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in Christian love towards all who love
the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity; and
he finds additional pleasure in his secret
prayers, when, in giving vent to the
pious feelings of his soul, he copiously
intercedes for the universal Church of
Christ. But if, unhappily, he conceives the disputable articles to be very important, and imbibes a controversial spirit, he receives a wound materially affecting his spiritual health-his mental appetite
becomes vitiated-he cannot feed on the
most important truths unless the mode of serving them up precisely fit his humour.
His zeal is soon diverted to
channel, and his thoughts are wholly occupied with arguments in support of his favorite position. He begins to feed, as it were, on the very husks of religion. A vast declension in spiritual things takes place in him, and he perceives it not. He frequently neglects private prayer : (not voluntarily indeed, but) having his mind fully occupied with things that have the semblance of religion, he forgets to retire; when he recollects himself, he
hastens to his closet; should the work
of his favorite author in the controversy
be near his Bible, he cannot resist the
temptation to read just a page or two
in that. He reads: he finds his time
almost gone; the reading of the Scriptures is postponed to a more convenient opportunity, that he may spend his few remaining moments in prayer. With his lips he goes over, as it were, mechanically, a few important petitions, whilst a multitude of thoughts are rushing into
This corroborates his own
arguments; that refutes the argument of
an opponent. He rises from his knees
with a mind, as he conceives, stored with wisdom: he feels himself qualified, had he the power to reorganize the Church, to introduce such a mode of worship and
that humility, that Christian love, that hatred of sin, that watchfulness against pride, self-conceit, and vain-glory, which the Christian ought ever to seek diligently
and earnestly in private prayer? Alas,
the crown is fallen from his head!
Non-essentials have no place in heaven;
doubtful disputations never enter there; controversial knowledge is no qualification or meetness for the saints in light.
Happy is he who avoids disputes about things indifferent, and learns to admire, in the Scriptures, the depths he cannot reach, and to adore the mysteries he
If the Christian conceive in his heart
an excessive desire of some temporal
good, how lawful soever the possession of the thing may be in itself, the effect will be very similar: spiritual declension will succeed, and private prayer will be neglected; though less in the form, probably, than in the spirit of it.
An inordinate desire of any thing, not inseparably connected with religion, engrosses the attention, and pre-occupies the thoughts to the exclusion of medita
tion, the handmaid of private devotion ; and like "the cares of this world” in
general, and “the deceitfulness of riches "
in particular, chokes the precious seed,
and renders it unfruitful.
affections thus embarrassed, the Christian may retire to his closet, but the object which he is pursuing with impassionate ardour will follow him thither. He may
bend his knees, but the ardently desired good will present itself, in its most engaging forms, to his imagination, and possess his thoughts. He may draw nigh unto God with his lips, “but his heart will be far from him ;" for “where
his treasure is, there will his heart be
Should an apparently favorable oppor