Sermon 1304. Enquire of the Lord
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, JULY 9, 1876,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Thus says the Lord God, I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase themwith men like a flock. As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filledwith flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the Lord." Ezekiel 36:37,38.
MULTIPLICATION is a very ancient form of blessing. The first benediction pronounced upon man was of this sort, for we readin the first chapter of Genesis, "And God blessed them, and God said unto them: Be fruitful and multiply and replenish theearth." That same blessing was pronounced, again, when God accepted His servant Noah, and entered into covenant with him.We read in Genesis 9:1 that "God blessed Noah and his sons and said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth." This also constituteda main part of the blessing promised to faithful Abraham. In Genesis 22:17, and many other places, we read to this effect, "In blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seedas the stars of Heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore, and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies."
This was the blessing of God's chosen people, a blessing which all the malice of Pharaoh could not turn aside, for the morethe Israelites were oppressed, the more they multiplied. David, in the 107th Psalm uses the expression, "He blesses them,also, so that they are multiplied greatly" (v. 38), so that, clearly, increase of numbers in families and nations was ancientlyregarded as a token of Divine favor. In a spiritual sense this is the blessing of the Church of God. When the Church is visitedby the power of the Holy Spirit, she is increased on every side. When a Church, in the midst of a vast population, remainsstationary in numbers, or even becomes smaller, no man can see in such a condition the marks of God's blessing. Certainlyit would be a novel sort of benediction, for the first blessing, the blessing of Pentecost, resulted in 3,000 being addedto the Church in one day! And we find afterwards that, "The Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved."
We read in the Acts of the Apostles that the Churches, "walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit,were multiplied." Ever since those early days, when the Lord has been with His people, they have increased in numbers. Theirchildren have sprung up as among the grass and as willows by the water courses. When they have been "diminished and broughtlow," it has been because they have departed from the Truth of God or lost their first love. The result is the clearness ofGospel testimony has been dimmed, spirituality has been at a low ebb, the Holy Spirit has been despised and He has suspendedHis operations-and the Church has dwindled down till she has had little more than a name to live. But as soon as the Lordhas returned to her, she has become a fruitful mother and her children have cried out, "the place is too strait for us, giveplace to us that we may dwell."
When the Lord has sent forth His power with the preaching of the Gospel, converts have been as innumerable as the drops ofthe dew and as the sands upon the seashore! It is plain that one of the blessings which we, as a Church, should seek withall our hearts is that of continual increase. The entire Church of God should look for the daily multiplication of the spiritualseed. We have the promise of it in the text, but there is appended to it this condition, "I will yet for this be enquiredof by the house of Israel to do it for them: I will increase them with men like a flock." Every true Christian desires tosee the Church increase. At any rate, I should pity the man who thinks himself a Christian and yet has no such wish.
"Let the whole earth be filled with His Glory," is the natural aspiration of every child of God! And if any man has persuadedhimself that he is a child of God and yet does not desire to see the Glory of the Lord made manifest by the conversion ofmultitudes, I pity the condition of his heart and of his understanding. I trust we all feel the missionary spirit. I trustwe all long to see the kingdom of the Lord come and to see the converts in Zion multiplied. But God has appended to the grantingof our desire that we should pray for it-we must plead and enquire-or else the increase will be withheld. Why has the Lordthus made prayer the necessary prelude to blessing?
He has done so in great mercy to our souls. The Lord knows how beneficial it is to us to be much in prayer and, therefore,He makes it easy for us to draw near to Him. He affords us a multitude of reasons for approaching the Mercy Seat and givesus errands which may be used as arguments for frequent petitioning. When one knocks at a man's door it is a good thing tohave some business to do, for then one knocks boldly. If the porter opens and enquires, "Why did you come here?" we can reply,"Good Sir, I came on an important errand," and so we are bold to remain at the door.
Now, as the Lord loves to commune with His people, He takes care to give them errands upon which they must come to Him. Weneed never be afraid that we shall be interrogated at the gate of Mercy and this stern question put, "What are you doing here?"for we have always some reason for praying! Indeed, every promise is turned into a reason for prayer, because the promiseis not to be granted to us till we have pleaded it at the Mercy Seat! Moreover, if I may say so, God has, in mercy, compelledus to prayer by making the pleading necessary for the blessing. We must pray! We are unblessed unless we pray and, therefore,our necessities drive us to the Mercy Seat. Though we may be so low in Grace and so un-spiritual that we may feel little positiveenjoyment, for the moment, in prayer, yet pray we must. A sacred compulsion lies upon us arising from our vast necessities.We thank God, then, that He gives us reasons for coming, yes, lays a stress upon us so that we are compelled to draw nearunto Him.
