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ON THE MEANS OP
PROMOTING A SPIRIT OF DEVOTION
LET us ask,
us ask, “ What is man?" He is a creature of feeling, as well as of intellect. We must interest him as we can. It is unphilosophical to depend on the mere statement of truth. No doubt there is a contrary error: for what is the end of exciting attention, if there is nothing deserving attention?
It is of the first importance, to PUT MEANING into every part of the service. In either extreme, of appealing to the understanding or the feelings, there may be no meaning: in a dull and lifeless preacher, there is no meaning; and, in one of a contrary character, there may be nothing worthy of the name.
There is, besides, TOO LITTLE ATTENTION, in many Churches, TO MAN AS MAN.
I would consult his convenience in all lawful points. If he could sit easier on cushions, he should have cushions. I would not tell him to be warm in God's service, while I leave him to shiver with cold. No doors should creak: no windows should rattle.
Music has an important effect on devotion. Wherever fantastical music enters, it betrays a corrupt principle. A congregation cannot enter into it; or, if it does, it cannot be a Christian congregation. Wherever there is an attempt to set off the music in the service, and the attempt is apparent, it is the first step toward carnality. Though there is too little life in the style of music adopted among the Moravians, yet the simplicity of Christianity pervades their devotion.
ORDER is important. Some persons, by coming in when they please, propagate a loose habit of mind. For man is a sympathetic creature; and what he sees others neglect, he is in danger of growing negligent in himself. If the reader goes through the Service as though the great business for which they are assembled is not yet begun, the people will soon feel thus themselves.
The Minister should take occasion frequently to impress on the people the IMPORTANCE OF THE WORK in which they are engaged. It is not enough to take it for granted that they feel this. We must take nothing for granted. Man needs to be reminded of every thing, for he soon forgets every thing.
MONOTONY must be, above all things, avoided.
The mind is vagrant: monotony cannot recal it. There may be continued vehemence, while the attention is not excited: it is disturbance and noise: there is nothing to lead the mind into a useful train of thought or feeling.
There is an opposite error to vehemence. Men of sense and literature depress devotion by treating things ABSTRACTEDLY. Simplicity, with good sense, is of unspeakable value. Religion must not be rendered abstract and curious. If a curious
. remark presents itself, reserve it for another place. The hearer gets away from the bustle and business of the week: he comes trembling under his fears: he would mount upward in his spirit: but a curious, etymological disquisition chills and repels him.
In truth, we should be men of business in our congregations. We should endeavour both to excite and instruct our hearers. We should render the service an interesting affair in all its parts. We should rouse men: we should bind up the broken - hearted; we should comfort the feebleminded: we should support the weak: we should become all things to all men, if by any means we may save some.
It seems to me, that many men do not give sufficient weight to our Lord's observations upon those who made themselves Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake, nor to St. Paul's reasoning on the subject of marriage. I would only imply, that both our Lord and the Apostle seem to establish it as a principle, that a single state, when it can be chosen and is chosen for the sake of the Gospel, is the superior state. This, I fear, is too much forgotten; and those men, who might have received the saying, and have done more service to the Church of God by receiving it, have given it little or no weight in their deliberations.
And yet it ought to be considered, that the very character which would best fit men for living in a single state, would abstract them too much from the feelings and wants of their people. I ain fully sensible that I should have been hardened against the distresses of my hearers, if I had not been reduced from my natural stoicism by domestic sufferings.
The cases, I allow, are extremely few, in which a man may do, on the whole, more service to the Church by imitating St. Paul than by marrying: yet there are such cases; and it behoves every Minister seriously to consider himself and his situation, before he determines on marriage. He should not regard this state as indispensably necessary to him, but should always remember, that, cæteris paribus, he, who remains single, is most worthy of honour.
But, when it is proper that a Minister should marry, and he has determined to do it, how few select such women as suit their high and holy character!" A Minister is like a man who has undertaken to traverse the world. He has not only fair and pleasant ground to travel over, but he must encounter desarts and marshes and mountains. The traveller wants a firm and steady stay. His wife should be, above all things, a woman of faith and prayer--a woman, too, of a sound mind and of a tender heart-and one who will account it her glory to lay herself out in co-operating with her husband, by meeting his wants and soothing his cares. She should be his unfailing resource, so far as he ought to seek this in the creature. Blessed is she, who is thus qualified and thus lives!
But, after all, the married Minister, if he