Rev Boyle Dean Of Salisbury
"What was it that struck you most in that sermon on the character of St.
Paul?" said Bishop Patteson to a friend at Oxford, who had been with him
listening to a sermon preached before the University by a very
remarkable man, who has now passed away. "Those two sentences," said his
friend, "in which he said there were two great powers in the world, the
power of personal religion, and the power of prayer." When I told this
many years afterwards to one of the best parish priests I have ever
known, he gave me, from his own experience, some instances of answers to
prayer which are certainly worth reading.
Shortly after he had entered Holy Orders, he joined a clerical society.
He was greatly pleased with three of the younger members, but thought
from their conversation after the meeting that they were too fond of
amusements. As he walked home he spoke of this to an elderly clergyman,
who said, "Let you and me make for them special prayer, that they may
take a more serious view of their calling." Some time afterwards my
friend happened to see one of these three brother clergymen at a time of
great sorrow. He told him that he had resolved to give up certain
amusements, which he thought at one time harmless. Some time afterwards
the other two openly declared that they had taken a similar course, and
my friend did not scruple to avow his belief that the after lives of
these three men, all of high family, and all remarkable for their zeal
as clergymen, was a direct answer to special intercession.
He told me of a still more striking instance. Two men, who had been
friends at college, met after many years abroad. The one said to the
other, "When you were at Oxford, you told me you were very indifferent
as to religion, so I suppose you will not go with me this morning to the
English service." "But I certainly will," said his friend. "I have given
up all that sort of thing; I left off praying for years, in the belief
that as God knows everything it was needless to pray, but an impulse
came upon me after hearing Baron Parke's account of a sermon he heard
Shergold Boone preach, and I am now a communicant." "Then, dear----,"
said his friend, "I think my prayer is answered, for I have never ceased
since Oxford days to ask that you might have the happiness I enjoy."
These two are surely remarkable instances of answers to special prayer
for spiritual benefit.
What shall be said of the faithful man who, through his own effort,
maintained a small but efficient orphanage? From no fault of his own his
supplies ceased. There came into his mind some words of Edward Irving's
about the Fatherhood of God. He made a special petition for the relief
of his poor children. On his return home he found a letter containing a
request that the future welfare of his home should be ensured by a
"How could you keep your temper through all the vexatious dispute of
to-night's debate?" was the question asked of Lord Althorpe by his most
intimate friend, after a fierce discussion on the Reform Bill. "I always
ask for strength before going to the House," was the answer; "and to-day
I asked for special strength, for I knew that party spirit ran high."
Many years ago I worked as a curate in the district which had seen the
first labours of the excellent Bishop of Wakefield, whose sudden removal
from active work will long be deeply mourned by the Church of England.
When he left Kidderminster for a country parish, he gave a New Testament
to a young man who had at one time promised well, but who fell into bad
company. "I shall make you the subject of special prayer," said the
Bishop, on wishing him good-bye. Some years afterwards I told the Bishop
that his advice had not been thrown away, and his words were, "I humbly
hope my prayer was heard."
Bishop Mackenzie told a friend of mine that he had asked for some change
in the life of two favourite pupils at Cambridge. They were not in the
habit of going to University sermons, but they went to hear one of
Bishop Selwyn's famous series in 1854. One of them became an eminent
clergyman, and the other died a missionary in India.
One more instance will suffice. An attack upon the divinity of Christ
was published some years ago by one who had been trained in a very
different way. His former tutor, who had a very great love for him,
asked a few friends not to forget him. As the tutor was dying, he had
the satisfaction of hearing that the man he had known and loved from
childhood had returned to the faith of a child.
I believe that all who have had considerable experience in parochial
work could give many instances of special answers to prayer. In recent
years many have come forward to offer themselves for labor at home and
abroad. The present occupation of many minds with the difficulties of
belief, the revelations made by earnest thinkers like Romanes, the
questions raised in such lives as the late Master of Balliol's, the
earnest longings for some reconciliation between the men of science and
the men of faith, may all surely be accepted as in some degree answers
to the prayers and aspirations of all who hope that in the Church of the
future there may be found a simple faith, an enduring charity, and a
belief in the unchangeable strength of an unchangeable Saviour.
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