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illustrated in the fourth chapter, and in the history of the subsequent pages.
3. Singing praise. The Psalmist formally engaged to sing praise in the divinely appointed worship of God in the private assemblies of the upright, as well as in the great typical gatherings of the people on the great anniversaries of the Temple service, or the ordinary gatherings for the worship of the weekly Sabbath. Ps. cxi. 1. The priests and the Levites appointed to keep watch by night in the temple, according to their divisions and their courses—one course for each of the three Jewish watches of the nightwere not assigned their places to pass the hours in idleness, nor even in silence. But each course, in turn, was appointed to observe religious services, each during the hours of its watch. In these night devotions of the official ministers of the sanctuary was held a ministerial prayermeeting, in which praises were sung. Ps. cxxxiv.
“Behold, bless yo the Lord, all ye that his attendants are,
Even you that in God's temple be, and praise him nightly there.
Paul and Silas, on that eventful night in which they lay in the old Roman prison of Philippi, and their feet fast in the stocks, held that memorable prayer-meeting, whose songs waked the prisoners--for when they had prayed they changed the service, “and sang praises unto God." Praise is comely in the prayer-meeting. .
There is, in the Epistles, authority of a more positive kind, for the exercise of praise in the prayer-meeting. Referring to the social meeting, Eph. v. 19-21, he says,
, by command—“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God-submitting yourselves one to another."
And still more plainly by authority, Col. iii. 16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
Analogy confirms the use of praise in the prayer-meeting. Praise is employed in the worship of the family. It is used in the public worship of God in the sanctuary, and should, therefore, and for the same reasons, be employed in the prayer-meeting. If God is to be worshipped at all, or ever, by singing praise, and if the prayer-meeting is an ordinance of religious worship, then God's praises are to be sung in the prayer-meeting.
4. The Scriptures should be read, ordinarily, as an exercise, in the prayer-meeting.
Here authority must rest upon inference, and general principles, rather than express Scripture statements. So must reading the Scriptures in family worship, and in public worship, rest upon this class of proof. Reading the word being an effectual means of salvation, it should dwell richly in every one. It should be the subject of search, and study, and meditation alway-by day and by night-in the house and by the way. Deut. vi. 6-9.
THE ADVANTAGES OF THE PRAYER-MEETING,
THE prayer meeting is not, in its principal, or special
design-like the preaching of the word-a converting ordinance. It may be admitted, as a general principle, applicable to all ordinances, that each has some specific end for which it was appointed by the Head of the church; and yet each has many other important uses. As the Sacrament of the Supper had the commemoration of Christ's death for the end of its appointment, and yet has its various and important uses, as the conversion of sinners and the edification of saints in the broadest sense; as the preaching of the word is the special means of converting sinners, and yet has its general use in common with all other means of grace; as church government, discipline, censures, have all their special ends, and yet their general uses, and in many respects their common ends, to build up in comfort and holiness through faith unto salvation, so the prayer-meeting has its special end of appointment.
As secret prayer is specially designed for the personal and spiritual benefit of the individual, and as family worship is specially appointed for the benefit of the family, so the prayer-meeting is instituted specially for the edification of the church in her membership, or the circle agreeing to meet statedly, or occasionally, for social prayer. Its fellowship is Christian, not ecclesiastical fellowship. Any society, or social circle, may voluntarily associate for prayer, and make its own terms of fellowship, while not infringing the laws of the church. A class of young men might form a circle for prayer and mutual advantage, and make their society exclusive. There may be reasons why a class of youth, not professors of religion, yet sensible of its importance, might form a prayer-meeting for the special purpose of aiding one another in earnest seeking after Christ and the salvation of their souls. All the ends of these supposed organizations would have their corresponding advantages, special and consistent with the general designs of the prayer-meeting.
The advantages of the prayer-meeting are secured by the general promises made to prayer, and by the special promises made to the prayer-meeting. Any number—two or three-agreeing, and pursuant to that agreement, meeting, and together praying, have the promise of acceptance and answer.
There are guarantees here of special kind specially encouraging to social concerted prayer.
2. The prayer meeting is a special means of developing and cultivating Christian graces, and of promoting individual and social edification.
“As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.” “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Nowhere have these maxims a happier application than in the prayer-meeting. Iron is sharpened by friction, not contact simply. The file may be thrown into the same promiscuous heap with the axe, the mattock, the goad, and these remain dull and useless still. Christians may be thrown into the company of Christians, and neither receive from the other spiritual advantage in either quickening, or holiness or comfort; because their communications may lack spiritual savor. Their communications may be of evil, and so tend mutually to corrupt good manners. But let their conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ—let it be of heaven and godliness, and both will feel the sharpening influences of Christian graces glowing by the power of attrition
with Christian graces. In the prayer-meeting, as nowhere else, are Christian graces thus brought together with powerful reactionary and reflective forces. Here love enkindles love-hearts burn while talking of Jesus by the way: for Jesus will be there with them, though to eye unseen it may be. Here faith is strengthened by the testimony so simply and so sweetly brought to each other's hearts mutually by exchange of views and feelings. Here hope is confirmed by mutual review of the ground of each other's hope. Here experience is enlarged by mutual exchange of Christian experience, each saying to other, "Come, hear, I will declare what the Lord hath done for my
So, here, doubts are removed as doubts seldom are in any other way.
As the conversation of the Saviour with the woman of Samaria caused her to say, “ Come, see a man that told me all that ever I did,” so may the Christian disciple often have cause to say of the prayer-meeting conference, that here, as in a mirror, he sees his own heart in the unbaring of a brother's heart, in the freedom of conference, as he never saw himself before. O, how mutually comforting to exercised Christians, the comparing of Christian experience! How often have Christians been kept from falling by the influence of the company and conversation of live Christians, exerted through the prayermeeting! "Two are better than one-For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up."
The prayer-meeting is an instructive and successful school for correcting faults, and supplying defects in Christian character. Here diffidence, which so often destroys Christian usefulness, may be gently corrected by a kind training that can be enjoyed nowhere else so happily. Silently, gradually, and yet thoroughly, can men, comparatively useless in the church, be trained to