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was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him."
When Paul and Silas were at Philippi, as recorded in Acts xvi., they went out of the city, on the Sabbath, by a river side, “where prayer was wont to be made, or where was a Proseucha, a place of prayer.” There they prayed, and conferred with the praying women who resorted thither. While in that city, abiding for some time, Lydia was converted. After her conversion, she brought Paul and Silas home to her house, and entertained them there. And while abiding there, their custom was to attend the prayer-meeting. "And it came to pass as we went to prayer"--not to family worship-for, "a certain damsel possessed of a spirit of divination met us"-on the way to the prayer-meeting. "The same followed Paul and us”— "and this did she many days." These things must have occurred on the way to the prayer-meeting, from day to day, which was held at the Proseucha, by the river side, where pious women resorted.
Soon the prayer-meeting by the river side, as also the public ministrations of the apostle and his companions, were interrupted. They were cast into an inner cell of an old Roman prison, and their feet made fast in the stocks. But even there they would have their prayer-meeting, and they had one. "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God”-not secret prayer and praise, but social and audible; for “the prisoners heard them.” And the ear that hears prayer, united prayer by two or three, heard the song and prayer of this live prayermeeting. "And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken.” The jailor was converted. Paul and Silas were set free. The brethren were comforted. The gospel triumphed. Christ approves the prayer
5. In the Epistles the prayer-meeting is enjoined by apostolical authority.
As the Epistles give the last, so they furnish the clearest light in regard to the order and the worship of the Christian church. If the Epistles enjoin the prayer-meeting; if they enforce attendance, and reprove non-attendance; if they give directions for the exercises and duties of the meeting, then its divine warrant is established. Paul, in exhorting the Hebrews to a faithful maintenance of their profession, and to a practice becoming the gospel, uses these words, (Heb. x. 23–25) “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised; and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another.” Here the reference cannot be to family worship; for families are together, and the gathering together by assembling must, more naturally, be applied to the coming together of the members of different families into some assembly formed for the occasion, either as an assembly for public worship, or for some private purpose. Nor can the reference be to a meeting for public worship, as the preaching of the word, or the administration of the sacraments; because in such assemblies there cannot be, consistently, a reciprocal exhortation. Here the authorized ministry of ficially exhorts ; but never submits to formal exhortation one exhorting, then another, in turn. But the reference must be to some meeting in which the right of exhorting, and the duty of receiving exhortation are reciprocal. And since there is no ordinance in the church but the prayermeeting to which this will apply, and in which it can naturally be carried out, it must have its application there. Here the members can, and of right should speak one to another. Here the exhortation is not confined to the
ordained ministry, who alone speak to hearers in the public assembly, and who there wait not to be exhorted in turn by all whom they exhort, or who may think proper, or feel disposed to exhort others. The Epistles recognize some meeting in the church where reciprocal rights and privileges are enjoyed. They recognize family worship, social private worship, and public worship. In the family the worship is conducted by the head, and then parental admonition should never be made a part of the worship, but administered as a distinct family ordinance; as much so as the administration of the rod of discipline, and to which branch it properly belongs. It is true, that in the family the father is prophet, priest, and king; and so it still preserves some of the venerable foot prints of the patriarchal dispensation. But it is also true that the functions of these offices are distinct even in household administrations. As a prophet the parent trains in the nurture of the Lord; as a priest he offers morning and evening sacrifices; and as king he administers discipline. In the public worship the ordained ministry teaches exclusively; and here exhortation belongs to teaching, not ruling power. No unofficial member of the church can claim any more authority to exhort in the public congregation than woman prohibited from public teaching. This privilege of reciprocal exhortation is, therefore, applicable to the prayermeeting, and so designed by the apostle. With these views understood, it will not be difficult to apply the teaching of the Epistles
Two passages more from the Epistles, of similar import, will suffice for this part of the Scripture testimony to the divine institution of the prayer-meeting. We shall consider them together. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Eph. v. 19. “Teaching
and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Col. iii. 16.
These beautiful texts, hackneyed in partisan controversy, perverted from their true meaning and proper application, can hardly be quoted without exciting prejudice, or calling up pre-conceived opinions. What, then, do they mean? What is their obvious teaching? What duties do they inculcate ? To a mind unabused by controversy, the language, the terms, their connection, their use, their affirmations, their meaning, indeed, all seem very obvious. Then, what do they say? What command ? To what direct ? Whom do they address ? In what relations do they recognize those addressed ? Do they address individuals as such merely, or do they recognize social relations and social duties? Now, let us mark what they do say, and what they do not. They expressly inculcate speaking, teaching, admonition, singing, thanksgiving, heart-melody. They impliedly inculcate acquaintance with the Scriptures -the word of Christ. Other things may be inculcated impliedly. Some things they do not enjoin, either expressly or impliedly. They do not enjoin writing, composing, making, except in the heart, nothing out of it. If these texts require writing or composing the compositions named, they require an absurdity; if not, an impossibility. Outside of the Bible, no man can tell what these distinctions mean, nor can any man tell what these compositions mean, nor can any man apply them. We know these distinctions and the respective compositions are in the Bible, for the Bible says so, and that is about all we know. But how to make the one, or the other, or the third, and exhibit their distinctions, is a work about as much within human skill as for a blind painter to fill an order for high, deep, and broad colored paintings! To the blind the one would be indistinguishable from the other. So here, the poets are blind. And as blind are all interpreters who blindly wring from these passages authority for hymnmaking. These beautiful portions of Christ's word do inculcate plain Christian duties, do give plain directions how to perform them, and do plainly indicate their application to persons and their contemplated relations.
The proper questions arising, in order safely to apply, and not misapply, are these : To what duties are we here exhorted? and how apply the exhortation ?
The duties inculcated are expressed; we need not repeat them. The application of these exhortations is the main thing before us now. The text and context clearly suggest relative social duties—duties Christians owe to one another reciprocally. These exhortations cannot all apply to an individual, because the reciprocity of the term "one another," can find no place in the field, by the way, or in the closet with a lone individual. They cannot all apply to family worship, or family training, or discipline, because the reciprocal, the mutual, the equal application of the obligations, cannot find place here. A family may all sing together; but teach, admonish, speak to one another, must necessarily fail in reciprocal application. In public worship, and in gospel ministrations, the free and reciprocal application can find no place. Where then? In what relations ? To what ordinance can all that is here enjoined find an easy and natural application and exemplification? In the prayer-meeting only. Here any one may speak to others. For, "they that feared the Lord spake often one to another.” And may say, “Come, and hear, all ye
that fear God, and I will declare.” Here, any one may sing, as well as any other. Here any one may teach as well as any other-" teaching one another.” Here any one may admonish—“admonishing one another.” Here all may give