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St. Paul hoped for deliverance from his difficulties by the Corinthians helping together by prayer for him, (2 Cor. i, 11.) and thus supposes that Christians will unite in prayer for their minister. Why should not those members of a family who are under the full influence of real religion unite at stated periods in praying for those of their relatives that are careless and regardless of its holy truths? Why should not those members of a congregation who know the truth as it is in Jesus, pray for a minister appointed over them, who knows it not, and therefore does not preach it? There are various other things of general and personal, or local interest, that need not be here specified, which afford suitable subjects for social prayer.
It is a proof of the low state of religion among us, that many, and those even real Christians, (for of them only I speak,) can meet and part in our day without praying together. Is it feared that this might be counted strange and uncommon? this is only a weak objection. The devoted Christian is an uncommon character, and must expect to be often reproached for unnecessary strictness and preciseness. Have you reason to think that this would be on unwelcome service? surely, then, you should not voluntarily be much in the society of those who would think it such. Or may not another reason be, that the conversation, even among those who have professed to renounce the world and its vanities, is often so trifling, so worldly, and so vain-so much about man, and so little about God, and Christ, and his word, and his love, that your souls are unprepared and unfitted for communion with him.*
* I cannot here but subjoin the remark which a valued friend made on this passage. He says, "Conversation among Christians often takes a trifling turn, often a party turn in politics, and often one which merely concerns the circumstantials of things, and this
Watts says, "If we pray among a select society of Christians, we draw near to God with a holy boldness, something like what we use in our duties of secret worship. We have reason to take more freedom among those that are fellow-saints, and whose hearts have felt many of the same workings with our own. Then, when our faith is lively, we should give thanks to God for our election in Christ Jesus; for the atonement and righteousness of the Son of God, in which we humbly hope we have an interest; for the enlightening and sanctifying work of his own Spirit upon our hearts; for our expectations of eternal glory; and by expressing the joys of our faith to God, we may often be made a means, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to raise the faith and joy of others."
Were your social meetings thus sanctified, the occasional intercourse of dear friends would be more blessed than it is. You would find it a means of grace, and would enjoy, in a much higher degree, the privilege of the communion of saints. You would receive a greater blessing than you have yet done in all your family and social relations. "Persons who belong to several families may, and ought to meet on these occasions. The consent of importunity is a pleasing instance of brotherly love."
for the evident purpose of excluding essentials. Thus the manner of a preacher, his style, his appearance often occupy the place which is due to his matter. Or, if the matter be introduced, it is not for the purpose of enjoying its excellence, in turning it to the exciting of present good, but rathe as a ground of critique on bis mode of treatment, affording a subject of ingenious remark, if not of authoritative decision. There are religious Tatlers and Busy Bodies, it is to be feared, as well as those of the world; but it should never be forgotten, that a religious gossip is less excusable than a worldly gossip. The object of the worldly s to kill time; and for this purpose, characters are sported with, and idle tales and jokes indulged in. It should be the Christian's object to redeem the time, aud to improve it by edifying his associates,"
Those who JOIN IN SOCIAL PRAYER should guard against a spirit of criticism on the prayer which they hear, and endeavour to join in the desire intended, even when they think that the mode of expression is not altogether proper, or suitable. Watch against criticising and being offended with the mere words and manner of others. Those, indeed, who do pray, should take care to avoid occasion of offence, by simplicity and propriety in their mode of conducting the prayer. But when sinful creatures kneel together before their Almighty Creator, the solemnity of the work in which they are engaged, and the greatness of his Majesty, should prevent a rigid observance of each other. Judge not, that ye be not judged.
In this, as in every means of grace, beware of any thing like ostentation, display, or self-righteoueness. Endeavour to attain Christian simplicity, and the meekness of wisdom. James iii, 13.
THE GENERAL HABIT OF PRAYER.
HITHERTO we have dwelt on the various kinds of devotion, private, public, family, and social, which should each come in their course at stated times; but the believer's character, I give myself unto prayer, (Ps. xc, 4.) shews, that he is continually in the spirit of prayer. The Scriptures suppose, that this is the habit of the Christian mind. Hence we find directions of this kind. "Praying always, with all prayer, and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance." Eph. vi,18. "Pray without ceasing." 1 Thess. v, 17. "Continuing instant in prayer." Rom. xii, 12.
These directions are in some measure fulfilled, by a constant attention to those kinds of prayer we have before mentioned; but they may have a yet more complete fulfilment, in the habitual disposition of the Christian's mind, his readiness at all times for prayer, and the exercise of this disposition in continual aspirations of soul, and desires expressed unto God in the midst of his other duties. These aspirations are both a great sign and means of our being spiritually-minded.
Nor does this in any way hinder, but rather help attention to our various duties. A labourer's love to his family will often bring it to his mind during his work, but will only incline him to labour more constantly and cheerfully; and a Christian's love to his Saviour will have the same effect. The breathing of the lungs, and the beating of the pulse, hinder not our being engaged
in other work; and the lifting up of holy desires unto God, will only quicken us, and animate us in the performance of the daily labours of our life.
The expression of this habit of mind has been sometimes called ejaculatory prayer; for as the ancient soldiers were accustomed to let fly javelins or darts, so when there is the habit of prayer there will frequently be short, earnest petitions darted up, on the moment, to the throne of grace.
Such an habitually devout disposition of mind, will make every action of your life holy. You will learn to do nothing without connecting it by prayer with the presence and glory of God. You will see nothing, and hear nothing, without its raising your heart to him. What a spiritual life may the Christian, improving every thing by prayer, lead This will consecrate every field, every wood, and every dwelling place. It will turn an ordinary walk into a morning or evening sacrifice. Making this heavenly use of earthly things, you will rapidly advance in conformity to the divine image, you will be strong in overcoming sin, and you will carry on schemes of good with a power which nothing can resist.
"How highly," says Cooke, "would a courtier prize a privy key of admittance to his sovereign at all times. This key we possess in ejaculatory prayer. It is a golden chain of union between earth and heaven.”
This general spirit of devotion, prevailing in the heart at all times, is of such importance, that the chief number of EXAMPLES of prayer which we find in the Holy Scriptures are of this kind. Were all these examples to be enumerated, it would be seen, that there is no situation, nor circumstance, in which we may be placed, where such a spirit will not be suitable, and in which