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History is important mainly for its inductive moral lessons, marking out, in the footprints of the past, the ways of safety, and the ways of danger. Its beacon errors warn us, and its records of truth and virtue shine upon our pathway, and stimulate us to perseverance in the footsteps of "them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” In studying the history of that wonderful people, who, for a thousand years, have, like “the bush that burned and yet was not consumed,” survived the fires of persecution, the earnest student will, almost irresistibly, inquire—Where lies the indestructibility of that venerable church of the centuries? How has she outlived the earthquake shocks and revolutions of the ages? And with her surviving identity, how has she preserved, through all the successive cycles of declensions and revivals, her untarnished historic form, whose kindred and affinity all the evangelical churches to this day would assume as theirs ? What vital principle, or recuperative element, in her organic structure has been so signally owned and blessed by the Head of the church, as the instrumentality honored in her wonderful preservation? While other means had their happy influences here, yet nothing but a continued series of miracles could have preserved that people through a thousand years of fiery trials, had they abandoned their fellowship meetings for prayer and conference. Whether at times when they enjoyed the gospel with the living ministry, or when scattered as sheep without a shepherd, as often they were-destitute, afflicted, tormented—wandering in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens, and in caves of the earth, these meetings were ever their rallying-points these their muster-fields—these their burning watch-fires and signals, seen from mountain top to hill top—these the bond that bound in one, from generation to generation, and saved from disintegration. Try it-What church organization, now, with its loose views and looser practice in regard to the prayer-meeting, could, for one generation, survive the fiery ordeal through which that people passed for successive ages ? Take any single church among us, boasting of its evangelical character, its unity, its numbers, and its power, place it without the prayer-meeting, under the scathing power that was brought to bear upon the Waldenses, and, like the snow beneath the rays of an August sun, it would soon pass into vapor.
What one of the popular churches of the day could stand the fiery trial? Not one. Why, without stated supplies—without the gaudy appendages of a fashionable ecclesiastical organization, in the sunshine days of perfect peace, liberty of conscience, no over-riding civil establishment, what group of emigrants of the same profession, thrown together in the same remote locality, can be held together for a few years only, and by the attraction of principle, and love for one another, can be kept from scattering to the winds ? A group of Christians imbued with love to Christ, love to his cause, love to brethren and their fellowship, and possessing within themselves the principle of reciprocal attraction, the inward principle of spiritual gravitation, will be drawn together, as kindred spirits, and then bound together by a weekly prayer-meeting, will, almost infallibly, form a nucleus that will, in a short time, gather around it a permanent and live congregation that will survive trials, and persecutions, and even destitution of pastors, of supplies, and of gaudy accommodations. Such are the historic lessons taught us by a survey of the history of that wonderful people.
On the other hand-how many, perhaps hundreds every year, emigrate from abroad to our Atlantic shores, connect with our Eastern churches, by-and-by take their certificates of membership, and with others, home-born and trained in our midst, settle in the West, and some half dozen of families are thrown within a radius of three or four miles, and because they have no minister to organize and conduct the prayer-meeting, as was the custom under which they were trained, they neglect it, attend "higher ordinances” in some other communion, and in a brief time all are gone. The farther use of this lesson we pass now, transferring it to another connection.
FROM THE REFORMATION TO THE REVOLUTION, 1688.
Continental Reformation - The Church of Scotland John Knox-His
Letter-The General Assembly of 1641–Its prolonged consequences Prelatic domination-Prayer-meeting spirit brought from Ireland alarmed the Prelatists-Five Articles of Perth-" The Society People."
WE may trace the same lines in the history of the
Reformations under Wickliffe, Huss, Jerome, the churches of Bohemia, the Culdees of Britain, the Huguenots of France, the churches of Switzerland, and we find that the prayer-meeting has been the life of them all. So true is this in the history of all those reformations, of their times and of their people, that the armies of the Zuinglians, of the Huguenots, of the Dutch Republics, of the United Netherlands, and others, held their prayer-meetings in their camps, as Cromwell's, in later times; and even in the face of the foe, when drawn up in line of battle, quickly, before joining issue, the soldiers drew their Psalters from their vest pockets, sang a psalm, dropped down on their knees, their firelocks at stand arms—a brief prayer--then up and at them. (Motley's Hist) These prayer-meetings among the soldiers of the armies of the Dutch Republics, as far back as the times of William the Silent, Prince of Orange, have much to do with the full tide of civil and religious liberty enjoyed by us to-day. Trace back American liberty-all that is noble and Christian in it—along whatever line of history we may, to English Puritans, to Holland or Scotch Presbyterians, we will find its cradle is the prayer-meeting. 12*
A chapter of thrilling interest might be written here, showing, from unquestioned history, that the prayer-meeting has ever been the nursery of civil and religious liberty. It is an institution thoroughly democratic-an institution of the people, for the people, and administered by the people; an institution that recognizes the perfect equality of every one admitted to its privileges--and to these all have a right. It knows no aristocracy-no caste-no class. Here the Prince and the beggar sit down togetherhere the Pastor and the layman officiate alike here the male and the female, the old and the young--all that pray, may mingle together in the enjoyment of equal rights and equal powers. This institution of the free in Christ could not live or breathe in the atmosphere of popery. Nor can popery breathe in the atmosphere of the free prayer-meeting. Think of it.- Imagine a prayer-meeting of the Catholic peasantry, in any Catholic country, met together to pray, to sing psalms, to read the Bible, to explain and confer on its blessed teachings! Could it live a year?-a month? Would not the priesthood suppress it in less than a fortnight? And why? Just because it would promote, not only intelligence and piety, but especially because it would foster liberty, civil and religious. The same reasons for separating the people from all participation in any social religion, not conducted by the priesthood, will separate the people forever from the free privileges of the people's institution--the free prayer meeting. Why has a Catholic no family worship? Why has he no religious worship, as his own, higher than his bead-counting prayers, or his lone “Ave Maria”? Because social religious rights—social religious worship, are all in the hands of the priesthood.
We must pass over, with very brief notice, a long period of the early Continental Reformations. Our space limits us to mere selections and sketches, and admonishes us of