Sermon 1247. The Special Prayer Meeting
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, JULY 20, 1875,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"When he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many weregathered together praying." Acts 12:12.
IT was a great wonder that the infant Church of Christ was not destroyed. Truly, she was like a lone lamb in the midst offurious wolves, without either earthly power, prestige or patronage to protect her, yet, as though she wore a charmed life,she escaped from the hosts of her cruel foes. Had not this child been something more than others it had been slain like theinnocents at Bethlehem-but being Heaven-born it escaped the fury of the destroyer. It is worth while asking, however-withwhat weapons did this Church protect herself? For we may very wisely use the same. She was preserved in her utmost dangerfrom overwhelming destruction-what was her defense? Where did she find shield and buckler?
The answer is-in prayer-"many were gathered together praying." Whatever may be the danger of the times, and each age has itsown peculiar hazard, we may rest in calm assurance that our defense is of God and we may avail ourselves of that defense inthe same manner as the early Church did, namely, by abounding in prayer. However poisonous the viper, prayer can extract itssting. However fierce the lion, prayer can break its teeth. However terrible the fire, prayer can quench the violence of theflame. But this is not all-the new-born Church not only escaped, but it multiplied! From being as a grain of mustard seed,when it could all assemble in the upper room, it has now become a great tree! Lo, it covers the nations! The birds of theair, in flocks, find shelter in its branches.
Why this wondrous increase? What made it grow? Outward circumstances were unfavorable to its progress-upon what nourishmenthas it been fed? What means were taken with this tender shoot that has been so speedily developed? Whatever means were usedof old, we may wisely use them today, also, to strengthen the things that remain and are ready to die, and to develop thatwhich is hopeful in our midst. The answer is-the fact that on all occasions, "many were gathered together praying."
While praying, the Spirit of God came down upon them. While praying, the Spirit often separated this man and that for specialwork. While praying their hearts grew warm with inward fire. While praying their tongues were unloosed and they went forthto speak to the people. And while praying the Lord opened to them the treasures of His Grace. By prayer they were protectedand by prayer they grew. If our Churches are to live and grow, they must be watered from the same source. "Let us pray," isone of the most necessary watchwords which I can suggest to Christian men and women, for if we will but pray, prayer willfill up the pools in the valley of Baca, yes, and open to us all the channels of that river of God which is full of water,the streams whereof make glad the city of our God.
We have heard a great deal of talk in certain sections of the Church about going back to primitive times. They are introducingto us all sorts of superstitious inventions, under cover of the customs of the early Church. The plea is cunningly chosen,for primitive practices have great weight with true Christians. But the weak point of the argument is that, unfortunately,what they call the early Church is not early enough! If we must have the early Church held up as a model, let us have theearliest Church of all! If we are to have fathers, let us go back to Apostolic fathers! And if we are to have ritual, ruleand ceremonies modeled on strict precedent, let us go back to the original precedent recorded in the Holy Scriptures.
We, who are called Baptists, have not the slightest objection to go back in everything to the Apostolic habit and practice-wereverence the real primitive method and desire to follow the customs of the true early Church. And if we could see every ordinancerestored to the exact mode in which it was practiced by the saints immediately after the Ascension of our Lord, and duringApostolic times, we would clap our hands with delight! 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. To see the early Churchalive, again, would cause us unfeigned satisfaction. Especially upon this point would we imitate the early Church-we wouldhave it said of us-"Many were gathered together praying."
May we have much prayer, much household prayer, much believing prayer, much prevalent prayer-and then we shall obtain greatblessings from the Lord!
I. This morning my earnest desire is to stir up the Church of Jesus Christ to increased prayerfulness. I have taken this text,as it furnishes me with one or two points of great interest and is full of practical suggestions. The first is this, LET USNOTICE THE IMPORTANCE WHICH THE EARLY CHURCH ATTRIBUTED TO PRAYER and to Prayer Meetings. Let this be a lesson to us. As soonas we begin to read in Acts and continually as we read on in that record, we note that meetings for prayer had become a standinginstitution in the Church. We read nothing of "masses," but we read much of Prayer Meetings. We hear nothing of Church festivals,but we read often of meeting together for prayer.
