« PreviousContinue »
weeks. In our next article we pur-
E. W. B.
LIFE AND PROGRESS.
Returning from his ways;
As prayer marks the entrance into the Christian life, it fails not to accompany every step of its progress. It is, indeed, essential to the spiritual life of man. Rightly has it been termed the Christian's vital breath. It is not with him a special or occasional duty, which requires his attention only in some peculiar circum
stances, but it is to bim a necessity
our prayer shall be answered. And to this effect there are given unto us many exceeding great and precious promises, that we might have hope, and approach the throne of grace with child-like confidence, and in the full assurance of faith. Prayer, then, is not an unmeaning ceremony, a vain form without effect. It is a mighty power, in which man wrestles and prevails with God. It is a communication between the heart of man and his heavenly Father. It is a golden key which God has given to his children, that they may enter the storehouse of heaven, and enrich themselves with its treasures of wisdom, grace, and consolation. There is no limitation of our blessedoess but the limit of our own desires. If we " have not, it is because we ask not; or we ask and receive not, because we ask amiss," and not because God is unable or unwilling to give; for “he is able to do for us far more abundantly than we can ask or think."
As the health and prosperity of the soul are dependent upon our contipuance in prayer, it is enjoined upon us that we pray without ceasing. The whole tenor of Christian experience goes to show this depend. ence. A low state of religious feel ing - formality, indifference, sluggishness, uncertainty, fear, unbelief -these are some of the evils which cluster about the soul, when it is ne. glectful of prayer, and aims at keeping itself right by its own strength. But prayer lays bold of Divine power; and, while it mortifies pride, it dig. nifies the soul, enlivens and purifies the affections, and disperses the clouds of sorrow, fear, and sin; and, as it realizes God's presence and blessing in the fulfilment of his promises, it destroys unbelief, and gives brightness and firmness to hope. As the poet expresses it“Prayer ardent opens heaven and lets
down a stream
on hell." As the face of Moses caught and
reflected the rays of the Divine glory when he communed with God on Mount Sinai, and as Jesus was transfigured while he prayed, so have his followers, in prayer, been filled with the light of grace and truth.
But while prayer is a most essential means of grace, it does not set aside the need and use of any other means; nor will a right regard to that duty lead to the neglect of any other. On the contrary, it has a close affinity with every other means of grace and with every other duty. It is meant to attend them all, to add to their efficiency, and to make them perfect. As Luther said, “ To pray well, is to study well," it may be also said that, “ To pray well, is to work well.” He who truly prays to God will diligently work for God, for he will feel the disposition and possess the needful strength. The whole life is sanctified to God, when the mind is habitually under the influence of true devotion.
Now, as the power and progress of religion is sustained in the individual by habitual fervent prayer, so it is evident that the prosperity of the Church, and its progress in the world, must be secured by the same means. The spiritual life and vigour of its members will be the life and vigour of the Church; and a praying Church will be a prosperous Church. The presence and power of its Divine Lord will be with it. The promise will be fulfilled, “The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple," and as it is filled with His presence, its light has come, the glory of the Lord has risen upon it; it arises and shines, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners. “Without the Spirit and power of God, the professing Church is feeble, formal, and dying; its influence for good is lost. But it may always enjoy the presence of Him who has all power, for it is promised. Before he left his Church on earth, its Divine Head assured it of the coming of the Holy Ghost, and that he himself would be with it always. And when He had triumphed over death, He “ went up on high, leading captivity captive, and receiving gifts for men, that the Lord
God might dwell among them.” The He prayed especially for the converpromise of the Spirit was given to sion of three young men who were the apostles, and they were in connected with the Sabbath school: structed to wait at Jerusalem, till and after some weeks he had the joy they should be endued with power of seeing the same three young men from on high. Aud how did they come together, and unsolicited to his wait? It was with one accord, in class-meeting; they presented themprayer and supplication. Thus they selves as anxious seekers of salvation. waited till the day of Pentecost was They came again the next week, fully come, and then the Holy Ghost when they all entered into the liberty descended and abode with them. of God's children. From that time With its power they preached, and for months not a week passed withby its power thousands of souls were out witnessing the conversion of convinced of sin and converted to sinners, though no extra agency in Christ, and the saved of the Lord the way of preaching was called in; were added daily to the Church. the church increased to four times
