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fore, it is important that their people should pray continually for them, that they may have grace to speak the truth boldly, and without regard to the opinions of men,
,—that they may be divested of all ignorance and prejudice, and be enabled rightly to divide the word of truth, neither perverting it, nor keeping it back, nor proclaiming it partially,—and that they may ever be among their people in all the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel, speaking with a divine unction, and from the fulness of a gracious soul, and bringing out of the good treasure of a renewed and sanctified heart things both new and old.
A congregation should also pray that every obstacle to the success of the word preached may be removed; and that it may be signally instrumental in the conversion of sinners, and in the edification of saints, or, as the Apostle himself expresses it," that the word may have free course and be glorified.” Now it is well known that many obstacles stand in the way of a full declaration of the truth. Not unfrequently, a spirit of bitter hostility, amounting in some instances to persecution, is generated by such a declaration. And many are the living witnesses that have found very formidable obstacles opposed to a full and powerful declaration of the truth of God. Well then may the minister call upon his people to pray that these obstacles may be removed, -that he
of unreasonable men,--that he may be enabled in peace and quietness to execute his sacred functions. But a still more formidable obstacle to the free and unrestricted course of the word is to be found in the corruption of man's nature. Such is the inveteracy of that corruption, that man in his natural state receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can know them : his heart is closed and barred against the word; so that it can obtain no admission. Nor can any exertion on the part
of a minister remove this obstacle to the free course of the word. He
be instant in season and out of season in preaching the word—he may be blessed with the tongue of the learned-he may be a man of ripe piety, and faith, and prayer: yet even these advantages will avail nothing, until the Lord himself opens the heart of the sinner—until He takes away all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of the word-until He breaks in sunder the bars of prejudice, and unbelief, and indifference. How needful then is it that a congregation should pray for the removal of this formidable obstruction to the free course of the word; and that they should beseech the Lord, so to open the hearts of all men by the effectual working of his Holy Spirit, that they may hear the word with meekness, and receive it with pure affection. .
But when is the word glorified ? It is glorified in two ways. It is glorified in the conversion of the sinner; for then is its power declared—then does it make the captives of sin and Satan free indeed—then does it give light to the darkened soul, as the Psalmist intimates when he says, “the entrance of thy words giveth light.” This is, indeed, one great end of the preaching of the word; for it is sent out of Zion to make the people willing to take the Redeemer's yoke upon them. And whenever that end is accomplished, and it is accomplished whenever a soul is converted unto God, the word is of necessity glorified. Beloved, has the word been thus glorified in you. You may have heard it for a long season; but have you been moved thereby ? Has it entered into your souls? Has it turned you from darkness unto light—from death unto life-from impurity to holiness ? Search and see ; for if it be not glorified in your salvation, it will sooner or later be glorified in your condemnation : “ The word that I have spoken," says the Saviour, “it shall judge you.” It is glorified, likewise, in the edification of the saints; for to the word is assigned, through the effectual operation of the Spirit, not only the conversion, but the edification of the Christian, as the Apostle Paul intimated when he said to the Ephesian elders, “ I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among them that are sanctified.” And as the artist, engaged on some choice work of art, is glorified, not only when the outline or model is worthy of his fame, but also when the work, as it advances to its completion, is evidently such as to add to his former reputation, so the word which was shown to be quick and powerful in the conversion of the sinner, and which was glorified therein, is still further glorified, when the believer who is nourished thereby,—who is reproved, rebuked, instructed, and directed in the ways of righteousness by means thereof, evidently walks worthy of his high vocation, and grows up in all things to him who is our Head; for this proves that he has not received this grace of God in vain ; and that the word is profitable for all things, and able to make the man of God perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. Beloved, be it your care to pray that you may know experimentally, not only the converting power of the word, but its sanctifying efficacy,—that you may be built upon your most holy faith, and that the word may be glorified in and through you.
Such then should be the substance of a congregation's prayers for a minister—for himself, that he may be kept in the hour of temptation, and be faithful in the word and doctrine, and grow apace in spirituality and godliness of living :—for his word, that it may have free course, and be glorified, both in the conversion of sinners, and in the edification of the saints.
It remains for me to call your attention to the reasons which should urge a congregation to abound in prayer for their minister.
Reasons may be drawn, both from the minister, and from themselves; and though these may in some respects have been anticipated in what has been already advanced, yet it will not be without use to dwell a little upon them.
The natural insufficiency of a minister, and the vastness of the work in which he is engaged, is one reason why prayer should be offered for him continually. How can he, who is but a man of like passions with those of whom he has the oversight, adequately feed and watch over so many souls ? How can he acquire such an insight into their several cases as to be able to suit the food which he administers to their state, or to speak a word in season to them when brought into their society ? Alas ! he may well say, “who is sufficient for these things?” But though the minister is of himself weak, and though the work in which he is engaged is great, we know that one has said, “ My grace is sufficient for thee:” “as thy day so shall thy strength be.” This grace and strength, however, are to be sought in prayer. And since the fervent, effectual prayer of the righteous man availeth much, not for himself only, but for others, the minister may well say to his people, “Brethren, pray for us ;” and, may reasonably hope, that all things shall be made to turn unto his salvation through their prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus.
The peculiar temptations to which ministers are exposed is a further reason why their people should pray for them. Ministers are peculiarly tempted in two ways,through the discouragements resulting from their ministrations, and through the opposition which they sometimes meet with in the course of them. And though opposition is trying, and led an intrepid spirit like the Tishbite to quail, and even to abandon the post in which he had been placed for the defence of the truth, yet discouragements, such, for example, as the unproductiveness of ministerial labor, and the frustration of reasonable hopes, are still more trying to the spirits, and wearing to the frame of a minister. His people should therefore act as Moses did when Joshua was contending with Amalek : they should pray for him that his faith may not fail,— that he may be made submissive to the will of God,that he may manfully maintain his post, and not, by withdrawing from it hastily, or without some palpable call provoke the Almighty to say, “What doest thou here?” The encouragement afforded to a minister by the feeling that prayer ascends continually to God on his behalf from his people, is so salutary, that it may well stimulate them to abound in that duty. An eminent minister was once heard to say that he calculated on the prayers of at least a thousand believers in various parts of the land ; and that nothing had a more powerful, or salutary influence upon his mind, than the consideration that such a legion were besieging the throne of God, and craving the divine blessing on his ministry. And such a conviction would be equally inspiring to others; for they know that God is a hearer of prayer: and the conviction that the prayers of their people are calling down a blessing upon their ministry would naturally animate them, and make them confident that they will not labor in vain, or spend their strength for nought and in vain.
A congregation may also derive reasons for prayer on behalf of a minister from themselves ; for the ministry was instituted for their benefit,-for the perfecting of the saints,—for the edifying of the body of Christ. And since the efficiency of a ministry depends in no small measure on the consistency, the fidelity, and the spirituality of a pastor, they are personally interested in each of these points, and cannot, therefore, be too earnest in praying that their minister may, in the strictest sense, be a light to them that are in darkness, both in doctrine,