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fear, and half retained through partially resisted templa; tion and partially adopted resolution, make up but an unprofitable piety.
In the bosom of these professors there is a perpetual conflict between fear and inclination. In conversation you will generally find them very warm in the cause of Rekgion ; but it is Religion as opposed to infidelity, not as opposed to worldly mindedness. They defend the worship of God, but desire to be excused from his service. Their heart is the slave of the world, but their blind, ness ibides from them the turpitude of that world. They commend piety but dread its requisitions. They allow that repentance is necessary, but then how easy is it to find reasons for deferring a necessary evil? Who will hastily adopt a painful measure which he can find a cre: ditable pretence for evading? They censure whatever is ostensibly wrong, but avoiding only part of it, the part they retain robs them of the benefits of their partial remunciation
We cannot sufficiently admire the wisdom of the Church in enjoining extraordinary acts of devotion at the return of those festivals so happily calculated to excite devotional feelings. Extraordinary repentance of sin tis peculiarly suitable to the seasons that record tbose grasd events which sin occasioned. But the Church never i tended that these more stated and strict self-examinations should preclude our habitual self-inspection. It never intended its holy wices to supply the place of gene. ral holiness, but to proipote it. It intended that these solemn occasions should animate the flame of piety, but it never meant to furnish a reason for neglectiug to keep the same alive till the next retiry should again kindle the dying embers. It meant that every such season should gladden the heart of the Christian at its approach, and not discharge bim from duty at its departure. It meant to ligliten his conscience of the burden of sin, nat to encourage him to begin a new score, again to be wiped off'at the succeeding festival. It intended to quicken the vigilance of the believer, and uot to disiniss the centinel from his post. If we are not the better for these divinely appointed helps, we are the worse. If we use them as a discharge from that diligence which they were intended to promote, we convert our blessings into snares.
This abuse of our advantages arises from our pot illcorporating our devotions into the general habit of on
fives. Til our religion become an inward principle and mot an external act, we shall not receive that benefit from her forms, however excellent, which they are calcnlated to convey. H is to those who possess the spirit of Chris tianity that her forms are so valuable. To them the formi exèites the spirit, as the spirit auimates the formy. 'Til religion beèome the desire of our hearts, it will not be come the business of onr lives. We are far from meaning that it is to be its actual occupation; but that every por tion, every liabit, every actof life is to be animated by its spirit, influenced by its principle, governed by its power.
The very make of our patare, and our necessary commerce with the world, naturally fill onr hearts and minds with thonghts and ideas, over which we have unhapo pily too little control. We find this to be the case when in our better hours we attempt to give ourselves up to serious reflection. How many intrusions of worldly thoughts, how many impertinent imaginations, not only irrelevant, but uncalled and unwelcome, croud in upon the mind so forcibly as scarcely to be Tepelled by our sincerest efforts. How impotent then to repel such images must that mind be, which is devoted to worldly pursnits, which yields itself up to them, whose opinions, habits, and conduct are under their allowed in
If, as we have before observed, Religion consists in á new heart and a new spirit, it will become not our occasionalact, but our abiding disposition, proving its settled existence in the mind by its habitually disposing our thonghits and actions, our devotions and our practice to a conformity to each other and to itself...
Let us not consider a spirit of worldliness as a little infirmity, as a natural and therefore a pardonable weakDess; as a trifting error which will be overlooked for the sake of our many good qualities. It is in fact the essence of our other faults; the temper that stands between lis and our salvation; the spirit which is in direct opposition to the spirit of God. Individualsins may more easily be cured, but this is the principle of all spiritual disease. A worldly spirit where it is rooted and cherished, runs. throngh the whole character, insinuates itself in all we say and think and do. It is this which makes us so dead in religion, so averse from spiritual things, so forgettil of God, so upnindful ofeternity, so satisfied with ourselves, so impatient of serious discourse, and so alive to ihat vain and frivolous intercourse which excludes intellect almost as much as piety from our general conversation.
It is not therefore our more considerable actions alone wbich require watching, for they seldom occur. They do not form the habit of life in ourselves, nor the chief importance of our example to others. It is to our ordinary behaviour, it is to our deportment in common life; it is to our prevailing turn of mind in general intercourse, by which we shall profit or corrupt those with whom we associate. It is our conduct in social life which will help to diffuse a spirit of piety or a distaste to it. If we have much inflnence, 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 tope of our narrow society.