Now, let the desire that the Church should be increased, which, as I have already said, dwells in the bosom of every childof God, act as a mighty impulse to drive us to earnest, prevailing prayer! For if we are driven to this, the Church shallbe multiplied exceedingly. This is the object of the discourse of this morning. O Spirit of Grace and supplications, be nowupon us that we may be saturated with the spirit of prayer! I shall thus speak upon the text-Why should we awaken ourselvesto the enquiry of which the text speaks? "For this will I be enquired of." Next, how should such a duty as this be performed?The text will afford us a guide. And, thirdly, on what ground can any Christian be excused from the duty of uniting with hisBrothers and Sisters in enquiring at the hand of the Lord for a blessing?
I. WHY SHOULD WE AWAKEN OURSELVES TO THIS ENQUIRY AT THE HANDS OF THE LORD? I do not put this question to you because I thinkthat many of you need instruction as to the necessity for prayer, but because it is good to stir up your pure minds by wayof remembrance upon this point. The first reason I shall give is this, because it is a great privilege to be allowed to enquireat the hands of the Lord. You will see this very vividly if you turn to the 20th chapter of this prophecy and read the thirdverse, "Son of man, speak unto the elders of Israel, and say unto them, Thus says the Lord God, Are you come to enquire ofMe? As I live, says the Lord God, I will not be enquired of by you."
Look, again, at the 31st verse of the same chapter, "For when you offer your gifts, when you make your sons to pass throughthe fire, you pollute yourselves with all your idols, even unto this day: and shall I be enquired of by you, O house of Israel?As I live, says the Lord God, I will not be enquired of by you." What a solemn curse, to be denied an audience with God! Howterrible a punishment it is when God shuts the gates of prayer and declares, "I will not be enquired of by you: when you spreadforth your hands I will hide My face from you; yes, when you make many prayers I will not hear." A people may get into sucha condition of sin, such a willful state of alienation from God and disobedience to His commands, that He may say, "I willnot be enquired of by you."
Now, suppose for a moment that it were my painful duty to stand here and say, "Brothers and Sisters, it is of no use our praying.The Mercy Seat has been abolished! God, in His anger, has bid the Mediator lay aside His office and supplication is no longerto be heard." What wringing of hands, what weeping of hearts as well as eyes if it were, indeed, true that prayer was deniedto the people of God! It was a fair token for good when Ezekiel was bid to say that God had now taken away the curse fromHis people. And though He had said earlier, "I will not be enquired of by you," yet now, under the Covenant of Grace, havingforgiven their sins, He mercifully proclaimed, "Thus says the Lord, For this will I be enquired of by the house of Israelto do it for them."
As you would be struck with horror if you were forbidden to pray, so I beseech you use the privilege of prayer while you may.If only some half dozen men had permission to speak into the ear of God, how you would venerate them! How you would wish tobe one of their number! If a small chosen band were set apart who, alone, might ask in faith-and to whom, alone, the promisewould be fulfilled, "Ask what you will and it shall be done unto you"-how would you envy them their high privilege! Since,then, at this time you are all, if you are the people of God, made to be a royal priesthood and the Mercy Seat is open toevery Believer, take care that you do not despise your birthright. To each one of you the promise is given, "He that seeksfinds, and to him that knocks it shall be opened." Is not this sufficient reason why we should awake ourselves to use theprivilege which the Lord accords us?
Secondly, prayer is also to be looked upon as a precious gift of the Spirit of God as well as a great privilege. Whereverthe spirit of prayer exists, it is worked in the heart by the Holy Spirit Himself. And when the text says, "For this willI be enquired of," it is a promise that men shall enquire! It is by virtue of Covenant promises and Covenant Grace that menare made to pray, for the Lord has said, "I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem,the spirit of Grace and of supplications."
