« VorigeDoorgaan »
mortal blow. Let us pray against them, resist them, deny them. Do the imaginations of our heart prove us to be by nature defiled at the very fountain ? This day let those corrupt imaginations receive a new check. Let our renunciation of sin be deep, and heartfelt, and universal. Let not a single evil thought show signs of life: let the death of sin be complete. Thus let us, in spirit, descend into the grave with Jesus.
2. There is further in this Collect a tranquil contemplation of our natural death. This penalty of sin we must all pay. “ Ít is appointed unto men once to die.” But with what different feelings is this event contemplated by the sinner and the believer ? Sinful men, attached to the world, dread the thought of separation from it; and with feelings of mingled doubt and alarm, launch into an unknown eternity. The believer, on the contrary, having already in heart resigned the world, views death but as a gate through which be passes from one room into another; or rather, from a prison into a palace; from a sinful world to a glorious inheritance in heaven. O how does this brighten the valley of the shadow of death! While passing through it, we are permitted continually to remember, “ Thou art with me!” The tomb for a little season held the body of Jesus, that his followers might not fear in their turn to be carried to the grave.
3. Lastly, we contemplate with hope our « joyful resurrection.” It is not for ever that we are consigned to dust. Every believer shall rise to glory. We plead the merits of Christ : and as He who is the Head hath conquered death, so shall all the members of his mystical body. He rose again “ for us :" he is the first fruits ; afterwards all they that are Christ's shall arise, every one in his order. O) comfortable thought, most to be cherished when the gloom of death most overspreads our hearts ! " I know that my Redeemer liveth !”— is a knowledge worth more than ten thousands worlds. Here let our wearied spirits find joy and peace. We visit the tomb of Jesus, that we may be reminded to look far beyond it !
On this day we celebrate the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Very early in the morning of the third day of his being in the grave, he rose from that state of humiliation. He thus proved the truth of the words which he had formerly uttered to the Jews-“ I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again."
In the Collect for the day, we refer to the fact of the resurrection; and to the important spiritual consequences resulting from it.
1. The fact of the resurrection is mentioned under two aspects.
First, as a conquest over death. Till Christ rose, it might be said, “ Death reigned through Adam.” He reigned as a mighty tyrant, bringing down his victims by millions into the grave, with none able to resist him. But Christ, the second Adam, undertook to overcome death. This he did, by dying himself. Of him the apostle thus speaks in Hebrews ii. 14, 15. “ That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the deyil: and deliver them
who through fear of death were all their life time subject to bondage." . We do not indeed as yet see all things put under him. Even death itself continues its awful ravages throughout the world : and will continue them, so long as the world stands. “ The last enemy that shall be destroyed, is death.” But fully destroyed he shall be, in the last great day. Then, as the bodies of the saints ascend to glory, that saying shall be fulfilled, Death is swallowed up in victory. "O death, where is thy sting ? O grave, where is thy victory ? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This victory is further represented as the opening of the gate of everlasting life. This accords with the language of St. Paul, in 2 Tim. i. 10, where he speaks of the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ; "who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” It agrees also with the solemn language of our Lord himself, speaking to St. John in the Revelation : (i. 17, 18.) “I am the first and the last : I am be that liveth and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death.” He is thus described also in Rev. iii. 7. “ He that hath the key of David, he that openeth and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openetb.”
The fact of Christ's resurrection is a pledge of ours. « Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.” We may lift up our voices, blessing and praising God in the language of St. Peter : « Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.”
2. But there are likewise certain spiritual effects for which we pray in this Collect, and of which the resurrection of our Lord was an emblem. His coming again to life is a significant token of the life of our souls. " He came that we might have life; and that we might have it more abundantly."
Here also the thought is subdivided into two: there is a reference made both to the commencement, and to the continuance of our spiritual life.
. Its commencement arises from the preventing and special grace of God. By preventing is meant, “ going before :” (not hindering, according to the present use of the word.) The grace of God goes before our good intentions, and takes the lead of them. Did not God first draw us, we never should of ourselves turn to him. “ No man can come unto me,” saith Christ, “except the Father which hath sent me, draw him.” Our conversion is entirely owing to free grace. Just as a dead body raised to life puts forth each limb into motion, not by its own power, but by the power of Him who raises it from a state of death ; so do we from our souls put forth good desires, in consequence of those desires having first been inspired into our minds by the Holy Ghost. Do we begin to pray ? It is because the Spirit of grace and of supplication hath been poured upon us : hence we may say of ourselves, as it were of new-born infants, “ I opened my mouth and panted ; for I longed for thy commandments.” (Psalm
cxix. 131.) Do we listen to the word of God with interest ? It is because the Lord hath wrought in our minds the same work of grace, which he did in Lydia : “ whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” It is the Lord “ who worketh in us, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure.”
The continuance of this life is ascribed to the same cause; eren God's continual help. As it is the grace of God that goeth before, working in ús that we may have a good will'; so doth the same grace work with us, when we have that good will. As much power is needed to keep up life, as to give it at the first : and all is from God, through Christ. Nor is it enough that we should have a few good desires simply put into our thoughts: we should most earnestly pray that they may come to good effect. Seed put under the ground is of no use, unless it spring up and bring forth fruit. David, when celebrating the free-will offerings of the Israelites, prays that their liberality might become an abiding and governing principle in their hearts. He says, “ O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee.”: (1 Chron. xxix. 18.)
