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from Chapter XV. Prayer (1) Prayer in General
from Anglicanism: The Thought and Practice of the Church 
of England, Illustrated from the Religious Literature of the Seventeenth Century, 
Compiled and Edited by Paul Elmer More and Frank Leslie Cross,  S.P.C.K., London, 1935.

 

No. 282. JOSEPH HALL
[From Meditations and Vows, Divine and Moral, Serving for Directions in Christian 
and Civil Practice.  Century I, No. lxxxv.  Works, ed. Peter Hall (1837), Vol. VIII, p. 24. ] 

There is none like to Lutherís three masters: Prayer, Temptation, Meditation. Temptation stirs up holy meditation; meditation prepares to prayer; and prayer makes profit of temptation and fetcheth all ĎDivine knowledge from Heaven. Of others I may learn the theory of Divinity, of these only, the practice. Other masters teach me, by rote, to speak, parrot-like of Heavenly things; these alone, with feeling and understanding. 
  

No. 283. JOSEPH HALL
 [From The Devout Soul; or Rules of Heavenly Devotion, Sections II [=Chap. I], VIII-XI [=Chaps. III f.].  Works, ed. Peter Hall (1837), Vol. VI, pp. 477-479, 485-489.  THis treatise was published in 1643 at a time, as the author says in the Preface, "when we hear no noise but of drums and trumpets, and talk of nothing but arms and sieges and battles."  "Blessed be my God," he adds, "Who in the midst of these woeful tumults hath vouchsafed to give me these calm and holy thoughts."]    
 
If you tell me (by way of instance in a particular act of Devotion) that there is a gift of Prayer and that the Spirit of God is not tied to rules, I yield both these; but withal, I must say there are also helps of Prayer, and that we must not expect immediate inspirations. I find the world much mistaken in both. They think that man hath the gift of Prayer that can utter the thoughts of his heart roundly unto God, that can express himself smoothly in the phrase of the Holy Ghost and press God with most proper words and passionate vehemence; and surely this is a commendable faculty wheresoever it is. But this is not the gift of Prayer; you may call it, if you will, the gift of elocution. Do we say that man hath the gift of pleading, that can talk eloquently at the bar, that can in good terms loud and earnestly importune the judge for his client, and not rather he that brings the strongest reason, and quotes his books and precedents with most truth and clearest evidence, so as may convince the jury and persuade the judge? Do we say he hath the gift of preaching, that can deliver himself in a flowing manner of speech to his hearers, that can cite Scriptures or Fathers, that can please his auditory with the flowers of rhetoric, or, rather, he that can divide the word aright, interpret it soundly, apply it judiciously, put it home to the conscience, speaking in the evidence of the Spirit, powerfully convincing the gainsayers, comforting the dejected, and drawing every soul nearer to Heaven? The like must we say for Prayer; the gift whereof he may be truly said to have, not that hath the most rennible tongue (for Prayer is not so much a matter of the lips as of the heart), but he that hath the most illuminated apprehension of the God to Whom he speaks, the deepest sense of his own wants, the most eager longings after grace, the ferventest desires of supplies from Heaven, and in a word, whose heart sends up the strongest groans and cries to the Father of Mercies.

Neither may we look for enthusiasms and immediate inspirations, putting ourselves upon Godís Spirit, in the solemn exercises of our invocation without heed or meditation; the dangerous inconvenience whereof hath been too often found in the rash and unwarrantable expressions that have fallen from the mouths of unwary suppliants. But we must address ourselves with due preparation to that holy work. We must digest our suits and fore-order our supplications to the Almighty, so that there may be excellent and necessary use of meet rules of our devotion.

