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are committed by the sons of men.
For by prayer, above all other duties, is our most direct and immediate personal approach into the presence of God; and as there is an uttering of things before him, especially a giving of him thanks for things received, or a begging, that such and such things might be bestowed upon me. But now, to do these things in hypocrisy (and it is easy to do them so, when we go up into the temple to pray,) must needs be intolerable wickedness, and it argueth infinite patience in God, that he should let such as do so, arise alive from their knees, or that he should suffer them to go away from the place where they stand, without some token or mark of his wrath
I also observe, that this extempore prayer of the Pharisee was performed by himself, or in the strength of his own natural parts; for so the text implieth: “The Pharisee.” saith the text, “stood and prayed thus with himself,” or by himself, and may signify, either that he spoke softly, or that he made this prayer by reason of his natural parts. “I will pray with the Spirit," said Paul, 1 Cor. xiv. 15. “ The Pharisee prayed with himself,” said Christ. It is at this day wonderful common for Men to pray extempore also: to pray by a book, by a premeditated set form, is now out of fashion. He is counted no body now, that cannot at any time, at a minute's warning, make a prayer of half an hour long. I am not against extempore prayer,* for I believe it to be the best kind of praying ; but yet I am jealous, that there are a great many such prayers made, especially in pulpits and public meetings, without the breathing of the Holy Ghost in them; for if a Pharisee of old could do so, why may not a Pharisee do so now ? Wit, and reason, and notion, is not screwed up to a very great height; nor do men want words; or fancies, or pride, to make them do this thing. Great is the
formality * Extempore prayer ought not to be practised, but by those who are perfectly capable of it. Many there are who attempt extempore prayer, merely because they would be thought men of abilities.
formality of religion this day, and little the power thereof. Now, where there is a great form, and little power, (and such there was also among the Jews, in the time of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,) there men are most strangely under the temptation to be hypocrites; for nothing doth so properly and directly oppose hypocrisy, as the power and glory of the things we profess. And so, on the contrary, nothing is a greater temptation to hypocrisy, than a form of knowledge of things without the savour thereof. Nor can much of the power and savour of the things of the gospel be seen at this day upon professors, (I speak not of all, if their notions and conversations be compared together. How proud, how covetous, how like the world in garb and guise, in words and actions, are most of the great professors of this our day! But when they come to divine worship, especially to pray, by their words and carriage there, one would almost judge them to be angels in heaven. But such things must be done in hypocrisy, as also the Pharisee's was.
“ The Pharisee stood up and prayed thus with himself.”
And in that it is said he prayed with himself, it may signify, that he went in his prayer no further than his sense and reason, feeling and carnal apprehensions, went. True, Christian prayer oft-times leaves sense and reason, feeling, and carnal apprehensions behind it: and it goeth forth with faith, hope, and desires, to know what at present we are ignorant of, and that unto which our sense, feeling, reason, &c. are strangers. The apostle indeed doth say, “I will pray with the understanding,” i Cor. xiv. 15. but then it must be taken for an understanding spiritually enlightened. I say, it must be so understood, because the natural understanding, as such, receiveth not the things of God; therefore cannot pray for them ; for they to such are foolish things, i Cor. ii. 14.
Now, a spiritually enlightened understanding may be officious in prayer these ways.
1. As it has received conviction of the truth of the being of the Spirit of God; for to receive conviction of the truth and being of such things, comes from the Spirit of God, not from the law, sense, or reason, 1 Cor. ii. 10, 11, 12. Now, the understanding having, by the Holy Ghost, received conviction of the truth of things, draweth out the heart to cry in prayer to God for them. Therefore be saith, he would pray with the understanding.
