Hannah More.

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disposition, proving its settled existence in the

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nind by its babitaallj disposing our thoughts
and actions, our doTotions and our practioe to a
conformitj to each other and to itself.

Let us not consider a spirit of worldliness as
a little infirmity, as a naturd, and therefore a
pardonable weakness ; as a trifling error which
will be o?erlooked for the sake of our many good
qualities. It is in fact the essenoe of oar other
faults ; the temper that stands between us and
our salvation ; the spirit which is in direct op-
position to the Spint of Grod. Individual sins
msT more easily be cured, but this is the prin-
ciple of all spiritual disease. A worldly spirit
wnere it is rooted and cherished, runs through
the whole character, insinuates itself in all we
say and think and do. It is this which makes
ns so dead in religion, so averse from spiritual
things, so forgetful of God, so unmindful of eter-
nity, so satisned with ourselves, so impatient of
serious discourse, and so alive to that vain and
frivolous intercourse, which excludes intellect
almost as much as piety from our general con-

It is not therefore our more considerable ac-
tions alone wfaioh require watching, for they
seldom occur. Theyido not form uie habit of
lifo in ourselves, nor the chief importance of oar
example to others. It is to our ordinary beha-
▼ionr ; it is to our deportment in common life ;
it is to our prevailing turn of mind in general
intercourse, by which we shall profit or corrupt
those with whom we associate. It is our con-
dact in social lifo which will help to diffuse a
spirit of piety, or a distaste to it If we have
much influence, this is the placfc in which par-
ticalariy to exert it If we have little we have
still enough to infoct the temper and lower the
tone of our narrow society.

If we really believe that it is the design of
Christianity to raise us to a participation of the
divine nature, the slightest peflection on this
elevation of our character would lead us to main-
tain its dignity in the ordinary intercourse of
lifo. We should not so much inquire whether
we are transgressing any actual prohibition;
whether any standing law is pointed against us ;
as whether we are supporting the dignity of the
Christian character; whetl^r we are acting
suitably to our profession ; whether more exact-
ness in the common occurrences of the day,
more correctness in our conversation, would not
be such evidences of our religion, as by being
obvious and intelligible, might not almost insen-
sibly produce important e£^cts.

The most insignificant people must not through
indolence and selfishness undervalue their own
influence. Most persons have a little circle of
which they are a sort of centre. Its smallness
m^y lessen their quantity of good, but does not
diminish the duty of using that little influence
wisely. Where is the human being so inconsi-
derable but that he may in some shape benefit
others, either by calling their virtues into ex-
ercise, or by setting them an example of virtue
himself? But we are humble just m the wrong
place. When the exhibition of our talents or
splendid qualities is in question, we are not back-
ward in the dispky. When a little self-denial
is to be exercised, when a little good might be
effected by our example, by our discreet ma-

nagement in company^ by giving a bbtlsr tnm
to conversation, then at once we grow wickedly
n>odest — ^'Such an insignificant creature as I
am can do no good.* — * Had I higher rank or
brighter talents, then indeed my influence might
be exerted to some purpose.* — Thus under the
mask of diffidence, we justify our indolenee ;
and let slip those lesser occasions of promoting
religion which if we all improvedf how mu^
might the condition of society be raised.

The hackneyed interrogation, * What^-most
we be always talking about religion?* moel
have the hackneyed answer— Far from it Talk*
ing about religion is not beinjBf religious. But
we may bring the Bpirit of religion mto oompa-
ny, and keep it in perpetual operatioD when we
do not professedly make it our subject We
may be constantly-advancing its interests, we
may without effort or affectation be giving an
example of candour, of moderation, of humuity,
of forbearance. We may employ our influence
by correcting falsehood, by checking levity, by
discouraging calumny, by vindicating misre-
presented meiit, by countenancing every thing
which has a good tendency — in short, by throw,
ing our whole weight, be it great or small, ints
the right scale.



PaATXR is the application of want to him who
only can relieve it ; the voice of sin to htm who
alone can pardon it It is the orgencj of pc^
v^rty, the prostration of humility, uie fervency
of penitence, the confidence of trust It is nc
eloquence, but earnestness : not the definition
of helplessness, but the feeling of it ; not figures
of speech, but compunction of soul. It is the
* Lord save us or we perish* of drowning Peter
the cry of faith to the «ar of mercy.

