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institution, lives in a state of disobedience to gion; but it is religion as opposed to infidelity the last appointment of his Redeemer. He not as opposed to worldly mindedness. who rests in it as a means for supplying the They defend the worship of God, but desire place of habitual piety, totally mistakes its to be excused from his service. Their heart design, and is fatally deceiving his own is the slave of the world, but their blindness soul.
bides from them the turpitude of that world. This awful solemnity is, it is to be hoped, They commend piety but dread its requisirarely frequented even by this class of Chris- tions. They allow that repentance is petians without a desire of approaching it with cessary, but then how easy is it to find reathe pious feelings above described. But if sons for deferring a necessary evil? Ilho they carry them to the altar, are they equal- will hastily adopt a painful measure which ly anxious to carry them a way trx mit; he can finda creditable pretence for evading? are they anxious to maintain the after it? They censure whatever is ostensibly wrong. Does the rite so sericusly approached com-, but avoiding only part of it, the part they monly leave any vestige of seriousness be- retain robstheni of ihe benefits of their par. hind it? Are they careful to perpetuate the tial renunciation, feelings they were so desirous to excite? | We cannot sufficiently admire the wis. Do they strive to make them produce solid dom of the church, in enjoining extraordiand substantial effects? Would that this in-. nary acts of devotion at the return of those constancy of mind were to be found only in the festivals so happily calculated to excite declass of characters under consideration! Let votional feelings. Extraordinary repentance the reader, however sincere in his desires, of sin is peculiarly suitable to the seasons let the writer, however ready to lament the that record those grand events which sin levity of others, seriously ask their own occasioned. Buttlie church never mtended hearts if they can entirely acquit themselves that these more stated and strict self-examiof the inconsistency they are so forward to nations should preclude our habitual self-inblame. If they do not find the charge brought spection. It never intended its holy offices against others but too applicable to them- to supply the place of general hcliness, but selves.
to promote it. It intended that these solemn Irreverence antecedent to, or during this occasions should animate the flame of piety, sacred solemnitv, is far more rare than du-, but it never meant to furnish a reason for rable improvement after it. If there are, as neglecting to keep the fame alive till the we are willing to believe, none so profane as next return should again kindle the dying to violate the act, except those who impi-Sembers. It meant that every such season ously use it only as a pick-lock to a place,' should gladden the heart of the Christian at there are too few who make it lastingly be- its approach, and not discharge him from neficial. Few so thoughtless as Dot to ap- duty at its departure. It meant to lighten proach it with resolutions of amendment ; his conscience of the burden of sin, not to enfew comparatively who carry those resolu- courage him to begin a new score, again to tions into effect. Fear operates in the pre- be wiped off at the succeeding festival. It vious instance. Why should not love ope- intended to quicken the vigilance of the berate in that which is subsequent?
liever, and not to disipiss the sentinel from A periodical religion is accompanied with his post. If we are not the better for these a periodical repentance. This species of re- divinely appointed helps, we are the worse. pentance is adopted with no sbuall mental If we use them as a discharge from that direservation. It is partial and disconnected. ligence which they were intended to proThese fragments of contrition, these broken mote, we convert our blessings into snares parcels of penitence-while a succession of This abuse of our advantages arises from worldly pursuits is not only resorted to, our not incorporating our devotions into the but is intended to be resorted to, during general habit of our lives. Till our religion the whole of the intervening spaces, is not become an inward principle and not an exthat sorrow which the Almighty has pro- ternal act, we shall not receive that beneht mised to accept. To render it pleasing to from her forms, however excellent, which God and efficacious to ourselves, there must they are calculated to convey. It is to those be an agreement in the parts, an entireness who possess the spirit of Christianity that in the whole web of life. There must be an her forms are so valuable. To them, the integral repentance. A quarterly contrition form excites the spirit, as the spirit aniin the four weeks preceding the sacred sea- mates the form. Till religion become the sons will not wipe out the daily offences, the desire of our hearts, it will not become the hourly negligences of the whole sinful year. business of our lives. We are far fnm Sins half torsaken through fear, and halt re- meaning that it is to be its actual occupatus; tained through partially resisted temptation but that every portion, every habit, eren and partially adopted resolution, make up act of life is to be animated by its spirit, isbut an unprofitable piety:
Auenced by its principle, governed by its In the bosom of these professors there is a power, perpetual conflict between fear and inclina- The very mark of our nature, and our retion. In conversation you will generally cessary commerce with the world, naturally find them very warın in the cause of reli-fill our hearts and minds with thoughts and
ideas, over which we have unhappily too lit-supporting the dignity of the Christian chatle control. We find this to be the caseracter; whether we are acting suitably to when in our better hours we attempt to give ur profession; whether more exactness in ourselves up to serious reflection, How the common occurrences of the day, more many intrusions of worldly thoughts, how correctness in our conversation, would not many impertinent imaginations, not only ir- | be such evidences of our religion, as by berelevant, but uncalled and unwelcome, ing obvious and intelligible, might not alcrowd in upon the mind so forcibly as scarce- most insensibly produce important effects, ly to be repelled by our sincerest efforts. The most insignificant people must not How impotent then to repel such images through indolence and selfishnessundervalue must that mind be, which is devoted to their own influence. Most persons have a worldly pursui:s, which yields itself up to little circle of which they are a sort of centhem, whose opinions, habits, and conduct tre. Its smallness may lessen their quantity are under their allowed influence!