2. Spiritually enlightened understanding hath also received, by the Holy Ghost, conviction of the excellency and glory of the things that are of the Spirit of God, and so inflameth the heart with more fervent desires in this duty of prayer ; for there is a supernatural excellency in the things that are of the Spirit: “For if the ministration of death, (to which the Pharisee adhered,) written and engraven in stone, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses, for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away, how shall got the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious ? For if the ministration of condemnation, be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory: For even that which was made glorious, had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth,” 2 Cor. iii. 7, 8,
And the Spirit of God sheweth, at least, some things of that excellent glory of them to the understanding that it enlighteneth. Eph. i. 17, 18, 10.
3. The spiritually enlightened understanding hath also thereby received knowledge, that these excellent supernatural things of the Spirit are given by covenant in Christ to those that love God, and are beloved of him. “Now we have received,” says Paul, “ not the Spirit of the world, (that the Pharisee had,) " but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God," I Cor. i. 12. And this knowledge, that the things of the Spirit of God are freely given to us of God, puts yet a great edge, more
yet further confidence into the heart to ask for what is mine by gift, by a free gift of God in his Son. But all these things the poor Pharisee was an urter stranger to; he knew not the Spirit, nor the things of the Spirit ; and therefore must neglect ith, judgment, and the love of God, Matth. xxiii. 23. Luke xi. 42. and follow himself only, as to his sense, feeling, reason, and carnal imagination in prayer.
He stood and prayed thus, (with himself). He prayed thus, talking to himself; for so also it may (I think) be understood. It is said of the unjust judge, be said “ within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man," &c. Luke xviii. 4. that is, he said it to himself. So the Pharisee is said to pray with himself: God and the Pharisee were not together, there was only the Pharisee and himself. Paul knew not what to pray for without the Holy Ghost joined himself with him, and helped him with groans unutterable ; but the Pharisee had no need of that; it was enough that he and himself were together at this work; for he thought without doubting that he and himself together could do. How many times have I heard ancient men and ancient women, at it, with themselves, when all alone in some private room, or in some solitary path; and in their chat they have been sometimes reasoning, sometimes chiding, sometimes pleading, sometimes praying, and sometimes singing; but yet all has been done by themselves when all alone; but yet so done, as one that has not seen them must needs have concluded, that they were talking, singing, and praying, with company, when all that they had said, they did it with themselves, and had neither auditor nor regarder.
So the Pharisee was at it with himself, he and himself performed, at this time the duty of prayer. Now I observe, that usually when men do speak to or with themselves, they greatly strive to please themselves : Therefore it is said, there is a man “that flatterech himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to
be hateful," Psal xxxvi. 2. He flattereth himself in his own way, according as his sense and carnal reason dictates to him; and he might do it as well in prayer as in any other way. Some men will so hear sermons, and apply them that they may plece themselves : And some men will pray, but will refuse such words, and thoughts in prayer as will not please themselves.
Oh! how many men speak all that they speak in prayer, rather to themselves, or to their anditory, ihan to God that dwelleth in heaven! And this I take to be the manner, I mean something of the manner of the Pharisce's praying. Indeed, he made mention of God, as also others do ; but be prayed with himself to himself in his own spirit, and to his own pleasing, as she matter of his prayer doth manifest. For was it not pleasant to this hypocrite, think you, to speak thus well of himself at this time? Doubtless it was. Also children and fools are of the same temper with hypocrites, as to this: They also love, without ground, as the Pharisee, to flatter themselves in their own eyes; but not he that commendeth himself is approved.
“God, I thank thee, I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican,” &c.
Thus he begins his prayer ; and it is, as was hinted before, a prayer of the highest strain. For to make a prayer all of thanksgiving, and to urge in that prayer ihe cause of that thanksgiving, is the highest manner of praying, and seems to be done in the strongest faith, &c. in the greatest sense of things. And such was the Pharisee's prayer, only he wanted substantial ground for his thanksgiving, to wit, he wanted proof of that he said, “He was not as other men were," exçept he had meant, as he did not, that he was even of the worst sort of men : For even the best of men by nature, and the worst, are all alike. “What, are we better than they?" said Paul. “No, in no wise,” Rom. iii. 9. So then