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situations,-or to the pious observer of nature, --or to the sufferer who directed his views towards eternity;-or lastly, to those who desired to elevate and sanctify their minds by reflection on the character and progress of the Religion of Jesus Christ. He left out repetitions, which from the mode in which the work at first appeared, had necessarily occurred:
- he omitted allusions to the period and circumstances in which the weekly sheets were published; and added much, where there appeared to be a deficiency.
Thus was compiled the present Book of Devotion, for the use of a Christian household. It was intentionally so arranged, that the reflections should follow one another in great variety, and not in the strict order and succession of a compendium of Christian duties. Even this change is refreshing to the mind of the reader; and it is often the unexpected observation which acts most powerfully upon him-especially when the subject is more or less in harmony with the disposition of his soul.
It may happen, indeed, that the particular treatise which you, my Christian reader, take in hand to study for your edification, or your comfort, may not always comprehend what is adapted to your inclination at the moment. But even in this case, it can be only a gain to you,--and no loss. It is always profitable, if our soul be suddenly led to reflection on any important thing, on which, just at the moment, it thought the least. Perhaps it is an object which had been long forgotten and neglected--so much the more useful will be to us the recollection of it. Perhaps, when our mind is most deeply afflicted by any misfortune, it is excited to the contemplation of the Greatness and Majesty of God: herein will it find the fullest consolation. Perhaps, when we
have given way, in agreeable circumstances, to happiness unbounded, our attention may be called to the instability of all earthly things. When can we better learn to enjoy pleasure with moderation ?
It is not the words which these contemplations present to you, my Christian reader, but the way and manner in which you read them, in the different situations of your life,-and what you think and feel in consequence,—that can promote your salutary knowledge, and the happiness of
life. In a Christian family JESUS CHRIST should be esteemed as the first and best Friend. His word, His counsel, should guide our spirit in the affairs of daily life. How lovely is it to dwell in a house where thoughts of God and divine things begin and end the work of every day! How beautiful is the sight of a family, in which the venerable father, the pious mother, surrounded by their children, dependents, and faithful servants, teach and expound the word of God! How much good—how much blessing is there produced—how much sinfulness and unholiness is there suppressed, privately and without any external observation.
It is not meant to be said, that we should assemble together every day at home, at a solemn hour of devotion. The most delightful task becomes by repetition tiring and common; the most impressive loses its force by custom. But you may always find, in the course of the week, at least one hour when you can obtain possession of yourself in solitude. Let this be the hour of your private devotion—then engage in earnest self-examination :- then take these contemplations, designed for your assistance, or some other book conducive to religion-and by its means prepare yourself for communing with your God—for making proof of your pure or impure inclinations--for choosing the future principles on which you will have to act.
It is quite possible, that we may not be at all times equally fit to devote ourselves to the serious affairs of religion. You have pleasant and unpleasant accidents in your family, which disturb you; you are thinking of different undertakings and projects, which at present occupy your whole mind; you have certain works before you, which take up your time, and may likewise weary you, or require your undivided attention.
Yet, my dear friend, do not deceive yourself. It is true, the inclination to employ yourself in religious affairs
may be wanting. But should your inclinations rule you, or should you be the lord of them? You have perhaps no inclination to speak to a king, or a prince, or any other of your magistrates. But if he were to stand before
you not appear in his
your whole mind, and with all respect? God—the Almighty-stands before you every minute of your existence:–Eternity impends over you every moment that you think and will! Cannot you do that in His presence which you can do every day before all your earthly superiors ? No ;-we must not delay those sublime employments, if we would not at last find pleasure in the most disgraceful. The thought of God, and thenthat you should be worthy of Him-must be to you as a habit—as a matter of perpetual necessity :-otherwise you will not win the palm of inward perfectness. Religion and virtue must become as indispensable to your soul, as food and drink are to your body :-Otherwise your Christianity is hypocrisy--the prayer by which you think to consecrate yourself to God, mere outward ceremonial.
Wherefore by no means leave to chance, or to opportunity, or to your particular inclination, the choice of the hours in which, either alone, or with your relatives, you are to devote yourself to divine contemplation. These hours may else occur seldomer than is beneficial to your heart. You go at an appointed time to your domestic and official business, without asking yourself whether you have great pleasure in your work. If you can do this for your bread, for your earthly support, why will you less serve the more noble part of you, your immortal spirit? Do not delay the hours of holy meditation to the time when you know of nothing better to do. Reflection on God, eternity, and the destination of the soul, is not calculated merely to shorten tedious moments, or to entertain us in an idle hour.
Choose the time, when, being free from other business, you can be given up to yourself—to yourself either in solitude, or surrounded by your dependents and children assembled for the same purpose. Fix this hour invariably, if it be possible, amidst your other business ; for custom bas great power over the mind, and much facilitates our duty. Most admirably is Sunday—the universally sacred Sabbath of the Christian world-appropriated to this purpose. It
— is dedicated to quiet, devotion, and serious reflection. We willingly look back from it on the daily employment of the preceding week with a scrutinizing eye—and make new determinations and arrangements for the ensuing one. Then it is that the soul looks up, even involuntarily, to the wise Ruler of our fate — the great Disposer of our fortune. Neglect not the good purpose of this day; omit not to allow your mind one hour of devotion. For perhaps even in
this hour a truth may be presented to your soul, which may unexpectedly have the most important influence on your welfare in the week.
But with regard to what you read or hear read :-accustom yourself never to think of other things at the same time; but turn your whole thoughts upon yourself. Compare strictly and honestly what is there said, with the state in which you find yourself, or with your mode of thinking and way of acting. Then will you soon perceive what progress you have already made, and how much is yet wanting to you, in order to be a worthy disciple of Jesus Christ, a deserving child of God,—to live happy, and to die content.
But those passages which particularly touch you, which, as it were, appear to stand there especially for your
advantage—those remark above all others. They are the words to be selected for the benefit of your heart. Make the subject of them a lasting treasure in your mind; a rule for all the future week, and if possible, your whole life.
Yet memory, indeed, is often faithless. We do not always remember what is good, when it is most necessary
Business and vexations, cares and pleasures, in the course of the week, drive out the good thoughts of Sunday —the holy resolution which is formed in the bosom of solitude and meditation. Therefore assist yourself. Take those select passages, which particularly strike or move you, once every day in your hand at the hour when you leave your couch, and before you go to your day's work. Such a thought renewed in you becomes, as it were, the guardian angel of your soul, and will remind it of its own worth, on occasions when it might otherwise forget it—will keep you