And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.
~ Romans 15:9-12
Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul. While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.
~ Psalm 146:1-2
And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
~ Galatians 3:8
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined 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 of itself in love.
~ Ephesians 4:13-16
An Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, Pursuant to Scripture – Promises and Prophecies Concerning the Last Time, by Jonathan Edwards. The following contains an excerpt from his work.
OCCASION’D By a late MEMORIAL publish’d by a Number of Ministers in Scotland, and sent over America; giving an Account of a certain CONCERT for Prayer,—which has been already come into by many Ministers and Others in Great-Britain and some other Parts, and in which They desire the general Concurrence of their Christian Brethren every where.
CONTAINING A Copy of the said Memorial, with a more particular View of the Affair it relates to; a Variety of Arguments and Persuasives to comply with the Motion therein made, for united and extraordinary Prayer; and Answers to some Objections.
Together with Seasonable Considerations on the Aspects of Providence in many late wonderful Dispensations, and the present State of Things in the Church and moral World; pointing out the Fulfilling of the Scriptures, and the Voice of God to his People, in these Events.
By Jonathan Edwards, A. M. Minister of the Gospel at Northampton.
The Ruin of Satan’s miserable Kingdom, and the Advancement of the universal and happy Reign of CHRIST on the Earth, were included and hinted in the Sentence denounced on the Serpent, that the Seed of the Woman should bruise his Head. What was a terrible Threatening to Satan, in the surprised Ears of our first guilty Parents, implied a joyful Prophecy, to keep them from Despair, and enliven their Hopes for themselves and their Descendants, of obtaining by this Seed of her’s an eternal Triumph over him who had so sadly foiled them. And ’tis likely, their Hope and Faith immediately arose, laid hold on the reviving Prophecy, earnestly desired it’s happy Accomplishment, and transmitted it to their Posterity.
But tho’ this Prophecy was at first only delivered in the Form of a Threatening to Satan; it was afterwards directly given in the Form of a Promise to Abraham, tho’ still in general Terms, that in his Seed should all the Nations of the Earth be blessed. Yet this general Promise was more clearly by Degrees explained in the following Ages, to mean a DIVINE KING, no other than the SON OF GOD assuming Human Nature of the Seed of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David; that should be born of a Virgin in Bethlehem of Judah; and at first despised, abused, rejected and put to Death; but should rise to immortal Life, ascend to Heaven, and thence extend his blessed Kingdom over all Nations; not by outward Force, but inward overcoming Influence, by his Word and SPIRIT making them his willing People in the Day of his Power; and reigning in glorious Light and Holiness and Love and Peace for ever: And the Advancement of this universal and happy Reign has been the earnest Desire and Prayer of the Saints in all Ages to the present Day.
But how great the Honour, and how lively the Encouragement given in Scripture to those their Prayers; by representing them as offered by CHRIST himself with the fragrant Incense of his own Merits and Intercession, on the Golden Altar before the Throne, and ascending together in one grateful Perfume to GOD! And how chearing to every Saint is that Promise of his,— From the Rising of the Sun, even to the going down of the same, my Name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every Place Incense shall be offered unto my Name, and a pure Offering! How pleasing to GOD and the heavenly Hosts to see, as the Sun goes round the Globe, this grateful Incense rising from every Part on high! And the more extensive and incessant are these Prayers, ascending from the Circle of the Earth, the more does this blessed Promise go into its desired Fulfilment, and the holy GOD is more pleas’d and glorified.
To promote the Increase, Concurrency and Constancy of these acceptable Prayers, is the great Intention both of the pious Memorial of our reverend and dear Brethren in Scotland, and of the worthy Author of this exciting Essay. And this Design we can’t but recommend to all who desire the coming of that blissful Kingdom in it’s promised Extent and Glory, in this wretched World.
As to the Author’s ingenious Observations on the Prophecies, we entirely leave them to the Reader’s Judgment: With only observing, thô it is the Apprehension of many learned Men, that there is to be a very general Slaughter of the Witnesses of CHRIST about the Time of their finishing their Testimony to the pure Worship and Truths of the Gospel, about 3 or 4 Years before the seventh Angel sounds his Trumpet for the Ruin of Antichrist;—yet we cannot see that this is any just Objection against our joint and earnest Prayers for the glorious Age succeeding, or for the hastening of it.
For if such a terrible Time is coming in Europe, which we in depending America are like to share in; the more Need we have of joining in earnest and constant Prayers for extraordinary suffering Graces for ourselves and others. And that such a Time is coming on the Members of CHRIST, is no more an Objection against their Prayers for the hastening of the following Glory, than it was before the Incarnation of Him their Head, that his most bitter Sufferings were to preceed the Spreading of his joyous Kingdom among the Nations. And the nearer the Day approaches, the more Need we have to be awakened to continual Watchfulness and Prayer.
May GOD pour out on all his People abundantly the Spirit of Grace and Supplications, and prepare them for the amazing Changes hastening on the Earth, both for previous Trials and for following Glories!
