صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

creation of the word, the generations of Adam and Noah, and the family of Abraham.

Exodus, An account of the Israelites going out of Egypt, and the giving the law, and the building of the tabernacle. Leviticus, The account of sacrifices and other holy things to be performed by the family of Levi.

Numbers, The register and ranks and order of the tribes of Israel, with an account of some events that fell out in their travels.

Deuteronomy, A repetition of the law, and of many other things in the former books of Moses.

Chronicles, An account of the generations of men from the beginning of the world, but chiefly of the kings of Judah and Israel.

Psalms, Holy songs chiefly written by David.
Proverbs, The wise sayings of Solomon.

Ecclesiastes, The preacher, the reflections of Solomon after his sins.

The prophecies, The writings of the several prophets. The gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the history of the life and doctrine, and death and resurrection of Christ, written by those holy men.

The Acts of the holy Apostles, The history of what was done by the apostles, chiefly Peter and Paul.

The Epistles, Letters writen by the apostles to the churches of christians, or to single persons.

The Revelation, The visions of the apostle John, relating to the church of Christ in following ages, even to the end of the world.

Note. The names of the rest of the books of scripture are borrowed chiefly either from the name of the person who wrote them, as the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the lesser prophets; the epistles of Peter, John, James, and Jude, or of the persons whose history is related in them, as Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Esther, Job, &c. or the persons for whom they were written, as the epistles to the Romans, the Galatians, to Timothy, Titus, &c. But the occasion of writing the prophecies and epistles, as well as the things contained in them, are so particular, and so various, that children can never be acquainted with them all, and there are many which are above the reach of their understanding.

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I Hope there is no need to make an apology for composing little prayers, in order to teach children this first and necessary part of practical religion.

As soon as they are capable of learning any thing concerning that great and glorious God, who created them, they are capable of being taught to address him in a way of prayer, for the good things they want, and to make their acknowledgments to him in a way of praise, for the dailing blessings they receive. Yet our own experience teaches us that in the younger years of life we are incapable of framing our own addresses to God, so as to honour him according to his perfections. We are not only unacquainted with our own various wants, but we are unable to express ourselves in any of the parts of prayer in a proper manner. Therefore such assistances as may be derived from forms and patterns of devotion are necessary to lead children into the most early and easy practice of their duty. Our blessed Lord himself gave his disciples a form of prayer*, when in the younger years of their christianity they desired him to teach them to pray; Luke xi. 2, 3. "When ye pray, say, Our Father, &c."

I could never approve of confining persons, and binding them down to a constant set form of prescribed words, especially when they are capable of adg, leaving out and altering a prayer with judgment and discretion, because the temper of our spirits, the occurrences of life, and our occasions of converse with God, are infinitely various and it may be easily proved, that our Saviour never intended so to confine his disciples: yet I am persuaded there may have been a superstitious abhorrence of all forms of prayer, as though they were sinful, on the one hand, as well as a superstitious fondness for them, and imposition of them, as though they were necessary, on the other for superstition consists in making that a sin, which God has not made so, as well as in making that necessary, which God has not appointed.

I verily believe, that many persons, grown up to mature years, through an unreasonable préjudice and aversion to all forms of prayer, from their childhood, have suffered some disadvantage in their private devotions; their spirits have been early contracted and bound up within too narrow a circle of pious thoughts, for want of those greater enlargements, which might have been attained, by a prudent and pious use of books of devotion. There is an excellent improvement to be made of such religious composures, without confining ourselves to the whole matter, form and order, to all the words and syllables of those devotional writings. Many sentences may be changed, put in, or left out, according to various cases that occur in daily life; and patterns of prayer may be of considerable service, were they are not expressly used as forms of worship.

Among the most zealous writers against the imposition of liturgies and

Here it may be observed, that not only by the writers of the church of England, but by the protestant dissenters also, this is expressly called, "The Form of Prayer which Christ taught his Disciples." See "The Assembly's Lesser Catechism," answer ninety-nine.

forms of prayer, I know not any one who has declared all forms to be unlawful. The reverend and learned Dr. Owen himself, who, perhaps, was as zealous as any man in this matter, has freely expressed himself in these words, viz. To compose and write forms of prayer, to be directive and doctrinal helps unto others as to the matter and method to be used in the right discharge of this duty, is lawful, and may in some cases be useful: and that To read, consider und meditate upon such written prayers, or to make use of expressions set down in them, where the hearts of these that read them are really affected, because they find their state and condition, their wants and desires declared in them, is not unlawful, but may be of good use

unto some.

