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ear, only to be rejected as an offensive mockery. God turns away with abhorrence from the imposture, however fair its mimic array, and however exquisite the music of its borrowed praise. True devotion is that which, before it break forth from the lips, has made the heart all its own. Whether it murmur its complaint in sad confessions, these are but the index of a burden which presses heavily on the conscience-the sighings of a weary and heavy-laden sinner; or whether it issue in earnest cries for pardon, these are but the faultering expression of a hope which struggles against an inward and humbling sense of guilt. Whether, again, it employ the language of adoration, that is merely the symbol of a sacred awe which has wrapped the soul in amazement before the majesty of Jehovah; or whether, finally, it break forth in songs of exulting praise, these are but the mechanism through which the heart of the jubilant believer proclaims its gratitude and love. Devotion, whatever be its form, sighing and sad, or triumphant and singing, is nothing but a name, unless it be thus the interpreter of a spirit that is full and overflowing with divine sympathies. And of this real, living, spiritual devotion, it is affirmed that it can have no existence, except where the heart has, by faith, been firmly fixed on God.
In illustration of which position, it may be asked, what ground or occasion there can be for such an exercise of the soul, while that soul is all unsettled in its aims and affections. The praise and singing which the Psalmist declared he would practise, were not to consist in the light chant of the pilgrim, who had no better
a reason for their adoption, than merely a wish to beguile the fatigues of his way: and where, if the spirit have nothing on which it can fix itself, and rest with unwearied satisfaction, is there anything to stir within it those deeper emotions which spontaneously seek utterance in song. "How may a man in smart, find matter to rejoice? How may a mourning heart, send forth a pleasant voice?" These are the pertinent questionings of an old poet; to which it might be answered, that although no cheerful melody could be expected from such a source, yet, even sorrow, because it implies some fixedness of heart, has its own range of tuneful utterances; whereas, he whose heart is not fixed at all, is beyond the influence and reach of every inspiration. Passing over the world without affections altogether, or with them wholly unmoved, and, like Noah's dove, finding, in the illimitable range of fancy and attachment, no place on which to plant the sole of his foot; or, wandering over desert places, with a soul that had been dried up and withered, through misplaced, and therefore defeated affections, and, like the demons of the evangelists, seeking rest, but finding none; why, such a man has neither the matter of praise and song pressed home upon his sympathies, nor has he the living energy within him which forms their fountain. To him every successive object of attention first brings weariness, and then disgust. If, melancholy and restless, men can find nothing within the wide compass the earth, around which they can entwine their hearts in the embraces of a love which conscience approvesnothing to awaken their hopes, and therefore to stimu
late their activities; nothing to fill their bosoms and cause them to swell with joy and gladness; nothing on which the fixed heart can repose with unexhausted and ever fresh delight: if thus they spend their lives without aim and without expectation, then where, in heaven or in earth, can they find the materials of praise, or the warm and joyous feelings which alone can translate them into melody? The richest blessings of God are conspicuous on every side of them; but though these may be scanned by the eye and apprehended by the understanding, yet so long as the heart feels not their worth and beauty, they will inspire no praise and awaken no song. And there is yet another condition of the soul, in which, though the affections be not wholly stagnant, they cannot be supposed to manifest themselves in the way of our text. There are men who, restless and given to change, can abide by no one fixed object of pursuit or enjoyment, who are perpetually turning from one thing to another, sanguine and sated by turns; displaying among the grave affairs of life, the levity and petulence with which a child treats his playthings. Their existence is a perpetual whirl, with the motion of which they grow giddy. Moments of enjoyment they may reach, but they are only moments; and they can hardly pause even to be thankful for them. In such a career, there is neither the time nor the repose that are necessary for stirring the deeper and richer sensibilities of our nature-nothing at all to prompt the matured and deliberate outpourings of praise. If such have any music in their spirits, it is not that of gratitude-it is not that of joy, or peace,
or confidence, or rest; it is but the dull and heartless lay which they employ to beguile their tedious thoughts during the pursuit of an hour. They sing only as the bee sings, which ceases its hum till it revel in the flower on which it has alighted, and then resumes the same drowsy monotonous sound as it goes in quest of fresher blossoms. And all this must have a speedy end. Those who thus flit incessantly, fickle and wayward, soon reach their limit, and are driven home upon the conclusion that all is "vanity and vexation of spirit." Without a fixed heart, disappointment and despondency must be the lot of man, turn whithersoever he may. He will soon grow weary of this world, in which he loves nothing; and weary of looking for another, in which he hopes for nothing; he will grow weary of all around him, and, at last, weary of himself. The flowers that bloom sweetly at his feet will become a weariness to him, because he will see that they are beautiful, while yet their beauty enters not, nor quickens his heart; the light of day will grow a burden, because of, to him, its fruitless bustle; and the darkness, because of its silence and loneliness. Vanity and vexation will become the burden of his only song; he will find nothing to inspire praise, because his heart will be insensible to all that is worthy of it, and life itself will become an affliction and a bitter curse.
Thus, if their hearts be not fixed at all, men can neither sing nor give praise, because there is for them no loved and trusted object to awaken those sentiments that seek utterance in song. Will their condition be improved, in this respect, if their hearts are fixed on
temporal things? At least it must be much otherwise with them on that supposition; for such things may sometimes be attained, and none ever sings more boldly than he who celebrates his earthly successes. The heart may be fixed on wealth, and having attained it, may swell with pride over the pleasures and magnificence which it commands: Yet surely, such an exercise, or perversion rather, of the human affections, must be too cold and sordid for any true music; barren, one would imagine, of all that can quicken our better sympathies, or awaken in our nature a sense of its own nobleLet the heart, therefore, be fixed in preference, on the acquisitions of knowledge, or on the peaceful gratifications of friendship, or on the warmer charities of domestic life. In these ranges of affection, there are chords which, if truly struck, might continue to vibrate through all eternity; for all pure and spiritual love has in it something of infinitude and immortality. In man's social, and especially in his domestic life, there is much that not only can fix the heart, but that is apt to withdraw it unlawfully from the far higher objects on which it ought to be fixed; and much, too, that from the fixed heart, can draw forth the deep, rich harmonies of human happiness. He, therefore, whose heart is fixed in this way, "will sing ;" the light and the fire that are in him will utter themselves in the poetry and the music of this present world, But something else is necessary to qualify him for giving praise. So long as his affections rest and terminate in his merely temporal blessings, the song which these inspire, gay enough while it lasts, may, at any