• Joseph Sewall,
• Thomas Prince,
• John Webb,
• Thomas Foxcroft,
• Joshua Gee.
BOSTON, N. E. January 12. 1747
PART, I. The Text open’d, and an Account given of the Affair proposed in the MEMORIAL from Scotland.
ZECH. viii.20, 21, 22.
Thus saith the LORD of Hosts, It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come People, and the Inhabitants of many Cities; and the Inhabitants of one City shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of Hosts: I will go also. Yea, many People and strong Nations shall come to seek the LORD of Hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.
In this Chapter we have a Prophecy of a future glorious Advancement of the Church of God; wherein it is evident, something further is intended than ever was fulfilled to the Nation of the Jews under the old Testament. For are plain Prophecies of such Things as never were fulfilled before the Coming of the Messiah: Particular what is said in the two last Verses in the Chapter, of People and strong Nations worshipping and seeking the true God, and of so great an Accession of Gentile Nations to the Church of God, that by far the greater Part of the visible Worshippers of God should consist of this new Accession, so that they should be to the other as Ten to One, — A certain Number for an Uncertain. There never happen’d any Thing, from the Time of the Prophet Zechariah to the Coming of Christ, to answer this Prophecy: And it can have no Fulfilment but either in the Calling of the Gentiles, in and after the Days of the Apostles, of in the future glorious Enlargement of the Church of God in the latter Ages of the World, so often foretold by the Prophets of the old Testament, and by the Prophet Zechariah in particular, in the latter Part of this Prophecy. ‘Tis most probable, that what the Spirit of God has chief Respect to, is that last and greatest Enlargement and most glorious Advancement of the Church of God on Earth; in the Benefits of which especially, the Jewish Nation were to have a Share, and a very eminent and distinguishing Share. There is a great Agreement between what is here said, and other Prophecies, that must manifestly have Respect to the Church’s Latter-Day-Glory: As that in Isai. lx.2, 3, 4. The Lord shall arise upon thee, and his Glory shall be seen upon thee: And the Gentiles shall come to thy Light, and Kings to the Brightness of thy Rising. Lift up thine Eyes round about, and see; all they gather themselves together, they come to thee. That whole Chapter, beyond all Dispute, has Respect to the most glorious State of the Church of God on Earth. So Chap. lxvi.8. Shall the Earth be made to bring forth in one Day? Shall a Nation be born at once? — Ver. 10. Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her. Ver. 12. I will extend Peace to her like a River, and the Glory of the Gentiles like a flowing Stream.— Micah. 4. at the Beginning; But in the last Days it shall come to pass, that the Mountain of the House of the Lord shall be established in the Top of the Mountains, and it shall be exalted above the Hills, and People shall flow unto it; and many Nations shall come and say, Come, and let us go up unto the Mountain of the Lord, and to the House of the God of Jacob.— And he shall judge among many People, and rebuke strong Nations afar off; and they shall beat their Swords into Plow-shares, and their Spears into pruning Hooks; Nation shall not lift up Sword against Nation, neither shall they learn War any more.—See also Isai. ii. at the Beginning.—There has been nothing yet brought to pass, in any Measure to answer these Prophecies. And as the Prophecy in my Text and the following Verse does agree with them, so there is Reason to think it has a Respect to the same Times. And indeed there is a remarkable Agreement in the Description given thro’out the Chapter, with the Representations made of those Times elsewhere in the Prophets; as may be seen by comparing Ver. 3. with Isai. lx.14. — Ver. 4 with Isai. lxv.20, 22. and xxxiii.24.— Ver. 6, 7, 8. with Ezek. xxxvii.2, 11, 12, 21.— Ver. 7. with Isai. xliii.5, 6. and xlix.12 and lix.10. — Ver. 12, 13. and Ezek. xxxiv.22,—29. Ver. 8, with Ezek. xxxvi.28,—30.— Ver. 13, with 20. and Isai. xix.24.— Ver. 19. with Isai. lxi.3. and Ier. xxxi.12, 13, 14.
So that however the Prophet, in some Things that are said in this Chapter, may have Respect to future Smiles of Heaven on the Nation of the Jews, lately returned from the Babylonish Captivity, and resettled in the Land of Canaan, in a great Increase of their Numbers and Wealth, and the Return of more Captives from Chaldea and other Countries, &c. yet the Spirit of God has doubtless Respect to Things far greater than these, and of which these were but faint Resemblances. We find it common in the Prophecies of the old Testament, that when the Prophets are speaking of the Favours and Blessings of God on the Jews, attending or following their Return from the Babylonish Captivity, the Spirit of God takes Occasion from thence to speak of the incomparably greater Blessings on the Church, that shall attend and follow her Deliverance from the spiritual or mystical Babylon, of which those were a Type; and is, as it were, led away to speak almost wholly of these latter, and vastly greater Things, so as to seem to forget the Former.
