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be the surest means to augment our love to God.
We gradually cease to love a benefactor of whom
we cease to think The frequent recollection would
warm our affections, and we should more cordial-
ly devote our lives to him to whom we should more
frequently consecrate our hearts. The apostle


therefore inculcates prayer, not only as an act, but
as a frame of mind.

In all his writings effectual prayer uniformly
supposes accompanying preparatory virtue. Pray-
er draws all the Christian graces into its focus.
It draws Charity, followed by her lovely train — of
forbearance with faults, forgiveness of injuries,
pity for errors, and relieving of wants. It draws
Repentance, with her holy sorrows, her pious reso-
lutions, her self-distrust. It attracts Faith, with
her elevated eye — Hope, with her grasped anchor
— Beneficence, with her open hand — Zeal, looking
far and wide to serve — Humility, with introverted
eye, looking at home. Prayer, by quickening
these graces in the heart, warms them into life,
fits them for service, and dismisses each to its ap-
propriate practice. Prayer is mental virtue : vir-
tue is spiritual action. The mould into which
genuine prayer casts the soul, is not effaced by the
suspension of tlie act, but retains some touches of
t]ie impression till the act is repeated.

Praj'er, divested of tlie love of God, will obtain
nothing, because it asks nothing cordially. It is
only the interior sentiment that gives life and
spirit to devotion. To those who possess this,
prayer is not only a support, but a solace : to those
who want it, it is not only an insipid task, but a
religious penalty. Our apostle everywhere shows
that purity of heart, resignation of spirit, peace
and joy in believing, can, by no other expedient,
be maintained in life, activity, and vigor. Prayer
so circumstanced is the appointed means for draw-
ing down the blessing we solicit, and the pardon
we need.



If there exist a Supreme Being, the Creator of
the world, no consequence appears more natural
and direct than this, that he ought to be worship-
ped by his creatures with every outward expres-
sion of submission and honor. We need only
appeal to every man's heart, whether this be not a
l^rinciple which carries along with it its own obli-
gation, that to Him who is the fountain of our life
and the Father of our mercies ; to Him who has
raised up that beautiful structure of the universe
in which we dwell, and where we are surrounded
with so many blessings and comforts ; solemn ac-
knowledgments of gratitude should be made,
praises and prayers should be offered, and all
suitable marks of dependence on him be expressed.
— This obligation extends beyond the silent and
secret sentiments of our hearts. Besides private
devotion, it naturally leads to associations for
public worship; to open and declared professions
of respect for the Deity. Where blessings are re-
ceived in common, an obligation lies upon the
community, jointly to acknowledge them. Sincere
gratitude is always of an open and diffusive nature.
It loves to poc.r itself forth ; to give free vent to its
emotions ; and, before the world, to acknowledge
and honor a benefactor.

So consonant is this to the natural sentiments of
mankind, that all the nations of the earth have, as
with one consent, agreed to institute some forms
of worship ; to h.old meetings at certain times in
honor of their deities. Survey the societies of men
in their rudest state ; explore the African deserts,
the wilds of America, or the distant islands of the
ocean ; and you will find that over all the earth


some religious ceremonies have obtained. You
will everywhere trace, in one form or other, the
temple, the priest, and the offering. The preva-
lence of the most absurd superstitions furnishes
this testimony to the truth, that in tlie hearts of all
men the principle is engraved of worship being
due to that invisible Power who rules the world. —
Herein consists the great excellency of the Chris-
tian religion, that it hath instructed us in the
simple and spiritual nature of that worship. Dis-
encumbered of idle and unmeaning ceremonies,
its ritual is pure and worthy of a Divine Author.
Its positive institutions are few in number, most
significant of spiritual things, and directly condu-
cive to good life, and practice. How inexcusable
then are we, if, placed in such happy circum-
stances, the sense of those obligations to the pub-
lic worship of God shall be obliterated among us
which the light of nature has inculcated, in some
measure, on the most wild and barbarous nations !
The refinements of false philosophy have indeed
suggested this shadow of objection, that God is
too great to stand in need of any external service
from his creatures ; that our expressions of praise
and honor are misplaced with respect to him who
is above all honor and all praise ; that in his sight,
the homage we seek to pay must appear contempt-
ible ; and is therefore in itself superfluous and