It is said that Peter considered the thing-I fancy that he considered it all round, and thought, "Where shall I go?" And heremembered that it was Prayer Meeting night down at John Mark's mother's house-and there he would go because he felt thatthere he should meet with true Brethren. In those days they did things by plan and order, according to that text, "Let allthings be done decently and in order," and I have no doubt that it had been duly arranged that the meeting should be heldthat evening at the house of John Mark's mother. Therefore Peter went there and found, as he probably expected, that therewas a Prayer Meeting going on.
They were not met to hear a sermon. It is most proper that we should very frequently assemble for that purpose, but this wasdistinctly a meeting where, "many were gathered together praying." Praying was the business on hand. I do not know that theyeven had an address, though some will come to the Prayer Meeting if the pastor is present to speak. But you see James, whois generally thought to have been pastor of the Church at Jerusalem, was not there, for Peter said, "Go show these thingsto James," and most probably none of the Apostles were there, because Peter added, "and to the Brethren," and I suppose bythat he meant the Brethren of the Apostolic college.
The eminent speaking Brethren seem to have been all away and, perhaps, no one expounded or exhorted that night, nor was thereany need, for they were all too much engrossed in common intercession. The meeting was convened for praying, and this, I say,was a regular institution of the Christian Church and ought always to be kept up. There should be meetings wholly devotedto prayer! There is a serious flaw in the arrangements of a Church when such gatherings are omitted or placed in a secondaryposition. These Prayer Meetings should be kept to their objective-and their great attraction should be prayer, itself. Anaddress if you like. A few burning words to stir up prayer if you like. But if you cannot have them, do not look upon speech-makingas at all necessary!
Let it be a standing ordinance in the Church that at certain times and occasions many shall meet together to pray, and supplicationshall be their only objective! The private Christian will read, hear and meditate, but none of these can be a substitute forprayer. The same Truth holds good upon the larger scale-the Church should listen to her teachers and receive edification fromGospel ordinances-but she must also pray. Nothing can compensate for the neglect of devotion.
It appears, however, that while Prayer Meetings were a regular institution, the prayer was sometimes made special, for weread that prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God, "for him," that is, for Peter. It adds greatly to the interestand not a little to the fervency of prayer when there is some great object to pray for. The Brothers and Sisters would haveprayed if Peter had been out of prison, but seeing that he was in prison, and likely to be put to death, it was announcedthat the Prayer Meeting would be especially to pray for Peter, that the Lord would deliver His servant, or give him Graceto die triumphantly. And this special subject gave enthusiasm to the assembly.
Yes, they prayed fervently, for I find the margin of the fifth verse runs thus, "Instant and earnest prayer was made of theChurch for him." They prized the man, for they saw what wonders God had worked by his ministry and they could not let himdie, if prayer would save him. When they thought of Peter and how his bleeding head might be exhibited to the populace onthe morrow, they prayed heart and soul-and each succeeding intercessor threw more and more fervency into his pleading. Theunited cry went up to Heaven, "Lord, spare Peter!" I think I can hear their sobs and cries even now. God grant that our Churchesmay often turn their regular Prayer Meetings into gatherings with a special objective, for then they will become more real.
Why not pray for a certain missionary, or some chosen district, or class of persons, or order of agencies? We should do wellto turn the grand artillery of supplication against some special point of the enemy's walls. It is clear that these friendsfully believed that there was power in prayer, for, Peter being in prison, they did not meet together to arrange a
plan for getting him out. Some wise Brother might have suggested the bribing of the guards and another might have suggestedsomething else. But they had done with planning and betook themselves to praying. I do not find that they met to petitionHerod. It would have been of no use to ask that monster to relent-they might as well request a wolf to release a lamb whichhe has seized.
No, the petitions were to Herod's Lord and Master, to the great Invisible God. It looked as if they could do nothing, butthey felt they could do everything by prayer! They thought little of the fact that 16 soldiers had him in charge. What are16 guards? If there had been 16,000 soldiers, these believing men and women would still have prayed Peter out! They believedin God, that He would do wonders! They believed in prayer, that it had an influence with God and that the Lord listened tothe believing petitions of His servants. They met together for prayer in no dubious mood. They knew what they were doing andhad no question as to the power which lay in supplication! Oh, let it never be insinuated in the Christian Church that prayeris a good thing and a useful exercise to ourselves, but that it would be superstition to suppose that it affects the mindof God!
