« 上一頁繼續 »
AMERICAN FIRST CLASS BOOK.
A devotional spirit recommended to the
DEVOTION is a delicate and tender plănt: as much as it is our duty and our interest to be possessed of it, it is not easily acquired, neither can it be carelessly maintained.* It must be long tended, diligently cultivated, and affectionately cherished, before it will have struck its roots so deep as to grow up and flourish in our hearts; and all along, till it attains to its perfect vigor and maturity in heaven, it needs to be defended from the adverse influences of things seen and temporal, of a vain imagination and an earthly mind.
The best season for acquiring the spirit of devotion is in early life; it is then attained with the greatest facility, and at that season there are peculiar motives for the cultivation of it. Would you make sure of giving unto God his right, and of rendering to the great Creator and Governor of the world the glory due unto his name, begin to do it soon; before the glittering vanities of life have dazzled and enslaved your imagination, before the sordid interests of this world have gotten possession of your soul, before the habits of ambition, or of avarice, or of voluptuousness, or of dissipation, have enthralled you; while your minds are yet free, and your hearts yet tender, present them unto God.
It will be a sacrifice superlatively ácceptable unto him, and not less advantageous to yourselves. Beseech him that he will awaken in you every sentiment of piety; beseech him that he will direct and prosper your endeavors to acquire,
to keep alive, and to improve, the genuine spirit of devotion. Entreat him that he will give you to behold himself in whatever else you see, and to discern his providence in all the events that you observe, or that you experience. Pūt your hearts into his hands, and importuné him, (if importunity it can be called,) to lay them open unto all the blessed influences of the discoveries he has made of himself and of his will, in his works, or in his ways, or in his word. Implore him to give you and preserve to you, the liveliest sensibility to all things spiritual and divine; and while thus you ask it, seek for it, in the conscientious* use of the appointed means of grace, and by every method that intelligence and prudence and experience recommend to you.
Let it be a perpetual object with you every day, to be improving in this heavenly temper. The spirit of devotion will be very hard to kindle in the frozen bosom of old age, and not very easy to introduce through the giddy heads into the busy hearts of manhood or advanced youth. If you wish then to reach that better world, where devotion, pure and ardent, is one of the most striking characters of its inhabitants, and, at the same time, one of the most essential ingredients in the happiness that they enjoy, you cannot be too early, and you cannot be too constant, in your endeavors to acquire and maintaint the spirit of devotion.
It is an acquisition well worth all that it can cost you to attain it for if the genuine spirit of devotion occupies your heart, it will preserve you from the corruptions that are in the world; it will give you courage to be singular, when to do your duty it will be necessary to be singular; it will make all your duties easy, and most of them it will make pleasant to you; it will shed the sweetest light upon the pleasing scenes and incidents of life, and will diffuse its cheering rays even over the darkest and most gloomy.
The pleasures that you may take will be infinitely more enjoyed by you, if God, the Author of them, has possession of your hearts; and the pains you cannot shun will be far less grievous to you, if God, who maketh darkness and createth evil be regarded by you as the wise and kind Dispenser of your lot. "Remember," then, while you are yet entering upon life, "remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil day comes, and the years draw nigh, in which ye shall say, I have no pleasure in them." Those will be bad days to acquire and cultivate the spirit of devotion; but the spirit of devotion acquired and cultivated
+ Pron. men-tāne.
and confirmed before, will convert those bad days into good
If you would be happy when you die, be pious while you live. If you would be cheerful when you are old, be religious while you are young. These objects you will acknowledge are well worthy your pursuit; and to your own convictions I appeal, that there are no other means by which you can attain these objects. To those who have let that golden opportunity slip by them; whose youth is past, and the spirit of devotion not attained; whose manhood is arrived, and that temper not yet formed; whose old age is come, and their hearts still sensual, frivolous and vain; I have no comfort to administer, for I have no authority to comfort you. Your best friends can only pity you and pray for you, that God will take away your stony hearts, and give you hearts of flesh. He can do it no doubt; will he do it? is the question. Never, my young friends, never let that question be asked concerning you. Surely you do not envy their condition, concerning whom it may be justly asked. Take heed that you do not come into their place.
