Sermon 2193. A Poor Man's Cry-and What Came Of It
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S DAY MORNING, MARCH 8, 1891,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." Psalm 34:6
ON the morning of last Lord's-Day [Sermon #2192, The JoyousReturri] we labored to bring sinners to their God and the Lordgraciously made the Word effectual. We gave voice to the invitation to return and we entreated men to take with them wordsand turn to the Lord. God's people found it a happy time. It is a very amazing fact, but an undoubted one, that the simpleGospel which saves sinners also feeds saints! Saints are never better pleased than when they hear those first Truths of Godwhich instruct sinners in the way to God. The Lord be thanked that it is so!
On this occasion I want to speak of what happens to those who do return to God-because many have newly been brought throughmighty Grace. Some of them I have seen and I have rejoiced over them with exceedingly great joy. They tell me that they diddistinctly lay hold on eternal life last Sunday-and they are clear about what it means. They came out of darkness into Hismarvelous Light! They knew it and could not resist the impulse to tell at once those with whom they sat in the pews-that Godhad brought them up out of the horrible pit-and had set their feet upon the Rock of Salvation!
For this joyful reason I think we will go a step further and talk of the happiness of those who have come back to their Father,have confessed sin, have accepted the great Sacrifice and have found peace with God. It is my heart's desire that those sheepwho have come into the fold may be the means of inducing others to enter. You know how one sheep leads another and, perhaps,when some come to Christ, many others will follow. When one of our professional beggars knocks at a door and gets well received,he is very apt to send another. I have heard that vagrants make certain marks near the door by way of telling others of theconfraternity which are good houses to call at. If you want many beggars at your house, feed one and another of them well,and birds of the same feather will flock to you! Perhaps while I am telling how Christ has received poor needy ones, othersmay pluck up courage and say, "We will go, also." If they try it, they may be sure of receiving the same generous welcomeas others have done, for our Lord keeps open house for coming sinners!
He has distinctly said, "Him that comes to Me I will in no wise cast out." That does not refer merely to those who have come,but to those who are coming-and to you, dear Hearers, who will come at this hour! Jesus bids every hungry and thirsty soulcome to Him at once and be satisfied from His fullness. Our text tells how they have sped who have cried to God. "This poorman cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles."
I. The first lesson we shall learn, this morning, is upon THE NATURE AND THE EXCELLENCE OF PRAYER- This poor man cried, andthe Lord heard him, and saved him."-
"Prayer is appointed to convey
The blessings God ordains to give." He gives us prayer as a basket and then He pours the blessings of His Grace into it! Weshall learn from the text much about prayer.
Evidently it is a dealing with the Lord. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." He cried to the Lord that the Lordmight hear him. His prayer was not intended for men, nor was it mainly meant to be a relief to his own mind-it was intendedfor the ear of God and it went where it was intended to go! The arrow of desire was shot towards Heaven. It reached the markit was designed to reach. This poor man cried to the Lord and the Lord is the right Person to whom to appeal in prayer. Iam afraid that many public prayers are a performance to please the congregation. And when they are mixed with music, it ishoped that they will influence men of taste.
Even private prayer is not always directed to God as it should be. I have heard ignorant people, sometimes, use the expression,"The minister came and prayed to me." That is a great mistake! We do not pray to you-we pray to God. We pray for you, butnot to you. Yet I am afraid that the blunder reveals a mournfully dark state of mind as to what prayer is and does. I fearthat many prayers are meant for the ears of men, or have no meaning at all beyond being regarded as a sort of incantationwhich may mysteriously benefit the utterer of them. Believe me, to repeat good words is a small matter-to go over the bestcomposed forms of devotion will be useless, except the heart rises into real dealings with God! You must speak with God andplead with Him. I often question those who come to join the Church in this fashion- "You say there is a great difference inyou: is there a difference in your prayers?" I very frequently get such an answer as this, "Yes, Sir, I now pray to God. Ihope that He hears me. I know that He is near and I speak to Him, whereas before I did not seem to care whether God was thereor not. I said my prayers by rote and it did not seem like speaking to anybody."
