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of our Saviour have fo little Prevalency? That Men owning the Authority of our Lord fhould differ upon fuch a Point as this? That what is call'd Extemporary Prayer Should be fo admired, and Forms fo difregarded? Can any Man refolve this into any other Ground than an unwarrantable Conceit of Spirituality poffeffing Men? For fure I fhall give no Offence to any Wife and Good Man by thus expreffing it, because I prefume no fuch Man, how much foever perfuaded of the Ufefulness and Excellency of Extemporary Prayer, can believe or defend, that the Words and Expreffions of fuch a Prayer are immediately dictated by the Divine Spirit? because this would infer fuch as pray in this manner, to be at least as much, if not more, influenced by the Spirit than the Apostles. I fay, as much as the Apofles. For what Inspiration can be greater and more extraordinary in Prayer, than to have the Senfe and Expreffions immediately dictated by the Divine Spirit? This is GOD's fpeaking by Man, and if I could believe that GOD thus immediately fpake by any Man in thefe Days, I declare it, my Confcience would bind me to reverence his Prayers as the Word of GOD, or as the Lord's Prayer; and becaufe I am deftitute of this fort of Inspiration, I should lament the lofs of thefe Infpir'd Prayers, and if poffible recover them for my own use; and if I had any Authority in the Church, instead of rejecting thefe Prayers, I should use it, to introduce them for the ufe of others. And to this I believe all Men of my Perfuafion would agree. For who would prefume to reject Prayers, whofe Sense and Expression were immediately dictated by the Divine Spirit? Why talk I of using thofe Prayers? I would affuredly go over to their Communion, whofe Teachers are Apoftles. For if they were thus immediately infpir'd in Prayer, I should prefume they were infpir'd as much in Preaching, and other Things; and confequently could err in nothing. And in what Church would any Man be that lov'd his own Salvation but in this?
Farther. I cannot fuppofe any wife and good Man, that is for unpremeditated Prayer, can believe the Senfe and Expreffion of fuch a Prayer immediately dictated by the Spirit, because it hath been doubted by fome Men, that have been far from rejecting the Authority of Scripture, whether the Apostles themselves were to this degree infpir'd, whether in fome Cafes they were not left to their own way of expreffing things. If this be true, (which I do not affert) I cannot think any Man of good Senfe and Morals, will easily be perfuaded to lay claim to an Infpiration, which the Apoftles, according to fome, it seems, had not; and confequently I fhall offend no fuch Man I believe, in esteeming and calling fuch a Notion an extravagant Conceit. And yet as Extravagant as it is, I cannot but think it the Imagination of many, the Ground of their Difrefpect to Forms of Prayer in general, and their extream Reverence and Dotage on fuch as ufe the contrary, as being more wonderful and Spiritual Men. For fo abufed have the Understandings of plain Men been in this Particular, that it is not every one can refolve a mighty Fluency of Words in Sacred Things, into any other Principle than immediate Infpiration. Yet alas, in its felf, what a wide difference is here between praying by the Spirit of GOD, and praying by a Man's own Fancy! I will venture therefore to affirm, (and I hope I do it without Prejudice to any fort of Men) that there is not a Principle more friendly to the Caufe of all forts of Diffenters, that draws more from the Eftablifh'd Church, that poffeffes Men with more Zeal and Reverence towards the feveral ways of Worship, to which they are join'd, than this rooted Opinion they have entertain'd, that in Churches deftitute of prefcribed Forms there is more of the Spirit. And this follows clofely from fuch a Suppofition. For what ferious and well-meaning Man can be void of the highest Refpects towards that Church, or thofe Teachers that he believes very much Infpir'd? How can be avoid giving AtA 3
tention to thofe Prayers, or that Preaching, which he believes the Spirit of GOD very much, if not wholly the Author of? Of this there is not the leaft Shew or Semblance in Forms. What wonder then Men turn their Backs on Forms, where they think there is nothing of the Spirit! Whereas let them be perfuaded, (and they should be perfuaded of it, if true) that the Foun dation of this Extemporary Gift (where it arrives to any great Excellency or Pitch) is much laid in Nature, and is farther improv'd by Ufe and Exercife, as other things are, and confequently a Man may this way pray to great Admiration, without any influence of the Divine Spirit at all; let the Credit of this Faculty Stand upon its right bottom, the Zeal of honeft Men about this Matter will by degrees cool, Forms will no longer appear fuch offenfive things, but their Authority fubfift, and every Day revive and increase.
