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favourite tendencies and propensities, may be no pleasing task, but certainly is a very necessary and profitable one. It will teach us, where the first assault of temptation is likely to be made, and therefore, where we ought most to be on our guard. It will shew us the variety of our own imperfections, and therefore teach us to be humble and forgiving to others. It will point out to us the uncertainty of every earthly advantage, and therefore will incline us to extend that charity to the distressed, of which we ourselves may one day stand in need. And lastly, it will teach us the just value of our life itself, which alone carries with it more instructive lessons of morality than all the eloquence of ancient sages and learned philosophers.
But the greatest advantage of meditation is, that it will bring us acquainted with God.
Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at “ peace,” is the language of holy writ; and certain it is, that till we are acquainted with him, there can be no true peace. It is therefore an inestimable advantage of meditation, that it is the means of bringing about this acquaintance. It gives us the opportunity of considering his glorious being and perfections ; which will imprint an awful reverence of his
majesty majesty on our minds.--It acquaints us with his all-seeing care and universal presence; which will confirm our reliance on his providence. It teaches us, that he is the Father of the friendless and distressed; which will embolden us to approach his throne, pour out our griefs before him, and make known our wants.-It informs us, that nothing happens in heaven or in earth without his direction or permission; and therefore will instruct us to look up with comfort to him, on all occasions; as knowing that both we and our's are safe under the shadow of his wings, so long as we endeavour to deserve his favour and protection. And can there be a greater consolation than this, to a frail and helpless being like man ;-to know that he is always under the care of an Almighty Governor, who sees all his wants, and whose perfections are hourly employed for his welfare and support? Surely, therefore, it is every man's interest, as well as his duty, to make himself acquainted with this glorious being, and to meditate day and night on all his wonderous works; that when all the vain friendships of the world shall fail, and the world itself be dissolved, he may have an “ anchor of the soul, sure and 16 stedfast.”
These are some of the advantages of meditation. Many others, I dare say, your own understanding, and, I hope, your own experience, will suggest to you.
Give me leave however to mention two or three cautions, which may be of use to those, who wish to reap these or any other advantages from religious meditation.
The first is, that this meditation must not be superficial or irregular. Many are apt to fancy that they practise this duty, if they now and then make a few reflections, at some hour of seriousness or mortification, when they are out of humour with the world, or incapable of relishing its pleasures. I would not willingly discourage even the smallest dawnings of piety. But, I am afraid, these irregular and temporary starts of meditation are of little use. They are only what the Apostle calls “looking in a glass, “ and straitway forgetting what manner of men
we are.” But the truth is, it is the duty of a Christian to meditate and consider at all times : every night should account to God and his conscience for the follies of the day; since none of us can tell, whether we may live to do it tosins and follies, to all parts of our duty to God and man, and to all the branches of our holy Religion. It is the fault, I fear, of too many, to satisfy themselves with repenting of some sins, though they still retain one favourite vice or darling lust. Others again endeavour to improve the fervour of their faith and devotion by frequently meditating on what Christ has done for them, but do not care to remember what they are to do for themselves. And I think I may, without
Secondly, this consideration or meditation must be universal : it must extend to all our
violation of Christian candour, say, that this species of delusion has been too much encouraged by those ignorant teachers, who, by laying an undue stress upon the efficacy of faith, have led many of their followers to sup pose that Christ has done so much for thein, that they need do nothing for themselves. But the true religion of Christ will teach us, to extend our tlioughts and practice to all those great moral duties, which necessarily spring out of a true faith; and whilst we gratefully acknowledge and meditate upon the great things which Christ has done for us, to remember that there are also great things, which we are to do for ourselves.
Thirdly, as our meditations, on the one hand, ought not to be cold and languid, so they ought to be carefully guarded against visionary flight's
and enthusiastic fervours on the other. Meditation, when it is the child of genuine devotion, and under the guidance of a sober mind, is one of the noblest employments of human nature. But if it be suffered to run out into all the extravagancies of a heated imagination, if it blow men up with an idea of their own singular importance, if it fill their minds with ungrounded notions of secret illapses and particular illuminations of the Divine Spirit, if it lead them to despise human ordinances as unprofitable or unnecessary, if it tend to withdraw men from the world, or from a discharge of the proper duties of life, -it then becomes dangerous and ridiculous, and rather deserves our contempt than our admiration.
For examples of this mistaken piety, and of its bad consequences, I am sorry to say, we need not look far. We all of us know to what lengths the church of Rome has carried the notion of a spiritual retreat from the world, so as to fill every part of the papal dominions with Jazy or vicious ascetics, to the great hurt of society and scandal of religion. And our own times will furnish us with a melancholy instance of the power of a misguided devotion, in those numerous sectaries around us, who, whilst they fancy themselves actuated by superior zeal for