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compunction and remorse, so as to be forced into amendment. Even the most heart-felt confession might not immediately do for us all that we could wish : yet by perseverance in the same, it would certainly in a short time produce its desired effect. For the same reason, should not time after time pray that we might thenceforward, viz. after each time of so praying, lead godly, righteous, and sober lives, yet persist, just as usual, in ungodliness, unrighteousness, and intemperance. The thing would be impossible, if we prayed as we ought. So likewise if real thankfulness of heart accompanied our thanksgivings, we should not pray in vain, that we might show forth the praises of . God, not only with our lips but in our lives. As it is, thousands repeat these words without doing a single deed for the sake of pleasing God, exclusive of other motives, or refraining from a single thing they like to do out of the fear of displeasing him.
So again, every time we hear the third service at church, we pray
that God would incline our hearts to keep his commandments ; yet immediately, perhaps,
afterwards allow our hearts and inclinations to wander without controul, to whatever sinful temptation enticed them. This, I say, , all proceeds from the want of earnestness in our devotions. Strong devotion is an antidote against sin.
To conclude: a spirit of devotion is one of the greatest blessings; and, by consequence, the want of it one of the greatest misfortunes, which a Christian can experience. When it is present, it gives life to every act of worship which we perform ; it makes every such act interesting and comfortable to ourselves. It is felt in our most retired moments, in our beds, our closets, our rides, our walks. It is stirred within
when we are assembled with our children and servants in family prayer.
It leads us to church, to the congregation of our fellow Christians there collected ; it accompanies us in our joint offices of religion in an especial manner; and it returns us to our homes holier, and happier, and better; and lastly, what greatly enhances its value to every anxious Christian, it affords to himself a proof that his heart is right towards God; when it is followed up by a good life, by abstinence from sin, and endeavours after virtue, by avoiding evil and doing good, the proof and the satisfaction to be drawn from it are complete.
THE LOVE OF GOD.
1 JOHN, iv. 19.
We love him, because he first loved us.
RELIGION may, and it can hardly, I
think, be questioned but that it sometimes does, spring from terror, from grief, from pain, from punishment, from the approach of death ; and, provided it be sincere, that is, such as either actually produces, or as would produce, a change of life, it is genuine religion, notwithstanding the bitterness, the violence, or, if it must be so called, the baseness and unworthiness of the motive from which it proceeds. We are not to narrow the promises of God; and acceptance is promised to sincere penitence, without specifying the cause from
which it originates, or confining it to one origin more than another. There are, however, higher, and worthier, and better motives, from which religion may begin in the heart ; and on this account especially are they to be deemed better motives, that the religion, which issues from them, has a greater probability of being sincere. I repeat again, that sincere religion, from any motive, will be effectual; but there is a great deal of difference in the probability of its being sincere according to the different cause in the mind from which it sets out.
The purest motive of human action is the love of God. There
There may be motives , stronger and more general, but none so pure. The religion, the virtue which owes its birth in the soul to this motive is always genuine religion, always true virtue. Indeed, speaking of religion, I should call the love of God not so much the groundwork of religion, as religion itself. So far as religion is disposition, it is religion itself. But though of religion it be more than the ground-work, yet, being a disposition of