He Whose Spirit helps us to pray, and Whose lips taught us how to pray, is an all-sufficient Example for us. All the skill of men and angels cannot afford a more exquisite model of supplicatory Devotion than that Blessed Saviour of ours gave us in the Mount, led in by a Divine and heart-raising preface, carried out with a strong and heavenly enforcement; wherein an awful compellation makes way for petition, and petition makes way for thanksgiving; the petitions marshalled in a most exact order, for spiritual Blessings, which have an immediate concernment of God, in the first place; then for temporal favours, which concern ourselves, in the second. So punctual a method had not been observed by Him that heareth prayers, if it had been all one to Him to have had our devotions confused and tumultuaryÖ

Occasional ejaculations are such as are moved upon the presence of some such object as carries a kind of relation or analogy to that holy thought which we have entertained. Of this nature I find that which was practised in St. Basilís time; that, upon the lighting of candles, the manner was to bless God in these words, ďPraise be to God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost,Ē which that Father says was anciently used; but who was the author of it he professeth to be unknown. To the same purpose was the Lucernarium, which was a part of the Evening Office of old. For which, there may seem to be more colour of reason, than for the ordinary fashion of apprecation upon occasion of our sneezing, which is expected, and practised by many, out of civility. Old and reverend Beza was wont to move his hat with the rest of the company, but to say withal, Gramercy Madam la Superstition. Now howsoever in this or any other practice which may seem to carry with it a smack of superstition, our devotion may be groundless and unseasonable, yet nothing hinders but that we may take just and holy hints of raising up our hearts to our God; as when we do first look forth, and see the Heavens over our heads, to think, The Heavens declare Thy Glory, O God. When we see the Day breaking, or the Sun rising, The Day is Thine, and the Night is Thine, Thou hast prepared the Light and the Sun. When the Light shines in our faces, Thou deckest Thyself with Light as with a garment; or, Light is sprung up for the righteous. When we see our garden embellished with flowers, The Earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. When we see a rough sea, The waves of the sea rage horribly, and are mighty; but the Lord that dwelleth on high is mightier than they. When we see the darkness of the night, The darkness is no darkness unto Thee. When we rise up from our bed, or our seat, Lord, Thou knowest my down-sitting and my up-rising; Thou understandest my thoughts afar off. When we wash our hands, Wash Thou me, O Lord, and I shall be whiter than snow. When we are walking forth, O hold Thou up my goings in Thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. When we hear a passing bell, O teach me to number my days, that I may apply my heart to wisdom; or, Lord, let me know my end, and the number of my days.

Thus may we dart out our holy desires to God, upon all occasions; wherein, heed must be taken that our ejaculations be not, on the one side, so rare, that our hearts grow to be hard and strange to God, but that they may be held on in continual acknowledgment of Him and acquaintance with Him; and, on the other side, that they be not so over-frequent in their perpetual reiteration, as that they grow to be (like that of the Romish Votaries) fashionable; which, if great care be not taken, will fall out, to the utter frustrating of our devotion. Shortly, let the measure of these devout glances be the preserving our hearts in a constant tenderness and godly disposition, which shall be further actuated upon all opportunities by the exercises of our more enlarged and fixed devotion: whereof there is the same variety that there is in Godís services, about which it is conversant.

There are three main businesses wherein God accounts His service, here below, to consist. The first is our address to the Throne of Grace and the pouring out of our souls before Him in our Prayers; the second is, the reading and hearing His most Holy Word; the third is, the receipt of His Blessed Sacraments; in all which there is place and use for a settled devotion.

