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ened and humbled by Divine Truth, and, under the teaching of the Spirit, brought to a real knowledge of the excellence and glory of the Divine Being, of our great corruption, our inestimably precious Redeemer, our entire dependence on His grace, and a filial confidence in a reconciled Father.
At other times such feelings may arise from mere animal sympathy. In a social meeting, or in a congregation, both he who offers up the prayers, and they who join, will be deeply affected and moved by the solemnity of the place, by the number assembled, by the manifestation of their feelings, or by the sacred music which they may hear; these things naturally have, and ought to have, an impressive effect, on every mind; we do not object to this effect, but to the mind's resting satisfied with it, as the sum of devotion. It is possible that the whole effect of such a service may be the mere excitement of the animal frame, apart from all those really devotional principles which come from above; a mere impression on the senses, quite distinct from communion with God himself, and all that holy state of mind which God alone bestows and regards.
That corrupt church which in its devotional exercises, in direct contradiction to the plain testimony of Scripture,* uses a language not understood by the common people, cultivates much among its adherents, by show, pomp, music, and outward solemnity, this mere impression on the mind and senses of the worshippers. You may also behold
among them, persons with the greatest appearance of de· votion, satisfying their conscience by numerous repetitions
of prayers counted by beads. Our Lord decidedly condemns all such worship.t
There are those also in the Protestant churches, whose whole aim seems to be, merely to be deeply affected, while in prayer, and who consider that the being much impressed and excited, is the highest degree of devotion.
Let the reader, then, be on his guard, and not suppose that every thing of a contemplative, or sensitive, or exciting nature, with a 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 im
*1 Cnr vir
portance, 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 shown 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
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; eacło not hindering, but succeeding, and mutually helping the other. Nor will he count all this course of prayer burdensome and wearisome. To enjoy the presence of God is his happiness, and therefore he longs to live in the continual practice of prayer. Your views of devotional exercise as a task or privilege, are a test by which you may judge of your progress in religion, if not of its reality.
And while there will, in the advanced Christian, be a constant attention to all these kinds of prayer, he will especially attend to the spirit in which each is performed. It will not be sufficient to satisfy his mind that he has gone through the mere act of devotion; he labors for the inward feeling as well as the outward expression. · He longs for the spirit of prayer, which is not the mere business of this or that hour, but the continual panting and breathing of the heart after God,* at all times.
Ardent love to God is, indeed, the true spring of genuine prayer. Where this is, all other graces will follow. “ Love," says one,“ renders prayer delightful to ourselves, and acceptable to our Maker. It makes us willing to ask, and willing to receive.”
Andrew Gray also observes, “The spirit of prayer consists more in the voice of the affections, than the voice of words.” He suggests the following queries to detect the want of the spirit of prayer-Do you know what it is to go to prayer on an internal principle of love, and the grace of Christ constraining you ?-Do you know what it is by prayer to attain greater conformity to God, and the mortification of your lusts? Do you know what it is to distinguish between absence and presence? Do you know what it is to sit down and lament over absence from Christ, and think this an insupportable want?
I have endeavored, under each kind of prayer, to give such hints as might assist you in attaining this spiritual worship; it may not be useless to sum up these hints in a few practical rules applicable to prayer in general. Only let the reader again remember, what we are apt perpetually to forget, but what should both humble, direct, and comfort us, that no knowledge of rules is of itself sufficient to enable us to pray; it is the Holy Spirit alone impressing the rule on the heart, that can enable us rightly to worship God.
“ To maintain a devotional spirit, two things,” says Mrs. More, “are especially necessary: habitually to cultivate the disposition, and habitually to avoid whatever is unfavorable to it.” We will first point out some things which hinder your attaining the spirit of devotion, and then add some directions which may help you to attain it.
SECT. I.—Rules relating to Hindrances to Prayer.
1. Renounce all known sin and sensual indulgence.The allowed practice of any sin is utterly inconsistent with devotional feelings. If you live in habitual sin, or in the indulgence of evil tempers, or if any “corrupt commu
* Ps. xlii. 1, 2.
nication proceed out of your mouth,” you cannot at the same time enjoy communion with God. 1 John i. 6; iii. 21–23. His Spirit is grieved, and withdraws its influence. " Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord, and who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart."* Any sin indulged, raises those fears, doubts, disorders, and tumults in the mind, which make it averse to, and incapable of, fervent affectionate prayer. An instance or two may confirm this remark. St. Paul exhorts us to “pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath or doubting.” I am sure, if you have any Christian experience, you know that it is necessary, that “all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice,” if you would gain the spirit of prayer. An unforgiving temper, also, not only hinders the spirit of devotion, but also prevents the acceptance of your petitions. Our Lord says, “Go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”+ Bishop Taylor, in a beautiful figure, shows the evil effects of anger as an impediment to devotion. “ Anger is a perfect alienation of the mind from prayer, directly contrary to that disposition which makes our prayers acceptable to God. Thus the lark, rising from his bed of grass, soars upward, singing as he rises, but the poor bird is beaten back by the sudden blast of an eastern wind, and his motion made irregular and inconstant, descending more at every breath of the tempest, than it can recover by the libration of its wings, till the little creature is forced to sit down, and pant, and stay till the storm is over, and then it makes a more prosperous flight, and rises still, and sings, as if it had learned music and motion from an angel.” Again; immoderate, or unnecessary indulgence of ease, appetite, sleep, &c. are serious obstacles to the attaining a devotional spirit. The man of self-denial will, like Daniel, (ch. i. 12.) be the man of prayer. Chap. vi. 10. " Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life," is a solemn admonition of the Lord before he gave the charge, “ Watch ye, therefore, and pray always." Our sins are one great reason why our prayers are not oftener heard. “When you spread forth your hands, I
* Ps. xxiv. 3, 4.
† Matt. y. 24.
will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when you make many prayers I will not hear; your hands are full of blood.” Re. member St. John's remark: “If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God; and whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." See farther passages-Ps. iv. 3; xxvi. 6; xxxiv. 15, 17; Prov. viii. 32; James v. 16; John ix. 31. Yet remember, the meaning of these passages is not that we must not pray if we have committed actual sin; for then none would pray; but that we are not to go to our prayers with the love of sin, or with a purpose to go on sinning still. See page 25.*
2. Be not conformed to the world.-We hope that the happy day is coming on when "all the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before him;" but, at present, who can go much into the world, unless his duties call him there, without suffering from it? For a Christian to enter into worldly company and join in vain amusements, is, as if a man were to put a burning torch into water: the flame of devotion will be, must be, extinguished. Those who go into a large manufactory, filled with people and machines, find it difficult, when in the midst of such a scene, to converse with each other, but those who go much into the bustle of company, find it still more difficult to hold converse with God. It is only when compelled to be there in the way of duty, and not otherwise, that they may expect, that, as his special grace preserved Daniel in the spirit of prayer, even in Babylon, so it will preserve them. Being immoderately engaged in worldly business, is another hindrance, filling a man with the cares of this
* Sir Matthew Hale, in his Treatise on the Knowledge of God, well remarks—“A frequent, solemn, and serious use of the duty of prayer, interrupts a custom of sin, by degrees weakens the old man, and will in time make a strangeness between our lusts and our souls. And let a man be sure of these two truths: that as he that comes upon his knees with a secret purpose to hold confederacy with any sin, he shall be the worse, the more hardened, and the more neg. lected by that God which searches the heart; so whosoever he be that comes to his Maker in the integrity of his heart, though sin ad. heres as close to that heart of his, as his skin does to his flesh, shall find that employment will make those lusts that were most dear to him, by degrees to become strange and loose to his soul.”