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There are some that are not ministers, nor are concerned immediately in F those things that appertain to their office, or in the education of persons for it, that are under great advantages to promote such a glorious work as this. Some laymen, though it be not their business publicly to exhort and teach, yet are, in some respects, under greater advantage to encourage and forward this work, than ministers. As particularly great men, or men that are high in honor and influence. How much might such do, to encourage religion, and open the way for it to have free course, and bear down opposition, if they were but inclined! There is commonly certain unhappy shyness, in great men, with respect to religion, as though they were ashamed of it, or at least ashamed to do very much at it; whereby they dishonor and doubtless greatly provoke the King of kings, and very much wound religion among the common people. They are careful of their honor, and seem to be afraid of appearing openly forward and zealous in religion, as though it were what would debase their character, and expose them to contempt. But in this day of bringing up the ark, they ought to be like David, that great king of Israel, who made himself vile before the ark; and as he was the highest in honor and dignity, among God's people, so thought it became him to appear foremost, in the zeal and activity he manifested on that occasion; thereby animating and encouraging the whole congregation to praise the Lord, and rejoice before him, with all their might: and though it diminished him in the eyes of scoffing Michal, yet it did not at all abate the honor and esteem of the congregation of Israel, but advanced it; as appears by 2 Sam. vi. 22. Rich men have a talent in their hands, in the disposal and improvement of which, they might very much promote such a work as this, if they were so disposed. They are far beyond others under advantage to do good, and lay up for themselves treasures in heaven. What a thousand pities is it, that for want of a heart, they commonly have no share at all there, but heaven is peopled mostly with the poor of this world? One would think that our rich men, that call themselves Christians, might devise some notable things to do with their money, to advance the kingdom of their professed Redeemer, and the prosperity of the souls of men, at this time of such extraordinary advantage for it. It seems to me, that in this age, most of us have but very narrow, penurious notions of Christianity, as it respects our use and disposal of our temporal goods.
their posterity, they would not repent of it afterwards. How liberally did the heads of the tribes contribute to their wealth, at the setting up the tabernacle, though it was in a barren wilderness! These are the days of the erecting the tabernacle of God amongst us. We have a particular account how the goldsmiths and the merchants helped to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, Neh. iii. 32. The days are coming spoken of in Scripture, and I believe not very far off, when the sons of Zion shall come from far, bringing their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord their God, and to the Holy One of Israel; and when the merchants of the earth shall trade for Christ, more than for themselves, and their merchandise and hire shall be holiness to the Lord, and shall not be treasured, or laid up for posterity, but shall be for them that dwell before the Lord, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing; and when the ships of Tarshish shall bring the wealth of the distant parts of the earth, to the place of God's sanctuary, and to make the place of his feet glorious; and the abundance of the sea shall be converted to the use of God's church, and she shall suck the milk of the Gentiles, and suck the breasts of kings. The days are coming, when the great and rich men of the world shall bring their honor and glory into the church, and shall, as it were, strip themselves, to spread their garments under Christ's feet, as he enters triumphantly into Jerusalem; and when those that will not do so shall have no glory, and their silver and gold shall be cankered, and their garments moth eaten; for the saints shall then inherit the earth, and they shall reign on earth, and those that honor God he will honor, and those that despise him shall be lightly esteemed.
If some of our rich men would give one quarter of their estates to promote this work, they would act a little as if they were designed for the kingdom of heaven, and a little as rich men will act by and by, that shall be partakers of the spiritual wealth and glories of that kingdom.
Great things might be done for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, at this day, by those that have ability, by establishing funds, for the support and propagation of religion; by supporting some that are eminently qualified with gifts and grace, in preaching the gospel in certain parts of the country, that are more destitute of the means of grace; in searching out children, of promising abilities, and their hearts full of love to Christ, but of poor families (as doubtless there are such now in the land), and bringing them up for the ministry; and in distributing books, that are remarkably fitted to promote vital religion, and have a great tendency to advance this work; or if they would only bear the trouble, expense, and loss of sending such books into various parts of the land, to be sold, it might be an occasion that ten times so many of those books should be bought, or otherwise would be; and in establishing and supporting schools, in poor towns and villages; which might be done on such a foundation, as not only to bring up children in common learning, but also might very much tend to their conviction and conversion, and being trained up in vital piety; and doubtless something might be done this way, in old towns, and more populous places, that might have a great tendency to the flourishing of religion in the rising generation.
But I would now proceed to mention some things, that ought to be done, at such a day as this, that concern all in general.
