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From: How to Live a Holy Life

Devotion to God implies ardent affection for him--a yielding of the heart
to him with reverence, faith, and piety in every act, particularly in
prayer and meditation. We catch a glimpse of the true meaning of devotion
from what is said of the centurion of the Italian band. He was termed a
devout man because he feared God, gave much alms to the people, and prayed
to God always (see Acts 10:2). This is the essence of true devotion. He
loved God, without which there can be no devotion. The more we love an
object, the more devoted to it we are. Devotion is therefore love
manifested. At the feet of Jesus stood a woman weeping and washing his
feet with her tears and wiping them with the hairs of her head and kissing
them. Is not this a picture of devotion? It is love and devotion expressed
in action. Jesus said, "She loved much." The secret of devotion is loving

Every devoted Christian desires to be more devoted to his God. I am glad
we can be. It is pleasant to feel in our hearts an ardent desire to love
God more. A fond mother clasps her babe to her bosom. She loves it, and
her heart is happy in that love; but she feels she can not love it enough.
She longs to love it more. Her heart yearns to love it more, though she
loves it from the fulness of her soul. This longing to love increases our
capacity to love. By being filled with air some vessels are made to
expand. Unless filled to their utmost capacity, they would not become more
extended. To the extent that the heart is filled with the love of God, man
is happy.

To desire to be more devotional is not an evidence of lack of devotion,
but, on the contrary, an evidence of devotion. Those who are the least
devotional have the least desire to be more devotional. The heart that is
fullest of love is happiest; and although it is happy and satisfied, yet
it longs to move. Oh, how we long to clasp our arms more tightly about
him! how we long to have him clasp his arms more tightly about us! how we
long to nestle more fondly and lovingly on his bosom! What rapture to our
love-flooded souls to receive of his caresses and hear his tender words!
To the soul in the ecstasy of its heavenly love, the world with its
pleasures has vanished away like a morning vapor.

It is not understood by all how and why we should have a desire to possess
more of that of which we are already full. It is the desire for
development; it is an innate desire; it is a principle planted in our
constitution under grace. Let me repeat what I have said elsewhere: Every
living thing consciously or unconsciously struggles to conform to type.
When the little plant bursts through the ground, it enters the race in
conforming to the type that it carries in its bosom. Thus, in the heart of
the acorn is a miniature oak-tree. The little chick carries within it an
image of the mother bird, to which it will naturally though unconsciously

In the natural world when things reach the highest point of development,
they begin to decay or deteriorate; but this is not true in the spiritual
world. Never in this life and possibly never in that life which is to come
shall we reach the fulness of the type, or, in other words, the highest
point of development. As the acorn or the little chick bears in its nature
an image of the parent, so the Christian bears in his soul the image of
God. This is the image to which he is to conform. Day after day he can
grow in grace. Day after day the beautiful graces of the Spirit can become
more beautiful and the exterior life be more perceptibly stamped with the
holy image of God. There must be progress, or there will be regress. When
a ball that has been thrown upward ceases to ascend, it begins to descend.
When the fulness of the type is reached, then begins the retrogression.
This is none the less true of spiritual things. The reason why there need
be no declension in love is because the highest point of development is
never attained.

For illustration let us set a little child in our midst. As a child it is
perfect. All its organs are in proper place and are properly performing
their functions. It is a perfect image of the type of man into which it
will grow. That child's nature tends toward, and the child longs to be, a
man. The child's innate desire for development does not make it
discontented as long as its craving for growth is gratified. In this we
behold the goodness and the wisdom of the Creator. That the child may be
happy, it is so constituted that it satisfactorily meets all the
requirements of the law of development. The child is thus kept in a state
of contentment. Did it seek to fulfil the law of growth contrary to its
nature, to become a man would be an irksome task. It is a delight to the
child to eat, to play, to sleep. And these things, producing growth, meet
the demands of its nature. There is implanted in it both a desire to grow
and a relish for the things necessary to its growth. Thus the entire
process of development is a delight. In fact, there will be no delight or
enjoyment unless there be development.