Adoration is the noblest employment of crs>
ated beings; confession the natural language
of guilty creatures ; gratitude the spontaneoos
expression of pardoned sinners.

Prayer is desire. It is not a conception of
the mind nor a mere efibrt of the intellect, nor
an act of the memory ; but an elevation of the
soul towards its Maker; a pressing sense of
our own ignorance and infirmity, a conseions-
noss of the perfoctions of God» of his readiness
to hear, of his power to help, of his wiUingnese
to save.

It is not an emotion produced in the oeosos ;
nor an effect wrought by the imagination ; but
a determination oTthe will, an effusion of the

Prayer is the guide to 'self-knowledge by
promptinjjf us to look afler our sins in order to
pray agamst them ; a motive to vigilance, hf
teaching us to guard against those sins whiek,
through self-examination, we have been enahkid
to detect

Prayer is an act both of the understanding
and of the heart The widerstandin^ most ap-
ply itself to the knowledge of the divine perfec-
tions, or the heart wDl not be lad to the a(!ora.
tion of them. It would not be a rstsasMs

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nrriM i£ the mind wa* •xolnded. It moflt be
rational worahiis or the human worafaipper would
not bring to the senrice the diatinrniahed fkenlt^
of hia natarot which ia reason. It moat be api.
rhoal worahip ; or it would want the dutinctiTe
ooality to make it acceptable to Him, who haa
declared that He will be worahipped * in apirit
and in truth.'

Prayer ia li^ht in itaelf aa the moat powerful
meana of reaiating sin and advancing in h^-
neaa. It ia above all right, as every thing ia,
which haa the authority of Scripture, the com-
mand of God, and the example of Chriat

There ia a perfbct oonaiataney in all the or-
dlnationa of God ; a perfect coogruity in the
whole Bcheme of hia diapenaationa. If man
were not a corrupt creature, auch prayer aa the
goaoel enjoina would not have been neceaaary.
Had not prayer been an impcntant meana mr
curing tboae corruptiona, a God of perfect wia-
dom would not have ordered it He would not
have prohibited every thing which tenda to in-
flame and promote them, had they not eziated,
nor would he have commanded every thing that
haa a tendency to diminiah and remove them,
had not their eziatenoe been fiUaL Prayer,
therefore, ia an indiapenaable part of hia econo-
my and of our obedience.

It ia a hackneyed obieotion to the naeof pra^
«r that it ia offending tne omniacienceof God to
^uppoae he re^uirea in&nnation of our wanta.
But no objection can be more fhtile. We do
not pray to inform God of our wanta^ but to ex-
oresa our aenae of the wanta which he already
knowa. Aa he haa not ao much made hia pro-
miae to our necaaaitiea, aa to our reqneata, it ia
reaaonable that our requeata ahould be made be-
fore we can hope that our neceeaitiea will be re-
lieved. God doea not promiae to thoee who want
that they ahall «have,* but to thoee who 'aak ;*
Dor to thoae who need that they ahall *find,' but
to thoee who * aeek.* So far therefore from hia
previoua^ knowledge of our wanta being a ground
of objection to prayer, it ia in fiict the true ground
for our application. Were he not knowledge it-
aelf; our information would be of o little uae aa
our application would be, were he not goodneaa

We cannot attain to a juat notion of prayer
while we remain ignorant of our own nature,
of the nature of God aa revealed in Scripture, of
our relation to him and dependence on niro. If
therefore we^ not live m the daily atudy of
the holy acripturea, we ahall want the hi^rheat
motives to this duty and the beat helpa for per-
forming it ; if we <k>, the cogency of theee mo-
tivea, and the ineatimable value of thaae helps,
will render argument unneceaaary and exhorta-
tion aaperfluoua.

One cauae therefore of the dnbeaa of many
Chnatiana in prayer, ia, thehr alight acquaint-
anoe with the aacred volume. They hear it pe-
riodically, the> read it occasionally, they are
contented to Unow it hiatorically, to consider it
auperficiallv, but they do not endeavour to get
their minds imbued with he spirit If they
store their memory with ita facta, they do not
miprcas their hearta with ita trntba. They do
not regard it aa the nutriment on which their
•pi ritual life and growth depend. They do not
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pray over it ; they do not eonaider all ita doe
trinea aa of practical application ; they do not
cultivate that apiritual diaoernment which alone
can enable them judicioualj|r to appropriate ita
promiaea and ita denundationa to their own
actual case. They do not apply it as an un-
erring line to aacertain their own rectitude or

