Sermon 2395. The Blessings of Public Worship
INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S DAY, JANUARY 13, 1895.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON THURSDAY EVENING, FEBRUARY 3, 1887.
"Two men went up into the Temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican." Luke 18:10.
THIS is called a parable, yet it is rather an incident, an anecdote, a statement of facts. You will observe that our Lordnever used a fable. Fables may be employed to set forth that which is earth-born, but a parable, which is, in itself, true,is alone adapted to set forth spiritual Truths of God. I say this just now because I read, the other day, an assertion thatthe story of the rich man and Lazarus was only a fable, like that of Jotham. But the most of our Lord's parables are not onlyparables, but literal facts-and all of them might be facts. I would almost go the length of saying that all of them have beenactual facts and in this case there is nothing parabolic at all. It is the statement of an incident which did literally occur,for truth is best illustrated by truth and, as Christ had nothing to teach but what was pure Truth, He illustrated it by Truthand never went into the realm of fiction, or invented a tale, or told a story which was not a fact, much less did He everteach by a mere fable!
There were two men who went into the Temple to pray. They prayed in just the way that our Lord describes and they went away,the one justified, and the other without a blessing. I am not going into the full teaching of the parable on this occasion,but I want to make a few observations concerning public worship in the Lord's House. Commencing to preach, again, on Thursdaynights, after my season of rest, I thought that this sermon should be a sort of preface or introduction to our gatheringsfor prayer, praise, preaching and hearing the Word. God grant us a blessing in beginning, again, this holy employment. Andmay we be in health and strength and spiritual vigor, and be of some use to the people of God!
I. Commencing, then, I would say, first, that IT IS WELL TO WORSHIP GOD IN PUBLIC-"Two men went up into the Temple to pray."
It is good to pray anywhere. He that does not pray in his closet is but a hypocrite when he pretends to pray in the Temple.But, though we pray in the closet-though we get into such a habit of prayer and are so full of the spirit of prayer that wecan pray anywhere-it is well to go and mingle with others and openly worship God who delights to be thus worshipped. It waswritten very early in the history of our race, "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord." It has been the customof the godly to meet for worship in all times. The sheep of Christ are gregarious-this is their nature, they love to gatherthemselves into congregations, to feed in the same pasture-and to enjoy, together, the Presence of their great Shepherd. Itwill always be so. The more pious and godly men are, alone, the more will they love associated worship. If it should everhappily come to pass that each feeble one among us should be as David, and every David should be as the angel of the Lord,yet even then we would find strength and help in our service for God by meeting together for united worship. The Apostoliccommand is, "Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselvestogether, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching." Publicworship is not everything-if there were no private worship, it would be nothing by itself. To go up to the Temple is not everything.The man who does not meet God outside the Temple will not meet God inside the Temple, he may rest assured of that.
Yet, it is well, it is desirable that it should be said of us as it was said of the men mentioned in our text, "Two men wentup into the Temple to pray." For public worship is, first of all, an open avowal of our faith in God and of our belief inprayer. If we pray in private, nobody knows it. At least nobody should know it, for our Lord's direction is very plain,
"You, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; andyour Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly." Our acts of personal devotion must be sacred to God and our ownsouls, but when we go up to the public assembly-whether it is but of two or three, or of many thousands, it matters not-thereis, to that extent, an open declaration that we believe in God, that, let others do as they may, as for us, we worship Him,we believe in the reality and power and usefulness of prayer and, therefore, in the light of day, before all men, we gatherourselves together to pray! I thank God that there are, in this unbelieving London, so many thousands of assemblies of worshippingpeople-a public testimony constantly borne to the fact that we do believe in God and that we do believe in prayer!
Public worship is also, in the next place, a good way of securing unity in prayer. A number of persons may agree to pray aboutone thing, yet they may never see each other's faces-their prayers may blend at the Mercy Seat, but they must lack an emphaticconsciousness of unity such as we have who come together to pray. Our Lord Jesus promised His special Presence to the unitedgatherings of His people when He said. "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them."Oh, dear Friends, what should we do if we were not able to come together to mingle our sighs and cries and tears and, betterstill, to blend our joys, our Psalms, our shouts of victory? As we are members of one mystical body, it is but right thatwe should, as members of that one body, worship together, lifting up the joyous song in tuneful harmony and blending our supplications!-
"Around our common Mercy Seat." I think, also, that public worship is a great means of quickening. At any rate, it is so tome. I never feel that I can pray as well as when I am in the midst of my own dear friends and, oftentimes, when things areflagging within the soul, to get together with brighter spirits, in whom the life of God is more vigorous, is a great helpto me. It does not seem so very long ago-although these spectacles and my many gray hairs tell me that it must have been longsince- that I used to say to my mother that hymn which begins-
"Lord, how delightful 'tis to see
A whole assembly worship Thee!