Prayer is dealing with God. The best prayer is that which comes to closest grips with the God of Mercy. Prayer is to ask ofGod, as a child asks of its father, or as a friend makes request to his friend. O my Hearer, you have forgotten God! You havelived without speaking to Him-this has been the case for years. Is not this a wrong state of things? You are now in need-comeand spread your case before your God-ask Him to help you. You need to be saved! Beg Him to save you. Let your prayer reachfrom your heart to the Throne of God, otherwise, however long it may be, it will not reach far enough to bless you.
From this Psalm we learn that prayer takes various shapes. Notice, in the fourth verse, David writes, "I sought the Lord andHe heard me." Seeking is prayer. When you cannot get to God, when you feel as if you had lost sight of Him and could not findHim, your seeking is prayer. "I sought the Lord and He heard me"-He heard me seeking Him- heard me feeling after Him in thedark. He heard me running up and down if haply I might find Him. To search after the Lord is prayer such as God hears. Ifyour prayer is no better than a seeking after one you cannot as yet find, the Lord will hear it. In the next verse David putsit, "They looked unto Him." Then a looking unto God is a prayer! Often the very best prayer is a look towards God-a look whichsays, "Lord, I believe You. I trust You. Be pleased to show Yourself to me." If there is "life in a look," then there is thebreath of life in a look and prayer is that breath! If you cannot find words, it is often a very blessed thing to sit stilland look towards the hills from where our help comes. I sometimes feel that I cannot express my desires and, at other seasons,I do not know my desires, except that I long for God-in such a case I sit still and look up. "In the morning will I directmy prayer unto You, and will look up." A look is a choice prayer-if it is the look of tearful eyes towards a bleeding Savior!
We might describe prayer in many other ways, as, for instance, in this one-"O taste and see that the Lord is good," whichyou meet with in verse eight. Tasting is a high kind of prayer, for it ventures to take what it asks for. When we come boldlyto the Throne of Grace, we have a taste of Divine Grace in the act of coming! That is a very acceptable prayer which boldlyventures to believe that it has the petition which it has asked of God. Believe that God has heard you and you are heard!Take the good your God provides you-take it to yourself boldly and fear not! Come boldly to the Throne of the heavenly Grace,that you may find and receive. Lay hold upon the blessing which you need so much and it will be neither robbery nor presumption.
But frequently, according to our text, prayer is best described as a cry. What does this mean? "This poor man cried." Thispoor man did not make a grand oration-he took to crying! He was short-it was only a cry. In great pain a man will cry out.He cannot help it, even if he could. A cry is short, but it is not sweet. It is intense and painful, and it cannot be silenced.We cry because we must cry. This poor man cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner." That is not a long prayer, but it praysa great deal of meaning into a few words. That was a short cry, "Lord, save, or I perish!" And that other, "Lord, help me.""Save, Lord," is a notable cry. And so is, "Lord remember me." Many prevailing prayers are like cries because they are brief,sharp and uncontrollable. A cry is not only brief, but bitter. A cry is a sorrowful thing- it is the language of pain. Itwould be hard for me to stand here and imitate a cry. No, a cry is not artificial, but a natural production-it is not fromthe lips, but from the soul, that a man cries. A cry, attended with a flood of tears, a bitter wail, a deep-fetched sigh-theseare prayers that enter into the ears of the Host High. O Penitent, the more you sorrow in your prayer, the more wings yourprayer has towards God! A cry is a brief thing and a bitter thing. A cry has in it
much meaning and no music. You cannot set a cry to music. The sound grates on the ears. It rasps the heart. It startles andit grieves the minds of those who hear it. Cries are not for musicians, but for mourners.