In our retirementa, we too dlen fritter away
our preeioua momenta, momenta reaeued fhmi
the world, in trivial, aometimea it ia to be feared,
in corrupt thoughta. But if we muat give the
reias to our imagination, let ua aend thb excur-
aive &culty to range among great and noble ob-
jecta. Let it atretch forward under the aanction
of fklth and the anticipation of prophecy, to the
aocompliahment of those gloriooa promisea and
tremendoua threateninga which will soon be re-
alised in the etaznal world. These are topics
which under the safe and aober guidance of
Scriptnre, will fix ita largeat apeculationa and
auBtain ita loflieat flighta. The aame Scripture
while it expands and elevates the mind, will
keep it subject to the dominion of truth ; whilt
at the same time it will teach it that its boldest
excursions must fidl infinitely short of the asto
nishing reaUtiea of a fhture atate.

Though we cannot pray with a too deep aenae
of ain, we may make our aina too excluaively the
obieet of our pn^ara. While we keep, with a
ael^abaaing eye, our own oorrupticma in view
let na look with equal intenaeneea on that mer*
oy, which deanaeth from all ain. Let our pray-
era be all humiliation, but let them not be aJl
complaint— When men indulge noother thought
but that they are rebels, the hopeleaaneas of par-
don hardena them into diabyalty. Let them
look to the mercy of the king, aa well as to the
rebellion of the subject If we contemplate his
grace as displayed in the gospel, then, though
our humilit]^ will increaae, our deapair will va-
niah. Gratitude in thia aa in human iostancea
will create afiectioo. * We love him becauae he
firat loved ua»*

Let ua then alwava keep our unworthineaa in
view aa a reaaon why we stand in need of the
mercy of God in Christ ; but never plead it aa a
reaaon why we ahould not draw nigh to him to
implore that mercy. The beat men are- unwor-
thy fbr their own aakea; the worst on repent-
ance will be accepted fbr hia aake and through
hia merits.

In prayer then^ the per&ctiona of God, and
eapecially hia mercy in our redemption, ahould
occupy our thoughta aa much aa our sine; our
obligation to him o much as our departures
from him. We should keep up in our hearts a
constant sense of our own weakness^ not with a
desi^ to discourage the mind and depreaa the
apinta ; but with a view to drive us out of our-
selves, in search of the divine assistance. We
should contemplate our infirmity in order to
draw us to look fbr his strength, and to aeek
that power from God which we vainly look for
in ouraelvea. We do not tell a aick friend of
hia danger in order to grieve or terrify him, but
to induce him to apply to hia phyaician, and to
have recourae to hia remedy.

Among the chargea which have been brough
againat aerioua piety, one ia, that it teaches men

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to despair. The charge b juat in one sense as
to the fact, bat ^Ise in the sense intended. It
teaches us to despair indeed of oarsekes, while
it inculcates that faith in a Redeemer, which is
the true antidote to despair. Faith quickens the
doubting spirit, while it humbles the presomp.
tuous. The lowly Christian takes comfort m
the blessed promise, that God will never forsake
them that are his. The presumptuoos man is
11^ ^-^1,^ 1^ ^g doctrine, but wrong in ap-

equolly ri
plying it

phring it He takes that comfort to himself
which was meant for another class of characters.
The mal-appropriation of Scripture promises
and threatenings, is the cause of much error
and delusion.

Though some devout enthusiasts have fallen
into error by an unnatural and impracticable
disinterestedness, asserting that Grod is to be
loved exclusively for himself, with an absolute
renunciation of any view of advantage to oor-
selves ; yet that prayer cannot be mercenary,
which involves God*s ^lory with onr own happi-
ness, and makes his will the law of our requests.
Though we are to desire the glory of God so-
premely ; thoufh this ought to oe our grand ac-
tuating princi^e, yet be nas graciously permit-
ted, commanded, invited ps, to attach our own
happiness to this primary object The Bible
exhibits not only a beautiful, but an inseparable
combination of both, which delivers us from the
danger of unnaturally renouncing our own be-
nefit for the promotion of God*s glory, on the
one hand ; and on the other, from seeking any
happiness independent of him, and underived
from him. In enjoining us to love him supreme-
ly, he has connected an unspeakable blessing
with a paramount duty, the highest privilege
with the most ;x)sitive command