At once they sing, at once they pray;
They hear of Heaven, and learn the Way." Dr. Watts put it very well and I can utter the same sentiment-
"Lord how delightful 'tis to see
This vast assembly worship Thee!" when the house is full from floor to ceiling-
"At once they sing, at once they pray; They hear of Heaven, and learn the Way." Those two men, of whom our Savior spoke, didwell to go up to the Temple to pray! And we shall do well not to cease from the habit of assembling ourselves together forpublic worship in the Lord's House.
Then, dear Friends, public worship is a part of the great system by which God blesses the world. It has much to do with thegathering, the sustenance, the strengthening, the invigorating and the extension of the Church of Christ. And it is throughthe Church of Christ that God accomplishes His purposes in the world. Oh, the blessings that come to us in our public assemblies!Are there not, sometimes, days of Heaven upon earth? Have we not felt our hearts burning within us when we have been listeningto the Word of God, or joining in praise or prayer? Those Houses of God where the Gospel is truly preached, whatever theirarchitecture may be, are the beauty and the bulwarks of the land! God bless them! Wherever the Lord's people are gatheredtogether, in a cathedral or in a barn-it does not matter where-it is none other than the House of God and the very gate ofHeaven when God is there! And who among us would dare to stay away? As long as we have legs to carry us and health with whichto use those legs, let us be found among the waiting assemblies in God's sanctuary!
For, once more, it seems to me that public worship on earth is a rehearsal for the service of Heaven. We shall sing together,there, Brothers and Sisters, not solos, but grand chorales and choruses! We shall take parts in the Divine oratorio of redemption-itwill not be some one melodious voice, alone, that shall lift up the eternal hallelujah! I spoke playfully of our brother Mayerssinging the Hallelujah Chorus all by himself, but neither he nor any other man can do that! We shall all have to take ourparts to make the harmony complete. I may never be able to rise to certain notes unless my voice shall be wondrously changed,but some other sinner, saved by Grace, will run up the scale-nobody knows how high- and what a range of melody the music willhave in Heaven!
I believe that our poor scales and modes of singing, here, are nothing at all compared with what there will be in the upperregions! There, the bass shall be deeper and yet the notes shall be higher than those of earth. Even the crash of the loudestthunder shall be only like a whisper in comparison with the celestial music of the new song before the Throne of God! Johnspoke of it as "the voice of many waters." The waves of one ocean can make a deafening, booming noise, but in Heaven thereshall be, as it were, the sound of sea on sea, Atlantic upon Pacific, one piled upon another and all dashing and crashingwith the everlasting hallelujahs from the gladsome hearts of the multitude that no man can number! I expect to be there andI remember that verse in one of our hymns that says-
"I would begin the music here,
And so my soul should rise;
Oh, for some heavenly notes to bear
My passions to the skies!"
But you cannot sing that heavenly anthem alone, because however well you can sing by yourself, that is not the way you willhave to sing in Heaven-there you will have to sing in harmony with all the blood-washed hosts. Therefore let us often comeup to the Lord's House, and when we are gathered together, let us again take up the words of Dr. Watts, and say-
"I have been there and still would go, 'Tis like a little Heaven below." That little Heaven below shall help to prepare usfor the great Heaven above! That is our first observation, then. It is well to worship God in public.
II. Secondly, IT IS WELL TO HAVE A REASON WHEN WE GO UP TO PUBLIC WORSHIP. "Two men went up into the Temple to pray." Theywent there for that express purpose.
Now, whenever we go to the assembly of God's people, we should have some good reason-and the right reason is that which thesetwo men had-they went up to the Temple to pray. I would rather that you came with a bad reason than that you did not comeat all. I have known people come to pick pockets and yet they have gone away with a blessing. I am sorry if any of you came,tonight, for that reason, yet I am glad that you are here. Perhaps friends will prevent you from committing the sin of theftby taking a little extra care of their pockets! I have known persons go into the House of God out of sheer mockery and yetGod has blessed them, for His ways are strangely sovereign. But that is to be ascribed to matchless mercy and it is not theway we ought to appear before the Lord!