And whereas the Prophet, in this Chapter, speaks of God’s bringing his People again from the East and West to Jerusalem (Ver. 7, 8.) And Multitudes of all Nations taking hold of the Skirts of the Jews; so far as we may suppose that this means literally that Nation of the Posterity of Jacob, it can’t have chief Respect to any Return of Jews from Babylon and other Countries, in those ancient Times before Christ; for no such Things as are here spoken of, attended any such Return: But it must have Respect to the great Calling and Gathering of the Jews into the Fold of Christ, and their being received to the Blessings of his Kingdom, after the Fall of Antichrist, or the Destruction of mystical Babylon.
In the Text we have an Account how this future glorious Advancement of the Church of God should be brought on, or introduced; viz. By great Multitudes in different Towns and Countries taking up a joint Resolution, and coming into an express and visible Agreement, that they will, by united and extraordinary Prayer, seek to God that he would come and manifest himself, and grant the Tokens and Fruits of his gracious Presence.
Particularly we may observe,
1. The Duty, with the Attendance on which the glorious Event foretold shall be brought on; viz. The Duty of Prayer.—Prayer, some suppose, is here to be taken synechdochically, for the Whole of the Worship of God; Prayer being a principal Part of the Worship of the Church of God, in the Days of the Gospel, when Sacrifices are abolished: And so, that this is to be understood only as a Prophecy of a great Revival of Religion, and of the true Worship of God among his visible People, the Accession of others to the Church, and turning of Multitudes from Idolatry to the Worship of the true God. But it appears to me reasonable, to suppose, that something more special is intended, with Regard to the Duty of Prayer; considering that Prayer is here expresly and and repeatedly mention’d; and also considering how parallel this Place is with many other Prophecies, that speak of an extraordinary Spirit of Prayer, as preceeding and introducing that glorious Day of Revival of Religion, and Advancement of the Church’s Peace and Prosperity, so often foretold (which I shall have Occasion to mention hereafter) and particularly the Agreableness of what is here said, with what is said afterwards by the same Prophet, of the pouring out of a Spirit of Grace and Supplications, as that with which this great Revival of Religion shall begin, Chap. xii.10.
2. The Good, that shall be sought by Prayer; which is GOD Himself.—It is said once and again, They shall go to pray before the Lord, and to SEEK THE LORD OF HOSTS. This is the Good they ask for and seek by Prayer, The Lord of Hosts Himself.—To seek God, as the Expression may perhaps be sometimes used in Scripture, may signify no more than seeking the Favour or Mercy of God. And if it be taken so here, praying before the Lord, and seeking the Lord of Hosts, must be look’d upon as synonymous Expressions. And it must be confess’d to be a common Thing in Scripture, to signify the same Thing repeatedly, by various Expressions of the same Import, for the greater Emphasis.— But certainly that Expression of seeking the Lord, is very commonly used to signify something more than meerly, in general, to seek some Mercy of God: It implies, that God Himself is the great Good desired and sought after; that the Blessings pursued are God’s gracious Presence, the blessed Manifestations of him, Union and Intercourse with him; or, in short. God’s Manifestations and Communications of Himself by his holy Spirit. Thus the Psalmist desired God, thirsted after Him, and sought Him. Psal. lxiii.1, 2, 8. O God, thou art my God; early will I seek Thee. My Flesh longeth for Thee, in a dry and thirsty Land, where no Water is, to see thy Power and thy Glory, so as I have seen Thee in the Sanctuary.—My Soul followeth hard after Thee.— Psal. lxxiii.25. Whom have I in Heaven but Thee? And there is none upon Earth that I desire be sides Thee. The Psalmist earnestly pursued after God, his Soul thirsted after Him, he stretched forth his Hand’s unto Him, &c. Psal. cxliii.6. And therefore it is in Scripture the peculiar Character of the Saints, that they are those that seek God. Psal. xxiv.6. This is the Generation of them that seek HIM. Psal. lxix.32. Your Heart shall live that seek GOD. And in many other Places. If the Expression in the Text be understood agreable to this Sense, then by seeking the Lord of Hosts, we must understand a seeking, that God who had withdrawn, as it were hid himself, for a long Time, would return to his Church, and grant the Tokens and Fruits of his gracious Presence, and those blessed Communications of his Spirit to his People, and to Mankind on the Earth, which he had often promis’d, and which his Church had long waited for.
