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importance of the business in which we are engaged. Quickness in discovering blemishes of this sort is not the gift of a pious mind; still less either levity or acrimony in speaking of them.
Moreover, the spirit of devotion reconciles us to repetitions. In other subjects repetition soon becomes tiresome and offensive. In devotion it is different. Deep, earnest, heartfelt devotion naturally vents itself in repetition. Observe a person racked by excruciat
' ing bodily pain; or a person suddenly struck with the news of some dreadful calamity; or a person labouring under some cutting anguish of soul ; and you will always find him breaking out into ejaculations, imploring from God support, mercy, and relief, over and over again, uttering the same prayer in the same words. Nothing, he finds, suits so well the extremity of his sufferings, the urgency of his wants, as a continual recurrence to the same cries, and the same call for divine aid. Our Lord himself, in his last agony, affords a high example of what we are saying: thrice he besought his heavenly Father; and thrice he used the same words. Repetition, therefore, is not only
. tolerable in devotion, but is natural : it is eren dictated by a sense of suffering and an acuteness of feel. ing. It is coldness of affection which requires to be enticed and gratified by continual novelty of idea, or expression, or action. The repetitions and prolixity of pharisaical prayers, which our Lord censures, are to be understood of those prayers which run out into mere formality and into great length: no sentiment or affection of the heart accompanying them; but uttered as a task, from an opinion (of which our Lord justly notices the absurdity) that they should really be heard for their much speaking. Actuated by the spirit of devotion, we can never offend in this way, we can never be the object of this censure.
Lastly, and what has already been intimated, the spirit of devotion will cause our prayers to have an effect upon our practice. For example: if we repeated the confession in our liturgy with a true penitential sense of guilt upon our souls, we should not, day after day, be acknowledging to God our transgressions and neglects, and yet go on exactly in the same manner, without endeavouring to make them less and fewer. We should plainly perceive that this was doing nothing towards salvation ; and that, at this rate, we may be sinning and confessing all our lives. Whereas, was the right spirit of confessional piety, viz. thoughtfulness of the soul, within us at the time, this would be the certain benefit, especially in the case of an often repeated sin, that the mind would become more and more concerned, more and more filled with compunction and remorse, so as to be forced into amendment. Even the most heartfelt confession might not immediately do for us all that we could wish : yet, by perseverance in the same, it would certainly in a short time produce its desired effect. For the same reason we should not time after time pray that we might thenceforward, viz. after each time of so praying, lead godly, righteous, and sober lives, yet persist, just as usual, in ungodliness, unrighteousness, and intemperance. The thing would be impossible if we prayed as we ought. So, likewise, if real thankfulness of heart accompanied our thanksgivings, we should not pray in vain, that we might show forth the praises of God, not only with our lips, but in our lives. As it is, thousands repeat these words without doing a single deed for the sake of pleasing God, exclusive of other motives, or refraining from a single thing they like to do out of the fear of displeasing him. So, again, every time we hear the third service at church, we pray that God would incline our hearts to keep his commandments ; yet immediately, perhaps, afterward, allow our hearts and inclinations to wander without control to whatever sinful temptation entices them. This, I say,
proceeds from the want of earnestness in our devotions. Strong devotion is an antidote against sin.
To conclude; a spirit of devotion is one of the greatest blessings; and, by consequence, the want of it one of the greatest misfortunes which a Christian can experience. When it is present, it gives life to every act of worship which we perform ; it makes every such act interesting and comfortable to ourselves. It is felt in our most retired moments, in our beds, our closets, our rides, our walks. It is stirred within us when we are assembled with our children and servants in family prayer. It leads us to church, to the congregation of our fellow Christians there collected; it accompanies us in our joint offices of religion in an especial manner; and it returns us to our homes holier and happier and better; and, lastly, what greatly enhances its value to every anxious Christian, it affords to himself a proofs that his heart is right towards God; when it is followed up by a good life,
l by abstinence from sin, and endeavours after virtue, by avoiding evil and doing good, the proofs and the satisfaction to be drawn from it are complete.
THE LOVE OF GOD.
1 John, iv. 19. We love him, because he first loved us. Religion may, and it can hardly, I think, be questioned but that it sometimes does spring from terror, from grief, from pain, from punishment, from the approach of death : and, provided it be sincere, that is, such as either actually produces, or—as would produce, a change of life, it is genuine religion, notwithstanding the bitterness, the violence, or, if it must be so called, the baseness and unworthiness, of the motive from which it proceeds. We are not to narrow the promises of God; and acceptance is promised to sincere penitence, without specifying the cause from which it originates, or confining it to one origin more than another. There are, however, higher, and worthier, and better, motives from which religion may begin in the heart ; and on this account especially are they to be deemed better motives, that the religion, which issues from them has a greater probability of being sincere. I repeat, again, that sincere religion from any motive, will be effectual; but there is a great deal of difference in the probability of its being sincere, according to the different cause in the mind from which it sets out.
The purest motive of human action is the love of God. There may be motives stronger and more general, but none so pure. The religion, the virtue, which owes its birth in the soul to this motive, is
always genuine religion, always true virtue. Indeed, speaking of religion, I should call the love of God not so much the groundwork of religion as religion itself. So far as religion is disposition, it is religion itself. But though of religion it be more than the groundwork, yet, being a disposition of mind, like other dispositions, it is the groundwork of action. Well might our blessed Saviour preach up, as he did, the love of God. It is the source of everything which is good in man. I do not mean that it is the only source, or that goodness can proceed from no other, but that of all principles of conduct it is the safest, the best, the truest, the highest. Perhaps it is peculiar to the Jewish and Christian dispensations (and, if it be, it is a peculiar excellency in them) to have formally and solemnly laid down this principle, as a ground of human action. I shall not deny that elevated notions were entertained of the Deity by some wise and excellent heathens : but even these did not, that I can find, so inculcate the love of that Deity, or so propose and state it to their followers, as to make it a governing, actuating, principle of life amongst them. This did Moses, or rather God by the mouth of Moses, expressly, formally, solemnly. This did Christ, adopting, repeating, ratifying, what the law had already declared ; and not only
only ratifying, but singling it out from the body of precepts which composed the old institution, and giving it a pre-eminence to every other.
Now this love, so important to our religious character, and, by its effect upon that, to our salvation, which is the end of religion ; this love, I say, is to be engendered in the soul, not so much by hearing the words of others, or by instruction from others, as by a secret and habitual contemplation of God Almighty's bounty, and by a constant referring of our enjoyments