The same mighty blessing, the its former number, more accommopresence and power of the Holy dation had to be provided for the Ghost, is the privilege of the Church increased congregation, and a new whenever it seeks it, and looks and and commodious room was built for waits for it in the same way. God the school, and after many years the will be inquired of. He will be gracious fruit remains. honoured by the confession of our I n another of our churches there dependence upon Him, and the ex- had been for some time great spiritual pression of our faith in Him. And depression, feebleness, and bad feel. the facts which appear in the history ing. One of its oldest members, of the Church, demonstrating the who had thought much about its efficacy of prayer, should prompt and condition, went one day to his encourage its members to look to minister and said, “ It has been Heaven for the reviving influence of strongly impressed upon my mind the Spirit of God. The increase and that God is about to do something spread of pure religion has always for our church, and I come to request been associated with earnest believing you to call a society meeting, and prayer. The grace of supplication ask the members to make it a matter has been largely possessed by the of special and daily prayer, that God Church. And now let this grace be would visit and revive us." The cherished and exercised in a high meeting was called. Prayers were degree, and soon would the children offered, and in a few weeks the of Zion take their harps from the Divine power was manifested in the willows, and their mourning would conversion of souls to God. The give place to praise. Many are the church was quickened to holy and instances on record in which prayer earnest action, a large increase was has availed in behalf of the Church, made to its number of members, the and all who take an interest in the congregation was greatly and per. cause of Christ will, no doubt, be manently augmented, and the blessacquainted with some of them. The ing of God still gives it prosperity. following instances occurred within With many such instances within the observation of the writer of this. the actual experience of the Church, A church in one of our circuits had should it not be prompted to pray long been stationary, and its members and to persevere in prayer? Should were very few. There was not a it not set the foot of faith on the young man connected with it, and neck of all the difficulties which the some expressed the opinion that it cavillings of human reason may place would gradually become extinct. The in the path of prayer? Should it thought of its low condition weighed not grapple with the spirit of inheavily upon the mind of one of its dolence, and with the strong purpose class-leaders, and he set himself of wrestling Jacob's cry, “I will not earnestly to make its revival a matter let thee go except thou bless me?" of supplication at the throne of grace. Should it not demand from worldly
kusiness the restoration of the hours it has taken from devotion, and follow the Divine counsel, which says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness?” Let all who love Christ, and wish to see his name konoured in the world, offer daily the earnest prayer of faith to God, and "give him no rest till he esta blish and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth."
WONDERFUL PROGRESS OF
METHODISM IN AMERICA. DR. STEVENS, the eloquent historian of Methodism, has supplied the sta tistics of Methodism at this periodjust one hundred years since the cause was planted in America by the labours of a humble local preacher, The history of Methodism in Eng. land is marvellous, but far more so in America. It is younger than English Methodism by about twenty-eight years; it was never favoured with the influence of Mr. Wesley's presence; it rose simultaneously from its inherent vitality, from the preaching of Philip Embury to a congregation of five persons in his own house ; it was diffused amongst a thinlyscattered population ; it grew amidst log-built cabins and new settlements, as well as older cities; yet, so rapid and extensive has been its growth, that it has spread over the vast contipept of North America as widely as human habitations, and counts up its numbers this day at EIGHT MILLION ADHERENTS, having outstripped the parent body by several millions of people. We give the statistics in the words of Dr. Stevens, and the opinion of competent judges is, that his figures may be relied upon as be low and not above the actual facts; and they cannot but be read with amazement and overpowering grati. tude by all who feel interested in the spread of the glorious Gospel of the blessed God.
“Embury's little congregation of fire persons, in his own house, has multiplied to thousands of societies, from the northernmost settlements of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico; from Nova Scotia to California. The first emall Conference of 1773, with its 10 preachers, and its 1,160 reported
members, has multiplied to 60 Conferences, 6,821 itinerants, 8,205 local preachers, and 928,320 members in the Methodist Episcopal Church alone, exclusive of the Southern, the Canadian, and minor branches, all the offspring of the church founded in 1766, and episcopally organized in 1784.
“It has property, in churches and parsonages, amounting to about 27,000,000 dols.
"It has 25 colleges and theological schools, with property amounting to 3,055,000 dols. ; 158 instructors, 5,315 students; and 77 academies, with 556 instructors, and 17,761 students ; making a body of 714 instructors, and an army of 23,106 students.
