perform every good deed, in essence, making our hearts perfect before God in all things, then there's no remission of sins without these conditions. However, if these conditions are met, our sins, no matter how great or many, haven't exceeded the price paid for them or the grace of the One we deal with because there is a fullness in Him.
I beseech you, do not take this exhortation lightly, for there is nothing more effective in healing a rebellious disposition, instilling saving grace, and causing a sinner to change his ways than being fully persuaded that he will receive mercy and that his sins will be forgiven in Christ. Just as thieves never return willingly while the hue and cry is after them, and rebels and pirates never come in while the proclamation of rebellion is out against them, yet if there's a proclamation of pardon, and even some great advancement is believed, that alone causes them to come in and become faithful and loyal subjects. Therefore, let this fullness of mercy in Christ motivate us all to lay down the arms of rebellion, choose God for our good, and give ourselves entirely to Him, serving Him with perfect hearts and willing minds all our days.
So much for the first part.
The second part I will briefly address and not delve into the third, lest I become tedious.
"Of his Fulness we have all received."
The second point is that all Grace is received, for just as all stars shine in the light of the Sun, so do all the Saints through received grace. What else distinguished John from Judas or Simon Peter from Simon Magus? Only Christ, who shone upon one and not upon another when they both sat in darkness and the shadow of death.
The Scripture is clear on this, Philippians 2:13: "The deed is wrought in us by God, and not the deed only, but the will also, which produces that deed, and not only that but the thought also, which begets that will." We are not even capable of thinking a good thought of ourselves, as 2 Corinthians 3:5 affirms. Therefore, all grace, even all preparation for grace and the ability to accept grace, come from God, contrary to what Arminius asserts, and not from ourselves. This is so for several reasons.
Because nothing can work beyond its own capabilities; the effect does not exceed the cause. Therefore, it is impossible for corrupt nature to either generate supernatural grace or perform any action preparing or inclining the will toward it. Just as water cannot heat (an action beyond its nature) until a higher principle of heat is infused into it, so too can mere nature do nothing leading to saving grace, as it lacks a principle from which it can draw.
If it is objected (as Arminians do) that although grace does everything, accepting or rejecting it, willing or not willing it, is natural to man as a free agent.
I answer: To will is natural, but to will well is supernatural and must come from a higher source than nature. Just as a hatchet can cut when handled by an ordinary hand but cannot create a chair or stool or anything artificial unless it has the influence of an artisan as an artisan, so even though willing is natural, willing well, doing a supernatural work in a supernatural and holy manner, cannot happen unless it has the influence of a supernatural Agent to direct and guide it.
If a man could accept or reject grace as he pleased, God would not be God, as His will could be thwarted by His creation, and His will would not absolutely govern, especially in the crucial matter of believing and not believing, and in distinguishing between one person's salvation and another's damnation. According to Arminius, even if God earnestly desired a person's conversion and provided all possible means of grace, that person's free will could still choose to convert or not to convert. Their only response to this is that since God decreed that man would be a free agent, even though He desires a person's conversion, He must allow the creature the liberty to act against His own desires due to His decree. But isn't this akin to putting God in the same predicament as Darius, who earnestly wanted to save Daniel but couldn't due to his decree? Furthermore, if grief in spirits and angels is merely the reluctance of the will, as the Schoolmen suggest, doesn't this mean we're attributing grief to God and thus diminishing His blessedness?
Thirdly, if not all grace is received, and a person can choose to accept or reject it, how can we resolve the fact that people might partially rejoice and boast in themselves, contrary to Paul's instruction to "rejoice in the Lord"? If we were to ask those who are saved why they are saved rather than others, their answer would have to be: "Out of the liberty of my own will, I received and used the offered grace while another did not." According to Arminius, the saints in heaven are no more indebted to God than the damned in hell, as the offering of grace by God was equally common to both. The only difference is that those in heaven can thank their own will for choosing it when another refused it.
They have nothing here to answer, but only that the means of Grace are dispensed by God with some disparity. But what is that when they maintain such freedom of will that he who has the greatest means may reject grace, and he who has the least may accept it?
Other reasons there are, but that I hasten: as that Grace is not Grace without being received, no more than a man can be a man without reason, or a gift can be a gift without being given. For no less does it imply contradiction to suppose it to be grace, and yet not to be freely bestowed by God and received by us.
Secondly, the bowing of the will is an effect of grace, and grace is an effect of the spirit. Now the spirit breathes when, where, and in what measure it lists. Again, if grace should spring out of our soul, it should be but a flower of grass, for all flesh is grass, but the grace of the mediator is of a more durable nature, a flower that fades not, and a spring which is not dried up.
Hence, two corollaries.
