A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, July 9, 1876, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *5/31/2012
Thus says the Lord God; “I will yet for this be enquired of by the
house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men
like a flock. As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her
solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of
men: and they shall know that I am the Lord.” [Eze 36:37,38]
For other sermons on this text:
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 138, “Prayer — the Forerunner of Mercy” 133]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1304, “Enquire of the Lord” 1295]
Exposition on Eze 36:16-38 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2743, “Mistaken Notions About Repentance” 2744 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Eze 36:16-38 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3338, “Witness of the Lord’s Supper, The” 3340 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Ps 50:14-23 Eze 36:21-38 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3472, “Solemn Deprival, A” 3474 @@ "Exposition"]
1. Multiplication is a very ancient form of blessing. The first benediction pronounced upon man was of this kind, for we read in the first chapter of Genesis, “And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’ ” [Ge 1:28] That same blessing was pronounced again when God accepted his servant Noah, and entered into covenant with him. We read later that “God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’ ” [Ge 9:1] This also constituted a main part of the blessing promised to faithful Abraham. In many other places, we read to this effect, “In blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore, and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.” [Ge 22:17] This was the blessing of God’s chosen people, a blessing which all the malice of Pharaoh could not turn aside, for the more the Israelites were oppressed the more they multiplied. David in the Psalms uses the expression, “he blesses them also, so that they are multiplied greatly”: [Ps 107:38] so that clearly, increase of numbers in families and nations was anciently regarded as a sign of divine favour.
2. In a spiritual sense, this is the blessing of the church of God. When the church is visited by the power of the Holy Spirit she is increased on every side. When a Church in the midst of a vast population remains stationary in numbers, or even becomes smaller, no man can see in such a condition the signs of God’s blessing. Certainly it would be a novel kind of benediction; for the first blessing, the blessing of Pentecost, resulted in three thousand being added to the church in one day, and we find afterwards that “The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” We read in the Acts of the Apostles that the churches “walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, were multiplied.” Ever since those early days, when the Lord has been with his people they have increased in numbers, their children have sprung up as among the grass, and as willows by the water courses. When they have been “diminished and brought low” it has been because they have departed from the truth or lost their first love. The clarity of gospel testimony has been dimmed, spirituality has been at a low ebb, the Holy Spirit has been despised, and he has suspended his operations, and then the church has dwindled down until she has had little more than a name to live: but as soon as ever the Lord has returned to her she has become a fruitful mother, and her children have cried out, “the place is too small for us, give us a place where we may dwell.” [Isa 49:20] When the Lord has sent out his power with the preaching of the gospel, converts have been as the drops of the dew and as innumerable as the sands upon the sea-shore. It is plain that one of the blessings which we as a church should seek with all our hearts is that of continual increase. The entire church of God should look for the daily multiplication of the spiritual seed. We have the promise of it in the text, but there is appended to it this condition, “I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them: I will increase them with men like a flock.” Every true Christian desires to see the church increase; at any rate, I should pity the man who thinks himself a Christian and yet has no such wish. “Let the whole earth be filled with his glory” is the natural aspiration of every child of God, and if any man has persuaded himself into the idea that he is a child of God, and yet does not desire to see the glory of the Lord revealed by the conversion of multitudes, I pity the condition of his heart and of his understanding. I trust we all feel the missionary spirit; we all long to see the kingdom of the Lord come, and to see the converts in Zion multiplied. But God has appended to the granting of our desire that we should pray for it: we must plead and enquire, or else the increase will be withheld.
3. Why has the Lord thus made prayer the necessary prelude to blessing? He has done so in great mercy to our souls. The Lord knows how beneficial it is for us to be much in prayer, and therefore he makes it easy for us to draw near to him. He affords us a multitude of reasons for approaching the mercy seat, and gives us errands which may be used as arguments for frequent petitioning. When one knocks at a man’s door it is a good thing to have some business to do, for then one knocks boldly. If the porter opens and enquires, “Why did you come here?” we can reply, “Good sir, I came on an important errand,” and so we are bold to remain at the door. Now, since the Lord loves to commune with his people, he takes care to give them errands upon which they must come to him. We need never be afraid that we shall be interrogated at the gate of mercy, and this stern question asked, “What are you doing here?” for we always have some reason for praying, indeed, every promise is turned into a reason for prayer, because the promise is not to be granted to us until we have pleaded for it at the mercy seat.
4. Moreover, if I may say so, God has in mercy compelled us to prayer by making the pleading necessary for the blessing. We must pray; we are unblessed unless we pray; and therefore our needs drive us to the mercy seat. Although we may be so low in grace and so unspiritual that we may feel little positive enjoyment for the moment in prayer, yet we must pray: a sacred compulsion lies upon us arising from our vast needs. We thank God, then, that he gives us reasons for coming, yes, lays a stress upon us so that we are compelled to draw near to him. Now, let the desire that the church should be increased, which, as I have already said, resides in the heart of every child of God, act as a mighty impulse to drive us to earnest, prevailing prayer, for if we are driven to this the church shall be multiplied exceedingly.
5. This is the object of the discourse of this morning. Oh Spirit of grace and supplications, be now upon us so that we may be saturated with the spirit of prayer. I shall speak upon the text like this: Why should we arouse ourselves to the enquiry of which the text speaks? “For this I will be enquired of”: next, how should such a duty as this be performed? the text will afford us a guide: and, thirdly, on what basis can any Christian man be excused from the duty of uniting with his brethren in enquiring at the hand of the Lord for a blessing?
