« PreviousContinue »
of God celebrated in an open and public manner. Even in the sharpest persecutions, the Christian assemblies, though it may not be so openly as in times of peace, were constantly held and frequented: and whoever did not choose to endure the most cruel death, rather than preserve his life by absenting himself, was thought unworthy to be called a Christian.”
GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS ON PUBLIC PRAYER.
O God, our refuge and strength, who art the author of all godliness ; Be ready, we beseech thee, to hear the devout prayers of thy Church; and grant, that those things, which we ask faithfully, we may obtain effectually, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
PSALM cxxxiv. 2.
LIFT UP YOUR HANDS IN THE SANCTUARY, AND BLESS THE LORD.
This counsel of the Psalmist directs us to the exercise of public prayer, used in the various senses, which, we observed', were comprehended under that term-petition, adoration, confession, and thanksgiving. The words require no explanation ; but the exhortation, they convey, forms a suitable introduction to those general considerations on public worship, which I propose to touch upon in
this discourse. Our last Sermon regarded the subject principally in one point of view,—the obligations to public prayer arising out of the social principle, which prevails in it. We will now proceed to recommend the same duty on other grounds, and to make such remarks as we think likely to instruct and edify the members of families, and the Church generally, on so important a subject.
I. All prayer is due to God, as the Author, and Giver, of every good thing we have received, or desire. He it is who created and redeemed us; He bestows upon us all things “needful both for our souls and bodies;" He pardons our sins, and, by His Holy Spirit, enables us to walk in newness of life. It is but due to Him, that we should acknowledge His bounty, and our dependence, by asking what we need, and thanking Him for that we have received. But we need many things, have been guilty in many things, and have received many things which relate not only to ourselves individually, but also to us as members of a body, the Church of Christ. For these the voice of prayer, confession, and praise, should be lifted up not only in solitary devotion, but with one accord with our brethren in the congregation. This duty necessarily flows from the social principles of public prayer, as set forth in the preceding Sermon. And under this head I think it a fit place to draw attention to a subject, which I have elsewhere noticed, viz. the
grounds and the necessity, on which those, who are unable to give their personal attendance at public worship, should send to ask the public prayers of the congregation in their behalf; or those who have received the blessing prayed, should request the special and public thanks of their brethren to be offered up. The very social principle of prayer, by which, if one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it; also the direct injunction of God's Word, that we should require the prayers of the Church, are obvious reasons for this. But there is one reason, which is generally overlooked, and on which I here take leave to repeat the arguments I adduced in the Sunday Reader'.
“ We know that in the prayer for all conditions of men,' the words ' especially those for whom our prayers are desired, are to be inserted when any person does desire the prayers of the congregation. Now we think that a weak and false shame has of late years prevailed, and caused many Christians to neglect this duty of desiring the prayers of the congregation. And we suspect also, that the nature of the duty is not sufficiently understood. We say the duty, for it is not only a privilege, but a duty, that we should request the prayers of the congregation. One great reason for which public worship was
ordained, was, that it should be a public manifestation of our faith and dependence upon God. This we do by attending public worship, when health, and strength, and circumstances, permit. But when sickness, infirmity, or calamity prevent us from thus manifesting, before the congregation, that faith, and acknowledging that dependence, then the Church proposes to us another way of doing the same thing, viz. by sending our names to the minister, and requesting him to desire the prayers of the congregation in our behalf. By doing this we proclaim and manifest our faith in God—we publicly avou, by our express request, as at other times we do by our presence, that on Him we lean for support, and Him we acknowledge as the source of all we are, all we have, and all we hope for. And if at any time the soul should feel more deeply that faith and dependence, and more readiness and delight in avowing it the hour of sickness, and pain, and calamity, is that time. Yet how few do thus manifest their faith—how often is it that only the poor, and but few of them, think of this duty-how many, too, do it by halves, and, instead of desiring their name to be mentioned to the congregation, say, that the prayers of the congregation are desired by a person afflicted,' &c. Oh, how false is this shame—this sheepish and cold confession of God! Is this the feeling of a follower of Christ? Would this have been the feeling of those who gloried in the name of Christ-not only re