« הקודםהמשך »
tablished in this truth, and need not be reminded that it will be your duty to measure the following weak attempt by that unerring standard.
The best general rule that I know of is to intend the divine glory, in our business, our eating, our drinking, our recreation, and indeed in every action of our lives. We ought to lay it down as a preliminary, that being bought with so great a price as the blood of Jesus, we henceforth are not our own; but that our time, and all that we are, and all that we have, belong to God; and that he has bestowed them upon us, only that we may use them to his glory, with which our happiness is invariably connected, This is so obvious a truth, that I should think no man, I am certain no Christian will dispute it.
Our time, after that part of it has been deducted which is sufficient for the refreshment of the body by sleep, naturally divides itself into the portions assigned to the following particulars :-Prayer, reading the Scriptures, meditation, business, food, and recreation ; of which in their order.
The servants of God have a freedom of access into his presence at all times through the Mediator. When professors of religion do not frequently make use of this privilege, it is a certain sign of one of these two things ; ei. ther that they are entire strangers to the divine life, or that their souls are in an unprosperous and languishing state. Beside praying always, or habitually, by pouring out your soul to God inazjaculatory breathings, I would recommend it to you to have stated times for private prayer. The prophet Daniel, though a great statesman, and immersed in public business, found time to engage in this divine exercise three times a day; and I have no doubt he only did that which was commonly practised by God's people. Peter went up to the top of the house to pray about the sixth hour, which answers to our noon; and it is reasonable to suppose that he began and ended the day in the like manner. With regard to morning and evening prayer, it will be sufficient to say, that I would wish you to defer neither of them too long. If any thing, however, should accidentally hinder you from being exact to your time, by no means omit it; for one omission makes way for another. Begin with prayer, which I would wish you to perform in a kneeling posture; for though that inay seem to some indifferent, yet we need to be impressed with an awful sense of the disproportion which there is between such worms as we are, and that august Being whom we approach. As to the manner, either use mental prayer, or let your words · be so low that no person can distinguish them at your closet door. To do otherwise savours too much of Pharisaical hypocrisy ; at least it will cause your good to be evil spoken of, and not without reason. In general, I would caution you against continuing it too long : doing so has a tendency to beget formality. Endeavour to impress your mind with a deep sense of the solemnity of the duty, and that you are actually as much in the divine presence as if you beheld the adorable Jehovah. Begin with adoration, or hallowing of the name of God. To this will naturally succeed thanksgiving, in which you cannot be at a loss for matter; since we are made partakers of eternal life through, and live every moment upon, the divine favour. It will then be proper to call to mind your particular transgressions, whether in thought, word, or deed; and hunibly to confess them before the majesty of heaven and earth. Close all with petition. Let it be your request that he will pardon your sins for the sake of his dear Son, and that he will give you every needful mercy, especially his Spirit to guide and guard you, and to increase your knowledge and approbation of those things which are most excellent. Remember that God only can deliver you from evil, and from that evil one who desires to have us that he may sift us as wheat. Lastly, intercede for those whom you are in duty bound to pray for ; your relatives and friends; those whom you know to be in distress of body or mind; and in general the whole cause and kingdom of Christ, as also the government and cominunity of which you are a member. I would rather wish you, my child, to be deeply im
pressed with a sense of your wants, and of God's ability to supply them, than to dwell 'long upon each particular. Remember also the promises which God has made to his people, and plead them with him. It may not be aniss to add, that one advantage resulting from prayer is, that it impresses our minds with an habitual sense of our wants, and of our dependence on the divine Being. For the most part, when our God intends to bestow a mercy he gives a spirit of supplication, that we may have an opportunity of observing the answers of our petitions. This strengthens our faith, inflames our love, and makes us travel the heavenly road with cheerfulness and vigour.
