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(to say nothing of the consideration, how much less acceptable his service may be,) and for devotion itself, he wants one satisfactory evidence of his heart being right towards God. A further progress in religion will give him this evidence, but it is not yet attained: as yet, therefore, there is a great deficiency.
The taste and relish for devotion, of which we are speaking, is what good men, in all ages, have felt strongly. It appears in their history: it appears in their writings. The book of Psalms, in particular, was, great part of it, composed under the impression of this principle. Many of the psalms are written in the truest spirit of devotion, and it is one test of the religious frame of our own minds to observe whether we have a relish for these compositions; whether our hearts are stirred as we read them; whether we perceive in them words alone, a mere letter, or so many grateful gratifying sentiments towards God, in unison with what we ourselves feel, or have before felt, And what we are saying of the book of Psalms, is true of many religious books, that are pnt N 2
into our hands, especially books of devotional religion: wbich, though they be human compositions, and nothing more, are of a similar cast with the devotional writings of scripture, and excellently calculated for their purpose. We read of aged persons, who passed the greatest part of their time in acts of devotion, and passed it with enjoyment. “Anna, the prophetess, was of great age, which departed not from the temple but served God with fastings and prayers, night and day.” The first christians so far as can be gathered from their history in the acts of the Apostles and the Epistles, as well as from the subsequent accounts, that are left of them, took great delight in exercises of devotion. These seemed to form, indeed, the
* Amongst these I particularly recommend the prayers and devotions annexed to the new Whole Duty of Man. Bishop Burnet, in speaking of such kind of books, very truly says, “By the frequent reading of these books, by the relish that one has in them, by the delight they give, and the effects they produce, a man will plainly perceive, whether his soul is made for divine matters or not; what suitableness there is between him and them, and whether he is yet touched with such a sense of religion, as to be capable of dedicating himself to it."
principal principal satisfaction of their lives in this world. “ Continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread," that is, celebrating the holy communion, from house to house, they eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God.” In this spirit christians set out, finding the greatest gratification, they were capable of, in acts and exercises of devotion. A great deal of what is said in the new Testament, by St. Paul in particular, about“ rejoicing in the Lord, rejoicing in the Holy Ghost, rejoicing in hope, rejoicing in consolation, rejoicing in themselves, as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing,” refer to the pleasure and the high and spiritual comfort, which they found in religious exercises. Much, I fear, of this spirit is fled. There is a coldness in our devotions, which argues a decay of religion amongst us. Is it true that men, in these days, perform religious exercises as frequently as they ought? or as those did, who have gone before us, in the christian course? that is one question to be asked: but there is also another question of still greater importance, viz. do
they find in these performances that gratification, which the first and best disciples of the religion actually found? which they ought to find, and which they would find, did they possess the taste and relish, concerning which we are discoursing, and which if they do not possess, they want one great proof of their heart being right towards God.
If the spirit of prayer, as it is sometimes called, if the taste and relish for devotion, if a devotional frame of mind be within us, it will shew itself in the turn and cast of our meditations, in the warmth, and earnestness, and frequency of our secret applications to God in prayer; in the deep, unfeigned, heart-piercing, heart-sinking sorrow of our confessions and our penitence; in the sincerity of our gratitude and of our praise; in our admiration of the divine bounty to his creatures; in our sense of particular mercies to ourselves. We shall pray much in secret. We shall address ourselves to God of our own accord, in our walks, our closet, our bed. Form, in these addresses, will be nothing. Every thing will come from
the heart. We shall feed the flame of devotion by continually returning to the subject. No man, who is endued with the taste and relish we speak of, will have God long out of his mind. Under one view or other, God cannot be long out of a devout mind. “Neither was God in all his thoughts,” is a true description of a complete dereliction of religious principle: but it can, by no possibility, be the case with a man, who has the spirit of devotion, or any portion of that spirit within him.
But it is not in our private religion alone, that the effect and benefit of this principle is perceived. The true taste and relish, we so much dwell upon, will bring a man to the public worship of God; and what is more, 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