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Now, howsoever in this, or any other practice, which may seem to carry with it a taste of superstition, our devotion may be groundless and un. seasonable ; yet nothing hinders, but that we may take just and holy hints of raising up our hearts to our God. As when we do first look forth, and see the heavens over our heads, to think, “ The hea. vens declare thy glory, O God,” Psa. xix. 1. When we see the day breaking, or the sun rising, “ The day is thine, and the night is thine, thou hast prepared the light and the sun,” lxxiv. 17. When the light shines in our faces, “ Thou deckest thyself · with light as with a garment,” civ. 2. Or,“ Light is sprung up for the righteous,” xcvii. 11. When we see our garden embellished with flowers, “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord,” xxxiii. 5. When we see a rough sea, “ The waves of the sea rage horribly, and are mighty; but the Lord that dwelleth on high is mightier than they,” xciii. 5. When we see the darkness of the night, “The darkness is no darkness unto thee,” cxxxix. 11. When we rise up from our bed, or our seat, “Lord, thou knowest my down-sitting and my up-rising; thou understandest my thoughts afar off," cxxxix. 1. When we wash our hands, “ Wash thou me, O Lord, and I shall be whiter than snow," li. 7. When we are walking forth, “o hold thou up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not,” xvii. 5. When we hear a passing-bell, “O teach me to number my days, that I may apply my heart to wisdom,” xc. 12. Or,“ Lord, let me know my end, and the number of my days,” xxxix. 5.
Thus may we dart out our holy desires to God upon all occasions. Wherein heed must be taken that our ejaculations be not, on the one side, so rare, that our hearts grow to be hard and strange to God, but that they may be held on in continual acknowledgment of him, and acquaintance with him; and, on the other side, that they be not so over-frequent in their perpetual reiteration, as that they grow to be (like those of the Romish yotaries) fashionable ; which, if great care be not taken, will fall out, to the utter frustrating of our devotion. Shortly, let the measure of these devout glances be, the preserving our hearts in a constant tenderness, and godly disposition ; which shall be further actuated upon all opportunities, by the exercises of our more enlarged and fixed devotion; whereof there is the same variety that there is in God's services, about which it is conversant.
There are three main businesses wherein God accounts his service, here below, to consist; the first is, our address to the throne of grace, and the pouring out of our souls before him in our prayers : the second is, the reading and hearing his most holy word: the third is, the receiving of his blessed sacraments : in all which there is place and use for a settled devotion.
IX. To begin with the first work of our actual and enlarged devotion. Some things are prerequired of us, to make us capable of the comfortable performance of so holy and heavenly a duty; namely, that the heart be clean first, and then that it be clear: clean from the defilement of any known sin; clear from all entanglements and distractions. What do we in our prayers, but converse with the Almighty; and either carry our souls up to him, or bring him down to us? Now, there is no hope that we can entertain God in an impure heart. Even we men loathe a filthy lodging; how
much more will the noly God abhor a habitation spiritually unclean! I find that even the “unclean spirit” made that a motive of his repossession, that he found “the house swept and garnished," Luke xi. 25. Satan's cleanliness is pollution, and his garnishment disorder and wickedness; without this he finds no welcome. Each spirit looks for an entertainment answerable to his nature; how much more will that God of spirits, who is purity itself, look to be harboured in a cleanly room! “Into a malicious soul wisdom shall not enter, nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin.” What friend would be pleased that we should lodge him in a lazar-house? or who would abide to have a toad lie in his bosom? Surely, it is not in the power of created nature to yield any thing that can be so noisome and odious to the sense of man, as sin is to that absolute and essential Goodness. His pure eyes cannot endure the sight of sin; nei. ther can He endure that the sinner should come within the sight of him: “ Away from me, ye wicked,” is his charge, both here and hereafter. It is the privilege and happiness of the pure in heart, that they shall see God; see him, both in the end and in the way; enjoying the vision of him, both in grace and in glory: this is no object for impure eyes. Descend into thyself, therefore, and ransack thy heart, if thou wouldst be a true client of devotion; search all the close windings of it, with the torches of the law of God; and if there be any iniquity found lurking in the secret corners thereof, drag it out and abandon it; and when thou hast done, that thy fingers may retain no pollution, say with the holy psalmist, “I will wash my hands in innocence, so will I go to thine altar,” Psa. xxvi. 6. Presume not to approach the altar of God, there to offer the sacrifice of thy devotion, with unclean hands; else thine offering shall be so far from winning an acceptance for thee from the hands of God, that thou shalt thus make thine offering abominable. “ And if a beast touch the mount, it shall die,” Exod. xix. 13.
X. As the soul must be clean from sin, so it must be clear and free from distractions. The intent of our devotion is to welcome God to our hearts ; now, where shall we entertain him, if the rooms be full thronged with cares, and turbulent passions? The Spirit of God will not endure to be crowded up together with the world in our strait lodgings. A holy vacuity must make way for him in our bosoms. The Divine pattern of devotion, in whom the Godhead dwelt bodily, retires into the mount to pray; he that carried heaven with him, would even thus leave the world below him. Alas, how can we hope to mount up to heaven in our thoughts, if we have the clogs of earthly cares hanging at our heels ! yea, not only must there be a shutting out of all distracting cares and passions, which are professed enemies to our quiet conversing with God in our devotion, but there must be also a cleansing of the mind from all those images of our fancy, (how pleasing soever,) that may carry our thoughts aside from those better objects. We are like to foolish children, who, when they should be stedfastly looking on their books, are apt to gaze after every butterfly that passes by them: here must be, therefore, a careful intention of our thoughts, a restraint from all vain and idle rovings, and a holding ourselves close to our divine task. While Martha is troubled about
many things, her devouter sister, having chosen the better part, plies the one thing necessary, which shall never be taken from her; and while Martha would feast Christ' with bodily fare, she is feasted by Christ with heavenly delicacies.
XI. After the heart is thus cleansed and thus cleared, it must be in the next place decked with true humility, the cheapest, yet best ornament of the soul. If the wise man tell us, “ that pride is the beginning of sin,” surely all gracious dispositions must begin in humility. The foundation of all high and stately buildings must be laid low. They are the lowly valleys that soak in the showers of heaven, which the steep hills shelve off, and prove dry and fruitless. “To that man will I look,” saith God, “ that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word,” Isa. Ixvi. 2. Hence it is, that the more eminent any man is in grace, the more he is dejected in the sight of God. The father of the faithful comes to God under the style of “ dust and ashes,” Gen. xviii. 27. David, under the style of “a worm and no man," Psa. xxii. 6. Agur the son of Jakeh, under the title of “ more brutish than any man, and one that hath not the understanding of a man,” Prov. xxx. 2. John the Baptist, “as not worthy to carry the shoes of Christ after him,” Matt. iii. 11. Paul, “ as the least of saints, and chief of sinners," Eph. iii. 8; 1 Tim. i. 15. On the contrary, the more vile any man is in his own eyes, and the more dejected in the sight of God, the higher he is exalted in God's favour : like as the conduitwater, by how much lower it falls, the higher it rises. When, therefore, we would appear before God in our solemn devotions, we must see that