What a triumph for the humble Christian to
be assured, that * the high and lofly One which
inhabiteth eternitv,' condescends at the same
time to dwell in the heart of the contrite ; — in
his heart! To know that God is the God of his
life, to know that he is even invited to take the
Lord for his God. To cbse with God*s offers,
to accept hb invitations, to receive God as hb
portion, must surely be more pleasing to our
heavenly Father, than separating our ^ppiness
, from hb glory. To disconnect our interests
from his goodness, b at once to detract from hb
perfections, and to obscure the brightness of our
own hopes. The declarations of inspired writers
are confirmed by the authority of the heavenly
hoste. They proclaim that the glory of God
and the happiness of hb creatures, so far from
interfering, are connected with each other. We
know but of one anthem composed and sung by
angels, and this most harmoniously combines
* the glory of God in the highest with peace on
earth and good will to men.*

*The beauty of Scripture,' says the great
Saxon reformer, ^consiste in pronouns.' Thb
* God b our God — God, even our oton Grod, shall
Dless us. How delightful the appropriation!
To glorify him as beinff in himself consummate
excellence, and to love him from the feeling that
this excellcQce b directed to our felicity ! Here
modesty would be ingratitude ; disinterestedness
rebellion. It would be severing ourselves from
Him, in whom we live, and move, and are ; it

would be dissolving the connexion which he hat
condescended to esteblbh between himself and
his creatures.

It has been justly observed, that the Scripture
sainte make tms union the chief ground of their
gratefbl ezultetion — ^ My strengSi' — ' my rock*
— » my fortress' — * my deliverer !' Again — * Let
the God ofmy salvation be exalted!' Now tak«
away the pronoun and substitute the article du,
how comparatively cold b the impression ! The
consummation of the joy arises from the peculi-
arity, the intimacy, the endearment of the Tela-

Nor to the liberal Christian b the grateful joy
diminished, when he blesses hb God o ^the
God of all them that trust in him.' All general
blessings, will he say, all providential mercies,
are mine individuallv, are mine as completely
as if no other shared in the enjoyment Life,
light, the earth and heavens, the sun and stars,
whatever susteins the body, and recreates the
spirite ! My obligation is as great as if the mer-
cy had been made purely for me. As great?
r .(/, it b greater — it b augmented by a sense
of the millions who participate in the blessing.
The same enlargement of the personal obliga-
tion holds ^ood, nay rises higher, in the merctes
of redemption. The Lord b m« Saviour o com-
pUtoly as if he had redeemed only me. That
he has redeemed * a great multitude which no
man can number, of all nations, and kindreds,
and people, and tongues,' b diffusion without
abatement ; it b general participation without
individual diminution — Each has all.

In adoring the providence of God, we are apt
to be struck with what is new and out of course,
while we too much overlook long, habitual, and
uninterrupted mercies. But common mercies,
if less striking, are more valuable, both because
we have them always, and for the reason above
assigned, because others share them. The or-
dinary blessings of lifo are overlooked for the
very reason that they ought to be most prized*-
becanse they are most uniformly bestowed.
They are most essential to our support, and
when once they are withdrawn we begm to find
that they are also most essential to our comfort
Nothing raises the price of a blessing like ite
removal ; whereas it was ite continuance which
should have teught us ite value. We reooire
novelties to awaken our gratitude, not consider-
ing that it b the duration of mercies which en-
hances their value. We want fresh excitements.
We consider mercies long enjoyed as things of
course, as things to which we have a sort of
presumptive claim ; as if God had no right to
withdraw what he had once bestowed ; as if he
were obliged to continue what he has once been
pleased to confer.

But that the sun has shone unremittingly
Crom the day that God created him, is net a less
stupendous exertion of power than that the hand
which fixed him in the heavens, and marked
out hb progress through them, once said by hb
servant, *Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon.*
That he has gone on in hb strength, driving hb
uninterrupted career, and * rejoicing as a giant
to run his course,* for six thousand years, b a
more astonishing ezhibitioD of Omnipotence
than that he should have been once suspended

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gy the band which let him in motion. That
Sb ordinanees of heathen, that the established
(«ws of nature, shonid have been for one daj in-
lerrapted to serve a particular occasion, is a less
real wonder, and certainly a less substantial
blessing, than that in such a multitude of ages
they should have pursued their appointed ooorse,
for the coraibrt of the whole system :

For ever singing as they sbine
The band that made aa ii divine.