And here, the first thing I shall mention, is, fasting and praver. It seems to me, that the circumstances of the present work do loudly call God's people to abound in this; whether they consider the experience God has lately given them, of the worth of his presence, and of the blessed fruits of the effusions of his Spirit, to excite them to pray for the continuance and increase, and greater
extent of such blessings; or whether they consider the great encouragement God has lately given them, to pray for the outpourings of his Spirit, and the carrying on this work, by the great manifestations he has lately made, of the freeness and riches of his grace; and how much there is, in what we have seen of the glorious works of God's power and grace, to put us in mind of the yet greater things of this nature, that he has spoken of in his word, and to excite our longings for those things, and hopes of their approach; or whether we consider the great opposition that Satan makes against this work, and the many difficulties with which it is clogged, and the distressing circumstances that some parts of God's church in this land are under at this day, on one account and another.
So is God's will, through this wonderful grace, that the prayers of his saints should be one great and principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ's kingdom in the world.-When God has something very great to accomplish for his church, it is his will, that there should precede it, the extraordinary prayers of his people; as is manifest by Ezek. xxxvi. 37, "I will yet, for this, be inquired of, by the house of Israel, to do it for them;" together with the context. And it is revealed that, when God is about to accomplish great things for his church, he will begin by remarkably pouring out the Spirit of grace and supplication. Zech. xii. 10. If we are not to expect that the devil should go out of a particular person, that is under a bodily possession, without extraordinary prayer, or prayer and fasting; how much less should we expect to have him cast out of the land and the world without it.
I am sensible that considerable has been done in duties of this nature, in some places; but I do not think so much as God, in the present dispensations of his providence, calls for. I should think the people of God in this land, at such a time as this is, would be in the way of their duty, to do three times so much at fasting and prayer as they do; not only, nor principally, for the pouring out of the Spirit on those towns or places where they belong; but that God would appear for his church, and in mercy to miserable men, to carry on his work in the land, and in the world of mankind, and to fulfil the things that he has spoken of in his word, that his church has been so long wishing and hoping and waiting for. They that make mention of the Lord, at this day, ought not to keep silence, and should give God no rest, until he establish, and until he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth, agreeably to Isa. lxii. 6, 7. Before the first great outpouring of the Spirit of God on the Christian church, which began at Jerusalem, the church of God gave themselves to incessant prayer, Acts i. 13, 14. There is a time spoken of, wherein God will remarkably and wonderfully appear, for the deliverance of his church from all her enemies, and when he will avenge his own elect and Christ reveals that this will be in answer to their incessant prayers, or crying day and night, Luke xviii. 7. In Israel, the day of atonement, which was their great day of fasting and prayer, preceded and made way for the glorious and joyful feast of tabernacles. When Christ is mystically born into the world, to rule over all nations, it is represented in the 12th chapter of Revelation, as being in consequence of the church's crying, and travailing in birth, and being pained to be delivered. One thing here intended, doubtless is, her crying and agonizing in prayer.
God seems now, at this very time, to be waiting for this from us. When God is about to bestow some great blessing on his church, it is often his manner, in the first place, so to order things in his providence as to show his church their great need of it, and to bring them into distress for want of it, and so put them upon crying earnestly to him for it. And let us consider God's present VOL. III.
dispensations towards his church in this land: a glorious work of his grace has been begun and carried on; and God has, of late, suffered innumerable difficulties to arise, that do in a great measure clog and hinder it, and bring many. of God's dear children into great distress; and yet does not wholly forsake the work of his hand; there are remarkable tokens of his presence still to be seen, here and there; as though he was not forward to forsake us, and (if I may sa say) as though he had a mind to carry on his work; but only was waiting for something that he expected in us, as requisite in order to it. And we have a great deal of reason to think, that one thing at least is, that we should further acknowledge the greatness and necessity of such a mercy, and our dependence on God for it, in earnest and importunate prayers to him. And by the many errors that have been run into, and the wounds we have thereby given ourselves and the cause that we would promote, and the mischief and confusion we have thereby made, God has hitherto been remarkably showing us our great and universal dependence on him, and exceeding need of his help and grace: which should engage our cries to him for it.
