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nestness and frequency of our secret applications to God in prayer; in the deep, unfeigned, heart-piercing, heart-sinking, sorrow of our confessions and our penitence; in the sincerity of our gratitude, and of our praise; in our admiration of the Divine bounty to his creatures; in our sense of particular mercies to ourselves. We shall pray much in secret.
We shall address ourselves to God, of our own accord, in our walks, our closet, our bed. Form in these addresses will be nothing. Everything will come from the heart. We shall feed the flame of devotion by continually returning to the subject. No man who is endued with the taste and relish we speak of will have God long out of his mind. Under one view or other God cannot be long out of a devout mind. “ Neither was God in all his thoughts” is a true description of a complete dereliction of religious principle; but it cannot, by any possibility, be the case with a man who has the spirit of devotion, or any portion of that spirit, within him.
But it is not in our private religion alone that the effect and benefit of this principle is perceived. The true taste and relish we so much dwell upon will bring a man to the public worship of God; and, what
1 is more, will bring him in such a frame of mind as to enable him to join in it with effect; with effect as to his own soul ; with effect as to every object, both public and private, intended by public worship. Wanderings and forgetfulness, remissions and intermissions of attention, there will be ; but these will be fewer and shorter, in proportion as more of this spirit is prevalent within us, and some sincere, some hearty, some deep, some true, and, as we trust, acceptable, service will be performed before we leave the place; some pouring forth of the soul unto God in prayer and in thanksgiving ; in prayer, excited by wants and weaknesses; I fear, also, by sins and neglects without number; and in thanksgivings, such as mercies the most undeserved ought to call forth from a heart filled, as the heart of man should be, with a thorough consciousness of dependence and obligation.
Forms of public worship must, by their very nature, be in a great degree general ; that is, must be calculated for the average condition of human and of Christian life; but it is one property of the devotional spirit, which we speak of, to give a particularity to our worship, though it be carried on in a congregation of fellow Christians, and expressed in terms which were framed and conceived for the use of all. And it does this by calling up recollections which will apply most closely, and bring home most nearly to ourselves those terms and those expressions. For instance, in public worship, we thank God in general terms, that is, we join with the congregation in a general thanksgiving ; but a devout man brings to church the recollection of special and particular mercies, particular bounties, particular providences, particular deliverances, particular relief recently experienced, specially and critically granted in the moment of want or danger, or eminently and supereminently vouchsafed to us individually. These he bears in his thoughts ; he applies as he proceeds ; that which was general, he makes close and circumstantial ; his heart rises towards God by a sense of mercies vouchsafed to himself. He does not, however, confine himself to those favours of Providence which he enjoys above many others, or more than most others ; he does not dwell upon distinctions alone ; he sees God in all his goodness, in all his bounty. Bodily ease, for instance, is not less valuable, not less a mercy, because others are at ease as well as himself. The same of his health, the use of his limbs, the faculties of his understanding. But
what I mean is, that, in his mind, he brings to church mercies in which he is interested, and that the most general expressions of thankfulness attach with him, upon particular recollections of goodness, particular subjects of gratitude ; so that the holy fervour of his devotion is supported ; never wants, nor can want, materials to act upon. It is the office, therefore, of an internal spirit of devotion to make worship personal. We have seen that it will be so with thanksgiving. It will be the same likewise with every other part of divine worship. The confession of sins in our liturgy, and perhaps in all liturgies, is general ; but our sins, alas ! are particular : our.conscience not only acknowledges a deplorable weakness and imperfection in the discharge of our duty, but is stung also with remembrances and compunctions, excited by particular offences. When we come, therefore, to confess our sins, let memory do its office faithfully. Let these sins rise up before our eyes.
All language is imperfect. Forms intended for general use must consist of general terms, and are so far inadequate. They may be rehearsed by the lips with very little of application to our own case.
But this will never be so if the spirit of devotion be within us. A devout mind is exceedingly stirred when it has sins to confess. None but a hardened sinner can even think of his sins without pain. But when he is to lay them, with supplications for pardon, before his Maker ; when he is to expose his heart to God; it will always be with powerful inward feelings of guilt and calamity. It hath been well said of
prayer, that prayer will either make a man leave off sinning, or sin will make him leave off prayer. And the same is true of confession. If confession be sincere, if it be such as a right capacity for devotion will make it to be, it will call up our proper and particular sins so distinctly to
our view, their guilt, their danger, their end; whither they are carrying, us; in what they will conclude ; that, if we can return to them again, without molestation from our conscience, then religion is not within us. . If we have approached God in his worship so ineffectually as to ourselves, it is because we have not worshiped him in spirit; we may say of all we have done, "We drew near with our lips, but our hearts were far from him.”
What we have said concerning thanksgiving and confession is likewise true of prayer universally. The spirit of devotion will apply our prayers to our wants. In forms of worship, be they ever so well composed, it is impossible to exhibit human wants otherwise than in general expressions. But devotion will apply them; it will teach every man, in the first place, to know how indigent, how poor, a creature, without a continued exercise of mercy and supply of bounty from God, he would be ; because, when he begins to enumerate his wants he will be astonished at their multitude. What are we, any of us, but a complication of wants, which we have not in ourselves the power of supplying! But, besides those numerous wants, and that common helplessness, in which we all partake, every man has his own sore, his own grief, his own difficulties ; every man has some distress which he is suffering or fearing. Nay, were worldly wishes satisfied, was worldly prosperity complete, he has always what is of more consequence than worldly prosperity to pray for ; he has always his sins to pray against. Where temporal wants are few, spiritual wants are often the most and the greatest. The grace of God is always wanted. His governing, his preventing, his inspiring, his assisting, grace is always wanted. Here, therefore, is a subject for prayer, were there no other; a subject personally and individually interest
ing in the highest degree ; a subject, above all others, upon which the spirit of devotion will be sure to fix.
I'assign, therefore, as the first effect of a right spirit of devotion, that it gives particularity to all our worship. It applies and it appropriates. Forms of worship may be general, but a spirit of devotion brings them home and close to each and every one.
One happy consequence of which is, that it prevents the tediousness of worship. Things which interest.us are not tedious. ' If we find worship tedious, it is because it does not interest us as it ought to do. We must allow (experience compels us to allow) for wanderings and inattentions, as amongst the infirmities of our infirm nature. But, as I have already said, even these will be fewer and shorter, in proportion as we are possessed of the spirit of devotion. Weariness will not be perceived, by reason of that succession of devout feelings and consciousness which the several offices of worship are calculated to excite. If our heart be in the business, it will not be tedious. If in thanksgiving it be lifted up by a sense of mercies, and a knowledge from whom they proceed, thanksgiving will be a grateful exercise, and not a tedious form. What relates to our sins and wants, though not of the same gratifying nature, though accompanied with deep, nay, with afflicting, cause of humilation and fear, must nevertheless be equally interesting, or more so, because it is of equal concernment to us, or of greater. In neither case, therefore, if our duty be performed as it ought to be, will tediousness be perceived.
I say that the spirit of devotion removes from the worship of God the perception of tediousness, and with that also every disposition to censure or cavil at particular phrases or expressions used in public worship. All such faults, even if they be real, and such observations upon them, are absorbed by the immense