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proportion as more of this spirit is prevalent within us; and some sincere, some hearty, some deep, some true, and, as we trust, ac. ceptable 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.
All 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 supereminently 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, in
tended 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 will never be so, if the spirit of devotion be within us. A devout mind is exceedingly stirred, when it has sins to confess. None but a hardened sinner can even think of his sins without pain. But when he is to lay them, with supplications for pardon, before his Maker; when he is to expose his heart to God; it will always be with powerful inward feelings of guilt and calamity. It hath been well said of prayer, that prayer will either make a man leave off sinning, or sin will make him leave off prayer.
. And the same is true of confession. If confession be sincere, if it be such, as a right capacity for devotion will make it to be, it will call up our proper and particular sins so distinctly to our view, their guilt, their danger, their end; whither they are carrying us; in what they will conclude; that, if we can return to them again without molestation from our conscience, then religion is not within us. 02
have approached God in his worship, so inef fectually as to ourselves, it is because we have not worshipped him in spirit; we may say of all we have done, “ we drew near with our lips, but our hearts were far from him.”
What we have said concerning thanksgiving and confession is likewise true of prayer universally. The spirit of devotion will apply our prayers to our wants.
In forms of worship, be they ever so well composed, it is impossible to exhibit human wants, otherwise than in general expressions. But devotion will apply them. It will teach every man, in the first place, to know how indigent, how poor a creature, without a continued exercise of mercy and supply of bounty from God, he would be; because when he begins to enumerate his wants, he will be astonished at their multitude. What are we, any of us, but a complication of wants, which we have not in ourselves the power of supplying? But, beside those numerous wants, and that common helplessness, in which we all partake, every man has his own sore, his own grief, his own dificulties ; every man has some distress, which