Can you expound a child's cry? It is pain felt, a desire for relief naturally expressed, a longing forcing itself into sound!It is a plea, a prayer, a complaint, a demand. It cannot wait, it brooks no delay, it never puts off its request till tomorrow.A cry seems to say, "Help me now! I cannot bear it any longer. Come, O come, to my relief!" When a man cries, he never thinksof the pitch of his voice, but he cries out as he can, out of the depths of his soul. Oh, for more of such praying!
A cry is a simple thing. The first thing a new-born child does is cry-and he usually does plenty of it for years after! Youdo not need to teach children to cry! Theirs is the cry of Nature in distress. I never heard of a class at a Board Schoolto teach babes to cry. All children can cry-even those who are without their reasoning faculties can cry. Yes, even the beastand the bird can cry. If prayer is a cry, it is clear that it is one of the simplest acts of the mind. O my Hearer, whateveryou need, pray for it in the way which your awakened heart suggests to you! God loves natural expressions when we come beforeHim. Not that which is fine, but that which is on fire, he loves. Not that which is dressed up, but that which leaps out ofthe soul just as it is born in the heart, He delights to receive! This poor man did not do anything grand-but from his soulhe cried.
A cry is as sincere as it is simple. Prayer is not the mimicry of a cry, but the real thing. You need not ask a man or woman,when crying, "Do you mean it?" Could they cry, otherwise? A true cry is the product of a real pain and the expression of areal need-and, therefore, it is a real thing. Dear Souls, if you do not know how to pray, cry! Cry because you cannot pray!Cry because you are lost by nature and by practice and will soon be lost forever unless Grace prevents. Cry with a strongdesire to be saved from sin and to be washed in the precious blood of Jesus! Pour out your hearts like water before the Lord.Just as a man takes a pitcher and turns it upside down, pouring all the water out, so turn your hearts upside down and letthem flow out until the last dreg has run away! "You people, pour out your heart before Him." Such an outpouring of heartwill be a cry and a prayer.
But now note, further, concerning the nature and excellence of prayer, that prayer is heard in Heaven. "This poor man cried,and the Lord heard him." He was all alone, so that nobody else heard him-but the Lord heard him! Yes, the Lord, even Jehovahof Hosts, the All-Glorious, bowed His ear to him! In God's ears the songs of angels are continually resounding. Yes, He hearsall the voices of all the creatures He has made! Yet He stooped from His eternal Glory and gave attention to the poor man'scry! Never imaging that a praying heart ever pleads to a deaf God, or that God is so far removed from men that He takes nonote of their desires. God does hear prayer-He does grant the desires and requests of lowly men! I do not think that we shallever pray in downright earnest unless we believe that God hears.
I have been told that prayer is an excellent devotional exercise, highly satisfying and useful, but that there its resultends, for we cannot imagine that the Infinite Mind can be moved by the cries of men. Do not believe so gross a lie, or youwill soon cease to pray! No man will pray for the mere love of the act, when he has arrived at the opinion that there is nogood in it so far as God is concerned! Brothers and Sisters, amidst all the innumerable goings forth of Divine Power, theLord never ceases to listen to the cries of those who seek His face! It is always true-"The righteous cry and the Lord hears."Wonderful fact this! Truly marvelous! It might surpass our faith if it were not written in His Word and experienced in ourlives.
Many of us know that the Lord has heard us. Doubt about this matter has long been buried under a pyramid of evidence. We haveoften come from the Throne of Grace as sure that God had heard us as we were sure that we had prayed! In fact, our doubtsall lie around our own praying and do not touch our assurance that God hears true prayer. The abounding answers to our supplicationshave been proofs positive that prayer climbs above the region of earth and time-and touches God and His infinity. Yes, itis still the case that the Lord listens to the voice of a man! It is still Jehovah's special title-the God That Hears Prayer!The Lord will hear your prayer, my Hearer, even if you cannot put it into words-He has an ear for thoughts, sighs and longings!A wordless prayer is not silent to Him. God reads the intents of the heart and cares more for these than for the syllablesof the lips. This poor man could not speak-his heart was so full that he could only cry-but Jehovah heard him!
