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success of the means of grace.-And as to the 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 preferred to Monday, because in some places people might have public prayers and a 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 reckoned a chief use of such an agreement and method as this, that it would be a good expedient for maintaining and keeping up, amongst the people of God, the great christian duty of prayerfulness for the coming of Christ's kingdom. Those things to which we are too little inclined, through sloth, carnality, or a fulness of our own worldly and private concerns and which are to be attended to at some seasons or other, but 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 a day. But when we fix on certain seasons which we resolve, unless extraordinarily hindered, 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, 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 through the year, both in secret and social worship; particularly as to this last, in congregations, families, and other praying societies. And 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 managing such an affair, as after some time of experience. And it was not known but that after long consideration, and some trial, it might be thought best to alter some circumstances; or whether others that had not yet been con
sulted, might not propose a better method. The time first agreed on, though but short, was thought sufficient to give opportunity for judgment and experience, and for such as were disposed to unite in an affair of such a nature, in distant places, mutually to communicate their sentiments on the subject.
The way which those who first projected and came into this agreement, thought best for giving notice of it and proposing it to others, was not by 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 considered 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 fixed on as the preferable method at the beginning. Accord ingly, 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 who 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 which 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 them, and requesting of them, to join in the continuance of this method of united prayer, and in endeavouring to promote it. Copies of which memorial have lately been sent over to New-England, (to the number of near 500,) directed to be distributed in almost every country in this province of the Massachusetts-Bay, and also in several parts of Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island,
New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Carolina and Georgia. Most of these, I suppose, 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.
A MEMORIAL from several ministers in Scotland, to their brethren in different places, for continuing a Concert for Prayer. first entered 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, joined with praises and it contained 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 mentioned: 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;
* The meaning is, the first Tuesdays of February, May, August, and November, or the first convenient days after these.
not 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 public 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 composed 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 pleased 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 public 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 assist ance contained 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 convinced 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, it is hoped, the farther spreading of it, seems in a promising way of being promoted by the same means; as importunate desires of renewing the concert have been transmitted already from a very distant corner abroad, where the regard to it has of late increased: but notwithstanding 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 referred 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 a regard to the concert has lately increased, 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 concerned in this memorial who would wish rather to receive and spread directions and proposals on this head, than to be the first authors of any, apprehend no inconvenience, for their part, in agreeing to the seven years with the latitude above described, 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 it, if the time proposed 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 though 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 any person 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 warned 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 public chastisements and deliverances,* to more concern than ever about public reformation, and consequently about that which is the source of all thorough reformation, the regenerating and sanctifying influence of the Almighty spirit of God?—August 26, 1746.”
N. B. The minister in Boston afore-mentioned 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 concerning the proposal, in a letter, "The motions seem to come from above, and to be wonderfully spreading in Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, and in North America."
*Alluding, probably, to the Rebellion in 1745, and the defeat of the Rebels.