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the real laws of revival of religion. Revival ordinarily begins with some individual. Its first impulse is felt by some one in whose heart is the grace of the divine Spirit. That first impulse leads to prayer. The social principle, as a religious element of our nature, moved by this first impulse of revival, leads its subject revived to the society of kindred spirits and to social prayer. Two or three are brought together; they agree and ask for the Spirit. The Spirit already prompting to prayer is enjoyed in his enlarged influences more and more in answer to prayer by concert in the social prayer-meeting. Thus the Spirit of God gives revival, and by his grace carries it forward. Revivals during the ministrations of Christ and his apostles furnish historic illustration of these views.
Christ was himself eminently a man of prayer. When he gathered about him a group of disciples, he taught them to pray. He so practised social prayer with his disciples that it formed a custom with them. He went,
He went, "as he was wont to do," with his disciples to the Mount of Olives to pray. Prayer with his disciples apart, secluded from the multitudes, was by him and them formed into a religious habit. It was in this school of prayer and religious conference--for their prayer-meetings were conference meetingg——that the disciples were trained for that active and glorious work of revival in which they were afterwards employed, and which turned the world upside down. In connection with their prayer-meetings in Jerusalem, in which they waited the promised outpouring of the Spirit, revival came. The Spirit was poured out and greatly enjoyed by them, and by the first Christians, imbued by the same Spirit, and who, "continued steadfastly in prayers." They had a well known social ordinance called prayer.'
If anything characterized and distinguished the apostoli
cal Christians, it was devotedness to the cause of Christ as manifested in their steadfast continuance in prayers. Their alms, and, indeed, their whole Christian deportment, which made them living epistles, known and read of all men, made them conspicuous. But the power of prayerconcerted prayer eminently-formed the life-spring and impulsive cause of all that distinguished them, and their revived religion, from all others.
The practice of Christ and his disciples, in meeting together in private rooms—upper rooms—with the women with the doors shut, for prayer and conference, distinct as to place, time, and form of service, from both Temple and Synagogue, was long retained among the early Christians. Toward the close of the first century, and in the time of the Epistles to the churches, probably vacant, this institution was called “The church in the house." This cannot refer to the family, or the church there: for that is never spoken of as an assembly called out, or called together. “Ekklesia” is the proper term for an assemblage convened together for social worship. The Christians of the churches at Rome, at Corinth and Colosse, especially when without pastors, were conspicuous for their steadfastness in prayers, for which they assembled, as did the pentecostal church, in their private houses, in little bands. They observed these Christian conference meetings in their houses for mutual edification, as the principal means of keeping intact their incipient organizations, and of preserving from scattering and from final disintegration. While it was safe to meet in their houses, they did so, “not forsaking the assembling of themselves together; but exhorting one another; and so much the more as they saw the day approaching" when persecutions would set in-remove from them their faithful pastors, make it unsafe to assemble in their public meeting places for the hearing of the word, and even in their private houses for prayer, and so drive them to the caves and dens of the earth, and finally to the “Catacombs, for safety from the rage of Pagan persecution."
With pleasure we here insert a paragraph from Dr. Houston, Ireland-P. 67. "Fellowship Prayer-meetings," taken from “The Church in the Catacombs," by Charles Maitland, Esq.:
“The records of the Church in the Catacombs, so singularly brought to light in late years, show that when the power of Imperial Rome was wielded against the religion of Christ, his church found a secure shelter among the tombs of believing brethren, and received nourishment and comfort, too, from the private communion of saints in feeding on the word, and in united prayer and praise."
Pliny, writing to the Emperor Trojan, in the year 103, on the subject of pressing the edicts for persecuting the Christians, earnestly dissuades from persistence, assuring him they were a harmless people, chargeable with no crime, only they were in the habit of “meeting together to sing songs”—"discere carmen”—“and to worship Christ as God." This was the practice of the Christians throughout all the Roman Provinces ; a practice retained from the Apostles' times, of "continuing steadfastly in prayer,” the well known term for the prayer-meeting. During the imperial persecutions, from the best evidence gathered from the writings of the Fathers, and the history of the times, we have good reason to infer the continued practice of the persecuted Christians during the periods of the decline of true religion and the rise of the man of sin. This view is confirmed by the historic evidence that “The Two Witnesses," who, after the rise of the man of sin, were seen in the ecclesiastical heavens, re-exhibiting apostolical purity in doctrine and worship, the ordinance of the prayer-meeting reappears in its former simplicity. “The church in the house” is again frequented, and the humble assembly of private saints gathered together for “exhorting one another”-like the Ark in the city of the wood—is found in the valleys of Piedmont and among the dells of the Alps.
The period of the history of the Waldenses, as a distinct and witnessing people appearing on the page of history, brings to view the importance of the prayer-meeting in its historic features and consequence. The church had, by prophetic monition, been forewarned of that terrible power which should make war with the saints, scatter the power of the holy people, cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman driven to the wilderness, and that should make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. She had been warned of the times when her faithful sons must put on the garments of mourning, and retire to the seclusions prepared for the sackcloth wearers, while the holy city should be trodden under foot forty and two months. “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and three-score days, clothed in sackcloth.”
It is, doubtless, well said by the historian of this wonderful people “The Waldenses preserved divine truth in its purity, when Christendom was overrun with antichristian corruptions, and were true to their motto, 'Lux in tenebris,' and maintained a faithful profession, and enjoyed the communion of saints in meetings for prayer and spiritual converse. When the savage persecutions of the papacy destroyed their sanctuaries, and interdicted their public assemblies for worship—when their humble, but devoted 'Barbes' were cut off, or forced into exile and when, by the rage of the enemy, the Waldenses were expelled in a body out of their native country-in all emergencies they had recourse to meetings for united prayer, as the great means of support and relief under long continued and severe persecution, and as the divinely appointed way of animating the hope of future deliverance. Ecclesiastical history records the marked attention of these early witnesses to this ordinance at different periods of their eventful history; and there can be no doubt that to it, in a large measure, are to be ascribed their remarkable unity in faith, and in godly practice, and their heroic constancy in sufferings. In the latter period of the Waldensian trials, shortly before the dawn of the Reformation, when 'darkness that might be felt' had settled down upon the nations of Europe, when faithful witnesses had been almost wholly exterminated—when the voice of public protest against Rome's idolatry and oppression was nowhere distinctly heard throughout western Christendom, we have on record an affecting testimony to the value which the remnant of these ancient confessors still set upon the social prayer-meeting.”
It is recorded, that at that time one lonely society, which met in one of the secluded valleys of the Alps-brooding over the low condition of Christendom, and deeply concerned to see if there was any quarter whence deliverance might be expected-after prayerful consideration, dispatched four of their number, with instructions to travel north, south, east, and west, to inquire if there were any churches that held fast an evangelical profession, and maintained separation from the general corruption. After an absence of more than a year, these delegates returned with the melancholy intelligence that they had found none. Still these "marked ones,” who sighed and mourned for the “abominations of the land," did not relinquish prayer, or "forsake the assembling of themselves together.”