When we go to the sanctuary, we should go for a reason, we should go up to pray-we should not go merely from custom. Do wenot often do that? Not so much on Thursday nights, I think, for people come, then, because they like to come. But on Sundaysit is such a proper thing with certain persons to go to a place of worship that they almost wish it was not so proper andthey would like to have a good excuse for staying home! Well, if you come only out of custom and you do not get a blessing,I pray you, do not wonder at it! If you do not come for anything and you do not get anything, do not be disappointed! If yougo to a shop across the road and do not mean to buy anything, do not be surprised if you come out with nothing-and if youcome here and do not need anything, very well, you will go away with nothing! Is it not just what you might have expected?He who goes to the river and takes no rod or net with him, will have no fish in his basket, even though there may be shoalsof them in the water! So, if we want to be blessed in our worship, we must come with a reason, even as these two men wentup into the Temple "to pray."
Neither do I think that we should come up to the assembly of God's people merely to hear sermons. The proper thing is to come"to pray." "But we do hear sermons," says one. Yes, but I hope that does not hinder your praying! Somebody said, the otherday, that people who go to Church go to pray, but that we who go to Chapel go to hear sermons. My dear Friend, that remarkshows what sort of sermons you get at Church, because those who come to hear us preach pray while we are preaching and theyfind that there is nothing that helps them to pray as much as a good sermon does! In fact, there is no worship of God thatis better than the hearing of a sermon! I venture to say that if a sermon is well heard, it puts faith in exercise as youbelieve it, it puts love in exercise as you enjoy it, it puts gratitude in exercise as you think of all the blessings thatGod has given to you!
If the sermon is what it should be, it stirs all the coals of fire in your spirit and makes them burn with a brighter flameand a more vehement heat. To imply that hearing a sermon is not worship is really to slander your minister! It must be a verybad sermon in which there is, as it were, a jerk out of the prayers to get into it, for the supplication should lead up tothe sermon, and then the discourse should be a continuation of the prayer that has preceded it and bring it back upon themind, again, so that all present may pray the better and worship God the more acceptably because of the sermon to which theyhave been listening.
Still, if anybody comes to hear a sermon, especially as, perhaps, some of you came while I was away, to criticize the preacher,that is not the way to get a blessing! I do not mind if you criticize me-you may do that when you like-only you will not getblessed by doing it. But when there are other preachers here and someone says that he does not like this one, and anothersays that he does not like the other, then, if you do not get a blessing out of the service, who is to blame? "Two men wentup into the Temple to pray." And if we go to the House of God and seek to turn the whole of the worship into a prayer, weshall not come away without a blessing! The main objective in all worship is that we get near to God and really pray to Him.
Neither do I think that we should go to the House of God merely to get comforted and cheered. That is a very sweet resultfrom hearing the Word of God, but it should not be our main objective in going to hear it-we should meet together that wemay draw near to God. If it is the Lord's will not to comfort but to rebuke us, and if it is His purpose not to cheer butto cast us down, we shall still feel, "What I received came from God. I prayed to Him and He spoke to me and I had specialfellowship with the living God, while I was also in communion with my Brothers and Sisters in Christ. That is what I wentfor, and that is what I have had."
The publican teaches us what we should go to the House of God to do and to say. There should be, in God's Presence, confessionof sin. We should, each one of us, when we draw near to the Lord, bow down in His Presence with reverent awe. If the veryangels veil their faces when they come near Him, we must humbly bow before Him when we come to worship in His House! He isin Heaven and we are upon earth. He is our Father, but He is also our Father who is in Heaven-and we poor sinful creaturescan never come into the light of His Presence without perceiving that we are full of sin. I have heard some people talk about"walking in the light as God is in the light," as if that meant that they had no sin. Listen to what the Apostle John says,"If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another." And then, "the blood of Jesus ChristHis Son," is still needed, for even then it, "cleanses us from all sin." Without its continual application, there would beno walking in the light-and the more walking in the Light of God there is, the clearer will be the perception of every speckand stain in the character! So, the more true our worship is, the more certain shall we be to make confession of sin.
Communion with God and confession of sin should always be remembered by us when we come up to the House of
Then there should be asking for mercy. We should come as paupers seeking relief. We should come as rebels craving pardon.We should come as pardoned ones still asking renewed tokens of forgiveness-as men, once washed, who still come, that theirfeet may be cleansed-that they may be clean every whit as they pursue their course on the journey of life.