Every child of God who understands anything knows that real prayer is "the breath of God in man returning from where it came."It first comes from God, and then it goes back to God. The Spirit knows what the mind of God is and He writes the mind ofGod upon our mind. And thus the desire of the Believer is the transcript of the decree of God and, therefore, the successof prayer. Well, now, Brothers and Sisters, if united, earnest, hearty enquiry of the Lord is a Covenant gift and a work ofthe Spirit, we dare not despise it, but we should earnestly seek after it! When we obtain a measure of prayerfulness, we oughtto cultivate it and seek to make it grow abundantly. Covenant gifts are always to be earnestly coveted, for they are "thebest gifts."
Remember what blood it was which sealed that Covenant and made it sure to all the elect! You cannot look upon one item ofthe inheritance which the Covenant entails upon the saints without feeling that it cost the Redeemer His heart's blood. Forsakenot, then, the assembling of yourselves together in prayer as the manner of some is! Neither neglect the Mercy Seat in private,nor fail to enquire at the Lord's hand, for supplication is a Covenant gift and must not be despised by any heir of Heaven.These are two forcible arguments, but here is another.
In the third place we must pray because it is a necessary work in order to obtain the blessing. The Church of God is to bemultiplied, but, "Thus says the Lord God, I will yet for this be enquired of." Remember that this is virtually written atthe bottom of every promise. God said, "I will do this or that," but it is understood that for this He will be enquired of.Doubtless we receive many unasked for favors, but the rule of the kingdom is, "He that asks, receives." This rule applieseven to the King of the kingdom, Himself-"Ask of Me," said God to His own Son, "and I will give You the heathen for Your inheritance,and the uttermost parts of the earth for Your possession." I must, then, Brothers and Sisters, exhort you to be much in enquiringat the Lord's hands, because countless are suspended upon the exercise of prayer.
Imagine, for a moment, that these blessings should not come. Suppose that month after month the particular blessing of thetext should be withheld. Into what a state of mind would every earnest Christian be brought! No increase-we come to the CommunionTable but report no additions. No need to hold Church meetings, for there are no confessions of faith to be heard and no convertsare coming forward to tell of the power of Divine Love! Suppose that such a state of stagnation should continue month aftermonth with us!
And why shouldn't it? It has done so with many others. Then as one after another of the ripe children of God went to Heaven,there would be gaps in the Church roll and none to replace them. There would be none to be baptized for the dead-none to standin those places in the ranks from which the pious dead have been removed. May these eyes never look on such a calamity! Maythis tongue be spending its strength among the choirs above long before such a night shall settle down! You may well write,"Ichabod," across the forefront of this House of Prayer whenever that shall be, for the glory will have departed!
Up to this moment we have never had to sigh and cry because the Lord has left us without an increase. But only suppose thatthe benediction should be withdrawn. You can cause it to be withdrawn, if you will, by ceasing prayer. Only let the cry whichgoes up to God continually from thousands of earnest hearts cease for a while and it will be a token that the blessing hasalso ceased! Only as long as there shall be this enquiring at the hand of the Lord can we expect that He will
do as He has done, namely, multiply us with men as with a flock. Enquire, therefore, eagerly, because the blessing is suspendedon it.
Next, we ought to have much of this enquiry because it is a business which is, above all others, remunerative. Look at thetext-"I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock."That is a beautiful idea of a multitude. You have, perhaps, seen an immense flock, a teeming concourse of congregated life.Such shall the increase of the Church be! But then it is added, to enhance the blessing, "As the holy flock, as the flockof Jerusalem in her solemn feasts." This, to the Jewish mind, conveyed a great idea of numbers!
At the three great feasts of Pentecost, the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles, the Israelites were accustomed to offersacrifices in vast numbers and, therefore, lambs and sheep were brought into Jerusalem in such enormous numbers that withouta book before me, I should not like to mention the figures which have been put down by Josephus and others. We read of Solomon'soffering, "an hundred and twenty thousand sheep." And of 17,000 sheep offered in a single day in Hezekiah's time! We may,therefore, imagine what the need was in our Savior's day that there should be a sheep market by the Pool of Bethesda, forthere would be need of immense pens for such numerous flocks.
Then might the city be described in the language of Isaiah when he said, "All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered togetherunto you, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister onto you; they shall come up with acceptance upon My altar." Now, said the Lord,I will not only multiply you as the sheep are multiplied upon Sharon and Carmel, but as the flocks in Jerusalem when theycome together from every quarter on solemn feast days, by hundreds and by thousands! You shall ask, "Who are these that flyas a cloud and as the doves to their windows?" The Lord will multiply the people beyond all count!
