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If we are commanded to preach the gospel to every creature, the proclamation of the gospel becomes a duty which cannot be dispensed with ; but if the success of what we preach is dependent on our prayers, the exercise of earnest believing supplication becomes a duty no less indispensible. We shall therefore make some remarks on the fact, that a close and intimate connexion subsists between the prayers of Christians and the success of the gospel in the world, and then notice the important duty which the existence of such a connexion involves.
Many of the blessings given by God to his people are bestowed, generally, in answer to prayer. All the benefits promised to men are represented in Scripture, as objects for which prayer may be made. In short, all things which it would be consistent with the divine character to bestow, and for the real good of believers to receive, are held out as objects for which they may approach “ with boldness unto the throne of grace.”
The general purposes of God, respecting his spiritual kingdom, are so clearly revealed, that even had we not been commanded to pray for its progress, our duty would have been easily discovered. To present our prayers for the salvation of men, would have been so obviously in accordance with the known will of God, that no doubts could have existed of its being our duty, even had we not been told that “for this very thing he will be inquired of.” We are not left to discover from the general scope of revelation, what is our duty in reference to this object, but are distinctly commanded to pray that the word of God may have “ free course and be glo rified."
Though it is the unconditional purpose of God to spread abroad his word, and by it to save all who believe ; it is part of this purpose that this great object be accomplished by the agency of his people ; and hence they are taught to regard it as an object of constant and personal solicitude. While the glory is given to Jehovah, they are individually interested, since their own true happiness can never be separated from the honor of God and the universal good of man. The true believer always identifies his own salvation with that of others. There can be no disposition in the pious mind, to monopolize the blessings of the kingdom of heaven. The man who does not wish all his fellow-creatures to become partakers of the blessings of eternal life, cannot be a true Christian. Such a person would be a monster in the spiritual world. His nature would be entirely opposed to all the principles of the gospel, and in direct hostility to the character of Him who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
Of its being the duty of Christians to promote the salvation of all men, there can be no doubt, and in fact this duty is so closely connected with their own personal happiness and their progress in ho
liness, as to become one of their highest privileges. When the promotion of the spread of the gospel is not regarded as a privilege, it will never be diligently attended to as a duty. It is so also
for the success of religion in the world. It is a privilege from which Christians derive, not only their highest and purest enjoyments, but the greatest degrees of improvement in personal holiness. This is one view of the connexion of prayer and the success of the gospel, which should never be overlooked—the tendency of such prayer to promote religion in our own minds. In proportion as we pray for the salvation of others, our own is advanced. Not only he who proclaims the word of God, but he who prays for its progress, experiences the truth of the declaration, “ He that watereth others, is watered himself.” Who are the men whose souls rise highest above the attractions of earth, and whose natures become most assimilated to that of God ? Are they not the men whose constant, ardent, and believing supplications, daily ascend to the throne of mercy, on behalf of a lost and ruined world ?
It is usual to say, that the success of all our efforts for the spiritual good of men is from God, and therefore not dependent on us ; our duty being simply to make known the truth. That all success is from God is certain, but that the communication of that success is independent of us, is an assertion inconsistent with Scripture, and contrary to the deductions we are warranted to draw from experience. In fact, the success of the apostles themselves is represented in Scripture as being quite as much dependent on their own, and the prayers of the saints,” as on their preaching. The fervent believing prayer of the righteous is just as much a link in the chain of means, as the proclamation of the gospel itself. The gospel is indeed in itself a sharp two-edged sword, but it must be weilded by the Spirit of God. It must be preached before it can reach the external ear, but it must be applied by the Holy Spirit before it can reach the heart. Believing the truth is therefore dependent directly on the preaching of the word and the communication of divine influence; but there is no evidence of the Spirit of God ever being bestowed for the conversion of sinners, but in answer to the prayers of the saints or the intercession of the Blessed Saviour.
The Lord Jesus invariably taught his disciples to pray for that spirit which God was ready to bestow on all who ask him ; and their subsequent practice showed that they always considered the descent of divine influence, as connected with, and even in a great measure dependent on, their prayers. All the recorded instances of the remarkable success of apostolic preaching, took place at seasons consecrated to special devotion. It was then that the mighty power of God overshadowed the infant church, and that omnipotent energy descended, which demonstrated the truth of the gospel, and laid prostrate all the principles of opposition at the feet of Jesus. The kingdom of darkness was shaken, the word of God grew mighty and prevailed, and thousands were rescued from the dominion of Satan, and brought into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. In all subsequent ages the same principle has been in operation. All revivals, all reformations in religion, either local or general, have originated in, and have been carried on amidst, the prayers of the saints.
What is indicated by such facts, but that there is, established by God, a real and regular connexion between the prayers of the church, and the success of the gospel in renovating a sinful world. Such a connexion is, in itself, not more mysterious than that which exists between many events in the order of nature: of cause and effect we know little, but that under certain circumstances one event invariably follows another. This order has been fixed by the appointment of God, and we always calculate on its permanency. In like manner we calculate' results in the moral world : as it has been, so it will remain : between our prayers, and the success of our labours in the gospel, such a connexion has been established, that if we unitedly, devoutly, and with holy faith and confidence, beseech the Father of Spirits, the fruit of our efforts will certainly appear
in their season.
