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and subjection to him), and one means sanctified by him for the edifying of his people, is to be performed by the pastors and teachers.
Howbeit, such as intend the ministry, may occasionally both read the word, and exercise their gift in preaching in the congregation, if allowed by the presbytery thereunto.
All the canonical books of the Old and New Testament (but none of those which are commonly called Apocrypha) shall be publicly read in the vulgar tongue, out of the best allowed translation, distinctly, that all may hear and understand.
How large a portion shall be read at once, is left to the wisdom of the minister but it is convenient, that ordinarily one chapter of each Testament be read at every meeting; and sometimes more, where the chapters be short, or the coherence of matter requireth it.
It is requisite that all the canonical books be read over in order, that the people may be better acquainted with the whole body of the Scriptures; and, ordinarily, where the reading in either Testament endeth on one Lord's day, it is to begin the next.
We commend also the more frequent reading of such scriptures, as he that readeth shall think best for edification of his hearers, as the book of Psalms, and such-like.
When the minister who readeth shall judge it necessary to expound any part of what is read, let it not be done until the whole chapter or psalm be ended; and regard is always to be had unto the time, that neither preaching, nor other ordinances, be straitened, or rendered tedious. Which rule is to be observed in all other public perform
Beside public reading of the Holy Scriptures, every person that can read is to be exhorted to read the Scriptures privately (and all others that cannot read, if not disabled by age, or otherwise, are likewise to be exhorted to learn to read), and to have a Bible.
Of Public Prayer before the Sermon.
After reading of the word (and singing of the psalm), the minister who is to preach, is to endeavour to get his own and his hearers' hearts to be rightly affected with their sins, that they may all mourn in sense thereof before the Lord, and hunger and thirst after the grace of God in Jesus hrist, by proceeding to a more full confession of sin, with shame and holy confusion of face, and to call upon the Lord to this effect:
"To acknowledge our great sinfulness; first by reason of original sin, which (beside the guilt that makes us liable to everlasting damnation) is the seed of all other sins, hath depraved and poisoned all the faculties and powers of soul and body, doth defile our best actions, and (were it not restrained, or our hearts renewed by grace) would break forth into innumerable transgressions, and greatest rebellions against the Lord, that ever were committed by the vilest of the sons of men. And, next, by reason of actual sins, our own sins, the sins of magistrates, of ministers, and of the whole nation, unto which we are many ways accessory; which sins of ours receive many fearful aggravations, we having broken all the commandments of the holy, just, and good law of God, doing that which is forbidden, and leaving undone what is enjoined; and that not only out of ignorance and infirmity, but also more presumptuously, against the light of our minds, checks of
our consciences, and motions of his own Holy Spirit, to the contrary, so that we have no cloak for our sins; yea, not only despising the riches of God's goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, but standing out against many invitations and offers of grace in the gospel; not endeavouring, as we ought, to receive Christ into our hearts by faith, or to walk worthy of him in our lives.
"To' bewail our blindness of mind, hardness of heart, unbelief, impenitency, security, lukewarmness, barrenness; our not endeavouring after mortification and newness of life, nor after the exercise of godliness in the power thereof: and that the best of us have not so steadfastly walked with God, kept our garments so unspotted, nor been so zealous of his glory, and the good of others, as we ought and to mourn over such other sins as the congregation is particularly guilty of, notwithstanding the manifold and great mercies of our God, the love of Christ, the light of the gospel, and reformation of religion, our own purposes, promises, vows, solemn covenant, and other special obligations, to the contrary.
"To acknowledge and confess, that, as we are convinced of our guilt, so, out of a deep sense thereof, we judge ourselves unworthy of the smallest benefits, most worthy of God's fiercest wrath, and of all the curses of the law, and heaviest judgments inflicted upon the most rebellious sinners; and that he might most justly take his kingdom and gospel from us, plague us with all sorts of spiritual and temporal judgments in this life, and after cast us into utter darkness, in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth for evermore.
"Notwithstanding all which, to draw near to the throne of grace, encouraging ourselves with hope of a gracious answer of our prayers, in the riches and all-sufficiency of that one only oblation, the satisfaction and intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ, at the right hand of his Father, and our Father; and in confidence of the exceeding great and precious promises of mercy and grace in the new covenant, through the same Mediator thereof, to deprecate the heavy wrath and curse of God, which we are not able to avoid or bear; and humbly and earnestly to supplicate for mercy, in the free and full remission of all our sins; and that only for the bitter sufferings and precious merits of our only Saviour Jesus Christ.
