Sermon 2851. Unseasonable Prayer
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1, 1903.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, OCTOBER 14, 1877.
"Why do you cry unto Me?" Exodus 14:15.
AT first sight we might suppose that crying unto God was so good a thing that it would never be necessary for the Lord toask the question, "Why do you cry unto Me?" But the question we are now to consider shows that there may be a time when, evento a man like Moses, it is necessary for God to ask, "Why do you cry unto Me?" Think of the circumstances in which the Israeliteswere then-the Red Sea was before them and the Egyptians were behind-so that when the Lord said to Moses, "Why do you cry untoMe?" Moses might very properly have replied, "What else can I do? There are great multitudes of blood-thirsty foes behindus and nothing but the roaring sea in front of us-what can we do except cry unto You?" But the fact was that the time forpraying about the matter was past and the time for acting had come. So the Lord said to Moses, in effect, "Speak not to Me,but 'Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward'- forward through the sea that now rolls in front of them. Thatsea will divide as they march into it, so you need not pray any more about that difficulty. I will prepare a pathway for thepeople as they advance and they shall go safely through the very midst of the sea."
There is a time for praying, but there is also a time for holy activity. Prayer is adapted for almost every season, yet notprayer alone, for there comes, every now and then, a time when even prayer must take a secondary place and faith must comein and lead us not to cry unto God but to act as He bids us, even as the Lord said to Moses, "Why do you cry unto Me? Speakunto the children of Israel, that they go forward; but lift you up your rod and stretch out your hand over the sea, and divideit: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea."
It is perfectly clear, then, that there may come a time when crying unto God becomes unseasonable. Our Lord's command to Hisdisciples is, "Ask." But what follows that command? Why, the promise, "you shall receive." Then there must be a time for receivingaswell as season for asking! But if, instead of stretching out my hands gratefully to receive what God is waiting to give, Icontinue to ask and forget or neglect to receive, I put prayer out of its proper place! Our Savior also said, "Seek, and youshall find." Well, if I have sought and, at last, have found the treasure I have been seeking-but if, instead of perceivingthat it is there and taking possession of it, and blessing God that I have found it-if I still go on seeking for it, thenI have forgotten that while there is a time to seek, there is also a time to find, and my seeking then becomes unseasonable!
It is the same with the command and promise, "Knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Suppose that I have knocked and thatthe door has been opened to me, but that I still stand knocking at it? It is manifest that I am acting foolishly and wrongly-thatI am casting reflections upon the owner of the house and also upon the sincerity of my own knocking, for it is doubtful whetherI really did knock with the honest purpose of getting the door opened if, when that opening has taken place, I do not availmyself of the opportunity to enter, but continue still to knock. I do not say that we may not pray for something else, butI do say, in respect to the one thing which we have asked of God, that there comes a time for receiving rather than asking.With regard to the thing which we have sought at the Lord's hands, there comes a time for finding. And concerning the doorat which we have knocked, there comes a time for opening. And, in
each of these cases, the Lord's question to Moses comes with appropriateness to each one of us, "Why do you cry unto
When do you think, dear Friends, that prayer about anything becomes out of date? I answer, When we ought to believe that wehave the answer to our supplication. I do believe that many a time some of you go on asking for a certain blessing after youhave received it though you are not conscious that you have it. I am glad that you still ask for it as you think that youhave not received it, but it would be a better evidence of your spiritual growth if you perceived that when God has givenyou a certain thing in answer to your petitions, you certainly do not need to continue asking for it. You have it, so rejoiceover it and bless the Lord for giving it to you! I think there are some Christians who have received many blessings of whichthey are quite unaware. They have what they asked for, yet they still continue to pray for them. For instance, in some casesthe prayer for assurance is offered long after assurance has been granted. Someone says that he believes the promise of God,but he needs to be more fully assured concerning it. My dear Brother, what do you mean? To be more assured that God made thepromise? Because if so, you will have to go into the question of the authenticity of that particular passage and of the Biblein general!