Those who say this have foolishly thought to please us by allowing us their scientific toleration to go on with our devotions,but do they think we are idiots, that we would continue asking for what we knew we should not receive? That we would keepon praying if it would be of no more use than whistling to the winds? They must think us devoid of reason if they imaginethat we shall be able to keep up prayer as a pious exercise if we once concede that it can have no result with God! As surelyas any law of Nature can be ascertained and proven, we know both by observation and experiment that God assuredly hears prayerand, instead of its being a doubtful agency, we maintain prayer to be the most potent and unfailing force beneath the skies!
We say in the proverb, "man proposes but God disposes," and here is the power of prayer, that it does not dally with the proposerbut goes at once to the Disposer and deals with the First Cause! Prayer moves that arm which moves all things. O Brothersand Sisters, may we gather power in prayer by having faith in it! Let us not say, "What can prayer do?" but, "What cannotit do?" for all things are possible to him that believes! No wonder Prayer Meetings flag, if faith in prayer is weak. Andno wonder if conversions and revivals are scarce where intercession is neglected.
This prayer in the early Church, we remark, in the next place, was industriously continued. As soon as Herod had put Peterinto prison the Church began to pray. Herod took care that the guards should be sufficient in number to keep good watch overhis victim, but the saints of God set their watches, too. As in times of war, when two armies lie near each other, they bothset their sentries, so in this case Herod had his sentries of the night to keep the watch, and the Church had its pickets,too. Prayer was made of the Church without ceasing-as soon as one little company were compelled to separate to go to theirdaily labor, they were relieved by another company-and when some were forced to take rest in sleep, others were ready to takeup the blessed work of supplication.
Thus both sides were on the alert and the guards were changed both by day and by night. It was not hard to foresee which sidewould win the victory, for truly, except the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain! And when, instead of helpingto keep the castle, God sends angels to open doors and gates, then we may be sure that the watchmen will wake in vain, orfall into a dead slumber! Continually, therefore, the people of God pleaded at His Mercy Seat. Relays of petitioners appearedbefore the Throne. Some mercies are not given to us except in answer to importunate prayer. There are blessings which, likeripe fruit, drop into your hands the moment you touch the bough. But there are others which require you to shake the treeagain and again, until you make it rock with the vehemence of your exercise, for then, only, will the fruit fall down.
My Brothers and Sisters, we must cultivate importunity in prayer! While the sun is shining and when the sun has gone down,still should prayer be kept up and fed with fresh fuel, so that it burns fiercely and flames on high like a beacon fire blazingtowards Heaven! I would pause here a minute and urge my dear Brethren to attach as much importance to prayer as the earlyChurch did. You cannot think too much of it. Believing prayer, dictated of the Spirit and presented through Jesus Christ,is, today, the power of the Church, and we cannot do without it! Some look at her active agencies and prize them, and theysuppose that prayer might be dispensed with.
You have seen the threshing machine going along the country road from farm to farm. In front there is a huge, black enginewhich toils along the road. And then behind you see the machine which actually does the threshing. A novice might say, "Iwill hire the threshing machine, but I do not want your engine. That is an expensive affair, which consumes
coal and makes smoke. I do not require it. I will have the machine which actually does the work, but I do not need the engine."Such a remark would be absurd, for of what use would the machine be to you if the motive power were gone?
Prayer in the Church is the steam engine which makes the wheels revolve and really does the work! Therefore we cannot do withoutit. Suppose a foreman were employed by some great builder and sent out to manage works at a distance. He has to pay the mentheir wages weekly and he is very diligent in doing so. He neglects none of his duty towards the men, but he forgets to communicatewith headquarters-he neither writes to his employer, nor goes to the bank for cash to go on with. Is this wise? When the nextpayday comes round, I am afraid he will find that, however diligent he may have been towards the men, he will be in a direpredicament, for he will have no silver or gold to hand out because he has forgotten to apply to headquarters.