One to rectify our judgment. The other to direct our practice. The first shows us the errors of Arminius, who has but refined the old Pelagianism, a dangerous error: for Arianism was like a land flood that overflowed the whole world but was soon dried up again because it had not a spring to maintain it. But the best ages of the Church had in them, as he called it, "Multas fibras virulentiae Pelagianae," because it is an error agreeable to nature and reason. We have a spring within our own breast to nourish and maintain it. But now, to keep close to the point in hand, this point shows the error of Arminius and Pelagius, who ascribe the beginning, preparations, and ability to accept grace to our own free will, although the complement belongs to God. Whereas you see by what has been said, not only the fuller streams but every drop of grace is received from His fullness. This error proceeds from their not distinguishing correctly between acquired habits and infused habits. Indeed, in the acquired, the acts precede the habits and prepare for them, but with infused habits, it is quite the contrary. It is with them as it is with the natural powers of the soul: we have first the faculty of seeing before we do see, and the faculty of hearing before we do hear. So it is in infused habits: we have first the habits before we exercise the operations of them. For even as the wheel does not run that it may be made round, but it is first made round that it may run, so the heart does not first do the actions whereby it is put into a right frame, but it is first fashioned and made a new creature by grace, and then it does actions and brings forth fruits worthy of amendment of life. For what is said of the soul is as truly said of Grace: it prepares a room for itself, uses no harbinger, for nothing can prepare for grace but grace itself.
And if it be objected, as Arminius does in his book upon the 7th to the Romans, that such as Seneca and Socrates were much enlightened, did approve the law of God according to the inward man, and had a kind of universal common grace.
I answer that this privilege cannot be denied to many among the Heathen. As alchemists, though they miss the end, yet they find many excellent things by the way. So though they failed of the right end, the glory of God, yet they were not destitute of many excellent common gifts. Wherein, though one did go far beyond another, as Seneca beyond Nero, and so others, yet, as they say of sins, they do all alike pass the rule of rectitude, though some go further beyond than others. So were they all alike destitute of original Righteousness, although some more elongated from it than others. All are alike dead in sins, though some, as dead bodies, more corrupted and putrefied than others.
And if it be objected, as it is by Arminius, to what end then are Exhortations and Threatenings, the propounding of Punishments and Rewards, if it be not in our power to accept Grace and refuse it as we will.
I answer that as the rain, although it falls as well upon Rocks and Heaths as upon Valleys and Fruitful places, yet no man asks to what end is the first and latter rain. So Exhortations and Admonitions, though they fall as well upon the Reprobates and those that are desperately wicked as upon those that are docile and capable of better things, it is to no less folly to ask to what end they are. Seeing, as the rain, so they are to many beneficial and useful.
So much for the first Corollary, which serves to rectify Judgments.
The next is for Practice. If all grace be received, then defer not repentance, for no repentance is accepted but what proceeds from a Sanctifying grace. And that, as you see, is received, that is given by God as he will. It is not in him that willeth, nor in him that runneth, but he hath compassion on whom he will have compassion, and whom he will, he hardeneth, Rom. 9. 15. As I said before, the Spirit breathes where and when it listeth. Therefore we should, as Millers and Mariners are wont to do, who take the Gale when it comes, because they know the winds are not at their command: Suppose a man were to pass the Seas within 20 days upon pain of death. If the wind should blow the second day, third day, or fourth day, no wise man would omit the opportunity, because he knows the winds are not in his power. So, if the spirit shall breathe into our hearts good motions of turning to God unfeignedly in our youth, at 16. 17. or whenever, it is the greatest wisdom in the world to take the opportunity and not to put it off. Who knoweth whether they will be had again or not? How many thousand are now in Hell who thought to have repented, and did not because they neglected those breathings of the Spirit where they were offered? For there are certain acceptable times after which God offers Grace no more: happy he that knows that day of his visitation, and as our Saviour speaketh, the things which belong to his Peace, in that his day, which Jerusalem did not, which made Christ weep over it, and which Saul did not, and the Jews in Jeremiah's time did not, when God forbade Jeremiah to pray for them. For as there were certain times when the Angel moved the waters in the pool of Bethesda, and he that then stepped in, was healed; so there are certain acceptable times, wherein God troubles the hearts of men by his spirit. Happy is he who then steps into a good course, that he may be healed to Salvation. I say there are certain times, wherein God does, as it were, thaw and soften the frozen hearts of men. And it is wisdom then with the husbandman to put in the plough while the ground is soft. For the heart in such a case is like iron in the furnace, easily fashioned, but stay till it be cold, and it will not be wrought upon. I beseech you, therefore, let us be exhorted to take the opportunity and not be like those whom Isaiah complains of, who, like bulrushes, bow down their heads for a day while some storm of inward or outward trouble is upon them, but when a fair sunshine day comes to dry it up again, lift up their heads as upright as ever before.