To begin with the first work of our actual and enlarged devotion. Some things are prerequired of us, to make us capable of the comfortable performance of so holy and Heavenly a duty, namely, that the heart be clean first, and then that it be clear: clean from the defilement of any known sin; clear from all entanglements and distractions. What do we in our prayers but converse with the Almighty, and either carry our souls up to Him or bring Him down to us? Now it is no hoping that we can entertain God in an impure heart. Even we men loath a nasty and sluttish lodging. How much more will the Holy God abhor an habitation spiritually filthy? I find that even the unclean spirit made that a motive of his repossession, that he found the house swept and garnished. Satanís cleanliness is pollution, and his garnishment disorder and wickedness; without this he finds no welcome; each spirit looks for an entertainment answerable to his nature. How much more will that God of Spirits, Who is purity itself, look to be harboured in a cleanly room? Into a malicious soul Wisdom shall not enter, nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin. What Friend would be pleased that we should lodge him in a Lazarhouse? Or, who would abide to have a toad lie in his bosom? Surely, it is not in the verge of created nature to yield any thing that can be so noisome and odious to the sense of man, as sin is to that absolute and essential Goodness. His pure eyes cannot endure the sight of sin, neither can He endure that the sinner should come within the sight of Him. Away from me ye wicked, is His charge both here and hereafter. It is the privilege and happiness of the pure in heart that they shall see God, see Him both in the end and in the way, enjoying the vision of Him both in grace and in glory; this is no object for impure eyes. Descend into thyself therefore, and ransack thy heart, who ever wouldst be a true client of devotion. Search all the close windings of it with the torches of the Law of God, and if there be any iniquity found lurking in the secret corners thereof, drag it out and abandon it. And when thou hast done, that thy fingers may retain no pollution, say with the holy Psalmist, I will wash my hands in innocency, so will I go to Thine Altar. Presume not to approach the Altar of God, there to offer the sacrifice of thy devotion with unclean hands; else thine offering shall be so far from winning an acceptance for thee from the Hands of God, as that thou shalt make thine offering abominable. And if a beast touch the Mount it shall die.

As the soul must be clean from sin, so it must be clear and free from distractions. The intent of our devotion is to welcome God to our hearts; now where shall we entertain Him if the rooms be full, thronged with cares and turbulent passions? The Spirit of God will not endure to be crowded up together with the world in our straight lodgings; an holy vacuity must make way for Him in our bosoms. The Divine Pattern of Devotion, in Whom the Godhead dwelt bodily, retires into the Mount to pray. He that carried Heaven with Him, would even thus leave the world below Him. Alas, how can we hope to mount up to Heaven in our thoughts, if we have the clogs of earthly cares hanging at our heels? Yea not only must there be a shutting out of all distractive cares and passions, which are professed enemies to our quiet conversing with God in our devotion, but there must be also a denudation of the mind from all those images of our phantasy (how pleasing soever) that may carry our thoughts aside from those better Objects. We are like to foolish children, who when they should be stedfastly looking on their books are apt to gaze after every butterfly that passeth by them. Here must be therefore a careful intention of our thoughts, a restraint from all vain and idle rovings, and an holding ourselves close to our Divine task. Whilst Martha is troubled about many things, her devouter sister, having chosen the better part, plies the one thing necessary, which shall never be taken from her; and whilst Martha would feast Christ with bodily fare, she is feasted of Christ with heavenly delicacies.

After the heart is thus cleansed and thus cleared, it must be in the next place decked with true humility, the cheapest, yet best ornament of the soul. If the Wise Man tells us that Pride is the beginning of Sin, surely all gracious dispositions must begin in humility. The foundation of all high and stately buildings must be laid low; they are the lowly valleys that soak in the showers of Heaven, which the steep hills shelve off, and prove dry and fruitless. To that man will I look (saith God) that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My Word. Hence it is, that the more eminent any man is in grace, the more he is dejected in the sight of God; the Father of the Faithful comes to God under the style of dust and ashes; David under the style of a worm and no man; Agur, the son of Jakeh, under the title of more brutish than any man. and one that hath not the understanding of a man; John Baptist, as not worthy to carry the shoes of Christ after Him ; Paul, as the least of saints, and chief of sinners. On the contrary, the more vile any man is in his own eyes and the more dejected in the sight of God, the higher he is exalted in Godís favour; like as the conduit-water, by how much lower it falls, the higher it riseth. When therefore we would appear before God in our solemn devotions, we must see that we empty ourselves of all proud conceits, and find our hearts fully convinced of our own vileness, yea, nothingness in His sight. Down, down with all our high thoughts. Fall we low before our great and holy God, not to the earth only, but to the very brim of Hell, in the conscience of our own guiltiness; for though the miserable wretchedness of our nature may be a sufficient cause of our humiliation, yet the consideration of our detestable sinfulness is that which will depress us lowest in the sight of God.