"No," you say, "I do not mean that, for I am quite sure that God gave that promise." Then, do you mean that you doubt whetherGod will fulfill the promise that He has given? Because if so, I must say with all solemnity, that you ought to be assuredthat God cannot lie. This is not a thing for you to pray about, but for you to believe! It is the Lord's due that you shouldnot allow anything like a question to arise over this matter. "Has He said, and shall He not do it? Or has He spoken, andshall He not make it good?" There is His definite promise and yet I go and ask Him to give me an assurance concerning it?If I were to give a promise to any of you and you were, afterwards, to come to me and say, "Give me further assurance," Iwould feel that you did not believe that I could or would do what I had promised! If such treatment as that were meted outto me by any of you, I would not feel that you had done me any honor by finding it difficult to believe my word-yet why shouldI expect you to honor me? But I do expect that a son should honor his own father! And I do expect that a child of God shouldso fully believe his Heavenly Father that he should not talk about needing assurance of the truthfulness and reliability ofHis promises of Grace! Instead of continuing to pray for God to keep His word, it would be far better for you to believe thatHe has done so and that He always will do so!
"But it may be presumption," says someone. No, it can never be presumption to believe God! It is presumption to ever doubtHim.However great His promise may be, it must be true-and it is presumptuous for anyone to ask, "Can this be true?" or, "How canit be accomplished?" It would be enough for me that God has said it-how He will fulfill His promise is His business, not mine.I rest upon His word with a simple, childlike faith-and I am sorry if any of you are not doing the same. I feel that, sometimes,in the matter of assurance, God might say to us, "'Why do you cry unto Me?' Believe My word and rest assured that I shallcertainly fulfill all that I have promised."
It is the same, also, in plain matters of Christian duty. It is a very shocking thing, but I have known the case of a man,I hope a Christian, knowing such-and-such a thing to be right, yet not attending to it, but saying that he was praying aboutit. He is quite certain about that particular thing-it could not possibly be plainer than it is, yet he is praying about it!Such-and-such a Truth of God is revealed plainly enough in the Scriptures-the man could see it there and did not doubt itsauthenticity-but he wanted it to be "brought home" to his conscience, so he said. Well, all I can say about such conduct asthat is that it is a kind of rebellion against God, a shameful piece of hypocrisy-pretending to honor God in one duty whileyou know that you are neglecting another!
My dear Brothers and Sisters, if you are a Believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you know that it is the will of Christ thatall Believers should be baptized even as He was, do not go home and pray about it-but be baptized! If you are not a memberof a Christian Church and you know that it was the practice of the early Christians to first give themselves to the Lord andafterwards to give themselves to His Church, do not tell me that you have been praying about that matter for months-ceasepraying about it and go and do it! It is idle to talk of praying about things which are clearly according to the will of God.Cease praying about them-practice them!
You feel that you ought to have family prayer, yet you say that you have been praying about it! Praying about it? That isnot what you have been doing-you have only been trying to see whether you could not find a loophole by which you could escapefrom an uncongenial but recognized duty! Go and do it, dear Friend-do not, any longer, act the hypocrite's part by pretendingto pray about it! Yet this is the way in which some, who say that they love the Lord, try to
play fast and loose with known precepts and duties. Do not let any of us fall into this sin-if we do, the Lord may well sayto us, as he did to Moses-only He may say it to us with more anger-"'Why do you cry unto Me' about such a thing as that? Dowhat you know to be right."
I. Now, leaving that part of our theme altogether, I come to a more general subject, which is this, IT IS GOOD FOR A MAN OFTENTO ASK HIMSELF THE QUESTION, "WHY DO I PRAY? WHY DO I CRY UNTO GOD?"
In some cases, I fear that the answer will be exceedingly unsatisfactory. One replies, "I pray because I was always trainedto do so. My dear mother, now in Heaven, taught me a form of prayer and that is why I continue to repeat it." If your motherhad taught you the Muslim form of prayer, I suppose you would have kept on repeating it. Or if she had taught you to worshipa block of wood or stone, would you have done so? I do not wish to speak with contempt concerning the influence of a mother'steaching, but I must say that this, alone, is a very unsatisfactory reason for presenting a prayer to God. Let me ask, Didyour mother, when she taught you that form of prayer, merely mean that you should repeat those words without any particularthought as to what they meant? If she did, your mother knew but little of vital godliness and, probably, you know even less!You must pray to God from your inmost heart. Your soul must have real fellowship with Him, or else the prayer your mothertaught you may be of no more use for you than if you repeated the alphabet backwards or forwards. I have heard of a man of70 who said that he always prayed night and morning. When he was asked what he said in his prayer, it turned out that he onlyrepeated the form which he had been taught to say as a little child. Now, if you had taught a parrot to say a prayer likethat, the parrot would not have been saved, nor will you, if that is all you have to depend upon. There must be something,as a reason for prayer, vastly superior to that, or else your prayer may be nothing but a mockery of supplication, a sepulcherof devotion with no life in it, an external form which cannot please God.