Once more, prayer has this excellence-that it wins answers from God. "The Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles."God does put forth power in answer to prayer. I know the difficulties which are started concerning this.
There is a fixed purpose, from which God does not depart. But this is by no means inconsistent with the prevalence of prayer,for the God who decrees to give us blessings has also decreed that we shall ask for them! The prayer and the Providence are,alike, appointed by the predestination of God! Our praying is the shadow of God's giving. When He is about to bestow a blessing,He first of all works in us earnest prayer for it. God moves us to pray-we pray. God hears and answers-this is the processof Divine Grace. The Lord does, in very deed, answer prayer!
I read yesterday certain notes taken by an interviewer who called on me some years ago. He reports that he said to me, "Thenyou have not modified your views in any way as to the efficacy of prayer?" In his description he says-"Mr. Spurgeon laughedand replied, Only in my faith growing far stronger and firmer than ever. It is not a matter of faith with me, but of knowledgeand everyday experience. I am constantly witnessing the most unmistakable instances of answers to prayer. My whole life ismade up of them. To me they are so familiar as to cease to excite my surprise, but to many they would seem marvelous, no doubt.Why, I could no more doubt the efficacy of prayer than I could disbelieve in the law of gravitation! The one is as much afact as the other, constantly verified every day of my life."
The interviewer reported me correctly and I would repeat the testimony! I could speak with even deeper confidence today. Morethan 40 years I have tried my Master's promises at the Mercy Seat and I have never yet met with a repulse from Him. In thename of Jesus I have asked and received, save only when I have asked amiss. It is true I have had to wait because my timewas ill-judged and God's time was far better-but delays are not denials! Never has the Lord said to me, or to any of the seedof Jacob, "Seek you My face" in vain. If I were put into the witness box and knew that I should be cross-examined by the keenestof lawyers, I should not hesitate to bear my testimony, that by many Infallible proofs the Lord has proven to me that He hearsprayer!
But, my Hearers, if you need evidence on this point, try it yourselves! Remember, the Lord has said, "Call upon Me in theday of trouble: I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me." Here is a fair test. Make an honest experiment concerning it.I have no doubt that at this moment I could call upon hundreds in this congregation who would not refuse to stand up and saythat the Lord hears prayer. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." I might call on many a man and woman here who couldsolemnly declare that they cried-and the Lord heard them. Are you at this service, Hannah? You were here the other morningwith a sorrowful spirit and now I see by your countenance that the Lord has smiled upon you and your soul is magnifying Hisname! Prayer has done this for you. Is it not so? God answers the supplications of His believing people and of this we arewitnesses!
Thus have I set the matter before you and I would remind you of the words of the Lord Jesus, "Ask, and it shall be given you;seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for everyone that asks, receives; and he that seeks, finds;and to him that knocks, it shall be opened." Thus have we been instructed by our text as to the nature and excellence of prayer.
II. Let us move on and note, secondly, that our text leads us to think upon THE RICHNESS AND FREENESS OF DIVINE GRACE. GreatGrace is revealed in this statement-"This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles."
You will see the richness and the freeness of Grace when you consider the character of the man who prayed-"this poor man cried."Who was he? He was a poor man. How terribly poor I cannot tell you. There are plenty of poor men about. If you advertisedfor a poor man in London, you might soon find more than you could count in 12 months-the supply is unlimited, although thedistinction is by no means highly coveted. No man chooses to be poor.