"That the Lord would vouchsafe to shed abroad his love n our hearts by the Holy Ghost; seal unto us, by the same Spirit of adoption, the full assurance of our pardon and reconciliation; comfort all that mourn in Zion, speak peace to the wounded and troubled spirit, and bind up the broken hearted and as for secure and presumptuous sinners, that he would open their eyes, convince their consciences, and turn them from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they also may receive forgiveness of sin, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in Christ Jesus.
"With remission of sins through the blood of Christ, to pray for sanctification by his Spirit; the mortification of sin dwelling in, and many times tyrannizing over, us; the quickening of our dead spirits, with the life of God in Christ; grace to fit and enable us for all duties of conversation and calling towards God and men; strength against temptations, the sanctified use of blessings and crosses, and perseverance in faith and obedience unto the end.
"To pray for the propagation of the gospel and kingdom of Christ to all nations, for the conversion of the Jews, the fulness of the Gentiles, the fall of antichrist, and the hastening of the second coming of our Lord; for the deliverance of the distressed churches abroad from the tyranny of the antichristian faction, and from the cruel oppressions and blasphemies of the Turk; for the blessing of God upon all the reformed churches, especially upon the churches and kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland, now more strictly and religiously united in the solemn national league and covenant; and for our plantations in the most remote parts of the world: more particularly for that church and kingdom whereof we are members, that therein God would establish peace and truth, the purity of all his ordinances, and the power of godliness; prevent and remove heresy, schism, profaneness, superstition, security, and unfruitfulness, under the means of grace; heal our rents and divisions, and preserve us from breach of
our solemn covenant.
"To pray for all in authority, especially for the king's majesty, that God may make him rich in blessings, both in his person and government; establish his throne in religion and righteousness, save him from evil counsel, and make him a blessed and glorious instrument, for the conservation and propagation of the gospel, for the encouragement and protection of them that do well, the terror of all that do evil, and the great good of the whole church, and of all his kingdoms; for the con version of the queen, the religious education of the prince, and the rest of the royal seed: for the comforting the afflicted queen of Bohemia, sister to our sovereign and for the restitution and establishment of the illustrious prince Charles, elector palatine of the Rhine, to all his dominions and dignities; for a blessing on our high court of parliament (when sitting in any of these kingdoms respectively), the nobility, the subordinate judges and magistrates, the gentry, and all the commonalty; for all pastors and teachers, that God would fill them with his Spirit, make them exemplarily holy, sober, just, peaceable, and gracious in their lives; sound, faithful, and powerful, in their ministry; and follow all their labours with abundance of success and blessing; and give unto all his people pastors according to their own heart; for the universities, and all schools and religious seminaries of church and commonwealth, that they may flourish more and more in learning and piety; for the particular city or congregation, that God would pour out a blessing upon the ministry of the word, sacraments, and discipline, upon the civil government, and all the several families and persons therein; for mercy to the afflicted under any inward or outward distress. For seasonable weather, and fruitful seasons, as the time may require; for averting the judgments that we either feel, or fear, or are liable unto, as famine, pestilence, the sword, and such-like.
“And, with confidence of his mercy to his whole church, and the acceptance of our persons, through the merits and mediation of our high priest the Lord Jesus, to profess that it is the desire of our souls to have fellowship with God, in the reverend and conscionable use of his holy ordinances; and to that purpose, to pray earnestly for his grace and effectual assistance to the sanctification of his holy sabbath, the Lord's day, in all the duties thereof, public and private, both to ourselves, and to all other congregations of his people, according to the riches and excellency of the gospel, this day celebrated and enjoyed,
"And because we have been unprofitable hearers in times past, and now cannot of ourselves receive, as we should, the deep things of God, the mysteries of Jesus Christ, which require a spiritual discerning; to pray that the Lord, who teacheth to profit, would graciously please to pour out the Spirit of grace, together with the outward means thereof, causing us to attain such a measure of the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord, and in him, of the things which belong to our peace, that we may account all things but as dross in comparison of him and that we, tasting the first-fruits of the glory that is to be revealed, may long for a more full and perfect communion with him, that where he is, we may be also, and enjoy the fulness of those joys and pleasures which are at his right hand for evermore.
