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tunity;" concerning which, the advice is easy : many words or few are extrinsical to the nature, and not at all considered in the effects of prayer; but much desire, and much holiness, are essential to its constitution; but we must be very curious, that our importunity do not degenerate into impudence and rude boldness. Capitolinus said of Antonius the emperor and philosopher, “ Sane quamvis esset constans, erat etiam verecundus;" “ he was modest even when he was most pertinacious in his desires." So must we; though we must not be ashamed to ask for whatsoever we need, “ Rebus semper pudor absit in arctis :” and in this sense it is true, that Statisimus in the comedy said concerning meat, 6 Verecundari neminem apud mensam decet, Nam ibi de divinis et humanis cernitur :" " men must not be bashful so as to lose their meat; for that is a necessary that cannot be dispensed withal :” so it is in our prayers ; whatsoever our necessity calls to us for, we must call to God for; and he is not pleased with that rusticity or fond modesty of being ashamed to ask of God any thing, that is honest and necessary; yet our importunity hath also bounds of modesty, but such as are to be expressed with other significations; and he is rightly modest towards God, who, without confidence in himself, but not without confidence in God's mercy, or without great humility of person, and reverence of address, presents his prayers to God as earnestly as he can; provided always, that in the greatest of our desires, and holy violence, we submit to God's will, and desire him to choose for us. Our modesty to God in prayers hath no other measures but these : 1. Distrust of ourselves : 2. Confidence in God: 3. Humility of person : 4. Reverence of address : and, 5. Submission to God's will. These are all, unless you also will add that of Solomon, “ Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thy heart be hasty to utter a thing before God; for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth ; therefore let thy words be few.” These things being observed, let your importunity be as great as it can ; it is still the more likely to prevail, by how much it is the more earnest, and signified and represented by the most offices extraordinary.
3. The last great advantage towards a prevailing intercession for others, is, that the person that prays for bis relatives, be a person of an extraordinary dignity, employ
ment, or designation. For God hath appointed some persons and callings of men to pray for others, such are fathers for their children, bishops for their diocesses, kings for their subjects, and the whole order ecclesiastical for all the men and women in the Christian church. And it is well it is so; for, as things are now, and have been too long, how few are there that understand it to be their duty, or part of their necessary employment, that some of their time, and níuch of their prayers, and an equal portion of their desires, be spent upon the necessities of others. All men do not think it necessary, and fewer practise it frequently, and they but coldly, without interest and deep resentment: it is like the compassion we have in other men's miseries, we are not concerned in it, and it is not our case, and our hearts ache not when another man's children are made fatherless, or his wife a sad widow: and just so are our prayers for their relief: if we thought their evils to be ours,—if we and they, as members of the same body, had sensible and real communications of good and evil,-if we understood what is really meant by being “members one of another,” or if we did not think it a spiritual word of art, instrumental only to a science, but no part of duty, or real relation,-surely we should pray more earnestly one for another than we usually do. How few of us are troubled, when he sees his brother wicked, or dishonourably vicious ? Who is sad and melancholy, when his neighbour is almost in hell ? when he sees him grow old in iniquity ? How many days have we set apart for the public relief and interests of the kingdom ? How earnestly have we fasted, if our prince be sick or afflicted ? What alms have we given for our brother's conversion ? Or if this be great, how importunate and passionate have we been with God by prayer in his behalf, by prayer and secret petition ? But, however, though it were well, very well, that all of us would think of this duty a little more ; because, besides the excellency of the duty itself, it would have this blessed consequent, that for whose necessities we pray, if we do desire earnestly they should be relieved, we would, whenever we can and in all we can, set our hands to it; and if we pity the orphan-children, and pray for them heartily, we would also, when we could, relieve them charitably : but though it were therefore very well, that things were thus
with all men, yet God, who takes care of us all, makes provision for us in special manner; and the whole order of the clergy are appointed by God to pray for others, to be minister's of Christ's priesthood, to be followers of his advocation, to stand between God and the people, and to present to God all their needs, and all their desires. That this God hath ordained and appointed, and that this rather he will bless and accept, appears by the testimony of God himself, for he only can be witness in this particular, for it depends wholly upon his gracious favour and acceptation. It was the case of Abraham and Abimelech : “ Now, therefore, restore the man his wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for thee, and thou shalt live;"* and this caused confidence in Micah : “ Now know I that the Lord will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest :”+ meaning that in his ministry, in the ministry of priests, God hath established the alternate returns of blessing and prayers, the intercourses between God and his people; and through the descending ages of the synagogue it came to be transmitted also to the Christian church, that the ministers of religion are advocates for us under Christ, by “ the ministry of reconciliation,” by their dispensing the holy sacraments, by “ the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” by baptism and the Lord's supper, by “ binding and loosing,” by the “word of God and prayer;" and, therefore, saith St. James, “ If any man be sick among you, let him send for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him :”I meaning that God hath appointed them especially, and will accept them in ordinary and extraordinary; and this is that which is meant by blessing. A father blesses his child, and Solomon blessed his people, and Melchisedec the priest blessed Abraham, and Moses blessed the sons of Israel, and God appointed the Levitical priests to “ bless the congregation;" and this is more than can be done by the people; for though they can say the same prayer, and the people pray for their kings, and children for their parents, and the flock for the pastor, yet they cannot bless him as he blesseth them ;,“ for the less is blessed of the greater, and not the greater of the less ;” and this is “ without all contradiction,” said St. Paul :f the meaning of the mystery is this, That God hath
* Gen, xx, 7. + Judg. xvii. 13, | James v. 14. $ Heb. vii. 7.
