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press virtuous dispositions, and pious wishes and affections in their devout addresses to God, without assistance from heaven? Is any thing done by a God of all knowledge and wisdom in vain ? Or does he interrupt the settled course of natural causes, and exert his power miraculously in cases in which there is no occasion for such interposition, or where the most important benefits to mankind are not the result?
The idea of the prayers of the first Christians being part of the supernatural gifts” seems to have been taken up from the passage in the 14th chapter of the 1st epistle to the Corinthians, where prayers, supplications, and thanksgivings are indeed mentioned in company with the gift of speaking a foreign language", but in which there is not the slightest intimation that the prayers themselves, which were delivered in such language, were in any degree supernatural. It is said, verse 15th, it is true, “I will pray with the spirits, and I will pray with the understanding also;” but the meaning of this is, I will pray spiritually, with the use of my own understand.
Though there is nothing in this chapter which necessarily implies that this power was supernatural, let it be granted, for the sake of the argument, it is probable the apostle does allude to such a gift ; for it was communicated on the day of Pentecost, and is enumerated among the spiritual gifts in the 12th chapter of this epistle.
6. Thus Christ observes, as remarked before, that those who worship God acceptably, must worship him in spirit and in truth; that is, spiritually, or with the use of the understanding, and sincerely,
ing, and so as to be understood by others. Prayer is not enumerated among the spiritual gifts in the 12th chapter, nor is it any where else mentioned as such. Let any one look through the instances of social worship that have been quoted from the New Testament, and try whether he can find any thing like a proof of this: the case, for instance, of St. Paul at Miletus, when he kneeled down - as they were departing, and prayed with the company present on that occasion ;-what indication is there, in this instance, of any thing supernatural, or in any degree extraordinary, except indeed the circumstance of the prayer being delivered in the open air be considered as such? This is inconsistent with the customs of the present day; but will any person seriously urge it as a reason why the apostle's example of social prayer should not be followed in more convenient cir. cumstances, and in places more suitable for the purpose? It will readily be granted that the first Christians might be assisted, as several passages of the New Testament seem to indicate, occasionally at least, in their prayers, by divine influence on the mind; but this applies as much to their private as to their public devotions, and may be employed against following their example equally in the one case as the other. This, however, is a very different thing from the social prayers of the first Christians being the exercise of a supernatural gift, of which there is a total want of proof. Several of the passages that
have been quoted, moreover, clearly prove that social prayer was the common and habitual prac. tice of Christians universally in their assemblies for religious purposes in the apostolic age; and will any one be prepared to affirm that prayer was never used on these occasions without the exercise of a miraculous power? And even if in any particular instances supernatural aid can be proved to have accompanied their public des votion, still we should say, as before observed, that this circumstance increased rather than din minished the obligation to the general practice of social worship, because this was an indication that divine approbation attended the performance of this duty.
So long as the preceding passages remain in the New Testament, no further evidence can be needed, that amidst all the sufferings, hazards, and uncertainties of their state, social prayer was from the first the common practice of the apostles and theft converts. They met for this purpose when and where they could; and there are also two or three passages from which it seems reasonable to conclude that they set apart the first day of the week, which they called the Lord's day, more particularly for religious duties, and no doubt, as they were so much in the habit of social wora ship, for this among others. As their numbers increased, which they did rapidly and exten. sively, they every where formed themselves into a John xx, 19, 26. Acts xx. 7. I Cor. xvi. 2. Rev. i. 9, 10.
churches, or religious societies, regularly and judiciously organized, for the purpose of promoting the great and benevolent objects of Christianity among themselves and others whom they could convince and persuade to become partakers of its inestimable benefits. When this was the case, their meetings for religious worship and instruction became more regular and stated; and the first day of the week is more distinctly marked as the time when these services took place.
The Practice of Christians immediately after the
The preceding account of the state of social worship among the first Christians is abundantly confirmed by all the information that can be obtained relative to the period immediately succeeding the apostolic age. There are various decisive testimonies to this effect; but the most important is that of Justin Martyr, whose Apology, from which the following extract is taken, was written A. D. 140. “ On the day called Sunday,” says he, “ there is an assembling together in one place of all who live in the cities or the country; the records of the apostlesa, or the
4 Τα απομνημονεύματα των αποστόλων. This is no more he title of a particular than the “writings of the prophets” is. The “records of the apostles,” or the me
writings of the prophets, are read, as time permits. When the reader has finished, the president delivers a discourse, admonishing the people, and exhorting them to copy in their conduct the excellent things which they have hearda. Then we all rise together and pray; and, when we have ceased praying, bread and wine and water are brought; and the president in like manner offers up prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability), and the people express their concurrence by saying Ameno. Then all who are present partake of the elements, which are distributed among them and sent to the absent by the deacons.”
In the passage already quotedd from Tertullian, who, like Justin, flourished immediately after the age of the apostles, about the year 160, we have another testimony equally decisive to the zealand fervour with which Christians came together in crowded assemblies for the purpose of social prayer. And we may add, the celebrated letter of Pliny to Trajan affords unexceptionable evidence of the same fact, that Christians were morable transactions, discourses, &c. recorded by them, may include not only the historical parts of the New Testament, but the epistles also ; in other words, the whole of the New Testament.
4 Πρόκλησιν της των καλών τετών μιμήσεως. The idea is evidently that these Christians were exhorted to exhibit in their conduct a copy or resemblance of whatever was morally excellent or beautiful in what they had heard read.
b"Oon dúvdepois csütậ, and consequently his prayers were extemporaneous.
Apol. I. par. 87, p. 131. Ed. Oxon. 1700.-