trifling. But who hath taught those vain rea-

soners that all expressions of gratitude and honor
towards a superior become unsuitable, merely be-
cause that superior needs not any returns ? Were
they ever indebted to one whose favors they had
it not in their power to repay ; and did they, on
that account, feel themselves let loose from every
obligation to acknowledge and to praise their


benefactor ? On the contrary, the more disinter-
ested Ills beneficence was, did not gratitude, in any
ingenuous mind, burn with the greater ardor, and
prompt them the more eagerly to seize every op-
portunity of publicly testifying the feelings of

their hearts ? Almighty God, it is true, is too

great to need their service or homage. But he is
also too good not to accept it when it is the native
expression of a gratefol and generous mind. If
pride and self-sufficiency stifle all sentiments of
dependence on our Creator ; if levity and attach-
ment to worldly pleasures render us totally neg-
lectful of expressing our thankfulness to him for
his blessings ; do we not hereby discover such a
want of proper feeling, such a degree of hardness
and corruption in our aifections, as shows us to be
immoral and unworthy ; and must justly expose
us to the high displeasure of Heaven ? On the
contrary, according to every notion which we
can form of the Father of the universe, must it
not be acceptable to him to behold his creatures
properly affected in heart towards their great
Benefactor ; assembling together to express in
acts of worship that gratitude, love, and reverence
which they owe him ; and thus nourishing and
promoting in one anotlier an affectionate sense of
his goodness ? Are not such dispositions, and
such a behavior as this, intimately connected with
all virtue ?

O come, let us worship and bow doivn ! let us
kneel before the Lord our Maker. For he is our
God ; and we are the flock of his pasture. Enter
into his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts
with jtraise. The prayer of the upright is his de-
light. It Cometh before him as incense, and the
uplifting of their hands as the evening sacriflce.



When we survey the general state of mankind,
we find them continually immersed in worldly
affairs ; busied alsout providing the necessaries of
life, occupied in the pursuit of their pleasures, or
eagerly prosecuting the advancement of their in-
terests. In such a situation of tilings, a small
measure of reflection might convince any one that
without some returns of sacred days, and some
solemn calls to public worship, it were impossible to
preserve in the world any sense of objects so for-
eign to the general current of thought as an in-
visible Governor and a future state. If it be of
importance to the peace and good order of society
that there should prevail among men the belief of
One in the heavens, who is the protector of righte-
ousness and the avenger of crimes ; if it be of im-
portance that they be taught to look forward to a
day of judgment, Avhcn they are to be brouglit to
account for their most secret actions, and eternally
rewarded or punished according as their conduct
has been good or evil ; if such principles as these,
I say, be of consequence to the public welfare,
they certainly enforce the authority of public
worship, and prove the necessity of religious in-

I speak now particularly with a view to the
multitude, the great mass and body of the people.
We all know how seldom, from education or pri-
vate instruction, they have the advantage of de-
riving sentiments of religion or morality. Early
obliged to labor for their bread, they would remain
all their days in gross ignorance of every moral
or sacred principle, were it not for those public
assemblies in which they hear of God, and Christ,


and judgment, and heaven, and liell. Shut up
those temples to which they resort with reverence ;
exclude them from tJie opportunities they now
possess of receiving' religious instruction, and im-
bibing religious ideas ; and wliat can you expect
them to become ? No otlier than a ferocious rab-
ble, who, set free from checks of conscience and
fears of divine vengeance, would be prone to every
outrage which they could commit with impunity.
It is well known tiiat in the early ages of the
world, sages and legislators, who endeavored to
tame and to associate the barbarous hordes of men,
found it necessary fjr this purpose to have re^
course to religion. By bringing tlic rude multi-
tudes to worsliip together, and at stated times and
places to join in hymns and songs to their deities,
they gradually' restrained them from violence, and
trained them to subordination and civilized life.

