« PreviousContinue »
considered how this might give a handle to objections (which they thought it best, to the utmost, to avoid in the infancy of the affair) and how practicable it was, without any such formality, to spread the substance of the proposal by private letters, together with a request to their correspondents, mutually to communicate their thoughts. Therefore this was fixed on, as the method that was preferable at the beginning. Accordingly, they proposed and endeavored to promote the affair in this way ; and with such success, that great numbers in Scotland and England fell in with the proposal, and some in North America. As to Scotland, it was complied with by numbers in the four chief towns, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee, and many country towns and congregations in various parts of the land : One of the ministers, that was prima: rily concerned in this affair, in a letter to one of his corres. pondents, speaks of an explicit declaration of the concurrence of the praying societies in Edinburgh, which they had made in a letter. The number of the praying societies in that city is very considerable : Mr. Robe of Kilsyth, (in a letter to Mr. Prince of Boston), dated November 3, 1743) says, there were then above thirty societies of young people there newly erected, some of whom consisted of upwards of thirty members. As to Glasgow, this union was unanimously agreed to by about fortyfive praying societies there ; as an eminent minister in that city informs, in a letter.
The two years, first agreed on, ended last November. A little before this time expired, a number of ministers in Scotland agreed on a memorial to be printed, and sent abroad to their brethren in various parts, proposing to them and requesting of them to join with them in the continuance of this method of united prayer, and in endeavors to promote it.... Copies of which inemorial have lately been sent over into Newengland, to the number of near five hundred, directed to be distributed in almost every county in this province of the Massachusetts Bay, and also in several parts of Connecticut, Newhampshire, Rhodeisland, Newyork, Newjersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Carolina, and Georgia... The most (I suppose) of these were sent to one of the congre
Vol. III. 2 Y
gational ministers in Boston, with a letter subscribed by twelve ministers in Scotland, about the affair: Many of them to another of the said ministers of Boston ; and some io a misister in Connecticut. It being short, I shall here insert a copy of it at length. It is as follows:
From several Ministers in Scotland, to their!brethren in different
places, for continuing a Concert for Prayer, first entered into in the year 1744.
WHEREAS it was the chief scope of this Concert, to promote more abundant application to a duty that is perpetually binding, prayer that our Lord's kingdom may come, joined with praises : And it contained some circumstantial expedients, apprehended to be very subservient to that design, relating to stated times for such exercises, so far as this would not interfere with other duties ; particularly a part of Saturday evening, and Sabbath morning, every week; and more solemnly of some one of the first days of each of the four great divisions of the year, that is, of each quarter; as the first Tuesday, or first convenient day after: And the concert, as to this cir. cumstance, was extended only to two years ; it being intended, that before these expired, persons engaged in the concert should reciprocally communicate their sentiments and inclinations, as to the prolonging of the time, with or without alteration, as to the circumstance mentioned : And it was intended by the first promoters, that others at a distance should propose such circumstantial amendments or improvements, as they should find proper : It is hereby earnestly intreated, that such would communicate their sentiments accordingly, now that the time first proposed is near expiring.
II. To induce those already engaged to adhere, and others to accede to this concert ; it seems of importance to observe, that declarations of concurrence, the communicating and spreading of which are so evidently useful, are to be under: stood in such a latitude, as to keep at the greatest distance
from entangling men's minds: Not as binding men to set apart any stated days from secular affairs, or even to fix on any part of such and such precise days, whether it be convenient or not; nor as absolute promises in any respect : But as friendly, harmonious resolutions, with liberty to alter cir. cumstances as shall be found expedient. On account of all which latitude, and that the circumstantial part extends only to a few years, it is apprehended, the concert cannot be liable to the objections against periodical religious times of human appointment.