David, on the occasion which suggested this Psalm, was so poor that he had to beg bread of the Lord's priests and though hewas a soldier, he had to borrow a sword from their treasury. He had no house, no home, no calling, no income, no country,no safety for his life. He was poor, indeed, who wrote these words-"This poor man cried." Why should men imagine that povertyis an injury to prayer? Will the Lord care about the age of your coat? What is it to Him that you have a shallow pocket anda scanty cupboard? "This poor man cried." Does God hear poor men? Yes, that He does, the poorest of the poor, the poor inspirit! He hears those who are so poor that even hope has dropped out of their box-and that is the last thing to go.
This poor man was also a troubled man, for the text speaks of "all his troubles"-a great, "all," I guarantee you. He did notknow what to do. He could not see his way in his blizzard of trials. He was surrounded with difficulties, as with an ironnet, and he could not hope for a deliverer. He was a troubled man and because he was a troubled man, he cried.
People wondered what he cried about, but they would not have done so had they known his inward griefs. His old companionsthought he had gone out of his mind-they said religion had turned his brain and they stayed out of his way. This poor mancried and no man noticed him because he was so poor and so wretched-but "the Lord heard him." He does not turn away from thedoleful and the desolate-He takes delight in coming to them and binding up their wounds!
This poor man was a mournful man-a man altogether broken down, a man who could not hold his head up-he blushed and was ashamed,both before God and man. All he did, when alone, was to cry. And if one watched him closely in company, the tears might beseen forcing their way from his heart through his eyes and down his cheeks This poor man cried, for he was so feeble, so faint,so forlorn, that he could not do otherwise-but "the Lord heard him." The Lord so heard him as to make that poor man rich inDivine Grace!
I feel sure, also, that "this poor man" was a strange fellow. What did he want with crying when others were laughing? It isnot a pleasant nor a usual sight to see strong men weep. Some men weep because they are very tender-hearted, but many othersdo so, I am persuaded, because they have been given to drink. This man was given to inward crying-he cried day and night untothe Lord because of a secret wound which never ceased to bleed. People could not make him out and they came to despise him,or, at least, to be shy of him-but "the Lord heard him."
He was also a changed man. Why, he used to come in of an evening and was a thoroughly jolly companion! But now he looks asmiserable as an owl and nobody desires his company, he is such a kill-joy. "Poor miserable creature!" people say. Even hiswife sighs and says, "What has become of my poor dear husband?" He was a poor man and as sad and singular as he was poor.He sought out secret places and there he sighed and cried before the Lord.
But yet he was a hopeful man. There must have been some hope in him, though he could not perceive it, for people do not cryfor help unless they have some hope that they will be heard. Despair is dumb-where there is a cry of prayer there is a crumbof hope! A cry is a signal of distress and people will not hoist a rag on a pole unless they have a little hope that a passingvessel may spy it out and come to their rescue. There is not only hope for a man, but hope in a man as long as he can pray.Yes, as long as he can cry. If you do but long, look, seek and sigh after God, you are one of those poor men whom I have triedto describe-and good will come to you. I can see that poor man now. I used to know him, for he was born in my native townand he went to the school where I was a scholar. He was hardly a man, but only a youth. And then I used to sleep with him,or rather to lie awake at nights with him and hear him groan.
He prayed in my hearing many a time-and very poor praying it was, but he meant what he said. I have been with him in the fieldsand he used to tell me that he was such a vile creature that he feared that he must be cast into Hell forever! He was afraidthat he was not one of the chosen and redeemed people of God, and that he would never be able to believe in Jesus. I knewhim when he gave himself up for lost. I know him now. I see him whenever I look in the mirror and I must say on his behalfthis morning-"This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." Oh, the freeness and therichness of Grace, that God should hear nobodies! That God should look upon those who are less than the least of all saints-andthe very chief of sinners!
