Spurgeon understood the power of prayer people
Spurgeon fully recognized that the Church's greatest need was not to have another, "Prince of Preachers", but to have more princes of prayer. One of his many published sermons expressed his feelings on this. He wrote, "Shall I give you yet another reason why you should pray? I have preached my very heart out. I could not say any more than I have said. Will not your prayers accomplish that which my preaching fails to do? Is it not likely that the Church has been putting forth its preaching hand but not its praying hand? Oh dear friends! Let us agonize in prayer . . . "
There has been much talk lately about pockets of revival springing up in our nation. Many are saying they desire such revivals in our own local churches, and cities. Yet, is it not the prayer-meeting which is still most neglected? If Christ Jesus were to visit us today with real revival power, how could such a blessing be sustained where there is no ground work laid in prayer? To merely exercise our words about revival and not our knees is hypocrisy! It is time to make the prayer-meeting as crowded as our favorite preaching and praise meetings. It is then and ONLY then, that a true revival will come with lasting power! Like Mr. Spurgeon, let us regard the prayer-meeting as our most important meeting!
The Testimony of Spurgeon
Can you not remember, dearly-beloved, that day of days, that best and brightest of hours, when first you saw the Lord, lost your burden, received the roll of promise, rejoiced in full salvation, and went on your way in peace? My soul can never forget that day. Dying, all but dead, diseased, pained, chained, scourged, bound in fetters of iron, in darkness and the shadow of death, Jesus appeared unto me. My eyes looked to Him; the disease was healed, the pains removed, chains were snapped, prison doors were opened, darkness gave place to light. What delight filled my soul! What mirth, what ecstasy, what sound of music and dancing, what soaring towards Heaven, what heights and depths of ineffable delight! Scarcely ever since then have I known joys, which surpassed the rapture of that first hour.
When I was in the hand of the Holy Spirit, under conviction of sin, I had a clear and sharp sense of the justice of God. Sin, whatever it might be to other people, became to me an intolerable burden. It was not so much that I feared Hell, as that I feared sin; and all the while, I had upon my mind a deep concern for the honour of God's name, and the integrity of His moral government. I felt that it would not satisfy my conscience if I could be forgiven unjustly. But then there came the question, "How could God be just, and yet justify me who had been so guilty?" I was worried and wearied with this question; neither could I see any answer to it. Certainly, I could never have invented an answer, which would have satisfied my conscience. The doctrine of the atonement is to my mind one of the surest proofs of the Divine inspiration of Holy Scripture. Who would or could have thought of the just Ruler dying for the unjust rebel? This is no teaching of human mythology, or dream of poetical imagination. This method of expiation is only known among men because it is a fact: fiction could not have devised it. God Himself ordained it; it is not a matter that could have been imagined.
I had heard of the plan of salvation by the sacrifice of Jesus from my youth up but I did not know any more about it in my innermost soul than if I had been born and bred a Hottentot. The light was there, but I was blind: it was of necessity that the Lord Himself should make the matter plain to me. It came to me as a new revelation, as fresh as if I had never read in Scripture that Jesus was declared to be the propitiation for sins that God might be just. I believe it will have to come as a revelation to every newborn child of God whenever he sees it; I mean that glorious doctrine of the substitution of the Lord Jesus. I came to understand that salvation was possible through vicarious sacrifice; and that provision had been made in the first constitution and arrangement of things for such a substitution. I was made to see that He who is the Son of God, co-equal, and co-eternal with the Father, had of old been made the covenant Head of a chosen people, that He might in that capacity suffer for them and save them. Inasmuch as our fall was not at the first a personal one, for we fell in our representative, the first Adam, it became possible for us to be recovered by a second Representative, even by Him who has undertaken to be the covenant Head of His people, so as to be their second Adam. I saw that, I had fallen by my first father's sin; and I rejoiced that, therefore, it became possible in point of Law for me to rise by a second Head and Representative. The fall by Adam left a loophole of escape; another Adam could undo the ruin wrought by the first.
When I was anxious about the possibility of a just God pardoning me, I understood and saw by faith that He who is the Son of God became Man, and in His own blessed person bore my sin in His own body on the tree. I saw that the chastisement of my peace was laid on Him, and that with His stripes I was healed. It was because the Son of God, supremely glorious in His matchless person, undertook to vindicate the Law by bearing the sentence due to me, which therefore God was able to pass by my sin. My sole hope for Heaven lies in the full atonement made upon Calvary's cross for the ungodly. On that I firmly rely. I have not the shadow of a hope anywhere else. Personally, I could never have overcome my own sinfulness. I tried and failed. My evil propensities were too many for me, till, in the belief that Christ died for me, I cast my guilty soul on Him, and then I received a conquering principle by which I overcame my sinful self.
