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THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST.
coming, when the great and rich men of the world shall bring their honor and glory into the church, and shall, as it were, strip themselves to spread their garments under Christ's feet, as he enters triumphantly into Jerusalem; and when those that will not do so shall have no glory, and their silver and gold shall be cankered, and their garments motheaten for the saints shall then inherit the earth, and they shall reign on earth, and those that honor God he will honor, and those that despise him shall be lightly esteemed.
If some of our rich men would give one quarter of their estates to promote this work, they would act a little as if they were designed for the kingdom of heaven, and a little as rich men will act by and by, that shall be partakers of the spiritual wealth and glories of that kingdom.
Great things might de done for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, at this day, by those that have ability, by establishing funds for the support and propagation of religion; by supporting some that are eminently qualified with gifts and grace, in preaching the gospel in certain parts of the country, that are more destitute of the means of grace; in searching out children of promising abilities, and their hearts full of love to Christ, but of poor families, (as doubtless there are such now in the land,) and bringing them up for the ministry; and in distributing books that are remarkably fitted to promote vital religion, and have a great tendency to advance this work; or if they would only bear the trouble, expense, and loss of sending such books into various parts of the land to be sold, it might be an occasion that ten times so many of those books should be bought, as otherwise would be; and in establishing and supporting schools in poor towns and villages; which might be done on such a foundation, as not only to bring up children in common learning, but also, might very much tend to their conviction and conversion, and being trained up in vital piety; and doubtless something might be done this way, in old towns, and more populous
places, that might have a great tendency to the flourishing of religion in the rising generation.
Of duties that concern all in general.
BUT I would now proceed to mention some things, that ought to be done, at such a day as this, that concern all in general.
And here, the first thing I shall mention, is fasting and prayer. It seems to me, that the circumstances of the present work do loudly call God's people to abound in this; whether they consider the experience God has lately given them, of the worth of his presence, and of the blessed fruits of the effusions of his Spirit, to excite them to pray for the continuance and increase, and greater extent of such blessings; or whether they consider the great encouragement God has lately given them to pray for the outpourings of his Spirit, and the carrying on this work, by the great manifestations he has lately made of the freeness and riches of his grace; and how much there is in what we have seen of the glorious works of God's power and grace, to put us in mind of the yet greater things of this nature, that he has spoken of in his word, and to excite our longings for those things, and hopes of their approach; or whether we consider the great opposition that Satan makes against this work, and the many difficulties with which it is clogged, and the distressing circumstances that some parts of God's church in this land are under at this day, on one account and another.
So it is God's will, through his wonderful grace, that the prayers of his saints should be one great and principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ's kingdom in the world. When God has something very great to accomplish for his
church, it is his will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of his people; as is manifested by Ezek. xxxvi. 37. "I will yet, for this, be inquired of, by the house of Israel, to do it for them;" together with the context. And it is revealed that, when God is about to accomplish great things for his church, he will begin by remarkably pouring out the Spirit of grace and supplication, Zech. xii. 10. If we are not to expect that the devil should go out of a particular person, that is under a bodily possession, without extraordinary prayer, or prayer and fasting; how much less, should we expect to have him cast out of the land, and the world, without it.
I am sensible that considerable has been done in duties of this nature, in some places; but I do not think so much as God, in the present dispensations of his providence, calls for. I should think the people of God in this land, at such a time as this is, would be in the way of their duty, to do three times so much at fasting and prayer as they do; not only, nor principally, for the pouring out of the Spirit on those towns or places where they belong; but that God would appear for his church, and in mercy to miserable men, to carry on his work in the land, and in the world of mankind, and to fulfill the things that he has spoken of in his word, that his church has been so long wishing and hoping and waiting for. They that make mention of the Lord, at this day, ought not to keep silence, and should give God no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth, agreeably to Isa. Ixii. 6, 7. Before the first great outpouring of the Spirit of God, on the Christian church, which began at Jerusalem, the church of God gave themselves to incessant prayer, Acts i. 13, 14. There is a time spoken of, wherein God will remarkably and wonderfully appear, for the deliverance of his church from all her enemies, and when he will avenge his own elect and Christ reveals that this will be in answer to their incessant prayers, or crying day and night, Luke xviii. 7. In Israel,
the day of atonement, which was their great day of fasting and prayer, preceded and made way for the glorious and joyful feast of tabernacles. When Christ is mystically born into the world, to rule over all nations, it is represented in Rev. xii. as being in consequence of the church's "crying, and travailing in birth, and being pained to be delivered." One thing here intended, doubtless is, her crying and agonizing in prayer.
God seems now, at this very time, to be waiting for this from us. When God is about to bestow some great blessing on his church, it is often his manner, in the first place, so to order things in his providence, as to show his church their great need of it, and to bring them into distress for want of it, and so put them upon crying earnestly to him for it. And let us consider God's present dispensations towards his church in this land: a glorious work of his grace has been begun and carried on; and God has, of late, suffered innumerable difficulties to arise, that do in a great measure clog and hinder it, and bring many of God's dear children into great distress; and yet does not wholly forsake the work of his hand; there are remarkable tokens of his presence still to be seen, here and there; as though he was not forward to forsake us, and (if I may so say) as though he had a mind to carry on his work; but only was waiting for something that he expected in us, as requisite in order to it. And we have a great deal of reason to think, that one thing at least is, that we should further acknowledge the greatness and necessity of such a mercy, and our dependence on God for it, in earnest and importunate prayers to him. And by the many errors that have been run into, and the wounds we have thereby given ourselves and the cause that we would promote, and the mischief and confusion we have thereby made, God has hitherto been remarkably showing us our great and universal dependence on him, and exceeding need of his help and grace; which should engage our cries to him for it.
There is no way that Christians, in a private capacity, can do so much to promote the work of God, and advance the kingdom of Christ, as by prayer. By this, even women, children, and servants, may have a public influence. Let persons be never so weak, and never so mean, and under never so poor advantages to do much for Christ, and the souls of men, otherwise; yet, if they have much of the spirit of grace and supplication, in this way, they may have power with Him that is infinite in power, and has the government of the whole world: and so a poor man in his cottage may have a blessed influence all over the world. God is, if I may so say, at the command of the prayer of faith; and in this respect is, as it were, under the power of his people; as princes, they have power with God, and prevail though they may be private persons, their prayers are put up in the name of a Mediator, that is a public person, being the Head of the whole church, and the Lord of the universe and if they have a great sense of the importance of eternal things, and concern for the precious souls of men, yet they need not regret it, that they are not preachers; they may go in their earnestness and agonies of soul, and pour out their souls before one that is able to do all things; before him they may speak as freely as ministers; they have a great High Priest, through whom they may come boldly at all times, and may vent themselves before a prayer-hearing Father, without any restraint.
If the people of God, at this day, instead of spending time in fruitless disputing, and talking about opposers, and judging of them, and animadverting upon the unreasonableness of their talk and behavior, and its inconsistence with true experience, would be more silent in this way, and open their mouths much more before God, and spend more time in fasting and prayer, they would be more in the way of a blessing. And if some Christians in the land, that have been complaining of their ministers, and struggling in vain to deliver themselves from the difficulties they have com