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of his office and perfectly consistent with it. This great superiority and extraordinary nature, then, of the character and office of Christ serve to account fully for the difference of style and manner of this devout address to God; but at the same time they are very far from destroying its authority as an example to us of prayer in society: if they did, then his diligence and fidelity in teaching; his indefatigable perseverance in conferring benefits on mankind; his dignified resignation and greatness of mind, in sustaining without a murmur the agonies of crucifixion, afford no example to us, because he was divinely inspired to instruct; because he was furnished by God with miraculous powers to do good; and because his death was theseal of the New Covenant in his blood, and therefore all these belonged in a peculiar manner to the high office he sustained, and the heavenly mission he came to fulfill. Prayer in society, not less than instructing the ignorant, affording succour to the needy, and enduring affliction with patience, is a duty common to all mankind, and may therefore receive additional recommendation from the example of Christ, though this as well as other du ties were practised by him in circumstances the most extraordinary, and in an official capacity to which we have no pretensions. The style of the prayer we cannot imitate, for our circumstances are altogether different and our station in the Christian community inferior; but the example, as an instance of prayer in society, remains in full
force, because this is a duty which we have it in our power to practise, if we choose.
Two or three other instances occur, which, however trifling they may seem to some persons, may serve to corroborate the proof, if indeed this were necessary, that Christ approved and was in the constant habit of social worship. The two following are not unworthy of notice; for, however short the prayer, it was still social. When he wrought the miracle of feeding with five loaves and two fishes the multitude that attended him, before he distributed the food, "he looked up to heaven, and blessed God, and gave thanks a;' an act in which, according to universal custom, those who were present as a matter of course were understood to join: and in a similar instance of the seven loaves and a few small fishes, he again led the thanksgivings of the people in the same That such was his constant practice, is evident from a third instance, in conjunction with these, when after his resurrection, at Emmaus, with his two disciples, "he took bread, and blessed God," &c. An act of a similar kind occurred also at the Paschal supper, an account of which has been already given, and which he celebrated for the last time with his apostles, of course, in the Jewish manner, and with their appointed forms of devotion, including the psalms which were recited on this occasion, all of which services were social in the strictest sense.
a Matth. xiv. 19. b Ibid. xv. 36. c Luke xxiv. 30.
It may be worth while to mention also, that a short prayer or thanksgiving of Christ's, in the presence of the multitude, is recorded in Matth. xi. 25. "At that time Jesus spake, and said 'I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that, having hidden these things from the wise and prudent, thou hast revealed them to babes. Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight."
And to this it may be added that the account which St. Luke gives, of the occasion on which the Lord's prayer was given as a model to his disciples, evidently furnishes another instance in which he prayed in company with others. "And it came to pass that as he was praying in a certain place, when he had ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father," &c. The probability is, that Christ had been praying on this occasion in the presence of his disciples; for, had he prayed in secret, how could they have known what he had been doing? He must either have told them, or they must have gained information of it by divine revelation; neither of which suppositions is at all probable, for the former would have implied ostentation in Jesus; and the latter; that a God of all wisdom gave supernatural information in a case of little importance and from which no material benefit could result.
Chap. xi. 2.
However, in Matth. xviii. 19, 20, direct encouragement is clearly given to social prayer by a promise of Christ to his disciples relative to this duty. "I say unto you, that if two or three of you agree on earth concerning any thing which they shall ask in my name, it shall be done for them of my Father who is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." From the whole of this passage taken together, it is manifest that one of the purposes for which Christ expected his disciples to gather together in his name, was social prayer, and by the promise which he made on this occasion he meant to give this practice all possible encouragement. This, I say, is unquestionable; for, should it be observed that in the latter of these verses no mention is made of this duty, it is obvious to reply, In the first there is, and the two verses are inseparable. In the former, a conditional promise is given of an answer to social prayer; and in the latter, the reason for expecting the fulfilment of it. Two or three individuals, it is true, might agree to pray for any thing separately, and in private; but the latter of these verses proves that Christ is here speaking of their doing this in society, when they were gathered together in his name, and therefore for the express purpose of social prayer. And as to the smallness of the number here mentioned, this is of no consequence whatever. The least number is mentioned for no reason but because they
would have most need of encouragement. But the ground of faith and hope mentioned in the latter verse applies with equal force to a large number as to a small one, or rather with greater; for if the united prayers of two or three individuals had the promise of a favourable issue, those of many, equally unanimous, according to the purport of the passage, would have a clearer title to the fulfilment of the promise. It will be replied, of course, that this promise, like the grant of authority in the preceding verse, is to be understood as limited to the apostolic age, if not to the apostles themselves, and that therefore Christians in the present day have no concern with any thing which the passage contains. But neither is this objection of the slightest weight; for the gathering together of the followers of Christ in his name, among other purposes for social prayer, being a general duty common to all Christians in all ages, he evidently speaks of it as such, since his language clearly implies that to meet for social prayer would be the future practice of his followers generally. And though the ground of encouragement given here does apply exclusively to the period of his personal presence and the continuance of miracles among them, still it necessarily indicates approbation of meetings for social prayer in general, and is given expressly for the purpose of stimulating his followers to perseverance in this custom. If it were right in the apostles, it cannot be wrong in us, because it is a duty which has