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ON EVENING PRAYER MEETINGS.
Sir. - It is not my intention to be better employed in attending to revive the controversy on Sunday their own souls, instructing their Evening Lectures, which I have own families, and being regularly long felt to be most important and in their own places at the House valuable means of grace; but I of God in due time, than in exerwish to recal attention to the sub- cising their gifts in prayer meetject of Evening Prayer Meetings, ings. It is deserving of serious which has not, I think, received attention that some of the most that consideration in your pages painful disorders which have arisen which its importance deserves. in the congregations of the most
Prayer Meetings prevail very eminent ministers have been excited generally among Dissenters of by those who were regarded as almost all denominations, though I leaders in prayer meetings, select observe from the complaints in societies, &c. some periodicals, that they are But still there are cases where not so well attended as in former prayer - meetings may produce a years,
but these assemblies are not beneficial effect. It frequently very common among the
happens, and especially in country bers of our own church, and I am places, that the services of the aware that ministers of considera- Church occupy a very small porble eminence for talent and piety tion of the Sunday. The prayers have doubted their general expe
are sometimes very improperly diency. Much however must de- curtailed, and one short sermon is pend on situation and circum- the extent of pulpit instruction. stances; and still more on the The Morning Service begins pertalents and piety of those by whom haps at eleven, and the Afternoon these meetings are conducted. Service is over by half-past three It has always appeared to me or four.
There is thus a long that when persons are favoured morning and a still longer evening with two or three opportunities of in which no religious opportunities attending public worship on the are afforded. Persons who have Lord's Day, they can very seldom the care of families, or who are of join in prayer meetings, without a literary turn, find indeed abundneglecting in a greater or less antly sufficient to occupy their degree closet or family religion. I hours; but our servants, labourers, know some persons who regularly mechanics, and young persons in attend an assembly of this nature general, who read perhaps with at seven o'Clock on the Sunday such difficulty as to take little morning, and are also frequently interest in and derive small benefit found similarly engaged on a Sun- from books, find many hours hangday evening after the third service ing heavily on their hands, and of the church; but I find that they may therefore with great propriety are almost uniformly too late at avail themselves of these opportuchurch, seldom coming in till the nities. Where, indeed, the heads Psalms or Lessons; that in some of families set up the worship of cases they have not prayer in their God in their houses, and seriously own families, while in others their instruct their inmates in divine conduct, temper, and general con- things, it is the duty of all parversation can scarcely be regarded ties to join in the domestic seras adorning the gospel of Christ. vice; and were every house a And I have therefore been led to house of prayer, the advocates conclude, that such persons would of prayer-meetings would be conSEPTEMBER 1838.
tined to a very slender field of consists of exposition or prayer, the argument.
minister should exclusively be the But such is, unhappily, not the voice of and to his people. When
I fear domestic religion is ever laymen become elders, leadat a low ebb. In most of our ers, stewards, &c. there is alwaysan towns, and in almost all our large infusion of self-importance which villages, there are numbers of poor leads to spiritual pride and other young ignorant persons, who have evils; and whenever ministers allow no opportunities of religious instruc- laymen to engage in prayer as it is tion or improvement, except what called in their presence, the system they may be favoured with in the invariably leads to mischief; nor services of the Church. Many of have I ever met with a case of this them can only attend once in the kind which has not sooner or later day, while at the same time they issued in such painful results as to have usually the evenings very impress upon almost all parties, the much at their disposal. A walk importance of the caution, “ Cease in the fields is in many cases im- ye
from man.” practicable; the opportunity and The minister will indeed usually ability of improving it by religious find it convenient if not necessary discourse and meditation is still to have one or two persons on more rare; while many who do whom he can depend to lead the not besitate to spend the Sunday singing, though it is very desirable evenings in general conversation, that every clergyman should be have yet scruples as to the law- able to set a plain psalm, or hymn fulness or propriety of walking in tune, that he may not be compelled the fields as a species of taking
to desire assistance occasionally their pleasure on the Lord's Day. from some of whom he may have Now, I cannot but think that if a cause to stand in doubt; and I few such persons could meet to- cannot but wish that our young gether on the Sunday evening, they men who are preparing for holy might very properly improve their orders would generally cultivate time by singing of hymns, reading this art. A very few lessons would the word of God or the writings make them theoretically acquainted of good men, and uniting in prayer with the notes of a plain tune; and to Almighty God; and it may de- a little practice would enable them serve serious consideration whether occasionally to lead a short, comsuch meetings might not be so ar- mon, or long measure far better ranged and so regulated, as to than most of our parish clerks, avoid most of the evils with which singers, &c. who are not usually they are usually charged.
