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of God. - About the year 1732 or 1733, God was pleased to pour out his Spirit on the people of Saltizburg, in Germany, who where living under popish darkness, in a most uncommon manner; so that above twenty thousand of them, merely by reading the Bible, which they made a shift to get in their own language, were determined to throw off popery and embrace the reformed religion ; yea, and to become so very zealous for the truth and gospel of Jesus Christ, as to be willing to suffer the loss of all things in the world, and actually to forsake their houses, Jands, goods and relations, that they might enjoy the pure preaching of the gospel ;--with great earnestness, and tears in their eyes, beseeching protestant ministers to preach to them, in different places where they came, when banished from their own country." In the year 1734 and 1735, there appeared a very great and general awakening, in the country of Hampshire, in the province of the Massachusetts-Bay, in New England, and also in many parts of Connecticut. Since this, there has been a far more extensive awakening of many thousands in England, Wales, and Scotland, and almost all the British provinces in North America. There has also been something remarkable of the same kind, in some places in the united Netherlands; and about two years ago, a very great awakening and reformation of many of the Indians, in the Jerseys, and Pennsylvania, even among such as never embraced christianity before: and within these two years, a great awakening in Virginia and Maryland.
Notwithstanding the great diversity of opinions about the issue of some of these awakenings, yet I know of none, who have denied that there have been great awakenings of late in these times and places, and that multitudes have been brought to more than common concern for their salvation, and for a time were made more than ordinarily afraid of sin, and brought to reform their former vicious courses, and take much pains for their salvation. If I should be of the opinion of those who think that these awakenings and striving of God's Spirit have been generally not well improved, and so, as to most, have ended in enthusiasm and delusion ; yet that the Spirit of God has been of late so wonderfully striving with such multitudesin so many different parts of the world, and even to this day in one place or other, continues to awaken men-is what I should take great encouragement from that God was about to do something more glorious, and would before he finishes, bring things to a greater ripeness, and not finally suffer this work of his to be frustrated and rendered abortive by Satan's crafty management. And may we not hope that these unusual commotions are the forerunners of something exceeding glori: ous approaching; as the wind, earthquake and fire at Mount Sinai, were forerunners of that voice wherein God was in a more eminent manner ? (1 Kings xix. 11, 12.)
The Beauty and good Tendency of such Union.
How condecent, how beautiful, and of good tendency would it be, for multitudes of christians, in various parts of the world, by explicit agreement, to unite in such prayer as is proposed to us. Union is one of the most amiable things that pertains to human society ; yea, it is one of the most beautiful and happy things on earth, which indeed makes earth most like heaven. God has made of one blood all nations of men, to dwell on all the face of the earth; hereby teaching us this moral lesson, that it becomes mankind all to be united as one family. And this is agreeable to the nature God has given men, disposing them to society; and the circumstances in which he has placed them, so many ways obliging and necessitating them to it. A civil union, or an harmonious agreement among men in the management of their secular concerns, is amiable ; but much more a pious union, and sweet agreement in the great business for which man was created, even the business of religion; the life and soul of which is Love. Union is spoken of in scripture as the peculiar beauty of the church of Christ, Cant, vi. 9. “ My dove, my undefiled is but one, she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her; the daughters saw her aud blessed her, yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.” Psal. cxxii. 5. “ Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together." Eph. iv. 3—6. “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ver. 16. “ The whole body fitly framed together and compacted, by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying itself in love."
As it is the glory of the church of Christ that in all her members, however dispersed, she is thus one, one holy society, one city, one family, one body; so it is very desirable that this union should be manifested, and become visible. It is highly desirable that her distant members should act as one, in those things that concern the common interest of the whole body, and in those duties and exercises wherein they have to do with their common Lord and Head, as seeking of him the
common prosperity. As it becomes all the members of a particular family, who are strictly united, and have in so many respects one common interest, to unite in prayer to God for the things they need ; and as it becomes a nation, at certain seasons, visibly to unite in prayer for those public mercies that concern the interest of the whole nation: so, it becomes the church of Christ—which is one holy nation, a peculiar people, one heavenly family, more strictly united, in many respects, and having infinitely greater interests that are common to the whole, than any other society--visibly to unite, and expressly to agree together in prayer to God for the common prosperity; and above all, that common prosperity and advancement, so unspeakably great and glorious, which God hath so abundantly promised to fulfil in the latter days.
