Thursday, June 24, 2010

strive with vigilant earnestness...

The pious Unitarian, John Emery Abbot continues the theme with this excerpt from the sermon:


"Prayer not only gives fervency to devotion, and elevation to the feelings ; it operates on the conscience. It is prayer which, more than anything, makes us realize the constant and immediate inspection of God. When we address ourselves directly to him, we cannot but remember that he ever hears our words, and witnesses our actions; we feel that we are in his presence, and that no darkness nor solitude can conceal us from his view; and we cannot go away and at once feel that we are removed from his observation, or cease to remember that his eye yet watches our steps. Who can be conscious of this without some deep sense of the solemnity of his situation, and of the obligations he is under ever to order his actions as seeing Him who is invisible ?

Besides, in prayer we continually and solemnly acknowledge before God our obligations and our duties. And no human soul can be so fearfully presumptuous as thus habitually to bring to his conscience the deep conviction of his duties, and solemnly acknowledge them to God, profess his unaffected purposes of obedience, and seek from him the strength and mercy which he needs, and then return with indifference to a course of wilful transgression. We must at least strive to relinquish our sins, or the voice of prayer would be to us a tremendous warning we could not hear, and a burden of remorse and misery too heavy for us to endure.

Besides, we cannot in sincerity acknowledge our obligations before God, and not feel some sense of our deficiencies, some need of forgiveness and amendment. When we recount before God the duties we pray to be enabled to practise, shall we not remember wherein we have failed ? When we pray to be made pure, can we forget the disorders of our hearts, and the irregularities of our appetites and passions ? When we supplicate for feelings of charity, can we then forget our unkindnesses, injuries, or cold neglect of others ? When we ask for the gift of a heart grateful for mercy, and filled with pious and obedient affections, can we avoid being conscious of our poor offerings of thankfulness, our weak and wavering devotion, and our ungrateful returns to him who giveth all ? And who can be so presumptuous as solemnly to confess before God his own particular sins, and earnestly to pray for forgiveness, without deep and solemn purposes to avoid the occasions of sin, to resist future temptations with fortitude, and to strive with vigilant earnestness to amend all that has been amiss ? Unaffected prayer thus teaches us to know ourselves, awakens us to watchfulness, is a perpetual exercise of repentance, gives vigor and effectiveness to good resolutions, and furnishes a constant motive to resistance of sin, and to amendment and holiness of life."

(painting is "Young Man at Prayer" by Hans Memling)

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