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manual of prayers; but he cannot be devout, because devotion is the application of an humble heart to
} God, as its only happiness.
Hence we may also perceive why people of learning and great application to books, who seem to have retired from the corruptions of the world, to spend their time in their studies, are yet often not devout. The reason is, because devotion is founded in great humility, and a full sense of the vanity and littleness of every thing but God; whereas it is often the same vanity that wears out some scholars in their studies, that wears out other people at court, in the camp, or at sea. They do not want to be merchants, or colonels, or secretaries of state; but they want to be critics, grammarians, and historians. They, it may be, disregard riches and equipage; despise the sports and diversions of the present age; avoid the folly of conversation; but then it is to contemplate the riches and equipage, the sports, and diversions of the ancient Romans.
The vanity of some ladies and gentlemen would be touched if you should tell them that they did not understand dress: some great scholars would be inuch dejected if you should suppose them ignorant of a fold in the Roman garments.
The bulk of mankind are so dull and tasteless, so illiterate, as to set their hearts upon current coin, large fields, and flocks and herds of cattle. Great learning has raised some men above this grossness of taste; their heart, only beats at the sight of a medal and ancient coins; they are only afraid of dying before they have outdone the world in their collections of shells, skins, stones, animals, flies, and insects.
You would not expect that a merchant should be devout because he traded in all parts of Europe; op, that a lady should be pious, because she understands all sorts of fine work and embroidery. Now if you was to look into the business of many pre
found scholars; if you was to consider the nature of such learning as makes the greatest figure in the world, you will find no more tendency in it to piety and devotion, than there is in merchandise or enbroidery.
When men retire into their studies to change their nature, to correct and reform their passions; to find out the folly, the falseness, the corruption, and weakness of their hearts; to penetrate into the vanity and emptiness of all worldly attainments; when tiiey read and meditate to fill their souls with religious wisdom and heavenly affections, and to raise their hearts unto God; when this is learning (and what else deserves the name), then learning will lead men unto God, learned men will be very devout, and great scholars will be great saints.
Hence we also learn why so many people, seemingly religious, are yet strangers to the spirit of devotion. Crito buys manuals of devotion, he finds nothing in them but what is according to the doctrines of religion ; yet he is not able to keep pace with them; he feels nothing of what he reads, and throws then by, as something that does not suit his taste: he does not consider that the fault is. in himself, and that these very same books will suit him when he is dying. He does not consider, that whilst he is so well pleased with himself, so fond of the world, so delighted with a variety of schemes that he has on foot, it is as impossible for him to be devout as for a stone to hang by itself in the air, or a building to stand without any thing to stand upon. If Crito was to begin his devotion to God with humility, self-denial, and a renunciation of all worldly tempers, he would show that he used common sense in his religion, that he was as wise as that builder who begins his house by laying a foundation. But to think of adding devotion to a life that does not naturally lead to it, that it is not so ordered as to be so many steps towards it, is as ab
surd as if a man should think of getting to the end of his journey, without going through any of the way that leads to it. For as it is a temper of the mind, it must arise from a state of our mind, and must have its proper causes to produce it, as all other tempers have.
Suppose you was to call a man from some joyful feast, from the pleasures of songs, music and dancing, and tell him to go into the next room to grieve for half an hour, and then return to his mirth; suppose you was to tell him, that he must mourn that halfhour from the bottom of his heart, that it was a very excellent thing, and highly becoming a rational creature. It is possible he might obey you so far as to go into the room appointed for mourning, he may be able to sit still, look grave, sigh and hang down his head, and stay out his half hour; but you are sure that he cannot really grieve, and for this reason, because he is in a state of festival joy, and is returning to his feast. Now this is the state of Crito, and great numbers of Christians; they are always at a feast; their life is nothing else but a succession of such pleasures, satisfactions, and amusements, as affect and hurry their minds, like the festival joys of drinking, music, and dancing. So that when they go to devotion, they are just as capable of it, as a man that is rejoicing at a feast is capable of mourning at the same time. Let not the reader imagine that this is the case only of such great people, as live in such a constant scene of pleasure as their fortunes can procure, for it is a case that equally concerns almost all states of life. For as a man rejoicing at an ordinary feast, is as indisposed for grief as one that is merry at a more splendid entertainment; so that the course of pleasures and worldly delights, which falls in with lower states of life, may render such people as incapable of devotion, as they are who have other entertainments provided for them. Now no one wonders that he cannot put on grief, when he is rejoicing at a feast of any kind'; because he knows there is sufficient reason for it, because his mind is then otherwise engaged. But if Crito would but deal thus faithfully with himself, he would as readily own, that he cannot relish strains of devotion, that his heart does not enter into them, for this reason, because it is otherwise engagedi For people certainly relish every thing that suits with the state of life that they live, and can have no taste or relish, but such as arises from the way and manner of life that they are in. Whoever therefore finds himself unable to relish strains of devotion, is dull and unaffected with them, may take it for certain, that it is owing to the
way and state of life that he is in: he may also be farther assured, that his life is wanting in the virtues of humility, self-denial, and a renunciation of worldly goods, since these virtues as naturally prepare and dispose the soul to aspire to God, as a sense of sickness disposes people to wish for health.
Let us now put these things together; it is certain, that devotion, as a temper of the mind, must have something to produce it, as all other tempers have; that it cannot be taken up at times and occasions, but must arise from the state of the soul, as all other tempers and desires do. It is also equally certain, that humility, self-denial, and a renunciation of the world, are the only foundation of devotion, that it can only proceed from these, as from its proper causes. Here therefore we must fix our rule to take the just measure of ourselves. We must not consider how many books of devotion we have, how often we go to church, how often we have felt a warmth and fervour in our prayers; these are uncertain signs: but we must look to the foundation, and assure ourselves, that our devotion neither is; nor can be greater than our humility, self-denial,
and renunciation of the world. For as it must proceed only from these causes, so it can rise no higher than they can carry it, and must be in the same state of strength or weakness that they are. If our humility is false, our self-denial hypocritical and trifling, and our worldly tempers not half mortified, our devotion will be just in the same state of falseness, hypocrisy, and imperfection. The care therefore of our devotion seems wholly to consist in the care of these duties; so far as we proceed in them, so far we advance in devotion. We must alter our lives, in order to alter our hearts; for it is impossible to live one way, and pray another.
This may teach us to account for the several false kinds of devotion which appear in the world; they cannot be otherwise than they are, because they have no bottom to support them. Devotion is like friendship, you hear of it every-where, but find it no-where; in like manner, devotion is every-where to be seen in modes of worship, in forms of speech, in outward adorations, but is in really scarce to be found. Hence also it is, that you see as much diff ference in the devotion, as in the faces of Christians; for wanting its true foundation, being like an affected friendship, it has as many shapes as there are tempers of men. Many people are thus far sincere in their devotions, that they would be glad to pray devoutly; they strive to be fervent, but never attain to it, because they never took the only possible way. They never thought of altering their lives, or of living different from the rest of the world; but hope to be devout, merely by reading over books of devotion. Which is as odd a fancy, as if a man should expect to be happy, by reading discourses upon happiness. When these people dare take Christianity as it is offered to them in the Gospel, when they deny themselves, and renounce the world, as our Saviour exhorted his followers, they will then have begun devotion.