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to the prayers and supplications of the people of God, exertion seems to be involved in them. A different proceeding would encourage the most unreasonable and enthusiastic expectations; and justify men in folding their hands in sloth, pretending to wait for the fulfilment of the promises of God. When Paul is assured, that “ God had much people in Corinth ;" he is at the same time commanded, “ Be not afraid, but speak and hold not thy peace.”* In connexion with the assurance that God “ shall arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time is come;"+ is the reason assigned : “ for thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof;"I and the effect pointed out; “ So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory."'S In one of the sublimest of Isaiah's prophecies, the church is commanded, “ Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.”ll Annexed to this is the engagement to bless : “ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing : for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in
* Acts xviii. 9, 10. + Psalm cii. 13. Psalmi cii. 14.
Ś Psalm cii. 15. || Is. xxxv. 3, 4.
the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes."*
These are but specimens of illustration on this point, with which the Scriptures abound; which both shew the practical nature of the doctrine of divine influence, and the connexion in which alone we are encouraged to expect it.
The second observation I have to make is, that there seems no other limitation annexed to the promise of this influence than what is fixed by the faith and conduct of the peopleof God themselves. I mean to say, that, if we expect great things, and attempt great things, God is under an absolute, not a conditional engagement, to accomplish great things. He has not reserved to himself the right of withholding the influence, which shall fully correspond with the faith and labours of his people. He is faithful and cannot deny himself. By how much we trust in him, and fulfil his commands, by so much he will perform all his covenant engagements to us and to the world. If God is doing no mighty work among us, or during our day, the same reason may be assigned which is given for Christ's not exercising his healing power in certain districts in the days of his flesh: “He could there do no mighty works, because of their unbelief.” No want of power or of benevolence belongs to God; no un
* Isaiah xxxv. 5–7.
willingness to exercise his generous kindness; but we set bounds to the Holy One of Israel, by our faithlessness, our indolence, and unconcern for his glory and the good of others. If our faith were but as a grain of mustard seed, mountains of difficulties would be removed out of the way, every sacrifice would be rendered easy, and success beyond our most sanguine anticipations would follow all our efforts to promote the divine glory.
4. These views are both corroborated, and established by the history of the propagation, and success of the Gospel in the world.
Whether we attend to the pages of sacred history, or to the wellauthenticated records of modern times, we shall find, that there is a clearly marked connexion between the faith, the prayers, and the devotedness of God's people, and the communication of all needful influence and success :—that the servants of God have never proved him, without his opening the windows of heaven and that they have never faithfully published his word, without finding, that it did not return to him void.
We look back with wistfulness to Pentecostal days, when the Spirit was poured out from on high in copious and enriching streams; and we sigh, and seem to sigh in vain, for their return. We forget, perhaps, that the disciples who had previously believed, “ All continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” That in the expectation of these
days, they were in solemn convocation, praying for the Spirit, when it fell upon them.* We wonder at the rapid increase of the church, but are in danger of overlooking the circumstances in which it took place. Hear the historian's account of it: “ And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
And they, con tinuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”+ What a view does this give of the love, the devotedness, the spirituality, and the zeal of apostolic Christians. These men were filled with the Holy Spirit, they were prepared for any thing, and ready for every enterprize to which their Master's cause might call them. There is an evident congruity between the state of the people, their exertions, and their prayers, and the success which attended their labours.
Follow the apostles, and their coadjutors, not only into the forums, and synagogues, and schools, where they appeared advocating the claims of Jesus of Nazareth, and commending his salvation to the bosoms and the consciences of men: but to their private retirements, and mark the spirit of fervent and holy importunity with which they
Acts i. 14. ii. 1, 2.
+ Acts ii. 44-47.
intreat God to direct their way, to bless labours which were to be performed, and labours which had already taken place. Observe the uniformity of their characters, the atmosphere of Christianity in which they lived and breathed, and carried about with them. Look at the manner in which they were upheld by their Christian brethren, whose prayers and imitation of their example in devoted labour and patient suffering, reflected in every direction the light which they received ; and then you will cease to wonder—that while
they went forth and preached every where, the Lord wrought with them, and confirmed the word ;'
;"* that “ the hand of the Lord was with them, and great multitudes were made obedient to the faith.”
While the genuine spirit of Christianity lasted, its success continued; not always indeed in the same degree, but in such a degree as marked the approbation of God, and excited the astonishment of men. But when faith waxed feeble, love decreased in proportion ; zeal became cold, and a nominal profession succeeded to the life and the power of godliness. Converts came in slowly, and those who did come in were rather proselytes to a new system of opinions, than partakers of the grace and the spirit of Jesus. Laws of human enactment superseded the principles, which had rendered such laws unnecessary; but failed to produce their effects. The outward limits of Chris
Mark xvi. 20.