If a man would sit down and call his thoughts together but for one half-hour, and consider this seriously, I have but a little time to live here, it is another place where I must live for all eternity, and it shall be with me for all this eternity, as I spend this short time. I say if this were thoroughly considered, I wonder that anything else should take up the intentions and thoughts of a man's heart, but only how to make sure his salvation. But alas, we are robbed of ourselves through worldly delights and do magno conaru, magnas nugas agere, and so we spend our lives. But if we would not have with the Merchant, Fortunam rudentibus ap • am, that is, an estate hanging upon ropes, and depending upon uncertainties, especially seeing grace whence repentance proceedeth, is as you see received, and not in our power. But we mistake repentance, and that is the cause we defer it, it is not as it is commonly thought, a sorrow for our sins only, nor a mere leaving of sins out of fear of hell, and desire to be saved, which a man may do out of the strength of natural wisdom, providing for his safety. But it is a much different thing, viz. putting life into a dead man: Ephesians 2. 1. Making a man a new Creature, 2 Corinthians 5. 17. A change of the whole frame of the heart. As if another soul dwelt in the same body, as he saith; Ego non ego. In a word, when a man is quite another man, then he was serving of God out of an inward propenseness and having the whole bent of his disposition turned to delight in the Law of God without these by-respects. And that this may yet be made clearer, and put out of all doubt, I would ask but this question; That repentance which men take up in age, or in times of extremity, whence proceedeth it, if from self-love, as it usually doth in such cases, because the soul is then strongly possessed with an apprehension of death and hell, and another life, then there is no more than nature in it, for the stream riseth not higher than the fountain. A beast would do as much, which sinking into danger, would struggle to save itself. But if it proceed from love to God, why was it not done sooner, why not in the flower of our youth, yea when it is done soonest, would we not be heartily sorry that it was not done sooner, if it proceeded out of love to him? And if it thus proceed out of a holy love to God, it cannot arise but from his holy spirit: the breathings of which spirit as they are most free, so are they most precious. Therefore when such a spark is kindled in our hearts, let us be careful to put fuel to it, and not suffer it to go out again.
All the Creatures in Heaven and Earth cannot help us again to them, yea the best Ordinances are but as pens without ink, or empty Conduit-pipes which give not a drop of true Grace, except Christ who is the Fountain please to convey it by them. You know the Famous Story of Francis Spira, what bitter cries he used upon his Death-bed: O that I had but one drop of Faith! One of the motions which I have been wont to have, but yet could not have them! But died with those desperate words in his mouth, I am Damned. Therefore let us take heed how we let such motions rise up like bubbles in us, and break again; or go out like sparks upon wet tinder, lest often checking, and snibbing, and quenching the Spirit, in the end we be guilty of resisting the Holy Ghost, and God shall swear in his wrath that we shall not enter into his rest. [Whereby the way observe, that this Doctrine teacheth us not to be idle, and leave all to God, as they slander it] but as Paul makes the Consequence, because God works in you both the will and the deed, therefore work out your Salvation with fear and trembling. Arminius contrarily, ourselves work in ourselves the Will, and the deed; Therefore we need not work out our Salvation with any such fear and solicitude, since we may do it at our own pleasure and leisure.
But it will be said this is a hard case, although a man would repent, yet he cannot: though he desire to serve God, yet it is impossible. Therefore to take away this Scruple, we must know that God is exceeding free and open-handed in giving grace (if it may be taken in time) and if we will not believe it, John cometh here and tells you, I have received of his Fullness, and not only I, but all we have received, that is, all other Saints that either are or have been: and since John's time, many thousand thousands: And shall not such a Cloud of Witnesses persuade us? If a Beggar do but hear of an open House kept; or a great Dole, it affects him, and invites him to go: But when he sees many come from it with arms full, and laps full, and baskets full, then he is confident: that addeth wings to him; So if a sick man do but hear of a Famous Physician, or a healing Well, it stirs him up to go and try: But when he meets with 100 and 1000 coming from the Well, and telling him, I have been there and am healed, I have been there, and am made whole, then he maketh no question; So doth John here, All we have received of his Fullness: Like a Bird that hath found out a full heap and calls his fellows to it. Say not therefore, oh my sins are so great, and my wants are so many: But rather think thus with yourselves, if there was grace enough for so many, there is surely enough for me: Only you must receive when it is offered in the acceptable time, lest often grieving the Spirit, God suffers his Spirit to strive no longer. Gen. 6, 3. But (as I said before) swear in his wrath that you shall not enter into his rest.
2 If all grace be received, then let us be affected as Receivers [1 In thankfulness towards God] the most gracious are the most grateful. [2 In Humility towards men] For what have we that we have not received? And shall our Purse or Vessel boast itself against another, because the Owner hath put more Gold, or more precious Liquor into it, than into another, it may be of the same, or a better worth? Or shall the wall which glistens with the Sun beams exalt itself against another which stands in the shadow, as if it had Luster from itself, and not borrowed from the Sun.
