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hopes of the one blessed inheritance. Hence result the mutual offices of a sacred brotherhood. A warm interest and complacency in saints, are results of regenerating grace, and its certain evidence. Here is the prominent characteristic of all who belong to the household of faith
“ We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” “Every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him.”
The whole doctrine of the communion of saints is founded on man's social religious nature, which prompts to seek enjoyment from sources congenial to that social nature. Spiritual life, restored through gospel means, bases its operations here upon, and acts through the social nature of the moral being—quickening its aspirations, and leading its instincts, under all the pressures of life, to seek that companionship where kindred sympathies commingle. In all our burdens, in all our afflictions, here, as in the tender bosom of the Elder Brother, is a feeling of our infirmities in the heart of every brother--a bearing half the burthen, and nerving to sustain the other. “If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it." All who have the spirit of adoption, feel with the apostle that, “We being many, are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread.”
From the very nature of the fellowship of saints, and from the inward cravings of the renewed nature after its congenial enjoyment, there seems to be a dictate of reason and nature requiring some distinct ordinance of religious social worship, in which saints, as nowhere else, can specially and fully enjoy its blessed and heavenly privileges. The prayer-meeting answers to this demand of the spiritual brotherhood, with more exclusiveness and direct fitness than any other ordinance of religious worship. Secret and invisible communion with God, is not enough
to satisfy all the demands of the social religious nature, sanctified by grace to love saints, and love the fellowship of saints. Nor, in addition, is it enough to enjoy inward affection for brethren in Christ, and secret and invisible communion with loved objects, with whom we can seldom hold visible and intimate communion, where hearts together may burn, and mutually reciprocate the enkindling glow of affection kindled in each by Christ's love. Nor will occasional interviews with kindred spirits and loved ones, in public ordinances, where there cannot be free and generous interchange of Christian sentiment and affection, satisfy this desire. While all the ordinances of religious worship have their general uses and ends-while all edify the body, building up in holy faith and comfort, preparing saints for the heavenly communion, still, each has its , special end and use, and without each in its place the divine system of institutions of grace would be incomplete. As there is a beautiful symmetry in the body--the church organic so in the complete system of divine ordinances, appointed to nourish and beautify this spiritual body. “From whom the whole, fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in love."
To the prayer-meeting the instincts of nature would lead even the heathen—and much more, these natural impulses of the renewed nature, when brought under the influences of evangelical religion, the attractions of ecclesiastical organization, and the Christian brotherhood; and, above all, the constraining power of divine grace and love of Christ. Thus, Jonah's mariners, when tempesttossed, in straits and at their wits end, cried unto their gods : and not only so, but they sent Jonah to prayer to his God. And ultimately, all, in united prayer-meeting,
called on Jehovah. “So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not." And not satisfied, in their distress, with the proxy prayers of the Prophet, they unitedly engaged with intense earnestness in prayer to Jonah's God" Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, WE beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perishlay not upon us innocent blood.” And these united prayers were approved, and heard, and answered, and entered on the record for our learning. Many, and significant too, are such instructive words. Many such have an interesting place in the devotional songs of social praise records of instruction to the end of the world.
“In trouble then they cried on God, He them from straits did save." “In grief they ory to God; He saves them from their miseries." “ Then they to God in trouble cry, who them from straits sets free.”
The heathen Ninevites, moved by the religious social principle, when the circumstances called into exercise that natural law of our religious nature, resorted for relief to fasting and social prayer. "So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast-let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God." The united prayers of these children of nature were heard, and judgments arrested. Social prayer is a dictate of natural religion. God has entered his approval upon the record for our learning. Let us take heed lest “ The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it.” Social prayer is a dictate of nature. And yet“ we have a more sure word of prophecy."
2. The prayer-meeting formed a part of the divinelyappointed worship of the patriarchal and Abrahamic dis pensations.
Sacrifices were offered by our first parents, by Abel, by Noah, and by Abraham. They were not confined to this form of worship alone. Prayer was among the very first forms of religious worship known and practiced by our fallen race. The history of the operations of saying grace would be substantially the same in the first converts and in all after-conversions by the same divine spiritthe same in Adam, in Abel, in Enos, in Noah, and in Abraham, and all their cotemporaries, as in Saul of Tarsus, who gave evidence of a gracious change by his new life of prayer. “Behold, he prayeth!” That was the final evidence of Christian character. So, the truly pious were men of prayer in all ages. Men began early to call upon the name of the Lord. Enos, the second from Adam, and the sons of God in his generation, seem to have practiced social prayer.
“Men called on God.” Men, moved by grace, would then, as now, find enjoyment in social prayer, and would, consequently, be led by its power to practice it as now. So Abraham, moved by the same faith that moves to social prayer now, "planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there upon the name of the Lord, the everlasting God." Gen. xxi. 33. This worship of the grove, or in “ the High-places," was practiced during the whole patriarchal period. Afterwards, to guard against the confounding of the worship of the grove and of the altar, God charged Moses, in the giving of the law, to preserve both these ordinances of worship pure and distinct. “ Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the Lord thy God, which thou shalt make thee.” Deut. xvi. 21. It was in later periods of Hebrew history that, in violation of this law, God's worship was corrupted by erecting altars under every green tree, and in the groves, and on the high-places, there offering sacrifices, as in the days of Ahab, and other wicked kings. This persistent violation of law, in the corrupting of divinely-appointed worship, was at length arrested by the captivities of the ten tribes and of Judah. After the return, idolatry never again became the prevailing sin of the Jews; nor have we any account of the worship of the altar being blended with the social worship of the Proseucha among the groves or on the high-places.
To the Proseucha, or place for prayer, and not to the synagogue, the Psalmist seems to refer in Ps. lxxiv. 8, where it is said “they burnt up all the synagogues of God within the land." The Proseucha, as a place of worship, was well known among the Hebrews from the days of Abraham. The synagogue, which was confined to cities and towns, did not obtain till after the captivity; and then grew out of the circumstances of the times, the necessity for the more general reading and knowledge of the law, the ignorance of which was prevalent before and during the captivity. To correct this, Ezra instituted the synagogue for the reading and expounding of the law.
We are by no means singular in our views of the Proseucha and synagogue worship. That this may be seen, and the reader have the subject more fully before him, we shall quote from some authors of standard reputation. Prideaux, in his Connections, says, vol. i, pp. 307-309 :
“Those who think synagogues to have been before the Babylonish captivity, allege for it what is said in the seventy-fourth Psalm, verse 8: “They have burnt up all the synagogues of God in the land. But, in the original, the words are [col moadhe el]—all the assemblies of God;' by which, I acknowledge, must be understood the places where the people did assemble to worship God. But this doth not infer that those places were synagogues ; and there are none of the ancient versions, ex