Now, Brothers and Sisters, the minister does, as it were, distribute the portions to the people, but if he does not applyto his Master to get them, he will have nothing to distribute. Never sever the connection between your soul and God! Keepup a constant communication with Heaven or your communications with earth will be of little worth. To cease from prayer isto stop the vital stream upon which all your energy is dependent-you may go on preaching and teaching, and giving away tracts,and whatever you do-but nothing can possibly come of it when the power of Almighty God has ceased to be with you!
Thus much on our first point. May the Holy Spirit use it and awaken the Churches to unanimous, intense, importunate intercession.
II. Next we notice THE NUMBER ASSEMBLED which is a rebuke to some here present. The text says, "Many were gathered togetherpraying." Somebody said the other day of Prayer Meetings, that two or three thousand people had no more power in prayer thantwo or three. I think that is a grave mistake in many ways, but clearly so in reference to each other. For have you nevernoticed that when many meet together praying, warmth of desire and glow of earnestness are greatly increased? Perhaps twoor three might have been all dull, but out of a larger number someone, at least, is a warm-hearted Brother, and sets all therest on a flame.
Have you not observed how the requests of one will lead another on to ask for yet greater things? How one Christian Brothersuggests to another to increase his petition and so the petitions grow by the mingling of heart with heart, and the communionof spirit with spirit? Besides, faith is a cumulative force. "According to your faith so is it done unto you," is true toone, to two, to 20, to twenty thousand! And 20,000 times the force will be the result of 20,000 times the faith! Rest assuredthat while two or three have power with God in their measure, two or three hundred have still more! If great results are tocome, they will be accompanied by the prayers of many.
The brightest days of all will never come except by the unanimous prayer of the entire Church, for as soon as Zion travails-notone or two in her midst, but the whole Church travails-then shall she bring forth her children. Therefore I do earnestly pray,Brethren, to make the numbers gathered in prayer as great as they can be. Of course, if we come together listlessly-if eachheart is cold and dead-there is only so much more coldness and deadness. But taking for granted that each one comes in thespirit of prayer, the gathering of numbers is like adding firebrand to firebrand and piling on the burning coals-and we arelikely to have a heat like that of coals of juniper which have a most vehement flame.
Now this is not a very common occurrence and why is it that so many Prayer Meetings are so very thin? I know some places inLondon where they talk about giving up the Prayer Meeting, where instead of two services during the week they have compassionon their poor overworked minister and only wish him to hold forth for a few minutes at a sort of mongrel service, half PrayerMeeting and half lecture. Poor dear things, they cannot manage to get out to worship more than once in the week, they areso much occupied. This is not in poor Churches, but in respectable Churches.
Gentlemen who do not get home from the City and have their dinner till seven o'clock cannot be expected to go out to a PrayerMeeting-who would have the barbarity to suggest such a thing! They work so extremely hard all the day, so much harder thanany of the working men, that they say, "I pray you have me excused." Churches in the suburbs, as a general rule, have miserablePrayer Meetings because of the unfortunate circumstances of the members who happen to be burdened with so much riches thatthey cannot meet for prayer as poor people do. Some of you who have your delightful villas are very careful of your healthand never venture out into the evening air to Prayer Meetings, though I rather suspect that your parties and socials are stillkept up.
I say this not with particular reference to anybody, except if it happens to refer to you, and if it does refer to you, thereference is very special. After all, dear Friends, this is a personal matter. It is of no use my standing here or you sittingthere and complaining that so few come to the Prayer Meeting-how are we to increase the number? I would suggest to you a wayof increasing it, namely, by coming yourself! You may be aware, perhaps, that one and one make two, and that another one willmake three, so that by additions of ones we shall gradually get up to thousands! The largest numbers are made up of units,so that the practical point of all is, if choice blessings are to be gained by numbers coming together for prayer, the wayfor me to increase the number is to go there myself. And if I can induce a friend to go, also, so much the better.
I have a very high opinion of the early Church, but I am not sure that quite so many would have been gathered together thatnight if it had not been that Peter was in prison. They said to one another, "Peter is in prison, and in danger of his life,let us go to the Prayer Meeting and plead for him." Did you ever know a minister who was often laid aside by illness and alwaysfound his people pray better when he was ill? Did it ever strike you that one reason for his being afflicted was God's desireto stir the hearts of his people to intercede for him? Their prayers are better than his preaching and so his Lord says tohim, "I can do without you. I will put you on the bed of pain and make the people pray."