And it seems reasonable, to understand the Phrase, seeking the Lord of Hosts, in this Sense here; and not as merely signifying the same Thing with praying to God: Not only because the Expression is repeatedly added to praying before the Lord, in the Text, as signifying something more; but also because the Phrase, taken in this Sense, is exactly agreable to other parallel prophetick Representations. Thus God’s People’s seeking, by earnest Prayer, the promised Restoration of the Church of God, after the Babylonish Captivity, and the great Apostacy that occasion’d it, is called their SEEKING GOD, and SEARCHING for Him; and God’s granting this promised Revival and Restoration is called his being FOUND of them. Jer. xxix.10,—14. For thus saith the Lord, that after seventy Years he accomplished at Babylon▪ I will visit you, and perform my good Word towards you, in causing you to return to this Place. For I know the Thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord, Thoughts of Peace, and of Evil, to give you an expected End. Then shall ye go and call upon me, and ye shall and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you; and ye shall SEEK ME and FIND ME, when ye shall SEARCH FOR ME with all your Heart; and I will be FOUND of you, saith the Lord, and I will turn away your Captivity. And the Prophets, from Time to Time, represent God, in a low and afflicted State of his Church, as being withdrawn, and hiding Himself. Isai. xlv.15. Verily thou art a God that hidest thy self, O God of Israel, the Saviour. Chap. lvii.17. I hid me, and was wroth. And they represent God’s People, while his Church is in such a State, before God delivers and restores the same, as seeking Him, looking for Him, searching and waiting for Him, and calling after Him. Hos. v.15. I will go and return unto my Place, ’till they acknowledge their Offence, and seek my Face: In their Affliction they will seek me early. Isai. viii.17. I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his Face from the House of Jacob, and I will look for Him. And when God, in answer to their Prayers and succeeding their Endeavours, delivers, restores and advances his Church, according to his Promise, then he is said to answer, and come, and say, Here am I, and to shew Himself; and they are said to find Him, and see Him plainly. Isai. lviii.9. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; and Thou shalt cry, and He shall say, HERE I AM. Isai. xlv.17. But Israel shall be saved in the Lord, with an everlasting Salvation. And Ver. 19. I said not unto the Seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain. Chap. xxv.8, 9. The Lord God will wipe away Tears from off all Faces, and the Rebuke of his People shall he take away from off the Earth.—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 the Lord, we have waited for Him; we will be glad, and rejoice in his Salvation.
Together with the next Chap. Ver. 8, 9. Yea, in the Way of thy Judgments, O Lord, we have waited for Thee: The Desire of our Soul is to thy Name, and to the Remembrance of Thee. With my Soul have I desired Thee in the Night; yea, with my Spirit within me will I seek Thee early. For when thy Judgments are in the Earth, the Inhabitants of the World will learn Righteousness. Isai. lii.6, 7, 8. Therefore my People shall know my Name: Therefore they shall know in that Day, that I am He that doth speak: Behold, it is I. How beautiful upon the Mountains are the Feet of Him that bringeth good Tydings, that publisheth Peace, that bringeth good Tydings of Good, that publisheth Salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! Thy Watchmen shall lift up the Voice; with the Voice together shall they sing; for they shall see Eye to Eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.
3. We may observe Who they are, that shall be united in thus seeking the Lord of Hosts: The Inhabitants of many Cities, and of many Countries, yea, many People, and strong Nations; great Multitudes in different Parts of the World shall conspire in this Business. From the Representation made in the Prophecy, it appears rational to suppose, that it will be fulfilled something after this Manner; First, that there shall be given much of a Spirit of Prayer to God’s People, in many Places, disposing them to come into an express Agreement, unitedly to pray to God in an extraordinary Manner, that he would appear for the Help of his Church, and in Mercy to Mankind, and pour out his Spirit, revive his Work, and advance his spiritual Kingdom in the World, as he has promised; And that this Disposition to such Prayer, and Union in it, will gradually spread more and more, and increase to greater Degrees; with which at length will gradually be introduced a Revival of Religion, and a Disposition to greater Engagedness in the Worship and Service of God, amongst his professing People; That this being observed, will be the Means of awakening others, making them sensible of the Wants of their Souls, and exciting in them a great Concern for their spiritual and everlasting Good, and putting them upon earnestly crying to God for spiritual Mercies, and disposing them to join with God’s People in that extraordinary seeking and serving of God, which they shall see them engaged in; And that in this Manner Religion shall be propagated, ’till the Awakening reaches those that are in the highest Stations, and ’till whole Nations be awaken’d, and there be at length an Accession of many of the chief Nations of the World to the Church of God. Thus after the Inhabitants of many Cities of Israel, or of God’s professing People, have taken up, and pursued a joint Resolution, to go and pray before the Lord, and seek the Lord of Hosts, Others shall be drawn to worship and serve Him with them; ’till at length many People and strong Nations shall join themselves to them; and there shall, in Process of Time, be a vast Accession to the Church, so that it shall be ten Times as large as it was before; yea, at length, all Nations shall be converted unto God. Thus ten Men shall take hold, out of all Languages of the Nations, of the Skirt of him that is a Jew (in the Sense of the Apostle, Rom. ii.28, 29.) saying, We will go with you; for we have heard, that God is with you. And thus that shall be fulfilled, Psal. lxv.2. O Thou that hearest Prayer, unto Thee shall all Flesh come.
