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always present with us; when we consider that his eyes are in every place, beholding both the evil and the good; that he sees in secret, and will one day reward openly. In this manner we shall acquire an habitual reverence for God and his laws, which will end in an habitual obedience to them, even without any express regard to their authority. Thus we should certainly be less likely to neglect the request of a friend, or the injunction of a master, if we could always keep in mind the remembrance of our friend or master; and a constant attention to them would certainly give us a habit of pleasing them in all things.
2. An habitual regard to God promotes an uniform cheerfulness of mind; it tends to dissipate anxiety, or melancholy, and may even, in some cases, prevent madness. Without a regard to God, as the maker and governor of all things, this world affords but a gloomy and uncomfortable prospect. Without this, we see no great end for which we have to live; we have no great or animating object to pursue; and whatever schemes we may be carrying on, our views are bounded by a very short and narrow space. To an atheist, therefore, every thing must appear little, dark, and confused. And let it be considered that, in proportion as we forget God, and lose our regard to him, we adopt the sentiments and views of atheists, and shut our eyes to the bright and glorious prospects which religion exhibits to us.
Religion, my brethren, the doctrine of a God, of a providence, and of a future state, opens an immense, a glorious, and most transporting prospect; and every man, who is humbly conscious that he conforms to the will of his Maker, may enjoy and rejoice in this prospect. Considering ourselves as the subjects of the moral government of God, we see a most important sphere of action in which we have to exert ourselves; we have the greatest of all objects set before us, " glory, honor, and immortality; an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away," as the reward of our faithful perseverance in well-doing; and we have a boundless existence, an eternity, in which to pursue and enjoy this reward.
These great views and objects, the contemplation of which must be habitual to the mind which keeps up an habitual regard to God, cannot fail to diminish the lustre of the things of time and sense, which engage our attention here below; and while they lessen our solicitude and anxiety about them, they must cure that fretfulness and distress of mind which is
occasioned by the disappointments we meet with in them.
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3. An habitual regard to God fits a man for the business of this life, giving a peculiar presence and intrepidity of mind; and is, therefore, the best support in difficult enterprises of any kind. A man who keeps up an habitual regard to God, who acknowledges him in all his ways, and lives a life of devotion to him, has a kind of union with God; feeling, in some measure, the same sentiments, and having the same views. Hence, being, in the language of the apostle, "a worker together with God," and therefore being confident that God is with him and for him, "he will not fear what man can do unto him." Moreover, fearing God, and having confidence in him, he is a stranger to every other fear. Being satisfied that God will work all his pleasure in him, by him, and for him, he is free from alarm and perturbation, and is not easily disconcerted, so as to lose the possession of his own mind. And having this presence of mind, being conscious of the integrity of his own heart, confiding in the favor of his Maker, and therefore, sensible that there is nothing of much real value that he can lose, he will have leisure to consider every situation in which he finds himself, and be able to act with calmness and prudence, as circumstances may require.
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Having thus considered the important effects of an habitual regard to God in all our ways, I come to treat of the most proper and effectual methods of promoting this temper of mind.
1. If you be really desirous to cultivate this habitual devotion, endeavour, in the first place, to divest your minds of too great a multiplicity of the cares of this world. The man who lives to God, in the manner which I have been endeavouring to describe, lives to him principally, and loves and confides in him above all. To be solicitous about this world, therefore, as if our chief happiness consisted in it, must be incompatible with this devotion. We cannot serve God and Mammon. If we be Christians, we should consider, that the great and professed object of our religion, is the revelation of a future life, of unspeakably more importance to us than this transitory world, and the perishable things of it. As Christians, we should consider ourselves as citizens of heaven, and only strangers and pilgrims here below. We must therefore see, that, as Christians, there is certainly required of us a considerable degree of indifference about this world, which was only intended to serve us as a passage to a better.
The Divine Being himself has made wise provision for lessening the cares of this world, by the appointment of one day in seven, for the purpose of rest and avocation from labor. Let us then, at least, take the advantage which this day gives us, of "calling off our eyes from beholding vanity," and of " quickening us in the ways of God."
This advice I would particularly recommend to those persons who are engaged in arts, manufactures, and commerce. For, highly beneficial as these things are, in a political view, and subservient to the elegant enjoyment of life, they seem not to be so favorable to religion and devotion, as the business of agriculture; and for this reason, therefore, probably among others, the Divine Being forbade commerce to the people of the Jews, and gave them such laws as are chiefly adapted to a life of husbandry. The husbandman is in a situation peculiarly favorable to the contemplation of the works of God, and to a sense of his dependence upon him. The rain from heaven, and various circumstances relating to the weather, &c, on which the goodness of his crops depends, he receives as from the hand of God, and is hardly sensible of any secondary or more immediate cause. If he understand any thing of the principles of vegetation, and can account for a few obvious appearances upon what we call the laws of nature; these laws he knows to be the express appointment of God; and he cannot help perceiving the wisdom and goodness of God in the appointment; so that the objects about which he is daily conversant, are, in their nature, a lesson of gratitude and praise.
Besides, the employment of the husbandman being chiefly to bring food out of the earth, his attention is more confined to the real wants or at least, the principal conveniencies, of life; and his mind is not, like that of the curious artist and manufacturer, so liable to be fascinated by a taste for superfluities, and the fictitious wants of men.
Nor, lastly, does the business of husbandry so wholly engross a man's thoughts and attention, while he is employed about it, as many of the arts and manufactures, and as commerce necessarily does. And it should be a general rule with us, that the more attention of mind our employment in life requires, the more careful should we be to draw our thoughts from it, on the day of rest, and at other intervals of time set apart for devotional purposes. Otherwise, a worldlyminded temper, not being checked or controlled by any thing of a contrary tendency, will necessarily get possession of our hearts.
2. This brings me to the second advice, which is, by no means to omit stated times of worshipping God by prayer, public and private. Every passion and affection in our frame is strengthened by the proper and natural expression of it. Thus frequent intercourse and conversation with those we love promote friendship, and so also the intercourse we keep up with God by prayer, in which we express our reverence and love of him and our confidence in him, promotes a spirit of devotion, and makes it easier for the ideas of the Divine Being and his providence to occur to the mind on other occasions, when we are not formally praying to him. Besides, if persons whose thoughts are much employed in the business of this life, had no time set apart for the exercises of devotion, they would be in danger of neglecting it entirely; at least, to a degree that would be attended with a great diminution of their virtue and happiness. But, in order that the exercises of devotion may be the most efficacious to promote the true spirit and general habit of it, it is advisable that prayers, properly so called, that is, direct addresses to the Divine Being, be short. The strong feelings of reverence, love, and confidence, which ought to animate our devotions, cannot be kept up in such minds as ours, through a prayer of considerable length; and a tedious languor in prayer is of great disservice to the life of religion, as it accustoms the mind to think of God with indifference; whereas, it is of the utmost consequence, that the Divine Being always appear to us as an object of thegreatest importance, and engage the whole attention of our souls. Except, therefore, in public, where prayers of a greater length are, in a manner, necessary, and where the presence and concurrence of our fellow-worshippers assist to keep up the fervor of our common devotion, it seems more advisable, that devotional exercises have intervals of meditation, calculated to impress our minds more deeply with the sentiments we express; and that they be used without any
strict regard to particular times, places, or posture of body.
3. In the course of your usual employments, omit no proper opportunity of turning your thoughts towards God. Habitually regard him as the ultimate cause, and proper author of every thing you see, and the disposer of all events that respect yourselves or others. This will not fail to make the idea of God occur familiarly to your mind, and influence your whole conduct.