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For the Christian Spectator. those who profess to be the worship-
On wandering thoughts in Prayer. pers of God, it is an indubitable mark

of hypocrisy.
It is a characteristic of hypocrites, But there is a degree of this evil,
that they draw nigh to God with their to which real christians are subject.
mouth, and honour him with their They often complain of wandering
lips, while their heart is far from him. thoughts in prayer. Owing to their
Their religious services are all formal. sinful imperfection, when they would
In these they may perhaps be abun- do good, evil is present with them;
dant. This was the fact with respect and probably in no case, do they find
to the hypocritical Jews in the days this declaration more frequently veri-
of Isaiah, and with respect to the fied, than in their addresses to the
Pharisees in the days of our Saviour. throne of grace. Often in their clos-
The former were not deficient in the ets, vain thoughts intrude upon their
multitude of their sacrifices, in the devotions; and oftener, in the sanctu-
celebration of their sabbaths and ap- ary and in the social circle, when
pointed feasts, nor in any of the they join in the prayers of others,
forms of worship prescribed in their they find their heart wandering from
ritual : and the latter were scrupulous- its object. This to the christian is a
ly exact in the external performance source of grief and lamentation, while
of religious duties. They fasted by the hypocrite it is disregarded,
much, prayed often and made long and rarely, if ever, made the subject
prayers, paid tithes of all that they of complaint.
possessed, and were very strict in It is to be feared, however, that
their observance of the Sabbath. even the christian, has but a faint
But all their religion was hypocritical. sense of the nature and magnitude of
It consisted in a routine of mere ex- the il, and should the following re-
ternal services, which being perform- marks serve to stimulate any one to
ed without any love to God, resemble greater diligence in keeping his own
a body without the soul, and are with heart, they will not utterly fail of
great propriety denominated dead their object. It may be useful to
works. But "God is a Spirit, and contemplate, the sinfulness; the cau-
he seeketh such to worship him, as ses, and the remedies of the evil in
worship him in spirit and in truth." question.—That it is highly sinful
“ Man looketh on the outward ap- to suffer our thoughts to wander upon
pearance, but the Lord looketh on the the world while engaged in the duty
heart." Those who draw nigh to of prayer, is apparent from many con-
him with their mouth while their siderations.
heart is on other objects, not only It is utterly inconsistent with the
fail to secure his approbation, but divine requirements. “My son give
are guilty of great provocation; and me thine heart,” is a command which
where this is so uniformly the case, runs through all the preceptive part
as to form the habitual character of of the Bible, and is implied in every

which God requires of man.-- “ To what purpose is the multitude Especially is it implied in the duty of of your sacrifices unto me? saith the prayer. It is the homage of the heart Lord: I am full of the burnt offerwhich God demands. If this is with- ings of rams, and the fat of fed held, the duty is not performed.- beasts, and I delight not in the blood But can we be said to give God our of bullocks, or of lambs or of hehearts, when in the very act of our goats. When ye come to appear beprofessed devotion, they are placed fore me, who hath required this at on other objects? Do we worship your hand to tread my courts? Bring God in spirit and in truth, when eve. no more vain oblations ; iucense is ry spiritual view of his character is an abomination unto me: the new intercepted by carnal objects which moons and sabbathis, the calling of float before the mind? No matter bow assemblies, I cannot away with; it is humble our posture; how solemn our iniquity, even the solemn meeting." manner, and how appropriate our It has already been suggested, that language ; it is the heart which God every degree of the sin in question, requires. If this is utterly withheld, does not constitute a person a hypoour services are vain, and become an crite; for it is the habitual disposition abomination in his sight. If it is par- of the heart wlrich forms the charactially withheld, or suffered to wander, ter. It is still true, however, that just so far our worship is marred, and just as far as our worship is tainted God is defrauded of his due.

