"I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." - Matthew 18:19.
IS there a richer promise within the lids of the Bible? And can we have "any thing," con-cerning which we may agree to ask? What a boundless grant! Have we had no desires? Have we never seized upon this promise, and been agreed to ask? And our prayers not answered? Why? We either have not complied with the conditions of prevailing prayer, or God is not true. If we have failed to comply with the conditions, doubtless it has been because we have misunderstood them. Is it not desirable to secure so great a blessing? Let us then endeavour to understand the condition, "agree . . . touching anything."
What are we to understand, then, by being agreed, "as touching"?
1. We must be agreed in prayer.
Prayer implies desire. To pray, we must have desires - then:
1. We should be agreed in our desires for the object. To agree in word is not to agree in desires. How often the prayer and heart disagree! But desire also implies motive. We must then:
2. Agree in motive. Not only our desires must be the same, but our motives the same; still, we might agree in motive and our motives be purely selfish:
(1) To have our congregation enlarged, and made more respectable; it flatters the pride of the human heart, to be connected with large numbers.
(2) To compel our enemies to acknowledge that God blesses us, or our church.
(3) To have our children, and our friends converted.
3. We must be agreed in good motives. To have our congregation enlarged, not merely because it is the one to which we belong, or to have our children and friends converted only because they are ours. Our motive in desiring a revival should be because God's name would be honoured and glorified in the conversion of sinners, whether they were our own, or our neighbour's children. When we begin to love souls, rather than persons, then we may hope that our motives please God. The prayer of Moses when he pleaded with God for Israel (Exodus 32:11) is a beautiful illustration of the proper motive in prayer. He pleaded God's honour in the salvation of Israel. So great was his love for souls and the honour of God, though the Lord
promised to make of him a great nation in case he cut off that people, yet he pleaded for them. He had no selfishness in his heart. A selfish prayer is a God-displeasing, God-dishonouring prayer.
4. We must agree, also, "touching the time" when we desire the blessing to come. Many Christians pray for a revival of religion in their churches who would be astonished, and disappointed, if God suddenly answered the language of their prayers, without regard to the feelings of their heart.
They would be sadly disappointed if their prayers were answered, because they would not feel that they could lose their time from their business, their crops, or their professions. Christians usually pray for a revival when it will best suit their convenience.
When are campmeeting and protracted meetings appointed? Invariably, those seasons when there is little else to be done, after planting, or working crops, or harvesting. We imitate the sin of the Jews, in thus bringing the lame, the halt, the blind, and the torn of beasts, and that which is ready to perish, and offer it to God for a sacrifice. It is not sacrifice, for it is worthless to use his idle time. If we could be making two or three dollars per day, we would never offer it to God - would never think of passing it away in meetings. Now, the same time would hardly ever meet the convenience of two persons, differently employed - and how can they agree as "touching" the time when
they would be willing to receive the blessing? But we must agree on the time, and on the present time, for present time is God's time. He has no promises for the morrow. His time must be our time. We must be willing to receive when He is willing to give, and that is "to-day."
5. We must agree to ask in faith. This is made one of the conditions of prevailing prayer. "But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed " (James 1:6). Unbelief is a sin, and if we ask, doubting God's word, He will be displeased. We must absolutely believe that our prayers will be answered.
2. We are to agree in everything that is essential to obtaining the blessing.
1. We must agree in feeling the necessity of a revival.
The term revival implies excitement. There never was a revival without more or less excitement. There was no small excitement when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost. The apostles acted and talked like men "full of new wine," and when thousands were convicted at the same time there was, no doubt, some little confusion; and when the three thousand happy converts lifted up their voices together and praised God, "there must have been noise enough." Many of our good brethren like revivals, but will seriously object to any excitement, or confusion, or noise
with it. "Take it calm," say they; "don't be excited about it. Take things in a rational way; so much noise and crying and praising aloud do no good. God is not deaf, or a great way off, that He cannot hear. Noise does no good."
These are like those persons who were near blind Bartimeus when he heard that Jesus was passing by, and began to cry out: "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me!"
"Don't cry so loud! Noise don't do any good. He can hear you - be calm and quiet about it." "And many charged him that he should hold his peace [keep peaceable], but he cried out the more the great deal."
Those tender-eared brethren will be greatly troubled in heaven, unless they void their present notions, for there will be a great noise, though "it don't do any good," when the "ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands" shout with a loud voice, "Worthy the Lamb that was slain," and every creature respond in loud Alleluias.
We do not advocate more sound than sense, i.e., more excitement than religion, but many of our brethren have more fastidiousness than religion.
2. We must agree in regard to the importance of a revival. We must feel it so as to desire and seek it with unutterable agony - more than our meat or our drink: "Ye shall find me, saith God, when ye
seek for me with all your heart." "For so soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children."
3. We must agree in regard to the measures essential to promote a revival or religion in the Church.
In humiliation and prayer, and turning to God, and examining the state of our own hearts, and setting the temples of our hearts in order. Forsaking every appearance of evil.
4. In removing every impediment:
(1) In discipline, cut off the dry and fruitless branches.
(2) By mutual confessions, "confessing our faults one to another."
(3) By forgiving our enemies. "If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift" (Matthew 5:23-24). "If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:15).
5. We must be agreed in labouring to promote it.
6. In determination to persevere, Elijah prayed seven times, ere there appeared a cloud as large as a man's hand. The importunate widow should be our exemplar.
We learn from this subject:
1. Why so many prayers offered in the Church
are mere mock offerings, improper desires - improper motives - no agreement; also:
2. The hypocrisy of those who profess to be praying for a revival of religion, while they are doing nothing to promote it. Would you not pronounce that man a hypocrite who professed to desire a crop, yet did nothing to secure one?
3. Why so many of the children of Christian parents live and die unconverted. And how that two pious parents might insure the salvation of their children, could they but be agreed as "touching it." We cannot be too thankful that it is promised to two.
4. Why this is generally understood to mean something different from what it says. It is read wrong, i.e., as if it read "ask " instead of "agree."
5. How a few individuals are often more successful in gathering in and building up a church, than a much larger number. They are agreed: Three agreed can do more than 300 disagreed.
6. We learn when glorious things may be expected for the Zion of God - whenever churches are agreed to accomplish the work, when the people have "a mind to work."
7. Finally, we see the awful guilt of the Church, and Christian parents, in neglecting their duty in this respect. The salvation of sinners and our children, is entrusted into our hands. To us He hath given "the keys of binding and loosing." Will we by our prayers unlock the gates of heaven
to them, or by our neglect lock them down to hell? Let us this day decide the character in which we will appear to them, - as hypocrites, or as consistent Christians, who love their souls.
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