appointed the priest to pray for the people, and because he hath made it to be his ordinary office and employment, he also intends to be seen in that way, which he hath appointed and chalked out for us; his prayer, if it be “found in the way of righteousness," is the surer way to prevail in his intercessions for the people.
But upon this stock comes in the greatest difficulty of the text: for if “ God heareth not sinners," there is an infinite necessity, that the ministers of religion should be very holy: for all their ministries consist in preaching and praying; to these two are reducible all the ministries ecclesiastical, which are of Divine institution: so the apostles summed up their employment: “ But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word :"* to exhort, to reprove, to comfort, to cast down, to determine cases of conscience, and to rule in the church by “the word of their proper ministry ;" and the very making laws ecclesiastical, is the ministry of the word; for so their dictates pass into laws by being duties enjoined by God, or the acts, or exercises, or instruments of some enjoined graces. To prayer is reduced “ administration of the sacraments;” but “ binding and loosing,” and “ visitation of the sick,” are mixed offices, partly relating to one, partly to the other. Now although the word of God preached will have a great effect, even though it be preached by an evil minister, a vicious person ; yet it is not so well there, as from a pious man, because by prayer also his preaching is made effectual, and by his good example his homilies and sermons are made active ; and therefore it is very necessary in respect of this half of the minister's office, “the preaching of the word,” he be a good man; unless he be, much perishes to the people, most of the advantages are lost. But then for the other half, all those ministries which are by way of prayer, are rendered extremely invalid, and ineffectual, if they be ministered by an evil person. For upon this very stock it was that St. Cyprian affirmed, that none were to be chosen to the ministry but “ immaculati et integri antistites,” holy and upright men,' who, offering their sacrifices worthily to God and holily, may be heard in their prayers, which they make for the safety of the Lord's people.”+ But he presses this caution to
a farther issue : that it is not only necessary to choose holy persons to these holy ministries for fear of losing the advantages of a sanctified ministry, but also that the people may not be guilty of an evil communion, and a criminal state of society. “Nec enim sibi plebs blandiatur, quasi immunis a contagione delicti esse possit, cum sacerdote peccatore communicans ; • The people cannot be innocent if they communicate with a vicious priest :' for so said the Lord by the prophet Hosea, Sacrificia eorum panis luctûs; for, their sacrifices are like bread of sorrow,' whosoever eats thereof shall be defiled.” The same also he says often and more vehemently, ibid. et lib. 4. ep. 2. But there is yet a farther degree of this evil. It is not only a loss, and also criminal to the people to communicate with a minister of a notorious evil life and scandalous, but it is affirmed by the doctors of the church to be wholly without effect; and their prayers are sins, their sacraments are null and ineffective, their communions are without consecration, their hand is gele axugos, “ a dead hand,” the blessings vain, their sacrifices rejected, their ordinations imperfect, their order is vanished, their character is extinguished, and the Holy Ghost will not descend upon the mysteries when he is invocated by unholy hands, and unsanctified lips. This is a sad story, but it is expressly affirmed by Dionysius, by St. Jerome upon the second chapter of Zephaniah,* affirming that they do wickedly, who affirm“ Eucharistiam imprecantis facere verba, non vitam; et necessariam esse tantum solennem orationem et non sacerdotum merita :" " that the eucharist is consecrated by the word and solemn prayer, and not by the life and holiness of the priest;” and by St. Gelasius,t by the author of the imperfect work attributed to St. Chrysostum,who quotes the eighth book of the Apostolical Constitutions for the same doctrine; the yords of which in the first chapter are so plain, that Bovius and Sixtus Senensis accuse both the author of the Apostolical Constitutions, and St. Jerome, and the author of these homilies, to be guilty of the doctrine of John Huss, who for the crude delivery of this truth was sentenced by the Council of Constance. To the same sense
• Ad Demo. + 1. q. 1. c. sacro sancta. # Homil. 53.
Lib. vi. A. D. 108. Biblioth.