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and most urgent indeed should be our desires when we address Him: but this is not so-he overlooks nothing, he forgets nothing, he mistakes nothing. With all our much speaking, we shall tell him wrong, for we know not perfectly our wants or our desires--but happily his own omniscience tells him better, and he grants by his wisdom rather than by our folly. Neither from this ground therefore can the utility of the prayer be proportioned to its length. Other reason it would be difficult to imagine, why a long prayer might be more acceptable to God than a short one; and if any persons attach importance to the length of their devotions, it is to be feared they are under the influence of one of these two errors.
We may be assured, if the often repeated cry for mercy be but the impulse of an often felt sense of need -if a long protracted orison be the result of experienced benefit or enjoyment in its length-we may be assured our Father in heaven takes no offence at the prolonged intrusion—it will never be a charge against us that we sought him too often, or asked too much. But if we are so senseless as to suppose he is debtor to our prayers, if we think the mighty length of them is meritorious, or the superfluous words and splendid diction recommendatory, we are greatly mistaken: the most availing prayer of man that Scripture has recorded, is but of six words—the prayer that God himself has dictated is scarcely more than of as many sentences; and we doubt whether the prayer, that from the Christian's bosom makes its way with surest wings to heaven, be not that which, without any words at all, escapes from the sudden emotion of the heart, impulsively referring itself to him it loves.
We cannot suppose it possible that any one should so pervert this holy text, as to excuse themselves upon its authority for the neglect of publick or of private prayer. While they who ask amiss are excluded from the reward, they who ask not at all, may scarcely lay claim to it.
Be it still on our minds, that our
Father seeth in secret-and he seeth assuredly whether the shortening of the private prayer, or the withdrawing from the public manifestations of religion, proceed from an honest desire to avoid the wrong, or be but the indulgence of our inclination under cover of his warning word.
THE LISTENER.-No. XXVII.
I was visiting lately a friend in the country, a rational, good sort of woman, the queen, by long established courtesy, of a populous village, where no body thought themselves of more consequence than herself. She had been a very happy woman all her life, and might have continued so to the end of it, had she not been disturbed by the conduct of her neighbours, and certain disorders that had broken out in the village. All Lady Betty Ball's sorrows grew out of her warm attachment to the Church of England, and very susceptible aversion to every thing that looked like a departure from its rules or a dissent from its opinions. Some of her neighbours, and even the curate of the parish himself, were beginning to disturb her peace by manifesting most dangerous symptoms of dissent. The former, in spite of her opposition, persisted in teaching grown people to read, and collecting children into Sunday Schools-means directly tending to make sectarians of them. Some had even gone so far as to read the bible to the sick and dying poor, and draw their attention to the eternal world--a dangerous encroachment on the rights of the established ministry. Nay, such was the spirit of dissent amongst them, it was becoming a common thing to hear religion spoken of in society, and theological subjects discussed at table. But what could stay the infection, when the minister himself had caught it, and actually took part in a Bible society, refused to go to the Assembly-rooms, and administered the
sacramental emblems to three or four people at a time, without reading the appointed words to each one separately? Then the poor--the very poor had come in to the work of subversion: she had heard with her own ears a day-labourer singing Toplady's hymns as he sate at dinner under a hay-stack; and she had seen with her own eyes a washer-woman reading a tract, as she paused to rest her bundle on a mile-stone by the road-side. The ringing of the church bells on a Thursday evening totally suspended her appetite-on a Wednesday or Friday, provided it were at eleven o'clock, and there were no sermon, it was not observed to have the same effect. Lady Betty had great respect for the authorized version of the Scriptures in proper time and place : for instanceany part of it on the Sunday, or the Proper Lessons on any day—but if she chanced to see a bible in the kitchen window that looked as if it had moved since Sunday, or in her children's hands after their lesson had been said, the spectre of dissent rose immediately to her afflicted vision, and her concern for the Establishment took no rest till she had suppressed the innovation. To hum a psalm tune on a week-day, to like an extempore sermon, to refuse a game of cards, or to be shocked at the use of an accidental oath, were things she held especially, and about equally, dangerous to the Church-the friend who was convicted of either lost her esteem, and the servant who was suspected of either lost her confidence.
Partly from participation in her love of the Church, and partly from the tenderness I always have for the honest zeal that takes fright even at the bugbears of its own imagination, when they seem to endanger the thing it loves, I should have felt a great deal for Lady Betty's sorrows, had I not observed there were times and circumstances in which her respect for the Church, and its decisions, and its wisdom, was considerably abated. The established religion has appointed the celebration of the Sabbath, and enjoins on its members to attend those appointments strictly—it orders all secular affairs to be suspended—the sale of the necessaries of life to be forborne—the unnecessary labour of man and beast dispensed with-the amusements of the idle, as well as the toils of the industrious, to be superseded by the publick manifestations of religious reverence, and the private exercise of spiritual devotion. Lady Betty was of another mind : she could make a better use of this day than that to which the Church has assigned it. It was the best day of the seven for travelling, because there were fewer things on the road, and there was not much else to be done—except the occupations to which the Church devoted it, and they were of no consequence. She would go to the morning service, and so might her children, if there was nothing to prevent- that is, if there had not fallen a shower in the night to make it damp, or there was not a cloud in the heavens that might produce a shower bye and bye-or she had not slept too late to be ready within ten minutes after the bells had done ringing. Two services are ordered ; but she held the second altogether superfluous—the carriage, and of course the horses, and of course the servants, were always required at three o'clock for her customary drive. She liked orthodox religion in inferior people, provided always it did not interfere with the orthodox irreligion, that is to say, the convenience of their superiors. She did not disapprove of her servants going to church-but it was seldom convenient to spare them. Articles were purchased from her tradespeople on Sunday--the law is otherwise, but it was convenient. Persons were employed to fetch things, and carry things, and do things on the Sabbath, in direct opposition to the law's command that they should be at church: but this too was convenient. The Church has issued a Catechism for the instruction and guidance of the young, and Lady Betty's children were most carefully taught it, and made to repeat it—but they were not taught, nor indeed allowed to follow or believe it. Their mother would have thought them very superstitious had
they feared the influence of an evil spirit, and very methodistical had they expected the influence of a good spirit-she would have been much vexed had they grown up with a contempt for the vanities of life to which she reared them, or a distaste for the pomps and splendours she taught them to aspire to. The articles of the Christian faith, as explained by the Church, she would not allow to be so much as named before them, lest it should put odd notions into their heads : and in respect to the keeping of all God's commandments—that might be very well, according to her own interpretation of them, but not according to that of the Church, given in the catechism: for they were by precept and example taught to consider their own advantage first, their neighbour's benefit second, and God's requirements last. They were to obey lawful authorities when it was dangerous or disreputable to do otherwise-but to circumvent the law, to evade it, or furtively to defraud the revenue, were daily practices. They might not tell a lie, so called ; but they were taught to tell as many indirect ones by false representations, false excuses, false politeness, as might suit their purpose: and in respect to slander, evil-speaking, unkind and malevolent feelings, if they were ever checked in these, it was only because children should not be encouraged in them: daily proof was before their eyes, that when they ceased to be children, there would be no harm in these things. The Church has appointed certain times for the celebration of the Lord's Supper, and earnestly exhorts her members to be present there and duly to receive it. Here Lady Betty differed again-she can only attend once a year, or when she happens to have a leisure week that is, a week free from common engagements, to prepare herself for the ceremony. In opinions it were endless to trace out the differences—the Church teaches her perpetually to repeat in publick, that she is a ruined and corrupted creature, needing the interference of divine grace to reconcile her to God, or make her