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Men of the world are not distracted about their worldly business, but will pursue it with all fixedness and intention of mind, hour after hour, ilay after day, and year after year. They have an earthly mind, and love earthly things. Seek you to have a spiritual mind, and then you will thus pursue spiritual things. All the lines of our affection should unite here, all the radii of the circle should meet in this centre-in a fisedness of heart on God in his worship.
The circumstances of our prayers often lead our minds from God. We have to think of our sins, and their circumstances, when we confess them, and of our wants when we pray for what we need, and of our mercies wbeo we thank God for them, and of our friends when we intercede for them; but if the mind were in a spiritual state, these things should rather be the means of drawing our hearts nearer to God, than of drawing them from him. Our thoughts should not so run out on the particulars of worship, as to forget the presence of Him whom we worship.
PERSEVERE IN PRAYER NOTWITHSTANDING DISTRACTIONS.— In the path of duty, every obstacle gives way to the faith of the Christian. When the Israelites were come to the Red Sea, and to the waters of Jordan, they were directed to go forward. It might have been objected, If we go forward, shall we not be drowned ? But still their duty was to go forward ; and so should we go in the path of a plain command, leaving to our God the removal of all obstacles. The reluctance and the discouragements of prayer will be overcome in the performance of the duty. When the heart is in this distracted frame, in private prayer, by giving more time to the duty, and dwelling on the petitions till you are able to attend to what you say, you will often be enabled to overcome your difficulties.
“ Patience is a grace as necessary sometimes in devotion, as in afflictions; and the want of patience does as often make our devotions defective, as the want of recollection.”
The difficulty of praying without distraction, and the fact that distractions do mingle with our holiest services, should inculcate many practical LESSONS ; such as humility, brokenness of spirit, and, as has been already noticed, entire dependence on Christ for righteousness and strength, breathings after the influence of the Spirit, and a longing to be in heaven where all our services will be pure and holy. That prayer is not lost which produces any of these effects. Nay, if a distracted prayer do but deeply humble us, it may be one of our most profitable prayers.
And when our distractions are lamented, and our desire after spiritual blessings unfeigned, it may encourage us to remember that we pray to a Father. A little child often finds a difficulty in expressing its wants to an earthly father; yet he, being desirous to meet the wishes of the child, will be ingenious, and patient, to discover and supply those wishes : so shall our heavenly Father give good things to them that ask him.
Our incapacity, indeed, is not physical, but moral; yet God considers those who trust in his son, as children, and pities them, and spares them, as a man spareth
ON DEVOTIONAL FEELINGS MERELY.
THERE are a number of persons whom we have no reason to believe to be under the influence of real religion; their tempers are frequently unsubdued and irritable; their affections, in the main, are wordly; and their pride of heart is evident; that yet express themselves in a devout way, and talk as if they found pleasure in devotion. The beauties of creation, the charms of nature, the fancied pictures which they draw of the goodness of the Deity, fill their minds with lively ideas of the benevolence of the Creator. They love to contemplate these things, and to converse about them in a strain of devout admiration and praise. Deists and idolaters sometimes express
themselves in this way; and Socinians often talk as if their view of religion encouraged real devotion.
What then are the great defects of the kind of devotion which has been described ? It is accompanied by some one or other of the following marks.
With respect to those who profess to have it, it has little or no influence on the temper, which still remains unsanctified, either self-indulgent or fretsul, and exposed to bursts of passion. It puffs up, and fosters pride of heart, and fills the mind with self-conceit and self-sufficiency. It leads men to court rather than shun the admiration of others; or, it is often a mere indulgence
of natural imagination, of a pensive disposition, of taste, and the like. Pleasurable sensations are excited by the idea of the dignity of such contemplations, and that they give a mark of a superior state of mind to the common class of persons, and this satisfies them.
With respect to God, it has no regard to his holiness or justice; it overlooks the Scripture account of his character, and those sorrows and evils of life which visibly mark his hand and the sinfulness of man. It greatly, if not totally, disregards the only Mediator by whom we may draw near to God. No man cometh unto the Father but by Him.
And with respect to others, there is little or no separation from vain and sinful company, from worldly habits, practices, and maximns; no fulfilling of the preсері “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and therefore no obtaining of the promise, “and I will receive you, and I will be a father unto
shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
In the feelings to which we allude, there is no real communion with God; that is ever humbling and purifying. Men of the description which has been mentioned, know nothing of the character of God as “ the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy;" who says, “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
Let the reader, then, be on his guard, and not suppose that every thing of a contemplative or devotional cast, is real devotion and acceptable to God.
Yet there is a true devotional feeling, essential to our well-being and happiness, of the greatest value and importance, and producing the most blessed effects; a devotion which humbles and yet raises, which softens asperities of temper, and yet makes the self-indulgent self-denying and firm ; which changes the worldly into the heavenly mind; which heightens every enjoyment, mitigates every trial and suffering, gives peace within, and spreads cheerfulness and happiness without. St. John describes it, when he says, “ truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” The former part of this Treatise will have shewn the reader the nature of this devotion, and the following directions are added to assist him in attaining it.
DIRECTIONS TO ASSIST IN ATTAINING
THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER.
THE duty and privilege of the various kinds of prayer have now been brought before the reader. They should all be attended to; they are each beautiful, and needful in their season. A Christian will not attend public, and neglect family worship; he will not pray in his family, and neglect his secret devotions; he will not pray statedly in secret, and neglect social or habitual prayer. Each will come regularly in its fit place and time, without interfering with the other; each, not hindering, but succeeding, and mutually helping the