True, a child does not eat and play for the express purpose of growing.
Indeed, it may take no thought about growing. But there is in the nature
of the child, when in health, a demand for growth. When the child is in
ill health, the growth ceases; consequently there is no demand for
development, and it loses relish for the things that go to meet that

This very beautifully illustrates Christian development which includes
becoming more devotional. You desire to be more devotional. Such a desire
is legitimate. The nature of every sanctified soul craves development. The
soul is not dissatisfied, any more than the growing child. As that
developing life in the child moves it to seek for the things that produce
development, so the life of God in the sanctified soul moves it to seek
for the things that will unfold and amplify that life. "If ye be risen
[have life] with Christ, seek those things which are above." Those things,
coming into our soul daily, will unfold us more and more into an heavenly
life. They are food to the sanctified soul. They keep the soul satisfied,
because they are the means provided by a loving, all-wise Providence for
the constant healthful growth of our spiritual natures. Herein only is
true soul-rest.

God gives us a relish for the very things that go to fulfil the demands of
our Christian nature. Prayer, meditation, reading the Bible, trust, and
resting in the Lord promote increase in him. How delightful is prayer to
the soul that is healthful and growing! and the Word of God is sweeter
than honey. Where there is a demand in the soul for these things, how
delightful it is to engage in them! Do you behold the beauty and the
wisdom here? God implants a desire in the soul for spiritual development
and at the same time implants a relish for the things necessary for such
development. Bless his name! Understand me, please, this desire is not a
restless longing, an aching void, as is found in an unregenerate heart or
in a soul in spiritual decline; but it is the delightful struggling of a
soul bearing the likeness of God, to conform to the natural law of
development pent up within its bosom.

What is it in the nature of the oak that causes it to send its root down
into the soil and to drink up of its substance? What is it in the nature
of the child that causes it so eagerly to eat and play? It is the demand
in their nature for growth, or that innate struggle to conform to type.
Manhood is sleeping in the child's bosom, and it wrestles and struggles to
rise to the fulness of that image. What causes the Christian heart to long
to root deeper into God; that makes the soul seek his embrace? It is that
instinctive struggle to conform to God's glorious image. The entire
process of development is delightful. Whenever the natural tendency toward
growth ceases, the soul is in an abnormal state, and loses relish for the
things necessary to growth.

Christian, see to it that you keep in your heart a desire, a longing, a
panting, or, if you would rather I will say, a demand, in your spiritual
being to be more devotional to God, and meet that demand by resting by
faith in him, by prayer, by meditation, by service. Do this, and you will
become more devotional. But I love the word "desire." Desire in the soul
for spiritual things is appetite. Satisfying this desire is a pleasure.
Never were any viands so sweet to the physical sense of taste as that food
to our soul which helps us be more devotional. "Desire" is a Bible term.
"As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye
may grow thereby."

Before concluding this chapter I will call your attention to one way of
becoming more devotional--being active in service. Desire must be
gratified, or it will die. Likewise, motive must find expression in
action, or it will die. You have a desire for prayer; then grant that
desire by actually praying, or you will lose the desire. An appetite once
lost is difficult to regain. You may have in your soul a pure motive; then
carry it into action. Do something for God, and you will become more
devotional to God. Not that devotion comes by works, to begin with, any
more than grace; but we do become more devotional by doing, just as we
grow stronger physically by exercise. Follow out every inclination to do
good as far as you can, and you will become more devotional to your God.

God loves to have you devoted to him, and he longs to have you more
devoted. It is astonishing, nevertheless God has intense desire to be
prayed to and great love for communion with our hearts. He says, "My son,
give me thine heart." What does he want with man's heart? He wants to put
his love in it, so he can be loved by it and hold communion with it. "The
prayer of the upright is his delight." Oh, that there are so few hearts
that love God! Jesus wept over Jerusalem because they would not come to
him. But why does he so intensely yearn for the prayers and devotions of
our hearts? Because it is another young life struggling to conform to the
image in which it was created. It is another soul which has been won for
God and in which he has his throne.

O God! take our hearts and compress within them that pure love from thy
own heart that will cause us to pray, "O God! enlarge our hearts." God
would even pain our hearts with the fulness of his love until we find no
ease except in expansion.


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