There is this additional beauty about the promise, that the sheep which were brought to Jerusalem on the solemn feasts werenot only numerous, but they were the best sheep in the land because no animal could be offered to God which had any blemish.The priests were peculiarly careful to select the lambs for the Passover and the sheep for the sacrifice. And they were alwaysthe pick of the flock, the choice sheep of all the flocks of Palestine. What a mercy when the Lord multiplies the Church witha holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem on her solemn feast days! Then, not only were they the choice of the flock, but theywere all consecrated to God, for they were brought to Jerusalem, on purpose, to be sacrificed. O happy Church which receivesa host of self-sacrificing members who do not come to the Church in name, only, but to present their bodies a living sacrificeunto God-to place body, soul and spirit at the feet of Jesus, and say, "Yours are we, Son of David, and all that we have."
See, then, what can be had by enquiring for it! "For this will I be enquired of." And what is the, "this," which is spokenof? Why that God will give us a numerous people, a choice people, His own elect and they shall all be consecrated unto Himself!They shall give themselves, first, to the Lord, and afterwards to us by the Word of God. This is to be had by praying forit! Ah, my Lord, how foolish are we not to pray more! Your Church has her societies, her agencies and so on, and she has,perhaps, looked to these more than to You. But You are our battle-ax and weapons of war! You can multiply the people and increasethe joy! You can fill the quiver of the Church with spiritual children and thus make her blessed! To You, only, can we lookfor this favor! My Soul, wait only upon God, for my expectation is from Him. The Lord is a Man of war, the Lord is His name!His right hand and His holy arm have gotten Him the victory. Therefore, O house of Israel, enquire at the hands of the Lordand a boundless blessing shall come!
I don't think I need to say that it is necessary for us to pray, because the results of prayer, as I have already describedthem, are such as greatly glorify God. Kindly read the last sentence of the text. It is important-"And they shall know thatI am the Lord." When a Church is largely increased with choice persons thoroughly consecrated, then the Church knows, anew,that there is a God in Israel! The world, also, opens its eyes with wonder and admits that there is something in prayer, afterall! When the kingdom of God is largely increased in answer to prayer, there is a wonderful power abroad to answer the argumentsof skeptics and to silence the ribaldry of ungodly tongues. "This is the finger of God," they say.
How bitterly they ridiculed Whitefield and Wesley when first they begun to preach the blessed Gospel. They were fanatics andenthusiasts, disturbing the peace of the land! They were Jesuits, Jacobites and I do not know what they were not-but everythingconceivable that is bad! But when the Lord put power into these men and multiplied their adherents by tens of thousands, thenpresently the world changed its tune and dreaded and feared those whom they had formerly
despised. So it is now! If we do not pray, if we grow cold in heart and the blessing is withdrawn, then the worldly wise beginto say, "It is an old, effete doctrine, proclaimed by the last of the Puritans-it is dying out."
But as soon as ever they see God blessing us, the multitudes coming together and the Church growing to be a power in the land,they like it none the better, but they are obliged to respect it! Oh, that the Lord would stir you up as a Church to prayand do the same with all the Churches of the land! This would smite His enemies upon the cheekbone and silence His adversaries!This would baffle both the scorner, infidel, the harlot, ritualism and make both skepticism and superstition acknowledge thatin the grand old Gospel of Jesus there still resides the Omnipotence of the Lord God.
II. Secondly, let us answer the question-HOW SHOULD THIS DUTY BE PERFORMED? First, it should be by
the entire body of the Church. Let us turn to our Bibles and read the text again-"For this will I be enquired of by"-By theministers? By the elders? By the little number of good people who always come together to pray? Look! Look carefully! "Bythe house of Israel." That is by the whole company of the Lord's people! To obtain a great increase there must be unanimousprayer-prayer from the whole house of Israel! Everyone must join without exception.
Where two or three are met together there will be an answer of peace. The prayer of one prevails. But if ever the house ofIsrael, the whole company of the faithful, shall get together in prayer, ah, then we shall see the multiplication of saintsas the flock of Jerusalem on her solemn feasts! But it will not be till then. When Israel was defeated at Ai, one of the reasonsof their failure was that there was an abominable thing in the tent of Achan. But another cause of defeat was this, that theysaid, "Let not all the people labor there." A part of the people were to go and take Ai and the rest were to lie at ease.The Church of God will always have ill times so long as a few people are left to do what should be done by all the redeemed.The whole house of Israel must besiege Ai, if Ai is to be taken! The whole army of the living God must bend the knees togetherand plead with God if any great victory is to be achieved.
