From New York Observer
PRAYER FOR THE IMPRISONED MISSIONARIES
Remember them that are in bonds. as
bound with them'
The word remember, intimates we shall forget them. If they are in bonds, they are out of our sight; and what is out of sight, is apt to be out of mind. But those in bonds have not always been forgotten.--When Herod had imprisoned Peter, 'prayer was made without ceasing of the church, unto God, for him.' They did not cease to pray, until their prayer was answered in his deliverance; for we are told, that on the very night when this joyful event happened, 'many were gathered together praying.'
Christian brethren, I wish to stir upon mind and yours to remember the dear missionaries who are incarcerated in the Georgia penitentiary. I fear we do not pray for them with as much fervency and frequency as we did on our first hearing of their imprisonment. Things have transpired which have been calculated to dishearten us. A change in the supreme magistrate of the state where they are imprisoned did not operate in their favor, as their friends hoped it would have done. The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States honorably acquitted them of all crime; and yet it has not effected a deliverance from their confinement. The petitions of their friends brought their grievances before the national legislature; but this also failed of affording them any relief. We are now in danger of sinking into despondency, and concluding that it will do no good to pray for them any more. Permit me to suggest several reasons why we should not cease to remember in our prayers these brethren who are in bonds.
1. We need the benefit of this exercise ourselves. If we cease to pray for them, we shall cease to sympathize with them. We are required to feel for them as if we wore the bonds with them. A frequent remembrance of them in our prayers will more than anything else, enable us to do it. It will transport us to their prison, and help us mingle our sorrows and joys with theirs.
2. Our prayers for our brethren in adversity may greatly benefit them; even in case they should not serve to shorten the term of their imprisonment. From some letters which they wrote to their friends, soon after they were lodged in the penitentiary, we were pleased to learn, that the state of their minds was uncommonly tranquil and happy. As their sufferings for Christ abounded, so also did their consolation by Christ. This gloomy prison, was no doubt a precious answer to prayer, not merely to that which ascended from their own hearts, but to that also which was poured forth by thousands of the friends of Christ in all parts of the United States. Nor is there any reason to doubt beyond the seas.--For these divine comforts, which are better than all the joys of life, they are still dependent. Should their brethren cease to pray for them, their long continued bondage may yet depress their spirits, and terminate in mental dejection.
3. Ceaseless prayer for the imprisoned missionaries should it fail to procure their releases may nevertheless be of incalculable importance to the cause of Christ. We have reason to believe that, hitherto, this glorious cause has not suffered by their means; but, on the contrary, that it has been honored and advanced. Still, we must not forget that our afflicted brethren are nothing but men, imperfect men. And Solomon tells us that 'oppression maketh a wise man mad.' Should their protracted sufferings, which they are now compelled to endure, against the imperative demands of justice, declared by the highest tribunal of their country, chafe their minds and disturb that Christian meekness which is so honorable to the religion of Christ, it would not be strange; nevertheless it would be injurious to the best of causes. Their exemplary conduct is of more consequence than their personal comfort; in relation to this particular, we should, therefore be very earnest in the petitions which we make in their behalf. Though our brethren are shut up within the walls of a prison, they are placed on a hill,-that is a situation of great conspicuity-and it is of indescribable importance to the honor of their Savior, and the progress of religion in the world, that their light should shine before men; that they should continue to possess a meek and a quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is of great price; that they should continue to be patient in suffering, active in doing all the good which it is in the power of their hands to do.
4. Our prayers may yet procure their release from prison. This was the effect of the prayer which was offered in behalf of Peter by the church of Jerusalem. Perhaps it will be said, 'But those were days of miracles: his prison was opened by the ministry of an angel.' To this it may be replied, the power of God is as supreme now as it was then; nor have angels ceased to be ministering spirits sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation. Though God does not at the present period manage the kingdom of providence by miracles, as he did in times past, during the days of inspiration, still this does not render him impotent, or incapable of answering the prayers of his saints. Jay, in his 'Closet Exercises' makes a remark to this effect: that God would still make use of miracles, if he cold not answer the prayers of his people without them. The Scriptures represent God as having the control of all the hearts in the world; so that even the hearts of kings (the Bible word for rulers) are as much in his hands as the rivers of water. In answer to the united, persevering, and fervent prayers of his people in behalf of the imprisoned missionaries, it is not too much to hope that God will give them favor in the eyes of nations ' soften the hearts of the oppressors that he will so influence in the choice of rulers, whether in the particular state which is the scene of their sufferings, or in the general government, as shall be most conducive to their enlargement. While his people are praying for their enlargements, uninfluenced by party politics, and without making any calculations of their own concerning the means by which their prayers will be answered, God can with perfect ease, and consistency take this method to do it. By terrible things in righteousness (said the divine monarch) will thou answer us, O God of our salvation. The cholera may be the messenger, which the Lord will send to open the prison and bring out his servants. By sending this pestilence, he may answer the prayers of his people; and again, in answer to their prayers, he may remove it. The church of the redeemed, whether living in the age of miracles, or in any other period, may say, 'Our God is in the heavens; he hath done whatever he pleased.'- And Jehovah their God has declared, 'I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.' And their own experience of his readiness to attend to their requests has led one and another of them to testify. 'God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.'