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And yet the conviction seems to increase, that for the prosperity of the cause among us, such a work of grace is necessary; and the question has been reverently asked, “Is it not time for Thee, Lord, to work ?” It has appeared, doubtless, to us, the appropriate time. But “the times and the seasons the Father has kept in His own power.” Notwithstanding, however, Boston, this “ city of our solemnities," has not been specially visited in the desired manner, we have had occasion, in the course of the year, to recount with gratitude the stately goings of our God in other places.
Plymouth, the oldest settlement in Massachusetts, and endeared to every religious or serious reader of our history, has experienced a memorable display of
About one hundred and thirty individuals within the town itself, and between thirty and forty in a town adjoining, have given evidence of a renewed temper and disposition, and have become, as is understood, members of the visible Church. This addition to the number of professors of religion must have greatly encouraged those who, like Jacob of old, could exclaim, “I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord.” And the reports, which were from time to time made in this meeting by respected brethren from Plymouth, excited sympathy, and prayer, and gratitude, and were thus made serviceable to ourselves.
Besides these instances, the intelligence of revivals of religion contained in the religious journals has not been wanting, nor visits of Christian friends, missionaries, and others, whose reports and exhortations were heard with deep interest, and have left, we trust, some impressions that still abide.
But there has appeared, in the past year, a feature
of our meeting comparatively new. Nearly three months since, a brother, deacon of one of the churches, whose mind had been much exercised in contemplating their spiritual condition, arose and inquired, “Do we feel so concerned for it as to be willing to ask of God a revival of His work, with fasting and prayer ?” The question was new—the thought, apparently, unexpected; but the brethren, mindful, no doubt, of the happy results which have arisen from the day of prayer for colleges, came at length to the determination that, with Divine permission, such a day should be observed.
It was accordingly kept; and, some notice having been given in different churches, it was well attended -that is, the chapel was comfortably filled. An excellent spirit seemed to pervade the meetings, both morning and afternoon. The Rev. Dr. Beecher, senior, who attended them, and whose cxperience in the Church of Christ among us has been long and extensive, remarked to the writer that he had never been present on any similiar occasion where there was so great and so uniform solemnity of feeling and expression.
This encouraged the brethren; and, therefore, after serious consultation, another meeting was held, at the interval of two weeks. After a similar interval, another was held; and two more have been holden-five in all. At each of these, several pastors of different churches and denominations have been present, and presided in them. Nor has the interest seemed to diminish. What results are to follow, time will develop.
In the meanwhile, these several meetings for social worship, and conference, and mutual edification, are not (blessed be God for it !) without perceptible effects of an internal, spiritual nature. This has been, not once only, but many times, acknowledged by different individuals. In fact, it could hardly be otherwise, if we believe and obey the testimony of Scripture. All needful freedom is allowed. The Bible is opened and read, usually with such remarks as the presiding brother sees fit; and, being allowed to speak for itself, its paramount authority is reverenced, and regarded as final.
This one prominent feature of the meeting requires to be dwelt on, and distinctly noticed. The just government of the affections, in a subject of a nature so momentous as that of religion, is all-important. Zeal may degenerate into mere animal passion, and strong emotions of religious preference into bigotry, oppression, and persecution, or into the frenzies of fanaticism, if not restrained, directed, and guarded, by “the Law and the Testimony." What horrors have recently been witnessed in Connecticut! What aberrations from reason, common sense, and Christian experience, have resulted from Spiritualism'! And what immoralities and wickedness have branded the alarming course of Mormonism! All this, every real Christian must acknowledge, has arisen from neglect of the Scriptures, and of daily and habitual communion with God.
Now, no tendency to these delusions has gained admittance to our meeting. On the contrary, the themes on which we have been led to dwell have been eminently scriptural and practical. The character, offices, and sacrifice of Christ; His preciousness to the believer; His relation to the Church, and care for it; the necessity of a vital union with Him by faith, and the happy, blessed, eternal fruits of such union; the obligations of brotherly love for Christ's sake; and the wide, interminable field of Divine truth, opening into eternity itself, with all its numberless relations and dependencies; and the overflowing fountain of Divine mercies opened in the Gospel for the supply and renovation of a sin-polluted and sin-ruined world,—these have been the fruitful subjects of meditation, remark, and prayer. Can it possibly have been without spiritual fruit? It were ingratitude so to believe.
Time will not permit us to dwell further, perhaps, on subjects of special observation; yet one occurrence should not be forgotten. On the 13th of the present month, our venerable friend, Deacon Bumstead, who is the most aged and one of the most punctual of the attendants on the meeting, arose in his place, and remarked that it was the eighty-fifth anniversary of the day of his birth; and, after extolling the goodness of God to him, offered up
for the blessings needed by the Church, the world, himself, his family, and us. Among these petitions, one was, that our meeting for prayer might be sustained until the dawning of millennial blessedness and glory. In this desire, do we not all feel a deep and solemn, yet, in view of the merciful promises of an ever-faithful God, a joyful, soul-advancing interest ?
Submitted by WM. JENKS,
Secretary of the Meeting. This report was accepted, with a vote of thanks, and a request that it be published.
THIRD ANNUAL REPORT OF THE MORNING PRAYERMEETING HELD IN THE CHAPEL OF THE OLD SOUTH.
(Read January 1, 1857.) As it has been customary, at this season of the year, to review the annual period just past, some re
marks will be offered this morning respecting it. A regular and minute historical account will not, it is hoped, be expected. The spirit which characterises such meetings as this, is of more importance, unquestionably, than the recital of particular events, or methods relating to the holding of it.
And, in regard to the general spirit of the meeting, have we not found it good, brethren and sisters in Christ, to be here? Have not
our hearts burned within us," as we have come together, morning by morning, to seek communion with God? And have we not gone from the meeting, frequently, with a firmer resolution to live nearer to Him, and to labour more for Him, and to walk with Him more faithfully, cheerfully, and reverentially?
It has not unfrequently been observed, in the meeting, that, were there even no new accessions made to the body of believers among us, by the conversion of such as had never before tasted of Divine grace, the meeting would not be without its use in the creation of a deeper interest in the great concerns of religion, the glory of Christ, the understanding and application of the sacred Scriptures, and the cultivation of Christian graces among professed disciples of the Redeemer, of different denominations. And so, indeed, have we experienced. Are we not drawn nearer to each other, fellow-Christians, than heretofore ? Do we not take a warmer and deeper interest in each other's spiritual welfare, than when we first came together ? We cannot doubt it is so.
But the mere enjoyment of social Christianity among professors of religion, is by no means the whole aim and design of the system of revelation. It is in its nature, like light, diffusive. It is be