Another says, "I pray because prayer is a part of my religion."Yes, and it is a part of every true Christian's religion topray. It must be an essential part of his religion. But what sort of prayer is this of yours which seeks to justify itselfupon the ground of being a part of your religion? And what is the religion of which it is a part? Is it a religion which knowsGod and draws near to Him? Is it a religion which leads you to seek the Lord in spirit and in Truth? If so, God bless yourreligion and the prayer that is a part of it! But if your religion consists merely in attendance at church, or at the meetinghouse so many times on the Lord's-Day and in the repetition of certain words which you have been taught, God deliver you fromit! If your religion is to be worth anything, it must have a heart-there must be heart-work-the work of the Holy Spirit uponyour heart and the drawing near of your soul unto God. Otherwise, all your outward performances, however excellent they mayappear to be, will land you short of Heaven.
Another friend replies, "I pray because it is a right thing to do." There is something hopeful about that answer, but thequestion is, What sort of prayer do you pray? I make that enquiry because, although it is right to pray, it is not right topray some sorts of prayer. It is the right thing for a clerk in the telegraph office to work the telegraphic apparatus, butsuppose that he should merely move a handle backwards and forwards for a whole day, yet never send a message or receive one?I would not think it was right for him to keep on moving that handle to no purpose. Evidently a wire is broken, or somethingis out of order-there is no connection with the electric current, for the machinery does not work. And in like manner, a prayerthat never reaches the heart of God as it should and never brings an answer to your suppliant soul-a prayer in which you haveno fellowship with the invisible Jehovah-is not a right kind of prayer to pray. And I cannot say of such prayer that it hasany good reason why it should be presented. If you do not mean the petitions that you present, you mock God when you utterthem, for they are only words and nothing but words.
There are some who would not like to say, just in so many words, exactly what they think, but they really pray because theyregard prayer as being more or less meritorious. They do not consider it so meritorious that they expect to be saved by it,but they have some kind of notion that it helps with a great many other things, among the rest, faith in Jesus Christ to procuresalvation for the soul. All these things go into the scale and, at last, they make up the weight re-quired-that seems to betheir idea. In fact, according to some, our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, is only a make-weight- our prayers, tears, alms andgood works count for a great deal. These people do not quite advocate salvation by works. They do not go the full length ofthe road that the Romanist takes, but they go a very long way in the same direction through their belief that there is somekind of merit about various things appertaining to themselves, and, especially, that their prayers are meritorious.
I will speak about this error very strongly, lest I should not be understood by all and I state my final conviction that ifany man thinks that his prayers have any merit in them, of themselves, every prayer that he presents is an insult to the LordJesus Christ, for He is set forth as the onlyPropitiation for sin! If you think that your prayers help in any degree to putaway sin, you make an antichrist of your prayers! Christ's blood and righteousness form the onlyground of your acceptancebefore God. If you reckon your prayers as a ground, or medium, or even a helpto your acceptance with God, you push the Crossof Christ far into the background and put your prayers into the place of the only Substitute for sin-ners-and the more youpile them up, the more you multiply your sin!