Now, I have an opinion that the best way for these people to really do good for their pastor is to pray that they always bekept in a right condition and may not need his sickness as a stimulus to prayer! If Churches become slack in prayer, thosewhom they most value may be laid aside, or even taken away by death-and then they will cry to God in the bitterness of theirsouls! Could we not do without such flogging? Some horses want to be reminded, now and then, with a little touch of the whip.If they did not need the lash they would not get it. And so it may be with us, that we need Church trials to keep us up tothe mark in prayer-and if we need them we shall have them! But if we are alive and earnest in prayer, it may be that Peterwill not get into prison and some other trying things will not happen, either.
III. The third thing in our text is THE PLACE OF ASSEMBLY. That we will dwell upon this morning as a suggestion. "The houseof Mary, the mother of John, whose surname was Mark." This was a Prayer Meeting held in a private house and I want to urgeall my Brothers and Sisters here to consecrate their houses by frequently using them for Prayer Meetings. This would havean advantage about it-it would avoid all smell of superstition. There still lingers, among people, the notion that buildingsmay be consecrated and rendered holy. Well, it is so babyish an idea that I should have hoped the manliness of this generation,let alone anything else, would have given up the notion!
How can it be that inside four brick walls there should be more holiness than outside, or that prayer offered in some particularseat should be more acceptable than prayer offered anywhere else? Behold, this day God hears prayer wherever there is a trueheart-
"Wherever we seek Him, He is found And everyplace is hallowed ground."
Meetings for prayer, held at the house of the mother of Mark, at your mother's house, at your brother's house, at your ownhouse, will do much to be a plain protest against the superstition which reverences holy places. There was a meetness in theirmeeting in this particular house, the house of Mark's mother, for that family stood in a very dear relationship to Peter.
Do you know who Mark was, in reference to Peter? If you turn to Peter's First Epistle, in the fifth chapter, you will read,"Marcus, my son." Ah, I am sure Mark would pray for Peter, because Peter was his spiritual father! I should not wonder butwhat Mark and his mother were both converted on the day of Pentecost, when Peter preached that famous sermon. Anyway, Markwas converted under Peter, and so both he and his mother often invited Peter to their house and when he was imprisoned theyhad the special Prayer Meetings at their house, because they loved him greatly. There is sure to be prayer for the pastorin the house where the pastor has been blessed to the family. He need not be afraid but what his own sons and daughters inthe faith will be sure to pray for him!
These meetings had a good effect upon Mrs. Mark's house. She, herself, no doubt, had a blessing, but her son, Mark, obtainedpeculiar favor of the Lord. Naturally he was not all we should like him to have been, for though his uncle Barnabas was veryfond of him, Paul, who was a very good judge, could not put up with his instability. But he obtained so great a blessing fromthe Lord that he became, according to the unanimous tradition of the Church, the writer of the Gospel of Mark! He might havebeen a very weak and useless Christian if it had not been that the Prayer Meetings at his
mother's house warmed his heart. And he might never have used his graphic pen for the Lord had not the conversation of thegood people who came to his house instructed him as to the facts which he afterwards recorded in the precious Gospel whichbears his name.
The house received a blessing, and so will you, too, if your house shall be, every now and then, opened for special prayer.I urge upon the followers of Jesus Christ to use their own houses more frequently than they now do for holy purposes. Howlargely might the Sunday schools in London be extended if all the better-instructed gathered together Bible classes in theirown houses and taught them during the Sabbath! And what a multitude of prayers would go up to Heaven if Christians who havesuitable rooms would frequently call together their Brothers and Sisters and neighbors to offer prayer! Many an hour is wastedin idle talk. Many an evening frittered away in foolish amusements degrading to Christians, when the time might be occupiedin exercises calculated to bring down untold blessings upon the family and upon the Church!
