Eavesdrop with me, will you, on the Sunday morning of May 5, 1878, even now as we listen to this pastor in prayer.
More to come ...
"O Lord, our song reminds us of what we were, and, oh, we would begin our praise by the acknowledgment of our natural condition; we would remember the miry clay and the rock whence we were hewn, for we were 'by nature children of wrath even as others'.
"Well do we remember when we felt this, and when the bitterness and gall were in our mouths, of which we had to drink both day and night. How heavy was the load of sin! All our thoughts were engrossed with that sense of pressure and of dread. We looked on the right hand and there was none, and on the left and we found no helper; but then Thou didst Thyself deliver us by leading us to cast a faith-look to the divine, only-begotten, and crucified Son. At this moment vividly is it upon our recollection how Thou didst bring us up out of the 'horrible pit': we remember now the new song which Thou didst put into our mouths as we found our feet fast on the rock and our goings established. It is long since then with some of us, but all the way has been strewn with mercies, and we desire this morning to record, 'Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.'
"We thank Thee now, in the retrospect, for the trials which we have endured. Some of us have been brought very low with physical pain and mental weariness, and others have been sore smitten with bereavement, losses and crosses, and persecutions, but there is not one out of all our trials which we could have afforded to have been without. No, Lord, all has been ordered well, there was a need-be for every twig of the rod, and we desire now to thank Thee that we can see in looking back, how all things have even now worked together for good, though we know we cannot see the end as yet.
"O Thou good God, Thou blessed God, like David we would fain sit down before Thee in silence and wait awhile, for our words when we do use them are totally inadequate to the expression of what we feel, much more of what we ought to feel concerning Thy goodness and Thy loving-kindness; yet we will bless Thy name with such language as we have. Jehovah, our God, let others worship whom they will and seek after what object of love they please, this God is our God for ever and ever, He shall be our guide even unto death. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Triune God of Israel, we express most solemnly the reverence we feel for Thee; and render to Thee our humble adoration as we acknowledge Thee to be the One and only God, by whom the heavens and the earth were made, by whom all things consist, the Redeemer of Thy people, their Father and their Friend, for ever and ever! All our hearts worship Thee, O Thou glorious Lord!
"And truly since we have received so many mercies at Thy hand, we do feel that Thou wilt never forsake us, nor in any darkness which may be in our path in the future, wilt Thou desert Thine own. Thou hast done too much for us to desert us now. We have cost Thee so much - Oh, wondrous price that Thou hast paid for us - and Thou hast spent so much of wise thought, and gracious act upon us, that we are persuaded Thou wilt go through with the work which Thy wisdom has undertaken. But give us faith to believe this: when the stormy times come, let us not doubt, but what our Helmsman will bring us to the desired haven. Though winds and waves assault our keel, may we still find perfect peace and rest in the thought that He who is in the hinder part of the ship is Master of winds and waves. Comfort Thy children this morning, great Father, if any of them are in doubt just now; and bring them all into an assured confidence and perfect restfulness in the Lord their God.
"Next, we would humbly entreat of Thee that we may each one be permitted to do some great service for Thee before we go hence: we do not mean great in the wisdom of our fellows, but let it be all that we can do. If we cannot build a house for Thee, yet have we set our hearts upon doing something; and if it be Thy will, direct our minds to what it shall be, lest our minds should not be Thy mind: but let not one of us be barren or unfruitful. If we have indeed been redeemed by the blood of Christ, may we reckon that we must live to Him; may the love of Christ constrain us, and may something come of our lives that shall be a blessing to the sons of men, ere we go hence.
"And our Father, while we offer this prayer, we will also pray with a deep gratitude for all Thy mercies: may they take possession of all our hearts that, as when David sat in his house of cedar he 'magnified the Lord', so may we also whenever things go smoothly with us. Lord, may the gratitude we feel prompt us to say again, 'What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits towards me?' May every child of Thine here to be every day serving Thee; and serving Thee so that heaven's work may begin below, and something of heaven's pleasure may be enjoyed even now. But Lord, while we work for Thee, always keep us sitting at the feet of Jesus. Let our faith never wander away from the simplicity of its confidence in Him. Let our motive never be anything but His glory; may our hearts be taken up with His love, and our thoughts perpetually engaged about His person. Let us choose the good part which shall not be taken away - that if we serve with Martha we may also sit with Mary.
"Let this church, Lord, receive a fresh anointing of the Holy Ghost, that all its members may be spending themselves for the Master. Wilt Thou quicken, we pray Thee, every agency; in all our Sabbath schools, may there be no lack of teachers, may our young friends find it a delight to be teaching the little ones; may there be even a superabundance of workers in this department. Let not anything flag to which the church has set her hand. Prosper us in the education of our young men for the ministry! bless us, we pray Thee, with our dear orphan boys: may they, all of them, be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation. Remember our colporteurs scattered about this country, and prosper them in their going from house to house with the Word of God, and may they be great soul-winners, all of them, that the Lord's name may be glorified.
"And all the thousand and one things which constitute the activities of the churches at large, do Thou bless and prosper them so far as they are according to Thy mind; and may it please Thee to give to the churches prayer in proportion to activity, and faith in proportion to zeal. O Lord! visit Thy church at this time, which is a time of peril, and in Thy mercy revive among us the love of the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. Rebuke, we pray Thee, those who, with their philosophy and vain deceit, would mar and spoil the gospel of Jesus Christ. Grant that in all deliberations of any part of Thy church, which concern this great and grievous and crying evil, there may be decision and wisdom and help given, that all may be done and ordered to Thy glory.
"Bless our nation, Lord, we pray Thee, and let the spirit of Christianity permeate it, enter into the high places, and flow down even to its darkest dens. And, we beseech Thee, let us have peace; may nothing happen to break it, may it be established on a firm and judicious footing, and for many a year may no sound of trumpet, or noise of cannon be heard throughout the whole earth. Let the people praise Thee, O God, and learn war no more! Let all the nations be blessed! May the gospel of Christ Jesus penetrate into the remotest regions, and where it is known may the power of it be felt far more.
"Bless our brethren across the sea of another land, but who with the same tongue worship our Lord in spirit and in truth, and our brethren on the southern side of the globe, and all the scattered saints in every nation; visit them with the bedewing of the Holy Ghost, and make the gardens of the Lord amidst the desert to be green, and blossom as the rose. Now help us this morning, give to every one a sense of pardoned sin: forgive us, O Father, for Christ's sake! Give to each one of us also sanctifying power, that we may be cleansed from the influence of guilt. Give power in the delivery of the gospel. May the truth sink into the soul, and may this be a good and happy, devout and beneficial occasion to all of us here gathered. We ask it for Jesus' sake. Amen."
(Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2004), pp. 46-51.