To conclude: do not fear to admit the sentiments, and to cultivate the spirit of devotion; there is nothing tedious, dull, or irksome in it. It is pleasant even as pleasure's self.
Though I am about to adopt the language of a poet, it is not the language of imagination merely that I speak; what has been said of liberty, with some degree of truth, may, with the most perfect truth, be said of the genuine spirit of devotion, it alleviates trouble and enhances pleasure,
"It makes the gloomy face of nature gay,
PATERNUS had but one son, whom he educated himself. As they were sitting together in the garden, when the child. was ten years old, Paternus thus addressed him :-Though you now think yourself so happy because you have hold of my hand, you are in the hands, and under the tender care. of a much greater Father and Friend than I am, whose love
That God whom you see me daily worship; whom I daily call upon to bless both you and me, and all mankind; whose wondrous acts are recorded in those Scriptures which you constantly read,-that God who created the heavens and the earth; who was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whom Job blessed and praised in the greatest afflictions; who delivered the Israelites out of the hands of the Egyptians; who was the protector of Joseph, Moses, and Daniel; who sent so many prophets into the world; who appointed his Son Jesus Christ to redeem mankind :—this God, who has done all these great things, who has created so many millions of men, with whom the spirits of the good will live and be happy for ever;-this great God, the creator of worlds, of angels, and men, is your Father and Friend.
I myself am not half the age of this shady oak, under which we sit: many of our fathers have sat under its boughs; we have all of us called it ours in our turn, though it stands, and drops its masters, as it drops its leaves.
You see, my son, this wide and large firmament over our heads, where the sun and moon, and all the stars appear in their turns. If you were to be carried to any of these bodies, at this vast distance from us, you would still discover others as much above you, as the stars which you see here are above the earth. Were you to go up or down, east or west, north or south, you would find the same height without any top, and the same depth without any bottom.
Yet, so great is God, that all these bodies added together are only as a grain of sand in his sight. But you are as much the care of this great God and Father of all worlds, and all spirits, as if he had no son but you, or there were no creature for him to love and protect but you alone. He numbers the hairs of your head, watches over you sleeping and waking, and has preserved you from a thousand dangers, unknown both to you and me.
Therefore, my child, fear, and worship, and love God. Your eyes indeed cannot yet see him, but all things which you see, are so many marks of his power, and presence, and he is nearer to you, than any thing which you can see. Take him for your Lord, and Father, and Friend; look up unto him as the fountain and cause of all the good which you have received from me, and reverence me only as the bearer and minister of God's good things to you. He that
blessed my father before I was born, will bless you when I am dead.
As you have been used to look to me in all your actions, and have been afraid to do any thing, unless you first knew my will; so let it now be a rule of your life to look up to God in all your actions, to do every thing in his fear, and to abstain from every thing which is not according to his will.
Next to this, love all mankind with such tenderness and affection, as you love yourself. Think how God loves all mankind how merciful he is to them, how tender he is of them, how carefully he preserves them, and then strive to love the world as God loves it.
Do good, my son, first of all to those who most deserve it, but remember to do good to all. The greatest sinners receive daily instances of God's goodness towards them; he nourishes and preserves them, that they may repent and return to him; do you therefore imitate God, and think no one too bad to receive your relief and kindness, when you see that he wants it.
Let your dress be sober, clean, and modest; not to set off the beauty of your person, but to declare the sobriety of your mind; that your outward garb may resemble the inward plainness and simplicity of your heart. For it is highly reasonable that you should be one man, and appear outwardly such as you are inwardly.
In meat and drink, observe the rules of christian temperance and sobriety; consider your body only as the servant and minister of your soul; and only so nourish it, as it may best perform an humble and obedient service.
Love humility in all its instances; practise it in all its parts; for it is the noblest state of the soul of man: it will set your heart and affections right towards God, and fill you with whatever temper is tender and affectionate towards
Let every day therefore be a day of humility: condescend to all the weakness and infirmities of your fellowcreatures; cover their frailties; love their excellences; encourage their virtues; relieve their wants; rejoice in their prosperity; compassionate their distress; receive their friendship; overlook their unkindness; forgive their malice; be a servant of servants; and condescend to do the lowest offices for the lowest of mankind.
It seems but the other day since I received from my dear