The doctrine of the cross can be used to slay sin, even as the old warriors used their huge two-handed swords, and mowed down their foes at every stroke. There is nothing like faith in the sinner's Friend: it overcomes all evil. If Christ has died for me, ungodly as I am, without strength as I am, then I cannot live in sin any longer, but must arouse myself to love and serve Him who has redeemed me. I cannot trifle with the evil that slew my best Friend. I must be holy for His sake. How can I live in sin when He has died to save me from it?
There was a day, when I was walking, it came to mind, forever engraved upon my memory, where I saw this Friend, my best, my only Friend, murdered. I stooped down in shock, and looked at Him. I saw that His hands had been pierced with rough iron nails, and His feet had been rent in the same way. There was misery in His dead countenance so terrible that I scarcely dared to look upon it. His body was emaciated with hunger, His back was red with bloody scourges, and His brow had a circle of wounds clearly made by thorns.
I shuddered, for I had known this Friend full well. He never had a fault; He was the purest of the pure, the holiest of the holy. Who could have injured Him? For He never injured any man: all His life long He "went about doing good," He had healed the sick, He had fed the hungry, He had raised the dead. For which of these works did they kill Him? He had never breathed out anything but love; and as I looked into the poor sorrowful face, so full of agony, and yet so full of love, I wondered who could have been a wretch so vile as to pierce hands like His.
I said within myself, "Where can these traitors live? Who are these that could have smitten such a One as this? Had they murdered an oppressor, we might have forgiven them, had they slain one who had indulged in vice or villainy, it might have been his desert, had it been a murderer and a rebel, or one who had committed sedition, we would have said, "Bury his corpse: justice has at last given him his due." But when You were slain, my best, my only beloved, where lodged the traitors? Let me seize them, and they shall be put to death. If there be torments that I can devise, surely they shall endure them all. Oh! What jealousy, what revenge I felt! If I might but find these murderers, what would I not do with them!
And as I looked upon that corpse, I heard a footstep, and wondered where it was. I listened, and I could tell the murderer was close at hand. It was dark, and I groped about to find him. I found that, somehow or other, wherever I put out my hand, I could not meet with him, for he was nearer to me than my hand would go.
At last I put my hand upon my breast. "I have you now," said I, for lo! He was in my own heart; the murderer was hiding within my own bosom, dwelling in the recesses of my inmost soul. Ah! Then I wept indeed, that I, in the very presence of my murdered Master, should be harbouring the murderer; and I felt myself most guilty while I bowed over His corpse, and sang that plaintive hymn,
'Twas you, my sins, my cruel sins,
His chief tormentors were;
each of my crimes became a nail,
and unbelief the spear.'
My sins were the scourges that lacerated those blessed shoulders, and crowned with thorns those bleeding brows. My sins cried, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" and laid the cross upon His gracious shoulders. Him being led to die is sorrow enough for eternity; but me having been His murderer, is more, infinitely more grief than one poor fountain of tears can express.
Ah, there are many men who are forgotten, despised, and trampled by their fellows; but there never was a man who was so despised as the Everlasting God has been! Many a man has been slandered and abused, but never was man abused as God has been. Many have been treated cruelly and ungratefully, but never was one treated as our God has been. I too, once despised Him. He knocked at the door of my heart, and I refused to open it, He came to me, times without number, morning by morning, and night by night; He convicted me in my conscience, and spoke to me by His Spirit, and when, at last, the thunders of the Law prevailed in my conscience, I thought that Christ was cruel and unkind. Oh, I can never forgive myself that I should have thought so ill of Him!
But what a loving reception did I have when I went to Him! I thought He would thrash me, but His hand was not clenched in anger, but opened wide in mercy. I thought for sure that His eyes would fire lightning-flashes of wrath upon me, but instead they were full of tears. He fell upon my neck, and kissed me; He took off my rags, and did clothe me with His righteousness, and caused my soul to sing aloud for joy; while in the house of my heart, and in the house of His Church, there was music and dancing, because His son that He had lost was found, and he that had been dead was made alive again.
There is a power in God's Gospel beyond all description. Once I was lashed to the wild horse of my lust, bound hand and foot, incapable of resistance, galloping with Hell's wolves behind me, howling for my body and my soul as their just and lawful prey. Then came a Mighty Hand that stopped the wild horse, cut me free, set me down, and brought me into liberty. Is there power in the Gospel? Ay, there is, and he who has felt it must acknowledge it.
