« PreviousContinue »
of such extraordinary prayer for the Holy Spirit, and the revival of religion. If God does not grant that greatest of all effusions of his Spirit, so soon as we desire; yet we shall have the conscious satisfaction of having employed ourselves in a manner that is certainly agreeable to Christ's will and frequent commands-in being much in prayer for this mercy, much more than has heretofore been common with christians-and there will be all reason to hope, that we shall receive some blessed token of his acceptance. If the fall of mystical Babylon, and the work of God's Spirit that shall bring it to pass, be at several hundred years' distance; yet, it follows not that there will be no happy revivals of religion before that time, which shall be richly worth the most diligent, earnest and constant prayer.
The charge of Novelty answered.
I would say something to one objection more, and then hasten to the conclusion of this discourse.-Some may be ready to object, that what is proposed in this memorial is a new thing, such as never was put in practice in the church of God before.
If there be something circumstantially new in it, this cannot be a sufficient objection. The duty of prayer is no new duty. For many of God's people expressly to agree, as touching something they shall ask in prayer, is no new thing. For God's people to agree on circumstances of time and place for united prayer, according to their own discretion, is no new thing. For many, in different places, to agree to offer up extraordinary prayers to God at the same time, as a token of their union, is no new thing; but has been commonly prac tised in the appointment of days of fasting and prayer for special mercies. And if the people of God should engage in the duty of prayer for the coming of Christ's kingdom, in a new manner-that they resolve not to be so negligent in this duty, as has been common with professors of religion heretofore, but will be more frequent and fervent in it-this would be such a new thing as ought to be, and would be only to reform a former negligence. And for the people of God in various parts of the world, visibly, and by express agreement to unite for this extraordinary prayer, is no more than their duty; and no more than what is foretold the people of God should actually do, before the time comes of the church's promised glory on earth. And if this be a duty, then it is a duty to come into some method to render this practicable: but
it is not practicable (as was shewn before) but by this method, or some other equivalent.
And as to this particular method, proposed to promote union in extraordinary prayer-God's people in various parts setting apart fixed seasons, to return at certain periods, wherein they agree to offer up their prayers at the same time-it is not so new as some may possibly imagine. This may appear by what follows; which is a part of a paper, dispersed abroad in Great Britain and Ireland, from London, in the year 1712, being the latter end of queen Anne's reign, and very extensively complied with, entitled, "A serious call from the city to the country, to join with them in setting apart some time, viz. from seven to eight, every Tuesday morning, for the solemn seeking of God, each one in his closet, now in this so critical a juncture." "Jonah i. 6. Call upon God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not." What follows is an extract from it:
"You have formerly been called upon to the like duty, and have complied with it; and that not without success. is now thought highly seasonable to renew the call. It is hoped that you will not be more backward, when it is so apparent that there is even greater need. It is scarce imaginable how a professing people should stand in greater need of prayer, than we do at this day. You were formerly bespoke from that very pertinent text, Zech. viii. 21. "The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, or (as the marginal reading, more expressive of the original reading, is,) continually, from day to day, to entreat the face of the Lord." According to this excellent pattern, we of this city, the metropolis of our land, think ourselves obliged to call upon our brethren in Great-Britain and Ireland, at a time when our hearts cannot but meditate terror, and our flesh tremble for fear of God, and are afraid of his righteous judgments: those past being for the most part forgotten; and the signs of the times foreboding evil to come, being by the generality little, if at all, regarded: we cannot therefore but renew our earnest request, that all who make conscience of praying for the peace of Jerusalem, who wish well to Zion, who would have us and our posterity a nation of British Protestants, and not of popish bigots and French slaves, would give us (as far as real and not pretended necessity will give leave) a meeting at the throne of grace, at the hour mentioned; there to wrestle with God, for turning away his anger from us, for our deliverance from the hands of his and our enemies, for turning the councils of all Ahitophels at home and abroad, into foolishness; for mercy to the queen and kingdom; for a happy peace, or successful war, so long as the matter shall continue undetermined; for securing the
Protestant succession in the illustrious house of Hanover (by good and evil wishes to which, the friends and enemies of our religion and civil rights, are so essentially distinguished,) and especially for the influences of divine grace upon the rising generation, particularly the seed of the righteous, that the offspring of our christian heroes may never be the plague of our church and country. And we desire that this solemn prayer be begun the first Tuesday after sight, and continued at least the summer of this present year 1712. And we think, every modest, reasonable and just request, such as this, should not on any account be denied us; since we are not laying a burden on others, to which we will not most willingly put our own shoulders; nay, indeed, count it much more a blessing than a burden. We hope this will not be esteemed by serious Protestants, of any denomination, a needless step; much less do we fear being censured by any such, as fanciful and melancholy, on account of such a proposal. We with them believe a Providence, know and acknowledge that our God is a God hearing prayer. Scripture recordeth, and our age is not barren of instances of God's working marvellous deliverances for his people in answer to humble, believing and importunate prayer; especially when prayer and reformation go together; which is what we desire.-Let this counsel be acceptable to us, in this day of the church's calamity, and our common fears. Let us seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near. Let us humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. Let us go and pray unto our God, and he will hearken unto us. We shall seek him and find him, when we search for him with all our hearts. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love her. And may Zion's friends and enemies both cry out with wonder, when they see the work of God; Behold they pray !— What hath God wrought! Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth."