III. It is also humbly offered to the consideration of ministers, and others furnished with gifts for the most public instructions, whether it might not be of great use, by the blessing of God, if short and nervous scriptural persuasives and directions to the duty in view, were composed and published (either by particular authors, or several joining together; which last way might some times have peculiar advantages) and that from time to time, without too great intervals ; the better to keep alive on men's minds a just sense of the obligations to a duty so important in itself, and in which many may be in danger to faint and turn remiss, without such repeated incitements : And whether it would not also be of great use, if ministers would be pleased to preach frequently on the importance and necessity of prayer for the coming of our Lord's kingdom ; particularly near the quarterly days, or on these days themselves, where there is public worship at that time.
IV. They who have found it incumbent on them to publish this memorial at this time, having peculiar advantages for spreading it, do intreat that the desire of concurrence and assistance contained in it, may by no means be understood as restricted to any particular denomination or party, or to those who are of such or such opinions about any former instances of remarkable religious concern ; but to be extended to all, who shall vouchsafe any attention to this paper, and have at heart the interest of vital Christianity, and the power of Godliness; and who, however differing about other things, are convinced of the importance of fervent prayer, to promote that coñmon interest, and scripture persuasives to of promote
V. As the first printed account of this concert was not a proposal of it, as a thing then to begin, but a narration of it, as a design already set on foot, which had been brought about with much harmony, by means of private letters ; so the farther continuance, and, it is hoped, the farther spreading of it seems in a promising way of being promoted by the same means; as importunate desires of the renewing the concert have been transmitted already from a very distant corner abroad, where the regard to it has of late increased : But notwithstanding of what may be done by private letters, it is humbly expected, that a memorial spread in this manner, may, by God's blessing, farther promote the good ends in view ; as it may be usefully referred to in letters, and may reach where they will not.
VI. Whereas in a valuable letter, from the corner just now mentioned as a place where regard to the concert has lately increased, it is proposed, that it should be continued for seven years, or at least for a much longer time than what was specified in the first agreement; those concerned in this memorial, who would wish rather to receive and spread directions and proposals on this head, than to be the first authors of any, apprehend no inconvenience, for their part, in agreeing to the seven years, with the latitude above described, which reserves liberty to make such circumstantial alterations, as may be hereafter found expedient : On the contrary it seems of importance, that the labor of spreading a concert, which has already extended to so distant parts, and may, it is hoped, extend farther, may not need to be renewed sooner, at least much sooner; as it is uncertain but that may endanger the dropping of it; and it seems probable, there will be less zeal in spreading of it, if the tiine proposed for its continuance be too inconsiderable. Mean time, declarations of concurrence for a less number of years may greatly promote the good ends in view : Though it seems very expedient, that it should exceed what was first agreed on; seeing it is found on trial, that that time, instead of being too long, was much too short.
VII. If persons who formerly agreed to this concert, should now discontinue it ; would it not look too like that fainting in prayer, against which we are so expressly warned in scrip
ture? And would not this be the more unsuitable at this time,
within the British dominions, when they have the united calls of such public chastisements and deliverances, to more concern than ever about public reformation, and consequently about that which is the source of all thorough reformation, the regenerating and sanctifying influence of the Almighty Spirit of God ? August 26, 1746."
The minister in Boston forementioned (to whom most of the copies of this memorial were sent) who, I suppose, has had later and more full intelligence than I have had, says, concerning the proposal, in a letter ; the motion seems to come from above, and to be wonderfully spreading in Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, and North America.
Motives to a Compliance with what is proposed in
I NOW proceed to the second thing intended in this discourse, viz. to offer to consideration some things, which may tend to induce the people of God to comply with the proposal and request, made to them in the memorial.
And I desire that the following things may be considered.
1. It is evident from the scripture, that there is yet remaining a great advancement of the interest of religion and the kingdom of Christ in this world, by an abundant outpouring of the Spirit of God, far greater and more extensive than ever yet has been. It is certain, that many things, which are spoken concerning a glorious time of the church's enlargement and prosperity in the latter days, have never yet been fulfilled. There has never yet been any propagation and prevailing of religion, in any wise, of that extent and universality, which the prophecies represent. It is often foretold and signified, in a great variety of strong expressions, that there should a time come, when all nations through the whole