In the publican's prayer there is, in the Greek, a reference to sacrifice. He cried, "Lord, be propitious to me, the sinner.""Have mercy upon me for the sake of the Great Propitiation, the Great Expiation." They who come up to God's House for theright reason, come to find Jesus, to prove the power of His precious blood, to be perfumed with the incense of His all-sufficientmerit and to be covered with His matchless righteousness! That is the right way of coming up to the assembly of God's people,to speak with Him humbly, for we are sinful. Prayerfully, for we are full of need. Believingly, for Jesus has offered a Sacrificeand we are accepted in and through Him. That, dear Friends, is the second division of my discourse-it is well to have a reasonwhen we go up to public worship.
I will pause, here, and pass a few questions round for everyone to ask, "Did I come, tonight, for such a reason? Is that mygeneral habit, to go up to my place of worship for such a reason? Or do I go jauntily, as if it were an ordinary transactionto go up for the worship of God?" I will not propose any answers to you-your own consciences will be able to give the reply.Only let them speak and God bless the inquiry to you all!
III. Thirdly, IT IS POSSIBLE TO GO UP TO PUBLIC WORSHIP WITH A GOOD REASON AND YET TO FORGET IT. "Two men went up into theTemple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican."
It was very remarkable that a Pharisee should forget his reason-that is the one point concerning him to which I am going tocall your attention-he went up to the Temple to pray, but he did not pray. He never prayed a word, but he did something else.If it had been written, "Two men went up into the Temple to boast," I would give the Pharisee the palm, for he certainly didthat magnificently! But as it is said, "Two men went up into the Temple to pray," then it is certain that this Pharisee quiteforgot why he had come, for he never prayed at all!
Well, now, who was the gentleman that forgot his reason? It was the person who ought especially to have remembered it, forhe was a Pharisee! By profession he was a separatist from others because of his supposed peculiar holiness. He was a man amazinglyacquainted with the Word of God, at least, with the letter of it. He wore some little black boxes between his eyes with textsof Scripture inscribed upon them and he wore others round his wrist. And he had very broad blue borders on his garments, forhe was particularly observant of what he read in the Law of Moses. And, generally, a Pharisee was a teacher. He was firstcousin to a Scribe and often was a Scribe, himself. He had written out a copy of the Law and he had its precepts at his fingertips!
Now, surely, if there is anybody who goes up to the Temple to pray, this is the man who will pray. If anybody forgets whyhe came, it will not be this person! But, listen. That was the very man who did forget all about it and this may be true ofa minister, a deacon, an elder, one of the Brothers and Sisters who prays at Prayer Meetings, the leader of a Bible class,a teacher in the Sunday school, the best sort of people. "Oh," you exclaim, "we cannot say anything but what is honorableof them!" And yet it was one of this class who forgot why he went up into the Temple! Let me remind you Church members whomake a loud profession, that it was a great professor who went up to the Temple to pray and did not do it! What would yousay to your boy, who went to a shop, and then came home and said that he had forgotten his reason? And what will you say toyourself, dear Friend, especially if you happen to be somebody notable, if it should be you who went up to the Temple to pray,and did not pray? Oh, do not let it be so in your case! Do not, tonight, leave this house till you have had real fellowshipwith God, through JESUS CHRIST His Son, if you have never had it before!
How do we know that this man forgot his reason? We know it by what he said. He did not pray at all. He said, "God, I thankYou that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week,I give tithes of all that I possess." By his words he must be judged, as you and I will be-and his words go to prove thathe forgot why he went up to the Temple. He acted as though he was in his own house, praising himself, instead of being inGod's House, where the Lord, alone, is to be praised!
Why did this man fall into this great blunder and forget why he went up to the Temple? He did it because he was so full ofhimself that there was no room for God in his heart. He was so satisfied with himself that he felt no need of prayer. He alreadyhad all that he required and he had so much that he could only stand still and overflow with a kind of gratitude to the oneto whom he owed everything, namely, himself. Though he said, "God, I thank Fou," He did not mean it-he meant all the praisefor himself! He was so fine a bird and had such rich feathers that he felt that everybody ought to admire him as much as headmired himself!
