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will bring him in such a frame of mind as to enable him to join in it with effect; with effect as to his own soul ; with effect as to every object, both public and private, intended by public worship. Wanderings and forgetfulness, remissions and intermissions of attention, there will be ; but these will be fewer and shorter, in proportion as more of this spirit is prevalent within us; and some sincere, some hearty, some deep, some true, and, as we trust, acceptable service will be performed, before we leave the place; some pouring forth of the soul unto God in prayer and in thanksgiving ; in prayer, excited by wants and weaknesses; I fear also, by sins and neglects without number; and in thanksgivings, such as mercies, the most undeserved, ought to call forth from a heart, filled, as the heart of man should be, with a thorough consciousness of dependency and obligation.
Forms of public worship must, by their very nature, be in a great degree general ; that is, must be calculated for the average condition of human and of Christian life : but it is one property of the devotional spirit which we speak of, to give a particularity to our worship, though it be carried on in a congregation of fellow Christians, and expressed in terms which were framed and conceived for the use of all. And it does this, by calling up recollections which will apply most closely, and bring home most nearly to ourselves, those terms and those expressions. For instance, in public worship, we thank God in general terms, that is, we join with the congregation in a general thanksgiving ; but a devout man brings to church the recollection of special and particular mercies, particular bounties, particular providences, particular deliverances, particular relief recently experienced, specially and critically granted in the moment of want or danger, or eminently and super
eminently vouchsafed to us individually. These he bears in his thoughts; he applies as he proceeds; that which was general, he makes close and circumstantial; his heart rises towards God, by a sense of mercies vouchsafed to himself. He does not, however, confine himself to those favours of Providence, which he enjoys above many others, or more than most others ; he does not dwell upon distinctions alone; he sees God in all his goodness, in all his bounty. Bodily ease, for instance, is not less valuable, not less a mercy, because others are at ease, as well as himself. The same of his health, the use of his limbs, the faculties of his understanding. But what I mean is, that, in his mind, he brings to church mercies, in which he is interested, and that the most general expressions of thankfulness attach with him upon particular recollections of goodness, particular subjects of gratitude; so that the holy fervour of his devotion is supported; never wants, nor can want, materials to act upon. It is the office, therefore, of an internal spirit of devotion to make worship personal. We have seen that it will be so with thanksgiving. It will be the same likewise with every other part of divine worship. The confession of sins in our liturgy, and perhaps in all liturgies, is general ; but our sins, alas ! are particular : our conscience not only acknowledges a deplorable weakness and imperfection in the discharge of our duty, but is stung also with remembrances and compunctions, excited by particular offences. When we come, therefore, to confess our sins, let memory do its office faithfully. Let these sins rise up before our eyes. All language is imperfect. Forms, intended for general use, must consist of general terms, and are so far inadequate. They may be rehearsed by the lips with very little of application to our own case. But this a sense of mercies, and a knowledge from whom they proceed, thanksgiving will be a grateful exercise, and not a tedious form. What relates to our sins and wants, though not of the same gratifying nature, though accompanied with deep, nay, with afflicting cause of humiliation and fear, must, nevertheless, be equally interesting, or more so, because it is of equal concernment to us, or of greater. In neither case, therefore, if our duty be performed as it ought to be, will tediousness be perceived. I
say, that the spirit of devotion removes from the worship of God the perception of tediousness, and with that also every disposition to censure or cavil at particular phrases or expressions used in public worship. All such faults, even if they be real, and such observations upon them, are absorbed by the immense importance of the business in which we are engaged. Quickness in discovering blemishes of this sort is not the gift of a pious mind; still less either levity or acrimony in speaking of them.
Moreover, the spirit of devotion reconciles us to repetilions. In other subjects repetition soon becomes tiresome and offensive. In devotion it is different. Deep, earnest, heart-felt devotion, naturally vents itself in repetition. Observe a person racked by excruciating bodily pain ; or a person suddenly struck with the news of some dreadful calamity; or a person labouring under some cutting anguish of soul; and you will always find him breaking out into ejaculations, imploring from God support, mercy, and relief, over and over again, uttering the same prayer in the same words. Nothing, he finds, suits so well the extremity of his sufferings, the urgency of his wants, as a continual recurrence to the same cries, and the same call for divine aid. Our Lord himself, in
his last agony, affords a high example of what we are saying. Thrice he besought his heavenly Father; and thrice he used the same words. Repetition, therefore, is not only tolerable in devotion, but it is natural: it is even dictated by a sense of suffering, and an acuteness of feeling. It is coldness of affection which requires to be enticed and gratified by continual novelty of idea, or expression, or action. The repetitions and prolixity of pharisaical prayers, which our Lord censures, are to be understood of those prayers which run out into mere formality and into great length; no sentiment or affection of the heart accompanying them ; but uttered as a task, from an opinion (of which our Lord justly notices the absurdity), that they should really be heard for their much speaking. Actuated by the spirit of devotion, we can never offend in this way; we can never be the object of this censure.
Lastly, and what has already been intimated, the spirit of devotion will cause our prayers to have an effect upon our practice. For example: if we repeated the confession in our liturgy with a true penitential sense of guilt upon our souls, we should not, day after day, be acknowledging to God our transgressions and neglects, and yet go on exactly in the same manner, without endeavouring to make them less and fewer. We should plainly perceive that this was doing nothing towards salvation; and that, at this rate, we may be sinning and confessing all our lives. Whereas, was the right spirit of confessional piety, viz. thoughtfulness of soul, within us at the time, this would be the certain benefit, especially in the case of an often-repeated sin, that the mind would become more and more concerned, more and more filled with compunction and remorse, so as to be forced into amendment. Even the most heart-felt confession might not immediately do for us all that we could wish: yet, by perseverance in the same, it would certainly in a short time produce its desired effect. For the same reason, we should not time after time pray “that we might thenceforward,” viz. after each time of so praying, “ lead godly, righteous and sober lives,” yet persist, just as usual, in ungodliness, unrighteousness, and intemperance. The thing would be impossible, if we prayed as we ought. So likewise, if real thankfulness of heart accompanied our thanksgivings, we should not pray in vain, “that we might show forth the praises of God, not only with our lips, but in our lives.” As it is, thousands repeat these words without doing a single deed for the sake of pleasing God, exclusive of other motives, or refraining from a single thing they like to do out of the fear of displeasing him. So again, every time we hear the third service at church, we pray “ that God would incline our hearts to keep his commandments;" yet immediately, perhaps, afterwards, allow our hearts and inclinations to wander, without control, to whatever sinful temptation entices them. This, I say, all proceeds from the want of earnestness in our devotions. Strong devotion is an antidote against sin.
To conclude: a spirit of devotion is one of the greatest blessings, and, by consequence, the want of it one of the greatest misfortunes, which a Christian can experience. When it is present, it gives life to every act of worship which we perform ; it makes every such act interesting and comfortable to ourselves. It is felt in our most retired moments, in our beds, our closets, our rides, our walks. It is stirred within us, when we are assembled with our children and servants in family prayer. It leads us to church, to the congre