It becomes christians, with whose character a narrow selfish spirit, above all others, disagrees, to be much in prayer for that public mercy, wherein consists the welfare and happiness of the whole body of Christ, of which they are members, and the greatest good of mankind. And union or agreement in prayer is especially becoming, when christians pray for that mercy, which above all other things concerns them unitedly, and tends to the relief, prosperity and glory of the whole body, as well as of each individual member,
Such an union in prayer for the general out-pouring of the Spirit of God, would not only be beautiful, but profitable too. It would tend very much to promote union and charity between distant members of the church of Christ, to promote public spirit, love to the church of God, and concern for the interest of Zion ; as well as be an amiable exercise and mani. festation of such a spirit. Union in religious duties, especially in the duty of prayer, in praying one with and for another, and jointly for their common welfare, above almost all other things, tends to promote mutual affection and endearment. And if ministers and people should, by particular agreement and joint resolution, set themselves, in a solemn and extraordinary man. ner, from time to time, to pray for the revival of religion in the world, it would naturally tend more to awaken in them a concern about things of this nature, and more of a desire after such a mercy. It would engage them to more attention to such an affair, make them more inquisitive about it, more ready to use endeavours to promote what they, with so many others, spend so much time in praying for. It would inake them more ready to rejoice, and praise God, when they see or hear of any thing of that nature or tendency. And, in a particular manner, it would naturally tend to engage ministers-the business of whose lives it should be, to seek the welfare of the church of Christ, and the advancement of his kingdom-to greater diligence and earnestness in their work; and it would have a
tendency to the spiritual profit and advantage of each particular person. For persons to be thus engaged in extraordinary prayer for the revival and flourishing state of religion in the world, will naturally lead each one to reflect on himself, and consider how religion flourishes in his own heart, and how far his example contributes to that for which he is praying.
On the whole there is a great and particular encouragement given in the word of God, to express union and agreement in prayer. Daniel, when he had a great thing to request of God, viz. That he by his Holy Spirit would miraculously reveal to him a great secret, which none of the wise men, astrologers, magicians, or soothsayers of Babylon could find out, he goes to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, and they agree together, that they will unitedly desire mercies of the God of heaven, concerning this secret; and their joint request was soon granted. God put great honour upon them, above all the wise men of Babylon, not only to their great joy, but also to the admiration and astonishment of Nebuchadnezzar ; insomuch that the great and haughty monarch, as we are told, fell upon his face and worshipped Daniel, and owned that his God was in truth, A God of Gods, and he greatly promoted Daniel and his praying companions in the province of Babylon. Esther, when she had a yet more important request to make, for the saving of the church of God, and whole Jewish nation, dispersed through the empire of Persia, when on the brink of ruin, sends to all the Jews in the city Shushan, to pray and fast with her and her maidens; and their united prayers prevail ; so that the event was wonderful. Instead of the intended destruction of the Jews, their enemies are destroyed every where, and they are defended, honoured, and promoted ; their sorrow and distress is turned into great gladness, feasting, triumph, and mutual joyful congratulations.
The encouragement to explicit agreement in prayer is great from such instances as these ; but it is yet greater from those wonderful words of our blessed Redeemer, Matth. xviii. 19. “I say unto you, that if any two of you shall agree on earth, touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” Christ is pleased to give this great encouragement to the union of his followers in this excellent and holy exercise of seeking and serving God; an holy union and communion of his people being that which he greatly desires and delights in ; that which he came into the world to bring to pass ; that which he especially prayed for with his dying breath; (John xvii.) that which he died for; and which was one chief end of the whole affair of our redemption by him; Eph. i. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace, wherein he hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence ;
having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him,"
I COME now, as was proposed, in the third place, to answer and obviate some objections, which some may be ready to make against what has been proposed to us.
Such Agreement superstitious, Answered.
Some may be ready to say, that for christians in such a manner to set apart certain seasons, every week and every quarter, to be religiously observed and kept for the purposes proposed, from year to year, would be in effect to establish certain periodical times of human invention and appointment, to be kept holy to God; and so to do the very thing that has ever been objected against, by a very great part of the most eminent christians and divines among protestants, as what men have no right to do; it being for them to add to God's institutions, and introduce their own inventions and establishments into the stated worship of God, and lay unwarrantable bonds on men's consciences, and do what naturally tends to super. stition.
To this I would say, there can be no justice in such an objection against this proposal, as made to us in the foremen. tioned memorial. Indeed, that caution appears in the project itself, and in the manner in which it is proposed to us, that there is not so much as any colour for the objection. The proposal is such, and so well guarded, that there seems to be no room for the weakest christian who well observes it, to understand those things to be implied in it, which have indeed been objected against by many eminent christians and divines