the most deserving persons in our There are two kinds of prayer parishes. The minister may also meetings which
deserve atten- well avail himself of the eyes of tion, the where a minister the elder and more stayed and presides, the other where the as- serious attendants, that every sembly consists exclusively of the thing in the room may be conlaity. Where the minister pre. ducted orderly, and that any incisides, every thing should eventually pient levity either in going or be under his control. He should coming may be repressed. arrange the whole service, read, The other class of Prayer Meetpray, and expound himself; the ings is when the assembly consists assembly is in fact a species of solely of laymen. Of course these cottage lecture. The devotional meetings must vary exceedingly, part may preponderate ; nay may but they will generally speaking almost exclude in some cases the consist of a few middle-aged and didactic; but whether the service somewhat better-informed persons,
while the majority of the attend- or short discourse, and all attempts ants will be young and compara- at display should as much as postively ignorant. The common
sible be discouraged. We still plan I believe is to sing a hymn, want a commentary exactly adaptand then one of the party prays; a
ed to such occasions. I am insecond hymn is then sung and fol- clined to think the Religious Tract lowed by another prayer, and so on Society's is the most suitable of till the time is exhausted. The any, but the annotations are rather assembly is usually of a rather longer than is desirable. promiscuous character, and varies The senior attendants on these a good deal according to accidental meetings, and especially the elder circumstances, and is not unfre- women, should take care to leave quently attended by persons who at the same time with the younger, worship in different congregations, and thus by a prudent oversight an intermixture which is usually preclude those temptations which found injurious. The persons who are said to be common on such officiate are not called
in occasions; though I have never general in any regular order, and been able to ascertain that the the time of commencing and closing charge rests on any solid founda- . is not usually very exactly defined. tion. It requires very little penetration I have known social meetings of to perceive that meetings thus this nature now for many years. arranged and conducted must be There is one in the parish in which liable to the intrusion of various I live, where a number of poor evils and inconveniences.
well-disposed people meet at each In endeavouring to obviate such others houses on Sunday nights, and inconveniences, it may be advisable on one week night, and on the whole, to consider what is the specific with beneficial result. Cases object of these assemblies. Prayer have arisen where individuals have meetings are, I conceive, intended been puffed up by their presumed to promote the glory of God and gifts, and have been drawn aside the welfare of men, by improving for a time at least, from the good a certain portion of time in com- way; but these meetings have munion with God and with his certainly conduced to the edificapeople. Communion with God is tion of others—have helped many the first object, and mutual edifi- inquirers forward in the divine life; cation is also to be steadily kept have afforded a refuge from tempin view ; and the meetings should tation to young people of both as far as possible be regulated with sexes, and have not, as far as I reference to both these points. can discover, led in any one in
Instead, therefore, of being re- stance to improper attachments, or garded as promiscuous assemblies those evils which are commonly to which all may come,
appears laid to the charge of evening desirable that they should rather meetings. be regarded as private opportu- On the whole, therefore, I am nities to which only stated mem- disposed to encourage prayer meetbers, and their own particular ings to a certain extent, and among friends should be admitted. The a certain class ; but at the same service should begin and close as time they appear to me to require nearly as possible at a given time, careful management, and if not that parents and masters may
know properly regulated, may lead to when to expect their dependants very perplexing and painful trials. home. Some portion of God's Believe me to be, word should be read, and, generally
yours most truly, speaking, some plain exposition
SELECTIONS FROM OLD WRITERS.
PERKINS ON THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT.
GALATIANS v. 22, 23.-But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance ; against such there is no law. For the better observing, and the fruits : and therefore we may justly more easy understanding the rule fear the curse that God laid
upon in the sixteenth verse, walk in the the fig tree, Luke xiji. 7. and look Spirit, St. Paul here sets down a
every day to be stocked up, Matt. catalogue of the works of the
iii. 16. Spirit. In the catalogue I con- Again, good works are made sider three things, I. The pro- acceptable to God, even by his perty (or nature) of the works of
grace ; and therefore they are the Spirit, in these words, the fruit called the fruits of the Spirit : and of the Spirit. II. The kinds of hence it is that they are acceptable works, and they are nine. III. to God, Rom. xv. 16. We that The benefit that comes by them, in are by nature wild branches, must these words, against such there is be taken out of old Adam, and set no law.
into Christ; and after our insision I. The fruit of the Spirit. It (or ingrafting) draw a new sap and is the property of the works of life from Christ, namely, bis God's Spirit in us, to be called Spirit, and then our actions shall the fruits of the Spirit. And by be fruits of the Spirit, and consethis, much is signified ; namely, quently acceptable to God. that the church is the garden of Lastly, hence it follows, that God, Cant. iv. 16.; that teachers free will of itself is a dead or rotten are planters and settlers, 1 Cor. piece of wood, and that it bears no iii. 9; that believers are trees of fruit, but as it is quickened by the righteousness, Isaiah lxi. 3.; that Spirit, John xv. 5. the Spirit of God is the sap and II. Thus much of the property ; life of them; and good works and now follow the kinds of the works virtues are the fruits which they
of the Spirit. bear.
