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We give place to the following remarks, at the desire of our worthy Correspondent, simply to prevent any wrong inference being made from the communication to which he alludes. We are persuaded that it was not the design of Gaius," either to countenance the neglect of prayer, or to deny the propriety of what some might denominate long prayers on particular occasions. His remarks, it will be perceived, refer solely to prayers offered in public, in the social meeting, or in the family, where the impropriety of which he complains has been known too frequently to exist. On this subject our correspondents are agreed. We hope the duties of the closet, so necessary to the life and comfort of the christian, will not, and they certainly cannot, be either neglected or abridged, in consequence of any remarks designed to render public services appropriate and agreeable. [Editors.
To the Editors of the American Bap- should the humble suppliant ocvent breathings of devotion, even tist Magazine.
PERMIT me to offer to your readers some remarks suggested by a communication in the number for September, entitled, "Impropriety of long Prayers."
It is indeed true, as your Correspondent observes, that many who lead in devotional exercises, are injudiciously and unappropriately long. And it would be well if some friend should inform them of the impropriety, into which they have, perhaps unconscious-, ly, fallen. It is true, also, that the weariness and distraction of thought, of which he complains, arises, in part, from these defects.
Notwithstanding this, few persons, I think, would object, in the social prayer meeting, to the fer
casionally spend more than fifteen minutes in praise, in confession, and in petition. Surely we can conceive it possible to spend even an hour in prayer, without vain repetitions; and when the spirit of supplication is bestowed in large measure on him who leads in prayer, we may consider it very probable, that the same spirit is shed on others, and that an exercise of devotion longer than usual will not then occasion the saying, "What a weariness is it!"
I am persuaded your correspondent would not wish that the Christian, in his secret devotions, should restrict himself to two or three minutes, although his remarks have been understood by some as implying this. Undoubt
edly there are but few, if any, who spend too much time in the devotions of the closet; the greater proportion of Christians, err on the side of remissness in those duties, in the performance of which no eye but that of God is upon them. Sutcliffe, though a man of prayer, lamented on his death bed, that he had not more abounded in the exercises of devotion; and it is beyond doubt, that Daniel, Brainerd, and Gardiner, did not lament, in prospect of death, that they had spent so many hours in communion with the Father of their spirits.
I have already granted that a weariness is often occasioned by the improper length of prayers. A good judgment is necessary on the part of him who leads in devotion, that the exercises may be adapted to the occasion. By introducing what is not appropriate, persons often injudiciously protract their prayers, while often they become tedious on account of repetition, or in consequence of a heavy, dull, languid delivery. Sometimes a prayer is unnecessarily lengthened by a redundance of expressions, by a too frequent introduction of the names of God,by unappropriate epithets attached to those names, and by the too frequent recurrence of such terms as, "We pray thee," "We humbly beseech thee," when they had better be omitted.
But most of these defects arise from one other, from a defect of piety, from a want of spirituality. This, I apprehend, is the great cause of the weariness complained of. They who join, as well as they who lead in prayer, possess not that fervent devotion, that delight in communion with God, which should characterize the Christian. The efficient remedy, therefore, for the weariness and distraction of thought,
so frequently attendant on devotional exercises, consisteth not so much in shortening our prayers, as in strengthening our faith, and love, and spirituality. Let ministers and all who occasionally lead the devotions of others, aim after the devotional spirit of Paul; let Christians live nearer to God, and conform more to the lives of primitive believers; and then, to use the words of your correspondent, "our prayer meetings will become increasingly pleasant, family worship will be delightful; and in the prayers on public occasions, the assembly will feel an interest and pleasure, of which, at present, they have no conception."
For the A. B. Magazine.
JOY IN THE GOD OF SALVATION.
Although the figtree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vine; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold,, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will jov in the God of my salvation. Hab. iii. 17, 18.