of good, but does not diminish the duty of If, as we have before observed, religion using thit little influence wisely. Where consists in a new heart and a new spirit, it is the human being so inconsiderable but will become not our occasional act, but our tirat he may in some shape benefit others, abiding disposition, proving its settled exist. either by cailing their virtut's into exercise, ence in the mind by its habitually disposing or by setting them an example of virtue our thoughts and actions, our devotions and himself? But we are humble just in the our practice to a conformity to each other wrong place. When the exhibition of our and to itself.
talents or spiendid qualities is in question, Let us not consider a spirit of worldliness we are not backward in the display. When as a little infirmity, as a natural, and there- a little self-denal is to be exercised, when a tore a pardonable weakness; as a trifting little good might be effected by our examerror which will be overlooked for the sake ple, by our discreet management in compaof our many good qualities. It is in fact theny, by giving a better turn to conversation, essence of our other faults; the temper that then at once we grow wickedly modeststands between us and our salvation ; the Such an insignificant creature as I am can spirit which is in direct opposition to the do no good.'-Had I higher rank or brightSpirit of God. Individual sins may more er talents, then indeed my influence might easily be cured, but this is the principle of be exerted to some purpose.'-Thus under all spiritual clisease. A worldly spirit where the mask of diffidence, we justify our indoit is rooted and cherished, runs through the lence; and let slip those lesser occasions of whole character, insinuates itself in all we promoting religion which if we all improved, say and think and do. It is this which makes how much might the condition of society be us so dead in religion, so averse from spiri- raised. tual things, so forgetful of God, so unmindful! The hackneyed interrogation, Whatof eternity, so satisfied with ourselves, so im- must we be always talking about religion?' patient of serious discourse, and so alive to must have the hackneyed answer-Far from that vain and frivolous intercourse, which it. Talking about religion is not being reexcludes intellect almost as much as piety Iligious. But we may bring the spirit of refrom our general conversation,
fligion into company, and keep it in perpetual It is not therefore our more considerable operation when we do not professedly make actions alone which require watching, for it our subject. We may be constantly adthey seldom occur. They do not form the vancing its interests, we may without effort habit of life in ourselves, nor the chief im- or affectation be giving an example of canportance of our example to others. It is todour, of moderation, of humility, of forbearour ordinary behaviour; it is to our deport-ance. We may employ our influence by ment in common life; it is to our prevailing correcting falschood, by checking levity, by turn of mind in general intercourse, by discouraging calumny, by vindicating miswhich we shall profit or corrupt those with represented mcrit, by countenancing every whom we associate. It is our conduct in thing which has a good tendency--in short, social life which will help to diffuse a spirit by throwing our whole weight, be it great or of piety or a distaste to it. If we have much small, into the right scale, influence, this is the place in which particularly to exert it. If we have little we have still enough to infect the temper and lower the tone of our narrow society.
