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obeying the direction, “ Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself as it were for a little moment, till the indignation be overpast,” (Isa. xxvi, 20.) are safe. They are able to say, God is our refuge and strength. Ps. xlvi, 1.
May what has been said induce THOSE WHO HAVE HITHERTO LIVED IN THE NEGLECT OF THIS dury, to take up at once David's firm resolution, “Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my
bed ; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, nor slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, an habit ation for the mighty God of Jacob.” Ps. cxxxii. Let me beseech you—lose no time. Not a single day. Difficulties may be multiplied; but only set about it in faith and prayer, wisely and vigorously, and they will all vanish. Say firmly, as Jacob did to his household, and to all that were with him, “ Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments, and let us arise, and go up to Bethel, and I will make there an altar unto God.” Gen. xxxv, 2, 3.
And may THOSE WHO HAVE ATTENDED TO THIS DUTY, find the hints which have been given, an additional help to the performance of it; and also feel pledged, by their prayers and instructions, to bring into the family in the day the character which they have manifested, and the graces which they requested in their united devotions.
But let them not think, as some have been ready to think, that a discharge of this duty will absolve them from the constant practice of daily morning and evening devotions in secret. He who prays only before others, has much reason to suspect that he prays to be seen of men, and has no real love to God, nor true knowledge of the nature of prayer.
THE term social, may be applied to all kinds of prayer in which we join with others, but it is here restricted to the united prayer of Christian friends, distinct from public, and family worship. It would be well if Christians were more accustomed than they are to sanctify their occasional meetings by prayer, and to meet also for the purpose of uniting in prayer to obtain those blessings which they need. The particular promise given to united prayer has led many to practise this bath as a privilege and as a duty. “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” Matt. xviii, 19.
We have scriptural examples to encourage us to the performance of this. When Peter was in prison,
prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him;" (Acts xii, 5.) and when he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John, he found there many that were gathered together, praying. Acts xii, 12. When Paul and Silas were thrown into prison, they comforted each other by social prayer. “Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God; and the prisoners heard them.” Acts xvi, 25. When “ Moses' hands were heavy, Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side and the other on the other side, and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun."
Bishop Hall remarks on this, “Doubtless Aaron and Hur did not only raise their hands but their minds with his: the more cords the easiser draught. Aaron was brother to Moses. There cannot be a more brotherly office than to help one another in our prayers, and to excite our mutual devotion. No Christian may think it enough to pray alone: he is no true Israelite that will not be ready to lift up the weary hand of God's saints."
And as social prayer is a duty binding generally on all Christians, so there is a special reason for it in some particular relations. Husband and wife should pray together, with and for each other; the Apostle appears to suppose they do so, when he adds, as a reason for some directions given to them, that your prayers be not hindered, 1 Pet. iii, 7.
There are some things which seem peculiarly to call for social prayer. Let me especially mention the state of the church of Christ in our own country, and through out the world, as calling for our attention. The various precepts and examples in the word of God on this subject, and the present remarkable signs of the times, evidently require the Christian's remembrance of this in all his social prayers. David gives us a solemn direction, and a copy of his prayer and determination on this subject; (Ps. cxxii, 6-9.) “pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walis, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sake, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek thy good.” This will lead to prayers for the enlargement of the borders of Sion, by the conversion of the heathen. Is. Ixii. Nor should the state of your own nation be forgotten. 1 Tim. ii, 1, 2.
* See Bisbop Hall's Works.
St. Paul hoped for deliverance from his difficulties by the Corinthians helping together by prayer for him, (2 Cor. i, 11.) and thus supposes that Christians will unite in prayer for their minister. Why should not those members of a family who are under the full influence of real religion unite at stated periods in praying for those of their relative that are careless and regardless of its holy truths ? Why should not those members of a congregation who know the truth as it is in Jesus, pray for a minister appointed over them, who knows it not, and therefore does not preach it? There are various other things of general and personal, or local interest, that need not be here specified, which afford suitable subjects for social prayer.
It is a proof of the low state of religion among us, that many, and those even real Christians, (for of them only I speak,) can meet and part in our day without praying together. Is it feared that this might be counted strange and uncommon ? this is only a weak objection. The devoted Christian is an uncommon character, and must expect to be often reproached for unnecessary strictness and preciseness. Have you reason to think that this would be on unwelcome service ? surely, then, you should not voluntarily be much in the society of those who would think it such. Or may not another reason be, that the conversation, even among those who have professed to renounce the world and its vanities, is often so trifling, so worldly, and so vain—so much about man, and so little about God, and Christ, and his word, and his love, that your souls are unprepared and unfitted for communion with him.*
* I cannot here but subjoin the remark wbich a valued friend made on this passage. He says, “ Conversation among Christians often takes a tribing turn, often a party turn in politics, and often one which merely concerns the circumstantials of things, and this
“ If we pray among a select society of Christians, we draw near to God with a holy boldness, something like what we use in our duties of secret worship. We have reason to take more freedom among those that are fellow-saints, and whose hearts have felt many of the same workings with our own. Then, when our faith is lively, we should give thanks to God for our election in Christ Jesus; for the atonement and righteousness of the Son of God, in which we humbly hope we have an interest ; for the enlightening and sanctifying work of his own Spirit upon our hearts; for our expectations of eternal glory; and by expressing the joys of our faith to God, we may often be made a means, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to raise the faith and joy of others.”
Were your social meetings thus sanctified, the occasional intercourse of dear friends would be more blessed than it is. You would find it a means of grace, and would enjoy, in a much higher degree, the privilege of the communion of saints. You would receive a greater blessing than you have yet done in all your family and social relations. “ Persons who belong to several famiJies may, and ought to meet on these occasions. The consent of importunity is a pleasing instance of brotherly love." for the evident purpose of excluding essentials. Thus the manner of a preacher, his style, his appearance often occupy the place which is due to his matter. Or, if the matter be introduced, it is not for the purpose of enjoying its excellence, in turning it to the exciting of present good, but rathe as a ground of critique on bis mode of creatinent, affording a subject of ingenious Rmark, if not of autboritative decision. There are religious Tailers and Busy Bodies, it is to be feared, as well as those of the world ; but it shouid never be forgotten, that a religious gossip is less escusable than a worldly gossip. The object of the worldly s to kill timp; and for this purpose, cbaracters are sported with, and idle tales and jokes indulged io. It should be the Christian's ohject to redeem the time, and to improve it by edisying bis associates,"