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is a word of reproach in the mouth of the world. All hidden agencies which are not calculable by science, all preternatural causes which cannot be reduced to a formula, or explained by processes of reason, all precepts and rules of which the direct bearing and consequence is not perceptible, are, to men trained in the service of the world, an imagination and a delusion. Now this does of course destroy all habits of devotion. There can be no life of prayer and communion with the unseen Presence, where the very Presence itself, if not doubted, is clouded and banished from our habitual consciousness. If the unseen world withdraw itself, and all its glorious realities become pale and dubious, how can our hearts open and yearn
, towards it? And such is the state to which the business, traffic, and work of this world may bring us.
But if there be any truth in what has been said before, the blame of this must be wholly our own. We can never come to this state, unless we allow the world to sap and to seduce our hearts away from us. What should have been the token of our humiliation, the chastisement of our spirits, and the discipline of our life, we have converted into a temptation and a snare; a burden to oppress our conscience, and a stimulus to excite our fallen nature. We have merged vur Christianity in the world, and taken its maxims and rules to be the laws of our regenerate life.
Most true it is, that a life in the midst of the world is a life of peculiar danger. Employments, offices, charges, professions, bring great entanglements, doubts, and absorbing occupations. It needs a strong spirit to stem them in safety. To withdraw from the world is a sign not only of a desire for greater perfection, but of a consciousness of our own weakness. Let these, then be our safeguards ; first,
to be thoroughly aware that, in a busy life, there must be manifold temptations; and next, that so far from being a dispensation from higher rules of devotion, we do indeed more truly need them. We need all the retirement we can get from the world to recollcct ourselves, and to measure the deviations of our minds from the law of our Lord's example. We ought thankfully to take all the helps the Church provides for us. It was for the world, and for those who are forced to dwell in it, that the visible Church was set up. Without it, this noisy, importunate, besieging world would soon obliterate from our minds the traces of our unseen home. We ought to mould all our plans and habits of daily work upon the order of the Church, and make secular engagements bend and subject themselves to its sacred order of offices and hours. Daily prayers, the continual admonition of visible rites and tokens of faith, frequent receiving of the holy communion, days of festival, seasons of fasting, necessary as they are for pastors and retired Christians, are still more urgently needed by those whose habitual work brings on daily decays of fervor. They have to strengthen themselves against a multiplied action of the world, in depressing and deteriorating the standard of their inner life. For through our own imperfection, the most lawful and innocent callings become occasions of our own hurt. But this we may entirely believe, that, if we will seek God in our employments, He will convert them into a discipline of perfection; they will help us onward in our course; in the work of the world we shall be sanctified. Even in the unlikeliest duties and seasons, the most secular and remote from a devout life, when all seems dry, parched, and earthly, He will make us to understand that His grace is sufficient for us. He
will fulfil His promise, “ When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water."*
* Isaiah xli. 17, 18.
PRAYER A MARK OF TRUE HOLINESS.
ST. MARK i. 35.
"And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went
out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed."
Tae Evangelists seem especially guided to record, for our instruction, the private devotions of our Lord: they speak of them with a frequency and a particularity which shows how large a portion of His life was spent in prayer to God. We read in one place, “When He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when evening was come, He was there alone."* Again : “ And He withdrew Himself into the wilderness, and prayed.” Again : “And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.”+ And again : “And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glister
+ St. Luke v. 16; vi. 12.
* St. Matt. xiv. 23.
Now all these things bring vividly before us His habitual communing with His heavenly Father, before daybreak, all night long, in solitary places, on the mountain, in the wilderness; they teach us that a large part of His earthly life He spent in prayer. Now, there are many points of instruction suggested to us by this ; but that to which I desire to refer is, the mysterious fact that He did 'pray Who is One with the Father and the Holy Ghost. Why should He who was sinless, perfect, and in need of nothing, pray? In one word, because, although as God He hears the prayers of men, yet as Man it was an act proper to His true humanity.
Let us consider, then, the reasons why in this He must needs have been as we are.
1. First of all, without doubt, He prayed for the furtherance of that work which His Father had given Him to do. It is remarkable, that the occasions of retirement and prayer mentioned by the Evangelists are those which precede the miracle of walking on the water, the going forth to preach, the choice of the apostles, the transfiguration, the temptation of Peter, and His own betrayal in the garden. Thus far His prayers seem to have reference to His work; and He Himself declared of the lunatic whom His disciples could not heal, “ this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”+ It is plain, then, that His praying was no mere conformity to our necessities, no economy to serve only as an example for us; but a real supplication for such things as the work He had taken in hand demanded. What those things may be, it is not for us to imagine. For Himself, nothing could be needed. There was in Him virtue to move mountains, and to suspend the laws of the world. It may be, that His prayers were for those on whom and in * St. Luke ix. 28, 29.
+ St. Matt. xvii, 21.