1. Love. It may be demanded, In that the works of the Spirit how is it a fruit of the Spirit ? are called fruits thereof, hence it Answer. First, the Spirit of follows, that there are no true God works faith, then regeneravirtues and good affections, with tion, then love, 1 Tim. i. 5. Love out the grace of regeneration. The follows faith ; because we must virtues of the heathen, how ex- know first that we are loved of cellent soever they seemed to be, God, before that we love God, were but shadows of virtue, and 1 John iv. 19. And love follows served only to restrain the outward regeneration ; because till the will man, and no further.
and the affections be changed, Again, here we see the efficacy there is no place for love. The of the Spirit, which makes men Papists then err, who teach, that fruitful, or bearing trees of righ- the first act of love, that is, the teousness, Psalm i. 3.
Yea, trees inclination to love God and man that bear fruit in their old age, aright, is by nature; and that the Psalm xcii. 14. Here we have second act, namely, the exercise cause to cast down ourselves. For of love, is from the Spirit. Again, the most of us are barren trees, they err in that they teach, that that bear no fruit, but the bad charity, or love, is the formal
or never seen.
righteousness of a Christian. For
2. Joy Joy is twofold; joy of it is a fruit that follows regenera- glory after this life, and the joy of tion.
grace in this life : and it stands in The love here mentioned is either three things. The first is, to reof God or man.
The love of God joice in the true acknowledgment is a holy affection, whereby we of God, that he is our God, and love God in Christ for himself. reconciled to us in Christ. The There are three special signs second is, to rejoice in the work whereby it is discerned. 1. A
of our regeneration. The third is, desire of fellowship with God, and to rejoice in the hope of eternal Christ, and the Holy Spirit; and glory. therefore to be much and frequent This grace of joy hath a double in the use of the word, and prayer: fruit. First, it moderates all our because in the word, God speaks sorrows, which makes us rejoice in to us; and in prayer, we speak to the midst of our afflictions. i Thess. Him. 2. To love the word of v. 16. Secondly, it causeth men God above all earthly treasure; to rejoice at the good of their and to tread our wills under foot, neighbours, Rom. xii. 15. And and to desire that God's will may this joy is here meant specially : . be preferred in all things, 1 John for joy is here opposed to envy ii. 5. There are many houses and emulation. among us, where the cards and This fruit shews, that we are tables, (chess-boards, &c.) are most of us bad trees.
For the joys walking, but the Bible is seldom of the world are for the most part And this argues
in iniquity, and in the works of the the want of love.
flesh. And it is our common sin 3. The love of them that love not to rejoice, but to pine away God and Christ. The love of our with grief, as Cain did, when we neighbour is, to love him simply, God's blessing upon our in and for the Lord, and for no brother. other bye respect. The sign of 3. Peace. It is a
care and this love is, to love, not in word, desire to maintain concord, as much but in deed. And this is to love as may be, if it be in us.
* Rom. indeed-to shew love, and to do
It is an excellent virtue. good, when we are wronged and For the kingdom of God stands abused, to them that wrong us partly in peace. Rom. xiv. 17. and abuse us.
For the maintenance of peace, ob
serve two rules. 1. Neither take * In illustration of this exposition, a offence nor give offence. Abraham beautiful passage may be quoted from
chose rather to lose his right than Fox's Martyrs, page 1755, folio edition.
to offend Lot. Gen. xiii. 8, and so Fox, in delineating the character of CRANMER, applies to it the words of did Christ. Matt. xvii. 27. Seek 1 Tim. iii. 2, 3. Under the head of not angry (the old translation) he says as ever he was that either sought his hinfollows— Surely if overmuch patience be drance, either in goods, estimation, or a vice, this man may seem peradventure life, and upon conference would seem to offend rather on this part than on the never so slenderly anything to relent or contrary. Albeit for all his doings I can- excuse himself, he would both forget the not say-for the most part, such was his offence committed, and also evermore mortification that way, that few we shall afterwards friendly entertain him, and find in whom the saying of our Saviour shew such a pleasure to him, as by any Christ so much prevailed as with him who means possible he might perform or dewould not only have a man to forgive his clare. Insomuch that it came
into a enemies, but also to pray for them : that common proverb, ‘Do unto my Lord of lesson never went out of his memory. Canterbury displeasure or a shrewd turn, For it was known that he had many cruel and then you may be sure to have him enemies, not for his own deserts, but only your friend while he liveth.' for his Religion's sake; and yet whatso
* In our power.