There was a time when I lived in the strong castle of my sins, and rested in my own works. There came a trumpeter to the door, and bid me open it. I with anger scolded him from the porch, and said he never should enter. Then there came a goodly Personage, with loving countenance; His hands were marked with scars where nails had been driven, and His feet had nail-prints, too. He lifted up His cross, using it as a hammer; at the first blow, the gate of my prejudice shook, at the second, it trembled more, at the third, down it fell, and in He came; and He said,
"Arise, and stand upon your feet, for I have loved you with an everlasting love."
The Gospel a thing of power! Ah! That it is. It always wears the dew of its youth; it glitters with morning's freshness, its strength and its glory abide forever. I have felt its power in my own heart; I have the witness of the Spirit within my spirit, and I know it is a thing of might, because it has conquered me, and bowed me down.
"His free grace alone, from the first to the last,
has won my affections, and bound my soul fast."
The key to my conversion was making the discovery that I had nothing to do but to look to Christ, and I would be saved. I believe that I had been a very good attentive listener, my own impression about myself was that nobody ever listened better than me. For years, as a child, I tried to learn the way of salvation; and either I did not hear it set forth, which I think cannot quite have been the case, or else I was spiritually blind and deaf, and could not see it, and could not hear it. But the good news that I was, as a sinner, to look away from myself to Christ, startled me, and came as fresh, as any news I ever heard in my life. Had I never read my Bible? Yes, and read it earnestly. Had I never been taught by Christian people? Yes I had, by Mother, and Father, and others. Had I not heard the Gospel? Yes, I think I had; and yet, somehow, it was like a new revelation to me that I was to "believe and live."
I was tutored in piety, put into my cradle by prayerful hands, and lulled to sleep by songs concerning Jesus; but after having heard the Gospel continually, with line upon line, precept upon precept, here much and there much, yet, when the Word of the Lord came to me with power, it was as new as if I had lived amid the unvisited tribes of Central Africa, and had never heard the tidings of the cleansing fountain filled with Blood, drawn from the Saviour's veins.
When I received the Gospel to my soul's salvation, I thought that I had never really heard it before, and I began to think that the preachers to whom I had listened had not truly preached it. But, on looking back, I am inclined to believe that I had heard the Gospel fully preached many hundreds of times before, and that the difference was the power of the Holy Spirit was present to open my ear, and to guide the message to my heart. I have no doubt that I heard, scores of times, such texts as these, "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth," "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life," yet I had no intelligent idea of what faith meant. When I first discovered what faith really was, and exercised it, I believed as soon as ever I knew what believing meant. The light was shining all the while, but there was no power to receive it, the eyeball of the soul was not sensitive to the Divine beams.
I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist Chapel. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of the Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly that they made people's heads ache, but that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they could tell me that, I did not care how much they made my headache. The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed-in, I suppose. At last, a very thin-looking man,* a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. Now, it is well that preachers should be instructed, but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was,
Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth
He did not even pronounce the words right, but that didn't matter. There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in that text. The preacher began,
"My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, 'Look.' Now lookin' don't take a deal of pains. It ain't liftin' your foot or your finger; it is just, 'Look.' Well, a man needn't go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn't be worth a thousand a year to be able to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look. But then the text says, 'Look unto Me.' Ay!" said he, in a broad Essex accent, "many of ye are lookin' to yourselves, but it's no use lookin' there. You'll never find any comfort in yourselves. Some look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, 'Look unto Me.' Someof ye say, 'We must wait for the Spirit's workin'.' You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says, 'Look unto Me.'"
Then the good man followed up his text in this way:
"Look unto Me; I am sweatin' great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin' on the cross. Look unto Me; I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sittin' at the Father's right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! Look unto Me!"
When he had gone to about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me in the congregation, and I daresay, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said,
"Young man, you look very miserable." Well, I did; but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, "and you always will be miserable, miserable in life, and miserable in death, if you don't obey my text, but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved."
Then, lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, "Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothin' to do but to look and live."
I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said, I did not take much notice of it, I was so possessed with that one thought. Like as when the brazen serpent was lifted up, the people only looked and were healed, so it was with me. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, "Look!" what a charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until I could almost have worn my eyes out. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun, and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious Blood of Christ, and the simple faith that looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before,
"Trust Christ, and you shall be saved." Yet it was, no doubt, all wisely ordered, and now I can say,
'Ever since by faith I saw the stream
Your flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
and shall be till I die.'