To encourage as thus to pray, we have the following most gracious assurance from the pen of the apostle Paul : “ Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. i. 6.) In a word, let us live according to the spirit of that prayer, wbich the same apostle offered up for the Hebrew converts : (xiii. 20, 21.) “ Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
A PRAYER MEETING OF FORTY YEARS.
A NARRATIVE OF FACTS, FROM THE EPISCOPAL RECORDER.
As“ one sinner destroyeth much good :" so one devoted Christian may do much for the kingdom of Christ. Mr. W- , of — , New York, was a plain man, a farmer, and received in his youth only a very limited common-school education. But he studied the Bible diligently, not to theorize, but that he might know the will of God, and obey it. His piety was consistent, humble, meek, benevolent, active, uniform. It seldom rose to ecstacy, and never sunk into such apathy or depression that he had nothing to say for his Lord and Master. His light was never hid under a bushel. He was acknowledged by all as an every-day Christian. He lived in an out district of the congregation, quite remote from the sanctuary.
At a time when the church was small, and but two or three bre
thren lived in his vicinity, he consulted his pastor and established a neighbourhood prayer-meeting, to be held on Sabbath evening in the district school-house. In the circle of attendance there were sixteen or eighteen families, in very few of which the domestic altar bad ever been erected. The meeting was commenced in the year 1800. Mr. W led it for twenty years, when, with a hope full of immortality, and a faith which triumphed over death, he entered his eternal rest.
The Lord had provided for this emergency, by preparing others to receive his mantle and discharge his duties. They too have gone to their reward. And now, after a lapse of forty years, when death has produced so entire a change, that but two individuals of the original heads of families yet live, the prayer-meeting, which no heat or cold, no darkness or storm breaks up, is still sustained and cherished with warm affection.
From the beginning, persons of all ages have been accustomed to attend it. Though there was seldom any direct address to the small children, some well remember that serious impressions were made on their minds when but four or five years old ; impressions, too, which afterwards were revived, never to be effaced. Children should be taken to the prayer-meeting.
During the first year of the meeting several parents and a few youths were brought publicly to profess Christ. Then succeeded a long and severe trial of faith and perseverance. For fourteen years very few were added to the church, and “the ways of Zion mourned.” Thoughtlessness and mirth prevailed. Few came to the prayer-meeting, but it was never relinquished. Mr. W and one or two others, now in heaven, were always at their post, to pray and speak a word for the Redeemer, to warn sinners of the error of their way, and beseech them to become reconciled to God.
During the fourteenth year of this spiritual dearth, these individuals became so deeply affected in view of the condition of the impenitent, and so anxious that “ Zion might arise and shine,” that after others had retired from the school-house, they frequently remained one, two, or three hours in prayer. In the opening spring their hopes were revived. The meetings became full and solemn. Their cries had reached heaven, and the Holy Spirit came down. One evening, a youth who had been deeply impressed for several days, could no longer suppress his feelings. He gave vent to his burdened heart by a single expression of warning to his companions, which carried conviction to several other minds; and from that hour a deep solemnity pervaded the neighbourhood, and resulted in a glorious and powerful work of grace. The means, blessed of God, were personal conversation, family-visiting, and more frequent prayer-meetings; all conducted among themselves with very little ministerial belp.
This revival continued through the summer, and extended into other parts of the congregation. In fact, the evidences of the special presence of the Holy Spirit continued in that highly-favoured district for two years, in which time the work of grace spread over the town and into all the neighbouring churches, and hundreds renounced their sins and consecrated themselves to God. In this district the work was great. Nearly every family had now erected a domestic altar, and nearly every adult was rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. MARCH, 1842.
Next their attention was turned to the study of a doctrinal catechism ; each answer being given in the language of the Scriptures, without note or comment. This, with devotional exercises, occupied one evening in the week. Parents and their children united in it. God honoured the study of his word,“ the Spirit filled the room where they were sitting,” and another work of grace began and extended over the congregation.
It is interesting and instructive to trace the history of the families in that district for forty years. Some whole households, down to the second and third generations, give evidence that they will be united in the great family above.
As another result, not less than ten men have been raised up in these families to preach the blessed Gospel. Seven are in the field, and three in a course of preparation. Their labours, perhaps in answer to prayer offered at this meeting, have been owned of the Lord in“ turping many to righteousness."
These families have also entered warmly into the benevolent enterprises of the age. They have felt deeply, prayed feryently, and contributed liberally for the conversion of the world. It is also a district proverbial for peace. A praying people cannot be a contentious people. Those who often meet together before the heart-searching Jehovah, will not retain ill-will towards each other. Such are a few of the blessed results ; but the whole amount of good effected by establishing and sustaining this little social meeting will not be known till time shall end.
If any ask additional reasons for attending a stated prayer-meeting, they are such as the following ;
1. United prayer is pleasing to God. “ 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."
2. Blessings are given in answer to united prayer. “ If two of you shall agree on earth, as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.”
3. The Holy Spirit is given in answer to prayer. “ If ye then being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask
4. Every conversion and every revival are in answer to prayer. When the Spirit came with such power on the day of Pentecost, “ the disciples were of one accord in one place.”
5. Nothing more effectually sustains a devoted minister in his labours and trials, than a full attendance of his people on the prayermeeting.
6. Prayer makes the truth preached efficacious. " When the Lord shall build up the Zion, he shall appear in his glory. He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.” “ Brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified.”
7. The world itself is to be converted in answer to prayer. “Ask of me, and I will give the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.'