Possibly I have quoted the answers which would be given if I were to ask many of you why you cry unto the Lord in prayer.I would like to listen to the prayer of every man here present-without his knowing that I was doing so-I would like to putmy ear to the keyhole of his room and hear the style of his praying, but, as I cannot do that, I would like to ask whetheryou would wish anybody to hear them? How do your prayers appear to the eyes of God? Has it been humble, earnest, sincere,trustful, relying upon the atoning Sacrifice of Christ, and upon the effectual working of the Holy Spirit? If so, it is well,but if not, it is only vanity of vanities. All is vanity! How would it be with some of us if we were put into the conditionof the Highland soldier of whom I have read? In our war with our American colonists, before they gained their freedom fromthis country, a certain Highland regiment was engaged. Every evening one of the men was observed to go away from the campinto an adjacent woods-and it was suspected that he had gone to give information to the enemy. He was, therefore, arrestedand brought before the colonel of the regiment.
The other officers said to him, "Now tell us what you have been doing while you have been absent from the camp." "Well," hesaid, "I have been accustomed, whenever I can, to retire for an hour or two of private prayer." The colonel happened to bea Scotchman and a Presbyterian, so he said to the soldier, "Well, you never had such reason to pray before as you have tonight.If you do go for an hour together to pray, you can pray-so let us hear you now." The man knelt down and poured out his soulbefore God, seeking deliverance at the Lord's hands and resigning his spirit into the keeping of his Heavenly Father. He prayedwith such an earnest, simple power that when he had finished, the colonel said to the other officers, "A man who can comeon parade like that must have been drilled a good many times. I think we may confidently accept what he has said as beingtrue. There is no doubt about his having been alone in prayer to God, now that he can pray like that before us."
Happy is the man whose prayer would bear to be listened to by his fellow men in such a critical season as that, so that theyshould be compelled to say of him, "That man has often prayed before tonight-he has the very brogue of one who communes withHeaven." But he who gives such answers as I have been quoting would certainly not be able to pray before others as that soldierdid!
II. But now, secondly, THERE ARE SOME ANSWERS TO THIS QUESTION WHICH BETRAY A GREAT DEAL OF IGNORANCE.
"Why do you cry unto Me?" There are times, dear Brothers and Sisters, when a sinner's crying to God in prayer hinders himfrom immediate repentance. The Gospel comes to each man and says, "Repent, and be converted." The man says, "I will pray."So he gets away alone and he prays-but such prayer as that cannot be acceptable to God. There is a favorite sin, of whichhe has long been guilty. He does not give it up, but he says that he will pray about it. God says to such a man, "'Why doyou cry unto Me?' Give up your sin! This is not a matter for you to pray about, but to repent of." The man says, "I was askingfor repentance." Ask, if you will, for repentance, but exerciseit as well. Christ does not bid us pray to have our right handcut off, or our right eye plucked out, but He says, "If your right eye offends you, pluck it out, and cast it from you...Andif your right hand offends you, cut it off, and cast it from you." It will never do for any man to hope to be saved by puttingprayer into the place of genuine repentance and immediate forsaking of sin!
The same is true of those who put prayer into the place of believing in Christ ' 'I mean to pray about the salvation of mysoul," says someone. My dear Friend, the Gospel says to you, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." "Ihave been praying for salvation, Sir, and I hope to get it if I keep on praying." No, you will not-on the contrary, you willbe lost forever if you pray instead of believing in Christ! As surely as you live, if you will not accept God's way of salvation,which is to believe in Jesus Christ, whether you pray or do not pray, you are a lost man. "There," says the Lord, "on yonderCross is your only hope. Trust My Son, and you shall be saved." "Lord," you reply, "I will pray about the matter." Again theLord says to you, "You see My well-beloved Son hanging upon that tree? There is life for a
look at Him." "Lord, I will pray about the matter." The Lord says, "I have said to you, 'Hear, and your soul shall live.''Look unto Me, and be you saved.'" "Lord, I will pray." To put the matter very strongly, might not the man almost as wellsay, "Lord, I will swear"? Is there not just as much of the spirit of rebellion in the one answer as in the other? He haschosen his own way instead of accepting God's way! God's way is, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but hethat believes not shall be damned." And to this, the man replies, "Lord, I will pray." And if that is all he does, he setshis seal to his own condemnation! In such a case, the Lord asks the question in my text, "Why do you cry unto Me?" Why areyou crying? For another atonement beside that of the Lord Jesus Christ? Crying for God to save you in some other way thanby believing in Jesus? Crying for somebody else to believe for you? Crying to the Holy Spirit to repent for you? Is that whatyou want? He will not do it! Why should He repent for you? You must repent for yourself and believe for yourself, for theHoly Spirit cannot repent for you, or believe for you. If a man, instead of believing the Truth of God which is so plain andwhich is evidently able to save him-if, instead of simply resting upon the atoning Sacrifice of Christ, he says, "I will prayabout the matter," he betrays the fatal ignorance of his heart in supposing that God will make a new way of salvation forhim instead of the one which He has plainly revealed in His Word!
