And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,…
At the moment when the effectual work of propitiation and intercession goes forward within the temple — what is seen without? The whole multitude of the people, bending in silent awe, seconding the priestly office and making it in some sense their own, joining their faith to the sacrifice, and lifting their hearts with the rising incense-cloud, are in supplication before God. This can represent nothing else than the power of the united prayers of the Christian congregation, aiding and supporting the official work of the threefold ministry and the holy offices of the Church, in declaring Christ to the world The question before us, then, thrown open in its broadest form, will be this: Are we using the devotional power of the Church in due proportion to its other powers? If in any of our undertakings we fail, there is very little doubt that we fail because we did not expect enough and ask enough of God — for that expectation is only another name for faith; and that asking is prayer. Men say, "Religion is a thing between a man and his Maker"; and though it is often said to palliate some inexcusable neglect of an open religious confession before men, yet it is profoundly true. There are two parties, and only two. The business of religion, therefore, is to bring offerings to Him, and, in answer to our prayers, to take blessings from Him. This, with the sacred sentiments, affections, and actions which belong to that holy intercourse, is the first business of the Church. So, Christians, we stand, in this sacred and redeemed creation, always at a temple door. No doubt there are mysteries. What temple was ever without its suggestion of mystery? Even a very deep and strong human love has its mysteries. But nevertheless, the Light falls down from the Throne. God is there. The door is swung open. We are near to Him; He is near to us. The Mediator and Intercessor is praying there for us. Our prayers are joined with His. The reconciliation is accomplished. The next step follows irresistibly. Every movement of religious life among us must get its power and direction from the Spirit of God. If you would find the true secret of spiritual success, you need not seek for it in the admirableness of the plan, the shrewdness of the management, the numbers that subscribe, or the eloquence of the advocates. You might better seek it in some very obscure chambers, some out-of-the-way corners, some closets with the doors shut, where men or women, or children in whose breasts God has a Temple of His own-never heard of at the public meetings, poor and simple-hearted and of stammering lips — kneel with their great-hearted and prevailing petitions, not discouraged by the slowness of the answer, trusting not in themselves but only in the Lord Almighty. These are the "multitude praying without." The finest and firmest machinery in the world is so much dead material without these prayers. I suppose most of you have seen some elaborate and costly specimen of mechanism, standing still: every little screw and bolt of the complicated system in its place; every post and bar, flange and transom, secure; every bright lever and arm, wheel and tooth, tempered and tested — the whole a splendid embodiment and trophy of intellectual ingenuity and determination — yet silent and inert as icicles, till some lifted gate or open valve lets in the mysterious motive-power which makes it a sure and mighty servant of a purpose beyond it. So are all our best religious measures, till the breath of the church's prayers joins them to the Spirit from on high. We look into the Bible records of the beginnings and growth of God's kingdom on the earth. On every spot where that kingdom struck root we see a group of men bending in prayer. When the Eastern magi were brought by the star to Bethlehem, all their intellectual strength bowed itself down to a little Child; they taught nothing, proposed nothing — they did not even speak; it was simply an offering; the signification of it was the submission of knowledge to faith. It was worship. From page to page, in the Acts of the Apostles, they are shown to us together looking upward. When an order in the ministry, an apostle, or a missionary, was to be set apart or sent out, special prayer signalized the ceremony. At the meeting and parting of Christian friends, on their sacred errands, they knelt and prayed. If one of their number was imprisoned, prayer was made for him day and night. The whole fiery heart of the Church of Christ was in instant communication with its ascended Head. And what followed? Why, this was the period when the Church grew before men's eyes with such swiftness that a thousand converts were gathered in the time that it takes us to gather ten. And so the periods of prayer have always been the periods of life. A lingering doubt casts up its faithless suggestion at these words: "Is not the Church constantly praying? Yet where is the fulfilment of the promise?" The answer is found under another word, "the prayers of faith." We may be sure that the measure of the faith is the measure of the power of the prayer, and that the measure of such prayer is, sooner or later, the measure of the blessing we receive. We very often mistake the strength of our desire for the strength of our faith.
(Bishop F. D. Huntingdon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,