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REV. SAMUEL BACKUS,
OF BROOKLYN, N. Y.
"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there
To all who love to meet and together say, "Our Father who art in IIeaven," one who has lived and labored longer than most of you, comes with words of friendly salutation. Hé desires earnestly and affectionately to address you on the subject of Prayer-Meetings.
Prayer is as old as religion, and yet social meetings expressly for prayer, are of comparatively recent date, unless we go back to the early days of the Christian church. can remember when “prayer-meetings," as the term is now understood, were unknown.
But though so recent in their origin, they have by common consent come to be esteemed essential. They have not inappropriately
been termed "the spiritual barometer of the churches." As is the prayer-meeting in any church, so do we expect to find the spiritual state of that church, nor can it be otherwise.
Religion is not a dormant, inert principle, like latent heat in physical bodies, waiting some new agency to give it development and life, but it is in its nature intrinsically active; it is a power at work; it is the love of God carried out in its appropriate results. Religion being a great common interest, it will follow that, as this interest is prized, the different parties concerned will come together and seek its advancement; and inasmuch as the interests of religion are inseparably blended with prayer, Christians can hardly do otherwise than meet and pray.
Well may we believe, therefore, that where the prayer-meeting is fully attended by the brethren and sisters, and solemn in its aspects; there will everything pertaining to religion flourish, and that these meetings can be cold, and neglected and formal, only when the spirit and fire and activity of religion have departed, A glance at the dead, cold prayer-meeting, tells us unmistakably that there is the form of godliness without the power, that the things of the world are uppermost, that the flesh rules rather than the spirit. There we expect to hear dull and pointless preaching addressed to cold and lifeless hearers. In such a case, to hear of an awakened or converted sinner, sounds like thunder from a clear sky.
We in this day should about as soon think of dispensing with the ministry itself, as of withholding from it the aid derived from the prayer-meeting:
Blessed place! Blessed employment! how readily does every warm-hearted Christian
say, “I have been there, and still would go,
'Tis like a little heaven below." This unassuming means of grace, from the small beginnings of fifty years ago, has won its way to favor unrivalled.
We have here the prime motive power, which, impelled by the Spirit of God, drives all the divine machinery of the Gospel.
And yet the real value of this agency has hardly begun to be appreciated. In its workings hitherto, such an advancement on the past has been realized, that we have hardly thought of future improvements. We have said, “ It is good, very good,” and have thought of nothing better.
We have taken the prayer-meeting as we would some newly discovered plant or fruit in its native wildness, good and wholesome as we have it now, and which we therefore think not