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And now, upon the whole, I desire every serious Christian, that may read this discourse, calmly and deliberately to consider whether he can excuse himself from complying with what has been proposed to us and requested of us, by those ministers of Christ in Scotland, that are the authors of the late memorial. God has stirred up a part of his church, in a distant part of the world, to be in an extraordinary manner seeking and crying to him, that he would appear to favor Zion, as he has promised. And they are applying themselves to us, to join with them; and make that very proposal to us, that is spoken of in my text, and in like manner and circumstances. The members of one church, in one country, are coming to others, in other distant countries, saying, “Let us go speedily and constantly to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts." Will it not become us readily to say “I will go also ?” What these servants of Christ ask of us, is not silver or gold, or any of our outward substance, or that we would put ourselves to any cost, or do any thing that will be likely to expose us to any remarkable trouble, difficulty or suffering in our outward interest; but only that we would help together with them, by our prayers to God, for the greatest mercy in the world; and that a mercy which as much concerns us as them; for the glory of their Lord and ours, for the great advancement of our common interest and happiness, and the happiness of our fellow creatures through all nations; a mercy, which, at this day especially, there is great need of; a mercy
which we in this land do stand in particular need of; a mercy which the word of God requires us to make the subject matter of our prayers, above all other mercies, and gives us more encouragement to pray earnestly and unitedly to him for, than any other mercy; and a mercy, which the providence of God towards the world of mankind, at this day, does loudly call the people of God to pray for. I think, we cannot reasonably doubt but that these ministers have acted a part becoming disciples of the great Messiah, and ministers of his kingdom, and have done the will of God, according to his word, in setting forward such an affair at this day, and in proposing it to us. And therefore I desire it may be considered, whether we shall not really sin against God, in refusing to comply with their proposal and request, or in neglecting it, and turning it by, with but little notice and attention; therein disregardiing that which is truly a call of God to us.
The ministers that make this proposal to us are no Separatists or schismatics, promoters of no public disorders, nor of any wildness or extravagance in matters of religion; but are quiet and peaceable members and ministers of the church of Scotland, that have lamented the late divisions and breaches of that church. If any shall say, that they are under no advantage to judge of their character, but must take it on trust from others, because they conceal their names; in answer to this, I would say, that I presume that no sober person will say that he has any reason to suspect them, to be any other than gentlemen of honest intention. Besure there is no appearance of any thing else, but an upright design in their proposal: and that they have not mentioned their names, is an argument of it. It may well be presumed, from the manner of their expressing themselves, in the memorial itself, that they concealed their names from that which perhaps may be called an excess of modesty ; choosing to be at the greatest distance from appearing to set forth themselves to the view of VOL. III.
the world, as the heads of a great affair, and the first projectors and movers of something extraordinary, that they desire should become general, and that God's people in various distant parts of the world should agree in. And therefore, they are moreover careful to tell us, that they do not propose the affair, as now setting it on foot, but as a thing already set on foot; and do not tell us who first projected and moved it. The proposal is made to us in a very proper and prudent manner, with all appearance of Christian modesty and sincerity, and with a very prudent guard against any thing that looks like superstition, or whatsoever might entangle a tender conscience; and far from any appearance of a design to promote any particular party or denomination of Christians, in opposition to others; but with all appearance of the contrary, in their charitable request, that none would by any means conceive of any such thing to be in their view, and that all, of all denominations and opinions concerning the late religious commotions, would join with them, in seeking the common interest of the kingdom of Christ. And therefore I think, none can be in the way of their duty, in neglecting a proposal in itself excellent, and that which they have reason to think is made with upright intentions, merely because the proposers modestly conceal their names. I do not see how any serious person, that has an ill opinion of late religious stirs, can have any color of reason to refuse a compliance with this proposal, on that account; the more disorders, extravagancies and delusions of the devil have lately prevailed, the more need have we to pray earnestly to God, for his Holy Spirit to promote true religion, in opposition to the grand deceiver, and all his works; and the more such prayer as is proposed, is answered, the more effectually will all that is contrary to sober and pure religion, be extirpated and exploded.
One would think that every one that favors the dust of Zion, when he hears that God is stirring up a considerable number of his ministers and people, to unite in extraordinary prayer, for the revival of religion and advancement of his kingdom, should greatly rejoice on this occasion. If we lay to heart the present calamities of the church of Christ, and long for that blessed alteration that God has promised, one would think it should be natural to rejoice at the appearance of something in so dark a day, that is so promising a token. Would not our friends that were lately in captivity in Canada, that earnestly longed for deliverance, have rejoiced to have heard of any thing that seemed to fore bode the approach of their redemption ? And particularly may we not suppose that such of them as were religious persons, would greatly have rejoiced to have understood that there was stirred up in God's people an extraordinary spirit of prayer for their redemption ? And I do not know why it would not be as natural for us to rejoice at the like hopeful token of the redemption of Zion, if we made her interest our own, and preferred Jerusalem above our
If we are indeed called of God to comply with the proposal now made to us, then let me beseech all that do sincerely love the interest of real Christianity, notwithstanding any diversity of opinion, and former disputes, now to unite in this affair, with one heart and voice: and let us go speedily to pray before the Lord. There is no need that one should wait for another. If we can get others, that are our neighbors, to join with us, and so can conveniently spend the quarterly seasons with praying societies, this is desirable; but if not, why should we wholly neglect the duty proposed? Why should not we perform it by ourselves, uniting in heart and practice, as far as we are able, with those who, in distant places, are engaged in that duty at that time?