"More particularly, that God would in special manner furnish his servant (now called to dispense the bread of life unto his household) with wisdom, fidelity, zeal, and utterance, that he may divide the word of God aright, to every one his portion, in evidence and demonstration of the Spirit and power: and that the Lord would circumcise the ears and hearts of the hearers, to hear, love, and receive with meekness, the ingrafted word, which is able to save their souls; make them as good ground to receive in the good seed of the word, and strengthen them against the temptations of Satan, the cares of the world, the hardness of their own hearts, and whatsoever else may hinder their profitable and saving hearing; that so Christ may be so formed in them, and live in them, that all their thoughts may be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and their hearts established in every good word and work for ever."
We judge this to be a convenient order, in the ordinary public prayers; yet so as the minister may defer (as in prudence he shall think meet) some part of these petitions, till after his sermon, or offer up to God some of the thanksgivings hereafter appointed, in his prayer before his sermon.
Of the Preaching of the Word.
Preaching of the word being the power of God unto salvation, and one of the greatest and most excellent works belonging to the ministry of the gospel, should be so performed, that the workman need not be ashamed, but may save himself, and those that hear him.
It is presupposed (according to the rules for ordination,) that the minister of Christ is in some good measure gifted for so weighty a service, by his skill in the original languages, and in such arts and sciences as are handmaids unto divinity; by his knowledge in the whole body of theology, but most of all in the Holy Scriptures, having his senses and heart exercised in them above the common sort of believers; and by the illumination of God's Spirit, and other gifts of edification, which (together with reading and studying of the word) he ought still to seek by prayer, and an humble heart, resolving to admit and receive any truth not yet attained, whenever God shall make it known unto him. All which he is to make use of, and improve in his private preparations, before he deliver in public what he hath provided.
Ordinarily, the subject of his sermon is to be some text of Scripture, holding forth some principle or head of religion, or suitable to some special occasion emergent; or he may go on in some chapter, psalm, or book of the Holy Scripture, as he shall see fit.
Let the introduction to his text be brief and perspicuous, drawn from the text itself, or context, or some parallel place, or general sentence of Scripture.
If the text be long (as in histories and parables it sometimes must be), let him give a brief sum of it; if short, a paraphrase thereof, if need be in both, looking diligently to the scope of the text, and pointing at the chief heads and grounds of doctrine which he is to raise from it.
In analysing and dividing his text, he is to regard more the order of matter than of words; and neither to burden the memory of the hearers in the beginning with too many members of division, nor to trouble their minds with obscure terms of art.
In raising doctrines from the text, his care ought to be, first, that the matter be the truth of God. Secondly, that it be a truth contained in or grounded on that text, that the hearers may discern how God teacheth it from thence. Thirdly, that he chiefly insist upon those doctrines which are principally intended, and make most for the edification of the hearers.
The doctrine is to be expressed in plain terms; or, if any thing in it need explication, it is to be opened, and the consequence also from the text cleared. The parallel places of Scripture, confirming the docrine, are rather to be plain and pertinent, than many; and (if need be), somewhat insisted upon, and applied to the purpose in hand.
The arguments and reasons are to be solid; and, as much as may be, convincing. The illustrations, of what kind soever, ought to be full of light, and such as may convey the truth into the hearer's heart with spiritual delight.
If any doubt, obvious from Scripture, reason, or prejudice of the hearers, seem to arise, it is very requisite to remove it, by reconciling the seeming differences, answering the reasons, and discovering and taking away the causes of prejudice and mistake. Otherwise, it is not fit to detain the hearers with propounding or answering with vain or wicked cavils, which as they are endless, so the propounding and answering of them doth more hinder than promote edification.
He is not to rest in general doctrine, although never so much cleared and confirmed, but to bring it home to special use, by application to his hearers; which albeit it prove a work of great difficulty to himself, requiring much prudence, zeal, and meditation, and to the natural and corrupt man will be very unpleasant; yet he is to endeavour to perform it in such a manner, that his auditors may feel the word of God to be quick and powerful, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart; and that, if any believer or ignorant person be present, he may have the secrets of his heart made manifest, and give glory to God."
In the use of instruction or information in the knowledge of some truth, which is a consequence from his doctrine, he may (when convenient) confirm it by a few firm arguments from the text in hand, and other places of Scripture, or from the nature of that common-place in divinity whereof that truth is a branch.
In confutation of false doctrines, he is neither to raise an old heresy from the grave, nor to mention a blasphemous opinion unnecessarily : but if the people be in danger of an error, he is to confute it soundly.