"Its church property (churches, parsonages, and colleges, aside from its 77 academies and book concern) amounts to 30,055,000 dollars!
"Its book concern has a capital of 837,000 dols.; 500 publishing agents, editors, clerks, and operatives, with some thirty cylinder-power presses in constant operation; about 2,000 different books on its catalogue, besides tracts, &c.; 14 periodicals, with an aggregate circulation of more than a million copies per month! Besides the above it has five independent, or non-official weekly papers, with immense circulation.
“Its Sunday-school Union comprises 13,400 schools, more than 150,000 instructors, nearly 918,000 pupils, and more than two millions and a-balf of library books! It issues nearly 2,500 publications, besides a monthly circulation of nearly 300,000 numbers of its periodicals.
“Its Missionary Society has 1,059 circuits and stations; 1,128 paid labourers; and 105,675 communicants.
“The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, has published no statistics since the war broke out; it has doubtless suffered much by the war; but it reported, the last year before the rebellion, nearly 700,000 local preachers. It had 12 periodical publications ; 12 colleges, and 77 academies, with 8,000 students. Its
missionary society sustained, at home and abroad, about 360 missionaries, and 8 manual labour schools, with nearly 500 pupils.
" According to these figures the two great episcopal divisions of the denomination have had, at their latest report, 1,628,320 members ; 9,421 travelling, and 13,205 local preachers; with 191 colleges and academies, and 31,106 students.
“The Canada Wesleyan Church was not only founded by, but for many years belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church ; it now reports more than 56,000 members; 500 itinerant preachers; and 750 Sunday-schools, with about 45,000 pupils; a university, a female college, and a book concern, with its weekly periodical.
“Another branch of Canadian Methodism, the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada,' equally the child of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States, reports, 3 annual conferences; 2 bishops; 216 travelling, and 224 local preachers; and 20,000 members; a seminary and female college, and a weekly newspaper.
"The Canadian Wesleyan Methodist New Connexion Church reports, 90 travelling, and 147 local preachers; and 8,450 communicants. It sustains a weekly paper and a theological school.
“The other Methodist bodies in the United States are, the Methodist Protestant Church, the American Wesleyan Methodist, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and come three or four smaller sects; this aggregate membership amounts to about 260,000, their preachers to 3,423.
“ Adding the travelling preachers to the membership, there are now in the United States about 1,901,164 Methodist communicants. Adding three non-communicant members of its congregation for each communicant, it has under its influence 7,604,636 souls - between one-fifth and one-fourth of the whole national population.
" Aggregately there are now in the United States and Canada, as the result of the Methodism of 1766,
1,972,770 church members, 13,650 travelling preachers, 15,000 local preachers, nearly 200 colleges and academies, and more than 30 periodical publications; 1,986,420 communicants, including preachers, and nearly EIGHT MILLIONS OF PEOPLE !*
“The influence of this vast ecclesiastical force on the moral, intellectual, and social progress of the New World, can neither be doubted nor measured. It is generally conceded that it has been the most energetic religious element in the social development of the continent. With its devoted and enterprising people dispersed through the whole population; its thousands of laborious itinerant preachers, and tens of thousands of local preachers and exhorters; its unequalled publishing agencies; and powerful periodicals, from the Quarterly Review to the child's paper; its hundreds of colleges and academies; its hundreds of thousands of Sunday-school in. structors; its devotion to the lower and most needy classes; its animated mode of worship and religious labour, it cannot be questioned that it has been a mighty, if not the mightiest, agent in the maintenance and spread of Protestant Christianity over these lands. It stands now on the threshold of its second century, mightier than ever, in all the elements and resources requisite for a still greater history.''t
STOCK-TAKING. DEAR SIR,-Every business establishment is, or has been lately, engaged in the important and necessary work of “ taking stock." Many a tradesman is fearful that his profits for the past year will be found "nil." The accounts of “ Dr." and "Cr." have been checked, and every article valued, and though a good deal of exertion has been put forth during the year, the disappointed trader finds he has been working for nothing," or, perhaps, “ working to a loss." Well, it won't do to give up
* These figures do not include Eastern British America.
+ “ Centenary of American Metho. dism," 213-217.