Next, the successful way to enquire of the Lord is for the Church to take personal interest in the matter. "Thus said theLord God; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them." When the people feel that the conversionof souls is their own personal affair. When the Sunday school teachers feel that the multiplication of the Church should besomething done by them. And when each Christian laborer feels that he has a personal interest in the saving of souls, thenwill the Lord's work be done on a great scale! Brothers and Sisters, when the case of poor sinners becomes our case and ourheart cries, "I will break unless those souls are saved," then we are sure to succeed! If the sinner will not repent, letus break our hearts about him. Let us go and tell the Lord his sins and mourn over them as if they were our own!
If men will not believe, let us, by faith, bring them before God and plead His promise for them. If we cannot get them topray, let us pray for them and intercede on their behalf-and in answer to our repentance they shall be made to repent! Inanswer to our faith they shall be led to believe! And in reply to our prayers they shall be moved to pray! The Lord says Hewill do it, but He will have us seek it as a personal favor, that thus our souls may be made earnest in His cause. The blessingwill come, in the third place, to the prayer of a dependent Church. See how it is put-"I will yet for this be enquired ofby the house of Israel, to do it for them." That is to say, they will not dream of being able to do it for themselves, butwill apply to God for it.
Christian men should never speak of getting up a revival. Where are you going to get it up from? I do not know any place fromwhich you can get it up except a place which it is better to have no connection with. We must bring a revival down if it isto be worth having! We must enquire of the Lord to do it for us. Too often the temptation is to enquire for an eminent revivalist,or ask whether a great preacher could not be induced to come. Now, I do not object to inviting soul-winning preachers, orto any other plans of usefulness. But our main business is to enquire of the Lord, for, after all, He, alone, can give theincrease!
Suppose we collect a crowd of people, what of that? It is a fine thing to put in the papers, but what is the good of it, ifit ends there? Suppose we have large services and fierce excitement-and the whole thing ends in a pack of moon-shine-whereis the glory to God? On the contrary, His name is dishonored and His Church is discouraged from making special attempts. Butwhen the holy work begins in prayer, continues in prayer and everything is confessedly dependent upon the power of God, thenthe blessing is, indeed, worth having! Enquire of the Lord to multiply you and you will be multiplied! We must wait upon God,conscious that we can do nothing of ourselves-and we must look to the Holy
Spirit as the only power for the conversion of souls. If we pray in this dependent way we shall obtain an overflowing answer.
Again, the way to obtain the promised blessing is that the prayer must be offered by an anxious, observant, enterprising Church.The expression used, "I will be enquired of," implies that the people must think and ask questions, must argue and plead withGod. It is well to ask Him why He has not given the blessing and to urge strong reasons why He should now do so. We shouldquote His promises to Him, tell Him of our great need-and then come back, again, to asking, enquiring and pleading our cause.Such a pleading Church will win a blessing beyond all doubt! It must be a Church which remembers the waste places. The textputs it in the promise and it must not be forgotten in the prayer- "The waste cities shall be filled with flocks of men."
A Church which anxiously remembers the departments of service which are not succeeding. A Church which casts a friendly eyeover other Churches which may be failing and takes careful notice of those places where the Spirit of God does not seem tobe at work-and mentions all those in prayer-is the Church to which the promise is made. I pray the Lord to give you, dearBrothers and Sisters, heartbreak over sinners whose hearts do not break. I pray He will give you painful anxiety for thosewho are not anxious. In fact, may God make all the members of this Church into anxious enquirers. When the saved ones areanxious enquirers, themselves, there will be plenty of anxious enquirers brought from the world! The way to have enquiringsinners is for us to become enquiring saints! When the saints enquire of the Lord, the sinners will ask their way to Zionwith their faces turned there! Every Prayer Meeting ought, as a matter of fact, to be an enquirers' meeting, where true heartsbehold the beauty of the Lord and enquire in His temple.
If we are to obtain the blessing in answer to prayer, that prayer must be offered by a believing Church. Oh that we did believeGod's promise! The Lord says, "I will be enquired of, to do it for them." But unbelieving enquiries are only a mockery ofGod! How few really believe in prayer! I was reading, the other day, that the Chinese converts of the Inland Mission haveshown a feature of piety which is not very common. When they learned that God would hear prayer, they wanted to be alwayspraying, because, they said, "If it is so, that the great God hears prayer, let us ask for a great deal."
