Page images

runner of a salutary change in the young man, but to suggest the imprudence of making a paragraph about it in the newspaper.

People in England talk of the “aristocracy of wealth” in the United States. It is true, that in a land so open to all manner of enterprise, the acquisition of wealth gives a man influence, not only as its holder, but as the man of skill who obtained it. They who speak thus, however, have set their mark of aristocracy at a grovelling level. There is an aristocracy of moral worth and consistent piety, and an aristocracy of scientific and philosophical knowledge, within whose circle the “ aristocracy of wealth," without these higher attributes, can find no standing. The faithful and consistent pastor becomes the man of his circle. His influence is felt in his city and in his state. His presence renders a public meeting more respectable than that of ten · men of mere wealth. His influence as a chairman will be of more weight than that of a “real live lord” in England, while he will escape those complimentary flatteries which our intelligent aristocracy endure as best they may, and estimate at their true emptiness.

If a clergyman speaks at a public meeting, he is sure of attentive listening. His Thanksgiving Sermon gives the tone to the people for the year. His inaugural address, or popular lecture, is expected before it is delivered, and discussed after.

Even amongst the very worldly there does not

seem such an absence of the religious element as in Britain. Religion is not a proscribed topic. All treat it as a real thing, and admit the claims of their own souls. The gay, the giddy, and the neglectful, seem aware that they must undergo a change before they can enter the kingdom. This may be imputed to the experimental style of pulpit address. We state the principle, and leave it to produce its effect; they draw the inference from the principle, and dwell on it in such a manner as to arrest those who would not dwell long enough on the subject to draw it for themselves. The solemn deep tone from a pulpit in Hartford often still awakens an echo in the cells of memory, “Hear me! sinner, hear me!” and convinces me that there is a moral power far overmastering that of wealth, which rests at the foot of American society.



THERE are, it may be, “80 many voices in the world, and none of them are without signification.” The lion roareth in the forest because he hath no prey, and the young eagles seek their meat from God. Each voice is intelligible to the ear of the Creator, but the most welcome must be the voice of petition from his children, conveyed through the ever-welcome Intercessor. How simple are the words, “Ask and ye shall receive!" Every child understands, and acts upon them daily, in reference to its earthly parents. Yet how difficult for the heart to adopt and act upon them with perfect simplicity in reference to our Father in heaven. It is a great thing to say, "I sought the Lord, and he heard me,” or to point to an afflicted neighbour and say, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his trouble ;” but this ought to be, and might be, the experience of every praying heart, were it not for lurking unbelief.

In some of our Scottish prayer-meetings, I have

felt a degree of distraction of purpose, and want of defined object, which seemed to eat the soul out of the petition. Perhaps an address on some passage of Scripture diverted the mind of the leader, so that the object of the meeting seemed rather to be instruction than petition; and thus a multitude of vague confessions and requests, which did not fix the heart, destroyed the idea of a union for prayer. It is true, our wants are numerous and varied, and each petition might be suited to the necessities of some one; but the mind gathers strength by fixing on some special subject, and avoids distraction by grasping at no more than it is able to embrace at once.

We cannot forget the solemn meetings of two or three brethren at once to plead for direction, or the mighty outpourings of some hundreds, so frequent before the wrench was made which severed the Free Church of Scotland from the Church of its habitual attachment. We were in earnest then, and knew distinctly what we wanted, and that put life into our petitions. And so it is ever. Defined wants produce defined prayers.

I have attended many prayer-meetings in the United States, and been refreshed by the ready outpouring of heart of elders in various churches. At times the home sensibilities have received a lively touch, by hearing the tones and method of approach of a father from Scotland; differing from his brethren in style, yet the same in aim, for there are


“ many kinds of voices in the world, but none of them are without signification,” and all are intelligible to the ear of mercy.

The association for prayer, of which I wish to give a minute detail, without the help of anything except the strong impression on memory, was held in the city of Boston, in the lecture-room of the Old South Church.

That “Old South”_hallowed as the only lighthouse which at one period held up the true lamp of salvation to that city! The “Old South”where so many pilgrims have been guided, and so many new-born souls have made their first dedication to Christ! My heart was glad, when a lady to whom I carried a letter of introduction, told me of her morning engagement, and most kindly offered to introduce us to that little quiet assembly.

Eight was the hour of meeting, and three quarters of an hour the time allowed, as the numerous merchants and clerks who were present must be in their offices at nine. More than once we enjoyed the privilege of attending, but it is the incidents of one morning which are presented as a specimen of true simplicity and mingling of sympathy. The gentleman who occupied the chair was a layman, who we heard was then only present for the second time. He selected for singing two or three stanzas of a hymn, and then prayed with fervour and fluency for the great and leading object of this meeting, viz., the renewing and refreshing influences of the Holy

« PreviousContinue »