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I am supposing that such an one feels the very same difficulties in expressing himself, the same want of clearness in his views, when he comes before God, that he shews when he is questioned by us. It is to such an one who really wishes to be good, and to such an one only, that I am applying St. Paul's words. I would wish him not to be discouraged because of his want of clear understanding and ready utterance. But neither should he be in the slightest degree encouraged if the fault goes deeper than his understanding, if he does not understand only because he does not care. As surely as God is full of mercy to those who are ignorant but wish to serve Him, so does He utterly abhor the prayer which is indistinct because it is insincere, which says little, not because the heart is full, but because it is empty.
But speaking again to those who are in earnest, to those who listen to what I am saying as to a matter which is their real concern; to those, I say, who wish to make their confirmation and communion a real good to them, but are embarrassed by their want of knowledge, and their inexperience; I would say to them, pray to God again, not less often, but even oftener if it may be; and pray for these three things,—for an honest heart, for a thinking and understanding mind, and for a loving and obedient spirit. Your hearts are honest now, you come to God wishing to be good.
Say to Him, then, something of this sort. Lord, keep my heart true and honest; keep alive in me the real true wish to be good.” Well then, if you wish to be good, you will wish to leave off all those things that God condemns. Here you do not need help,-help, I mean, as to telling you what you should say. I am quite sure that if
you try you will recollect directly things which you often do wrong in, and in which, if you are not careful, you will surely do wrong again. Remember these things, all or some of them; and above all, take care not to forget any one wilfully. Name them to God in plain words, and say, O Lord, help me in such a thing, naming it, that I may not again sin against thee in it. Such a prayer will show that you are honest, that you really wish for God's help to save you
sins. Then also, you may and should pray for a thinking and understanding mind. Indeed this is a most necessary and a most Christian prayer. The gift of wisdom is almost the subject of one whole book of the Bible, the Proverbs. Saint Paul prays, and bids others pray, for an enlightened understanding, for the fulness of wisdom. St. James says, “ If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, and it shall be given him.”
Without thoughtfulness there can be no goodness, nor any holiness. And for youth especially, whose besetting fault it is to be thoughtless, the prayer for thoughtful
ness is most becoming. I know that in natural abilities there are great differences between one and another, yet still the great difference which strikes me in you is not nearly so much one of natural ability as of thoughtfulness. Some seem to think of themselves and of God, others seem not to think ; and this is a difference great, very great now, and which by and by will be infinite. Pray for a thinking and serious mind; one not always giddy and foolish and vain, one not blind to its own faults, and always quick in making excuses for them, but one humble and sensible, one which may know what it is to say, “I have
“ I sinned,” and “ Lord pardon me for my sin.”
sin.” And as you pray for a thoughtful mind, resolve also, with God's help, that you will contrive to make opportunities for uttering such prayers after the confirmation is over; for I am quite sure that if you do not pray to become thoughtful, you will not become so; whereas if you do so, you will even by that very prayer be thoughtful sometimes, I mean so often as you utter it, and there is hope that you will become so oftener.
Thirdly, pray for a loving and obedient spirit. “ God is love, and he who dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” So said the blessed apostle St. John. You do not dwell in hatred, God forbid; I can well conceive that many of you will find but little difficulty in that part
pray to become
of the preparation for the communion, which consists in putting ourselves into a state of peace and charity towards all men. But still, there may be no hatred in us, in the common sense of the word, and yet nothing of a loving spirit. For while we love ourselves so very much there is no room for the love of others. Pray very earnestly for a loving spirit both towards God and man. It is but too true that love waxes cold. Whom do we love truly? Is it our parents, against whom we sometimes murmur, to whom we often give pain, to whom we still oftener neglect to give pleasure ? Is it our brothers and sisters, whom, when we are amongst them, we sometimes feel jealous of, sometimes tease them, sometimes are unkind to them? Is it our friends here, with whom also we sometimes quarrel on slight grounds, whom in absence we often think nothing of, and for whose highest or real good we never care at all? Where is our love then, and who are the objects of it, if it is cold even towards these? May I name more indifferent persons, companions or common acquaintance? May I name the poor? May I dare to say that we love Him who so loved us that He laid down His life for our sakes? Or if we talk of loving God, St. John tells us at once that we are liars, “For he who loveth not earnestly his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen ?”
Alas! who or what is it that we do love heartily and constantly except that vile and worthless thing, for most vile and worthless it must be in such a case,—that most vile and worthless and hateful thing, our own self? Pray then earnestly for the spirit of love to God and to man, for that which is above all others, the spirit of freedom. Pray for-that greatest of all blessings, a loving heart; that you may love your parents heartily, and your other relations, and your friends; and that your love may not stop there, but may flow on wider still, that you may love your companions, love your acquaintance, love the poor; love, in short, all for whom Christ died, and whom God made, because you have learned to love God and Christ.
Pray for these things, and watch together with your praying for opportunities of acting according to your prayer. What a changed place would this become if the spirit of love possessed it; if
: ; we all felt kindly to one another, shrinking from giving pain, happy to give pleasure. No cruelty then, nor evils much short of cruelty; no roughness, nor bitterness, nor clamour, nor evil speaking, nor coarse jests, nor wanton annoyance.
And if the spirit of thoughtfulness were here, and the spirit of honesty towards God and sciences, what should we say then? Or would not God's ordinances then be seen indeed to have