That fruit, indeed, may not appear in the place, time, or way, that we expect ; but we cannot doubt of the ultimate result, without first having some misgivings about the truth and excellence of the gospel itself, or the faith, fulness, and reality of the divine promises. In consequence of this connexion of our
with the success of true religion, we are called to a most important duty, that of praying without ceasing, for the out-pouring of the Spirit of God, without which, all external means are ineffectual. We are to regard our supplications as forming part of the general intercession appointed to be made by believers for the world, dead in trespasses and sins. The extent of the efficacy of such prayers, we cannot discover in this world: it is sufficient for us to know that it is the will of God that they should be presented, and that it is also his will to answer them.
In the delightful work of thus putting up our requests for the salvation of our fellow-men, we cannot fail of enjoying that sweet and holy expansion of soul, from which more real happiness arises than from all the objects of worldly pursuit. The showers of divine grace never fall without spreading general fertility. What we ask and obtain for others, we shall never fail of obtaining for ourselves.
How important then and delightful must be the duty which cannot be performed without personal happiness and protit, while
it brings down on others what God has promised to bestow. To neglect such a duty, is to deprive ourselves of enjoyments no where else to be found. Such neglect must contract and enfeeble the mind of the Christian, while the diligent performance of such a duty, must give him an enlargement of soul, and an energy of benevolence, delightful to himself and fraught with blessings to mankind.
How important also the duty of prayer for the success of the gospel, when we remember that the communication of all necessary regenerating grace is made in answer to it. It is indeed inconsistent to pray for the salvation of men without putting forth our helping hand to save them, but it is fully as inconsistent to labour without prayer. All the parts of our duty should have their proper share of our attention.
Let us therefore give ourselves to the work of the Lord. Whether called to preach the word, or otherwise to support and promote it; let every one be earnest in supplication for its prosperity. Here is a part of the work of the gospel from which no one can claim exemption, and which the meanest believer is capable of performing. The most delightful promises are held out to encourage us, while the experience of the saints in all ages gives us the fullest assurance of certain success. To our own souls it will bring a rich reward, while the blessings it will obtain for others, will vastly increase our own and the general blessedness through eternity.
IV.- A few thoughts relative to the Prevention of War.
To the Editor of the Calcutta Christian Observer. SIR,
As you are one of the public advocates of the cause of Christianity' in India, I venture to address you on a subject which has lately often engaged my thoughts, and which has now been revived by the perusal of a pamphlet published by order of the American Peace Society, entitled " A Dissertation on a Congress of Nations,” by Philanthropos.
I have lately been much troubled in mind at the fact that war is more rife amongst Christian nations than heathen. In our Church at home (when we gained a battle over the French) we used to sing the old version of the xxxvth Psalm, tune forgotten; but it was an inspiring one, and I well remember the martial spirit in which I used to sing, “ Stand up with me, and stop the way, &c. &c.” The following remarks of Philanthropos have in substance been my own: “ If the Christian religion allows of war, how will the extension of it, or the inculcation of its precepts prevent war? Do not Christian nations engage in war? Do not professed followers of the Lamb thrust their bayonets into each other's hearts ?”
I have the honor of being acquainted with some pious officers and soldiers, who yet, if a war took place, would consider themselves in duty bound to exert their energies in the field to the utmost of their skill and power.
My heart bleeds at this thought. To prevent such an occurrence has been often a subject of deep consideration, and my limited view can discover no other way but this, of forming at first small Christian societies in every place, whose object should be—1st, to provide for the temporary maintenance of Christian officers and soldiers who are willing to join these societies; 2ndly, to provide a fund for all cases of distress in each society ; 3rdly, to encourage industry, frugality, modesty, and simplicity of attire, simplicity in household furniture, or what is equivalent, to do away with and discountenance individual idleness and luxury, useless and ostentatious expenses in dress, entertainments, furnishing houses, education of children; 4thly, to form a social agreement among the members for mutual help and assistance in procuring the necessaries and conveniences of life. To which end, each member should set himself to follow some calling, which may tend directly to the help and benefit of the society. Might not little colonies of industrious Christians, banded together for the promotion of peace on the earth, and taking for their motto, “ Having food and raiment, let us be there with content:"—might not, I say, such a snowball as this in the course of time assume a grand and imposing appearance on the earth ? Should you deem this hasty letter worthy of publication, and should it thus meet the eye of Philanthropos, I would wish him to consider, and I offer the above suggestions only as preparatory steps to his own noble and more matured plan.
I remain, Sir,
AMICUS. Meerut, July 22, 1833.]
P. S. Probably a portion of the funds, now subscribed for disseminating various Christian publications, might be applied to this equally important object ?