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On habitual Devotion.
Lowly they bow'd adoring, and began
As there is no pleasure which the human mind can boast of, equal to that which arises from the practice of true christianity, so no exertion of the faculties of man should be more strong, than that which promotes so important an employment. We well know, that we may sigh after natural food as long and as heartily as we please, yet if we put not forth our hand, the fruit will remain unshaken from the tree, the luxuriant harvest will wither and decay in the midst of the valley. The same is true of every spiritual exertion. A kind Providence
has poured into our hearts an inclination to serve him. There are few, very few indeed, who will not acknowledge this inherent truth. But the indolence of some, and the seduction of others, render this disposition unproductive of good fruits; nay, in many instances, convert it to the worst and most malignant purposes. At our entrance into life the Spirit of God hovers over our head, it enters into our heart. If we cherish it by exertions of our own, it rests there as the spirit of consolation. If we reject it by possessing an evil heart of unbelief, it leaves us a prey to dangers from whence we shall not escape. "Know ye not that ye "are the temple of God, and that the
Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any "man defile the temple of God, him shall "God destroy: for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”
To endeavour to preserve this heavenly spirit, pure and unmixed with secular defilements, we should use every assistance which the providence of God hath kindly administered for this purpose. As man in his original formation is a creature of habit,
it is to be supposed that virtuous inclinations and good actions may be introduced into human conduct, at least as easy as criminal indulgences. I speak not here of the corruption of our nature which is common to all; but place all mankind upon the same level, as far as respects the several duties. which they owe to God, their neighbours, and themselves. The apostle, in an address to his Galatian converts, speaks in strong language of his own anxieties of mind, that the sacred doctrines of the Saviour which he preached might take possession of the heart, and become, as it were, a part of their existence-" My little children of "whom I travail in birth again until Christ "be formed in you!" How strong and forcible is the expression! This therefore should be the point, after which we should all aspire; that Christ may be so formed in that our religion may be so interwoven, with every thought of our heart, and every action of our life, as to influence our conduct in every particular.
That we may rise to this important height, much labour will be required; for without labour
labour nothing can be accomplished. Even the spirit of God will not rest upon an unsoliciting heart. "We must rise up early
"and late take rest, and eat the bread," if not "of carefulness," yet of permanent and habitual devotion. Two important steps to this elevation of mind, as I have endeavoured to shew, are religious meditation and prayer. But even these, though at all times necessary, are only preparatory to that holiness of life and conversation, which Christ expects from all his disciples: a life, not raised above humanity, but plain, sober and discreet; a conversation, not irrational or enthusiastic, but good, pious and devout.
The meditating Christian is not required to retreat further from the world than may be sufficient to collect the powers of his imagination, and restrain the irregularities of his heart. Though directed by a positive precept to pray always, he considers the spirit rather than the letter of the injunction; and therefore is not driven from the true uses of life to a monastic seclusion. He well knows that it is not the repetition of many prayers, but an inward and unaffected
affected devotion of the mind to God, an habitual impression of the divine goodness on the soul, which must convey his aspirations to heaven. He looks upon the creation; and exclaims, "These are thy works, "Parent of good! Almighty!" He views the wonders of redemption displayed in the scriptures of truth; and adopts the enraptured language of St. Paul, "O the depth
"of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" Fortified with holy thoughts he walks abroad into the world; wherever he turns his eyes he beholds an object of instruction; and, if I may be allowed to use the words of a moral writer after language of such high authority,
"Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, "Sermons in stones, and good in ev'ry thing."
Accustomed to meditate on the several passages of human life, every emotion of his mind is an habitual prayer. And thus he subdues those passions to which his nature is subject, and prepares his soul for a more perfect state of existence.