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engagements. He has not many miinites to give to them ; and, if by
accident they are broken in upon, the season is gone and lost. But
the pubhc service is of a certain length, and cannot be interrupted ;
and it is long enough to calm and steady the mind. Scripture must be
read, psalms must be sung, prayers must be offered ; every thing comes
in course. I say, it is impossible (under God's blessing) for any one to
attend the Daily Service of the Church " with reverence and godly
fear," and a wish and eftort to give his thoughts to it, and not find him-
self thereby sobered and brought to recollection. What kinder office
is there, when a man is agitated, than for a friend to put his hand upon
him by way of warning, to startle and recall him ? It often has the
effect of saving us from angry words, or extravagant talking, or incon-
siderate jesting, or rash resolves. And such is the blessed effect of the
sacred Services, on Christians busied about many things ; reminding
them of the one thing needful, and keeping them from being drawn into
the great whirlpool of time and sense.

This, let it be observed, is one important benefit arising from the
institution of the Lord's day. Over and above the privilege of being
allowed one day in seven for religious festivity, the Christian may
accept it as a merciful break in upon his usual employments, lest they
should engross him. Most men, indeed, perceive this ; they will feel
wearied with the dust of this world when Saturday comes, and under-
stand it to be a mercy that they are not obliged to go on toiling without
cessation. But, still there are many who, if it were not an express


ordinance of religion, would feel tempted, or think it their duty, to
continue their secular labours, even though the custom of society
allowed them to rest. Many, as it is, are so tempted ; that is, at times,
when they have some pressing object in view, and think they cannot
afford to lose a dav : and many always, — such, for instance, as are in
certain professions, which are not regulated (as trade is, more or less,)
by times and places. And great numbers, it is to be feared , yield to
the temptation ; and the evil effect of it shows itself in various miser-
able ways, even in the overthrow of their health and reason. In all
these cases, then, the weekly Services of prayer and praise come to us
as a gracious relief, a pause from the world, a glimpse of the third hea-
ven, lest the world should rob us of our hope, and enslave us to that
hard master who is plotting our eternal destruction.

You see, then, how secular excitements are remedied by religious
worship ; viz. by breaking them up, and disabling them.

2. Next, let us consider how religious excitements are set right by
the same divine medicine.

If we had always continued in the way of light and truth, obeying
God from children, doubtless we should know little of those swellings
and tumults of the soul, which are so common among us. Men who have
grown up in the faith and fear of God, have a calm and equable piety ; so
much so, that they are often charged on that very account with being
dull, cold, formal, insensible, dead to the'next world. Now, it stands to
reason, that a man who has always lived in the contemplation and
improvement of his Gospel privileges, will not feel that agitating sur-
prise and vehemence of joy, which he would feel, and ought to feel, if
he had never known any thing of them before. The jailor, who for
the first time heard the news of salvation through Christ, gave evident
signs of transport. This, certainly is natural and right ; still it is a
state of excitement, and, if I might say it. all states of excitement have
dangerous tendencies. Hence one never can be sure of a new convert ;
for, in that elevated state of mind in which he is at first, the passions
have much more sway than the reason or conscience ; and, unless he
takes care, they may hurry him away, just as the wind might do, in a
wrong direction. He is balanced on a single point, on the summit of
an excited mind, and he may easily fall. However, though this danger
would not exist, or, at least, not commonly or seriously, did men turn
to God from early youth, yet, alas! in matter of fact they do not so
turn ; in matter of fact they are open to the influence of excitement,
when they begin to seek God ; and the question is, what is then to be
done with them 1