There is no way that Christians in a private capacity can do so much to promote the work of God, and advance the kingdom of Christ, as by prayer. By this even women, children, and servants may have a public influence. Let persons be never so weak, and never so mean, and under never so poor advantages to do much for Christ, and the souls of men otherwise; yet, if they have much of the spirit of grace and supplication, in this way, they may have power with Him that is infinite in power, and has the government of the whole world: and so a poor man in his cottage may have a blessed influence all over the world. God is, if I may so say, at the command of the prayer of faith; and in this respect is, as it were, under the power of his people; as princes, they have power with God, and prevail: though they may be private persons, their prayers are put in the name of a Mediator, that is a public person, being the head of the whole church, and the Lord of the universe: and if they have a great sense of the importance of eternal things, and concern for the precious souls of men, yet they need not regret it, that they are not preachers; they may go in their earnestness and agonies of soul, and pour out their souls before One that is able to do all things; before him they may speak as freely as ministers: they have a great High Priest, through whom they may come boldly at all times, and may vent themselves before a prayer hearing Father, without any restraint.
If the people of God, at this day, instead of spending time in fruitless disputing, and talking about opposers, and judging of them, and animadverting upon the unreasonableness of their talk and behavior, and its inconsistence with true experience, would be more silent in this way, and open their mouths much more before God, and spend more time in fasting and prayer, they would be more in the way of a blessing. And if some Christians in the land, that have been complaining of their ministers, and struggling in vain to deliver themselves from the difficulties they have complained of, under their ministry, had said and acted less before men, and had applied themselves with all their might to cry to God for their ministers, had as it were risen, and stormed heaven with their humble, fervent, and incessant prayers for them, they would have been much more in the way of success.
God in his providence, appearing in the present state of things, does espe cially call on his people in New England to be very much in praying to him for the pouring out of the Spirit upon ministers in the land. For though it is not for us to determine, concerning particular ministers, how much they have of the Spirit of God; yet in the general, it is apparent, that there is, at this day, need
of very great degrees of the presence of God with the ministry in New Eng land, much greater degrees of it than has hitherto been granted; they need it for themselves, and the church of God stands in extreme need of it.
In days of fasting and prayer, wherein the whole church or congregation is concerned, if the whole day, besides what is spent in our families, was not spent in the meeting-house, but part of it in particular praying companies or societies, it would have a tendency to animate and engage devotion, more than if the whole day were spent in public, where the people are no way active themselves in the worship, any otherwise than as they join with the minister. The inhabitants of many of our towns are now divided into particular praying societies, most of the people, young and old, have voluntarily associated themselves, in distinct companies, for mutual assistance, in social worship, in private houses: what I intend, therefore, is, that days of prayer should be spent partly in these distinct praying companies. Such a method of keeping a fast as this, has several times been proved, viz., in the forenoon, after the duties of the family and closet, as early as might be, all the people of the congregation have gathered in their particular religious societies; companies of men by themselves, and companies of women by themselves; young men by themselves, and young women by themselves; and companies of children, in all parts of the town, by themselves, as many as were capable of social religious exercises; the boys by themselves, and girls by themselves: and about the middle of the day, at an appointed hour, all have met together in the house of God, to offer up public prayers, and to hear a sermon suitable to the occasion: and then, they have retired from the house of God again, into their private societies, and spent the remaining part of the day in praying together there, excepting so much as was requisite for the duties of the family and closet in their own houses. And it has been found to be of great benefit, to assist and engage the minds of the people in the duties of the day.
I have often thought it would be a thing very desirable, and very likely to be followed with a great blessing, if there could be some contrivance, that there should be an agreement of all God's people in America, that are well affected to this work, to keep a day of fasting and prayer to God; wherein we should all unite on the same day, in humbling ourselves before God for our past long-continued lukewarmness and unprofitableness; not omitting humiliation for the errors that so many of God's people that have been zealously affected towards this work, through their infirmity and remaining blindness and corruption, have run into; and together with thanksgivings to God, for so glorious and wonderful a display of his power and grace, in the late outpourings of his Spirit; to address the Father of mercies, with prayers and supplications, and earnest cries, that he would guide and direct his own people, and that he would continue, and still carry on this work, and more abundantly and extensively pour out his Spirit; and particularly that he would pour out his Spirit upon ministers; and that he would bow the heavens and come down, and erect his glorious kingdom through the earth. Some perhaps may think that its being all on the same day, is a circumstance of no great consequence; but I cannot be of that mind: such a circumstance makes the union and agreement of God'speople in his worship the more visible, and puts the greater honor upon God, and would have a great tendency to assist and enliven the devotions of Christians: it seems to me it would mightily encourage and animate God's saints, in humbly and earnestly seeking to God, for such blessings which concern them all; and that it would be much for the rejoicing of all, to think, that at the same time, such multitudes of God's dear children, far and near, were sending