Perhaps another one says, "Iam in hopes that, by praying, I shall be made more fit for believing in Christ "Fit for believingin Christ? You also are upon the wrong tack, like these others of whom I have been speaking. Your ignorance is misleadingyou. Fit for believing in Christ? A man is never so "fit for believing" as when, in himself, he is most unfit! It is unfitness,not fitness, that is required! What is fitness for being washed? Filth-and filth alone! What is fitness for receiving alms?Poverty, abject need. What is fitness for receiving pardon? Guilt-and only guilt. It comes not as an act of Grace, but asan act of Justice if there is no guilt-for the display of God's pardoning Grace, guilt is needed. If you are guilty, if youare black, if you are foul you have all the fitness that is required! So, come and find in Jesus Christ all that meets yourgreatest and most urgent need!
Does someone ask, "But must I not have a sense of my need?" Not as a fitness for coming to Christ, for the man who says, "Iam quite fit to be saved, for I feel my need," does not really feel his need as he should and is the farthest off from Christ.O you who are most empty, most guilty, most lost, most ruined, you are the most "fit" for the great Savior to save! May theHoly Spirit enable you to realize this and drive out of you the foolish notion that your praying is to help Christ to saveyou and to take you part of the way on the road to Heaven! Your prayer will not help the Divine surgery which alone can cureyou! So, just as you are in all your wretchedness and sin, trust Christ to save you, for He is able to save you, from firstto last, without any help of yours!
III. Now I am going to close by mentioning OTHER ANSWERS WHICH MAY BE GIVEN TO THIS QUESTION-"Why do you cry unto Me?"
I will tell you my own answer to this question. I cry to God, principally, because I cannot help doing so. I cry to God forthe same reason that I eat when I feel hungry and for the same reason that I groan when I am in pain-it is the outward expressionof the condition of my inward life. I cannot help praying. I think if anyone were to say to me, "You must not kneel down topray," it would not make any difference to my praying. If I were not allowed to utter a word all day long, that would notaffect my praying. If I could not have five minutes that I might spend in prayer by myself, I would pray all the same. Minuteby minute, moment by moment, somehow or other, my heart must commune with my God. Prayer has become as essential to me asthe heaving of my lungs and the beating of my pulse. I do ask God to give me power in prayer and I chide myself if I am laxin prayer. Still, almost unconsciously, one gets praying in the streets, praying while preaching to you-yes, sometimes, onealmost prays in his sleep! One gets so into the spirit of prayer that, without always knowing it, there is a prayer leapingfrom the heart and the very glance of the eye becomes a means of communion with God. So, that is my answer to the Lord's question,"Why do you cry unto Me?" I pray because I cannot help doing so.
It is an equally good answer when anyone can say, "Ipray because I delight in it There is no holy exercise which is so sweet,so blessed, so delightful, so inspiring, so care-removing, as praying to my loving Heavenly Father. Nothing brings me as nearto Heaven, or opens its gate so wide to me, or gives me such a foretaste of its Glory, as prayer mingled with praise."
It would also be a good answer if you should say, "Ipray because I have such great needs that I cannot help praying. I havesuch a little faith that I must pray for more. I have so many troubles that I must pray to be delivered out of them. I
feel that I have so many sins that I must pray to be cleansed from them. I have so many desires after better things that Imust pray for those things to be given to me. I feel that not merely my happiness, but my sorrow also drives me to my knees."I do not mind how you get to the Mercy Seat as long as you get there in spirit and in Truth and do really pray. But, dearBrothers and Sisters in Christ, I do hope that these reasons for prayer are those that you would yourselves give if the Lordwere to say to each one of you, "Why do you cry unto Me?"