Now this advice is often given : — " Indulge the excitement ; when


you flag, seek for another ; live upon the thought of God ; go about
doing good ; let your light shine before men ; tell them what God has
done for your soul ;" — by all which i.s meant, when we go into particu-
lars, that they ought to fancy that they have something above all other
xnen ; ought to neglect their worldly calling, or at best only bear it
as a cross; join themselves to some particular set of religionists ; take
part in this or that religious society ; go to hear strange preachers, and
obtrude their new feelings and new opinions upon others, at times proper
and improper. I am speaking now of the temper, not of those who profess
adherence to the Church, but of such as detach themselves, more or
less, from its discipline ; and the reason I allude to them is this. It is
often said, that separation and dissent are but accidents of a religious
temper; that they who commit them, if pious, are the same in heart as
Churchmen, only divided by some outward difference of forms and
circumstances. Not so ; the mind of dissent, viewed in itself, is far
other than the mind of Christ and His Holy Church Catholic ; in what-
ever proportion it may or may not be realized in individuals. It is
full of self-importance, irreverence, censoriousness, display, and tumult.
It is right, therefore, ever to insist, that it is different, lest men should
be seduced into it, by being assured that it is not different.

That it is difl^erent from the mind and spirit of the early Christians
at least, is quite plain from history. If there was a time, when those
particular irregularities, which now are so common, were likely to
abound, it was in the primitive Church. Men, who had lived all their
lives in the pollutions of sin unspeakable, who had been involved in the
darkness of heathenism, were suddenly brought to the light of Christian
truth. Their sins were all freely forgiven them, clean washed away in
the waters of Baptism. A new world of ideas was opened upon them ;
and the most astonishing objects presented to their faith. What a state
of transport must have been theirs ! We know it was so, by the ac-
count of such men in the book of Acts. The jailor " rejoiced, believing
in God, with all his house." What an excited and critical state was
theirs ! Critical and dangerous in proportion to its real blessedness ;
for, in proportion to the privileges we enjoy, ever will be our risk of
misusing them. In spite, then, of their blessedness, they were in a
state of risk, and that from the excitement of their minds. How then
did they escape that enthusiasm which now prevails, that irreverence,
immodesty, and rudeness ^ I say, if in any age that feverish spirit was
likely to have prevailed, which now prevails, the early times of the
Gospel was such ; how is it we do not read generally of what happened
in a measure and for a season in the Corinthian Church, of Christians
disobeying their Rulers, saying that their own hearts were the best
judges in religious matters, censuring those about them, taking teachers


for themselves, and so breaking up the Church of Christ into ten thou -
sand parts 1 If at any time the outward frame-work of Christianity
was in jeopardy, surely it was then. How was it the ungovernable
elements within it did not burst forth and shiver to pieces the vessel
which contained them ? How was it that for fifteen hundred years the
Church was preserved from those peculiar affections of mind and
irregularities of feeling and conduct, which now torment it like an
ague ?

Now certainly, looking at external and second causes, the miracles
had much to do in securing this blessed sobriety in the early Christians.
These kept them from wilfulness and extravagance, and tempered them
to the spirit of godly fear. Thus St. Paul, when converted, was not ,
let go by himself, so to speak. His merciful Lord kept His hand upon
him, and directed his every step, lest he should start aside and go astray. ,
Thus He would not tell him all at once what to do, though St. Paul ,
wished it ; but bade him "arise, and go into the cit}'," and there it was-
to be told him what he was to do. He was led by the hand (a fit em-
blem of his spiritual condition,) and brought to Damascus. Then he
was three days without sight, and without meat and drink. During
this time he was still kept in suspense and ignorance of what was to hap-
pen, and was employed in praying. Such desolateness — his darkness,
fasting, and suspense — had a sobering influence. Then Ananias was
sent to him to baptize him. Forthwith he began to preach Christ at
Damascus, but was soon checked, thwarted, sent into Arabia out of the
way, for three > ears. Then he returned to Damascus, and, again
preaching Christ, was in no long time obliged to flee for his life. He
came to Jerusalem, and began again to preach. Here he first had a
difficulty in getting acknowledged by the Apostles, who were for a time
afraid of him ; then the Jews laid a plot to kill him. As he was pray-
ing in the Temple, Christ appeared to him, and bade him depart from
Jerusalem. The brethren brought him dowli to Csesarea ; thence he
went to Tarsus. Now, who does not see in this history how the
Apostle was repressed and brought under by the plain commands and
providences of God, hurrying him to and fro, without saying why?
After all this, many years passed, before he was employed to preach to
the heathen, and then only after a solemn ordination.