Well now, Brothers and Sisters, you will say to me, "Has this any bearing upon us?" Listen. Do you ever feel perfectly satisfiedwith yourselves? Are there not times when there is no sin that burns the conscience, when you think that you are somebody,a pattern saint, a highly experienced good old man, a rare Christian matron, and so on? The devil tells you all that, doeshe not? And you believe him! Or else you say that you are such a smart young man-you have only lately joined the Church, yetyou have already got into the Lord's work in a wonderful way-there must be a great deal in you. You do not put this boastinginto English, because we do not talk English to our hearts when we get proud-it is a sort of Greek which we talk, by whichwe try to conceal our own meaning from ourselves! Then we feel, perhaps, that we are getting perfect-and that is the timewhen we forget to pray! And we go into the House of God and, when we come out, we make some remark about the preacher's manner,or about Sister So-and-So, whose bonnet is really too smart for a Christian woman to wear, or about our friend, So-and-So,who spoke rather roughly to us. We-WE- WE-we are so good that we can find fault with all others and say, "God, I thank Youthat I am not as other men are, or even as this publican!" And then we do not pray.
Whenever you get one inch above the ground in your own esteem, you are that inch too high! The way to Heaven is down, down,down! As to self, it must sink. Our sense of sin must grow deeper and deeper, and a sense of obligation to Grace must be moreand more fully impressed upon our heart until we are able to say with great emphasis, though it is in the deep silence ofthe soul, "God be merciful to me, the sinner!" Otherwise, we shall come to the Temple on the reason of prayer and we shallforget it. We shall go to the closet to pray and yet shall not pray. Or we shall read the Bible and not find anything uponwhich to feed our souls because we are not hungry, but full. We shall not seek true wealth, because we shall fancy we arenot poor, but rich. We shall not go to the Source of all might because we shall imagine we are not weak, but strong. If wego up to the Temple as the Pharisee did, there will be nothing for us, even in the place where prayer is known to be made.
IV. So I close this discourse with a fourth observation. IT IS POSSIBLE TO CARRY OUT OUR REASON FOR
GOING TO PUBLIC WORSHIP. We can go up to the Temple to pray and really pray!
Who is the man who is most likely to pray? According to this parable, it was the publican. It was a man under a sense of sin.It was a man who felt that he was the sinner, even if nobody else was a sinner. It was this man to whom sin was a reality,not a fiction, and to whom the mercy of God was a real need, and not a mere doctrine, who craved that mercy at the Throneof God and felt that only Sovereign Grace could give it! It was this man who pleaded the precious blood of the Propitiationand felt that only by that way could he receive pardon. That was the man who truly prayed! Oh, have I not, sometimes, goneto pray with a breaking heart, groaning, crying and longing to see my Lord's face, and to have a sense of acceptance in theBeloved? And I have come away and felt that I had not prayed because I could not use language and words such as I would wishto use-and yet, on looking back, I have seen that it was then that I prayed most!
Next to the sense of sin, the publican had a sense of need. When the need is felt the heaviest, prayer is truest. When thesoul is lowest, then the flood of supplication is the highest. I am sure you pray best when you have least satisfaction withyourself, and you get nearest to God when you get farthest from self. When you feel that you are not worthy to lift up youreyes to Heaven, it is then that Heaven's eyes look down on you! The sorrowful thought of a broken heart is immeasurably betterthan the indifference of a callous spirit. Bless God for a humble mind that trembles at His Word-it is much better than thatpresumption which puts aside all feeling. There are some who will go to Heaven questioning their own state all the way, yetthey will arrive there safely. And there are some who never doubted their state who may have to doubt it when it is too late!Anyway, it is a deep sense of sin, a deep sense of need, a deep sense of dependence upon Sovereign Grace, that helps a manto come to the House of God and to go away with his mission accomplished.
Let us all try to bring our needs before God. Let us sink ourselves in His Presence into the very depths, and then let uscome and joyfully take what He freely offers to all who trust His dear Son! Let us receive Grace at His hands, not as courtierswho have a right, but as those who feel like dogs under the table and yet cry, "Lord, even the dogs eat the crumbs that fallfrom the master's table."
The publican excites our pity as we hear his groans and sighs, and see him smite upon his breast. But when we know that thisis the man whom God blessed, and that he went to his house justified, rather than the other, we no longer pity him, but weseek to emulate his repentance and his Grace, and we pray the Lord to help us, thus, to come to His feast with a hearty appetite,thus to come to His wardrobe conscious of our own rags, thus to come to His fullness admitting our own emptiness, thus tocome to the Fountain of Eternal Life feeling that apart from it we are dead! Then shall we truly pray, even as this despisedpublican did!
Poor Soul, almost in despair, you think, "I have no right to be here. I am so guilty, I am so vile." You are the very sortof sinner Christ died to save! Not sham sinners who have to pretend to be sinners, but you miserable sinners, you real sinners!Not you who make marks on your skin, like some beggars do, that you may seem to be wounded, but you who are as bad as youcan be-you who have sinned so deeply that you feel as if you were already lost, you who lie at Hell's dark door, you who aredragged about by the hair of your head by the foul fiend of the Pit-you who are in your own esteem the worst of all men! Cometo Christ tonight!
