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ceptions which are effected by Prayer, seem, as it were, the connecting link between earth and Heaven; between that state of distance and separation from the Creator, to which as sinners we must still submit, and those blessed privileges which we shall hereafter share in the kingdom of our Heavenly Father. In the blessed exercises of a spiritual devotion, the soul is borne away for a time from all the perishable objects of sense, to appear in the very sanctuary of God; there to learn what the voice of man can never teach, to feel what the profane or thoughtless never can appreciate. “The Christian loves to lie low before the footstool of his Creator* ," and from that blessed presence he returns with a heart so humbled yet so refreshed,
a that like Peter in the Mount, he feels “ it was good for him to be there.” Earthly vanity has lost its charm, and earthly greatness its splendour; and though the business and cares of life may a little damp the ardour of his spirits, he will still be conscious of a secret unfailing and heavenly energy, which he drank in with “ the water of life that proceedeth out of the Throne of God, and of the Lamb.”
It cannot then be matter of astonishment to find, that many of those who have been the most eminent for activity and usefulness in secular concerns, have been remarkable also for the depth of their piety, and the consecration of what appears a large proportion of their time to religious offices. It is impossible to read the accounts which have been transmitted to us of Alfred, without feeling amazed at the variety of affairs--military, civil, commercial, judicial, and literary-which his comprehensive genius embraced and transacted. The secret of his prodigious exer
* Robt. Hall. Sermon on Infidelity.
tions seems to be given in the following extract from a writer equally impartial and able * : “Religion, which in Alfred's father was so prejudicial to his affairs, without being in him at all inferior in its zeal and fervour, was of a more enlarged and noble kind. Far from being a prejudice to his government, it seems to have been the principle which supported him in so many fatigues, and fed like an abundant source his civil and military virtues. To his religious exercises and studies he devoted a full third part of his time.”-Boerhaave was illustrious, in a later age, and in a more limited sphere of action, for his extensive scientific researches combined with a laborious professional practice. To a friend who inquired of him how he could unite pursuits so contradictory, and at the same time support, with an equanimity almost peculiar to himself, the numberless provocations and affronts to which he was unfortunately subjected; he replied, that he attributed his strength and cheerfulness, to the habit of devoting one full hour every morning to secret prayer.-Martin Luther lived during many years in a perpetual storm of conflict, controversy, and danger; persecuted by the vengeance of his enemies, harassed by the imprudences or defection of his friends, unavoidably engaged in extensive political connections and correspondences, burthened with the weight of a new unsettled and struggling religion, Amidst the countless occupations and distractions incident to such a situation, his life continually threatened, his health occasionally failing, his hopes frequently disappointed and at times almost desperate, he maintained the cause of God with the most un conquerable energy; and, though sometimes hurried into
* Mr. Burke, Abridgment of English History,
excesses by the vehemence of his nature, conducted it, in the main, through difficulty and peril, from its weak and tottering infancy to its triumphant establishment, with consymmate ability and wisdom, His learned and pious Historian * has sufficiently explained whence he derived the powers required to support such prodigious exertions, by informing us, that the great Reformer regularly employed three of the best hours of every day in the exercises of devotion.—Indeed, it is scarcely necessary to refer to any ordinary examples, when we recollect that even He " to whom the Spirit was given without measure” would retire from the multitudes that followed him, and though fatigued with the labours of his daily ministry, employed whole nights in prayer. In the midst of danger and distresses, David sought the Lord and was succoured; under the burthen of guilt, he poured out his soul before him apd was forgiven; in prosperity and happiness, he adored his mercy and was sustained. The disciples were assembled in prayer when the Holy Spirit was shed upon them from above. In prayer they rejoiced after their first sufferings for the name of Christ. With prayer the Apostle of the Gentiles bade adieu to his Ephesian converts. At midnight, in a dungeon, “Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God.”
What has been already observed respecting devotion, that it brings us into the presence of God himself, will in a great measure determine the qualifications and sentiments with which we must appear before him. Among these if I do not enumerate an humble and lively faith in the Redeemer, it is not certainly because these feelings are needless or of little moment, but because they are of such universal and vital influence, pervading and sustaining the whole system of religion, that to suppose them absent, at least in habitual operation and energy, from any the smallest portions of our existence, is to suppose us in the very same degree sinners before God. In every disquisition therefore, respecting a religious act or grace, an humble and entire reliance on the merits of Jesus Christ is necessarily assumed; for without this no act can be religious, no grace exist. Yet these sentiments seem more especially to belong to the exercises of devotion, as acceptable only in the name of that great High Priest who holds the heavenly censer, to whom are presented “ the golden vials full of odours.”
* The very Rev. the Dean of Carlisle.
“ Without holiness no man shall see God.” To enter then into his presence by prayer, purity of heart, and the absence of all habitual sin, are plainly indispensable." Before the Throne there was a sea of glass like unto chrystal." To sin and to pray are absolute contradictions. If we imagine that we experience the feelings or the pleasures of real devotion while we live in any known habitual sin, we fatally deceive ourselves: they are the fervours of a heated fancy, or the delusions of Satan. It is to the pure alone that God unfolds the gates of the celestial Jerusalem, and appears in beatific vision: “ but there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination."
Devotion, then, plainly implies habitual self-examination: for no one can be assured that he does not live in sin, except he watches diligently his daily conversation. And this is one of the reasons why piety is commonly and correctly used, as a compendious expression for all the Christ
tian graces. Piety necessarily supposes that wakeful regard to the will of God, in which consists the essence of all religion; for the foundation of moral obligation is universally and for ever the same. The law of the creature is the will of the Creator.
Self-examination precedes prayer;-but it precedes, not merely as a pioneer to remove obstacles, but as a skilful general to prescribe and direct the march. Except we are acquainted by frequent inspection with the state of our hearts and lives, we can neither be assured that we pray acceptably nor that we pray aright. How can we confess sins which we have not discovered? How can we acknowledge mercies which we have never noticed? Unless we know our wants, shall we ask for their needful relief? Unless we are sensible of our dangers, shall we wisely implore assistance? Indeed, devotion in its most perfect exercise, implies not only a watchful observance of our daily dispositions and conduct, but a constant attention to all the dealings and providences of God towards us, and such a general diffusion of religion through the soul, as shall render it quick to understand both the will and the ways of our Heavenly Father. Otherwise we come to prayer without the materials for praying properly. And if it would be thought presumptuous in a subject, to request an audience of his sovereign, without having first considered well the topics on which he designed to address him, what shall we judge of a sinner who ventures to come before his Maker, wilfully ignorant of those things which should be the subjects of his petitions, the occasions of his thankfulness, or the causes of his most deep humiliation and repentance! But prayer does not only require previous qualifications;