ePub 版

have always assented to, but never considered; and press bome the truth to their bosoms with a "Thou art the man." No single minister over a whole congregation can do this; but the members of the church have the happiest opportunities of doing it; and until by general consent, they can be persuaded to engage in the work, and perseveringly pursue it, we see not how it can be expected, that "the people shall become all righteous." The sentiment is but too common, in regard to a multitude of the hearers of the gospel, that its whole force is spent upon them, and we have only to leave them in the hands of a sovereign God. But in truth, the gospel has never come to them. Never have they seen those things which pertain directly to their conversion, as they really are. Most have no real belief of their need of conversion, no practical sense of the contrariety of their feelings and pursuits to the law of God. Many who admit the fact of their depravity, do it without any real sentiment of blame, but cover their sin with fallacious excuses. Many who have a smothered conviction of sin, know not the way of peace, but are going about to establish a righteousness of their own; and many who know what they must do, are turned away from the motives which persuade their obedience and forbid delay—the love of God-the authority of his command-the sincerity of his invitations—the reasonableness of his requirements—the fruitlessness of delay the hardening tendency of sin-the danger of a judicial abandonment—the terrors of a final reprobation. It is not under just impressions on these subjects that sinners wander on. Erring in "their ways," they do "err from the truth." But real christians know the truth. They were taught it experimentally at their conversion. They know too the deceitful windings of the heart in evading the truth. How plain, then, and how solemn the duty to go and communicate to other minds that truth, which the Spirit of God has engraven upon their own hearts. They indeed cannot do this effectually of themselves; but the same Spirit of the living God can do it by them; and without them, or others in their place, the bible warrants not the hope, that it will be done at all. Do they, then, fulfil the demands of the Savior's love, when in the various intercourse of life, they exhaust every other theme, and pass in silence that, in comparison with which, every other is insignificant? When they do this, have they a present sense of the worth of the soul, of the love of Christ, of the realities of the eternal world? With what feelings do christians call to mind such unfaithfulness, in their hours of illumination! What are their emotions at the remembrance of it, when they lie consciously on their dying beds! How are the impenitent themselves, who have any concern for their souls, often disappointed, grieved, and confounded to perceive it!

2. The great body of intelligent christians can learn wisely and

effectively to perform this office. There is no foundation in truth, or certainly there ought to be none, in the pleas under which they so commonly evade the obligation, that they have not the requisite. knowledge or aptitude; that they are disqualified by an immoveable diffidence; or that they have not sufficient weight of character and influence. Let them take the plain truths of the gospel just as they lie on the sacred page, unperverted by false theory; let them possess their minds and hearts with those truths, in their bearing on the condition and prospects of a world of probationers; and let them go to their work with an open face, and an unsuspecting, prayerful confidence in God, and they will find before them an open door. The proof is found in the influence which they actually exert upon men, on those subjects of a secular nature in which they feel a lively interest; in the testimony which those who have fairly made the trial on this subject, however reluctantly they may have been drawn to it, uniformly give; and more than all, in the promises of God that he will be with them. How admirably was this exemplified by those plain men whom our Savior called to be his personal followers! "John, with two of his disciples, looking upon Jesus, saith, behold the Lamb of God; and the two disciples followed Jesus. Andrew, one of the two, first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, we have found the Messiah. And he brought him to Jesus. The day following, Jesus findeth Philip and saith unto him, follow me. Philip findeth Nathaniel, and saith unto him, we have found him of whom Moses and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth. And Nathaniel said unto him, can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, come and see." Under the first effusion of the Holy Spirit also, the effect was the same. "The disciples went every where preaching (xngúdov, proclaiming,) the word," not in public assemblies, but wherever they found men that could be persuaded to hear. In the records which have come to us of the surprising triumphs of grace in the islands of the South sea, nothing is more delightful than to witness the same spirit of primitive christianity, as it has there been manifested, and the success with which it has been crowned. And shall these poor islanders, lately sunk in the grossest barbarism, no sooner have embraced the gospel, than, hastening to the neighboring islands, or driven to them by storms, they scatter the darkness of ages, and turn the heathen by hundreds to God, by means of their simple and warm-hearted tale; and shall christians, nursed in this land of light and freedom, say that they are incompetent to the work of saving souls? It is not great talents, extensive learning, or worldly influence, that is wanting, so much as fervent love, decided purpose, confidence in God, and the spirit of prayer-humble, fervent, persevering prayer.



3. That the discreet and thinking members of the church engage in this work, is demanded by the character of the times. This might be illustrated in various ways. We shall mention only one. The present is eminently a day of action. This, together with the gracious effusions which also signalize the day, will ensure a host of active spirits in the field of revivals. If the intelligent members of the church will not enter that field, others will. But is there any thing pertaining to the cause of revivals, that would be more to be deplored, than that rash, unstable, warm-hearted men, feeling no need of counsel, and prepared to denounce even their own ministers, if they come not up to their standard, should take into their hands the work of guiding souls to God? In such a case, it is in vain to argue, to decree, to remonstrate. There is no way to prevent this evil, and we may rejoice that there can be none, but for the sound and judicious members of the church, in concert with their pastors, to go forward.

