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It goes not. But perhaps the heart-ach may hear, and obey : your inward feelings at least should be under your control. But you have given them the rein; nor will they be checked on a sudden. While you have thought only of conquering other hearts, you have suffered headstrong passions to conquer your own. Summon then your worshippers, and order them to interpose ; see if by all their incense, and all their zeal, they can keep you young in spite of years, or make you glad in spite of affliction. They are silent. Ask them, if they will undertake to die for you? They retire. Call after them—“ Will
you answer for us at the judgment day?"-Again that awful period rushes on the mind. Ah, my friends, what will ye do then without religion? The thought is big with horror. Then, then it shall be seen, with an evidence bright and terrible as the funeral fire of Nature, that “ beauty is de
ceitful, and favour is vain.”—But what means that universal shout of human and angelic voices ? What words are those, which I hear resounding through the assembly of the universe ? “A woman " that feareth the Lord, She shall be praised !"
ON FEMALE PIETY.
1 TIM. ii. 10.
-Which becometh women professing Godlinessi
PROV. 'xxxi. 30.
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain : but a woman that
feareth the Lord, She shall be praised: If from what has been advanced concerning Female Piety, you be satisfied of its importance and necessity ; you will naturally attend, while I proceed, without any preface, to show you, in what manner it may be cultivated with most suca
It is difficult to say whether the instrumental duties of religion, as they are usually termed, have been more misrepresented by superstition and hypocrisy on one hand, or by vicious refinement and vain philosophy on the other. By the former they have been extolled, as if they were the whole of religion ; while the latter have decried them as vula gar, unavailing, and insignificant. The real truth is, that they are not only a part of religion, but an essential and important part of it ; essential, as expressing its several affections, and important, as nourishing and maintaining them ; essential, as a direct compliance with the divine authority, and important, as rendering such compliance more ready and habitual.
Habits, we all know, are formed by many reiterated acts; and if these be discontinued, those will in time be lost. As good impressions are at first produced by proper attention, so if this be suspended, they will soon fade from the mind; and the sooner, no doubt, that many of them at least were produced there in opposition to appetite, fashion, and the maxims of the world. Even friendship itself, which has originally so powerful a hold of the human heart, is not to be preserved alive, without that interchange of words and actions, parties be near; or that commerce of thoughts and wishes, if they be not, to which it naturally inclines. What could you expect from him, who should profess to entertain an affection for
you, and yet tesa tify no desire of your company, take no delight in your conversation, or if absent never inquire after you? Religion is a Divine Friendship, to be begun and continued in the same manner with that which is Human ; making allowance still for the infinite disparity between the Creator and the creature, between the Sovereign Spirit all pure and per fect, and a dependent mind embodied and frail.
In cultivating a friendship which you wished to be thorough and lasting, you would often step aside from the crowd to enjoy the freedom of undisturbed converse ; you would lay open your heart with confidence to the object beloved, listen to each com munication with pleasure, enter more and more into the same conceptions, exchange every possible mark of esteem, and, in the end, establish a union of interests and of souls alike close and tender. Now here we have some resemblance of private devotion. It is not my design to pursue this resemblance through its several parts ; neither do I pretend to say, that it holds minutely in every one of them: but
the ground is clear to her who believes in an omnipresent Deity, and knows that between minds there may be an intercourse independent of the senses. The application can only be learnt by practice, and much practice too.
It will not be learnt by those who have no relish for retirement. The Almighty's voice must be often attended to in the silence of the passions, and the secrecy of the soul.
Those are yet strangers to their Maker, who cannot endure to think of him, or do not love to turn to him, when alone. Is the reverse of this, my dear hearers, your case ? Are your meditations of God sweet? Does your heart go out after him, as its best and greatest object ? Is it your joy to pour it forth into his paternal bosom? Do you frequently find the exercise so delightful, as to quit it with unwillingness? Do you generally perceive your sentiments raised and refined by it, your ideas of your duty quickened and enlarged, your detestation of the contrary confirmed and heightened, your resolutions in sigorated of course, your gratitude, humility, meekness, resignation, and good affections of every kind improved? Then are you a true worshipper. These are some of the genuine workings of piety.
I inquire not, whether they be the result of longer or shorter prayers, of studied forms or extempore address, of more or fewer stated seasons for such offices. In these particulars, different minds require a diversity, or a different education occasions it. But she, I suppose, will be the greatest proficient in the Spirit of Prayer, who is at the greatest pains to be so; I do not mean in the
way of science or art, but in that of earnestness and perseverance.
Beside the regular, invariable, and solemn performance of your morning and evening devotions, it would be well if now and then, especially on the day of sacred rest, you took repeated opportunities of entering into your closet, shutting your door, and praying to your Father who sees in secret; according as you found yourself in a happier disposition for such employment, or were prompted to it by some peculiar occurrence in your situation, or exigence in your soul. And if at certain times of the year, pointed out by religious custom, or fixed upon by personal choice, you were to consecrate a whole day to holy retreat and devotional exercises, joined with prudent fasting ; you would, I am persuaded, find it as highly beneficial in your own practice, as it comes strongly recommended by the experience of the saints.
If you might be advised by me, you should in prayer neither trust wholly to your single fund of thought and expression, supposing it even rich and various, nor confine yourself entirely to forms, by whatever man or set of men composed ; but use sometimes one, sometimes the other, and sometimes a mixture of both, just as the attraction of your mind seems to lead at the moment, or as any
of these methods may on trial be attended with most satisfaction and advantage. In effect, I am convinced that of those who, in this kind of commerce, limit themselves to their own unassisted stock, the greater part will often, particularly in circumstances of bad health or spiritual dryness, be reduced to such straits as may produce a poverty of devotion which they could not suffer, did they proceed on a larger foundation. On the other hand, I cannot conceive, that, even amongst those who are most devoted to forms, any sincere worshipper should