We do not wonder, therefore, that they have received answers so remarkable to their believing prayers that the missionaryscarcely cares to narrate them, lest to unbelievers they should seem to be as idle tales! Indeed, his fears are not at allunreasonable, for in other cases the written lives of praying men have been wretchedly mistrusted. Huntingdon's "Bank of Faith"has been called a bank of nonsense, yet I believe him to have been a thoroughly honest recorder of facts and quite incapableof a lie. When they read the story of Sammy Hick and his turning the wind by prayer, most persons are dubious, but why?
Bread was needed for a religious meeting and no flour could be found, for the mill could not go without wind. Hick took hisbag of corn to the miller and bade him grind it. "But there is no wind, Sammy," said the miller. "Never mind, there will beif you only put the corn into the hopper." It was put in, the wind ground the wheat and then it ceased. "Ah," people say,"that is a Methodist story." Yes, it is, and there are many others of the same kind! And some of us have had them happen toourselves. Answers to prayer do not, now, appear to us to be contrary to the laws of Nature-it seems to us to be the greatestof all the laws of Nature that the Lord must keep His promises and hear His people's prayers! Gravitation and other laws maybe suspended, but this cannot be!
"Oh," says one, "I cannot believe that." No, and so your prayers are not heard! You must have faith, for if faith is absent,you lack the very backbone and soul of prayer. Oh, for mighty faith! If we once behold a Church filled with real active faith,exercised in believing prayer to the living God, the God of Israel, we shall see the Churches multiplied with men as witha flock!
III. We are now to seek comfort for you who do not come to Prayer Meetings, or otherwise wrestle in prayer. ON WHAT GROUNDCAN ANYBODY BE EXCUSED FROM THE DUTY OF PRAYER? Answer-On no ground whatever! You cannot be excused on the ground of commonhumanity for if it is so that God will save sinners in answer to prayer, and I do not pray, what am I? Souls dying, perishing,sinking to Hell while the ordained machinery for salvation is prayer and the preaching of the Word-and if I don't pray, whatam I? Surely the milk of human kindness has been drained from my breast and I have ceased to be human! And if so, it is idleto talk of communion with the Divine. He who has no pity on a wounded man and would not seek to relieve the hunger of oneexpiring of need is a monster! He who has no pity on souls who are sinking into everlasting fire, what is he? Let him answerfor himself.
Next, can any excuse be found in Christianity for neglect of prayer? I answer, there is none to be found in Christianity anymorethan in humanity, for if Christ has saved us, He has given us His Spirit-"If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is noneof His." And who has the Spirit of Christ? Is it he who looked upon Jerusalem and said, "I believe that the city is givenup, predestinated to be destroyed," and then coolly went on his way? No, not he! He believed in predestination, but that Truthof God never chilled his heart. He wept over Jerusalem, and said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gatheredyour children together as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would
"Did Christ over sinners weep, And shall our cheeks be dry?"
Shall there be no prayer in our hearts when God has appointed prayer to be the channel of blessing to sinners as well as toourselves? Then how can we say that we are Christians? In God's name, how can we make a profession of Christianity if ourhearts do not ascend in mighty prayer to God for a blessing on the sons of men? But perhaps an excuse is found in the factthat the Christian does not feel that his prayer is of very much consequence, for his heart is in a barren state. Ah, well,this is no excuse, but an aggravation of the sin! My dear Brothers and Sisters, if you feel you cannot pray, you ought topray twice as much as anybody else! Whenever your mind falls into a condition in which it is indisposed for prayer, that conditionshould serve as a danger signal-something is very much amiss!
At such a time there should be a double calling upon God that the Spirit of prayer may be vouchsafed. I do charge you, professingChristians, not to restrain prayer to God for a blessing, for, if you do, you hurt all the rest of the Brethren! Get a bitof dead bone into your body and it harms, first, the member in which it is placed and subsequently the whole body. From headto foot the whole system is worse off because of the fragment of dead matter which is present in the body. So if there isa prayerless professor among us, he is an injury to the entire company! Some of you are the baggage of the army and hinderits marches and its fighting! We have a great army here and if you were all able-bodied men and would march on to the fight,we would see great victories! But we have to carry our diseased ones in ambulances and half the time of the pastor and Churchofficers has to be taken up in looking after the inefficient soldiers who are fit only for the hospital "Who do you mean?"asks one. You, my Friend-very likely you! Your own conscience shall decide to whom it refers!