4. We may observe the Mode of their Union in this Duty. ‘Tis a visible Union, an Union by explicit Agreement, a joint Resolution declared by one to another, come into by being first proposed by some, and readily and expresly fallen in with by others. The Inhabitants of one City shall apply themselves to the Inhabitants of another, saying, Let us go, &c. Those to whom the Motion is made, shall comply with it; the Proposal shall take with many, it shall be a prevailing, spreading Thing; one shall follow another’s Example, one and another shall say, I will go also. Some suppose, that those Words, I will go also, are to be taken as the Words of him that makes the Proposal; as much as to say, I don’t propose that to you, which I am not willingly to do my self, I desire you to go, and I am ready to go with you. But this is to suppose no more to be expressed in these latter Words, than was express’d before in the Proposal itself; for these Words, Let us go, signify as much, as that I am willing to go, and desire you to go with me. It seems to me much more natural, to understand these latter Words as importing the Consent of those to whom the Proposal is made, or the Reply of one and another that falls in it. This is much more agreable to the plain Design of the Text, which is to represent the Concurrence of great Numbers in this Affair; and more agreable to the Representation made in the next Verse, of one following another, many taking hold of the Skirt of him that is a Jew. And tho’, if the Words are thus understood, we must suppose an Ellipsis in the Text, something understood that is not expressed, as if it had been said, Those of other Cities shall say, I will go also;—yet this is not difficult to be supposed; such Ellipses are very common in Scripture. We have one exactly parallel with it in Jer. iii.22. Return, ye backsliding Children, and I will heal your Backslidings: Behold, we come unto Thee; for Thou art the Lord our God, i. e. The backsliding Children shall say, Behold, we come unto Thee, &c. And in Cant. iv. last, and v.1. Let my Beloved come into his Garden, and eat his pleasant Fruits. I am come into my Garden, my Sister, my Spouse, i. e. her Beloved shall say, I am come into my Garden. We have the like throughout that Song. So, Psal. L.6, 7. The Heavens shall declare his Righteousness; for God is Iudge himself. Hear, O my People, and I will speak, i. e. the Judge shall say, Hear, O my People, &c. So Psal. lxxxii.1, 2.—The Psalms and Prophets abound with such Figures of Speech.
5. We may observe the Manner of Prayer agreed on, or the Manner in which they agree to engage in and perform the Duty. Let us go speedily to pray; or as it is in the Margin, Let us go continually. The Words literally translated are, Let us go in going. Such an Ingemination or doubling of Words is very common in the Hebrew Language, when it is intended that a Thing shall be very strongly expressed; it generally implies the superlative Degree of a Thing; as the Holy of Holies signifies the most holy: But it commonly denotes, not only the utmost Degree of a Thing, but also the utmost Certainty; as when God said to Abraham. In multiplying, I will multiply thy Seed, (Gen. xxii.17.) it implies both that God would certainly multiply his Seed, and also multiply it exceedingly. So when God said to Adam, In the Day that thou eatest thereof, in dying thou shalt die (as the Words are in the Original) it implies, both that he should surely die, and also that he should die most terribly, should utterly perish, and be destroy’d to the utmost Degree. Yea, sometimes it seems to imply something else still: And in short, as this Ingemination of Words in the Hebrew, in general denotes the Strength of Expression, so it is used to signify almost all those Things that are wont to be signified by the various Forms of strong Speech in other Languages: Sometimes it signifies the utmost Degree of a Thing; sometimes Certainty; sometimes the Peremptoriness and Terribleness of a Threatening, or the Greatness and Positiveness of a Promise, the Strictness of a Command, and the Earnestness of a Request. When God says to Adam, Dying thou shalt die, it is equivalent to such strong Expressions in English, as, Thou shalt die indeed, or, Thou shalt die with a Witness. So when it is said in the Text, Let us go in going, and pray before the Lord, the Strength of the Expression represents the Earnestness of those that make the Proposal, their great Engagedness of the Affair; and with Respect to the Duty proposed, it may be understood to signify, that they should be speedy, fervent, and constant in it; or, in one Word, that it should be thoroughly performed.
6. We may learn from the Tenor of this Prophecy, together with the Context, that this Union in such Prayer is foretold as a becoming and happy Thing, and that which would be acceptable to God, and attended with glorious Success. From the Whole we may infer, That it is a very suitable Thing, and well-pleasing to God, for many People, in different Parts of the World, by express Agreement, to come into a visible Union, in extraordinary, speedy, fervent and constant Prayer, for those great Effusions of the Holy Spirit, which shall bring on that Advancement of Christ’s Church and Kingdom, that God has so often promised shall be in the latter Ages of the World.
And so from hence I would infer the Duty of God’s People, with Regard to the Memorial lately sent over into America, from Scotland, by a Number of Ministers there, proposing a Method for such an Union as has been spoken of, in extraordinary Prayer for this great Mercy.
