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Take another example: the church is often surprised that sinners are not converted. Meetings for prayer are frequent, and well attended. A spirit of prayer seems to prevail, and strong and importunate appeals are made to God, in behalf of the impenitent. Indeed, Christians appear greatly alarmed for the safety of sinners, and lie prostrate in the dust before God. Yet there are no inquiries on the part of sinners, and no conversions.
Now, we dare not say that Christians pray too much. Their fault generally is the reverse; they pray too little. And yet, in certain cases, might not God, with propriety, say to them, as he said to Joshua : "Get ye up; wherefore do you lie thus upon your face?" There are other duties connected with the conversion of sinners, besides praying for them. Means must be used. Appeals must be made. Seed must be sown. Let the children of God pray: fervently, intensely, importunately: let them also go forth, and enter into the habitations of the impenitent-speak to them-warn them-labor with them. Prayer combined with labor, and labor combined with prayer, may be expected to result in the salvation of souls. God must, indeed, be honored, and the glory of the work be ascribed to him; but never should it be forgotten that he works by means. Had this principle been recognized by some churches, and some Christians, while they would not have prayed less, they would have labored more; and blessed harvests would have been reaped, where but little, if any, fruit has been gathered into the garner of God.
Let the children of God, then, recognize the importance of this principle: that means, åside from prayer, are to be used for the conversion of sinners; and that the neglect of those means may be just as fatal to their conversion as the neglect of prayer itself. Christians may, sometimes, be at a throne of grace, when their duty, in respect to sinners, requires that they should be otherwise employed.
SUN AND MOON STAND STILL, IN ANSWER TO PRAYER.
Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou Moon in the valley of Ajalon.-Joshua x. 12.
THE sin of Achan having been signally punished, God directs Joshua to renew the attack upon Ai, which soon falls under the power of Israel. The destruction of two cities, of so much importance as Jericho and Ai, naturally occasions great apprehension among the Amorites-a name given to several tribes in that vicinity. This apprehension is, also, soon, in no small degree, increased, by the news of an alliance between the inhabitants of Gibeon and Joshua. Pressed with the necessity of immediate measures to secure themselves against invasion, the five Amorite kings combine, and commence offensive operations by an attack on Gibeon. The latter, taking advantage of their recent alliance with the Israelites, forthwith communicate to Joshua the dangers which environ them, and beg immediate succor.
Joshua is directed to hasten to their assistance, and receives the divine assurance that success shall attend his arms. Yet, we find him neglecting no prudent means of effecting his object. By a military stratagem, he surprises the Amorite kings, and their confederate army. The attack is successful, and a most signal slaughter of the enemy ensues. Their ranks are broken. They are put to flight-taking opposite courses; some attempting to escape north, to Beth-horon, and others south, to Azekah, and Makkedah. At this juncture, God interposes, to make the destruction of these idolators more complete a tempest of hail-stones is supernaturally employed, by which more perish than are slain by the sword.
The day was now declining, and still the enemy were not entirely destroyed. The Israelitish forces were pressing onstrong-spirited-determined. But Joshua perceived that night would shut in ere the entire work was accomplished. What more could he do? What expedient adopt, to destroy he remaining cohorts of the army of idolators? He turned is thoughts to God. It was his cause. They were fighting for him and his glory. He was a prayer-hearing God. Suddenly, the important expedient occurs to him-doubtless divinely suggested-and, the next moment, we behold him prostrate before the footstool;
with his temple bare,
On! till the avenging swords have drunk the blood
Thy banners, in returning triumph wave.*
Although nothing is said in the sacred narrative of a direct prayer to Jehovah at least, no form of words is given-yet, it is apparent that a solemn and fervent appeal to Jehovah preceded the command of Joshua to the orbs of heaven; and, in this opinion, we are strengthened by the declaration of the historian, v. 14, "that there was no day
J. B. Van Schaick.
like that before it, or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man," &c. The sense of which doubtless is, that never before, for such a purpose, had God listened to the prayer of an individual; for, oft-times, Moses had prevailed with God, in relation to miracles of great magnitude, but never before had God hearkened to the voice of man, to alter so signally the course of nature, or to grant such an illustrious display of his power, in behalf of his people. It might have been a secret prayer; but, whether secret or audible-protracted or momentary-it was a prayer for that which had, probably, never before entered into the heart of man to offer. Moses had converted the river of Egypt into blood; he had brought down hail and fire from the clouds of heaven; he had divided the Red Sea; he had smitten the rock, and brought forth water; but here, the very orbs of heaven, far off, are stopped in their course! stopped by God, (who performs all miracles,) but at the instance of a worm on his footstool!
Whatever we might wish, we are unable to heighten, by any language of ours, the impression which the simple narrative conveys. The language of Joshua is sublime; but more sublime the wonderful results.
The only thing further which we wish to suggest is, that as God has himself prescribed no limit to what, on proper occasions, we may ask, neither should we. We cannot say what faith, even at the present day, might not obtain from God, were it sufficiently strong, and had it purely his glory in view. Certain we are, that the children of God might obtain far greater spiritual blessings than they do, had they a higher faith, and were they more willing to labor for the glory of God. Joshua prays that the sun and moon may stand still, that he may work-work in God's cause, and to God's glory. And if good people were as willing to labor "to pull down the strongholds of sin and Satan," would not God send down his holy Spirit oftener, in answer to their
prayers, and continue the light and blessings of such days, till the whole work should be accomplished? Oh! that we had Joshuas in our days, whose faith would allow them reverently, but efficiently, to say to the Sun of Righteousness, "Stand thou still, over this and that place, till all thine enemies are subdued!"
And that day will come. The present puny race of Christians will, by and by, give place to one which will be "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." They will pray far more; they will plead the promises with glorious efficiency; they will cry, and God will hear; they will agonize, and the blessings asked-all of which will so respect the glory of God, as not to be withheld-the blessings asked, and far more than asked, will come down, as showers that water the earth.
O scenes surpassing fable, and yet true!
Scenes of accomplish'd bliss! which, who can see,
PRAYER OF MANOAH.
Then Manoah entreated the Lord, and said, O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born. And God hearkened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again unto the woman, as she sat in the field; but Manoah, her husband, was not with her.-Judges xiii. 8, 9.
To a just understanding of Manoah's prayer, a knowledge of some previous events and circumstances is important. For a series of years, the Israelites had suffered under Philistine oppression. Whether they had become sensible of their sins, on account of which God had given them into the hands of their enemies, does not appear. But He, who had