During the progress of society in after periods,
religious assemblies at church continue, I am per-
suaded, to have a very cojisiderable influence on the
civilization and improvement of the people. Even
independent of effect upon their moral principles,
by leading numbers of them to meet together in an
orderly way and in their most decent appearance,
tliey tend to humanize and polish their manners.
They strengthen the social connexions, and pro-
mote friendly intercourse among those who are in
the same neighborhood, and in the same lines of
life. It must, at. the same time, be agreeable to
every human mind to think that one day in seven
is allotted for rest to the poor from their daily
labors, and for such enjoyments of ease and com-
fort as their station affords. It is the only day
which gives them occasion to feel themselves as
belonging to the same class of beings with tlieir


superiors ; when joining with them in the same
acts of worship, and rccog-nizing- a common Lord.
Amidst those distinctions whicli tlic difference of
ranks necessarily introduces into liuman society,
it is surely fit that there be some occasions when
man can meet with man as a brother, in order
that the pride of the great may be checked, and
the low may be taught that if they discharge
properly their appointed part, they have reason to
expect from tlie Lord of tlie universe the same re-
wards with tlie rich and the mighty.

It will, I believe, be generally admitted that
forms of public worship and means of religious
instruction are important, on several accounts, for
the body of tlie people, and belong to the mainte-
nance of public safety and order. But many who
admit this are apt to think that to the common
people alone they may be left. To persons of
liberal education and enlarged minds, what bene-
fit can arise from hearing what they already know ;
and what, perhaps, is to be inculcated on them by
those who arc of inferior capacity to themselves ?

Admitting this plea of superiority which their

vanity forms, and setting aside for the present any
personal obligations tliey are under to worship
God, I must ask such persons how they can expect
that religious assemblies will be long respected
by the lower ranks of men, if by men of rank and
education they arc discountenanced and forsaken ?
Do not they know that those lower ranks are ready
to copy the manners and to follow the example of
their superiors in all things ; but assuredly in
nothing more than in what appears to set them
free from restraint, and to gratify licentiousness ?
While they acknowledge the importance and even
the necessity of public religion to certain classes


of men, do they nevertheless contrihute by their
beliavior to defeat the end of pubUc reHgion, and
to annihilate that importance which they ascribe

to it ? They are employed in framing laws and

statutes for preventing crimes, and keeping the
disorderly multitude within bounds ; and at the
same time, by personally discountenancing public
worship, they are weakening, tlicy are even abol-
ishing among the multitude, that moral restraint
which is of more general influence upon manners
than all the laws they frame. In vain they com-
plain of the dishonesty of servants, of the inso-
lence of mobs, of the attacks of the highwayman.
To all these disorders they have themselves been
accessory. By their open disregard of sacred
institutions they have disseminated profligacy
among the people ; they have broken down the
flood-gates which served to restrain the torrent ;
they have let it loose to overflow the land ; and
by the growing deluge may themselves be swept


It is not easy to conceive a more deplorable
state of mind, tlian to live in a disbelief of God's
providential government of the world. To be
threatened with troubles, and to see no power
which can avert them ; to be surrounded with sor-
rows, and discern no hand which can redress them,
to labor under oppression or calumny, and believe
there is no friend to relieve, and no judge to vin-
dicate us ; to live in a world, of which we believe
its ruler has abdicated the throne, or delegated the
direction to chance ; to suspect that he has made


over the triumph to injustice, and the victory to
impiety ; to suppose that wc are abandoned to the
casualties of nature, and the domination of wick-
edness ; to behold tlie earth a scene of disorder,
with no superintendent to regulate it ; to hear the
Btorms beating-, and see the tempests spreading
desolation around, with no influence to direct, and
no wisdom to control them ; all this would render
human life a burden intolerable to hvunan feeling.
Even a heathen, in one of those glimpses of illu-
mination which they seemed occasionally to catch,
could say, it toould not he worth lohile to live in a
world which ivas not governed by Providence.