And it being the special Design of this Discourse, to perswade such as are Friends to the Interests of Christ’s Kingdom, to a Compliance with the Proposal and Request made in that Memorial, I shall first give a short historical Account of the Affair it relates to, from Letters, Papers and Pamphlets, that have come over from Scotland; to which I shall annex the Memorial it self: And then I shall offer some Arguments and Motives, tending to induce the Friends of Religion to fall in with what is proposed: And lastly, make Answer to some Objections that may possibly be made against it.
As to the First of these Things, viz. an historical Account of the Concert, which the Memorial relates to, the following Observations may give a sufficient View of that Affair.
In October, A. D. 1744, a Number of Ministers in Scotland, taking into Consideration the State of God’s Church, and of the World of Mankind, judged that the Providence of God, at such a Day, did loudly call such as were concerned for the Welfare of Zion, to united extraordinary Applications to the God of all Grace, suitably acknowledging Him as the Fountain of all the spiritual Benefits and Blessings of his Church, and earnestly praying to Him, that he would appear in his Glory, and favour Zion, and manifest his Compassion to the World of Mankind, by an abundant Effusion of his Holy Spirit on all the Churches, and the whole habitable Earth, to revive true Religion in all Parts of Christendom, and to deliver all Nations from their great and manifold spiritual Calamities and Miseries, and bless them with the unspeakable Benefits of the Kingdom of our glorious Redeemer, and fill the whole Earth with his Glory. And consulting one another on the Subject, they look’d on Themselves, for their own Part, obliged to engage in this Duty; and, as far as in them lay, to persuade others to the same: And to endeavour to find out and fix on some Method, that should most effectually tend to promote and uphold such extraordinary Application to Heaven among God’s People. And after seeking to God by Prayer for Direction, they determined on the following Method, as what they would conform to in their own Practice, and propose to be practised by others, for the two Years next following, viz. To set apart some Time on Saturday-Evening and Sabbath-Morning, every Week, for the Purpose aforesaid, as other Duties would allow to every one respectively; and more solemnly, the first Tuesday of each Quarter (beginning with the first Tuesday of November then next ensuing) either the whole Day, or Part of the Day, as Persons find themselves disposed, or think their Circumstances will allow: The Time to be spent either in private praying Societies, or in publick Meetings, or alone in secret, as shall be found most practicable, or judged most convenient, by such as are willing, in some Way or other, to join in this Affair: But not that any should make any Promises, or be looked upon as under strict Bonds in any Respect, constantly and without Fail to observe every one of these Days, whatever their Circumstances should be, or however other Duties and necessary Affairs might interfere; or that Persons should look upon themselves bound with Regard to these Days in any wise as tho’ the Time were holy, or the setting them apart for religious Purposes were established by sacred Authority: But yet, as a proper Guard against Negligence and Unsteadiness, and a prudent Preservative from yielding to a Disposition, that Persons might be liable to, through the Prevalence of Indolence and Liftlesness, to excuse themselves on trivial Occasions, it was proposed, That those that unite in this A fair, should resolve with themselves, that if, by urgent Business, or otherwise, they were hindred from joining with others, on the very Day agreed on, yet they would not wholly neglect bearing their Part in the Duty proposed, but would take the first convenient Day following, for that Purpose.
The Reason why Saturday-Evening and Lord’s-Day-Morning were judged most convenient for the weekly Seasons, was, that these Times being so near the Time of dispensing Gospel-Ordinances thro’ the christian World, which are the great Means, in the Use of which God is wont to grant his Spirit to Mankind, and the principal Means that the Spirit of God makes use of to carry on his Work of Grace, it may well be supposed that the Minds of Christians in general will at these Seasons be especially disengaged from secular Affairs, and disposed to pious Meditations and the Duties of Devotion, and more naturally led to seek the Communications of the holy Spirit, and Success of the Means of Grace.—And as to the quarterly Times, it was thought helpful to Memory, that they should be on one or other of the first Days of each Quarter: Tuesday was prefer’d to Monday, because in some Places People might have publick Prayers and Sermon on the stated Day, which might not be so convenient on Monday, as on some Day at a greater Distance from the Sabbath.
It was reckon’d a chief Use of such an Agreement and Method as this, That it would be a good Expedient for the maintaining and keeping up, amongst the People of God, that great christian Duty of Prayerfulness for the Coming of Christ’s Kingdom, in general, which Christ has directed his Followers to be so much in, that it mayn’t be out of Mind, and in a great Measure sunk. Things, that we are too little inclined to, thro’ Sloth, Carnality, or a Fulness of our own worldly and private Concerns, and that are to be attended at some Seasons or other, and have no special Seasons stated for them, are apt to be forgotten, or put off from Time to Time, and as it were adjourned without Day; and so, if not wholly neglected, yet too little attended. But when we fix certain Seasons, that we resolve, unless extraordinarily hindred, to devote to the Duty, it tends to prevent Forgetfulness, and a settled Negligence of it. The Certain Returns of the Season will naturally refresh the Memory; will tend to put us in mind of the Precept of Christ, and the Obligations that lie on all his Followers, to abound in such a Duty, and renewedly engage us to the Consideration of the Importance and Necessity and unspeakable Value of the Mercy sought; and so, by frequent Renovation, to keep alive the Consideration and Sense of these Things at all Times. —Thus the first Promoters of this Agreement judged, that it would be subservient to more abundant Prayerfulness for Effusions of the Holy Spirit, at all Times thro’ the Year, both in secret and social Worship; particularly as to this last, in Congregations, Families, and other praying Societies.—And then they also judged, that such an agreed Union would tend to animate and encourage God’s People in the Duty proposed; and that particular Persons and Societies, knowing that great Multitudes of their Fellow Christians, in so many distant Places, were at the same Time (as a Token of the Union of their Hearts with them in this Affair) by Agreement engaged in the same holy Exercise, would naturally be enlivened in the Duty by such a Consideration.
