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By what Means true Devotion is destroyed.
Here the true spirit of devotion, which is in its own nature a liberal and reasonable service, is made wholly to evaporate in unnatural hects, and extatic fervours, fuch as are a disgrace and reproach to the dignity of a rational nature. And islead of speaking the language of a serious, rational, unaffected piety, they abound wholly with rapturous flights of unhallowed love, and strains of mystical difloluteness; or as an ingenious author terms it, spiritualized concupifcence, invented by the carnal and wanton appetites and wishes of the unmarried nuns and friars; and thence either lig design, or by the delusion of the devil; or both, foifted into the devotions of the reformed Church, under a pretence of purer flames of divine love and spiritual rapture; whereas they pollute the soul with luscious images, warm it into irregular ferments, and fire it with a falle palfron; di Jipating all due composure and recollection of mind, and laying open the heart to all the wild extravagancies of frantic enthusiasm: a manner of address much fitter for a diffolute lover, than for an acceptable worshiper of the all-pure and all-knowing God.
It was against this kind of devotion, that great light of the church of England, the learned and pious bishop STILLINGFLEET thus exclaimed. “ Is it pofsible (said he) thàt any man “ can imagine, it is no disponour to the christian religion to • make the perfection of the devotion of it to consif in such “strange unaccountable unions and raptures, which take away " the use of all (modesty) reason, and coinmon sense!” Some causes of the decay of christian piety.
It is to such effufions as these we may ascribe, in a great mea-, sure, the decay of christian piety: Because, they tend to mislead mens minds from the true subject both of their duty and happiness, and bring them to acquiesce in their false and mistaken substitutes: they give great and signal Discouragement to the neral practice of piety in the world, by exposing it to ridicule,
and the charge of affected fingularity. On the one hand, they throw many honest and well-meaning, but weak minds into a defpair of ever succeeding in the Bufmefs of religion; because, upon examination, they discover in themselves, little or no acquaintance with those tumultuous heats, and ungoverned fallies of pafa fion, upon which so great a stress is laid by these pretenders to such glorious frenzies and heavenly follies: and on the other, thry hard:n the diffolute and unthinking part of mankind into an bhftinate reluctance towards the very first efforts of reformation, by confirming them in a prejudice, they are of themfelves too willing to entertain against religion: that it is a rigorous impracticable service; a jtate of unnatural refinement, altogether incompatible with the conimon measures of human
This is no more than what the above-mentioned bishop had before asserted against the Romith devotions. “This mystical « divinity, says he, is not only unintelligible, but it leads perfons into
strange illusions of fancy; and this I take to be a very great injury, not only to those melancholy souls, that are led " through this valley of shacles and darkness; but even to the chri“ stian religion itself, as though the way of perfection taught by " it were a low, mean, contemptible thing, in comparison of * thesë mystical flights.
In what the love of GOD consists. “ It is true, we are commanded often to love God with allour ¢ heart, but withal we are told, we must not fancy this love to “ be a mere languishing passion; no, the love of Christians " towards God is no fond amorous affection, but a due apa « prehension and esteem of the divine excellencies, a hearty fenfe s of all his kindness to us, and a constant readiness of mind to do « his will. And thus the beloved son of God hath declared what “ He means by the love he expects from his disciples: If ye love “ me, (says Christ,) keep my commandments; and ye are iny
friends if ye do whatsoever I command you. And if (Jays St. John) any man say I love God, and hateth his
« brother, he is a lyar; for he that loveth not his brother, " whom he hath feen, how can he love God whom he “ hath not seen? No man hath seen God at any
Time. If ali we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love
is perfected in us. Thus the beloved disciple, who underflood the great mysteries of divine love, hath expressed them to
And, “ Here (you see) are no blind elevations of the will; no ex: « tatic nor luscious expression; no, it is very plain that all such “myftical notions, and luscious metaphors and expreflions “ had another spring and a more impure fountain, than the “ christian doctrine.” For, as the said devout and judicious prelate adds, " Jupposing that mystical way of perfection were “possible, I could see no necesity at all of Christ's coming into " the world, nor of any influence his death, or suffering, or « doctrine could have upon the bringing men to a state of Hap
For these reasons I thought it my duty, as a christian, to explode that fulsome and luscious method of the Old Week's Preparation, which has most fcandalously put into the mouth of the devout reader such carnal expressions as are mentioned above and in their fead I have endeavoured to fubftitute fuch prayers
* " The two gieät errors in whic! bon devotion may be. tray us, are entbufiasm and fuperftition. There is not a more melancholy object than a man who has his head turned with religicus enthusiasın. A person that is crazed, tho' with pride or malicu, is a fight very mortifying to human nature ; but when the distemper arises from any indiscreet fervours of devotion, or too intense an application of the mind to its mistakin duris, it deserves our compassion in a more particular manner. however learn this lesson from it, that lince devotion itself (which one
would be apt to think could not be too warm) may disorder the mind, unless its heats are tempered with caution and prudence, we should be particularly careful to keep our reason as cool as poslible, and to guardi ourselves in all parts of life againft the influence of passion, imagination, and conftitution."