If we really believe that it is the design of Christianity to raise us to a participation of the divine nature, the slightest reflection on this elevation of our character would lead us to maintain its dignity in the ordinary intercourse of life. We should not so much inquire whether we are transgressing any actual prohibition, whether any standing law is pointed against us, as whether we are supporting the dignity of the Christian cliaracter ; wliether we are acting suitably to our profession ; whether more exactness in the common occurrences of the day, more correctness in onr coiwersation, would not be such evidences of our religion, as by being obvious and intelligible, inight not almost insensibly produce important eftects.
The most insignificant people must not through indolence and selfishness undervalue their own influence. Most persons have a little circle ot' which they are a sort of centre. Its smallness may lessen their quantity of good, but does not diminish the duty of using that little influence wisely. Where is the human being so inconsiderable but that he may in some shape benefit others, either by calling their virtues into exercise, or by setting them an example of virtue himself? But we are humble just in the wrong place. When the exhibition of our talents or splevdid qualities is in question, we are not backward in the display. When a little self-denial is to be exercised, when a little good might be effected by our example, by our discreet management in company, by giving a better turn to couversation, then at once we grow
wickedly modesto Snch an insignificant creature as I an can do no good"-"Had I a bigher rank or brighter talents, then indeed my influence might be exerted to some purpose."-Thus under the mask of diffidence, we justify our indolence; and let slip those lesser occasions of promoting religion which if we all improved, how much Dright the condition of society be raised.
The hackneyed interrogation “ What-must we be always talking about religion" must have the hackneyed answer-Far from it. Talking about religion is not being religious. But we may bring the spirit of religion into company and keep it in perpetual operation when we do not professedly make it our subject. We may be constantly advancing its interests, we may without effort or affectation be giving an example of candour, of moderation, of humility, of forbearance. We may employ our influence by correcting faischood, by checking levity, by discouraging calumny, by vindicating misrepresepted merit, by couplepancing every thing which has a good tendency-in short, by throwing our whole weight, be it great or small, into the right-scale. ..
PRAYER is the application of want to him who only can relieve it; the voice of sju to him who alone can pardou it. It is the urgency of poverty, the prostration of humility, the fervency of penitence, the confidence of trust. It is not eloquence, but earnestness, not the definition of helplessness, but the feeling of it; not figures of speech, but compunction of soul. It is the “Lord save us we perish” of drowning Peter; the cry of faith to the car of mercy.
Adoration is the noblest employment of created be. ings; confession the natural langnage of guilty éreatores; gratitude the spontaneous expression of pardojed sinners,
Prayer is desire. It is not a conception of the mind, nor a mere effort of the intellect, nor an act of the memo18;. but an elevation of the soul towards its Maker; a
pressing sense of our own ignorance and infirmity, a conscionsness of the perfectious of God, of his readiness to hear, of his power to help, of his willingness to save.
It is not an emotion produced in the senses, nor an effect wrought by the imagination; but a determination of the will, an effusion of the heart.
Prayer is the guide to selt knowledge by prompting us to look after our sins in order to pray against them; a motive to vigilance, by teaching us to guard against those sins which, through self examination, we have been enabled to detect.
Prayer is an act both of the understanding and of the heart.". The understanding must apply itself to the knowledge of the divine perfections, or the heart will not be led to the adoration of them. It would not be a reusonable service, if the mind was excluded. It must be rational worship, or the human worshipper would not bring to the service the distinguishing faculty of his nature, which is reason. It must be spiritual worship, or it would want the distinctive quality to make it aeceptable to Him, who has declared that He will be worshipped “in spirit and in truth."
Prayer is right in itself as the most powerful means of resisting sin and advancing in holiness. It is above all right, as every thing is, which has the authority of Scripture, the command of God and the example of Christ.
There is a perfect consistency in all the ordinations of God; a perfect congruity in the whole scheme of his dispensations. If man were not a corrupt creature, such prayer as the Gospel enjoins would not have been neees. sary. Had not prayer been an important means for curing those corruptions, a God of perfect wisdom would not have ordered it. He would not have prohibited eve. ry thing which tends to inflame and promote then, had they not existed, nor would he have commanded every thing that has a tendency to diminish and remove them, had not their existence been fatal, Prayer therefore is an indispensable part of his economy and of onr obedience.
It is a hackneyed objection to the use of prayer that it is offending the omniscience of God to suppose he reqnires information of our wants. But no objection can be more futile. We do not pray to inform God of our wants, but to express our sense of the wants which he al.