Either before or after prayer I advise you to read a chapter out of the Old or New Testament in order. You will thereby have a better opportunity of observing the connexion, and understanding the mind of the Holy Spirit. In reading these divine writings, we should remember that they are not the words of men, but the words of the living God; even those words by which we shall be judged at the last day. It can never be unnecessary to remind you, my dear niece, that every part of religious worship, whether public or private, is a mean to regulate our judg. ment, our temper, and our practice ; and that unless these ends are answered, we receive no real advantage. Nay, we ought to beware lest our very strictness in the path of duty should lead us to be proud and vain-glorious. I acknowledge this cannot happen, unless a departure from the truth first take place. We should therefore never lose sight of this grand axiom, this first principle of the gospel, that our God accepteth our persons and our ser-: vices, merely and entirely, from first to last, only on account of what his well-beloved Son has done and suffered for us. This truth is the key of divine revelation : a departure from it would reduce our religion to a level with paganism. As the obedience of Christ, which in fact includes his sufferings, proceeded from God's eternal love to his people, so is it the only ground of their acceptance with him; and it is by causing them to believe this truth that
he reconciles them to himself. This it is which is first and principally taught us in the Lord's supper, where we learn, that the broken body and the shed blood of the Son of God are the life of our souls, in the same manner as bread and wine are the life of our bodies. You will not wonder that I press the consideration of this so forcibly ; for where this truth is disregarded, hypocrisy begins. :
Meditation, as a Christian duty, is a thinking on divine things. The mind being always employed, our happiness will much consist in finding it proper employment when it is not engaged about the necessary affairs of life. The subjects of meditation are numberless ; but those about which a Christian should be engaged, are chicfy God and himself. God ;-the wisdom, power, and goodness, which he has manifested in the works of croation; and the justice, mercy, and hatred of sin, which he has displayed in redemption. These may be greatly divided and sub-divided ; but I only mention them in the briefest man. ner. Ourselves ;-the importance of our being brought into existence ; what we are capable of enjoying or suffer-'ing; and the eternity that is before us, during which we must be either happy in the presence of God, or excluded from the realms of bliss. These subjects furnish, likewise, an inexhaustible fund for conversation. It is to be lamented that many waste their social hours in the retail. ing of slander, more perhaps for want of better topics than through malevolence.
To labour in some useful employment, cither for the benefit of ourselves or others, is that in which all the scrvants of God should study to glorify him. It is not only liis command that we should be diligent in business ; but our health and well-being depend under him upon an active and industrious life. If idleness be not clothed with rags, as it often is, and to which it always tends, yet our health will be exceedingly impaired by indolence and inactivity : not to mention the guilt that is contracted by living in the breach of the divine commands, and the temptations to which we thereby expose ourselves; for
we shall find by experience, that when we have nothing to do, Satan will be busy with his temptations. It should likewise be our study to employ ourselves in such a manner that our hearts may not reproach us in our closets with being unprofitable servants, when we take a view of our actions. · The next portion of time which I shall consider, is that occupied in refreshing the body with food. This, as well as every other action of our lives, ought to be done to the glory of God; and in this as well as in every other thing, our duty and happiness are connected. By no means take the intemperate for your pattern : they have their reward, and a dreadful one it is, in this life. An intemperate person is not only a dishonour to religion, but he renders himself unfit for prayer, meditation, and every other duty. • Temperance is the grand elixir of life. The temperate man enjoys a healthful body, and if he be a Christian, a tranquil mind, as long as God intended the machine should last, and then is gathered to his fathers as a shock of corn fully ripe. Temperance renders the body of a Christian a proper habitation for his soul. It makes him calm and serene amid troubles and temptations; and enables him to enjoy the blessings of time, and the prospects of eternity, with additional pleasure. The temperate man relishes his food better than he whose appetite is palled by repletion ; .so that he in fact is the epicure ; while he who is intemperate never tastes any pleasant food, nor enjoys a good meal.
.“ People in the lower ranks," says Dr. Mead, « enjoy the common advantages of existence more intensely than those in the higher walks of life. Wholesome food is acquired by moderate labour, which improves the appetite and digestion. Hence sound sleep, uninterrupted by corroding cares, refreshes the wearied limbs. How vastly inferior to these blessings are the delicacies of the affluent, which are ever accompanied with real evils. Their appetites, in order to relish their food, must be sti