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act. But with our feelings this is not the ordinary mood. We love our families, our friends. But if every morning we met together to express that affection formally and at some length, this would not be grateful.* Why, then, it may be asked, do you recommend formalities in religion? We answer, that we would take heed that there should not be too much form; we would that meditation and reading should mingle largely with private devotion; and that the devotion itself should not be too much confined to any specific act or attitude. But why insist upon it at all? Because we do not believe that the deep impression upon the heart, of the Infinite and Unseen Reality, is likely ever to be made in any other way. Man we meet in a visible form; but to feel the presence of an invisible Being requires that we meditate upon him and strive to draw near to him. Because, also, there is a fitness and beauty in such offerings. And because God in his wisdom has been pleased to appoint prayers to be offered; and our Saviour has counselled us to make them to a certain extent private, saying, "Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret."
We would not construe this precept into painful constraint, into any necessarily irksome formality. There may be those, who many times a day fulfil the precept in spirit, without literally retiring to any solitary place. They pray in a crowd, on the mart, in the warehouse and countingroom, in the field and by the way. In the secresy of their souls they pray. Blessed are those who thus hallow the world with prayer. But if it be otherwise with us; if the world sweeps away from us, in its business or cares or pleasures, all thoughts of God; if day after day passes without any reverent communion with the Unseen Spirit; then we say, it is meet that we should bring our thoughts to a solemn stand and charge them not to forget God, our Maker, our Sustainer, our Benefactor, our Infinite Friend. It is a brutish thing to live without learning aught of the Infinite Glory and Goodness that surround us. Better it be learned with pain, with painful formalities, with set and severe determination, than not be learned at all.
* It would not be grateful, partly because it would be in bad taste, and because it would wear an air of profession; considerations which do not apply to the secret approach of man to his Maker.
So are many things learned languages, sciences, arts; and so, if it be possible no otherwise, should we study to know the Infinite, the All-wise, and All-beautiful. So, if we would cultivate an art, should we resort to a Gallery to study; even though it were with some inconvenience, even though some of the processes were irksome. We might indolently prefer that high accomplishment were breathed into us from the air, or were an endowment of natural genius; but lofty attainment does not come so in anything.
In the third place, we must observe that the common associations with prayer are not attractive. If prayer had always stood upon the earth with lofty attitude, with upward gaze, with a countenance kindling with joy, with a mien and brow of angel majesty, then might it have appeared to men as a glorious and blessed employment. But now, cloaked with gloom, and bowed to the earth, and bathed in tears, does it often appear; and that is not an attractive picture. All this, no doubt, is often proper ; but it has been too exclusively the character of prayer; and we have not learned what a glorious, sublime and beatific thing it is to pray. We are not, indeed, to discard or neglect either the social or religious nature; but we believe a wise man would say, 'Let me be confined in a dungeon far from all human intercourse, rather than be shut out from communion with my Maker!'
In fine, there are two methods of approach to the Supreme Being; the one is the way of mere ritual, the other is the way of reflection. To childhood, to the world's infancy, to ignorance, to blind acquiescence, mere ritual may be more tolerable. But as the mind advances in culture, mere ritual, without reflection, becomes painful. If prayer is regarded solely as a duty, as something commanded, as something necessary to salvation, to escape from hell, it will engage in fact some of our noblest affections against it. There must be reflection, then. When we have talked with persons in that painful state of mind, instead of directly combating it, we have sometimes engaged with them in conversation upon the infinite goodness of God, upon his infinite love and kindness to us, upon the infinite beauty and glory of his nature; and such an one has said, "Now all is changed to me; now I could pray,
and love to pray." After a few days' interval he has returned to us, and said, "Alas! I have fallen into the same state of mind where I was before." Again we have conversed with him as before, and again he has found relief from the burthen of superstitious bondage. We may be pardoned, we hope, for this personal reference; for this really is the method of relief. There must be reflection. The Infinite Glory and Loveliness must rise before our contemplation, enthroned in the heavens, beaming in the light of day, breathing life through the creation, incarnated in the Son of God, flowing out in the ineffable mercy of the Gospel; and then our hearts will be drawn to it not driven to it as by the fear of hell, not dragged to it as by any arbitrary necessity-but drawn to it as the sum, the consummation of every moral, divine, inexpressible charm and beauty drawn to seek after it, perhaps dimly, but earnestly — drawn, as if there were something infinitely precious, to seek after it as gold and to search for it as for hid treasures.