It was not thought best, to propose at first a longer Time for the Continuance of this precise Method, than two Years: It being considered, that it is not possible, before any Trial, so well to judge of the Expedience of a particular Method and certain Circumstances of the managing and ordering such an Affair, as after some Time of Experience. And it was not known, but that after longer Consideration, and some Trial, it might be thought best to alter some Circumstances; or whether others, that had not yet been consulted, might not propose a better Method. The Time first agreed on, tho’ but short, was thought sufficient to give Opportunity for Judgment and Experience, and for such as were disposed to Union in an Affair of such a Nature, in distant Places, mutually to communicate their Sentiments on the Subject.
The Way, in which those that first projected and came into this Agreement, thought best for the giving Notice of it and proposing it to others, was not by any Thing published from the Press; but by personal Conversation with such as they could conveniently have immediate Access to, and by private Correspondence with others at a Distance. At first it was intended, that some formal Paper, proposing the Matter, should be sent about for proper Amendments and Improvements, and then Concurrence: But on more mature Deliberation, it was consider’d how this might give a Handle to Objections (which they thought it best, to the utmost, to avoid in the Infancy of the Affair) and how practicable it was, without any such Formality, to spread the Substance of the Proposal by private Letters, together with a Request to their Correspondents, mutually to communicate their Thoughts. Therefore this was fix’d on, as the Method that was preferable at the Beginning. Accordingly, they proposed and endeavoured to promote the Affair in this Way; and with such Success, that great Numbers in Scotland and England fell in with the Proposal, and some in North-America. As to Scotland, it was complied with by Numbers in the four chief Towns, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Dundee, and many Country Towns and Congregations in various Parts of the Land: One of the Ministers, that was primarily concerned in this Affair, in a Letter to one of his Correspondents, speaks of an explicit Declaration of the Concurrence of the praying Societies in Edinburgh, which they had made in a Letter. The Number of the praying Societies in that City is very considerable: Mr. Robe of Kilsyth (in a Letter to Mr. Prince of Boston, dated Nov. 3. 1743.) says, There were then above thirty Societies of young People there newly erected, some of whom consisted of upwards of thirty Members. —As to Glasgow, this Union was unanimously agreed to by about forty five praying Societies there; as an eminent Minister in that City informs, in a Letter.
The two Years, first agreed on, ended last November. A little before this Time expired, a Number of Ministers in Scotland agreed on a Memorial to be printed, and sent abroad to their Brethren in various Parts, proposing to ’em and requesting of ’em to join with them in the Continuance of this Method of united Prayer, and in Endeavours to promote it. Copies of which Memorial have lately been sent over into New England, to the Number of near 500, directed to be distributed in almost every County in this Province of the Massachusetts-Bay, and also in several Parts of Connecticut, New-Hampshire, Rhode-Island, New-York, New-Jersey, Pensylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Carolina, and Georgia. The most (I suppose) of these were sent to one of the Congregational Ministers in Boston, with a Letter subscribed by twelve Ministers in Scotland, about the Affair:— Many of them to another of the said Ministers of Boston; and some to a Minister in Connecticut.—It being short, I shall here insert a Copy of it at Length. ‘Tis as follows.—
A MEMORIAL from several Ministers in Scotland, to their Brethren in different Places, for continuing a Concert for Prayer, first entred into in the Year 1744.
Whereas it was the chief Scope of this Concert, to promote more abundant Application to a Duty that is perpetually binding, Prayer that our Lord’s Kingdom may come, join’d with Praises: And it contain’d some circumstantial Expedients, apprehended to be very subservient to that Design, relating to stated Times for such Exercises, so far as this would not interfere with other Duties; particularly a Part of Saturday-Evening, and Sabbath-Morning, every Week; and more solemnly of some One of the first Days of each of the Four great Divisions of the Year, that is, of each Quarter; as the first Tuesday, or first convenient Day after: And the Concert, as to this Circumstance, was extended only to two Years; it being intended, that before these expired, Persons engaged in the Concert should reciprocally communicate their Sentiments and Inclinations, as to the prolonging of the Time, with or without Alteration, as to the Circumstance mention’d: And it was intended by the first Promoters, that others at a Distance should propose such circumstantial Amendments or Improvements, as they should find proper: It is hereby earnestly intreated, that such would communicate their Sentiments accordingly, now that the Time first proposed is near expiring.