If you desire to further see the richness and freeness of Divine Grace, by the help of the Holy Spirit, I beg you to rememberthe Character of the God to whom this poor man cried. He who prayed was poor and his prayer was poor, but he did not prayto a poor God! This poor man was powerless, but he did not cry to a feeble God. This poor man was empty, but he went to God'sfullness. He was unworthy, but he appealed to God's mercy. Our God delights in mercy! He waits to be gracious! He takes pleasurein blessing the weary sons of men! This poor man cried to that Savior who is able to save to the uttermost! O my Friend, nevermind how poor you are-you are not crying to your own poor self. Remember, you have not to draw water out of your own emptiness-youmay come to God, who is the Fountain of Grace. Your merit is poverty, itself, but the mercies of God are unsearchable riches!The power by which you are to be saved lies not in your own spirit, but in the Holy Spirit! Therefore cry with great hopeand believe that God is as great in His Grace as in His power and wisdom!
While we are thinking of the freeness and richness of this Grace in the text, I would have you notice the character of theblessing. "The Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." He gave him salvation from the whole of his troubles.His sins were his great troubles-the Lord saved him out of them all-through the atoning Sacrifice! The effects of sin wereanother set of grievous troubles to him-the Lord saved him out of them all by the renewal of the Holy Spirit. He had falleninto a perilous position by his own fault-and troubles came upon him thick and heavy-but in
answer to prayer, the Lord made a way of escape for him, out of them all, and led him into peace. He had troubles withoutand within, troubles in the family and in the world, and he felt ready to perish because of them-but the Lord delivered himout of them all.
Note that word, "all"-it is large and comprehensive. If you will kindly look at the Psalm, you will see the range of thisdelightful deliverance. We read in verse four-"He delivered me from all my fears." Sometimes our fears are more painful thanour troubles. We suffer more in dreading troubles than in enduring them, but prayer banishes such fears. We see that all shamewas removed in the same way-"They looked unto Him and were lightened, and their faces were not ashamed." Happy men, for theshame of their sin is gone! Their shame and their fears went when their prayers were heard. They were no longer distressedabout the past and no longer under apprehension of wrath in the future-"He saved them out of all their fears." If you willlook further on you will find that the Lord saved them out of all their needs (v 9)-"There is no need to them that fear Him.""They that wait upon the Lord shall not need any good thing." Oh, to be saved from the pinch of dire necessity within thesoul-saved from all fear, all shame, all trouble and then from all need! This is a grand salvation! But this is not all, forthis poor man was saved from all dangers (v 20)-"He keeps all his bones: not one of them is broken." He saved him out of allreal peril. And, lastly, He saved him from all apprehension of desertion-"None of them that trust in Him shall be desolate."The salvation that God gives in answer to prayer is a perfect one! And He gives it freely, gives it in answer to a poor man'scry, without money or merit. How complete is God's deliverance!
Did you ever notice how perfect was the answer which God gave to the prayer of Moses when he cried to God for Pharaoh in theday of the plagues? When the locusts covered the land, Moses prayed and we read, "There remained not one locust in all thecoasts of Egypt" (Exo 10:19). So was it with the frogs and even with the flies-"He removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and fromhis people; there remained not one." Pharaoh could not have found a specimen of locust, or fly in all Egypt! So you may bedevoured with troubles as the land by locusts and they may be croaking in your ears like the frogs in the bedchambers of Egypt-butwhen the Lord bids them, "Go," they will depart from you and you will be in quiet. He who puts away as a cloud your iniquitiesand as a thick cloud your sins, will soon drive away your troubles like a swarm of buzzing flies! "The Lord heard him, andsaved him out of all his troubles." Is not this Free Grace? Is not this rich mercy?
And, once more, think that this all came through a cry. A cry is all that the poor man brought. He did not go through a longperformance. He did not perform a laborious set of ceremonies-"This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." What can be simpler?Oh, you think you need a priest, do you?-a priest on whom a bishop has laid his hands? Or do you dream that you must go toa holy place, a pile of stones put together in architectural form? Possibly you even dream that you must pine all throughLent and not expect joy till you reach Easter! What folly is all this! You have but to cry and the Lord will hear you! Thereis but one Priest-even the Lord Jesus! There is but one Holy Place- His glorious Person. There is but one holy time and thatis today! When the Spirit of God works a cry in the heart of the poor man, that cry climbs up to Heaven by the way of Jacob'sladder-and at the same instant, mercy comes down by the same ladder! Our Lord Jesus Christ is that Ladder which joins earthand Heaven together, so that our prayers go up to Heaven and God's mercy comes down to us on earth! Oh, that men would becontent with the blessedly simple apparatus of Divine Grace-"This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him outof all his troubles"!
