I appreciate the following section of William Wilberforce’s book called “A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity.” I’ve edited it slightly:
True, practical Christianity consists in devoting the heart and life to God. It is governed supremely and habitually by a desire to know God, to be disposed to God’s will, and to live in his glory. Where these essential requisites are wanting, one cannot complement it with the name of Christianity.
…Is he [the Christian] too keenly engaged in worldly business? Let him carefully examine the state of his own heart. If he finds himself pursuing wealth or status or reputation too much, he must realize, ‘No man can serve two masters’ (Mt. 6:24). The world evidently possess his heart. So it is no wonder that he finds himself dulled, or rather, dead to the impression and enjoyment of spiritual things.
Let us carefully scrutinize our whole conduct to see if we have breached or omitted a duty toward God. Particularly, we need to see if we are negligent of self-examination, of secret and public prayer, of reading the Scriptures, and of other prescribed means of grace. If we find the allotment of time that should be devoted to our spiritual development lacking, let us be open about it with ourselves and remedy the situation. Otherwise, this fatal negligence will begin to affect our hearts and our conduct. So we need to ascertain if other matters that preoccupy us are not consuming too large a share of our time. By careful management, we might still fully satisfy their legitimate claims and then devote time to our devotional life.
But if we deliberately and honestly conclude that we ought not to give these worldly affairs less of our time, let us endeavor at least to give them less of our hearts.
Let us at least have a just sense of our great weaknesses and numerous infirmities. This is a becoming spirit in those who are commanded to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). It prompts us to constant and earnest prayer. It produces that sobriety, lowliness, and tenderness of mind, that meekness of behavior and care in conduct, that are such notable characteristics of the true Christian.
This is not a state devoid of consolation. ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord” (Ps. 27:14). “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Is. 40:31). “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Mt. 5:4). These divine assurances soothe and encourage the Christian’s disturbed and dejected mind and instill unconsciously a holy composure.
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