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think it hard to have their want of devotion charged upon their ignorance. But if they will be content to be tried by reason and scripture, it may soon be made to appear, that a want of devotion; wherever it is, either amongst the learned or unlearned, is founded in gross ignorance, and the greatest blindness and insensibility, which can happen to a rational creature.
So far is devotion from being the effect of a little and dejected mind, that it must and will be always highest in the most perfect natures.
For, first, who reckons it a sign of a poor and little mind, for a man to be full of reverence and duty to his parents, to have the truest love and honour for his friend, or to excel in the highest instances of gratitude to his benefactor ?
Are not these tempers, in the highest degree, in the most exalted and perfect minds? And yet, what is high devotion, but the highest ex. ercise of these tempers of duty, reverence, love, honour, and gratitude to the amiable, glorious parent, friend, and benefactor of all mankind ?
Is it a true greatness of mind to reverence the authority of your parents, to fear the displeasure of your friend, to dread the reproaches
your benefactor ? and must not this fear, and dread, and reverence, be much more just,' and reasonable, and honourable, when they are in the highest degree towards God?
As the higher these tempers are, the more are they esteemed amongst men, and are allowed to be so much the greater proofs of a true greatness of mind'; so the higher and greater these same tempers are towards God, so much the more do they prove the nobility, excellence, and greatness of the mind.
" If a prince, out of his mere goodness, should send you a pardon by one of his slaves, would you think it a part of your duty to receive the slave with marks of love, esteem, and gratitude for his great kindness in bringing you so great a gift ; and at the same time think it a meanness and poorness of spirit, to show love, esteem, and gratitude to the prince, 'who of his own goodness freely sent you the pardon ? Yet this would be 'as reasonable, as to suppose,
that love, esteem, honour, and gratitude are noble tempers, and instances of a great soul, when they are paid to our fellowcreatures ; but the effects of a poor, ignorant, , dejected mind, when tlrey are paid to God.
That part of devotion, which expresses itself in sorrowful confessions, and penitential tears of a broken and a contrite heart, is very far from being any sign of a little and ignorant mind.
For who does not acknowledge it an instance of an ingenuous, generous, and brave mind, to acknowledge a fault, and ask pardon for any offence ! And are not the finest and most im. proved' minds the most remarkable for this excellent temper?
Is it not also allowed, that the ingenuity and excellence of a man's spirit is much shown, when his sorrow and indignation at himself rise in proportion to the foliy of his crime, and the goodness and greatness of the person he has offended ?
Now if things are thus, then the greater any man's mind is, the more he knows of God and himself, the more will he be disposed to pros*trate himself before God in all the humblest acts and expressions of repentance.
The greater the ingenuity, the generosity, judgment, and penetration of his mind area the more will he exercise and indulge a passionate, tender sense of God's just displeasure ; and the more he knows of the greatness, the
goodness, and perfection of the divine nature, the fuller of shame and confusion will he be at his own sins and ingratitude.
On the other hand, the more dull and ig. norant any soul is, the more base and ungenerous it naturally is, the more senseless it is of the goodness and purity of God ; so much the more averse will it be to all acts of humble confession and repentance.
From what has been observed, it appears, that devotion is so far from being suited to little ignorant ininds, as it is sometimes pretended, that it really constitutes the greatest dignity of our natures.
It is also evident, that indevotion is founded in the worst species of ignorance.
For, first, our blessed lord and his apostles were eminent instances of great and frequent devotion. Now if we will grant, as - all christians must grant, that their great devotion was founded in a true kuowledge of the nature of devotion, the nature of God, and the nature of man ; then it is plain, that all those, who are insensible of the duty of devotion, are in this excessive state of ignorance, they neither know God, nor themselves, nor devotion,
For if a right knowledge in these three respects produce great devotion, as in the case of our saviour and his apostles, then a neglect of devotion must be chargeable upon ignorance.
How comes it, that most people have recourse to devotion, when they are in sickness, distress, or fear of death? Is it not, because this state shows more of the vant of God, and their own weakness, than they perceive at other times? Is it not; because their infirmities, their approaching end, convince them of something, which they did not half perceive before ? : If devotion at these seasons be the effect of a better knowledge of God, and ourselves, then the neglect of devotion at other times is always owing to great ignorance of God and ourselves.
As indevotion is ignorance, so it is the most shameful'ignorance, and such as is to be charged with the greatest folly.
This will fully appear to any one, who considers, by what rules we are to judge of the excellency of any knowledge, or the shamefulness of any ignorance. ! - Knowledge itself would be no excellence, nor ignorance any reproach to us, but that we are rational creatures.