Postscript. It is desired and hoped, that if any are hindered from attending this work at the above-mentioned hour, they will nevertheless set apart an hour weekly for it."
God speedily and wonderfully heard, and answered those who were united in that extraordinary prayer, in suddenly scattering those black clouds which threatened the nation and the protestant interest with ruin, at that time; in bringing about, in so remarkable a manner, that happy change in the state of affairs in the nation, which was after the queen's death, by bringing in King George the First, just at the time when the enemies of the religion and liberties of the nation had ripened their designs to be put in speedy execution. And we see in the beginning of this extract, that what is proposed, is mentioned as being no new thing, but that God's people
in Great Britain had formerly been called upon to do the like duty, and had complied, not without success. Such agreements have several times been proposed in Scotland, before this which is now proposed to us; there was a proposal published for this very practice, in the year 1732, and another in 1735. So that it appears this objection of novelty is built on a mistake.
Now, upon the whole, I desire every serious christian who may read this discourse, calmly and deliberately to consider, whether he can excuse himself from complying with what has been proposed to us, and requested of us, by those ministers of Christ in Scotland, who are the authors of the late memorial. God has stirred up a part of his church, in a distant part of the world, to be in an extraordinary manner seeking and crying to him, that he would appear to favour Zion, as he has promised. And they are applying themselves to us, to join with them; and make that very proposal to us, which is spoken of in my text, and in like manner and circumstances. The members of one church in one country, are coming to others in distant countries, saying, "Let us go speedily and constantly to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of Hosts." Will it not become us readily to say, “I will go also?" What these servants of Christ ask of us is not silver or gold, or any of our outward substance, or that we would put ourselves to any cost, or do any thing that will be likely to expose us to any remarkable trouble, difficulty or suffering in our outward interest; but only that we would help together with them, by our prayers to God, for the greatest mercy in the world; a mercy which as much concerns us as them; for the glory of their Lord and ours; for the great advancement of our common interest and happiness, and the happiness of our fellow-creatures through all nations; a mercy, of which, at this day especially, there is great need; a mercy, which we, in this land, do stand in particular need of; a mercy, which the word of God requires us to make the subject matter of our prayers above all other mercies, and gives us more encouragement to pray earnestly and unitedly to him for, than any other mercy; and a mercy, which the providence of God towards the world of mankind, at this day loudly calls the peo-ple of God to pray for. I think we cannot reasonably doubt but that these ministers have acted a part becoming disciples of the great Messiah, and ministers of his kingdom; and have
done the will of God, according to his word, in setting forward such an affair at this day, and in proposing it to us. And therefore, I desire it may be considered, whether we shall not really sin against God, in refusing to comply with their proposal and request, or in neglecting it, and turning it by with but little notice and attention; therein disregarding that which is truly a call of God to us.
The ministers that make this proposal to us, are no separatists or schismatics; are no promoters of public disorders, nor of any wildness or extravagance in matters of religion; but are quiet, peaceable members and ministers of the church of Scotland, who have lamented the late breaches and divisions of that church. If any shall say, they cannot judge of their character, but must take it on trust from others, because they conceal their names. In anwer to this, I would say That I presume no sober person will say that he has any reason to suspect them to be any other than gentlemen of honest inten tion. Be assured, there is no appearance of any thing else but an upright design in their proposal; and that they have not It may well be mentioned their names, is an argument of it. presumed, from the manner of their expressing themselves in the memorial itself, they concealed their names from what perhaps may be called an excess of modesty; choosing to be at the greatest distance from appearing to set forth themselves to the view of the world, as the heads of a great affair, and the first projectors and movers of something extraordinary. And therefore, they are careful to tell us, that they do not propose the affair, but as a thing already set on foot; and do not tell us who first projected it. The proposal is made to us in a very proper and prudent manner, with all appearance of christian modesty and sincerity, and with a very prudent guard against any thing that looks like superstition, or whatsoever might entangle a tender conscience. Far from any appearance of design to promote a particular party, or denomination of christians, in opposition to others, with all appearance of the contrary, it is their charitable request, that none would by any means conceive of any such thing to be in their view, and that all-of every denomination and opinion concerning the late religious commotions-would join with them in seeking the common interest of the kingdom of ChristAnd therefore, I think, none can be in the way of their duty in neglecting a proposal in itself excellent, and which they have reason to think is made with upright intentions, merely beI do not cause the proposers modestly conceal their names. see how any serious person, who has even an ill opinion of late religious stirs, can have any colour or reason to refuse a compliance with this proposal on that account. The more disorders, extravagances and delusions of the devil have lately