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habits of humility, piety, devotion, charity, and self-denial, than to die unprepared for judgment; better to be most like our saviour, or some emi. nent saint, than to excel all the tradesmen in the world in business and bulk of fortune.
Had this been the christian spirit of Negotius, can any one say, that he had lost the true joy and happiness of life, by thus conforming to the spirit, and living up to the hopes of the
Can it be said, that a life made exemplary by such virtues as these, which keep heaven always in our sight, which both delight and exałt the soul here, and prepare it for the presence
of God hereafter, must be poor
and dull, if compared to that of heaping up riches, which can neither stay with us, nor we with them?
It would be needless to multiply examples of this kind, to show you, how little is lost, and how much is gained, by introducing a strict and exact piety into every condition of human life.
HAVING in the foregoing chapters shown the necessity of a devout spirit, or habit of mind in every part of our common life, in the discharge of all our business, in the use of all the gifts of God; I come now to consider that part of devotion, which relates to prayer.
Prayer is the nearest approach to God, and the highest enjoyment of him, of which we are capable in this life.
It is the noblest exercise of the soul, the most exalted use of our best faculties, and the highest imitation of the blessed inhabitants of heaven.
When our hearts are full of God, sending up holy desires to the throne of grace, we are then in our highest state, we are upon the utmost heights of human greatness ; we are not before kings and princes, but in the presence and audience of the lord of all the world, and can be no higher, till death is swallowed up in glory.
When you begin your petitions, use such various expressions of the attributes of God, as
may make you more sensible of the greatness and power
of the divine nature. Begin therefore in words like these. O being of all beings, fountain of all light and glory, gracious father of men and angels, whose universal spirit is every where present, giving life, and light, and joy to all angels in heaven, and all creatures upon earth, &c.
For these representations of the divine attributes, which show in some degree the majesty and greatness of God, are an excellent means of raising our hearts into lively acts of worship and adoration.
In order to fill your prayers with excellent strains of devotion, it may be of use to you to observe this further rule.
When at any time, either in reading the scripture, or any book of piety, you meet with a passage, which more than ordinarily affects
your mind, and seems, as it were, to give your heart a new motion towards God, you should try to turn it into the form of a petition, and then give it a place in your prayers.
By these means you would be often improving your prayers, and storing yourself with proper forms of making the desires of your heart known unto God.
At all the stated hours of prayer, it will be of great benefit to you to have something fixed and something at liberty in your devotions. .
You should have some fixed subject, which is constantly to be the chief matter of your prayer at that particular time ; and yet have liberty to add such other petitions, as your condition may then require.
For instance; as the morning is to you the beginning of a new life ; as God has then given you a new enjoyment of yourself, and a fresh entrance into the world ; it is highly proper, that your first devotions should be a praise and thanksgiving to God, as for a new creation ; and that you should offer and devote body and soul, all which you are, and all which you have, to his service and glory.
Receive therefore every day, as a resurrection from death, as a new enjoyment of life ; meet every rising sun with such sentiments of God's goodness, as if you had seen it, and all things, new created upon your account; and, under the sense of so great a blessing, let your joyful heart praise and magnify so good and glorious a creator.
Let therefore praise and thanksgiving, and oblation of yourself unto God, be always the
fixed and certain subject of your first prayers in the morning ; and then take the liberty of add. ing such other devotions, as the accidental difference of your state, or the accidental difference of your heart, shall then make most needful and expedient for
you. For one of the greatest benefits of private de. votion consists in rightly adapting our prayers to these two conditions, the difference of our state, and the difference of our heart.
By the difference of our state is meant the difference of our external state or condition, as of sickness, health, pains, losses, disappointments, troubles, particular mercies, or judgments from God, all sorts of kindnesses, injuries, or reproaches from other people.
As these are great parts of our state of life, as they make a great difference in it by continual changing ; so our devotion will be made doubly beneficial to us, when it watches to receive and sanctify all these changes of our state, and turns them all into so many occasions of a more particular application to God, of such thanksgiving, such resignation, such petitions, as our present state more especially requires.
He, who makes every change in his state a reason of presenting unto God some particular