Thus, God's miraculous providence, awing and controlling the heart,
would seem to be one especial means by which the early Christians
were kept from enthiisiasm ; and the persecutions of the Church be-
came another. But the more ordinary means was one which we may
enjoy at this day, if we choose ; the course of religious Services, the-
round of prayer and praise, — which, indeed, was also part of St. Paul's


discipline, as we have seen, and which has a most gracious effect upon
the restless and excited mind, giving it an outlet, yet withal calming,
soothing, directing, purifying it.

To go into details. It often happens that in a family who have been
brought up together, one suddenly takes what is called a religious turn.
Such a person wishes to be more religious than the rest, wishes to do
something more than ordinary, but does not know exactly what to do.
You will find, generally, that he joins himself to some dissenting party,
mainly for this reason, — to evidence to himself greater strictness. His
mind is under excitement ; he seems to say with St. Paul, " Lord, what
wilt Thou have me to do ?" This is the cause, again and again of per-
sons falling from the Church. And hence, a notion has got abroad that
dissenting bodies have more of true religion within them than theChurch;
I say, for this reason, because earnest men, awaking to a sense of reli-
gion, wish to do something more than usual, and join sects and here-
sies as a relief to their minds, by way of ridding themselves of strong
feelings, which, pent up within them, distress them. And I cannot
deny, that in this way these bodies do gain, and the Church does lose,
earnestly religious people, or rather those who would have been such in
time ; for it is, I fear, too true that, while the sects in question are in
this way recruited and improved from the Church, the persons them-
selves, who join them, are injured. They lose the greater part of that
religious light and warmth which hung about them, even though they
have been hitherto careless, and but partially availed themselves of it.
It is as if a living hand were to touch cold iron ; the iron is somewhat
warmed, but the hand is chilled. And thus the blossom of truth, the
promise of real religion, is lost to the Church. Men begin well, but be-
ing seduced by their own waywardness, fall away.

Here then, if we knew how to employ them, the Services of the
Church come in to soothe and guide the agitated mind. " Is any
afflicted ? let him pray ; is any merry ? let him sing psalms." Is any
in a perturbed state of mind ? he need not go off to strange preachers
and meetings, in order to relieve himself of his uneasiness. We can
give him a stricter rule of life, and a safer one. Did not our Lord make
a distinction between the life of Martha, and that of Mary, and without
disclaiming Martha, who was troubled for His sake with the toils of
life, yet praise Mary the rather, who sat at His feet ? Does not St. Paul
make a distinction between the duties necessary for a Christian, and
those which are comely and of good report ? Let restless persons attend
upon the worship of the Church, which will attune their minds in har-
mony with Christ's Law, while it unburdens them. Did not St. Paul
" pray" during his three days of blindness ? Afterwards he was pray-


ing in the Temple, when Christ appeared to him. Let this be well con-
sidered. We may build Houses of God, without number, up and down
the land, as indeed our duty is : we may multiply resident ministers ;
we may (with a less commendable zeal) do our utmost to please the
many or the wealthy ; but all this will not deprive Dissenting bodies of
their virtue and charm, such as it is. Their strength is their semblance
of a strictness beyond members of the Church. Till we act up to our
professed principles more exactly ; till we have indeed and actual prac-
tice more frequent Services of praise and prayer, more truly Catholic
plans for honouring (Jod and benefitting man ; till we exhibit the nobler
and more beautiful forms of Christian devotedness for the admiration
and guidance of the better sort, we have, in a manner, done nothing.
Surely we want something more than the material walls, we want the
" spirit and truth" of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the worshippers " with
one accord continuing in the Temple, with gladness and singleness of
heart, praising God," persevering and prevaihng in prayer, and thus,
without seeking it, " having favour with all the people."