Now, surely we ought to be much in prayer, because, after all, we owe a great deal to prayer. Those who were in Christ beforeme, prayed for me. Should I not pray for others? By a mother's prayers, some of you, when you were girls, were brought toChrist. Will you not pay back the debt to your mother by praying for your own children? By a father's prayers, young man,you were brought to the Savior's feet-now pray for those who are younger than yourself-that they may be brought to Jesus,too. The treasury of the Church's prayers has been expended upon us in bringing us to Christ's feet. Let us now contributeto the common stock, casting in our prayers for the conversion of others! Common gratitude demands that we attend to this.
I am afraid I shall also have to plead that I must suspect your soundness in the faith, Brothers and Sisters, if you do notjoin in prayer. I know some, who, if they are anything at all, they are sound in the faith. This is their beginning and theirending. I used to know, years ago, a few people who were sound all over and never cared whether souls were saved or not becausethey were so sound! That kind of soundness is empty, from which may the Lord deliver us! Correct opinions are a poor apologyfor heartlessness towards our fellow men. If we are orthodox, we believe that regeneration is the work of the Spirit of God.Then, dear Friends, the natural inference is that those of us who are regenerated should pray the Holy Spirit to regenerateothers! If it is entirely His work and we cannot depend upon the preacher at all, we must invoke the Divine power! If youdo not thus call in Divine energy, where is your soundness?
I am sure that you desire to see souls saved, but if it is the Spirit's work and you do not pray the Spirit to do that work,surely you do not believe your own doctrine! By your soundness in the faith, therefore, I would plead with you that you increaseyour earnestness in prayer. You may say, "Well, I think I may be excused," but I must reply you cannot! "I am very sick,"says one. Ah, then you can lie in bed and pray! None of us can fully estimate the blessings which have come down on this Tabernaclein answer to the pleas of our friends who are constant invalids. I believe the Lord sets apart a certain section of the Churchto keep up prayer through the night watches-and when you and I who are healthy are sound asleep, the watchers do not slumber,or keep silent-but either in praise or prayer they make the hours holy
with their devout exercises. I consider that I sustain great losses when dear Christian men and women, who have for yearssustained me by their prayers are taken home to Glory. Who will fill the gaps?
"I am so poor," says one. Well, you are not called upon to pay a shilling every time you pray to God! It does not matter howpoor you are-your prayers are just as acceptable! Only remember, if you are so poor, you ought to pray all the more, becauseyou cannot give your offering in the shape of gold. I should like you to say with the Apostle, "Silver and gold have I none,but such as I have, I give you. My Master, I will be much in prayer." "Ah," says another, "but I have no talent." That isanother reason why you should pray more and not why you should be prayerless, because if you cannot contribute to the Church'spublic service from lack of talent, you should the more zealously contribute to her strength by the private exercise of prayerand intercession-and thus make those strong who are better fit to go to the front.
"Ah," says one, "but I am just converted. I have hardly obtained peace, myself, how can I pray?" If you need an answer tothat question, read the 51st Psalm. David begins, "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to the multitude of Your tender mercies,"and so on. And he does not continue long before he cries, "Do good in Your good pleasure unto Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem!"He has hardly been washed, himself, from sin, before he begins to pray to be useful- "Then will I teach transgressors Yourways, and sinners shall be converted unto You." You new converts are the very people to pray with power!
So from my inmost soul, as if I were pleading for my life (and it lies nearer my health and continued life than some may imagine)I beg you to enquire of the Lord! In thus doing I am pleading for this Church's long prosperity! I am pleading for the goodof London! I am pleading for the benefit of the whole world! If you love the Lord Jesus, Brothers and Sisters, do enquireat the hands of the Lord concerning this great promise of an increase in the Church! Prove Him, now, and see if He does notpour out a blessing for you, yes, if He does not increase you with men as with a flock, as the holy flock, as the flock ofJerusalem on her solemn feast days! God grant His blessing for Christ's sake. Amen.
PORTIONS OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-Ezekiel 36:1-14;24-38. HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"-145 (PART I), 985, 968.