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Devotion implies, secondly, sincere gratitude to God, for all his benefits. This is a warmer emotion than simple veneration. Veneration looks up to the Deity, as he is in himself; gratitude regards what he is towards us. When a devout man surveys this vast universe, where beauty and goodness are every where predominant; when he reflects on those numberless multitudes of creatures, who, in their different stations, enjoy the blessings of existence; and when at the same time he looks up to a universal Father, who hath thus filled creation with life and happiness, his heart glows within him. He adores that disinterested goodness, which prompted the Almighty to raise up so many orders of intelligent beings, not that he might receive, but that he might give and impart; that he might pour forth himself, and communicate to the spirits which he formed, some emanations of his felicity.
The goodness of this supreme benefactor, he gratefully contemplates, as displayed in his own state. He reviews the events of his life; and in every comfort which has sweetened it, he discerns the divine hand. Does he remember with affection the parents under whose care he grew up, and the companions with whom he passed his youthful life? Is he now happy, in his family rising around him; in the spouse who loves him, or in the children who give him comfort and joy? Into every tender remembrance of the past, and every pleasing enjoyment of the present, devotion enters; for in all those beloved objects, it recog:nises God. The communication of love from heart to heart is an effusion of his goodness. From
his inspiration descends all the friendship which ever glowed on earth; and therefore, to him it justly returns in gratitude, and terminates in him.
But this life, with all its interests, is but a small part of human existence. A devout man looks forward to immortality, and discovers still higher subjects of gratitude. He views himself as a guilty creature, whom divine benignity has received into grace; whose forfeited hopes it has restored; and to whom it has opened the most glorious pros→ pects of future felicity. Such generosity, shown to the fallen and miserable, is yet more affecting to the heart, than favours conferred on the innocent. He contemplates, with astonishment, the labours of the Son of God, in accomplishing redemption for men; and his soul overflows with thankfulness to him, 'who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.-What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits? Bless the Lord, O my soul! and all that is within me, bless his holy name; who forgiveth all thine iniquities, and healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction, and crowneth thee with loving kindness, and with tender mercies.'
Devotion implies, thirdly, the desire of the soul after the favour of the supreme Being, as its chief good, and final rest. To inferior enjoyments, the devout man allots inferior and secondary attachment. He disclaims not every earthly affection. He pretends not to renounce all pleasure in the comforts of his present state. Such an unnatural renunciation humanity forbids, and religion cannot require. But from these he expects not his supreme bliss. He discerns the vanity which be
longs to them all; and beyond the circle of mutable objects which surround him, he aspires after some principles of more perfect felicity, which shall not be subject to change or decay. But where is this complete and permanent good to be found? Ambition pursues it in courts and palaces; and returns from the pursuit, loaded with sorrows. Pleasure seeks it among sensual joys; and retires with the confession of disappointment. True happiness dwells with God; and from the light of his countenance,' it beams upon the devout man. His voice is, 'Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.' After exploring heaven and earth for happiness, they seem to him a mighty void, a wilderness of shadows, where all would be empty and unsubstantial without God. But in his favour and love, he finds what supplies every defect of temporal objects; and assures tranquillity to his heart, amidst all the changes of his existence.
From these sentiments and affections, devotion advances, fourthly, to an entire resignation of the soul to God. It is the consummation of trust and hope. It banishes anxious cares, and murmuring thoughts. It reconciles us to every appointment of divine Providence; and resolves every wish into the desire of pleasing him, whom our hearts adore. Its genuine breathings are to this effect: Conduct me, O God! in what path soever seemeth good to thee. In nothing shall I ever arraign thy sacred will. Dost thou require me to part with any worldly advantages, for the sake of virtue and a good conscience? I give them up. Dost thou command me to relinquish my friends, or my
country? At thy call I cheerfully leave them. Dost thou summon me away from this world? Lo! I am ready to depart. Thou hast made, thou hast redeemed me, and I am thine. Myself, and all that belongs to me, I surrender to thy disposal.'
This, surely, is one of the noblest acts of which the human mind is capable, when thus, if we may be allowed the expression, it unites itself with God. Nor can any devotion be genuine, which inspires not sentiments of this nature. For devotion is not to be considered as a transient glow of affection, occasioned by some casual impressions of divine goodness, which are suffered to remain unconnected with the conduct of life. It is a powerful principle, which penetrates the soul; which purifies the affections from debasing attachments; and, by a fixed and steady regard to God, subdues every sinful passion, and forms the inclinations to piety and virtue.
Such, in general, are the dispositions that constitute devotion. It is the union of veneration, gratitude, desire, and resignation. It expresses, not so much the performance of any particular duty, as the spirit which must animate all religious duties. It stands opposed, not merely to downright vice; but to a heart which is cold, and insensible to saered things; which, from compulsion perhaps, and a sense of interest, preserves some regard to the divine commands, but obeys them without ardour, love, or joy.
ADVANTAGES OF DEVOTION.
THE devotional spirit, united to good sense and a cheerful temper, gives that steadiness to virtue, which it always wants when produced and supported by good natural dispositions only. It corrects and humanizes those constitutional vices, which it is not able entirely to subdue; and though it too often fails to render men perfectly virtuous, it preserves them from becoming utterly abandoned. It has, besides, the most favourable influence on all the passive virtues; it gives a softness and sensibility to the heart, and a mildness and gentleness to the manners; but, above all, it produces an universal charity and love to mankind, however different in station, country, or religion. There is a sublime yet tender melancholy, almost the universal attendant on genius, which is too apt to degenerate into gloom and disgust with the world. Devotion is admirably calculated to soothe this disposition, by insensibly leading the mind, while it seems to indulge it, to those prospects which calm every murmur of discontent, and diffuse a cheerfulness over the darkest hours of human life.-Persons in the pride of high health and spirits, who are keen in the pursuits of plea sure, interest, or ambition, have either no ideas on this subject, or treat it as the enthusiasm of a weak mind. But this really shows great narrowness of understanding; a very little reflection and acquaintance with nature might teach them, on how precarious a foundation their boasted independence on religion is built; the thousand name.