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Quest, Lxxiii. Are public forms of man's devising or composing lawful? Answ. Yes: 1. The ministers afore-mentioned throughout the Christian world, do devise and compose the form of their own sermons and prayers: and that maketh them not unlawful. 2. And whoever speaketh' ex tempore,' his words are a form when he speaketh them, though not a premeditated form. 3. And when Scripture so vehemently commandeth us to search, meditate, study the Scriptures, and take heed to ourselves and unto doctrine, &c. What a person is that who will condemn prayer or preaching, only because we beforehand studied or considered what to say? As if God abhorred diligence and the use of reason. Men are not tied (now) from thinking beforehand what to say to the judge at the bar for estate or life, or what to say on an embassage, or to a king, or any man that we converse with. And where are we forbidden to forethink what to say to God? Must the people take heed how they hear, and look to their foot when they go into the house of God? and must not we take heed what we speak, and look to our words that they be fit and decent? Object. 'Forms are images of prayer and preaching, forbidden in the second cnmmandment?Answ. Prove it, and add not to the Word of God. 1. The Scripture and God's servants, even Christ himself, had broken the second commandment, when they used or prescribed forms. 2. Forms are no more images than extemporate words are, as they signify our minds. Are all the catechisms, printed and written sermons and prayers, images or idols? All forms that parents teach their children? O charge not such untruths on God; and invent not falsehoods of his Word, while you cry down man's inventions.
Quest, Lxxiv. Is it lawful to impose forms on the congregation or the people in public worship?Yes, and more than lawful: it is the pastor's duty so to do. For whether he forethink what to pray or not, his prayer is to them a form of words: and they are bound in all the lawful parts, to concur with him in Spirit or desire, and to say Amen. So that every minister by office is daily to impose a form of prayer on all the people in the congregation. Only some men impose the same form many times over, or every day, and others impose every day a new one.
Quest, Lxxv. Is it lawful to use forms composed by man, and imposed not only on the people, but on the pastors of the churclies?
Amw. The question concerneth not the lawfulness of imposing, but of using forms imposed. And 1. It is not lawful to use them merely on that account because they are imposed or commanded, without some greater reason of the unlawfulness. For else it would be unlawful for any other to use imposed forms; as for a scholar or child, if the master or parent impose them, or for the congregation when the pastor imposeth them, which is not true. 2. The using of imposed forms may by other accidents be sometimes good and sometimes evil, as the accidents are that make it so. 1. These accidents may make it evil. (1.) When the form is bad for matter or manner, and we voluntarily prefer it before that which is better, being willing of the imposition. (2.) When we do it to gratify our slothfulness, or to cover our wilful ignorance and disability. (3.) When we voluntarily obey and strengthen any unlawful, usurping pastors or powers that impose it without authority, and so encourage church-tyranny. (4.) When we choose a singular form imposed by some singular pastor, and avoid that which the rest of the churches agree in, at a time when it may tend to division and offence. (5.) When the weakness and offence of the congregation is such, that they will not join with us in the imposed form, and so by using it, we drive them from all public worship or divide them. 2. And in the following circumstances the using of an imposed form is lawful andi a duty: (1.) When the minister is so weak that he cannot pray well without one, nor compose so good a one himself. (2.) Or when the errors or great weakness of the generality of ministers is such, as that they usually corrupt or spoil God's worship by their own manner of praying, and no better are to be had; and
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thereupon the wise and faithful pastors and magistrates shall impose one sound and apt liturgy to avoid error and division in such a distempered time; and the ablest cannot be left at liberty without the relaxing of the rest. (3.) When it is a means of the concord of the churches, and no hindrance to our other prayers. (4.) When our hearers will not join with us if we use them not: (for error and weakness must be borne with on one side, as well as on the other.) (5.) When obedience to just authority requireth it, and no command of Christ is crossed by it. (6.) When the imposition is so severe that we must so worship God publicly, or not at all; and so all God's public worship will be shut out of that congregation, country or nation, unless we will use imposed prayers. (7.) In a word, when the good consequences of obedience, union, avoiding offence, liberty for God's public worship and preaching the Gospel, &c. are greater than the bad consequences which are like to follow the using of such forms: the preponderating accidents must prevail. (8.) And if a man's own judgment and conscience cannot be satisfied, to do God's work comfortably and quietly any other way, it may go far in the determination. And the common good of many churches must still be preferred before a less.