And as the private religion of some persons has suffered for want of such assistance, so I am well assured, that one reason why there are so many prayerless families in the nation, even where the governors of those families are truly religious, is because they find they are not capable, or have not courage to express themselves in morning and evening prayer, in the midst of their families, in a proper and edifying manner; and yet, through some mistaken principles in their education, they have been taught to abandon all the assistances they might derive from such religious composures. I would not willingly believe that any wise and pious person would abhor, and censure all manner of forms of prayer when used in a pious and prudent way. What it the master of a family took some well written prayers, as directive in the matter and method for the right discharge of this duty, (as Dr. Owen expresses it,) and made use of the expressions set down in them, where the state and condition, wants and desires of his family were declared, and then added and altered, or omitted or enlarged, according to present occasions? I am sure this practice would be far better than to let families go on from year to year, without any prayer in them at all. I wish all sericus minds would take this mat ter into further consideration.

But to pass this by at present: let the case stand as it will with regard to grown persons, yet it is certain that most of the children, who have never been taught any little prayers, in their younger years, grow up too far in life void in practical religion, and without a serious and particular acknowledg ment of God our Creator and our Saviour. It has been certainly the case of some children, and perhaps of multitudes, that they would fain have begun more early to address the great God in prayer, if they had known what to say. Whereas those who have been trained up in the use of such helps as these, have learned betimes the language of prayer; and this would be much more happily effected, if they were not confined to one set form, but were furnished with a variety of assistances, and if they were taught to use that variety, in a proper manner, for the exercise of their own thoughts in devotion, and for their acquiring a readiness to express the pious working of their own hearts thereby.

I grant there may have been such times and seasons, wherein the Spirit of God has been poured out so plentifully as a spirit of supplication, and that on children, as well as persons of riper years, as would render such helps as these unnecessary and would to God that such a season would return again, that our ears might hear these pleasing wonders, and our hearts feel the overflowing delight of such heavenly devotions! but in such a degenerate age as this, wherein the blessed Spirit is greatly withdrawn from the church of God, all the assistances we can obtain, are little enough to uphold and promote serious religion: And if any persons have ever any need of such aids as these, the children and youth of this generation have the most need of them; and I am sure, I am not alone in this opinion. It is in this view of things, that I have complied with the repeated importunities of some of my friends, and sent these little composures into the world. The methods and rules which I have laid down to myself, and according to which I have framed them, were these:



I. I thought it proper to compose distinct prayers for children according to their different successive ages: This made it necessary for me to distinguish them by different tities, viz, The Infant's Prayer at three or four years old; and from thence to seven or eight, the Young Child's Prayer : From eight years old to ten or twelve, the Child's Prayer: From thence to fourteen or fifteen, the Youth's Prayer may be used: And from fifteen they may make some use of the Young Person's Prayer, till by holy and the assistance of divine grace, they may be enabled to pray without the necessity of such helps as these. Every careful reader will observe, how much I have endeavoured to suit these prayers, to the understanding and to the memory of children, in their younger years of life, and that both in the sense and language of the composures, as well as in the length of them. According as children improve, more or less, in their understanding and capacity, so they may, sooner or later, proceed to the more advanced forms.

II. I was willing to put into most of these prayers, as far as possible, the most common and general, the most easy, necessary and prac tical notions that relate to religion, or the most important principles of doctrine and duty both toward God and toward man, that children, according to their different capacities and years, might be put in mind of them, whensoever they pray: And where some of these are omitted in the morning prayer, they are generally inserted in the evening, especially in the longer prayers, as the growing age and capacity of children permitted me to enlarge. Among these common and important principles, I esteem such attributes of God, as his perfect knowledge or wisdom, his almighty power, his hatred of sin, his general goodness, and his mercy to repenting sinners. I add also, such characters of God as our Creator, our Preserver, our Father, the Author of all our blessings, our righteous Governor, and our final Judge and Rewarder. These ideas of God are within the reach and capacity of children.