II. To induce those already engaged to adhere, and others to accede to this Concert; it seems of Importance to observe, that Declarations of Concurrence, the communicating and spreading of which are so evidently useful, are to be understood in such a Latitude, as to keep at the greatest Distance from entangling Men’s Minds: Not as binding Men to set apart any stated Days from secular Affairs, or even to fix on any Part of such and such precise Days, whether it be convenient or not; nor as absolute Promises in any Respect: But as friendly, harmonious Resolutions, with Liberty to alter Circumstances as shall be found expedient. On account of all which Latitude, and that the circumstantial Part extends only to a few Years, it is apprehended, the Concert cannot be liable to the Objections against periodical religious Times of human Appointment.
III. It is also humbly offered to the Consideration of Ministers, and others furnished with Gifts for the most publick Instructions, Whether it might not be of great Use, by the Blessing of God, if short and nervous scriptural Persuasives and Directions to the Duty in View, were compos’d and published (either by particular Authors, or several joining together; which last Way might some Times have peculiar Advantages) and that from Time to Time, without too great Intervals; the better to keep alive on Men’s Minds a just Sense of the Obligations to a Duty so important in itself, and in which many may be in Danger to faint and turn remiss, without such repeated Incitements: And whether it would not also be of great Use, if Ministers would be pleas’d to preach frequently on the Importance and Necessity of Prayer for the Coming of our Lord’s Kingdom; particularly near the quarterly Days, or on these Days themselves, where there is publick Worship at that Time.
IV. They who have found it incumbent on them to publish this Memorial at this Time, having peculiar Advantages for spreading it, do intreat that the Desire of Concurrence and Assistance contain’d in it, may by no Means be understood as restricted to any particular Denomination or Party, or to those who are of such or such Opinions about any former Instances of remarkable religious Concern; but to be extended to All, who shall vouchsafe any Attention to this Paper, and have at Heart the Interest of vital Christianity, and the Power of Godliness; and who, however differing about other Things, are convinc’d of the Importance of fervent Prayer, to promote that common Interest, and of Scripture-Persuasives to promote such Prayer.
V. As the first printed Account of this Concert was not a Proposal of it, as a Thing then to begin, but a Narration of it, as a Design already set on Foot, which had been brought about with much Harmony, by Means of private Letters; so the farther Continuance, and, ’tis hop’d, the farther Spreading of it seems in a promising Way of being promoted by the same Means; as importunate Desires of the renewing the Concert have been transmitted already from a very distant Corner abroad, where the Regard to it has of late encreased: But notwithstanding of what may be done by private Letters, it is humbly expected, that a Memorial spread in this Manner, may, by God’s Blessing, farther promote the good Ends in View; as it may be usefully refer’d to in Letters, and may reach where they will not.
VI. Whereas in a valuable Letter, from the Corner just now mentioned as a Place where regard to the Concert has lately encreased, it is proposed, that it should be continued for Seven Years, or at least for a much longer Time than what was specified in the first Agreement; those concern’d in this Memorial, who would wish rather to receive and spread Directions and Proposals on this Head, than to be the first Authors any, apprehend no Inconvenience, for their Part, in agreeing to the Seven Years, with the Latitude above describ’d, which reserves Liberty to make such circumstantial Alterations, as may be hereafter found expedient: On the contrary it seems of Importance, that the Labour of spreading a Concert, which has already extended to so distant Parts, and may, it is hoped, extend farther, may not need to be renewed sooner, at least much sooner; as it is uncertain but that may endanger the dropping of it; and it seems probable, there will be less Zeal in spreading of it, if the Time propos’d for its Continuance be too inconsiderable.—Mean Time, Declarations of Concurrence for a less Number of Years may greatly promote the good Ends in View: Tho’ it seems very expedient, that it should exceed what was first agreed on; seeing it is found on Trial, that that Time, instead of being too long, was much too short.
VII. If Persons who formerly agreed to this Concert, should now discontinue it; would it not look too like that Fainting in Prayer, against which we are so expressly warn’d in Scripture? And would not this be the more unsuitable at this Time, in any within the British Dominions, when they have the united Calls of such publick Chastisements and Deliverances, to more Concern than ever about publick Reformation, and consequently about that which is the Source of all thorow Reformation, the regenerating and sanctifying Influence of the almighty Spirit of GOD?— August 26. 1746.”
The Minister in Boston fore-mention’d (to whom most of the Copies of this Memorial were sent) who, I suppose, has had later and more full Intelligence than I have had, says, concerning the Proposal, in a Letter, —The Motion seems to come from Above, and to be wonderfully spreading in Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, and North-America.