Is any one then desirous of gaining comfort to his soul, of bringing
Christ's presence home to his very heart, and of doing the highest and
most glorious things for the whole world ? I have told him how to pro-
ceed. Let him praise God ; let holy David's Psalter be as familiar
words in his mouth, his daily service, ever repeated, yet ever new and
ever sacred. Let him pray ; especially let him intercede. Doubt not
the power of faith and prayer to effect all things with God. However
you try, you cannot do works to compare with those, which faith and
prayer accomplish in the name of Christ. Did you give your body to
be burned, and all your goods to feed the poor, you could not do so
much as by continual intercession. Few are rich, few can suffer for
Christ ; all may pray. Were you an Apostle of the Church, or a
Prophet, you could not do more than you can do by the power of prayer.
Go not then astray to find out new modes of serving God and benefitting
man. I show you " a more excellent way." Come to our Services ;
come to our Litanies ; throw yourself out of your own selfish heart ;
pour yourself out upon the thought of sin and sinners, upon the con-
templation of God's Throne, of Jesus the Mediator between God and
man, and of that glorious Church to which the dispensation of His mer-
its is committed. Aspire to be what Christ would make you. His friend ;
having power with Him and prevailing. Other men will not pray for
themselves. You may pray for them and for the general Church ; and
while you pray, you will find enough in the defects of your praying to
remind you of your own nothingness, and to keep you from pride while
you aim at perfection.


But I must now draw to an end. Thus, in both ways, whether our
excitements arise from objects of this world or the next, praise and
prayer will be, through God's mercy, our remedy ; keeping the mind
from running to waste ; calming, soothing, sobering, steadying it ; attu-
ning it to the will of God and the mind of the Spirit, teaching it to
love all men, to be cheerful and thankful, and to be resigned in all the
dispensations of Providence towards us.

O that we knew our own true bliss, now that Christ is come, instead
of being, as we still are for the most part, like the heathen, as sheep
without a shepherd ! May the Good Lord fulfil His purpose towards
us in His own time ! Amen.



Ephe8. Ti. 18.

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto
with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.

Every one knows, who has any knowledge of the Gospel, that Prayer
is one of its especial ordinances ; but not every one, perhaps, has no-
ticed what kind of prayer its inspired teachers most carefully enjoin.
Prayer for self is the most obvious of duties, as soon as leave is given
us to pray at all, which Christ distinctly and mercifully accorded, when
he came. This is plain from the nature of the case ; but He Himself
has given us also an express command and promise about ourselves, to
*' ask and it shall be given to us." Yet it is observable, that though
prayer for self is the first and plainest of Christian duties, the Apostles
especially insist on another kind of prayer ; prayer for others, for our-
selves with others, for the Church, and for the world, that it may be
brought into the Church. Intercession is the characteristic of Chris-
tian worship, the privilege of the heavenly adoption, the exercise of the
perfect and spiritual mind. This is the subject to which I shall now
direct your attention.


1. First, let us turn to the express injunctions of Scripture. For in-
stance, the text itself : " Praying in every season with all prayer and
supplication in the Spirit, and abstaining from sleep for the purpose,
with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." Observe the ear-
nestness of the intercession here inculcated ; " in every season," " with
all supplication," and " to the loss of sleep." Again, in the epistle to
the Colossians ; " Persevere in prayer, watching in it with thanksgiv-
ing, withal praying for us also." Again, " Brethren, pray for u^." And
again in detail ; " I exhort that, first of all, supplications, prayers, in-
tercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men ; for kings and all
that are in authority. I will, therefore, that men pray in every place."
On the other hand, go through the Epistles, and reckon up how many
exhortations occur therein to pray merely for self. You will find there
are few, or rather none at all. Even those which seem at first sight to
be such, will be found really to have in view the good of the Church.
Thus, to take the words following the text, St. Paul, in a.sking his breth-
ren's prayers, seems to pray for himself ; but he goes on to explain why,
— " that he might make known the Gospel:" or elsewhere, — that " the
word of the Lord might have free course and be glorified ;" or, as where
he says, — " Let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue, pray that he
may interpret,"* for this too was a petition in order to the edification of
the Church.