Prayer. the divine nature, the slightest reflection on this elevation of our character would lead us! PRAYER is the application of want to him to maintain its dignity in the ordinary inter-who only can relieve it; the voice of sin to course of life. We should not so much in-him whó alone can pardon it. It is the urquire whether we are transgressing any ac-gency of poverty, the prostration of humilitual prohibition ; whether any standing law ty, the fervency of penitence, the confidence is pointed against us; as whether we are of trust. It is not eloquence, but carnebt
ness : not the definition of helplessness, but our wants, but to express our sense of the the feeling of it ; not figures of speech, but wants which he alreally knows. As he has compunction of soul. It is the ‘Lord save not so much made his promise to our necesus or we perish' of drowning Peter; the cry sities, as to our requests, it is reasonable that of faith to the ear of mercy.
our requests shou al be made before we can Adoration is the noblest employment of hope that our necessities will be relieved. created beings; confession the natural God does not promise to those who want that language of guilty creatures ; gratitude the they shall have,' but to those who ask;' spontaneous expression of pardoned sinners. nor to those who need that they shall 'find,'
Prayer is desire. It is not a conception of but to those who' seeki' So far therefore the mind nor a mere effort of the intellect, from his previous knowledge of our wants nor an act of the memory ; but an elevation being a ground of objection to praver, it is of the soul towards its Maker; a pressing in fact the true ground for our application sense of our own ignorance and infirmity, a Were he not knowledge itself, our infernaconsciousness of the perfections of God, of tion would be of as little use, as our applicahis readiness to hear, of his power to help, of tion would be, were he not goodness ithis willingness to save.
self. It is not an emotion produced in the We cannot attain to a just notion of prarsenses; nor an effect wrought by the ima- er while we remain ignorant of our own nagination ; but a determination of the will, ture, of the nature of God as revealed in an effusion of the heart.
Scripture, of our relation to him and dePrayer is the guide to self-knowledge by pendence on him. If therefore we do not prompting us to look after our sins in order live in the daily study of the holy scriptures, to pray against them; a motive to vigilance, we shall want the highest motives to this by teaching us to guard against thuse sins duty and the best helps for performing it ; which, through self-examination, we have if we do, the cogency of these motives, and been enabled to detect.
the inestimable value of these helps, will Prayer is an act both of the understanding render argument unnecessary and exhortaand of the heart. The understanding must tion superiluous. apply itself to the knowledge of the divine One cause therefore of the dulness of maperfections, or the heart will not be led to ny Christians in prayer, is, their slight acthe adoration of them. It would not be a quaintance with the sacred volume. They reasonable service, if the mind was ex-I hear it periodically, they read it occasionalcluded. It must be rational worship, or the ly, they are contented to know it historicalhuman worshipper would not bring to the ly, to consider it superficially, but they do service the distinguished faculty of his na- not endeavour to get their minds imbued ture, which is reason. It must be spiritual with its spirit. If they store their memory worship ; or it would want the distinctive with its facts, they do not impress their quality to make it acceptable to Him, who hearts with its truths. They do not regard has declared that He will be worshipped it as the nutriment on which their spiritual in spirit and in truth.'
life and growth depend. They do not pray Prayer is right in itself as the most pow- over it ; they do not consider all its docerful means of resisting sin and advancing in trines as of practical application ; they do holiness. It is above all right, as every not cultivate that spiritual discernment thing is, which has the authority of Scrip- which alone can enable them judiciously to ture, the command of God, and the exam- appropriate its promises and its denunciaple of Christ.
tions to their own actual case. They do There is a perfect consistency in all the not apply it as an unerring line to ascertain ordinations of God; a perfect congruity in their own rectitude or obliquity. the whole scheme of his dispensations. If In our retirements, we too often fritter man were not a corrupt creature, such pray- away our precious moments, moments res er as the gospel enjoins would not have cued from the world, in trivial, sometimes it been necessary. Had not prayer been an is to be feared, in corrupt thoughts. But if important means for curing those corrup-, we must give the reins to our imagination, tions, a God of perfect wisdom would not let us send this excursive faculty to range have ordered it. He would not have pro-among great and noble objects. Let it hibited every thing which tends to inflame stretch forward under the sanction of faith and promote them, had they not existed, nor and the anticipation of prophecy, to the acwould he have commanded every thing that complishment of those glorious promises and has a tendency to diminish and remove them, tremendous threatenings which will soon be had not their existence been fatal. Prayer, realized in the eternal world. These are therefore, is an indispensable part of his topics which under the safe and sober guieconomy and of our obedience.
