Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Not as Athenians, But as Christians

Henry Hurst, “How We May Inquire After News, Not as Athenians, But as Christians, For the Better Management of Our Prayers and Praises For the Church of God?” in Puritan Sermons, 1659-1689, Vol. 4, pp. 531-550:

…all the members of the church, are to inquire into what God is doing for or against his church, as they have in their present station opportunity to do so; as Nehemiah did, who inquired of them that came from Jerusalem, what condition that city and people of God were in. (Chap. i. 2.)

But none may inquire like Athenians…(2.) With curiosity to know what other men believe and do in religion, than serious purpose to know what they themselves should believe and do.
First, then, a Christian ought to make inquiry into news that concerns the church, according to the advantage and capacity he hath, more fully to know both the good and welfare of the people of God, or to know the sorrows and dangers that lie upon the church.

Jerusalem must not be forgotten; she must be prayed for. (Psalm cxxii. 6.)
 Such who know few but their Christian relations or neighbours, may know the sorrows, dangers, wants of these; and ought to pray for them, as they are members of the church; and consider [that] the like state other Christians are in, and must be prayed for, &c. We are to mourn with those that morn, and rejoice with those that rejoice: (Rom. xii. 15:) that we may better do this, we should inquire, the most we can, into the present state of the church.

Thirdly. [He] who inquires as a Christian, in order to manage prayer and praise, should, I think, inquire of those who can and will inform him best, most truly and sincerely, of any news he heareth.

Fourthly. [He] who inquires as a Christian, must inquire with a compassionate affection to the suffering churches of Christ. – Or, feeling their wounds as living members feel the griefs and wounds of the body in what part soever, preparing to help the whole and bear his own part; as one who “prefers Jerusalem above his chief joy,” and can heartily rejoice in her prosperity; as one whose heart is wounded with the same sword that woundeth Jerusalem, and therefore bitterly bemoaneth and heartily prayeth for the bleeding church.

Fifthly. When you inquire into the present news that concerns the church, that you may the better pray for the church, or praise God on behalf of the church, inquire into the sins of the church with an humble, mourning, and repentant heart.

Sixthy. Would you as Christians inquire into the news of the present times, the better to manage prayer and praises for the church? Inquire, then, what are the effects of either good and welcome, or of sad and mournful, news upon such as are nearest concerned in both. – Do judgments awaken and frighten sinners in Zion from their sins? Do the punishments of their sins work them to deep humiliation, to public repenting and reforming? Or are they as sinful, secure, and as fearless as ever? What effect have God’s mercies upon his churches? Do his mercies prevail with them “not to conform to the present evil world, but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds?” (Rom. xii. 1, 2.)

Eigthly, and lastly. Would you as Christians inquire, in order to the better management of your prayers and praises? Then, whatever news of moment you hear concerning the state of the churches of Christ, be sure, to your best knowledge, compare those news with these things are signs of approaching deliverances and fuller salvation from its own sins and self-created troubles, and from the furious rage of enemies.
1. Compare the state of the church, and your news of it, with the divine providences over the church in like circumstances in times past. – Find out some instance parallel to your present case in the scriptures; and in prayer plead it with God for the like, nay, for greater, help. The various cases of the church recorded in scripture, are glasses in which we may see what troubles we must expect; and God’s providences to his people are exemplaries for us to conform our hope and confidence unto. We may read his deliverances, and in like cases say, “This is our God, as theirs; he will lead us, preserve, and deliver us, as them.” Hence it is [that] you do so often find the people of God concluding and expecting relief, because he did in like case hear prayer, and give his people matter of praise, in times past.
 2. Compare the news you hear with the expectations of the generality of the observant, praying, meditating, scripture-wise Christians. – Consider well what the body of these look for; whether good, or evil.

4. Look to the promises made to the church for her deliverance, when you hear of or inquire after any great news among the states and kingdoms of the world, among which the churches of Christ sojourn, and among which the saints of God have and still do suffer. – It needs not a particular proof, that there are many express promises that the church shall be delivered; that there is a fixed time for the beginning, progress, and full accomplishment of these promises; that their accomplishment shall be gradual, and such as will clear itself; and though we cannot say when the full accomplishment [will take place] to a day or month or year, yet, by comparing transactions and occurrences with promises, we may without doubt discover somewhat of the promise made good to the church, for which we ought to praise the Lord; and all the rest of the promises shall be fulfilled, and for this we should earnestly pray to the Lord.

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