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ing, that can deliver himself in a flowing manner of speech to his hearers, that can cite scriptures or fathers, that can please his auditory with the flowers of rhetoric; or rather he, that can divide the word aright, interpret it soundly, apply it judi. ciously, put it home to the conscience, speaking in the evidence of the Spirit, powerfully convincing the gainsayers, comforting the dejected, and drawing every soul nearer to heaven: The like must we say for prayer; the gift whereof he may be truly said to have, not that has the most fluent tongue; (for prayer is not so much a matter of the lips, as of the heart;) but he that has the most illuminated apprehension of the God to whom he speaks, the deepest sense of his own wants, the most eager longings after grace, the most fervent desires of supplies from heaven; and, in a word, whose heart sends up the strongest groans and cries to the Father of mercies.
Neither may we look for enthusiasms and immediate inspirations, putting ourselves upon God's Spirit, in the solemn exercises of our invocation, without heed or meditation; the dangerous inconvenience whereof has been too often found in the rash and unwarrantable expressions that have fallen from the mouths of unwary suppliants : but we must address ourselves, with due preparation, to that holy work ; we must digest our suits, and foreorder our supplications to the Almighty, so that there may be excellent and necessary use of meet rules of our devotion.
He, whose Spirit helps us to pray, and whose lips taught us how to pray, is an all-sufficient example for us: all the skill of men and angels cannot afford a more exquisite model of supplicatory devotion, than that blessed Saviour of ours gave us in the mount; led in by a Divine and heartraising preface, carried out with a strong and heavenly enforcement, wherein an awful compellation makes way for petition, and petition makes way for thanksgiving; the petitions marshalled in a most exact order for spiritual blessings, which have an immediate relation to God in the first place, then for temporal favours which concern ourselves, in the second. So punctual a method had not been observed by Him that heareth prayers, if it had been all one to him to have had our devotions confused and tumultuous.
III. There is commonly much mistaking of devotion, as if it were nothing but an act of vocal prayer, expiring with that holy breath, and revived with the next task of our invocation, which many usually measure by frequency, length, smoothness of expression, loudness, or vehemence. Whereas, indeed, it is rather an habitual disposition of a holy soul, sweetly conversing with God, in all the forms of a heavenly, yet awful, familiarity; and a constant entertainment of ourselves here below with the God of spirits, in our sanctified thoughts and affections. One of the noble exercises whereof is our access to the throne of grace in our prayers; whereto may be added, the ordering of our holy attendance upon the blessed word and sacraments of the Almighty. Nothing hinders, therefore, but that a stammering suppliant may reach to a more eminent devotion, than he that can deliver himself in the most fluent and pathetical forms of elocution; and that our silence may be more devout than our noise. We shall not need to send you to the cells or cloisters for this skill; although it will hardly
be believed, how far some of their contemplative men have gone in the theory hereof. Perhaps, like as chemists give rules for the attaining of that elixir which they never found; for sure they must needs fail of that perfection they pretend, who err commonly in the object of it, always in the ground of it, which is faith ; stripped, by their opinion, of the most comfortable use of it, certainty of application.
IV. As there may be many resemblances between light and devotion, so this one especially ; that as there is a light universally diffused through the air, and there is a particular re-collection of light into the body of the sun and stars, so it is in devotion. There is a general kind of devotion that goes through the renewed heart and life of a Christian, which we may term habitual and virtual; and there is a special and fixed exercise of devotion, which we name actual.
The soul that is rightly affected to God is never void of a holy devotion; wherever it is, whatever it does, it is still lifted up to God, and fastened upon him, and converses with him ; ever serving the Lord in fear, and rejoicing in him with trem
For the effectual performance whereof, it is requisite, first, that the heart be settled in a right apprehension of our God; without which, our devotion is not only thankless, but sinful. With much labour, therefore, and agitation of a mind illuminated from above, we must find ourselves wrought to a high, awful, adorative, and constant conception of that incomprehensible Majesty, in whom we live, and move, and are. One God in three most glorious persons, infinite in wisdom, in
power, in justice, in mercy, in providence, in all that he is, in all that he hath, in all that he doth; dwelling in light inaccessible, attended with thousand thousands of angels; whom yet we neither can know, (neither would it avail us if we could,) but in the face of the eternal Son of his love, our blessed Mediator, God and man; who sits at the right hand of Majesty in the highest heavens, from the sight of whose glorious humanity we comfort. . ably rise to the contemplation of that infinite Deity, whereto it is inseparably united, in and by him, made ours by a lively faith, finding our persons and obedience accepted, expecting our full redemption and blessedness. Here, here must our hearts be unremovably fixed : in his light must we see light; no cloudy occurrences of this world, no busy employment, no painful sufferings, must hinder us from thus seeing Him that is invisible.
V. Neither doth the devout heart see his God afar off, as dwelling above, in the circle of heaven; but beholds that infinite Spirit really present with him ; “ The Lord is upon thy right hand,” saith the psalmist. Our bodily eye does not more certainly see our own flesh, than the spiritual eye sees God, close by us; yea, in us. A man's own soul is not so intimate to himself, as God is to his soul; neither do we move by him only, but in him. What a sweet conversation, therefore, has the holy soul with his God! What heavenly conferences have they two, which the world is not privy to; whilst God entertains the soul with the Divine motions of his Spirit, the soul entertains God with gracious compliances ! Is the heart heavy with the grievous pressures of affliction ?
the soul goes unto his God, and pours out itself before him in earnest bemoanings and supplications; the God of mercy answers the soul again, with seasonable refreshings of comfort. Is the heart secretly wounded and bleeding with the consciousness of some sin ? it speedily betakes itself to the great Physician of the soul ; who forthwith applies the balm of Gilead for an unfailing and present cure. Is the heart distracted with doubts? the soul retires to that inward oracle of God for counsel; he returns to the soul a happy settlement of just resolution. Is the heart deeply affected with the sense of some special favour from his God? the soul breaks forth into the ardent voice of praise and thanksgiving ; God returns the pleasing tes. timony of a cheerful acceptation. Oh blessed soul, that hath a God to go unto upon all occasions! Oh infinite mercy of a God, that vouchsafes to stoop to such entireness with dust and ashes ! It was a gracious speech of a worthy divine * upon his death-bed, now breathing towards heaven,—that he should change his place, not his company. His conversation was now before-hand with his God, and his holy angels; the only difference was, that he was now going to a more free and full fruition of the Lord of life, in that region of glory above, whom he had truly (though with weakness and imperfection) enjoyed in this vale of tears.
VI. Now, that these mutual respects may be sure not to cool with intermission, the devout heart takes all occasions both to think of God, and to speak to him. There is nothing that he sees, which does not bring God to his thoughts. In
* Dr. Preston.