If the scientific inquirer suspected that there lay hidden among the forms of matter some essence, more beautiful than the light, more wonderful than the electric fire; something which would explain all, spread a new light over all the fields of knowledge, and unfold the universal plan in new order and beauty; with what eagerness would he examine, with what intensity would he study, with what delight would he pursue the wondrous discovery! To the eye that has not seen God, to the heart that has not felt his presence, such would be the revelation of him in all nature, in all life, in the yet sealed Gospel, in the inmost depths of his being.
But there are still other and greater difficulties than these which we have now mentioned. They are of a more speculative character.
Scarcely perhaps deserving of such a rank is a certain state of mind, which we hardly know how to express, made up of pride and worldliness and strangeness to the subject altogether, a kind of miserable affectation it surely is for a rational being, -- which holds prayer to be above it, or below it, or at any rate quite out of its sphere; which regards the offerings of piety as very proper for ministers of religion or for church officers, or for certain grave and VOL. XXXVII. -4TH S. VOL. III. NO. I. 3
godly persons, but for the young and the gay and the fashionable it looks upon prayer as a mistake, a mis-alliance, a something quite out of the way. There are those, who imagine that if they were to pray in their families or in private, they must forthwith become very sober, demure and precise persons; they must lose caste in the world's fashion or in the world's honor. We cannot regard this as the error of any good nurture or of any truly dignified position in society, but as belonging to a much humbler grade of feeling. When the noble Sir Walter Scott proposed to offer prayer in his house, he did not treat the matter as if he were ashamed of it, but he said to his family and a large company of guests beneath his honored roof at Abbotsford, "I shall read prayers to-morrow morning at eleven o'clock, and I expect you all to be present.' Perhaps there is something in an Establishment of religion, thus clothing it with all dignity and honor of a country, that gives it in this matter some advantage. Certain it is, we think, that religion is more generally and openly recognized in the families of England than it is in ours. Religion with us is bearing heavy burthens from past fanaticism and error; and many are ashamed to be connected with it, and afraid to be compromised by it, and they look upon its goodly and beautiful offices as chains upon their freedom and enjoyment.
But let us look at deeper difficulties. There is then a tendency, observable in the general mind at the present day, to lose the sense of a personal relation to God. It is not the tendency to pantheism of which we now speak, and which can never affect but a few minds, but it is one of a more vague and general character. Pantheism, however, is the extreme of this general tendency, and both result from the same causes. What are these causes? To state them would be to unfold the difficulty. Let us then briefly notice them.
One is the extreme to which men's minds have gone the other way. We are in the midst of a reaction from past errors. The personality of God has been presented in forms offensive to the growing reflection of the age. The ology has not kept up with the cultivation of the day, and therefore has not taken the guidance of it. Cultivation is partly in a state of revolt against theology. God has been
worshipped as if he were the God of a certain place, of a certain church, of a certain sect. Not personality alone has been ascribed to him, but a kind of anthropomorphism has mingled with men's devotions. They have pleaded with God the cause of their human passions, as if he were possessed of like passions. They have often addressed him with weak and childish cries for aid, in forgetfulness of the work which they themselves have to do. They have approached him with irreverent familiarity, and pleaded with him as if they expected incessant miracles at his hand, incessant interferences with their daily affairs and their visible condition.
Now it is impossible that reflecting men should not shrink back and withdraw themselves from such representations. They dare not, they cannot believe that the Infinite Thought, which taketh care of ten thousand million worlds, is concentrated with absorbing attention upon a single point in time or space; and they forget, that still it is there in all the grandeur and awfulness of its nature. They misconceive the greatness of God. He who is everywhere, must be here; and he who taketh knowledge of all beings must take knowledge of me! Philosophize as we will, we cannot escape from this. And must not his agency be as universal as his presence ?
But then again— to mention another cause this universal agency ceases to be a personal agency through the contemplation of it as governing itself by general laws. The more men look upon the physical creation with the eye of science, and the less they look upon it with the eye of superstition, that is to say, the more intelligent they become, the more do they mark the regular sequences of cause and effect. An admiration springs up, in the mind, of an infinite order. But surely the tendency in question goes too far, when this order, like the fate of the ancients, becomes the absolute sovereign from which there is no appeal; when general laws are deified; when they stand in the place of God, declaring that they are God.
Yet in some such form comes the difficulty, the doubt. Millions of creatures in millions of worlds are saying at the same moment, 'Help me!' It is the irresistible impulse, we may observe, of conscious, of created weakness, so to pray; and it would be strange, since this is the law of created natures, if there were no law nor provision in the