Prayer Meetings at private houses are very useful, because friends who would be afraid to pray before a large assembly and,others, who if they did so, would be very much restricted in language, are able to feel free and easy in a smaller companyin a private house. Sometimes, too, the social element is consecrated by God to promote a greater warmth and fervor so thatprayer will often burn in the family when, perhaps, it might have declined in the public assembly. I never knew the littleChurch of which I was pastor before I came here to be in such a happy condition as when the members took it into their headsto hold Prayer Meetings in their own houses! I have sometimes, myself, attended six or seven in an evening, running from oneto another just to look in upon them, finding 12 in a kitchen, 10 or a dozen in a parlor, two or three together in a littlechamber!
We saw a great work of Grace then! The biggest sinners in the parish felt the power of the Gospel! The old saints warmed upand began to believe in young people being converted and we were all alive by reason of the abundance of prayer! Brethren,we must have the same abundance of prayer-pray that we may have it! We have been distinguished as a Church for prayerfulnessand I am jealous with a godly jealousy lest we should go back in any degree. I do affectionately suggest to you with muchearnestness of heart that we should try to increase the number of the places where many shall be met together praying. I donot know where the mother of John Mark is, this morning, but I hope she will start a Prayer Meeting in her large room.
She is well-to-do, I believe, because her brother Barnabas had land, and sold it, and I suppose she had property, also. Wewill use her drawing room. If a poorer friend has a smaller and poorer room, we shall be glad of the loan of it, for it willbe more suitable for persons of another class to go to. Perhaps they would not like to go to Mrs. Mark's drawing room, butthey will come to your kitchen. All sorts will have an opportunity of praying when all sorts of chambers are dedicated toprayer!
IV. I have a little to say about THE TIME OF THIS PRAYER MEETING. It was held at dead of night. I suppose they prayed allthrough the night. They could say, "We have been waiting, we have been waiting, all the night long." After midnight the angelset Peter free. Peter went to the house and they had not gone to bed, but many were met together praying. Now, as to the timefor Prayer Meetings, let me say this. If it happens to be an inconvenient hour, and I should think the dead of night was ratherinconvenient, nevertheless go! Better hold Prayer Meetings at midnight than not at all! Better that we should be accused,as the Christians were of old, of holding secret conventicles under the shadow of night, than not meet together for prayer.
But there is another lesson. The dead of the night was chosen because it was the most suitable hour, since they could notsafely meet in the day because of the Jews. It becomes those, who appoint the times for Prayer Meetings, to select as goodan hour as they can-a quiet hour, a leisure hour, an hour suited to the habits of the people. Still, let us remember thatwhatever hour is appointed, if we come together with true hearts, it will be an acceptable hour. Better still, it would bewell if there could be meetings for prayer at all hours. Then every hour would be an acceptable hour and if one happened tobe unseasonable, another would be convenient-and all classes of Believers could thus meet together at some time or other topour out their hearts in prayer to God.
Oh, Brethren, if your business will not let you meet in the middle of the day, meet in the middle of the night! If you cannotcome together for prayer at the times that are generally appointed, then have Prayer Meetings at such times as
will suit yourselves, only let there be a unanimous resolve throughout the whole Church of Christ that much prayer shall bepresented to the Most High.
V. Notice, in the last place, the SUCCESS OF THE PRAYER MEETINGS AS AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO US.
They prayed and they were heard at once. The answer came so speedily that they were, themselves, surprised! It has sometimesbeen said that they did not really expect Peter to be set free. And that their astonishment was the result of unbelief. Perhapsso, but I doubt it, for you must remember that their prayers did set Peter free, and therefore it does not look as if it couldhave been unbelieving prayer.
I trace their surprise to another cause. I think they expected that God would somehow or other deliver Peter, but they didnot think He would deliver him in the dead of the night. They very likely had appointed in their own minds that somethingwould happen the next day and, so, their surprise arose, not from the fact that Peter was free, so much as from his beingout of the dungeon at that particular time, and in that particular manner. I cannot judge that to have been an unbelievingprayer which really did win the day with the God of Heaven.
Dear Friends, the Lord Jesus waits to give us great blessings in answer to prayer. He can send us surprises quite as greatas those which astonished the assembly at midnight. We may pray for some sinner and while we are yet praying we may hear himcry, "What must I do to be saved?" We may offer our prayers for the sleeping Church and while we pray, it may be answered.But, the Church still sleeps. She has had a smiting on the side, of late, but has not yet girded herself and come out of theprison of her coldness and conventionality. But if we continue in prayer we may see, with astonishment, the Church rouse herselffrom sleep and come forth to liberty. We cannot tell what will happen. Prayer operates in so many ways, but operate it will,and we shall assuredly have our reward!
