« السابقةمتابعة »
ness of the style will not be offence, since it is the only way to bring these things within the reach and capacity of young children; and this I have scarce ever yet seen done with sufficient care in any forms, though they were made on purpose for children. For this reason, I have not only avoided, in the prayers for children, in their younger years, all long hard words that have been introduced into divinity by the inventions of men, but even many of those more difficult words which the scripture itself uses, such as redemption, communion, sanctification, mortification, propitiation, regeneration, &c. as supposing children to have but very confused or mistaken ideas under them. Nor was I willing to use metaphorical expressions, such as the Lamb of God, or washing away our sins in his own blood, or sitting at the right hand of God, &c. without some little explication of them. I have therefore generally used literal expressions, to signify the religious sentiments which introduce into these composures; unless it be where those little expressions would be more difficult to be understood, and where the metaphors being very common, would more easily convey sufficient ideas into the minds of children. And it is for this reason, that where mention is made of Christ and of the holy Spirit, and of their offices in our salvation, I have seldom though it sufhcient to express these things in the brief, usual forms, viz. through our Lord Jesus Christ, or by the holy Spirit, but have enlarged the manner of speech, to make the true ideas of those great doctrines appear plainer.
VII. I was solicitous to frame the first sentence of every prayer, in a way suited to the time or occasion, whether of morning or evening worship, or on the Lord's-day; that so children, by having the first paragraph in memory, might be always directed when to use them properly, and not mistake the proper times and seasons for each of them, when their book was hot at hand.
VIII. I always endeavoured to vary the expressions in every prayer, where the sentiments are repeated; and especially to begin every sentence, as far as possible, with a different word, or in a different manner, and not to use any remarkable word twice in the same prayer, where I could avoid it. I must confess, that by reason of the great scarcity of such plain and familiar words, as are understood by children, I found this part of my work exceeding difficult: And yet I have set a further guard upon myself still, so that I have scarce ever used the same three or four words together; in any two of all these prayers; but endeavoured to vary the phrase perpetually; because, if the same words were repeated, children would be too ready to run out of one prayer into the other, when they repeat them by heart, and they would thereby join two disagreeing parts together, being led by the track and sound of the same words again occurring to them. Besides also, this variety of expression being treasured up in the memory, will tend to furnish and prepare them, in their advancing years, to pray without a form, which design I have always kept in view.
IX. I thought it proper, also, to cast some of these composures into a method, according to the several parts of prayer, viz. adoration, confession, petition, &c. which are explained more at large, in my book cal'ed “A Guide to Prayer:" Hereby two ends will be attained: First, Children will more easily learn by heart what is distinguished into divers paragraphs: And in the next place, they may learn the the nature and parts of prayer by the use of these very forms: And they will hereby easily, know when and where to add, or alter any expression, as they grow up to greater understanding. By this means they may be instructed how to frame prayers for themselves, and by the blessing of God on these assistances, they may obtain that which we call the gift of prayer, or an ability to pray properly on all occasions. In the prayers that are composed for young persons, I have endeavoured for the most part to follow the same rules as before; except only that I have with more freedom admitted various modes of expression of a little bigher rank;
supposing that as persons are grown up to maturer years, they are capable of understanding the common forms of speech, which are used in scripture, and in the language of our public worship, which is chiefly adapted to the understanding of grown persons, rather than of children. In the shorter forms of occasional confession, petition or thanksgiving, &c. I have endeavoured so to contrive them, that they may be wrought into the body of other prayers, cr may be used alone at proper season 3.
X. Since I have in all this work aimed at brevity and plainness, I hope my friends will excuse me, that I have not drawn out any of the devout seu timents, here expressed, into large and pathetic forms of expression: This I confess would have added more life and spirit to each composure, and, perhaps, might have had its use to awaken the pious passions into a warmer exercise. But then every prayer must have been much longer, and I consi dered for whose use they were written. Children must not be over-burdened and tried, when we would allure them to the practices of early piety.
