« PreviousContinue »
Does it seek to remove all that sluggish lukewarmness of soul which damps the ardour of devotion, and chills the seraphic glow of communion with God ? Does it labour to eradicate from the breast all that grovelling and undue attachment to this world, to its honours, its wealth, its business, or its pleasures, which is the reproach and disgrace of too many who are called Christians; which is so great a stumbling-block in the way of unbelievers ; which strengthens the cause of mammon, while it weakens that of Christ ; which sullies the lustre of Christian example, palsies the arm of Christian exertion, keeps the church of God in its infancy, and, with cruel and cold-hearted delay, retards the arrival of its bright, millenial glory? Yes, my Christian brethren, I would sain press it upon our consciences to say, whether our contrition for our past cold and sluggish indolence in the cause of God be indeed sincere. Does it lead to a thorough reformation; to active and zealous industry in his service ; to a holy contempt of the vanities of this life ; to frequent aspirations of soul for the
i purity and happiness of the heavenly state ? And with this zeal for the Lord of Hosts, with this elevation of mind above the world, do we make it our daily business, in some way or other, to add our humble efforts, a portion of our time, or talents, or conversation, or influence, or wealth-to the great mass of noble exertion which Christians, in our own and other countries, are making for the building up of the Redeemer's kingdom upon the earth ?
2. In the second place, Is this spirit of reformation not only radical but permanent ?-Does it warm and animate our path toward heaven with a bright and constant ray ; or does it cast over it at distant intervals, a sickly and flickering light, just serving to render the darkness of our spiritual state visible ? To speak without a figure, is the struggle against sin habitual ? Is the aim at perfection unremitting ? Is the often recurring temptation watchfully resisted ; the secret and easily besetting sin constantly and manfully struggled with ? Above all, is the Source of all genuine repentance, of all thorough and permanent reformation—the Holy Spirit of God-sought for by frequent and importunate supplication at the Throne of Grace; that while we are working out our salvation with fear and trembling, God would be pleased, by his energy, to work in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure ? With such inquiries, my brethren, let us try the sincerity of our penitence; not relying too much for consolation on any past or present sorrow for our guilt ; not building our hopes of heaven upon mere frames and feelings of mind; above all, not trusting to any outward observance of the forms and ceremonies of religion, but remembering what our Saviour hath said, that if we love him we shall keep his commandments; let us look to the reformation of our hearts and lives for the best proof of our spiritual safety. And let us ever bear in mind for our consolation and support, that if, by this patient continuance in welldoing, we seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, in due time we shall reap, if we faint not, eternal life.
MATTHEW vi. 10.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it
is in heaven.
PRAYER is not only a reasonable, but a most delightful duty. It is the acknowledgment of our dependence on God. It is the cry of the poor and needy to Him who is the Fountain of all good and happiness. It is the overflowing of a grateful heart to the Author of all its mercies and privileges. It is the ladder which connects earth and heaven, and on which descend to the pious soul all needful communications of wisdom and grace. What Christian has not learned its efficacy, and felt its consolation ? What Christian, too, has not often been ready to exclaim with Elihu of old, “ Teach us what we shall say unto God; for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness ?" This difficulty it was which induced the disciples of Jesus Christ to ask him to teach them to pray, as John did his disciples. His instruction we have on record ; and it exhibits to
! us a guide and model of devotion alike remarkable
for its comprehensiveness and simplicity. It is valuable, also, as containing an exhibition of the most prominent graces of the true disciple of Christ. For one great object of prayer is to produce those holy affections and desires which should adorn the heart that aspires to become a fit temple for the residence of the Holy Ghost. Our Saviour, therefore, teaches us to pray for those things which are most necessary to keep alive within us the temper of habitual love and obedience to God, and thus enforces the necessity of that connexion which must always be preserved between our devotions and our conduct. Alas! how prone are we to forget this truth, and to imagine, that if we perform faithfully a certain circle of what are termed religious duties, if we offer up our prayers with fervour and importunity, it is of little moment what is the character of our heart and deportinent in the common concerns and transactions of life. But how great, in this respect, are our mistake and guilt ? Holiness is the same, whether it glow in the devotions of the seraph, or warm the breast of him who bestows a cup of water on the humblest disciple. The spirit of prayer is the same spirit which should animate the Christian at all times. For he is commanded to“ pray without ceasing ;" that is, to preserve under all circumstances, a devotional frame of mind
one which will enable him, let his pursuits and business be what they may, to raise his heart upward, and to commune with his Father who is in heaven. The nature of this devotional spirit is