with this sin, so far it is hypocritical, It is a species of hypocrisy.-- and partakes of the nature of those Whenever we engage in the duiy of sacrifices, which God has so pointedprayer, we profess to render to God ly reprobated and which he cannot the homage of our hearts. We pro- regard but with the utmost abhor. fess to adore him, to love him and to praise him. We profess to repent of It betrays irreverence to the diour sins, to believe in the Saviour and vine character. “God is greatly to be ardently to desire that his name may feared in the assembly of the saints, be glorified, that his kingdom may and to be had in reverence of all them come, that his will may be done, and that are about him.” Before him, anthat we may share in the blessings gels veil their faces, and cast their of his love. But if while these pro- crowns at his feet, crying one to ansessions are on our lips, our thoughts other, holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of are employed on other subjects, we hosts. With what reverence then are manifestly insincere and hyp- should sinful creatures approach inocritical. We are guilty of the to his presence. While all heaven very sin of Ananias and Sapphira, bows with the profounılest awe before who lied not unto men, but unto the spotless purity and glorious maGod. It is like the sin of Nadab and jesty of Jehovah, shall guilty worms Abihu, who offered strange fire upon rush into bis presence with presumpthe altar; and like the sin of those tuous boldness, and while confessing Israelites, who offered maimed and their sins, and imploring his mercy, sickly beasts in their sacrifices.- suffer their thoughts to be wandering “ Cursed be the deceiver, which hath upon other subjects ? in his flock a male, and voweth and Every act of pretended worship sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt which we osier to God without the thing, for I am a great King, saith the heart, can be regarded in no other Lord of-hosts.” It needs no argu- light thau il at of solemn mockery.-ments to prove, that liypocrisy in our Let a familiar example, which I have transactions with God, is a sin of the somewhere seen, serve to illustrate deepest dye. It was the hypocritical the nature of this sin. Suppose we worship of the Jews, that called forth should dress up an image of ourselves the following solcmn declarations.- and send it into our closets, or to the sanctuary instead of appearing there dresses to Him, wh. realizeltdi ourselves. Would not this be deem- be a present God : wwe shold ed the height of impiety? Can we come before him with the profoundst well conceive of a greater affront, awe. His fear would fall upon 1, which we could offer to the Majesty His excellency would make us afrai of heaven? But how much better is We should feel as Job did, whe it, to go into our closets and leave he said, “I have heard of thee b. our hearts upon the world; or to the hearing of the ear, but now mine pretend to worship God in the sanc- eye seeth thee, wherefore I abhor my. tuary when our hearts are going after self and repent in dust and ashes." their covetousness? This example, it And as Isaiah did, when he saw the will be seen, illustrates the nature of Lord sitting upon a throne high and the sin, when in any act of worship, lifted up ; And when he exclaimed. the heart is wholly withheld. It is “Woe is me! For I am undone ; subject, of course, to some abatement because I am a man of unclean lips. in those cases where the evil but par- and I dwell in the midst of a people tially exists. In all cases, however, of unclean lips, for mine eyes have so far as the sin exists, the nature of seen the King, the Lord of hosts."'it is the same; and that it is a sin of One principal cause, therefore, of the the most heinous kind, is I trust, ap- evil we are contemplating, is unguesparent from the preceding considera- tionably to be found in the entire abtions.

rence.

scence, or the weakness of faith. In tracing the causes of this evil, Another cause of the evil, is the the first which strikes the mind, is want of due attention and watchfulthe weakness or absence of faith.- ness. Our minds are naturally volaThe being, perfections and presence tile and easily diverted. Our thoughts of God are not duly realized; and fly from object to object in such rapid this is owing to the want of faith.- succession, that it is impossible to fix Faith makes invisible things real to them for any length of time, withthe mind. It may be called “the out great exertion. There must mind's eye,” by which it discerns be effort. The mind must be bent spiritual and invisible objects, as the and fastened to its object, and the natural eye discerns those which are first roying thought must be checkvisible. It gives to them the same kind ed. This attention is necessary of reality as if they were discerned even in our secret devotions, and by our senses, and makes them equal- especially so, in our public and social ly powerful motives to action. Hence worship, when we join in the prayers it is, that believers are represented as of others. On these occasions, it seeing God, and looking at things un- not unfrequently happens, that an seen and eternal; as living by faith, expression in the prayer, gives birth walking by faith, beholding the glory to a train of reflections that is someof the Lord, and enduring as seeing times pursued till we forget the duty him who is invisible. If our faith in wbich we are engaged. This spewere sufficiently strong, we should cies of wandering thoughts, is probaalways have as lively a sense of the bly the least culpable of any; but even presence of God, as we have of the this is by no means to be justified, presence of each other. We should and should be guarded against with also have a sense of his glorious per- peculiar diligence. The divine difections, of his adorable majesty, ofrection is, “ watch and pray that ye his infinite knowledge , and of his enter not into temptation.” And spotless purity. If this were the perhaps, in no circumstances have case, should we trifle in his presence ? we more need of this caution, than in Should we mock him with hypocrit- our seasons of devotion ; because, the ical worship? Would our thoughts sin to which we are exposed is pecuwander in the midst of our solemn ad- liarly aggravated, and our danger of

