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On Infant Heads behold his Bounty flows,
How far diffus'd his Charity discreet 1
Let Friendship's sacred Name at least excuse This last Effort of a retiring Muse. For Nelson oft (he strung her humble Lyre, And to this Tomb may decently expire. S, if.
NATURE AND WISDOM
Treating of Devotion in General.
* - There are too many, God knows, in all Communions, who place all their Devotion in the Means of Religion;^ provided they pray customarily, hear many Sermons, and sometimes receive the Holy Communion, they conclude the Man of God made perfect; they think nothing more necessary to entitle them to the Favour of the Almighty; or if they are sensible they fall short of their Duty in other Particulars, yet they flatter B themthemselves, that their exactness in the external Parts of Religion will make Amends for all sucn Defects. Whereas, in Truth, the - Design of all those Means of Grace God has established in Christianity, was to conduct us to solid and substantial Piety, to plant in our Minds the Love and Fear of God's holy Name, and an utter Abhorrence of every Thing that is Evil; to make us just and upright in all our Dealings with our Neighbour, temperate in all our Enjoyments, charitable towards the Needy and Asflicted, and zealous for the Salvation of our Brethren; and farther so to spiritualize our Affections, that they might be raised above the trifling Concerns of this perishing Life, and sixed upon a Good that is everlasting and immutable. So that if we do not use them to this End and Purpose, they will no Ways be acceptable in God's Sight, but rather provoke his Wrath and Indignation against us, and increase our; Condemnation, in that we pervert the very Means of our Recovery.
To Pray frequently, to Read and Hear the holy Word of God, to Receive the blessed Sacrament,- to Fast, to Examine ourselves, to Meditate upon divine Subjects, are all holy and Christian Actions, what God requires from us; and therefore, without Doubt, the Performance of them, as they are sit to promote our Salvation, so they tend to his Honour and Glory: But yet, if this were the
only Path that leadeth to eternal Life, there would not be so few that sind it. God expects that we should become New Creatures; that the prevailing Temper and Bent of our Souls mould be, to bring forth all the Fruits of Righteousness; that we mould facrisice to him our darling Passions and Inclinations, and whatsoever opposeth his divine Will. The Victim we should osfer, should be the Idol of our Heart, that which corrupt Nature most inclines us to, that which bad Custom consirms and nourishes in us. The Covetous are easily prevailed upon to renounce that Luxury of Life, that is maintained by the Extravagance of Expences. And Vanity may persuade others to relieve the Necessities of the Poor, frour that public Applause that is paid to Charity: but still these Sacrisices are very imperfect, because the darling Passion is siill retained. In these Cases, the vain Man must become Modest and Humble, and glory only in the Lord; and the covetous Man must abound in Alms-deeds, and six his Mind upon durable Riches: The Choleric and Revengeful, may preserve themselves srom the ill Effects of the tender Passions; and the Sost and Effeminate may sind no great Difficulty to suppress their Resentments: But if the Revengeful could be persuaded to turn his Anger against himself, and the Man of Pleasure to place his Delight in God, both might be numbered amongst the truly devout. B 2 ThereTherefore, we must use the Means of Grace, in order to overcome the irregular Motions of our own Hearts; in order to give up that to God, which Nature would reserve for herself: This is the shortest and surest Way.
And as we must use the Means of Religion, in order to the afore-mentioned End and Purpose, so we must not be partial in the Use of those Means, pick out some, and leave out others. For we must look upon ourselves in the Hands of God, as sick Men in the Hands of an able Physician, who requires an exact Compliance with all his Prescriptions; that some Medicines mould be taken at one Time, some at another, and that none be omitted; the Patient's Recovery depending not so much upon one Medicine, as upon the punctual Use of all he has directed: For want of this Observation, I am afraid, many fall short in working out -their Salvation; for God, who knows our Frame, and remembers that we are but Dust, has suited the Means of our Recovery to the complicated Maladies of our Souls; so that if we neglect any of them, we may justly fear being difappointed in attaining solid and substantial Piety, which is the true Health of our Minds.
Thus some lay the great Stress upon hearing of Sermons, as if the Knowledge of their Duty were the one Thing necessary. Others are so entirely devoted to the Prayers of the Church, that they have but a mean Opinion