I selected this topic just now for this reason. The American evangelists who have been so useful in this great city have gonefrom us and the great assemblies which they gathered are no more. There must have been many converted-I cannot but believethat many thousands have received the Lord Jesus Christ and I have no sympathy, whatever, with the remarks of those who arealarmed that our friends have not touched the lowest class of society. I believe they have touched every class of society.At any rate, their business was to preach the Gospel to every creature, and they have done so with great impartiality andearnestness.
If the poorest did not go, it was not because they were not welcome. But they did go! I am an eyewitness to it. I know thatmany who went nowhere before did attend the Bow and Camberwell Halls, and the fact that the congregation looked respectableby no means proves that they were not of the working classes, for what working man is there among us but tries to dress asneatly as he can when he goes to a place of worship? There are plenty of friends here who work hard for their daily bread,but looking around they all seem, by their dress, to be well-to-do. No one has a right to judge, that because a man does notcome to worship in rags, he cannot, therefore, belong to the lower portion of the working class, for it is not the habit ofthe working men of London to go to places of worship in their everyday clothes or in rags.
I saw with my own eyes that multitudes assembled there were of that class which did not habitually hear the Gospel! I am surethat good was done and I do not care who quibbles. The practical point is-What is to be done now? We must keep up this work.And how? Not by those large assemblies, but by all the Churches being revived all round-and the numbers in all the placesof worship becoming more numerous-and at the same time becoming more prayerful. Let us pray now. We need prayer to train theconverts, to keep God's people warm, now they are warm, and to make them yet more so.
What wonders we have obtained in the Tabernacle in answer to prayer! We began this work with a little handful of Christianmen I remember the first Monday night, after I came to London-there was a slender audience on the Sabbath, but thank God therewas almost as many at the Prayer Meeting as on Sunday! And I thought, "This is all right. These people can pray." They didpray, and as we increased in prayer we increased in numbers. Sometimes, at Prayer Meetings, my heart was almost ready to breakfor joy because of the mighty supplication that was offered. We wanted to build this great house-we were poor enough, butwe prayed for it, and prayer built it! Praying gave us everything we have! Praying brings us all manner of supplies, spiritualand temporal.
Whatever I am in the Church of God this day, I owe, under God's blessing, to your prayers. As long as your prayers sustainme, I shall not flag nor fail. But if your prayers are gone, then my power is gone, for the Spirit of God is gone and whatcan I do without Him? All through the Church of God the true progress is in proportion to the prayer. I do not
care about the talent of the speaker. I am glad if he has talent. I do not care about the wealth of the congregation, thoughI am glad if they have wealth. But I do care beyond everything for the deep, real, earnest prayer-the darting up of the soulsof Christians to God-and the bringing down of the blessing upon men from God!
And if this were the last word I had to address to this congregation, I would say to you, dear Brothers and Sisters, aboundin prayer! Multiply the petitions that you put up and increase the fervor with which you present them to God! When my venerablepredecessor, Dr. Rippon, was growing old, this was one of the things everybody noticed about him, that he always prayed earnestlyfor his successors. He did not know who they might be, but his prayer was that God would bless the Church and his successorsin years to come. And I have heard old Christians say that our present prosperity might be traced to Dr. Rippon's prayers.
Oh, let us pray! I believe we have had a revival very much in answer to the multitudinous fervent prayers that were put uphere and elsewhere. And now that God is beginning to bless the Church in answer to prayer, if she stays her hand she willbe like that king of old who had the arrows and the bow put into his hands and shot once or twice, whereas, if he had shotmany times, God would have destroyed Syria before him and established his people. Take down your quivers full of desires andgrasp the mighty bow of faith! Now shoot again and again the arrow of the Lord's deliverance and God will give us multitudesof converts all over London and throughout the world!
"Prove me now herewith," says the Lord of Hosts, "and see if I do not open the windows of Heaven and pour you out a blessingthat you shall not have room enough to receive it." God bless you, for Christ's sake!
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-Acts 12:1-19. HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"-1,009, 978, 1,000.