“ Devotion, when it does not lye under the check of reason, is very , apt to degenerate into entbufiafin : when the mind finds herself very much
and meditations, as may be warranted from the word of God: being thoroughly sensible how well grounded that complaint of the pious bifhop Fleetwood is, “ that the devotions of the ig“ norant are generally superstitious and gross, fixing themselves “ commonly on sensible objects; whereas in true religion all is “ intelligible and divine, and God, who should be the only obje&t of their devotion, hath hardly any mare therein.”
Some account of this work. As it has been my endeavour on the one hand not to fatter finner's; fo on the other, I have been careful not to fill the minds of any with unneceffary fears, and scruples, with respect to a duty, which ought to be the practice of their whole lives; as if no body ought to go to this facrament, but such as are as perfect as ever they can hope to be.
On the contrary; it is the judgment of the most orthodox dia vines, that (abftracting from particular circumstances) the receiving of the blessed facrament, is the most divine and folemn act of our religion; and it ought to be the zealous endeavour of every true christian, by God's asistance, to prepare his foul with the most serious, and most devout difpofitions he possibly can, to approach the holy altar: a man cannot too often commemorate our Lord and his passion, nor too often return devout thanks and praises for the same, nor too often repeat his resolutions of amendment, nor too often renew his folemn engagements, nor too often receive pardon of sins, and fresh fuccours of divine grace: and if coming to the Lord's table (prepared or unprepared) were a fure and infallible way to answer those good and great ends, there could then be no question, but that it would be both our wisdom and our duty to communicate as often as opportunities should invite, and health permit. But it is certain, on the other hand, that bare communicating, is not the thing required, but communicating worthily. Here lies the main stress of all, not to urge frequency of com
entiamod with her devotions, she is too much inclined to think they are not of her own kindling, but blown up with something divine within her. If the indulges this thought too far, and humours the growing passion, The * laft Aings herself into imaginary raptures and exftafies; and when once the fancies herself under the Influence of a divine impulse, it is no won. der if she Niglits hunan ordinances, and refuses to comply with any established form of religion, as thinking herself directed by a much superior
ite” See Mr. ADDISON's works,
munion so far as to render this holy facrament hurtful, or fruitlefs to parties concern'd; neither yet to abate so far of the frequency, as to make a kind of dearth or famine of this to falutary and necessary food. For the clearer understanding of this matter, it may be necessary to take notice, that fince it is allowed on all hands, that there can be no just bar to frequency of communion, but the want of preparation, which is orily such a bar as men may themselves remove, if they please; it concerns them highly to take of the impediment as soon as políble, and not to trust to the vain hopes of alleviating one fault by romumitting another. The danger of misperforming any religious duty, is an argument for fear and caution, but no excuse for neglect: God infifts upon the doing it, and the doing it well also. It was no sufficient plea for the
flothful servant, under the Gospel, that he thought his master hard to please, and thereupon neglected his bounden duty: but on the contrary, the use he ought to have made of that consideration was, to have been so much the more wakeful and diligent in his master's service. Therefore in the case of the holy communion, it is to very little purpose to plead the sirietness of the self-examination or preparation by way of excuse either for a total, or for a frequent, or for a long neglect of it. A man may fay, that he comes not to the Lord's table, because he is not prepared, and so far he asigns a good reason; but if he spould be further asked, why he is not prepared, when he may; then he can only make some trifling, insufficient excuse, or remain speechless.
But to return: I have spared no pains to render these meditations and prayers as generally useful, as can be expected in a book of this kind; yet, as the best performances have their imperfections, so this to be sure) is not without serne. However, I hope, there are none so material but what a Christian
may over-look for the sake of that good which is intended by it. Again: that "all these meditations and prayers are entirely new, is by no