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feel the occasion is not opportune for indulging in hypocritical show. If men will ever truly exhibit what they really are, or what they feel they ought to be, it will be when death comes, or when troubles overwhelm like a resistless flood. “In straits they cry to God.” This is even nature's law. God's people feel their natures subjected to its control, and by gracious impulses cling to God in all their straits.
Ezra, conducting a column of captives, returning from Babylon, through an enemy's land, dangers besetting them on every side, gathered them together at the river Ahava. Independent of both Priest and Levite to conduct any public service, he proclaimed a fast, that they might af. flict themselves before their God, to seek of Him a right way for them,“ for the hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him.” “So we fasted and besought our God for this; and he was entreated of us.” In these exercises no official ministrations were required. Neither Temple nor altar was there. This special prayer-meeting was to meet the emergency. The priests and Levites were not, as yet, separated and consecrated, either for offering the regular sacrifices, or for conducting the public worship as divinely instituted. Afterwards, at the organization of the synagogue and its worship, by authority of Ezra the Scribe, the priests and Levites expounded the law to the people. As the priests, the sons of Levi, were the legal expounders of the law, they, at the institution of the synagogue worship, were called in to exercise their official functions. These functions we learn from their commission: “And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for
shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi. The law of truth was in his mouth; for the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at
his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts." Mal. ii. 1-7. So, when first called by Ezra in setting up the worship of the synagogue (Neh. viii.), “Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water-gate, from the morning until mid-day, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. The priests and the Levites caused the people to understand the law; and the people stood in their place. So, they read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading." From the first institution of the synagogue, its worship was always conducted by official persons—by the ordained, legalized, expounders of the law, to which the official preaching and teaching in the gospel ministrations of the Sabbath corresponds, as illustrated in the Saviour's example. Luke iv. 27.
This synagogue worship, then instituted, and specially for the reading and expounding of the word of God, obtained as the leading ordinance of divinely instituted worship among the Jews till the coming of Christ, when, under his ministrations and his apostles', it was merged into the ordinary weekly public worship of the New Testament, and so passed over and into the new dispensation. For it is conceded on all hands, that the New Testament church, in her worship and order, is modeled, not after the temple, but the synagogue service. The temple with its entire ritual, was typical and abolished. The service of the synagogue was spiritual and moral, and was not abolished, but substantially retained and transferred into the New Testament service. The synagogue worship was, therefore, distinct from the temple service, and was as certainly distinct from the grove or proseucha worship, and so from the prayer-meeting recognized by Malachi, by Christ, by his apostles and the early Christians, who "continued steadfastly in prayers,” “in their upper rooms, with the women, the doors being shut,” and who “forsook not the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of some was,” but observed the ordinance in which every private Christian could enjoy the privilege of “exhorting one another.”
It is remarkable that so soon after the revivals and reforms under the teachings of the prophets Haggai and Zachariah, and under the governments of Joshua and Zerubbabel, and later under Ezra and Nehemiah, there should be such a falling away from practical and vital religion as in the time of Malachi. And yet it is as remarkable that there were some, in the midst of general defection among priests and people, who recognized each other as kindred spirits, and by a mutual attraction were drawn together in pious conference. “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.” In the history of these times, we have the most humbling lessons of the depth of human depravity. After the sorest judgments, followed by wonderful deliverances, and these accompanied with warnings, instructions and exhortations, still the tendency of the masses with their leaders was backward from God and the ways of true religion. In these times we have also the cheering historical fact that God, in accordance with the analogy of the divine government, and the dispensations of his grace, preserved a remnant of pious and practical adherents to his cause, who mourned over the defections of the times, and were drawn the more closely together in private religious conference and prayer. • They spake often one to another.” The Lord hearkened and answered their prayers. In these select private assemblies, piety was cultivated, and a seed preserved in the church during the waning period, and during the long, dark night which preceded the rising of the Sun of Righteousness with healing in his wings.
FROM CHRIST TO THE REFORMATION.
Revival-Means of-Fruits of-Concerted Social Prayer--Church in the
House--Church in the Catacombs—Pliny to Trajan-Pagan Persecutions--The Waldenses-Papal Persecutions-Lessons of this period.
Christianity, and in connection with the history of the ministry of Christ and his apostles, and the revival of religion, which so remarkably distinguished the first century of the Christian era, might justly occupy a large space in this historical sketch. Inasmuch as the historic incidents will be found in another connection, and interwoven with the evidences of the divine appointment of the prayermeeting as an ordinance of grace, references, which might otherwise be greatly extended, will here be brief.
Revival of religion, the means of promoting it, and its fruits will ordinarily appear simultaneously together, maintain their inseparable connection, and move on together harmoniously, as one simple monument and display of divine gracious power. Means produce a revival, in the popular sense as used here. Revival gives increase and power, life, invigorating efficacy to means. And this identifies means with fruits. Means would be nothing but hardening instrumentalities without the grace of the divine Spirit, as a Spirit of life, moving upon the heart renewed, and prompting to the use of means. Earnest resort to means of revival is evidence of the inward impulse of the grace of revival, and at the same time the means and fruit of that revival. Such are the apparent anomalies, and yet