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AN INVITATION TO UNITED PRAYER.
THOUGHTS FOR THE NEW YEAR.
Ax invitation to united prayer at the opening of this year scarcely needs to be justified or enforced by argument. They who know that all events are under God's direction must feel that he is now speaking to his church in language the most plain and solemn. It is impossible for his children not now to gather with one accord around his throne, "to talk with" him of his "judgments," and to "plead" for blessing. (Jer. xii. 1.) It is essential to prayer that there be a humble and self-distrustful spirit—a spirit which has ceased from "the son of man, in whom there is no help," and confides only in Him "who is able to save and to destroy." How much have the recent acts of the Most High been calculated to promote such a spirit in this nation! Many of the lessons conveyed by the war in which for two years we were engaged in Eastern Europe were confessedly humiliating. Thousands of brave men fell before the enemy, and tens of thousands, notwithstanding the vaunted power of civilisation, perished by exposure and pestilence. But though the nation was less boastful at the close than at the commencement of that struggle, it still clung to human wisdom, and looked for deliverance from the sagacity of its statesmen. A new trial, therefore, was at that moment in preparation. The sounds of conflict had scarcely died away in one region when they broke out anew in another. So little was peril anticipated in India, that the storm muttered long before its approach was credited. There was no part of the foreign dominions of England to which her sons went with a sense of greater safety, and by many the time was thought near when the people would turn from dumb idols to Christ. Who was prepared for what was actually next in order among the doings of God; for such sudden judgments on the heathen, and such appalling anguish to the strangers who sojourned among them? Never surely have the pride of human power and the boastings of political foresight been more terribly rebuked. The circum
VOL. II.-NEW SERIES.
stances under which a possession, so long the envy of other nations, has been, first, almost snatched from Britain, and then replaced in her hand, are such as to have struck every observer with the conviction that the Lord hath done it "not without cause." And while we say with gratitude, "Thou hast delivered" us "from the strivings of the people, and thou hast made us" "the head of the heathen" (Ps. xviii. 43), we cannot but confess-" after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great trespass, thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this" (Ezra, ix. 13).
While these events were riveting attention, and the ravages of war were filling many homes with sadness, it was the pleasure of God to send a visitation from a different quarter and of a different kind, though charged with substantially the same message. Contemporaneously with tidings of disaster from the East, accounts of commercial confusion were borne from the West. The shock passed with electric speed through this country, and reached the remotest parts of Europe. Property to which its owners clung as to their only treasure, passed utterly from their grasp, and Christians who had a better portion in the heavens, found themselves deprived of what, perhaps, they had too eagerly sought and applied too imperfectly to its proper uses. Not only have the high been laid low, and multitudes who had known only plenty been reduced to penury, but our streets have been saddened by the complaints of the unhired labourer, and "shortness of bread has been endured, in secret, by unnumbered sufferers. Are we not to receive this trial as a fresh rebuke to the prevailing sin of the nation, to that love of gain which dwells in all classes, and has corrupted the principles of so many who, for a time, appeared to serve God? The world has been long crying for relief from its miseries; entreaties for the word of truth have reached us from many shores; the heathen have expressed astonishment that the way of life should have been known to us for so long a time before they were informed of it; but the answer, in many instances, has been that the resources of the church were too slender. It was found impossible to spare from the demands of increasing luxury enough to meet the necessities of men's souls. But God has now by the sure operation of those natural causes which obey his will, made that necessary which was pronounced impracticable.
That this is one of the directions in which these distressing events point may be presumed from the fact that they have occurred at the time when we were shocked by terrible revelations of the moral state of the heathen. We have been told that the religion of the Hindoo is as much adapted to him, as Christianity is to our own race; and that the gentleness and generosity of his nature would be endangered by a change. difficult to imagine that that delusion can any longer exist, or any longer, by its shadow, chill the heart of the church. The atrocities which have made us shudder, tell what the human heart is everywhere, when uninfluenced by the Spirit of God; and while it is impossible not to denounce the injustice, the ingratitude, and the treachery of rebels, it is equally impossible not to see in their conduct evidences of our own neglect. That God is angry with those who have linked the name of England to idolatry may be true; but has he no controversy with his own people for having availed themselves to so small an extent of the facilities which, for at least forty years, have existed for the announcement of the Gospel to that vast company of nations? Yes; humbling confessions are due from all. We are alike guilty. "Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor