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scenes, with the vapid and vexatious pursuits of the world, and retires into his private apartment for devotion, the very importance of the duty itself would instantly fix and rivet his attention. The authority of the divine commands, the solemnity of the divine presence, and the high privilege of holding special intercourse with the greatest and best of Beings, might be expected to fill the soul with serious and sedate reflections, and leave no room for wild, incongruous ideas to enter. But is it so in point of fact? Let the sincere, humble, blushing, and confounded Christian, give the

Conscious of what passes within, while with bended knees, and uplifted hands, he is engaged in the sacred exercises of devotion, let him ingenuously speak the truth, if his deep sighs and groans do not give a more intelligible and affecting reply to the question, than any mere words can convey.

" I hate vain thoughts.” But who uses such language? Is this the man after God's own heart? Is this the devout shepherd of Bethlehem, who taught echo to repeat Jehovah's praise? Is this the sweet Psalmist, who, with his well-toned harp, had skill enough to charm away the demon of despair from a king, whose wounded pride, and melancholy gloom, had made him an object of compassion to his meanest subject? Is this the man who longed for the office of a doorkeeper in the House of God, and would have preferred that humble, yet comparatively happy place, to the most splendid pavilion of luxury and sin? The very same : yet he complains of vain thoughts. Ah, David! explain this matter! What can vain thoughts have to do with thee? They may revel with the sons of Belial, in their midnight festivals, and lewd intrigues; but will not come near the saint, who is given up to meditation and prayer. Yes, they come uncalled, gain admission, and lodge within me. But why make such unseemly and unsuitable guests welcome? No, no; I hate them. Strange and unaccountable ! for if they are detested, why are they not immediately driven out, and effectually excluded ?

This is the mystery which remains to be unfolded. Every Christian can join with David in confessing and deploring vain thoughts. But my present purpose is to shew how they affect us, as engaged in prayer. ,« Wandering thoughts are the disorderly motions of the soul, by which the mind is diverted or disturbed in the time of God's wor. ship.” When the Christian begins to address his supplications and thanksgivings to the mighty King of kings, how often does he find a sort of mental mutiny within ! The powers of the soul, like the ill-disciplined refractory troops of an army, disobey the orders of the will, break the line of march, and,

starting from their ranks, cause inextricable confusion. It was some experience of this kind, which made the Apostle of the Gentiles exclaim, “For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which' is in my members." Rom. vii. 19-23.

It is surprising what impious and horrid thoughts sometimes rush into the imagination, while we are prostrate at the footstool of our heavenly Father; and they throw a shivering chill over the ardent spirit, and leave the most painful recollections, as marks of the mischief they have done. “ Evil thoughts,” observes Mr. Powell, “ are continually arising out of our hearts, ás sparks out of a furnace: when we would pray, the heart is as a viol out of tune.” How frequently do idle and trivial thoughts flit across the mind! those light transient vagaries of fancy, which rise, vanish, and reappear, with a rapidity equal to the twinkling of the eye. One while, the images of beloved friends, or the calumnies of open enemies, or the insinuations of invidious rivals; another, the outlines of some unfinished business, or the fragments of some broken discarded purpose, interrupt our communion, and spoil our devotion. How often does the Christian remember things which he had forgotten to do at the proper time, just when he has bowed his knees in the closet; and both reason and experience prove, that even things lawful and necessary, if they enter the mind out of season, are exceedingly injurious. What were proper and pleasant at another time, is now obtrusive and troublesome. Thus it often is with the believer at prayer: a thousand thoughts, not in themselves sinful, intrude at a time, when they become the occasions of sin, by dividing the mind, and drawing it away from God. It is but too evident, that devotion, in this way broken and scattered, becomes unprofitable; and while the form remains, its purity and exquisite sweetness are gone. Some good men have declared that vain thoughts trouble them more at the seasons of devotion, than at any other time. Jerome, who retired to a , solitary retreat in Palestine, pathetically lamented that he was often in mental excursions, walking through the splendid galleries of Rome, amidst its pomps and luxuries, while he sat in the cell, consecrated to meditation and prayer., Nor was the case of the learned and religious recluse, who made so ingenuous a confession,

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altogether singular ; for who has not found his judgment the dupe of his imagination, even in the gravest pursuits, and holiest duties? Addison has remarked, “If the minds of men were laid open, we should see but little difference between that of the wise man, and that of the fool: there are infinite reveries, and numberless extravagances pass through both.” How frequently do swarms of vain thoughts spoil the Christian's comfort in prayer, as immense multitudes of voracious insects, while the sun shines, eat up the mellow fruit of autumn, just when it is ripe, and ready to be gathered !

It cannot be doubted, that wandering thoughts, in prayer, not seldom spring from the natural levity of the mind. Man was originally formed to know, to love, to honour, and resemble the great Creator of the material universe, and the Father of spirits. Capable we are of God, both by understanding and will:

- by understanding, as he is that sovereign truth, which comprehends the rich treasures of all wisdom :-by will, as he is that sea of goodness, whereof whoso tasteth shall thirst no more*.” But depravity has diffused itself through the human soul, and impaired every faculty. While man continued in a state of purity, the understanding was bright and clear as a mid-day sky without clouds; the will was

* Hookcr.

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