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right hand of God, and doing that for ourselves on earth which our blessed Saviour is perpetually doing for us in heaven. This reason of prayer is, perhaps, not much considered; yet it certainly contains a most powerful motive to it. For who, that considers his redemption as now carrying on by an intercession in heaven, can think himself so agreeable to God, so like his Saviour, as when the constancy of his own prayers bears some resemblance to that never-ceasing intercession which is made above? This shows us also, that we are most of all to desire those prayers which are offered up at the altar, where the body and blood of Christ are joined with them. For as our prayers are only acceptable to God through the merits of Jesus Christ; so we may be sure that we are praying to God in the most prevailing way, when we thus pray in the name of Christ, and plead his merits in the highest manner that we can.
Devotion may be considered either as an exercise of public or private prayers at set times and occasions, or as a temper of the mind, a state and disposition of the heart, which is rightly affected with such exercises. Now external acts of devotion are like other external actions, very liable to falseness, and are only so far good and valuable as they proceed from a right disposition of heart and mind. Zealous professions of friendship are but the more abominable hypocrisy for being often repeated, unless there be an equal zeal in the heart; so solemn prayers, rapturous devotions, are but repeated hypocrisies, unless the heart and mind be conformable to them. Since, therefore, it is the heart only that is devout; since the regularity and fervency of the heart is the regularity and fervency of devotion; I shall consider devotion chiefly in this respect, as it is a state and temper of the heart. For it is in this sense only, that Christians are called to a constant state of devotion; they are not to be always on their
knees in acts of prayer, but they are to be always in the state and temper of devotion.
Friendship does not require us to be always waiting upon our friends in external services; these offices have their times and seasons of intermission; it is only the service of the heart, the friendship of the mind, that is never to intermit; it is not to be gin and end, as external services do, but it is to persevere in a constancy like the motion of our heart, or the beating of our pulse. It is just so in devotion; prayers have their hours, their beginning and ending; but that turn of mind, that disposition of the heart towards God, which is the life and spirit of prayer, is to be as constant and lasting as our own life and spirit.
The repeating of a creed at certain times is an act of faith; but that faith, which overcometh the world, stays neither for times nor seasons, but is a living principle of the soul, that is always beliexing, trusting, and depending upon God. In the same manner verbal prayers are acts of devotion; but that prayer which saveth, which openeth the gates of heaven, stops not at forms and manuals of devotion, but is a language of the soul, a judgment of the heart, which worships, adores, and delights - in God, at all times and seasons.
The necessity and reason of prayer is, like all other duties of piety, founded in the nature of God, and the nature of man. It is founded in the nature of God, as he is the sole fountain and cause of all happiness ; it is founded in the nature of man, as he is weak and helpless, and full of wants. So that prayer is an earnest application or ascent of the heart to God, as to the sole cause of all happiness. He therefore that most truly feels the misery, corruption, and weakness of his own nature, who is most fully convinced that a relief from all these disorders, and a true happiness, is to be found in God alone; he who is most fully convinced of these two
truths is most fully possessed of the spirit of prayer. There is but one way, therefore, to arrive at a true state of devotion; and that is, to get right notions of ourselves, and of the divine nature; that having a full view of the relation we bear to God, our souls may as constantly aspire to him as they as constantly aspire after happiness. This also shows us the absolute necessity of all those fore-mentioned doctrines of humility, self-denial, and renunciation of the world. For if devotion is founded in a sense of the poverty, misery, and weakness of our nature, then nothing can more effectually destroy the spirit of devotion than pride, vanity, and indulgence of any kind. These things stop the breath of prayer, and as necessarily extinguish the flame of devotion, as water extinguishes common fire.
If prayer is also founded in right notions of God; in believing him to be the sole fountain and cause of all our happiness; then every thing that takes this truth out of our minds, that makes us less sensible of it, makes us so far less capable of devotion; so that worldly cares, vain pleasures, false satisfactions, are all to be renounced, that we may be able to pray. For the spirit of prayer has no farther hold of us, than so far as we see our wants, imperfections, and weakness, and likewise the infinite fullness and all-sufficiency of God; when we thoroughly feel these two great truths, then are we in the true spirit of prayer. Would you, therefore, be in the state and temper of devotion, you must practise all those ways of life that may humble you in your own sight; you must forbear all those indulgences and vanities which blind your heart, and give you false notions of yourself; you must seek that way of life, accustom yourself to such practices, as may best convince you of the vanity of the world, and the littleness of every thing but God. This is the only foundation of prayer. When you do not enough see either your own littleness, or the greatness of God, when you either seek for pleasure in yourself, or think that it is any where to be found, except in God, you put yourself out of a state of devotion. For you can desire nothing but what you think you want; and you can desire it only in such a degree as you feel the want of it. It is certain therefore, that whatever lessens or abates the feeling of your own wants, whatever takes you from looking to God, as the only possible relief of them, so far lessens and abates the spirit and fervour of your devotion.
We sometimes exhort people to fervour in devotion; but this can only mean as to the outward acts of it: for to exhort people to be fervent in devotion, as that implies a temper of the heart, is to as little purpose as to exhort people to be merry, or to be sorry. For these tempers always follow the judgments and opinions of our minds; when we perceive things to be as we like them, then we are merry; when we find things in a contrary state, then we are sorry.
It comes to pass after the same manner in devotion; bid a man be fervent in devotion; tell him it is an excellent temper; he knows no more how to go about it than how to be merry, because he is bid to be so. Stay till old age, till sickness, misfortunes, or the approach of death, has convinced him that he has nothing good in himself; that there is nothing valuable in the world; that all that is good, or great, or glorious, is in God alone; and then he will find himself as disposed to devotion, and zealous desires after God, as the man is disposed to cheerfulness, who sees things in that state in which he would have them to be. So that the one and the only way to be devout, is to see and feel our own weakness, the vavity of the world, and greatness of God, as dying men see and feel them. It is as impossible to be devout without seeing things in this view, as it is impossible to be cheerful without perceiving something in our condition that is according to our mind, Hence therefore we may learn to admire the wisdom and divinity of the Christian religion, which calls all its members to humility, self-denial, and a renunciation of worldly tempers, as a necessary foundation of piety and devotion. It was in these practices that our Saviour first instituted his religion; it was on these conditions, that the apostles embraced it, and taught it to others; it was in these doctrines that the primitive Christians became such worthy followers of our Saviour and his apostles. These doctrines are still in the Gospel, and till they are to be found in our lives we shall never find our selves in a state of devotion. For I must again repeat what my reader cannot too much reflect upon,
that since devotion is an earnest application of the soul to God, as the only cause and fountain of happiness, that it is impossible for the soul to have this desire, without having such reasons to produce and support it, as are necessary to produce and support other tempers of the mind.
Now it is impossible for a man to grieve when he finds his condition answering his desires, or to be over-joyed when he finds his state to be full of misery; yet this is as possible, as consistent with our nature, as for a man to aspire after, and delight in God as his only happiness, whilst he is delighting in himself, and the vanity of the world. So that to pretend to devotion without great humility, and an entire renunciation of all worldly témpers, is to pretend to impossibilities; it is as if a man should pretend to be cheerful whilst he is in vexation and impatience; he must first bring himself to a state of satisfaction and contentment, and then cheerfulness will flow from it; so he that would be devout, must first be humble, have a full view of his own miseries and wants, and the vanity of the world, and then his soul will be full of desires after God. A proud, or vain, or worldly-minded man, may use a