faling into it, peculiarly great. If cares with which our minds are frewi come into the presence of God in quently crowded. A mind distractaareless frame of mind, and take ed with cares, is poorly prepared for n pains to fix our attention, our the duty of devotion. Any thing pughts will most certainly wander, which agitates the mind, whether it ad our prayer, instead of coming up be a press of worldly business, or any efore God as incense, will be but the trial or affliction to which we are not acrifice of fools.

duly submissive, will invariably proAnother source to which this evil duce wandering thoughts in prayer. may be traced, is the strong and un- In order to worship God without dismortified corruptions of our nature. traction, our minds must be composThe best saints find a warfare within. ed. The cares of the world must be “The flesh lusteth against the spirit, laid aside. All improper anxiety and the spirit against the flesh.”- must be dismissed, and our attevtion Even Paul could say: “When I must be absorbed in the business in would do good, evil is present with which we are engaged. me.” As long as the heart remains Let us endeavour to impress our but partially sanctified, so long the minds with a deep and constant sense christian will find obstructions in his of the greatness of the sio of drawing course, and interruptions in his du- nigh to God with our mouth, while ties. And when there are any lusts our heart is far from him. That it is unmortified in the soul, any vile af- a sin of inconceivable magnitude, has sections which have the ascendency, been made, I trust, sufficiently appathey will most certainly disturb our rent. Were it ever viewed by us in devotions. If we allow ourselves to this light, our danger of committing be over anxious about our secular it would be greatly diminished. concerns, if we hanker after the rich- Let us cultivate a more lively faith es, honours, or pleasures of the world, in the being, perfections and presence if we indulge improper feelings un- of God. Let us always endeavour to der the providences of God, or if set God before our face, and to realwe harbour jealousy, envy or revenge, ize that he is of purer eyes than to toward any of our fellow men; it behold iniquity, that he searcheth will be impossible to worship God the heart and trieth the reins, that without distraction. Any object of he cannot be deceived, and will not undue attachment, or undue aversion, be mocked. A constant and lively will be sure to place itself between us sense of these things would be a powand God, and intercept our inter- erful antidote to the evil in question. course with heaven.

Let peculiar efforts be made to fix The angels and glorified saints the attention. Let us never come worship God without distraction.— into the presence of God in a careless Their hearts are always fixed, and and thoughtless frame. Let us pause never wander upon forbidden objects; and solemnly ponder on the duty in and the reason of this is, their love to which we are about to engage, and God is perfect. And in proportion as let the most intense watchfulness acthe christian finds his heart warm company our supplications. Let evwith divine love, he will experience ery avenue to temptation be guarded, freedom from the evil we are consid- and every roving thought be immediering. But when our love to God is ately recalled. Let us mortisy our cold and feeble, other objects insensi corruptions. Let this be our habitbly engage our affections, and pre- ual and daily employment.

Let us vent that sweet and uninterrapted search out our easily besetting sins, communion, which it is the privilege bewail them before God, and watch of the lively christian to enjoy. against them with peculiar diligence.

Another source, to which this evil Il our right eye offend, let us pluck it may be traced, is that multiplicity of out; if our right hand, let us cut it

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