We must not imagine, that heaven consists merely in the emigration of the soul to some distant and unexplored region, nor yet in its translation from abodes of pain and uncertainty, to climes of undisturbed bliss and reality; but rather, that it results from the capacity of the soul to take pleasure in God. The error of placing the felicity of the righteous at an immense distance, and considering it as differing in essence from all that is felt in the present life, is more general, and more hurtful, than will be at first admitted. It is through the prevalence of this delusion, that those who have bad only superficial views and
experiences in religion, can persuade themselves that their state may be good, and their hopes well founded. For, whilst they are conscious of the absence of that joy which the favour and presence of God must impart, they console themselves under this manifest deficiency, by recurring to the long cherished error, that heaven is an untasted delight. Accordingly, they are contented to live in the utter destitution of that spiritual happiness which they consider an impracticable attainment, whilst in the body. They indolently surrender themselves to the influence of whatever is adverse to experimental piety, and regard all the present feelings of christian satisfaction as a presumptuous anticipation of a future prerogative. To them, religion would appear gloomy and solitary, if it were disjoined from the enjoyments of sense, and the cheering aspect of this world. The conclusion in which they rest, is, that although the spirit should have had no joyful intercourse with heaven during its residence in the body; yet as soon as it enters the scenes of eternity, it must be in an instant accommodated to the amazing dimensions of its new habitation, and suited to the exercises of a state wholly foreign to its former pursuits.
This dangerous mistake results, in a great degree, from the influence of that fallacious hope which induces men to expect a joy, they know not what, on their transition from the body; and though it is sustained by no sensible and consistent impressions of present comfort, they account for their incapacity to be happy in religion, from their preconceived opinion of the remoteness of heaven. Under such a persuasion, they are at no
pains to obtain realizing assurances, are under no disquietude from their unproductive profession, are prompted to little or nothing of that self-inspection by which the godly try themselves, are strangers to the anguish which results from the hidings of God's countenance, are invulnerable to the piercing arrows of the Almighty, and secured in the slumbers which have been invited by a false view of religious joy. It is allowed that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath provided for them who love him; yet it must be maintained, that faith is able to afford a "joy unspeakable and full of glory;" that it is not so much place as capacity that constitutes heaven; and that the final glory of saints will be only the perfection of that spiritual capacity, which has its rudiments in this life, for receiving pleasure from communion with God.
The words prefixed to this essay, furnish a lively view of that sacred pleasure which a pious mind could receive from the presence of God, and the security of his salvation. It is here we see the believers' power to be happy in spite of all the oppressions of bodily want, and amidst the desolations of nature. In like manner we should be prepared, in the most signal prostration of our earthly hopes, to exult in God; and grasp those joys, the chief recommendation of which is, that they are wholly purified from all the mixtures of earthly delight. For although, neither drought nor any other disaster should frustrate the hopes of the husbandman, so as to present an arid waste, instead of fruitful fields and golden harvests; yet it is certain, that to us who now
JOY IN THE GOD OF SALVATION.
live, the verdure of the fields and the splendor of the heavens must be shortly arrayed in black
sites to this happiness, we shall
1. To be joyful in the Lord,
An agreement of nature is necessary to the happiness of those who must dwell together; for what joy can exist in a state of variance and strife? What grateful quietude can take place, amidst the agitations of perpetual hostility? The men of the world do not consent to the ways of God; they are equally averse to the dispensation of his grace, and the administration of his justice; to the holiness of his character, and the rectitude of his government; to the purity of the law, and the sanctity of the gospel.
found in the Lord a happiness, which the sudden extinction of all created good could not vary, The pre requinor diminish. To the eye dim with age, the fig-tree loses its beauty; and to the taste vitiated with disease, the cluster loses its relish. And to him who descends to the valley of the shadow of death, all the visible properties of nature are rendered equally incapable of giving comfort. But we should consider it very possible, that the scene which the prophet supposes, may be exhibited to us; for our country, at least that part of it where the writer of this resides, from an unexampled drought during the summer of 1818, was threatened with an alarming inadequacy in the customary supplies of provision. In numerous instances, throughout extensive fields the means of human nourishment, instead of being matured by genial seasons, have been seen on the burning surface of a parched earth, drooping and withering in dismal ruin. Such circumstances are to us the call of providence to scrutinize our qualifications for enjoyment in the God of our salvation, when we shall have been shut out from all that gives enjoyment to our sensitive existence. This serious examination of ourselves will appear more necessary, if we allow due influence to the consideration, that many of those who wear the external garb of religion, could not be rendered more miserable than to be excluded from every other source of happiness but their religion. This is no substitute to them for earthly pleasures, no compensation for the loss of secular enjoyments; and the place which should furnish access to nothing else would be deemed a most unwelcome solitude.
