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tions of one sort or another will present themselves. In some instances, perhaps the strictest bounds of temperance, and the regular appointments of life may be broken in upon through a fondness for company, and the entertainments which often attend it. In other instances, the interests of life appearing greater than they did before, and taking up more of the mind, contrary interests of other persons may throw you into disquietude, or plunge you in debate and contention, in which it is extremely difficult to preserve either the serenity, or the innocency of the soul. And perhaps, if ministers and other christian friends observe this, and endeavour in a plain and faithful way to reduce you from your wandering, a false delicacy of mind, often contracted in such a state as this, will render these attempts extremely disagreeable. The ulcer of the soul (if I may be allowed the expression,) will not bear being touched, when it most needs it; and one of the most generous and self-denying instances of christian friendship shall be turned into an occasion of coldness and distaste, yea, perhaps of enmity. §. 8. And possibly, to sum up all, this disordered state of mind may lead you into some prejudices against those very principles, which might be most effectual for your recovery : and your great enemy may succeed so far in his attempts against you, as to persuade you, that you have lost nothing in religion, when you have almost lost all. He may very probably lead you to conclude, that your former devotional frames were mere fits of enthusiasm; and that the holy regularity of your walk before God, was an unnecessary strictness and scrupulosity. Nay, you may think it a great improvement in understanding, that you have learnt from some new masters, that if a man treat his fellow-creatures with humanity and good-nature, judging and reviling those only who would disturb others by the narrowness of their notions, (for these are generally exempted from other objects of the most universal and disinterested benevolence so often boasted of,) he must necessarily be in a very good state, though he pretend not to converse much with God, provided that he think respectfully of him, and do not provoke him by any gross immoralities. §. 9. I mention this in the last stage of religious declensions, because I apprehend that to be its proper place; and I fear, it will be found by experience to stand upon the very confines of that gross apostacy into deliberate and presumptuous sin, which will claim our consideration under the next head. And because too, it is that symptom, which most effectually tends to prevent the success, and even the use of any proper remedies, in consequence of a fond and fatal apprehension, that they are needless. It is, if I may borrow the simile, like those fits of lethargic drowsiness, which often precede apoplexies and death. §. 10. It is by no means my design at this time to reckon up, much less to consider at large, those dangerous principles which are now ready to posses the mind, and to lay the foundation of a false and treacherous peace. Indeed they are in different instances various, and sometimes run into opposite extremes. But if God awaken you to read your Bible with attention, and give you to feel the spirit with which it is written, almost every page will flash in conviction upon the mind, and spread a light to scatter and disperse these shades of darkness. §. 11. What I chiefly intend in this address, is to engage you, if possible, as soon as you perceive the first symptoms of these declensions, to be upon your guard, and to endeavour as speedily as possible to recover yourself from them. And I would remind you, that the remedy must begin, where the first cause or complaint prevailed, I mean, in the closet. Take some time for recollection, and ask your own conscience seriously, How matters stand between the blessed God, and your soul? Whether they are as they once were, and as you could wish them to be, if you saw your life just drawing to a period, and were to pass immediately into the eternal state? One serious thought of eternity, shames a thousand vain excuses, with which, in the forgetfulness of it, we are ready to delude our own souls, And when you feel that secret misgiving of heart, which will naturally arise on this occasion, do not endeavour to palliate the matter, and to find out slight and artful coverings, for what you cannot forbear secretly condemning; but honestly fall under the conviction, and be humbled for it. Pour out your heart before God, and seek the renewed influences of his spirit and grace. Return with more exactness to secret devotion, and to self-examination. Read the scripture with yet greater diligence. and especially the more devotional and spiritual parts of it. Labour to ground it in your heart, and to feel, what you have reason to believe the sacred penmen felt when they wrote, sc far as circumstances may agree. Open your soul with all simpli. city, to every lesson which the word of God would teach you; and guard against those things, which you perceive to alienate your mind from inward religion, though there be nothing criminal in the things themselves. They may perhaps in the general be lawful; to some possibly they may be expedient; but if they produce such an effect as was mentioned above, it is certain they are not convenient for you. In these circumstances, above all seek the converse of those christians, whose progress in religion seems most remarkable, and who adorn their profession in the most amiable manner. Labour to obtain their temper and sentiments, and lay open your case and your heart to them, with all the freedom which prudence will permit. Employ yourself at seasons of leisure, in reading practical and devotional books, in which the mind and heart of the pious author is transfused into the work, and in which you can (as it were) taste the genuine spirit of christianity. And to conclude, take the first opportunity that presents, of making an approach to the table of the Lord, and spare neither time, nor pains, in the most serious preparation for it. There renew your covenant with God; put your soul anew into the hand of Christ, and endeavour to view the wonders of his dying love, in such a manner as may rekindle the languishing flame, and quicken you to more vigorous resolutions than ever, to live unto him who died for you”. And watch over your own heart, that the good impressions you then feel, may continue. Rest not, till you have obtained as confirmed a state in religion, as you ever knew. Rest not, till you have made a greater progress than before: for it is certain, more is yet behind; and it is only by a zeal to go forwards, that you can be secure from the danger of going backward, and revolting more and more.