As the affections of the Christian ought to be
set on things above, so it is for them that his
prayers will be dhiefly addressed. God in pro-
mising to * ^ive those who delight in him the
desire of their heart,* could never mean tempo-
ral things ; for these they might desire impro-
perly as to the object, and inoidinately as to the
degree. The promise relates principally to spi*
ritaal blessings. He not only gives us these
mercies, but &e very desire to obtain them is
also his gift. Here our prayer requires no oua-
iifying, no oonditiening, no limitation. We
cannot err in our choice, for Qod himself is the
object of it; we cannot exceed in the degree,
unless it were possible to love him too weiu, or
to please him too much.

We should pray for worldly comforts, and for
a blessing on oar earthly plans, though lawful
in themselves, conditioniUly, and with a reser-
vatioB: because after having been earnest in
our requests for them, it may happen that when
wo come to the petition * thy will be done,* we
may in these very words be praying that our
previous petitions may not be granted. In this
brief request consists the vital principle, the es-
sential spirit of prayer. God shows his munifi-
cencc in encouraging us to ask most eamestiy
for tho greatest things, by promising that the
smaller * shall be added unto us.' We therefore
acknowled^ his liberality most when we re-
Quest the highest favours. He manifests his in-
finite superiority to earthly fkthers by chiefly
delighting to confer those spiritual ^fts, which
CAey less solicitously desire for their children
than those worldly advantages on which God
sets so little value.

Nothing short of a sincere devotedness to God,
can enable us to maintain an equality of mind,
under unequal circumstances. We murmur
that we have not the things we ask amiss, not
knowing that thev are withheld by the same
mercy by which the things that are good for us
ore granted. Things good in then^ves may
not be good for us. A resigned spirit is the
proper disposition to prepare us for receiving
mercies, or for having them denied. Resigna-
tion of soul, like the allegiance of a good sub-
jeot, is always in readiness, though not in ac-
tion : whereas an impatient mind is a spirit of
disafl»ction always prepared to revi^t, when the
will of the sovereign is in opposition to that of
the subject This seditious principle is the in-
fidlible characteristic of an unrenewed mind.

A sincere love of Qod will make us thankful
wl^n our supplications are granted, and patient
and cheerful when they are denied. He who
feds his heart rise against any divine dispensa-
tion, ought not to rest till by serious meditation
and earnest prayer it be moulded into submis-

skm. A habit of aoqoietoenee in the will of
Grod, win so operate on the faculties of his mind,
that even his iudgment will embrace the con-
viction, that what he once so ardentiy desired,
would not have been that good thing, which his
blindness had conspired with his wbbes to make
him believe it to be. He will ipcoUect the many
instances in wlftch if his importunity had pre-
vailed, the thing which ignorance requested, and
wisdom denied, would l^ve insured his misery.
Every fresh disappointment will teach him to
distrust himself, and to confide in God. Expe-
rietaoe will instruct him that there may be a
better way of hearing oor requests than that of
granting them. Happy for us that he to whom
they are addressed knows which is best, and
acts upon that knowledge.

Still lift for good the snppUeatiog voios.

But leave to Heaven the measare and the cbOMS i

Implore his aid, in his decisions rest,

Secure whatever he gives, be gives the best.

We should endeavour to render our private
devotions efiectual remedies for our own parti-
cular sins. Prayer against sin in general is too
indefinite to reach the individual case. We must
bring it home to our own heart, else we may be
confessing another man's sins and overlooking
our own. If we have any predominant foul^
we shoold pray more especially against that
fouU. If we pray for any virtue of which we
particularly stand in need, we should dwell on
our own deficiencies in that virtue, till our souls
become deeply afiected with our want of it Our
prayers should be circumstantial, not, as was
before observed, for the infimnation of infinite
wisdom, but for the stirring up of our own dull
affections. And as the recapitulation of our
wants tends to keep up a sense of our depen-
dence, the enlarging on our especial mercies
will tend to keep alive a sense of gratitude.
While indiscriminate petitions, confessions, and
thanksgivings leave the mind to wander in in.
definite devotion and unaffecting generalities
without personality and without appropriation
It must be obvious that we except those grand
universal points in which all have an equal in-
terest, and which must always form the essence

Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 105 of 135)