If it be agreeable to the mind and will of God, that we should comply with the memorial, by praying for the coming of Christ's kingdom, in the manner therein proposed, then doubtless it is the duty of all to comply with the memorial, in that respect also, viz., in endeavoring, as far as in us lies, to promote others' joining in such prayer, and to render this union and agreement as extensive as may be. Private Christians may have many advantages and opportunities for this; but especially ministers, inasmuch as they not only are by office overseers of whole congregations of God's people, and their guides in matters of religion, but ordinarily have a far more extensive acquaintance and influence abroad, than private Christians in common have.
And I hope that such as are convinced that it is their duty to comply with, and encourage this design, will remember that we ought not only to go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek this mercy, but also to go constantly. We should unite in our practice those two things, which our Saviour unites in his precept, praying and not fainting. If we should continue some years, and nothing remarkable in Providence should appear, as though God heard and answered, we should act very unbecoming believers, if we should therefore begin to be disheartened, and grow dull and slack, in our seeking of God so great a mercy. It is very apparent from the word of God, that God is wont often to try the faith and patience of his people, when crying to him for some great and important mercy, by withholding the mercy sought, for a season, and not only so, but at first to cause an increase of dark appearances; and yet, without fail, at last, to succeed those who continue instant in prayer with all perseverance, and will not let God go except he blesses. It is now proposed that this extraordinary united prayer should continue for seven years, from November 1746. Perhaps some that appear forward to engage, may begin to think the time long, before the seven years are out; and may account it a dull story, to go on, for so long a time, praying in this extraordinary method, while all yet continues dark and dead, without any dawnings of the wished for light, or new promising appearance in Providence of the near approach of the desired mercy. But let it be considered, whether it will not be a poor business, if our faith and patience is so short-winded, that we cannot be willing to wait upon God one seven years, in a way of taking this little pains, in seeking a mercy so infinitely vast. For my part, I sincerely wish and hope that there may not be an end of extraordinary united prayer, among God's people, for the effusions of the blessed Spirit, when the seven years are ended ; but that it will be continued, either in this method, or some other, by a new agreement, that will be entered into, with greater engagedness, and more abundant alacrity, than this is; and that extraordinary united prayer for such a mercy, will be further propagated and extended, than it can be expected to be in one seven years at the same time I hope God's people, that unite in this agreement, will see some tokens for good, before these seven years are out, that shall give them to see, that God has not said to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain ; and shall serve greatly to animate and encourage them to go on in united prayers for the advancement of Christ's kingdom, with increasing fervency. But whatever our hopes may be in this respect
, we must be content to be ignorant of the times and seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power; and must be willing that God should answer prayer, and fulfil his own glorious promises, in his own time; remembering such instructions, counsels and promises of the word of God as these, Psal. xxvii. 14, “ Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine
heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.”. Hab. ii
. 3, 4, "For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but in the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” Micah vii. 7, " I will look unto the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation : my God will hear me.” Isa. xxv. 8, 9, “God will wipe away tears from off all faces, and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God! We have waited for him, and he will save us : this is Jehovah! We have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” AMEN
§ 1. There is just the same reason for those commands of earnest care and laborious endeavors for perseverance, and threatenings of defection that are in the word of God, notwithstanding its being certain that all that have true grace shall persevere, as there is for earnest endeavors after godliness, and to make our calling and election sure, notwithstanding all that are elected, shall undoubtedly be saved. For as the case with respect to this is the same, decree or no decree, it is so, that every one that believes shall be saved, and he that believes not shall be damned. They that will not live godly lives, do find out for themselves that they are not elected ; they that will live godly lives, have found out for themselves that they are elected. So it is here: hé that to his utmost endeavors to persevere in ways of obedience, finds out that his obedience and righteousness are true; and he that does not, discovers that his is false. In this respect, it is all one whether he that is once righteous must be always so or no. There is not at all the less diligence necessary for that, yea, necessary in order to salvation.
§ 2. As persons are commanded and counselled to repent and be converted, though it is already determined whether they shall be converted or no; after the same manner, and with the same propriety, persons are commanded and counselled to persevere, although by their being already converted, it is certain they shall persevere. By their resolutely and steadfastly persevering through all difficulties and opposition and trials, they obtain an evidence of the truth and soundness of their conversion ; and by their unstableness and backsliding, they procure an evidence of their unsoundness and hypocrisy. And it always happens, that persons who have the most need of being cautioned and counselled against falling and apostasy, by reason of the weakness of their grace, have most need of an evidence of the truth of their grace. And those that have the least need of any evidence, by reason of the strength and lively exercise of grace, having least need of being warned against falling, they are least in danger of it. And so the same persons, when they are most in danger of falling, by reason of the languishing of their graces, their ill-temper and workings of corruption, have most need of evidence; and, when in least need of care and watchfulness not to fall, by reason of the strength and vigorous actings of grace, they have least need of evidence. So that there is as much need of persons exercising care and diligence to persevere in order to their salvation, as there is of their attention and care to repent and be converted. For our own care and diligence is as much the proper and decreed means of perseverance, as of any thing else; and the want of perseverance, is as much an evidence of the want of true conversion, as the want of conversion is a sign of the want of election. And labor and diligence to persevere, is as rational a way to make sure of the truth of grace, as they are to make sure of the truth of election. God's wrath and future punishment are proposed to all sorts of men, as motives to a universal