But, as soon as we clearly discern the mind
which appoints, and the hand which governs all
events, we begin to see our way through them :
as soon as we are brought to recognize God's au-
thority, and to confide in his goodness, we can say
to om- unruly hearts, what he said to the tempestu-
ous waves. Peace, be still. Though all is perplex-
ity, w^e know who can reduce confusion into order :
once assured of the protection of the Supreme In-
telligence, we shall possess our souls in patience,
and resign our will with submission. As soon as
this conviction is fully established, we become per-
suaded that a being of infinite love would never
have placed us in a scene beset with so many tri-
als, and exposed to so many dangers, had he not
intended them as necessary materials, by which,
under his guidance, we are to work out our future
happiness; — as so many warnmgs not to set up
om* rest here ; — as so many incentives to draw us
on in pursuit of that better state to which eternal
mercy is conducting \is through this thorny way.

To keep God habitually in view, as the end of
all our aims, and the disposer of all events — to see


him in all our comforts, to admire the henignity
with which he imparts them — to adore the same
substantial, though less obvious mercy, in our af-
flictions — to acknowledge at once the unwilling-
ness with which he dispenses our trials, and the
necessity of our suffering them — to view him in
his bounties of creation, with a love which makes
every creature pleasant — to regard him in liis prov-
idential direction, witli a confidence which makes
every hardship supportable — to observe the subser-
viency of events to his eternal piirposes : all this
solves difficulties otherwise insuperable, vindicates
the divine conduct, composes the intractable pas-
sions, settles the wavering faith, and quickens the
too reluctant gratitude.

The fabled charioteer, who usurped his father's
empire for a day, is not more illustrative of their
presumption, who, virtually snatching the reins of
government from God, would involve the earth in
confusion and ruin, than the denial which the am-
bitious supplicant received to his mad request, is
applicable to the goodness of God in refusing to
delegate his power to his creatures ; My son, the
very tenderness I show in denying so ruinous a
petition, is the purest proof that I am indeed thy

Sounds to which we are accustomed, we fancy
have a definite sense. But we often fancy it un-
justly ; for familiarity alone can not give meaning
to what is in itself unintelligible. Thus man}'
words, without any determinate and precise mean-
ing, pass current in common discourse. Some talk
of those chimerical beings, nature, fate, chance,
and necessity, as positively as if they had a real
existence, and of almighty power and direction as
if they had none.


In speaking of ordinary events as fortuitous, or
as natural, we dispossess Providence of one half
of his dominion. We assign to him the credit of
great and avowedly supernatural operations, be-
cause we know not how else to dispose of them.
For instance : we ascribe to him power and wis-
dom in the creation of the world, while we talk as
if we tliought tliat tlie keeping it in order might
be effected by an inferior agency. We sometimes
speak as if we assigned the government of the
world to two distinct beings : whatever is awful
only, and out of the common course, we ascribe to
God, as revolutions, volcanoes, earthquakes. We
think the dial of Ahaz going backwarks, the sun
stationary on Gibeon, marvels worthy of Omnipo-
tence ; but when we stop here, is it not virtually
saying, that to maintain invariable order, unbroken
regularity, perpetual uniformity, and systematic
beauty in the heavens and the earth, does not ex-
hibit equally striking proofs of infinite superin-
tendence ?

Many seem to ascribe to chance the common
circumstances of life, as if they thought it would
be an affront to the Almighty to refer them to
him ; as if it were unbecoming his dignity to order
the affairs of beings whom he thought it no dero-
gation of that dignity to create. It looks as if,
while we were obliged to him for making us, we
would not wish to encumber him with the care of
us. But the gracious Father of the universal fam-
ily thinks it no dishonor to watch over the con-
cerns, to supply the wants, and dispose the lot of
creatures who owe their existence to his power,
and their redemption to his mercy. He did not
create his rational subjects in order to neglect


them, or to tilrn them over to another, a capricious,
an imaginary power.