If any person desire to see patterns of devotion, wherein pious sentiments are drawn out into more copious and affecting language, they may find something of this kind, in the devotional writings of Bishop Patrick, Mr. Dorrington, Mr. Meriton, Mr. Jenks, and the author of the Christian Monitor, and several others, which may be of excellent use to teach younger christians what to pray for, and in what manner to express themselves. And above all, I would recommend to them the late Mr. Henry's Method of Prayer, where the devout expressions of the holy men of God, in scripture, are ranged under a variety of heads or common places, suited to the several parts of prayer, and the different occasions of the christian life: On this occasion also I would recommend Mr. Bennet's Christian Oratory, an excellent work; and Mr. Murrey has given good examples of closet devotions on the principal heads of divinity in the expressions of scripture. But for me to have dwelt long on each devout sentiment, would have been inconsistent with my design in this book.
It would be endless, to give a full account of all the reasons that inclined me to frame and express the particular parts of every one of these composures, in the manner in which I have done it. There is scarce one word, in all these forms, which I have not set down, and reviewed with some care, and committed to the perusal of some of my friends. Yet after all my diligence and solicitude to serve the interests of religion, in the best manner I could, and to please all pious persons in this part of the education of their children, I foresee some scruples which will arise, a few of which it may not be improper to relieve, or at least to attempt it.
Perhaps, some persons may object and say, That children should not be taught to use the words, Our God, our Father, our Saviour, lest it raise in them a notion of their own personal interest in God and Christ, as their God, their Father, their Saviour, without due grounds, and before they have any thing of serious religion begun in their hearts.
To this I answer there is a very good sense wherein these words our God, our Father, our Saviour, may be used without implying that peculiar interest in God or Christ, which belongs only to real inward christians. Is not God our God, and our common Father, as we are creatures and the works of his hands? Is he not the God of the spirits of all flesh? as well as the Father of spirits? Num. xxvii. 19. Heb. xii. 9. Is he not our God, whom we own and adore by prayer and praise, and all divine worship, in opposition to idols, and to the gods of other nations? Ps. cxv. 3. Is not God the Saviour of all men, but especially, of those who believe? 1 Tim. iv. 10. Was not Judas, among the rest of the apostles, taught to say, Our Father which art in heaven? Are not Moses and the prophets full of such expressions? Do they not tell all the nation of the Jews, that God is their Father and their God, their Saviour and Redeemer, though thousands of vicious
persons were among them, who had no inward spiritual relation to God, as their God and Father or Saviour? From all which we may infer, that these appropriative words, our God, our Father, and our Saviour, do not necessarily imply a personal interest in the special love of God, or the salvation of Christ, but a general relation to God as his creatures; or a general relation to Christ as a part of mankind, whose nature he assumed, and whom he came to save; or as parts of a nation professing the one God and the religion of Christ.
But here I would observe once for all, that wheresoever any word, expression or sentence, is not agreeable to the taste or sentiment of parents or teachers, or not suitable to the case or circumstances of the child, it is a very easy matter with a pen to blot it out, and to put in what they please instead of it in the margin: Or if what I have written may but encourage and excite them to compose other and better prayers for their children, I have attained my end and shall rejoice in it.
Another objection is this, viz. That several of these prayers are too long for children to learn by heart, at those respective ages, for which these prayers are designed; and if they use them in worship, they can do nothing but read them for a great while at least.
Answer I. I had a desire to insert into the prayers of every day, most of the necessary and important things of-practical religion, that I could suppose children of those different ages might apprehend; and though I ever kept my designed brevity in my eye, yet this desire has drawn them to such a length: But I am well persuaded, that almost all children of those ages, with a moderate share of capacity, may be taught by degrees to retain those different prayers in their memory, if they are first taught to understand them well. I confess, if they must learn them merely by rote, without any understanding, that is a hard task indeed, and what I would never impose upon any man, woman or child. It is hard work to learn any set of words without a meaning to them: And there is as little religion in it, as there is reason, though the words, with their proper meaning, may carry never so much reason and religion in them.
II. If some of the prayers for children and youth be too long, it is easy for the parent to strike out the sentences which are less necessary, or to include them in two brackets, thus [ ] and let the child omit them. And thus also in the prayers for young persons, which I am sensible are too long, every one may leave out what they please, for they are supposed by this time, at least, to be capable in some measure of determining, what is most suitable to their present sentiments and circumstances.
