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in need of divine aid, we shall be earnest in our endeavours to obtain it: and this we are expressly told is all that is requisite.
But how are we to know that this earnestness is sincere? We are to judge of our sincerity in this, by the same rules that we judge of it upon other occasions. We all know, that when we have truly set our hearts upon obtaining any object which appears desirable to our imaginations, or which we think will materially contribute to our felicity, we spare neither pains nor trouble; that it dwells upon our thoughts, and excites us to active and unwearied exertion. Now if we are as much in earnest to conquer every malignant passion, and to bring all the desires and affections of our heart into subjection to the will of God, we shall seek his assistance with no less anxiety than we bestow on the trifling concerns of life.
Whether we have or have not this sincere and hearty desire for divine aid ought then to be the first, as it is the most important, question we can put to our own hearts. If this desire be kindled in our souls, we shall sedulously employ whatever means God has been pleased to appoint for the accomplishment of our object. Some of these are general, to be applied according to the circumstances in which the individual is placed; other means of grace are special, and incumbent on all who do not wilfully reject the offers of salvation.
Of those which are general, we must reckon the careful and anxious improvement of every talent entrusted to us; external or intellectual, adventitious or inherent. Time, for
tune, tune, influence, the gifts of the understanding, and the dispositions of the heart, are talents for which we are to be responsible; and as it has pleased the goodness of God to grant a promise of blessing upon the proper use of every talent, the conscientious employment of them becomes a means of grace, and enables us to look up . -with humble confidence for the assistance of our God.
Whatever tends to cherish the amiable and benevolent affections ought to be considered as a means of grace. Every innocent pleasure and enjoyment will, if viewed in this light, be doubly gratifying; as, while it unbends the mind, and gives elasticity to the spirits, it will excite emotions of thankfulness, which always afford a delightful exercise to the heart.
Far from us be the gloomy bigotry
Vhich casts a dark cloud over the sunshine of life, and represents the God of Mercies as a tyrant delighting in human misery. Let us consider him as the parent who wills our happiness and rejoices in our felicity; and who, to secure us from the fatal mistakes to which our own ignorance would expose us, has kindly warned us against indulging in any pleasure that is not the acknowledged gift of his unbounded love. This is the test of lawful enjoyment: whatever can be enjoyed with innocence, ought to be enjoyed with thankfulness. By keeping this steadily in view, the blessings of life will be converted into means of grace; and every circumstance in our lot, prosperous and adverse, be rendered equally instrumental in forwarding the work of our salvation.
Prayer, and the sacraments of baptism tism and the Lord's supper, which are denominated special means of* grace, will upon examination be found so admirably adapted to render us the assistance of which we stand so much in need, as to bear evident testimony to the divine wisdom of Him by whom they were appointed. Prayer cannot indeed properly be termed an institution of the Gospel, as it was practised by people of all religions; but it was by Jesus Christ that its nature and object were defined; and it is only as his directions are attended to that it will be found a means of graces