Make way for them! Stand back, for these are the people He came to save! He has come "to seek and to save that which was lost."Believe that Christ died to save you, and you are saved! Throw yourself on His atoning Sacrifice, and it avails for you atonce! Glorify Him by trusting Him for your salvation! Let Him be your High Priest and, from first to last, your Savior, andHe is yours as surely as you are a living man or woman! Go your way justified rather than the other who does not need thePropitiation of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord bless you! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: PSALM 122; LUKE 18:1-14.
We will read two portions of Scripture relating to public worship. The first will be Psalm 122, one of David's "Songs of degrees."
Psalm 122:1. I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the House of the LORD. "I was glad for my own sake, for I hungered andthirsted to go into the House of the Lord. I was glad for the sake of those who offered to go with me, for I delight to seein others a longing desire to profit by the means of Grace. I was glad when they said unto me, 'Let us go into the house ofthe Lord.'"
2, 3. Our feet shall stand within your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built as a city that is compact together. So is everytrue Church of God when it is in a healthy state. There are no divisions, no schisms-"Jerusalem is built as a city that iscompact together." It is not a long straggling street, a dislocated village, but all the houses are rightly and regularlyplaced and surrounded with strong munitions of defense against the adversary. May this Church always be blessed with suchunity that it shall be as a city that is compact together!
4. Where the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD.We should go up to the House of God, then, for two purposes. First, "unto the testimony of Israel," that is, to hear whatGod testifies to us and, also, to publicly testify our confidence in Him. And, next, we should go up "to give thanks untothe name of the Lord." Especially should we do this when we have been restored from beds of languishing sickness and pain,or when we come up from the house of mourning. But what is there in God's House that should tempt us to go there?
5. For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. The preaching of the Gospel is like the settingup of a Throne of Judgment, "for the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing, even,to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents ofthe heart." And long before the last Great Judgment Day arrives, and the final assize begins, the ministry of the Gospel isGod's Judgment Seat at which ungodly men may learn what they are in the sight of the Judge of All- what their present stateof condemnation is and what it will finally be unless they repent!
6. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Ask that she may be free from persecution without, and from anything like disturbancewithin-"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem."
6. They shall prosper that love You. Neglect of the means of Grace is the death of all soul-prosperity. But an earnest loveof the House of God and all who belong to God will bring us true spiritual prosperity.
7-9. Peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces. For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say,Peace be within you. Because of the House of the LORD our God I will seek your good. Now let us read a short passage out ofthe Gospel according to Luke.
Luke 18:1-7. And He spoke a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; saying, There was in a citya judge which feared not God, neither regarded man: and there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avengeme of my adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regardman; yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said,Hear what the unjust judge says. And shall not God avenge His own elect which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear longwith them? He hears their prayer a long time because it does not weary Him. It pleases Him! He loves to hear their sighs andcries, but will He not yield to their entreaties? What do you think? Shall not the good, gracious, loving God yield, at length?
8. I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of Man comes, shall He find faith on the earth?Faith enough to make such prayers as this? Faith enough to pray with importunity? Oh, if we had faith enough to resolve tohave a blessing and determined never to cease crying to God until we had it, we should have far more favors than we have sofar gained from our God!
9-12. And He spoke this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: twomen went up into the Temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus withhimself, God, I thank You, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fasttwice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. A fine peacock, truly! See how he spreads out his feathers and strutsbefore God, glorifying himself?
13. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying,God be merciful to me a sinner. "The sinner," it should be-it is emphatically so in the Greek. There is a Pharisee, the righteousman according to his own estimate, and all the rest were sinners. Here is the publican, he is the sinner, and he thinks everybodyelse is righteous. These were two very conspicuous individuals, the self-righteous man and the sinner! And they are both heretonight! I will not ask them to stand up, but no doubt they are both of them present. Now what became of them?
14. I tell you, this man-The sinner
14. Went down to his house justified rather than the other: for everyone that exalts himself shall be abased; and he thathumbles himself shall be exalted. It is God's usual method to reverse what man does and to turn things the other way around-"Everyonethat exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted." You remember how the Virgin Mary, in hersong, praised the Lord for this very habit of His-"He has put down the mighty from their seats and exalted them of low degree.He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He has sent away empty." That is His regular way of working and Hewill continue to do so!