To what an extravagant height other Men have carry'd this Pretence of the Spirit, is needless to obServe, as well as what Detriment and Divifion, what› ridiculous Conceits, it hath introduced into the Chriftian: Religion. It is not with a little Zeal the Books of A. Bourignon have been tranflated and Spread; and how catching this Evil is, one may fee from the Numbers that now appear in London and other Parts, under the Character of Prophets and immediate Mellengers. of GOD. This Noife about Infpiration, gave me occafion to confider, with all the Clofenefs and Impartiality I was capable of, the Grounds on which it food, and what was brought to confirm so great a Pretence. And this methought was needful, because little can be faid to a Man that believes himself Infpir'd. This Principle therefore must be first attack'd, and if he can be perfuaded to call it into question, to examine it, or in the least to quit it, (and Examination is the way to this) afterwards found Reafon and facred Scripture may be more effectually urg'd, because then the Man has nothing to reft on but thefe. Thus what
was only intended at first for my own private Use and Satisfaction, upon the Motives before related, Accident bath very much contributed to make publick.
This leads me to give fome brief Account of what is contain'd in this Treatife. The first Part comprebends the Grounds on which a wife and good Man fhould believe himself Infpir'd, or Supernaturally acted on and directed, and that in the various forts and ways of it, in which GOD bath reveal'd himself to Men in former Ages, as outwardly to the Senfes, by Dreams, Vifions, Infpirations, &c. In all which it has been my chief aim to fhew, that thofe Holy Men, whom the Scripture prefents to us as Divinely Infpir'd or Commiffion'd, had the most undoubted Evidence of it, did not barely fanfie themselves Infpir'd, but could produce to themselves unquestionable Proofs of it. And this methought did deferve a careful and diligent Confideration, because it is notoriously known in all Ages, Men have been under ftrong Delufions in this refpect, efpecially to believe a Lye. And because fome Men will needs believe themselves Infpir'd as much as the Prophets or Apoftles were; my End is here to fhew' them upon what Grounds thefe Divine Perfons did found their Belief, touching their own Infpiration, and if fuch as pretend to it can produce as good Arguments of their Inspiration, as the Apostles did of theirs; for my part, I am far from perfuading them or others out of this Belief; I would reverence their Inspirations, thank GOD for them, and acquiefce in them. But then on the other fide, if they cannot produce any such Proofs or Grounds of their being Infpir'd, as Infpir'd Men in all Ages have been capable of, I am fure it becomes them feriously and confcientiously to mistrust this Imagination in themselves, to fift it, and put it to the trial of a careful Examination. For it must be highly equitable and reafonable, if their Pretences be as great as thofe of the Apostles, that their Pooofs should be as great. And further, Inspiration being
fuch an extraordinary Thing, an Act of that Goodness and Mercy to the World, I can never believe that GOD would permit Mankind to be defeated of the Advantages of it, by not granting to it fuch Proof and Attestation, as to all good and wife Men would denote its Original. It can therefore be no impious or unreasonable requeft,to defire Men to go a little back, and try their Inspiration by Rules, that GOD himself bath directed them to, by the foregoing Examples. of Frophets and Apoftles. For is not this a good way of arguing? Formerly there hath been Divine Inspi ration. This we receive as a Principle. Where a Man thinks himself Divinely Infpir'd, fhould not this ftand: to him in the nature of a Teft? Should be not compare bis own Inspiration with it, fee what Proofs attended this former Infpiration, and how his own come up to them? Can a Man think he acts in this difagreeably to the Divine Will? When GOD bath vouchfafed a Revelation of his Will, and given fuch and fuch Proofs and Attestations to thofe that were InSpir'd with it, in order to affure the World of the Truth of it, when the like Pretences are again made, must not the Divine Wisdom forefee, that all wife and reafonable Men would have an Eye to former Revelation, and be poffefs'd with an Expectation, that another. that truly comes from him, fhould be like it, and especially as to the Proofs on which it is establish'd? In what can a Man act more wifely and agreeably to the Divine Will, than to compare and examin his Inspiration by the Infpiration of Prophets and Apoftles? To this Examination, I hope the First Part may a little contribute, in which I confefs are fome Things that I would not be supposed to be Dogmatical in, which the Reader will perceive 1 propofe only as probable; and if my ConjeEtures appear only as fuch to him, I haue my End, and no less if he should conjecture otherwife,upon better Reafons. The Places I have no need to point out to him, he will find them as he reads.