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writings of the ancient fathers. It is distributed into seven portions, which, in Catholic countries, are chanted at different hours of
The object of the church, in establishing this discipline among her clergy, was to remind then of one of their most essential duties, the practice of fervent and frequent prayer, by which they are bound to honor the majesty of God, and to appear before him as intercessors in behalf of the people whom he has confided to their care. The clergy, therefore, are called, in a special manner, to the performance of this duty, by the very nature of their holy and sublime vocation: but the laity have a similar obligation to discharge. The temptations to which they are continually exposed amid the distractions of the world; the efforts that are constantly requisite 'to overcome their evil inclinations; the strength which they need from above to support them under the various trials incident to a life of virtue, abundantly suffice to make known the necessity of prayer. To facilitate the practice of this important duty, and to furnish the pious Christian with a method of devotion similar to the public office of the church, is the end of the present publication. It has been compiled chiefly from the inestimable and justly celebrated work, called Austin's Devotions in the Ancient Way of Offices, very extensively and favourably known among the Catholics of Great Britain. Mr. Austin was an Englishman by birth, and was educated in the principles of Protestantism; but having embraced the Catholic faith, he devoted his time particularly to the study of the sacred sciences. Gifted with a strong mind and peculiar taste for literary pursuits, his learning was of a varied and extensive character. Though he had read profoundly in law, mathematics, and philosophy, he excelled in the more important and useful parts of divinity. His acquirements, however, as a scholar, were not superior to his religion and piety as a Christian. His attention was always fixed on the great concerns of eternity, and his writings abundantly testify that the pure and holy faith which he professed, was vividly illustrated in his life and actions. He died in 1669. The varied form in which his "Devotions” are arranged, combining the exercise of prayer with the advantages of solid instruction, the fervid strain in which the sublime truths of religion are proposed to our consideration, the impressive and animated style in which the great maxims of Christian morality are conveyed to the mind, all unite to render the work a most useful course of practical devotion, and to recommend it highly to the piety of the faithful. The Secular's Office is principally an extract from it, with such alterations and additions as were thought necessary to adapt it to the present form of our language, and to make it an acceptable manual among those who are devoutly inclined. To derive from its use the advantages it is calculated to impart, the Christian must endeavor lo use it in the same spirit with which it was originally composed. The office is divided into several distinct portions, which are recited at different hours of the day, to remind us of the obligation we are under, of consecrating all our time and our whole life to the service of God, by the practice of good works and the careful omission of whatever is offensive to his Divine Majesty. In the psalms and lessons is contained an exposition of the great objects of our faith, and of our duties as the followers of Christ, and if read with attention, and occasionally made the subject of serious consideration, they cannot fail to produce the most salutary impressions. The pious Christian would do well, therefore, to select daily
from the morning office, some passage more particularly applicable to his spiritual wants, or one that has struck him with peculiar force, that it may serve as the nutriment of his mind and the rule of his actions during the day, placing before him, on every occasion, the virtue he should strive to practice, the evil habit or inclination he should endeavor to reform, or the means to be employed for the attainment of these important ends. Thus will he imitate the example of the royal prophet, who seven times in the day offered to the Lord a fervent tribute of praise and thanksgiving; thus, too, will he acquire that holy relish for the meditation of religious truth which will animate him to walk with alacrity in the path of the divine commandments.