We do not, it is true, so much arraign his gene-
ral providence, as his particular appointments.
We will allow the world to be nominally his, if he
will allow us our opinion in respect to his manage-
ment of certain parts of it. Now, that he should
not put forth the same specific energy individually
to direct as to create, is supposing an anomaly in
the character of the all-perfect God — Wliatever
was his design in the formation of the world and
its inhabitants, the same reason would, beyond a
doubt, influence him in their superintendence and
preservation. — David, in describing the simple
grandeur of omnipotent benignity, sets us a beau-
tiful pattern. He does not represent the belief of
God's providential care as an effort, but describes
our continual sustenance as the necessary unlabor-
ed effect of infinite power and goodness. He open-
eth his hand, and Jilleth all things living with
^plenteousness ; thus making our blessings, rather,
as it were, a result, than an operation.

And as we are not under the divided control of
a greater and a subordinate power, so neitlier are
we, as the Persian mythology teaches, the subjects
of two equal beings, eacJi of whom distributes re-
spectively good and evil according to his peculiar
character and province. Nor are we the sport of
the conflicting atoms of one scliool, nor of the
fatal necessity of another. There is one omnipo-
tent, omniscient, perfect, supreme Intelligence,
who disposes of every person and of every thing
according to the counsel of his own infinitely holy
will. 'The help that is done npon earth, God doth
it himself.' The comprehensive mind, enlighten-
ed by Ciiristian lUit]i, discovers the same harmony


and design in the course of human events, as the
philosopher perceives in the movements of the
material system.


In this age of general inquiry, every kind of
ignorance is esteemed dishonorable. In almost
every sort of knowledge there is a competition for
superiority. Intellectual attainments are never to
be undervalued. Learning is the best human
thing. All knowledge is excellent as far as it
goes, and as long as it lasts. But how short is the
period before ' tongues shall cease, and knowledge
shall vanish away !'

Shall we then esteem it dishonorable to be igno-
rant in anything which relates to life and litera-
ture, to taste and science, and not feel ashamed to
live in ignorance of our own hearts ?

To have a flourishing estate, and a mind in dis-
order ; to keep exact accounts with a steward, and
no reckoning with our Maker ; to have an accurate
knowledge of loss or gain in our business, and to
remain utterly ignorant whether our spiritual con-
cerns are improving or declining ; to be cautious
in ascertaining at the end of every year how much
we have increased or diminished our fortune, and
to be careless whether we have incurred profit or
loss in faith and holiness, is a wretched miscalcu-
lation of the comparative value of things. To
bestow our attention on objects in a,n inverse pro-
portion to their importance, is surely no proof that
our learning has improved our judgment.

That deep thinker and acute reasoner. Dr. Bar.
row, has remarked that ' it is a peculiar excellency


of human nature, and which distinguishes man
from the inferior creatures more than bare reason
itself, that he can reflect upon all that is done
within him, can discern the tendencies of his soul,
and is acquainted with his own purposes.'

This distinguishing faculty of self-inspection
would not have been conferred on man, if it had
not been intended that it should be in habitual
operation. It is surely, as we before observed, as
much a common law of prudence, to look u'ell to
our spiritual as to our worldly possessions. We
have appetites to control, imaginations to restrain,
tempers to regulate, passions to subdue ; and how
can this internal work be effected, how can our
thoughts be kept within due bounds, how can a
proper bias be given to the affections, how can
' the little state of man' be preserved from continual
insurrection, how can this restraining power be
maintained, if this capacity of discerning, if this
faculty of inspection, be not kept in regular exer-
cise ? Witliout constant discipline, imagination
will become an outlaw, conscience an attainted

This inward eye, this power of introversion, is
given us for a continual watch upon the soul. On
an unremitted vigilance over its interior motions,
those fruitful seeds of action, those prolific princi-
ples of vice and virtue, will depend both the form-
ation and the growth of our moral and religious
character. A superficial glance is not enough for
a thing so deep, an unsteady view will not suffice
for a thing so wavering, nor a casual look for a
thing so deceitful as the human heart. A partial
inspection on any one side, will not be enough for
an object which must be observed under a variety

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Online LibraryAuthor of The young man's own bookThe young lady's Sunday book : a practical manual of the Christian duties of piety, benevolence and self-government → online text (page 3 of 23)