In this rank, I place a sense of our duties to God, viz. fear, love, faith, hope, obedience, &c. and duties to man, viz. honour of superiors, truth, love, &c. a sense of sin, and the punishment due to it, the distinction between soul and body, the soul's survival of the body, and a state of happiness or misery hereafter, according to our behaviour here, the wrath of God in hell, which is threatened to impenitent sinners, and the promises of dwelling with God in heaven, to those who have fulfilled the various duties of religion and holiness here on earth. I add petitions for pardon of sin, for the knowledge of duty, and ability to perform it, whether it be duty to God or man, to parents, rulers, friends, &c. Petitions for all needful comforts of life, and preservation from all the follies and iniquities, the dangers and evils, of every kind, to which children are exposed, together with thanksgivings for mercies, which they have already received.

Among these necessary things also, I esteem not only the doctrine of the guilt of sin, but also the want of a mediator to reconcile us to God, the doctrine of Christ, as the Son of God coming down to earth, dying to make atonement for our sins, rising again, ascending to heaven, and interceding for us there, and for whose sake mercies here on earth are bestowed upon us. It is necessary also to consider him as the Lord of all, who shall come at last to judge the world, and to whom our obedience and worship are due, as well as to God the Father. To these, I may add the doctrine of our own ignorance and our weakness to learn and practise religion, by the power of our own spirits, and the need that we have of the inward teaching and assistance of the Spirit of God, whose influence we should teach children to seek early. Such subjects and notions as these, I kept generally in my view, and endea. voured to work them at least into the longer composures, and to give some hints of them in the shorter.

III. Yet I must confess, I have been cautious of mingling such sublime notions in divinity, as are utterly too hard for childron to understand: And for this reason in the prayers for infants and young children, &c. I have omitted some of these things which are mentioned in the other following composures; for I am well satisfied, that the best way of teaching children, both in matters divine and human, is to lead them into some tolerable idea and conception of all the things signified by the words they are taught to use, as soon as those words are taught them; that they may not be accustomed, even in their younger days, to deal in inere sounds, to talk without ideas, and to speak words and syllables without a meaning. I hope no reader will be so unjust, as to suppose I would require in children a very distinct knowledge, and much less a perfect or comprehensive notion, of all those things of religion which go to compose a prayer: This is not attained by men, or indeed attainable. All that aim at, is to have children taught to frame some tole rable conception of what is meant by the words they pronounce, that they may not say any part of their prayers like young parrots, without any meaning at all, or as the Puter-nosters and Ave-Marys are used in the church of Rome, where they say their prayers in an unknown tongue. Perhaps some may think, I have transgressed this rule, in mentioning the mediation of Christ, in the prayers for infants, and the assistance of the holy Spirit, in those which are composed for young children. But I was not willing to let children pass several years of life, without some hints of those two most peculiar glories of our religion: And for this reason, I desire parents and teachers to acquaint children early, with the most easy and general notion of these things, that they may not use these words merely by rote.

IV. I was desirous to frame all the expressions in so general a manner, as might not offend the spirits of good christians of different opinions, nor savour of a narrow party-spirit, and betray children into a party-zeal in their early years. It is this lays the foundation of long uncharitableness, and sullies the beauty of the gospel, which is a law of love. When the unnecessary phrases of the several sects of christians are mingled and made up with the prayers of children, they receive an early and lasting prejudice, that there is something very sacred and divine in all the words they are taught to use: The little creatures are hereby listed into a party from their infancy, and grow up to contend with fury in their maturer age, for that which they prayed for almost as soon as they could speak. I have endeavoured therefore to avoid those expressions, which would be offensive to pious minds on this account.

By observing this caution also, I have reason to hope that these composures may be made more extensively useful, because they are less offensive, to the various denominations of christians. As for those persons who will cavil at every sentence that expresses the sacred doctrine of the trinity, the corruption of our nature, the operations of God's holy Spirit, the atonement of Christ for sin, or the necessity of divine grace, I am not solicitous to comport with their schemes, nor confine myself to such models as would exclude the peculiar revelations, or the chief' blessings of christianity out of christian devotions.

V. I have taken care to use various forms of doxology, according to the examples of scripture: Not that I think a doxology is necessary in itself at the end of every prayer, for there are more scriptural prayers without it than with it: But herein I have complied with present practice, in which it is generally used, and especially, since it closes the prayer, which our Lord taught his disciples, commonly called the Lord's-prayer. When I use any of the doxologies of scripture in the prayers for children, which are not quite so easy to be understood by them, I have paraphrased or explained some of the words. This leads me to the next particular :

VI. It cost me much labour to express all the sacred sentiments of religion, in the most plain, familiar and easy language: And I hope the plain

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