4. Faithfulness in this duty, would scarcely be more happy in its influence upon sinners, than it would be blest in the improvement of christians themselves. It would increase their knowledge of the gospel. Many, under the best advantages, make no perceptible progress in knowledge, because they aim at no important use of what they already know. But, once engaged in bringing others to the knowledge of Christ, they would be painfully sensible of their deficiencies; would be animated by the most persuasive motives to go on unto perfection; would read, and hear, and reflect, with intense desire for more exact, comprehensive, and convincing apprehensions of the truth. Proportionable would be their improvement in holiness. Their work would separate them from the polluting intimacies of the world; would bind them to a course of life corresponding to their profession; would call forth the best affections of their hearts; would unite them in the strictest fellowship with each other; would bring them in frequent and fervent application to the throne of grace; and would mold their whole characters in a growing resemblance to him whose office it was to seek and to save that which is lost. Thus too would their doubts be scattered, their hopes be enlivened, and their comforts abound. "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he that winneth souls is wise."


The subject of intercessory prayer is one of the deepest interest to the whole church of God. The christian dispensation was opened, and the first triumphs of christianity were gained, by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in answer to prayer. All its subsequent advances have been owing to the same divine influence, obtained in the same way. Every conversion that has taken place, has been in answer to prayer; and all that will hereafter gladden the church to the close of the Millennial glory, will be owing to the faith and importunity of the people of God. All revivals of religion, and benevolent enterprises for the conversion of the world, depend entirely upon special prayer. All other instrumentalities derive their life and energy from this source, so that if prayer should cease, every effective exertion on the part of christians would cease likewise, and the world's last hope would expire-unless God should adopt some new plan for its renovation. If all this, or the half of it, is true, then does it become every christian to give his mind to the investigation of this subject, until he can say that he understands both the precepts and the promises which relate to prayer.

As the divine faithfulness is the foundation of our confidence in prayer, we can be confident only so far as we know that faithfulness to be pledged. If God has promised any thing absolutely, then we may expect it unconditionally. But if his promises are conditional, then we are authorized to expect their fulfilment only so far as the conditions are performed.


The great question then, is, What kind of prayer does the bible teach us to believe will be successful? Or, by what qualities must our prayers be characterized, in order to avail much'? Or, With what conditions are the promises in relation to prayer to be understood? The solution of this question in any of these forms, will be an answer to the question which has so often been discussed, What is the prayer of faith? No matter by what name we distinguish it, the great object is to ascertain how to pray, so as to obtain the blessings promised.

On looking at the passages of scripture from which our information is to be drawn, we see a peculiarity of character in the persons who prayed successfully. This deserves the first attention. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah, Hezekiah, Daniel, etc. were all servants of God, having a supreme regard to his honor and glory. In the New Testament the case is the same; and the doctrine there inculcated respecting prayer, is consonant with all the facts recorded on the subject. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." This

doctrine the writer would endeavor to present to his readers in the following propositions, which ought to be considered in one connected view, in order to see clearly what the scriptures teach in relation to the duty in question.

1. Prayer, to be successful, must be offered in the name of Christ-with a distinct and exclusive reliance upon his merits and mediation; not only disclaiming in words all dependence upon our own deserts, but feeling that on the ground of these dcserts, we have nothing to expect but the wrath of God. There may be a blighting defect here, so plausibly covered over by orthodoxy of sentiment, that it will be overlooked without a close and honest self-examination.

2. Successful prayer is offered under a peculiar influence of the Holy Spirit. This we infer from the injunctions to pray with the Spirit, and to pray in the Holy Ghost, and it is expressly taught by the apostle Paul, when he says, "likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us,' &c. The reason why this divine influence is necessary to effectual prayer, is, that without it our minds would not fix upon the right objects, nor have the right kind of feeling. And there is no unreasonableness involved in the requirement, seeing that the Holy Spirit is promised to every one who asks: and this provision is so free and ample, that every christian is required to be filled with the Spirit, and to be filled with all the fulness of God.

3. In order to pray successfully, we must be obedient to the known will of God. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." "Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." This and other conditions ought always to be viewed in connection with those apparently unqualified and unlimited promises recorded by the evangelists, which might otherwise be misapplied to the encouragement of a presumptuous confidence. Many cases will readily occur to the reader's mind, in which christians might be praying very earnestly for certain objects, and yet, having failed in performing their duty in reference to these objects, or having offended in other respects, they might not be heard. If the prayers of those who are living in the neglect of known duty were answered, it would not only take away one strong motive to holiness, but encourage disobedience.

4. In order to pray successfully, our petitions must be for things agreeable to the will of God. "This is the confidence we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us." If we knew that an individual had sinned a sin which is unto death, it would be contrary to the revealed will

« 上一頁繼續 »