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provoke one another to love and good works, and excite a holy emulation of excelling each other in whatever is truly virtuous and praiseworthy.
And when our creed has so powerful an influence within upon our souls, as to leave a heavenly tincture upon all our conversation; it shews that we are Christians indeed, and firmly expect a glorious reward hereafter, for our sincere obedience to our blessed Master here.
In short, nothing does more honour and service to God and his holy religion, than such a devotional temper of mind as we are now recommending ; nor is of more happy consequence to the votary himself, and all that come within the warmth and influence of his bright example.
II. But then, secondly, if to be truly devout is to be entirely dedicated to God's service, upon a firm and full persuasion of his being most worthy of all our affection; then, whoever would experience what true devotion is, must free his mind from the distracting cares and hurries of the world, and be very shy likewise of its pleasures, and taste of them with as much caution as he would of the most delicious fruit, which he knows withal to be very dangerous and surfeiting.
Our Lord says very plainly, No man can serve two masters, particularly not God and mammons. And St. John as plainly, He that loves the world, the love of the Father is not in himt. And St. Paul affirms, that those who live in pleasure are dead while they liveu ; dead to religion, and plunged in vanity and vice. And consequently, privacy and retirement, sobriety and temperance, a guard over s Matt. vi. 24. ti John ii. 15.
u 1 Tim. v. 6.
our passions and our appetites, indifference to the world, or a generous contempt of it rather, together with frequent acts of meditation and fervent prayer; this is the course we must take if we would be truly devout. And he that thinks this too much, has but very little apprehension of the excellency of devotion, a very imperfect notion and light esteem of God and heaven, and a strange numbness of soul to what is truly good, and will make him truly happy; and which must quickly be rectified as he hopes to escape eternal misery.
One thing more I shall take notice of before I conclude this discourse, and that is, the great mistake of those who appropriate the name of devotion to an outward fervency in prayer, especially in the extempore way; and that fluent variety of expression, earnestness and vehemency of action, and flexure of voice, which are so remarkable in some people's performances of that nature; crying down whatever is more modest and still and unaffected, especially if it be in a form constantly used, and read out of a book ; let that form be never so pious and excellent and well composed, never so full of native majesty, and venerable for its antiquity, and for the most part made up of expressions used by the Holy Ghost himself in scripture; disparaging it as cold and flat and dead, a stinting and confining of the Spirit, a shelter for idleness and sloth, the very ruin of devotion, and such as a truly devout person is in pain to hear; and the like aspersions, which they throw upon studied forms of prayer, and particularly those of our church. But if in the extempore way, how much soever it may please the fancy, and raise some sensitive passions, there are many things uttered (as
daily experience shews there are) by no means agreeable to the nature of God, very unsuitable to his divine Majesty, and extremely unbecoming a poor, sinful creature in his addresses to his great and offended Creator; and when some that have had the best knack this way have been notoriously the worst of men, and in their temper, their principles, and practices directly contrary to the genius of Christianity, of which, late history will furnish us with but too many sad and most deplorable instances; it is evident that true devotion is a thing of quite another nature, consisting not in sudden flights and raptures, but, as was said before, in a settled Christian frame of mind, and agreeable course of life, and a universal resignation of ourselves to God. And when our minds are thus disposed, and our actions regulated accordingly, let our natural constitution be as it will, sanguine or phlegmatic, warm or cool, we shall perform a very acceptable service to our God; and that, though others compose for us the prayers we are to use, and we use them, without variety, in a constant course. For devotion is far from a fanciful thing, does not consist in various turns of thought, and change of expression, and zealous action, and an affecting tone and accent, or the like; but in true righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost y; hearty love both to God and man; and the natural, unforced affections of a sound mind, entirely conformable to the life and spirit of the gospel ?
Wherefore, to conclude this argument; let us have a care of mocking God by a counterfeit devotion; than which nothing can be more hateful to y Rom. xiv. 17.
2 Tim. i. 7.
him, and incense him more against us: but if, with good old Simeon, we are sincerely just and devout, we may, as he did, with comfort wait for, and shall certainly in due time enjoy, the consolation of Israel; the Holy Ghost will descend upon us, and guide us to the enravishing sight and enjoyment of our Saviour; our departure hence shall be in peace, and our eyes shall see the cheering prospect of our eternal salvation; through him who was a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel.
“ And we most humbly beseech thy Majesty, O Almighty and everliving God, that, as thy only
begotten Son was presented in the temple in the “ substance of our flesh, so we may be presented “ unto thee with pure and clean hearts, by the same “ thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” To whom, &c. Amen a
a Collect for Christ's presentation in the Temple.
OF PRACTICAL ATHEISM.
Titus i. 16.
They profess that they know God; but in works they deny
him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. ATHEISM, or a denial of the being of a God, is so contrary to the best reason of mankind, and to their interest and happiness in all respects, and the root of all manner of villainy and wickedness, that it has always been branded with the blackest character: and an atheist in former times, even by heathens, was looked upon as the most foul, deformed monster in nature, and, as a public enemy, most severely punished. And even now, though it be grown too much in fashion, and esteemed as a mark of extraordinary wit and sense, (so dreadfully are we degenerated, even from our heathen ancestors, and sunk into the very dregs of impiety,) yet even now,
to hear a man openly profess his infidelity, as some do in the most public, daring manner, chills our blood and strikes us through with horror, and makes us deprecate the divine vengeance, and those plagues and judgments which so great a wickedness deserves.
But, though there is a general agreement of mankind, that atheism is worthy our utmost abhorrence, and that it brings a certain curse upon a people, yet we are apt to confine it to too narrow bounds; an