§. 12. I only add, that it is necessary to take these precautions as soon as possible; or you will probably find a much swifter progress than you are aware in the down-hill road; and you may possibly be left of God, to fall into some gross and aggravated sin, so as to fill your consciences with an agony and horror, which the pain of broken bonest, can but imperfectly 2xpress.
A Prayer for one under spiritual Decays.
“ETERNAL and unchangeable Jehovah! Thy perfections and glories are like thy being, immutable. Jesus thy Son is !he same yesterday, to-day, and for evert. The eternal world 'o which I am hastening, is always equally important, and presses upon the attentive mind for a more fixed and solemn regard, in proportion to the degree in which it comes nearer and nearer. But alas, my views, and my affections, and my best resolutions are continually varying, like this poor body, which goes through daily and hourly alterations in its state and circumstances. Whence, O Lord, whence this sad change
* 2 Cor. v. 15. + Psal. li. 8. † Heb. xiii. 8.
which I now experience, in the frame and temper of my mind towards thee Whence this alienation of my soul from thee * Why can I not come to thee with all the endearments of filial love, as I once could Why is thy service so remissly attended, if attended at all And why are the exercises of it, which were once my greatest pleasure, become a burden to me? Where, O God is the blessing I once spake of *, when my joy in thee as my heavenly Father, was so conspicuous, that strangers might have observed it, and when my heart did so overflow with love to thee, and with zeal for thy service, that it was matter of self-denial to me, to limit and restrain the genuine expressions of these strong emotions of my soul, even where prudence and duty require it “Alas, Lord, whither am I fallen Thine eye sees me still ; but Oh how unlike what it once saw me! Cold and insensible as I am, I must blush on the reflection.—Thou seest me in secrett, and seest me perhaps, often amusing myself with trifles, in those seasons, which I used solemnly to devote to thine immediate service. Thou seest me coming into thy presence as by constraint; and when I am before thee, so straitened in my spirit, that I hardly know what to say to thee, though thou art the God with whom I have to do; and though the keeping up an humble and dutiful correspondence with thee, is beyond all comparison the most important business of my life. And even when I am speaking to thee, with how much coldness and formality is it? It is perhaps the work of the imagination, the labour of the lips: but where are those ardent desires, those intense breathings after God, which I once felt Where is that pleasing repose in thee, which I was once conscious of, as being near my divine rest, as being happy in that nearness, and resolving that if possible, I would no more be removed from it But Oh, how far am I removed When these short devotions, if they may be called devotions, are over, in what long intervals do I forget thee, and appear so little animated with thy love, so little devoted to thy service, that a stranger might converse with me a considerable time, without knowing that I had ever formed any acquaintance with thee, without discovering that I had so much as known or heard any thing of God? Thou callest me to thine house, O Lord, on thine own day; but how heartless are my services there I offer thee no more than a carcase. My thoughts and affections are engrossed with other objects, while I draw near thee with my mouth, and honour thee
with my lips*. Thou callest me to thy table; but my heart is so frozen, that it hardly melts even at the foot of the cross ; hardly feels any efficacy in the blood of Jesus. Oh wretched creature that I am! Unworthy of being called thine ! Unworthy of a place among thy children, or of the meanest situation in thy family; rather worthy to be forsaken, yea, to be utterly destroyed “Is this, Lord, the service which I once promised, and which thou hast so many thousand reasons to expect Are these the returns I am making, for thy daily providential care, for the sacrifice of thy Son, for the communications of thy spirit for the pardon of my numberless aggravated sins, for the hopes, the undeserved, and so often forfeited hopes, of eternal glory Lord, I am ashamed to stand or to kneel before thee. But pity me, I beseech thee, and help me : for I am a pitlable object indeed ; my soul cleaveth unto the dust, and lays itself as in the dust before thee; but Oh, quicken me according to thy word+! Let me trifle no longer, for I am upon the brink of a precipice' I am thinking of my ways, Oh give me grace to turn my feet unto thy testimonies; to make haste without any farther delay, that I may keep thy commandmentst! Search me O Lord, and try mešl Go to the first root of this distemper, which spreads itself over my soul; and recover me from it! Represent sin unto me, O Lord, I beseech thee, that I may see it with abhorrence 1 and represent the Lord Jesus Christ to me in such a light, that I may look upon him and mourn||; that I may look upon him and love! May I awaken from this stupid lethargy, into which I am sinking ; and may Christ give me more abundant degrees of spiritual life and activity, than I have ever yet received And may I be so quickened and animated by him, that I may more than recover the ground I have lost, and may make a more speedy and exemplary progress, than in my best days I have ever yet done ! Send down upon me, O Lord, in a more rich and abundant effusion, thy good Spirit ! May he dwell in me as in a temple which he has consecrated to himself [! and while all the service is directed and governed by him, may holy and acceptable sacrifices be continually offered”! May the incense be constant, and may it be fragrant! May the sacred fire burn and blaze perpetuallyff; and may none of its vessels ever be profaned, by being em. ployed to an unholy or forbidden use ! Amen.”
* Isai. xxix. 13. FPsal. cxix. 25. Psal. cxix. 59,60. § Psal. cxxxix. 23. |Zech. xii. 10. * I Cor. iii. 16 ** Rom. xii. 1, ti-Lev. vi. 13.