I think I hear another say, "Ipray because what little repentance and faith I have can express themselves best in prayer.I tell the Lord how I hate my sin and I ask Him to help me to hate it still more. I go to Him when I fall and ask Him to holdme up for the future. I tell Him all my faults and follies and I ask Him to teach me, and sanctify me. I find that my littlefaith is most at home and at ease when I go to God in prayer. I tell the Lord that I do trust Him and I ask Him to increasemy faith. I tell Him that if He should refuse to listen to me, I will still cling to the hem of His garment and if I perish,I will perish at the foot of His Cross." Well, that is the right way to pray-when prayer is the expression of penitence andfaith.
"Yes," says another, "but Ipray because I get more repentance and more faith by praying." Just so. They grow while they areexercising themselves. He that weeps for sin will weep more as he prays, and he that believes in Christ will believe morestrongly while he expresses that believing in prayer for yet greater faith.
All these are good reasons for praying without ceasing.
Perhaps one of the best is this. "Ipray because Iam nothing, and I want to get to the great 'IAM.' I pray because I have nothingand I know that all I can have must come from Him. I pray because my poverty would gladly draw upon His infinite wealth, becausemy weakness would drink in His eternal strength, because my sin would be a partaker of His perfect holiness, because my nothingnesswould find itself lost in the all-sufficiency of God." These are blessed reasons for praying and if these are your reasons,pray on, Brothers and Sisters. Pray on, if you can thus answer the Lord's question, "Why do you cry unto Me?"
I suppose that there may have come into this place someone who never prays. If so, I do not know where you are, Friend. Iam glad I do not. I would look upon you with the greatest pity if I knew you. The very thought of such a sad case as yoursmakes me feel heavy of heart. A man who never speaks to his Maker! A man? Can he be a man? Let me look him up and down. Aman, "fearfully and wonderfully made" by God, yet he never speaks to his Creator! O God, to what a terrible depth a man cansink if he can live without prayer! What a strange creature he is! A little chicken drinks and lifts its head each time itsips. "The ox knows his owner, and the ass"-you know how stupid the ass is, yet he knows "his master's crib." But here isa man, whom God has made, and kept in being all these years. He gave him a household and made him well-to-do among his fellowmen, and kept him out of the asylum, and out of the workhouse, and out of the jail, and out of Hell, and yet he never prays?O knees that never bend before the Lord! O hearts that never yield yourselves to God, are you not accursed?
Ah, Sirs, assuredly a curse rests upon the man who never prays! He who prays not, believes not, and what says the Word ofGod concerning the man who does not believe? "He that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in thename of the only-begotten Son of God." From my inmost soul, I pity even guilty men who are condemned to die because they havebroken the laws of their country and have taken the lives of their fellow creatures. Yet, O you unbelievers, their conditiononly differs in degree from yours, for you, also, are "condemned already" because you have not believed on the only-begottenSon of God! Oh, I beseech you, turn unto Him before it is too late and you are cast into Hell, where the worm dies not, andthe fire is not quenched forever and ever! If you believe that what I have said is false, you will take no notice of it, butif you believe that this Book is, indeed, the Word of God, and most, if not all of you, know that it is-then, escape for yourlives-look not behind you, but lay hold on eternal life and may God the Holy Spirit enable you to do so this very moment!
It is not to prayer that I exhort you, but I urge you to obey that great Gospel command, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,and you shall be saved." And more than that, in the name of God, I command you to believe in Him whom He has sent as the onlySavior of sinners. Believe on Him! Trust in Him and go your way forgiven! God grant it, for Jesus' sake! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON:
Verse 1. And He spoke a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint. Especially not tofaint in prayer, not to become disheartened, or weary, even if their prayers should, for a long time, remain unanswered.
2, 3. Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: and there was a widow in that city;and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary. He would not have interested himself in her case simply becauseshe was a poor widow. He had no heart of compassion for her, nor would it have concerned him at all that her adversary hadwronged her. He did not trouble to discharge the duties appertaining to his office. No fear of God and no respect for publicopinion affected him at all.
4. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself Though I fear not God, nor regard man. He even boastedof the very thing of which he ought to have been ashamed-"'I fear not God, nor regard man.' I care for nobody and defy everyone."
5. Yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. He cared for nobody buthimself. He was concerned about his own peace of mind. The poor woman could win through his selfishness, what she could notget from his sense of justice, since that had no weight with him. Her importunity won for her what nothing else could procure.
6-8. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge said, and shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night untoHim, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of Man comes,shall He find faith on the earth? God will hear the earnest, united, persistent cries of His people. His Church, today, islike a widow left forlorn. Her cries go up to God, pleading that He will vindicate her cause-and He will do so. He may waita while, but the prayers of His people are not lost. By-and-by, He will avenge His own elect. So is it with regard to alltrue prayer. Though, for wise reasons, God may delay to reply, yet He files our petitions-they are registered in Heaven. Theirpower is accumulating, it is all adding to the great pile of supplication which is the real strength of the Church of Christ.What a question that is, "When the Son of Man comes, shall He find faith on the earth?" He can find it if anybody can, forHe knows what faith is, where faith is-but will He find any? Well, He will find so little, even among the best of His people,that the question may well be put-and among a great many who profess to have faith, He will find none at all! Brothers andSisters, we pray so feebly, we expect so little, we ask with such diffidence, we have such slight courage in prayer that ifthe Son of Man, Himself, came among us to search us, how little faith He would discover!
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. He could not even magnify his own excellencies without sneering atthe poor publican who had said nothing against him, or about him. That is a poor kind of religion which has to look down uponall others before it can look up to itself. What, O Pharisee, if others are not, apparently, so good as you are in some things?Yet, in other things, they probably excel you and if you think yourself worthy of praise, you have never really seen yourselfas you are in God's sight! A correct knowledge of your own heart would have led you to a very different conclusion. It isa good thing that the Pharisee appeared to be thankful for something, but, probably, that was merely a complimentary speechwhich meant very little. He did not thank God half as much as he praised himself!
13. And the publican, standing afar off-Away in some distant corner.
13. Would not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. Hemakes no reflection upon others, but confesses his own sin and appeals to the great Propitiation, for the word he used means,"God be propitious to me, a sinner."
14, 15. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for everyone that exalts himself shallbe abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted. And they also brought unto Him infants, that He would touch them:but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. Were not these children too little and too unimportant for
Christ to notice? Their understanding was not sufficiently developed to know anything that He might say-what was the use ofbringing them for His blessing?
16. But Jesus called them unto Him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such isthe Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God consists of child-like spirits, persons like these children! Instead of needing togrow bigger in order to be fit to be Christians, we need to grow smaller! It is not the supposed wisdom of manhood, but thesimplicity of childhood that will fit us for the reception of Divine Truth. Alas, we are often too much like men-if we weremore like children, we would receive the Kingdom of God far more readily.
17-19. Verily I say unto you, Whoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Whydo you call Me good? None is good, save One, that is, God. Yet the ruler was right. He knew not that he was speaking to Onewho is, assuredly, God and, in the highest sense, good. But, since he had asked, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?"Christ answered his enquiry.
20, 21. You know the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, honor yourfather and your mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. All which appears to be simple enough if youonly look on the surface. But when you come to recollect that there is an inward, spiritual meaning to all this, that a licentiouslook breaks the command about adultery, that a covetous desire is stealing, that the utterance of a slander is bearing falsewitness and so on, who is he that shall enter into life upon such terms as these? Yet they cannot be lowered, for they are,spiritually, just and right.
22. Now when Jesus heard these things, He said unto him, Yet you lack one thing. Christ gives him a test. If he is what hethinks he is, he will be ready to obey whatever command God lays upon him. Christ is about to lay one upon him-let us seewhether he will obey or not.
22. Sell all that you have and distribute unto the poor, and you shall have treasure in Heaven: and come, follow Me. Now,which will he love the more-the Son of God-or his wealth?
23-27. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful,He said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go througha needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved?And He said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Yet some men spend all their lives in the earnestendeavor to make it hard for them to be saved! They are trying, as much as they can, to block up the road to eternal life,hoarding up that which will be a grievous burden to them, even if God shall lead them in the way to Heaven. How much betteris it to live wholly unto God and then, be we rich or be we poor, consecrate all to Him and live to His praise and glory!