Next, consider St. Paul's own example, which is quite in accordance
with his exhortations : " I cease not to give thanks for you, making
mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of Glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and
revelation in the knowledge of Him." " I thank my God upon every
remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all ma-
king request with joy." " We give thanks to God, the Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you." " We give thanks to
God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers. "f

The instances of prayer, recorded in the Book of Acts, are of the
same kind, being almost entirely of an intercessory nature, as offered
at ordinations, confirmations, cures, missions, and the like. For in-
stance ; " As they interceded before the Lord, and fasted, the Holy-
Ghost said. Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I
have called them ; and when they had fasted and prayed, and laid
their hands on them, they sent them away." Again, " And Peter put

» C, I. iv. 2. 1 Thes. v. 25. 1 Tim. u. 1, 2. 8. 2 Thes. iii. 1. 1 Cor. liy. 13.
t Eph. i. 16, 17. Phil. i. 3, 4. Col. i. 3. 1 Thes. i. 2.


Ihem all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed : and turning him to the
"Dody, said, Tabitha, arise."*

2. Such is the lesson taught us by the words and deeds of the Apos-
tles and their brethren. Nor could it be otherwise, if Christianity be
a social religion, as it is pre-eminently. If Christians are to live to-
gether, they will pray together ; and united prayer is necessarily of an
intercessory character, as being offered for each other and for the
whole, and for self as one of the whole. In proportion, then, as unity
is an especial Gospel-duty, so does Gospel prayer partake of a social
character ; and Intercession becomes a token of the existence of a
Church Catholic.

Accordingly, the foregoing instances of intercessory prayer are sup-
plied by Christians. On the other hand, contrast with these the
recorded instances of prayer in men who were not Christians, and you
will find they are not intercessory. For instance : St. Peter's prayer
on the house-top was, we know, answered by the revelation of the call
of the Gentiles : viewing it then by the Hght of the texts already
quoted, we may conclude, that, as was the answer, such was the prayer,
— that it had reference to others. On the other hand, Cornelius, not
yet a Christian, was also rewarded with an answer to his prayer.
*' Thy prayer is heard ; call for Simon, whose surname is Peter ; he
shall tell thee what thou oughtest to d.>." Can we doubt from these
■words of the Angel, that his prayers had been offered for himself espe-
cially ? Again on St. Paul's conversion, we are told, " Behold he
prayeth." It is plain he was praying for himself; and, observe, it was
before he was a Christian. Thus, if we are to judge of the relative
prominence of religious duties by the recorded instances of the per-
formance of them, we should say that Intercession is the kind of prayer
distinguishing a Christian from such as are not Christians.

3. But the instance of St. Paul opens upon us a second reason for
this distinction. Intercession is the especial observance of the Chris-
tian, because he alone is in a condition to offer it. It is the function of
the justified and obedient, of the sons of God, " who walk not after the
flesh but after tho Spirit ;" not of the carnal and unregenerate. This is
plain even to natural reason. The blind man, who was cured, said of
Christ, " We kn' • ihat God heareth not sinners ; but if any man be
a worshipper of viod, and doeth his will, him He heareth. "f Saul the
persecutor obviously could not intercede like St, Paul the Apostle. He
had yet to be baptized and forgiven. It wjuld be a presumption and
an extravagance in a penitent, before his regeneration, to do aught but

• AcU xiii. 2, 3 ; ix. 40. t J»hn ix. 31.


confess his sins and deprecate wrath. He has not yet proceeded, he
has had no leave to proceed, out of himself ; and has enough to do
within. His conscience weighs heavy on him, nor has he •' the wings
of a dove to flee away and be at rest." We need not, I say, go to
Scripture for information on so plain a point. Our first prayers ever
must be for ourselves. Our own salvation is our personal concern ;
till we labour to secure it, till we try to live religiously, and pray to be
enabled to do so, nay, and have made progress, it is but hypocrisy, or
at best it is overbold, to busy ourselves with others. I do not mean that
prayer for self always comes first in order of time, and Intercession
second. Blessed be God, we were all made His children before we
had actually sinned ; we began life in purity and innocence. Inter-
cession is never more appropriate than when sin had been utterly abol-

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 72 of 76)