dance of Scripture, will fix its largest speIt is a hackneyed objection to the use of culations and sustain its loftiest flights. The prayer that its offending the omniscience same Scripture while it expands and elerates of God to suppose he requires information of the mind, will keep it subject to the domiour wants. But no objection can be more nion of truth; while at the same time it will futile. We do not pray to inform God of teach it that its boldest excursions must fall infinitely short of the astonishing realities of tage to ourselves; yet that prayer cannot a future state,
be mercenary, which involves God's glory Though we cannot pray with a too deep with our own happiness, and makes his will sense of sin, we may make our sins too ex- the law of our requests. Though we are to clusively the object of our prayers. While desire the glory of God supremely; though we keep, with a self-abasing eye, our own this ought to be our grand actuating princicorruptions in view, let us look with equal ple, yet he has graciously permitted, comintenseness on that mercy, which cleanseth manded, invited us, to attach our own happifrom all sin. Let our prayers be all humili- ness to this primary object. The Bible exation, but let them not be all complaint. - Thibits not only a beautiful, but an inseparaWhen meri indulge no other thought but ble combination of both, which delivers us that they are rebels, the hopelessness of par- from the danger of unnaturally renouncing dan hardens them into disloyalty. Let them our own benefit for the promotion of God's look to the mercy of the king, as well as to glory, on the one hand; and on the other, the rebellion of the subject. If we contem-trom seeking any happiness independent of plate his grace as displayed in the gospel, him, and underived from him. In enjoining then, though our humility will increasc, our us to love liim supremely, he has connected despair will vanish. Gratitude in this as in an unspeakable blessing with a paramount human instances will create affection. Welluty, the highest privilege with the most love him because he first loved us.'
positive command. Let us then always keep our unworthiness. What a triumph for the humble Christian in view as a reason why we stand in need of to be assured, that the high and lofty One the mercy of God in Christ; but never which inhabitcth eternity,' condescends at piead it as a reason why we should not draw the same time to dwell in the heart of the nigh to him to implore that mercy. The contrite ;- in his heart! To know that God best men are unworthy for their own sakes; is the God of liis life, to know that he is even the worst on repentance will be accepted for invited to take the Lord for his God. To his sake and through his merits,
close with God's offers, to accept his invitaIn prayer then, the perfections of God, tions, to receive God as his portion, must and especially his mercy in our redemp- surely be more pleasing to our heavenly Fation, should occupy our thoughts as much as ther, than separating our happiness from his our sins; our obligation to him as much as glory. To disconnect our interests from his our departures from him. We should keep goodness, is at once to detract from his persup in our hearts a constant sense of our own fections, and to obscure the brightness of weakness, not with a design to discourage our own hopes. The declarations of inspithe mind and depress the spirits ; but with a red writers are confirmed by the authority of view to drive us out of ourselves, in search the heavenly hosts. They proclaim that the of the divine assistance. We should contem- glory of God and the happiness of his creaplate our infirmity in order to draw us to tures, so far from interfering, are connected look for his strength, and to seek that power with each other. We know but of one anfrom God which we vainly look for in our-them composed and sung by argels, and this selves. We do not tell a sick friend of his most harmoniously combines the glory of danger in order to grieve or terrify hiin, but God in the highest with peace on earth and to induce him to apply to his physician, and good will to men,' to have recourse to his remedy.
•The beauty of Scripture,' says the great Among the charges which have been Saxon reformer, 'consists in pronouns.' brought against serious piety, one is, that it | This God is our God-God, even our own teaches men to despair." The charge is just God, shall bless us. How delightful the apin one sense as to the fact, but false in the propriation! To glorify him as being in sense intended. It teaches us to despair in-himself consummate excellence, and to love deed of ourselves, while it inculcates that him from the feeling that this excellence is faith in a Redeemer, which is the true anti- irected to our felicity! Here modesty would dote to despair. Faith quickens the doubt- be ingratitude; disinterestedness rebellion, ing spirit, while it humbles the presumptu- It would be severing ourselves from Him, in ous. The lowly Christian takes comfort in whom we live, and move, and are; it would the blessed promise, that God will never för- be dissolving the connexion which he has sake them that are his. The presumptuous condescended to establish between himself man is cqually right in the doctrine, but and his creatures. wrong in applying it. He takes that com- It has been justly observed, that the Scripfort to himself which was meant for another ture saints make this union the chief ground class of characters. The mal-appropriation of their grateful exultation— My strength' of Scripture promises and threatenings, is --'my rock'--my fortress'--my deliverer!' the cause of much error and delusion. Again- Let the God of my salvation be ex
Though some devout enthusiasts have fal- alted !' Now take away the pronoun and len into error by an unnatural and impracti- substitute the article the, how comparatively cable disinterestedness, asserting that God is cold is the impression! The consummation to be loved exclusively for himself, with an of the joy arises from the peculiarity, the inabsolute renunciation of any view of advan-timacy, the endearment of the relation.