But I answer thirdly, Where would be the crime of it, if children and young persons should read over the prayers, seriously, in a way of worship to God every morning and every night, while they are learning them by heart? Must there not be a time to learn their prayers, though they were never so short? And why may not the serious and solemn repetition of them, morning and evening, with their hearts lifted up to God, assist their memory to retain them the sooner? Must they be bound to rise every morning and Jie down every evening without any acknowledgment of God, till they can say a prayer perfect without book? There may be some few memories so very feeble, that perhaps, at seven years old, they could hardly retain and repeat with constancy and perfection the young child's, or even the infant's prayers for morning and evening: And is this a sufficient reason why they should never pray to God, or praise him, till they arrive at that age?
Iam verily persuaded, that the youngest child, that can be instructed to understand these prayers, might hear the father or the mother read the sentencos over one after another, and without offence to God, might religiously repeat them after their parents, in a solemn manner addressing themselves
to him. This is the usual way whereby mothers teach their young children to get any lesson by heart: And I cannot but think that these young essays of devotion, practised in this manner, would be very pleasing to God; and the infant wor shippers would be accepted at the mercy-seat, through the intercession of Jesus our great High-priest. It is not our own composing of a prayer, nor the reading of a prayer composed, nor the saying of it over without book, or repeating it after another, that is either necessary or sinful in its If: But it is the understanding and inward desire and affection accompanying the words, that render the work of prayer pleasing to God: And it is the want of that understanding, desire and affection, that will spoil all pretences to devotion, whether the words be read or said without book.
Yet I must own, it is far better to get such prayers by heart, than always to continue reading them, upon many accounts: For by this means, children will be able to pray at any time, when they have no book near them, or when they are in the dark and cannot see to read. Hereby also children will treasure up a variety of sacred matter and devout language, which will furnish their minds for prayer in their growing years, and will be afterward of use to them upon all occasions; for, as I have intimated before, so I repeat it again, I would not, by any means, confine persons to any set forms, whensoever they are capable of praying pertinently without them; but I would willingly help them onward, to attain this capacity, at the same time that I assist the devotions of their childhood.
And may the good Spirit of God, make these composures useful to draw the hearts of children, near to the throne of grace, and to train up their tender age in a constant course of religious worship, till he shall instruct them to pour out their souls before God in more free and various addresses, according to the variety of their occasions and circumstances! And may our lips and our souls, at all ages of life, converse with God by prayer, with fervency and divine profit, in this sinful world of wants and sorrows, till we arrive at the happy regions of joy and praise! Amen.
COMPOSED FOR THE USE AND IMITATION OF
Prayers for Infants at Three or Four Years Old.
The Infant's Morning Prayer.
ALMIGHTY God, the Maker of every thing in heaven and earth, the darkness goes away, and the day-light comes at thy command; Thou art good, and thou doest good continually.I thank thee, that thou hast taken such care of me this night, and that I am alive and well this morning.-Save me, O Lord, from evil all this day long, and let me love and serve thee for ever, for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son. Amen.
The Infant's Evening Prayer.
O Lord God, who knowest all things, thou seest me by night as well as by day.-I pray thee for Christ's sake, forgive me whatsoever I have done amiss this day, and keep me safe all this night, while I am asleep.-I desire to lie down under thy care, and to abide for ever under thy blessing, for thou art a God of all power and everlasting mercy. Amen.
Note. The most important things of religion, which can be conveyed into the understanding of a young child, are these, viz. that God made all things, and knows all things; that he sees us every where, and is able to help us; that he is gracious and merciful; that we want his protection and care by night and by day, to keep us from evil, and to make us always safe and happy; that we are sinful creatures, and want forgiveness, and that we stand in need of his grace and help to do our duty: That all blessings are to be sought of God by prayer; that he is to be praised for all the mercies that we receive; and that all our hope of acceptance is on the account of Jesus Christ the Son of God our Mediator. All which things I have comprised in very plain language, and very briefly, in one or other of these two prayers for children in the very earliest years of life. It cannot be expected, that all the distinct parts of prayer should be particularly exemplified, in so narrow a compass, and for the youngest understandings. If parents desire that their children, as soon as ever they can pronounce words, should acknowledge God by prayer morning and evening: There is one sentence in each of these prayers for infants, which may serve for that purpose, viz.