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ON THE INSTITUTION OF A
IN CONNEXION WITH THE ESTABLISHED CHURCH,
RULES AND REGULATIONS.
THE REV. EDWARD ELLIOTT, A.M.,
VICAR OF TUXFORD, NOTTS.
N.B. This Address was originally printed simply for private use and distribution. It is published in consequence of the cordial approbation it has met from many experienced brethren in the ministry, particularly from one revered and eminent minister, to whose judginent the question of its publication was specially submitted. The writer hopes that, for parishes circumstanced like his own, it may suggest hints not unseasonable at the present time. It is obvious that the Institution it recommends may be rendered advisable, and even be forced upon a minister, simply as a measure of self-defence ; to keep the less established members of a rising spiritual flock from wandering into unwholesome pastures, and preserve them in union with each other, and with their appointed pastor.
In publishing it, however, he would wish to express his sense of the great caution necessary in every step of the proceedings. Pre
pitancy in any such Institution cannot but entail evil. The character of each applicant for admission should be well ascertained before admitted, the test of time being observed as well as other tests. The proceedings at the prayer meetings should be frequently inquired into, and the members specially and affectionately watched over by the minister. Above all, it is important that he should have full experience of the piety, humbleness, sound judgment, consistent walk, and attachment to his church and ministry, of the person chosen to preside.
INSTITUTION OF A PRAYER MEETING.
(N. B. It is requested that this be read over by the members
at least once a quarter.)
MY CHRISTIAN FRIENDS,
After much consideration, doubt, and anxiety on the subject, I have at length determined on instituting a Sunday Morning Prayer Meeting for men, in connexion with my church and ministry.
The cause of my long hesitation has been a fear lest more evil than good should result from it ;-a fear for which too much reason has been afforded by the evils almost always attending prayer meetings as they are usually conducted. I have, however, at last been brought to hope that, with proper rules and careful superintendence, evils such as I allude to may be in a great measure avoided, and good, comparatively unalloyed, be derived from the meetings.
Yourselves, whom I now see before me, I have called together, as supposing that you would probably be desirous at once to become members of what we are instituting. And I wish fully and frankly, in the first instance, to lay before you my deliberate thoughts on the subject; in order that, if there be
important difference of sentiment between any of us, it may be ascertained, and none be admitted members but such as sufficiently agree with me to ensure cordiality and harmony in our proceedings.
I proceed, therefore, without further preface, to state to you what appear to me, according to my best judgement, to be
I. The probable ADVANTAGES of social prayer-meetings ;
III. The RULES and CAUTIONS with which, by God's blessing, we may hope to avoid the evil and attain the good.
1. The ADVANTAGES.
1. And, under this head, the first thing that must strike an inquirer is the special promise attached to social prayer. " If
two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that • they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.-For where two or three meet together in my
name there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew xviii. 19, 20.)-How many special subjects of prayer will there be for a meeting such as proposed! Your own souls, your families, the town, the schools, the church, the Sabbath ordinances, and every institution and effort amongst us for the advancement of religion ! Surely I may myself derive untold benefit from your united prayers, and a double blessing rest in consequence on my ministrations.
2. The spreading of a devotional spirit from one to another.It is to be remembered that we are all more or less creatures of sympathy. What one is seen to feel deeply that others present have a tendency to feel also. This is the case quite as truly in respect of religious feeling as in respect of feelings less sacred. Now of those who meet together for prayer, we must expect that some will be more advanced in spirituality than others, and that even with the spiritually minded the frame will not always be the same. If, then, in seasons of religious languor, you meet to pray with others under the evident influence of God's blessed Spirit, you may hope that the sweetness of this unction of the Holy One will diffuse itself, even like that of the precious oil upon the head of Aaron ; and that, as you
yourselves partake of it, you may have reason to bless God for the gathering together in his name.
3. I should hope that this hallowed intercourse will increase your interest in each others' well-being, and be a cement of christian love.--Love can hardly be felt in its proper affectionateness without frequent intercourse with those who are its objects, and some particular knowledge of their state and feelings. Now, even whilst avoiding direct questionings (as I shall afterwards recommend) on the subject of religious experience, it is scarce possible but that there should result from meetings such as these a better acquaintance with each others' religious state, progress, trials, difficulties, encouragements. Hence christian sympathy may be expected to increase :-hence desires to be kindled, as well as subjects suggested, for mutual intercessory prayer ;-I mean, not only at the time of meeting, but in the retirement of the closet afterwards. And, ultimately, we may hope that it will lead you to the enjoyment of somewhat of that fellowship of the saints of which such sweet descriptions are given us in the history of the primitive christians.-Nor in this advantage will the minister fail to share, though himself not present at the meetings. They will be to him an important medium through which he may gather information respecting the spiritual state of its respective members, and thus have his best sympathies for them awakened, cherished, and enlarged.
4. May I not hope that it will lead the members to more of decision in religion, and impress them, increasingly, with a sense of the responsibility of their profession 2-No doubt, as it will constitute before the world a marked act of religious profession, so it will increase your religious responsibility. But if increased responsibility be accompanied by an increased sense of it, and by increased prayer and watchfulness lest He by whose name you are called should be dishonoured, it will indeed prove a blessing
II. But now let me proceed, in the SECOND place, to point out the DANGERS and Evils too often found in Prayer-Meetings.-And,
1. Neglect of private prayer.-A person may be led, perhaps,