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more dim, and we shall settle in the worst and most hopeless of all conditions ; the last condition, I will venture to say,
in which any man living would wish his son, or any one whom he loved, and for whose happiness he was anxious, to be placed ; a life of confirmed vice and dissoluteness; founded in a formal renunciation of religion.
He that has to preach Christianity to persons in this state, has to preach to stones. He must not expect to be heard, either with complacency or seriousness, or patience, or even to escape contempt and derision. Habits of thinking are fixed by habits of acting; and both too solidly fixed to be moved by human persuasion. God in his mercy, and by his providences, as well as by his spirit, can touch and soften the heart of stone. And it is seldom
perhaps, that, without some strong, and it may be, sudden impressions of this kind, and from this source, serious sentiments ever penetrate dispositions hardened in the manner which we have here described.
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the
true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit ; and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth.
TASTE and relish for religious exer
cise, or the want of it, is one of the marks and tokens by which we may judge whether our heart be right towards God or not. God is unquestionably an object of devotion to every creature which he has made capable of devotion ; consequently, our minds can never be right towards him, unless they be in a devotional frame. It cannot be disputed, but that the author and giver of all things, upon whose will and whose mercy we depend for every thing we have, and for every thing we look for, ought to live in the thoughts and affections of his rational creatures.
Through thee have I been holden up ever since I was born; thou art he that took me from my mother's womb; my praise shall be always of thee.” If there be such things as first sentiments towards God, these words of the Psalmist express them. That devotion to God is a duty, stands upon the same proof as that God exists. But devotion is an act of the mind strictly. In a certain sense, duty to a fellow-creature may be discharged if the outward act be performed, because the benefit to him depends upon the act. Not so with devotion. It is altogether the operation of the mind. God is a spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit, that is, in mind and thought. The devotion of the mind may be, will be, ought to be, testified and accompanied by outward performances and expressions : but, without the mind going along with it, no form, no, solemnity can
avail, as a service to God.
It is not so much a question under what mode men worship their Maker ; but this is the
question, whether their mind, and thoughts, and affections, accompany the mode which they adopt or not. I do not say, that modes of worship are indifferent things ; for certainly one mode may be more rational, more edifying, more pure than another; but they are indifferent, in comparison with the question, whether the heart attend the worship, or be estranged from it.
These two points, then, being true; first, that devotion is a duty ; secondly, that the heart must participate to make any thing we do devotion ; it follows, that the heart cannot be right toward God, unless it be possessed with a taste and relish for his service, and for what relates to it.
many undoubtedly do, attend upon acts of religious worship, and even ifrom religious motives, yet, at the same time, without this taste and relish of which we are speaking. Religion has no
sávour for them. I do not allude to the case of those who attend upon the public worship of the church, or of their communion, from compliance with custom, out of regard to station, for example's sake merely, from habit merely; still less to the case of those who have particular worldly views in so doing. I lay the case of such persons, for the present, out of the question ; and I consider only the case of those, who, knowing and believing the worship of God to be a duty, and that the wilful neglect of this, as of other duties, must look forward to future punishment, do join in worship from a principle of obedience, from a consideration of those consequences which will follow disobedience; from the fear indeed of God, and the dread of his judgments (and so far from motives of religion), yet without any taste or relish for religious exercise itself. That is the case I am considering. It is not for us to presume to speak harshly of any conduct, which proceeds, in any manner, from a regard to God, and the expectation of a future judgment. God, in his Scriptures, holds out to man terrors, as well as promises ; pu