Nor to the liberal Christian is the gratefull multitude of ages they should have pursued joy diminishedl, when he blesses his God their appointed course, for the confort of as the God of all them that trust in him.'|the whole system : All general blessings, will he say, all provi
For ever singing as they shine dential mercies, are mine individually, are
The land that inade us is divine. mine as completely as if no other shared in the enjoyment. Life, light, the earth and As the affections of the Christian ought to heavens, the sun and stars, whatever sus- be set on things above, so it is for them that tains the body, and recreates the spirits ! bis prayers will be chiefly addressed. God My obligation is as great as it the mercy in promising to give those who delight in had been made purely for me. As great? him the desire of their heart,' could never nay, it is greater-it is augmented by a sense mean temporal things ; for these they might of the millions who participate in the bless-desire improperly as to the object, and inoring. The same enlargement of the personal dinately as to the degree. The promise reobligation holds good, nay rises higher, in lates principally to spiritual blessings. He the mercies of redemption. The Lord is not only gives us these mercies, but the very my Saviour as completely as if he had re-desire to obtain them is also his gift. Here deemed only me. That he has redeemed our prayer requires no qualifying, no condi
a great multitude which no man can num- tioning, no limitation. We cannot err in ber, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, our choice, for God himself is the object of and tongues,' is diffusion without abatement; it; we cannot exceed in the degree, unless it is general participation without individual it were possible to love him too well, or to diminution-Each has all.
please him too much. In adoring the providence of God, we are We should pray for worldly comforts, and apt to be struck with what is new and out for a blessing on our earthly plans, though of course, while we too much overlook long, lawful in themselves, conditionally, and with habitual, and uninterrupted mercies. But a reservation : because after having been common mercies, if less striking, are more earnest in our requests for them, it may valuable, both because we have them al- happen that when we come to the petition ways, and for the reason above assigned, thy will be done,' we may in these very because others share them. The ordinary words be praying that our previous petitions blessings of life are overlooked for the very may not be granted. In this brief request reason that they ought to be most prized consists the vital principle, the essential spibecause they are most uniformly bestowed. rit of prayer. God shows his munificence They are most essential to our support, and in encouraging us to ask most earnestly for when once they are withdrawn we begin to the greatest things, by promising that the find that they are also most essential to our smaller shall be added unto us.' We therecomfort. Nothing raises the price of a bless- fore acknowledge his liberality most when ing like its removal ; whereas it was its con- we request the highest favours. He manitinuance which should have taught us its tests his infinite superiority to earthly favalue. We require novelties to awaken our thers by chiefly delighting to confer those gratitude, not considering that it is the du- spiritual gifts, which they less solicitously ration of mercies which enhances their va- desire for their children than those worid. lue. We want fresh excitements. We ly advantages on which God sets so little consider mercies long enjoyed as things of value, course, as things to which we have a sort of Nothing short of a sincere devotedness to presumptive claim; as if God had no right God, can enable us to maintain an equality to withdraw what he had once bestowed : of mind, under unequal circumstances. We as if he were obliged to continue what he has murmur that we have not the things we ask once been pleased to confer.
_ amiss, not knowing that they are withheld But that the sun has shone unremittingly by the same mercy by which the things that from the day that God created him, is not a are good for us are granted. Things good less stupendous exertion of power than that in themselves may not be good for us. A the hand which fixed him in the heavens, resigned spirit is the proper disposition to and marked out his progress through thein, prepare us for receiving mercies, or for baonce said by his servant, Sun, stand thou ving them denied. Resignation of soul, like still upon Gibeon.' That he has gone on in the allegiance of a good subject, is always his strength, driving his uninterrupted ca- in readiness, though not in action : whereas reer, and rejoicing as a giant to run his an impatient mind is a spirit of disaffection course,' for six thousand years, is a more always prepared to revolt, when the will of astonishing exhibition of Omnipotence than the sovereign is in opposition to that of the that he should have been once suspended by subject. This seditious principle is the infalthe hand which set him in motion. That|lible characteristic of an unrenewed mind. the ordinances of heaven, that the establish-! A sincere love of God will make us thanked laws of nature, should have been for one ful when our supplications are granted, and day interrupted to serve a particular occa- patient and cheerful when they are denied. sion, is a less real wonder, and certainly a He who feels his heart rise against any diless substantial blessing, than that in such a vine dispensation, ought not to rest till by