But let us remember that notwithstanding this, there is to be
Can two walk together except they be agreed? No object, all the attributes of which are repulsive to every principle of our nature, can yield us pleasure; and perhaps no greater torture could be imagined, than to be confined exclusively to such. The material creation is in some measure suited to the residence of fallen creatures. Its parts are so constructed as to convey agreeable impressions to all our senses. But it is possible to imagine a different construction ; and to suppose, that every pleasing quality of nature were reversed, that its wide extent was only an aggregate of properties repugnant to all the laws of our constitution, that the lustre of the sun imparted a horror inexpressible to our inmost souls, that the flowers and fruits of the earth were nauseating to our taste, that sympathy had no lenitives, friendship no endearments, and beauty This supposed no attractions. inversion in the objects of natural pleasure, becomes real in refer
ence to the spiritual world. The animal man has no taste for the joys of heaven. The Sun which shines there, would strike amazing terror to his soul by the excessive purity of his rays-the fruit from the tree of life, would sicken instead of heal. According to Milton, the idea of singing "forced hallelujahs to the Godhead," was more intolerable to the fallen angels than the fiery lake on which they lay extended. If, therefore, there is any felicity in the presence of God, that agreement of our nature with the divine, which was lost by original guilt, must be restored. In the conversion of the soul this spiritual concord begins. It is then we yield to the influences of the Spirit, desist from our rebellion, surrender to the control of the Lord, consent to the excellency of his law, and concur in all his methods of mercy. In such an assimilation of nature to the image of Christ, we must be sensible of a peculiar joy. It will be our happiness to follow where he leads, to practise what he commands, and to visit the place of his abode. Like Enoch, we may walk with God; like Moses, prefer the afflictions of his people to the pleasures of sin, and like Job, trust in him though he slay us. We shall not ask the world to help us to be happy, nor shall we dread its power to inflict a lasting wound.
Too blest to mourn "Creation's obsequies," we shall think of nothing so much as the ultimate bliss of that communion, the subordinate results of which are so cheering and delightful.
As the soul's accordance with the character, the will, the grace, and providence of God is confirmed, and matured by certain gradations, so the happiness of this blessed harmony, will increase with every additional discovery of his goodness and beau
ty. The more we find, that is lovely in him, the more we shall exult to be like him. And if the expectation of heaven warm our hearts with peculiar transports, it is because "when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."
A mind that dissents from none of the operations of the divine dispensations, is not easily perplexed, nor disquieted. By the extent of its resignation, it anticipates the more obvious possibilities of probationary suffering, and is, therefore, not thrown into the dissonance of a murmuring spirit, by unexpected visitations. It has already conceded, that "the way of a man is not in himself;" that God's will must be done, that the Lord shall "do what seemeth him good;" that "he doeth his pleasure in the armies above, and among the inhabitants of the earth beneath :" and such a concession must secure to all the events of providence, a peaceful submission. By such a mind it will be easily seen, that those acts of seeming severity by which the Lord exercises the faith and patience of his people, and which might appear calculated to break the harmony betwixt him and his afflicted children, obtain their consent, as methods of wisdom and grace. They find, that when earthly things are most remote, God is nearest to them; that when their hearts are most severed from all present objects, they have the more sensible delight in communion with Him; that it is an unspeakable happiness to meet him all alone, with the world shut out, and the soul closed against its intrusive vanities. Accordingly it will appear, that the agreement of spirit of which we speak, is not only the conformity of the heart to the divine nature as effected in regeneration, but also the consent of the judgment to the va