III. I must be brief on my last head, but it is a very important one. Consider THE NEED AND THE USEFULNESS OF PERSONAL TESTIMONY.It is David who says, "This poor man cried." You see he tells the story-he writes it down in a book for us to read. He weavesit into a Psalm for us to sing.
Testimony is a weighty thing for the persuasion and winning of men, but it must be of the right kind. It should be personal,concerning things which you yourself know-"This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." Never mind if you should be chargedwith being egotistical. That is a blessed egoism which dares to stand out and bear bold witness for God in its own person!"This poor man cried." Not somebody over the water-"and the Lord heard him"-not a man down the next street. The more definiteand specific your testimony, the better and the more convincing.
One of our evangelists writes me that when he was praying with an inquirer and trying to lead him to Jesus, he was much helpedby a working man coming in and kneeling down by their side and saying, "Lord, save this poor soul, even as you saved me attwo o'clock this morning!" Afterwards the evangelist asked him how he came to use such an expression.
"Well," said the man, "I was saved then. Just as the clock struck two, I found the Savior, and I always like to tell whena thing happens." Somehow or other, that "two o'clock in the morning" helped the inquirer mightily-it put such a reality intothe transaction, he thought, "This man knows that he was saved at two o'clock in the morning. Why should I not be saved, now,at eight o'clock in the evening?" I do not say that we can all tell the date of our conversion-many of us cannot. But if wecan throw in such details, let us do so, for they help to make our testimony striking.
Our witness should be an assured one. We must believe and, therefore, speak. Do not say, "I hope that I prayed. And I-I-trustthat the Lord heard me." Say, "I prayed, and the Lord heard me." If you begin to stutter when you are giving your evidencefor the Lord Jesus, worldlings will not believe you. Are you sure? If you are not sure yourself, you cannot assure others.The accent of conviction is indispensable if you would convince. Be sure that you have cried and be sure that God has heardyou-and then bear testimony to what you have tried and proved.
Give your testimony cheerfully. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." Do not say it as if it were a line from "theagony column," but write it as a verse of a Psalm-of such a Psalm as this, which begins with, "I will bless the Lord at alltimes: His praise shall continually be in my mouth."
Your testimony must have for its sole aim the glory of God. Do not wish to show yourself off as an interesting person, a manof vast experience. We cannot allow the Grace of God to be buried in ungrateful silence. When He made the world, the angelssang for joy! And when He saves a soul, we will not be indifferent. Let us call together our friends and our neighbors andcharge them to rejoice with us, for our Lord has found us, though we were lost! Remember how the father, when the prodigalcame back, said to his household, "Let us eat and be merry." So, dear Friends, be glad at heart that the Lord has saved you-andtell others of what He has done, saying, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him."
Testimonies to facts have weight with men. Those who live to win souls have learned from experience that facts are grand thingsto use in their holy service. When you are teaching people doctrines, they will often be inattentive and unmoved. But whenyou come to facts, they listen and feel their force. I sat not long ago with one whom I would gladly win for my Lord. I toldhim certain facts with regard to the Lord's hearing prayer for the College and the Orphanage and other parts of my work forthe Lord. I marked the deep interest which these facts produced. He believed me to be a man of integrity and he could notresist the conclusion that the Lord is a prayer-hearing God! To yourself and to others, one fact is better than a dozen inferences!Even the hardest of the Gradgrind can only say, "What I need is facts." Test prayer for yourself and then boldly state theresults-and you will have power with men. Personal experience is far more convincing than observation-tell facts which youhave, yourself, experienced! "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles."
