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nounced; and, also, to be witnesses of the marvelous scenes which were to transpire?
Be that, however, as it may, a "multitude" was there. The hour had arrived. Zacharias enters the sanctuary, and the smoke of incense rises upon the altar of God.* He betakes himself to devout and solemn worship. The people without, at the same time, bend in deep and silent devotion.
And what was the burden of those supplications ?—that of Zacharias?-that of the multitude? We are left to conjecture; but it is no improbable conjecture, looking at the result, that they were led, by the same Spirit, to pray for the speedy accomplishment of the promises, regarding the appearance of the Messiah. We shortly after read of some who were anxiously looking for the "consolation of Israel." The Jewish nation was suffering more and more, under the tyranny and oppression of Herod; and what more natural than that they should give vent to their grief before God, and pray for the speedy appearance of their expected Deliverer?
Suddenly, an angel is observed by Zacharias, standing on the right side of the altar. But what means this unexpected interruption? Whence, and on what errand, has this celestial messenger come? The excited fears of Zacharias are soon allayed, and his mental inquiries answered. “Thy prayer is heard." What prayer? That which he had at this time been offering? Yes; but it was not a prayer for That blessing he had ceased to hope for; but he had been preferring his supplication (in unison, we think, with the "multitude" without) for the redemption of Israel-for the appearance of the long-expected Messiah. Yes; thy prayer is heard;" the day hastens when the "messenger of the covenant shall come to his temple;" but his "messenger" must
"Praying without at the time of incense."-This, observes the pious Doddridge, was the foundation of that elegant figure, by which prayer is so often compared to incense; (See Psalms cxli. 2; Mal. i: ii; Rev. viii. 3, 4;) and, perhaps, one reason for ordaining incense, might be to intimate the acceptance of those pious prayers which were to accompany it.
first come; and I am commissioned to announce him to you in a son, which Elisabeth thy wife shall bear to thee. Thou hast often prayed for a son; thou hast now prayed for the advent of Israel's deliverer-this, thy prayer, shall be answered but it involves in it an answer to thy prayer, often uttered, for the birth of a son—a son in thine old age: “and thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth."
The faith of Zacharias is staggered, and a temporary, but signal rebuke follows, in token of the divine displeasure. But the weakness of his faith sets not aside the promised blessing. In due time, he clasps in his arms a blessing long sought, a son—the herald of Him who was to appear as the Light of the world." He names him, and instantly his tongue is loosed; and, inspired by the Spirit, he utters a prophetic song of surpassing beauty.
There is much that is delightful in these historical incidents, in regard to prayer. We learn not only that the true Israel of God were a praying people, and that, probably, during the long period which followed the cessation of prophetic communications, but also that, notwithstanding the unconditional promises of God that the Messiah should come, they deemed it their duty, and their privilege, to pray for the blessing. It has always been thus, and thus it will continue to the end of time. God promises blessings, and his people pray for them. God designs to send them down, but the house of Israel must inquire and seek after them. They must pray for them; they will pray for them. Between those promises and those prayers, there is an established connection. The latter not only draw them down, but prepare the heart to appreciate and improve them.
It is a quaint, but, nevertheless, just, and even forcible remark of Henry, that "prayers of faith are filed in heaven; and, though not presently answered, are not forgotten. Prayers made when we are young, and coming into the
world, may be answered when we are old, and going out of the world." Many a youth, doubtless, who has yielded his heart to God, and been faithful and persevering in prayer, in the morning of his days, has not only then, but through life, found special favor with God. His supplications—not one of them has been forgotten before God. The day of his espousals-the kindness of his youth, have been remembered; and, while his ungodly companions and friends have passed on through a prayerless and ungodly life, and have found the closing years of that life rendered dark and gloomy by clouds and storms, the evening of his days sees his sun going down, mild and unobscured. It was his prayer in his youth, and in the meridian of his days:
Cast me not off when strength declines,-
But round me let thy glory shine,
And so it proves. It may further be observed, that blessings prayed for are sometimes deferred until others are sought; in granting which latter, the former are also conferred. Zacharias had often prayed for a son. This is, indeed, not forgotten; but not until his prayer for the redemption of Israel is answered, is that former blessing bestowed. Prayers go on, rolling up, until some one prayer is answered; and, with that blessing, the gate of heaven is, as it were, opened, and a tide of blessings come pouring upon us.
How often is it, that the children of God pray for mercies; and, when God indicates to them that they are near at hand, they will not believe it. To Zacharias, it is announced, that his prayer is heard-he shall embrace a son." No, Lord, I cannot believe it!" The church prays for the liberation of Peter and he stands at the door while they were yet praying; but the messenger who imparts the happy news is
pronounced "mad!" Happy is it, that our Heavenly Father does not take advantage of our unbelief. it; but, nevertheless, the blessing is not withheld.
He may rebuke
PRAYER OF CHRIST IN A SOLITARY PLACE.
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.-Mark i. 35. (See also Luke iv. 42.)
It has been beautifully said of the Redeemer, "that often, at the close of a laborious day, when his wearied frame required repose, the children of affliction besieged his retreat, and implored his help. And did they ever seek in vain? Wearied and worn as he was, 'he pleased not himself;' he went forth, and patiently listened to all their tales of wo; tasted their several complaints; raised each suppliant from the dust, nor left them till he had absorbed their sufferings, and healed them all."
Thus had he been employed one Sabbath evening, after the day itself had been spent in preaching, and in kindred acts of kindness and compassion. Not a single sufferer had departed unrelieved. The raving demoniac of the morning might, that evening, be seen seated with his friends-perhaps with his wife and children-calm, rational, and happy; and those who, for months and years, had not tasted the sweets of repose, extinguished their lamps, and slept sweetly "till morning light."
By most, such a day and evening of toil, especially in works of love, would have been followed, not only by a night, but a day of rest. But how was it with the Redeemer? Foreseeing that what he had done would immediately open a wide field of duty, into which he must enter, and for which he would be prepared, he casts off sleep, and,
while the day was just dawning, he leaves his disciples, yet slumbering, and goes forth into a solitary place to pray.
Jesus was himself holy, and, therefore, needed not, as we need, to pray for repentance, or for the forgiveness of sin. But he had temptations, against which to struggle, and enemies, with whom to contend. He had, also, a work of incomprehensible importance to accomplish, and which was now opening before him in all its magnitude. To fulfill this duty, he needed the direct and constant aid of his Heavenly Father. It was befitting him, therefore, that he should seek that aid, as did the children of men, by prayer. But, may be, he also coveted a season of retirement, when he might hold high and holy fellowship with God, away from human observation, and free from worldly interruption. Thus, would his thoughts maintain their proper elevation above the world; thus, would his holy affections receive a new and divine impulse; and thus, his confidence in God be confirmed, and his soul and body be strengthened for the fresh toils which lay before him. Besides, he doubtless designed to set his disciples an example, not only of secret devotion, but of devotion in the morning, and, may be, of devotion on the morning following the Sabbath.
This last remark may serve to introduce to the notice of our readers a neglect, which the Savior's example rebukes, but which, it is feared, is common among Christians—the omission of secret devotion on Monday morning. It is easy to assign reasons for this omission, although they are, by no means, either a justification, or even palliation of it. That morning commonly brings with it a more than ordinary share. of business. Domestic concerns, in a measure neglected during the Sabbath, require additional care. The wheels of business, within and abroad, are again to be set in motion.
*Mark says, "a great while before day." Luke says, "when it was day." The original in Mark means, "while there was yet much appearance of night." This is true at day-break, the time to which Luke refers-when it was daylight, or just at day-break.