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such means as are suited to such a state of weakness, dulness, and inconstancy. He that goes to his closet in a hurry, only to repeat a short form of words, may pray all his life without any devotion: and perhaps he had been a devout man long ago, if it had ever entered into his head, that meditation and continuance in prayer are necessary to excite devotion. If a man was to make it a law to himself to meditate a while before he began his prayers; if he was to force his mind to think what prayer is, what he prays for, and to whom he prays; if he shoull again make it a rule to stop in some part of his prayers, to ask his heart whether it really prays, or to let his soul rise up in silence unto God; prayers thus performed, thus assisted by meditation and continuance, would, in all likelihood, soon render the mind truly devout. It is not intended by this to impose any particular method upon all people; it is only to show is, that there are certain means of assisting our devotion; some rules, though little in themselves, yet of great use to render our minds attentive and fervent in our applications to God. It is the business therefore of every sincere Christian to be as wise as he can in these arts and methods of self-government. As we ourselves know most of the falseness of our own hearts, of the temper of our minds, and the occasion of our defects; so if we would but be so wise, as to think the amendment of our hearts the best and greatest work that we can do, every one's reason would help him to, such useful rules as had a peculiar fitness to his own state. Self-reflection is the shortest and most certain way of becoming truly wise, and truly pious..
There are two seasons of our hearts, which, if we would but reflect upon, we might get much knowledge of ourselves, and learn how to assist our devotion; I mean the time when we are most affected with our devotions; and the time when we are most udisposed to pray.
Both these seasons equally
serve to instruct us in the knowledge of ourselves, and how to govern the motions of our hearts.
Reflect with yourself how it was with you; what circumstances you was in; what had happened to you; what you had been doing; what thoughts you had in your head at such a time, when you found yourself so affected with your devotions. Now if you find out what state you was then in, when you was disposed to pray so fervently, then you have found out à certain way of raising your devotion at another time. For do but put yourself in the same state, recal the same thoughts, and do as you had then been doing, and you will find the same causes will again produce the same effects, and you will be again in the same temper of devotion. If you was then to put down in writing some short remembrance of the chief things, that ever raised your theart to fervency of prayer, so that you might have recourse to a full view of them, as often as your mind wanted such assistance, you would soon find a benefit that would well reward your labour. On the contrary, whenever you have found yourself very much indisposed for prayer, reflect with yourself what state you was then in; what had happened unto you; what thoughts you had in your head; what passions were then awaked; what you had been doing, or were intending to do; for when you have found out the state that you was then in, you have found out the real hinderances of your devotion, and are made certain what things you are to avoid, in order to keep yourself in a temper of devotion.
If you was here again to make short rem embrances in writing of the chief things which, at-such itimes, rendered you indisposed for prayer, and oblige yourself frequently to read them, and reflect upon them; you would, by this means, set a mark upon every thing that did you any hurt, and have a constant faithful information of what ways of life
you are most to avoid. If, in examining your state, you should find, that sometimes impertinent risits, foolish conversation, or a day idly spent in civil compliances with the humours and pleasures of other people, has rendered your mind dull and indisposed, and less affected with dovotion, than at other times; then you will have found, that impertinent visits, and ceremonious compliances in spending our time, are not little indifferent things, but are to be numbered among those things which have a great effect upon our minds, and such as are to be daily watched and guarded against by all those who are so wise as to desire to be daily alive under God in the spirit and temper of devotion.
I pass now to another observation upon the benefit of frequent prayers.
Thirdly; Frequent and continued prayer is the best remedy against the power of sin. I do not mean as it procures the divine grace and assistance; but as it naturally convinces, instructs, and fortifies the mind against all sin. For every endeavour to pray, is an endeavour to feel the truth of our pray, ers; to convince our minds of the reasonableness and fitness of those things that are the subject of our prayers; so that he who prays most, is one that inost labours to convince his heart and mind of the guilt, deformity, and misery of sin. Prayer therefore, considered merely as an exercise of the heart upon such subjects, is the most certain way to destroy
the power of sin; because so far as we pray, so far we renew our convictions, enlighten our minds, and fortify our hearts by fresh resolutions. We are therefore to consider the necessity and be. nefit of prayer, not only as it is that which God hears, but also as it is that which, by its natural tendency, alters and corrects our opinions and judg. ments, and forms our hearts to such ways of thinking as are suitable to the matter of our prayers
. Now, this is an unanswerable argument for freq quency and continuance in prayer; since, if prayer at all convinces the mind, frequency and continuance in prayer must be the most certain way to establish the mind in a steady well-grounded state of conviction. They therefore, who are for short prayers, because they suppose that God does not need much entreaty, ought also to show, that the heart of man does not need assistance of much prayer; that it is so regular and uniform in its tendency to God; so bull of right judgments and good motions, as not tó need that strength, and light, and help, which arises from much praying. For unless this be the state of our hearts, we shall want much prayer to move and awake ourselves, though but little was necessary to excite the goodness of God. If therefore men would consider prayer, not only as it is an invocation of God, but also as it is an excrcise of holy thoughts, as it is an endeavour to feel, and be affected with the great truths of religion, they would soon see, that though God is so good as not to need much calling upon; yet that man is so weak as to need much assistance, and to be under a constant necessity of that help, and light, and improvement which arises from praying much.
It is perhaps for this reason, that God promises to give to those who are importunate, and ask without ceasing, to encourage us to practise that exercise, which is the most natural cure of the disorders of our souls. If God does not give to us at our first asking; if he only gives to those who are in portunate: it is not because our prayers make any change in God, but because our importunity has made a change in ourselves: it has altered our hearts, and rendered us proper objects of God's gifts and graces. When therefore we would know how much we ought to pray, we must consider how much our hearts want to be altered, and remember that the great work of prayer, is to work upon ourselves; it is not to move and affect God, but it is to move and affect our own hearts, and fill them with such tempers as God delights to reward.
Prayer is never so good a preservation against sin; it never so corrects and amends the heart, as when we extend it to all the particulars of our state, enumerating all our wants, intirmities, and disorders; not because God needs to be informed of them, but because, by this means, we inform ourselves, and make our hearts in the best manner acquainted with our true condition. When our prayers are thus particular, descending to all the circumstances of our condition, they become, by this meanis, a faithful glass to us, and so often as we pray, so often we see ourselves in a true light.
This is the most likely means to raise in us proper affections, to make us feel the force and truth of such things, as are the subject of our devotions. Do not be content therefore with confessing yourself to be a sinner, or with praying against sin in general, for this will but a little afect your mind, it will only show you to yourself in such a state as all mankind are in; but if you find yourself out, if you confess and lay open the guilt of your own particua dar sins, if you pray constantly against such particular sins as you find yourself most subject to, the frequent sight of your own sins, and your constant deploring of their guilt, will give your prayers entrance into your heart, and put you upon measures how to amend your life.
If you confess yourself only to be a sinner, you only confess yourself to be a man; but when you describe and confess your own particular guilt, then you find cause for your own particular sorrow, then you give your prayers all the power they can have, to affect and wound your hearts. In like manner, when you pray for God's grace, do not be satisfied with a general petition, but make your prayers suitable to your defects; and continue to ask for such gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit as you find