- Let us be affected as Receivers, in begging grace at God's hands by Prayer. Therefore it is said to be the Bucket of grace, and it is a true observation, that a man of much Prayer, is a man of much Grace. Now Prayer is either Private, or Public: [Private, is that wherein we express our private and particular occasions to God every day, wherein we renew Repentance & Covenants with God, of abstaining from the sins we are most prone to, and of doing the duties to which we are most unapt, in a word, that wherein we do every day set our hearts straight before God in all things. This is the very Life of Religion, and in this, we must be very frequent and fervent, binding ourselves with an inviolable resolution to keep a constant course in it, but of this there is no doubt. [The next is Public Prayer, of which because it is more questioned and not received by all with that Reverence it should, I will add a word or two of it, and conclude.
That a set Form of Prayer is Lawful, much need not be said, the very newness of the contrary opinion is enough to show the vanity and foolishness of it: It being contrary to the Judgment of approved Councils, Learned Fathers, and the continual Practice of the Church.
Tertullian, who lived not much above an hundred years after the Apostles death, saith in his Book de Oratione, Premissa Legitima & ordinaria Oratione, Ius est superstruendi Petitiones, &c, which showeth that they had some ordinary set allowed Prayers, to which, afterwards some were added at more Liberty. In Origen's time, who lived very near Tertullian's time: It is evident that there were set Forms of Prayer used in the Church: for in his 11th Homily upon Jeremiah, he repeateth and expoundeth some passages of them, upon which occasion Illiricus saith. Tunc temporis certas quasdam formulas orationum sine dubio habuerunt. Basil in his 63rd Epistle saith, that in his time there were Litanies used in the Neocesarean Churches, and Ambrose in his time affirmeth: Usum Litaniarum ubique esse frequentem. Constantine the Great prescribed a set Form of Prayer to his Soldiers, set down by Eusebius in his fourth Book. And Calvin in his 83rd Epistle to the Protector of England saith, that he doth greatly allow a set Form of Ecclesiastical Prayers, which the Ministers should be bound to observe.
But as I said before of the lawfulness, there is little question. That which is chiefly to be reprehended, is of a secret disesteem of public prayers? By reason of which, many neglect to come to them, and they which do, do it in a perfunctory and overly manner, which is an extreme fault. Better were it, that men would come to this disjunction; either it is lawful to use them or not; if not, why do they not wholly abstain, and if they be lawful, why do they not use them constantly, and in a reverent and holy manner. One thing there is, which if it were well considered, would breed in the hearts of men another esteem of our public prayers then there is. And that is, that besides the end of obtaining the things we want (wherein yet public prayer hath the promise) there is another end in praying, and that is to worship God, and to perform a service to him, for proving of which, there are two places of Scripture unanswerable, Luke 2. 37. Hannah worshipped God by fasting and prayers, the word used is προσκυνέω, which is the proper word for worship, Acts 13. 2. They ministered to the Lord and fasted, the word used is λειτουργέω, whence the word Liturgy is derived. This methinks should breed in the hearts of men a reverend esteem of this duty.
Besides, how straight is that which is objected against the lawfulness of it, as that the Spirit is stinted, when we are fettered with words appointed.
Answer. The freedom of the Spirit stands not so much in the extent of the words, as the intenseness with which they are uttered. Besides if this argument swell against conceived prayer, for if he have greater spirit then he that prayeth, there is no restraint.
Again, it is objected, that we cannot pray for occasional necessities. Therefore we bind not only to a set form: but men may, and ought to use besides, private prayer, wherein we may express our private, accidental, and particular occasions. And if they be more public, there are prayers before and after Sermon, wherein the Minister is left at more liberty? And if it be yet more general belonging to the State or Church, we add it to the public prayers, as it is in the Gun-powder-treason, times of War, dearth, &c. But there needs not much be said to convince the judgment: that which is chiefly to be desired, is, that they may be better observed, and more esteemed, especially seeing our public prayers be holy and good, (and which should be a greater inducement) the Church hath commanded them: And if the Church be to be obeyed in indifferent things, as it is, much more in appointing of God's own Ordinances.
And if a set form of prayer be lawful, then the Lord's Prayer must needs excel, being dictated by Christ himself, and is therefore to be more frequently used, and withal Reverence both in mind and gesture. Nor doth this want the practice and approbation of the Ancient, it is Cyprian's speech. Quanto efficacius impertramus quod petimus Christi nominae si ipsius Oratione petamus. And Saint Augustine. Disce et retinete orationem Dominicam, et inter omnes sanctos Consono ore proferatis. Thus if we shall show ourselves affected as Receivers, in using both public and private prayer, we shall find that success which John and the rest found, who of his fullness received Grace for Grace.