Such testimony will have most weight with the same sort of men as yourselves. When a poor man tells what the Lord did forhim, he wins the attention and gains the belief of other poor men. When any event happens to a person like myself, I becomeinterested in it. The poor man says, "I see he is a poor man like myself and if God hears him, why should he not hear me?"Does not your brother's salvation cheer you and make you feel that you will cry to the Lord, too? How wonderfully God hasheard prayer from men in singular positions! He heard Jacob when his angry brother Esau was close upon him with armed men!At Jabbok the Lord heard him by night and he met his brother the next morning with a smiling face. Israel in Egypt was insore bondage, but the Lord heard his people's cry and sent Moses-and divided the Red Sea, and brought forth His chosen. TheLord heard Samson when he was ready to die of thirst. He heard the men of Reuben who cried to God in the battle against theHagarites-"and He was entreated of them, because they put their trust in Him."
He heard Hezekiah and Isaiah when Rabshakeh wrote his blasphemous and slanderous letter. We read that, "for this cause theyprayed and cried to Heaven. And the Lord sent an angel, who cut off all the mighty men of Assyria." David prayed in the cave,and Elijah on Carmel, and Jeremiah in prison-and the Lord heard them! There was once a man in the belly of a fish miraculouslykept alive. The great fish felt ill with such a thing as a living man within him and, therefore, it dived deep down till theprisoner felt himself to be at the bottom of the mountains! Then, to get vegetable medicine, the fish rushed among the seameadows and Jonah cried, "The weeds were wrapped about my head!" He was in a strange, dark, horrible place and he says ofit, "Out of the belly of Hell cried I." Was his cry of any use? Yes! We read, "Out of the belly of Hell cried I, and You heardmy voice. My prayer came in unto You, into Your holy Temple." Wherever you may be and in whatever trial you may be involved,the Lord will hear your cry and come to your help. If any
soul here is, like Jonah, in the very belly of Hell in feeling and apprehension, yet, his cry will prevail with Heaven andhe shall know that "salvation is of the Lord." A poor man's cry will sound through the telephone of Christ's mediation, inthe ear of God-and He will respond to it.
Now, this witness, dear Friends, while it is very strong to those who are like ourselves, will be increased in force as oneand another shall join us. One person says, "I cried to the Lord, and he heard me." "But," says an objector, "that is a specialcase." Up rises a second witness and says, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." "Well, that is only two and twoinstances may not prove a rule." Then, up rises a third, a fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh-and in each case it is the same story-"Thispoor man cried, and the Lord heard him." Surely he must be hardened in unbelief who refuses to believe so many witnesses!I remember the story of a lawyer, a skeptic who attended a meeting where the subject was similar to our theme of this morning.He heard about a dozen tell what the Lord had done for them and he said, as he sat there, "If I had a case in court, I wouldlike to have these good people for witnesses. I know them all, they are my neighbors. They are simple-minded people, straightforwardand honest, and I know I could carry any case if I had them on my side."
Then he very candidly argued that what they all agreed upon was true. He believed them in other matters and he could not doubtthem in this, which was to them the most important of all. He tried religion for himself and the Lord heard him-and very soonhe was at the meeting, adding his witness to theirs! If I were to put the question at this moment to my present audience,what would be the result? Our friend, Mr. Stott, said, just now, in prayer, that we were a very promiscuous company this darkmorning. I agree with him. Still I will try it. You that have had answers to prayer say, "Fes." (The response came like athunderclap)! I am sure there are none of us who have ever tried the power of prayer who would have to say, "No." If I wereto put the contrary, there would be no answer. All who are accustomed to pray will vote with the ayes. Go home, then, withthe words of our text in your hearts and on your tongues-"This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out ofall his troubles."
Glory be to God! Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-Psalm 34.