Quest, Lxxvi. Doth not the calling of a minister so consist in the exercise of his own ministerial gifts, that he may not officiate without them, nor make use of other men's gifts instead of them?Answ. 1. The office of the ministry is an obligation and authority to do the ministerial work, by those personal, competent abilities which God hath given us. 2. This obligation to use our own abilities, forbiddeth us not to make use of the helps, gifts and abilities of others; either to promote our own abilities and habits, or to further us in the act or the exercise of them. For, 1. There is no such prohibition in Scripture. 2. All men are insufficient for themselves; and nature and Scripture require them to use the best help they can get from others. 3. God's service must be done in the best manner we can. But many ministers cannot do it so well (consideratis considerandis) without other men's help as with it. 3. We may use other men's gifts to help us, 1. For matter; 2. Method; 3. Words; and so for a threefold form, of preaching or prayer. 4. He that useth a Scripture form of matter, method or words, useth his own abilities no more, than if he used a form out of another book. But it is lawful to use a Scripture form; therefore it is lawful so far to take in assistance in the use of our own abilities. 5. He that useth a form useth his own abilities also (not only perhaps at other times, but) in the use of it. He useth his understanding to discern the true sense and aptitude of the words which he useth: he useth his holy desires in putting up those prayers to God; and his other graces, as he doth in other prayers. He useth his utterance in the apt and decent speaking of them. 6. A minister is not always bound to use his own gifts to the utmost that he can, and other men's as little as he can. For, 1. There is no such command from God. 2. All things must be done to the church's edification: but sometimes the greater use of another man's gifts, and the less use of his own, may be to the church's greater edification. Instances of the lawful use of other men's gifts are such as these. 1. For matter, an abler minister may tell a young man what subjects are fittest for him in preaching and prayer; and what is the sense of the Scriptures which he is to open; and what is the true solution of several doubts and cases. A minister that is young, raw or ignorant, (yea, the best) may be a learner while he is a teacher: but he that is a learner maketh use so far of the gifts of others. And indeed all teachers in the world make use of the gifts of others; for all teach what they learn from others. 2. For method; it is lawful to learn that as well as matter from another. Christ taught his disciples a method of prayer; and other men may open that method to us. All tutors teach their pupils method as well as matter; for method is needful to the due understanding and using of the matter. A method of divinity, a method of preaching, and a method of praying may be taught a preacher by word, and may be written or printed for his use. 3. For words, (1.) There is no more prohibition in God's Word, against learning or using another man's words, than his method or matter. Therefore it is not unlawful. (2.) A tutor or senior minister may teach the Scripture words to a pupil or junior minister; yea, and may set them together and compose him a sermon or prayer out of Scripture in its words. (For he that may use an ill-composed Scripture form of his own gathering, may use a well-composed form of another's.) (3.) All the books in our libraries are forms of words; and it is lawful sure to use some of all those words which we read; or else our books would be a snare and limitation to our language. (4.) All preachers ordinarily use citations, testimonies, &c. in other men's words. (5.) All ministers use psalms in the metre of other men's composing (and usually imposing too). And there is no more prohibition against using other men's words in a prayer, than in a psalm. (6.) Almost all ministers use other men's gifts and form of words, in reading the Scriptures, in their vulgar tongues: for God did not write them by his apostles and prophets in English, French, Dutch, &c. but in Hebrew, Chaldee and Greek: therefore the wording them in English, &c. is a human form of words: and few ministers think they are bound to translate all the Bible themselves, lest they use other men's words or abilities. (7.) If a young minister that can pray but weakly, hear more apt expressions and sentences in another minister's prayers, than his own are, he may afterward make use of those sentences and expressions. And if of one sentence, why not of two or ten, when God hath not forbidden it? So also in preaching. (8.) It is lawful to read another man's epistles or sermons in the church, as the primitive churches did by Clement's and some others. (9.) An imposition may be so severe, that we shall not use our own words, unless we will use some of other men's. (10.) All churches almost in the world, have consented in the use of creeds, confessions and prayers, and psalms in the words of others. But yet 1. No minister must on these pretences stifle his own gifts, and grow negligent; 2. Nor consent to church-tyranny or Papal usurpations; 3. Nor do that