6. I. WHY SHOULD WE AROUSE OURSELVES TO THIS ENQUIRY AT THE HANDS OF THE LORD? I do not express this question like this because I think that many of you need instruction concerning the need for prayer, but because it is good to stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance upon this point.
7. The first reason I shall give is this, because it is a great privilege to be allowed to enquire at the hands of the Lord. You will see this very vividly if you turn to the twentieth chapter of this prophecy, and read the third verse, “Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God; Are you come to enquire of me? As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I will not be enquired of by you.’ ” [Eze 20:3] Look again later on in the same chapter, “ ‘For when you offer your gifts, when you make your sons to pass through the fire, you pollute yourselves with all your idols, even to this day: and shall I be enquired of by you, oh house of Israel? As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I will not be enquired of by you.’ ” [Eze 20:31] What a solemn curse to be denied an audience with God! How terrible a punishment it is when God shuts the gates of prayer, and declares, “I will not be enquired of by you: when you spread out your hands I will hide my face from you; yes, when you make many prayers I will not hear.” A people may get into such a condition of sin, such a wilful state of alienation from God, and disobedience to his commands, that he may say, “I will not be enquired of by you.” Now suppose for a moment that it were my painful duty to stand here and say, “Brothers and sisters, it is of no use our praying; the mercy seat has been abolished; God in anger has ordered the Mediator to lay aside his office, and supplication is no longer to be heard.” What wringing of hands, what weeping of hearts as well as eyes if it were indeed true that prayer was denied to the people of God! It was a fair sign for good when Ezekiel was told to say that God had now taken away the curse from his people, and though he had said previously, “I will not be enquired of by you,” yet now, under the covenant of grace, having forgiven their sins, he mercifully proclaimed, “Thus says the Lord, ‘For this I will be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them.’ ” Just as you would be struck with horror if you were forbidden to pray, so I beseech you to use the privilege of prayer while you may. If only a half-dozen men had permission to speak into the ear of God, how you would venerate them! How you would wish to be one of their number! If a small chosen band were set apart who alone might ask in faith, and to whom alone the promise would be fulfilled, “Ask what you wish and it shall be done for you”; how you would envy them concerning their high privilege! Since then at this time you are all, if you are the people of God, made to be a royal priesthood, and the mercy seat is open to every believer, take care that you do not despise your birthright. The promise is given to each one of you, “He who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened,” and is this not sufficient reason why we should arouse ourselves to use the privilege which the Lord accords to us?
8. Secondly, prayer is also to be looked upon as a precious gift of the Spirit of God as well as a great privilege. Wherever the spirit of prayer exists it is accomplished in the heart by the Holy Spirit himself; and when the text says, “For this I will be enquired of,” it is a promise that men shall enquire. It is by virtue of covenant promise and covenant grace that men are made to pray: for the Lord has said, “I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications.” Every child of God who understands anything knows that real prayer is “the breath of God in man returning from where it came.” It first comes from God, and then it goes back to God. The Spirit knows what the mind of God is, and then he writes the mind of God upon our mind, and so the desire of the believer is the transcript of the decree of God: hence the success of prayer. Well, my brethren, if united, earnest, hearty enquiry of the Lord is a covenant gift and a work of the Spirit, we dare not despise it, but we would earnestly seek after it. When we obtain a measure of prayerfulness we ought to cultivate it, and seek to make it grow abundantly. Covenant gifts are always to be earnestly coveted, for they are “the best gifts.” Remember what blood it was which sealed that covenant, and made it sure to all the seed: you cannot look upon one item of the inheritance which the covenant entails upon the saints without feeling that it cost the Redeemer his heart’s blood. Do not forsake then the assembling of yourselves together in prayer as the manner of some is, neither neglect the mercy seat in private, nor fail to enquire at the Lord’s hand, for supplication is a covenant gift, and must not be despised by any heir of heaven.
9. These are two forcible arguments, but here is another. In the third place we must pray, because it is a necessary work in order to obtain the blessing. The church of God is to be multiplied; but “Thus says the Lord God, ‘I will yet for this be enquired of.’ ” Remember that this is virtually written at the bottom of every promise. God says, “I will do this or that,” but it is understood that for this he will be enquired of. Doubtless we receive many unasked for favours, but the rule of the kingdom is, “He who asks receives.” This rule applies even to the King of the kingdom himself, — “ ‘Ask of me,’ says God to his own Son, ‘and I will give you the heathen for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.’ ” I must then, brethren, exhort you to be much in enquiring from the Lord’s hands, because countless ones are depending upon the exercise of prayer. Imagine for a moment that these blessings should not come; suppose that month after month the particular blessing of the text should be withheld: into what a state of mind would every earnest Christian be brought. No increase — we come to the communion table but report no additions; no need to hold church meetings, for there are no confessions of faith to be heard, and no converts are coming forward to tell of the power of divine love. Suppose that such a state of stagnation should continue month after month with us! And why should it not? It has done so with many others. Then as one after another of the mature children of God went to heaven there would be gaps in the church roll, and no one to fill them, no one to be baptized to replace the dead, no one to stand in those places in the ranks from which the pious dead have been removed. May these eyes never look on such a calamity! May this tongue be spending its strength among the choirs above long before such a night shall descend. You may well write “Ichabod” across the forefront of this house of prayer whenever that shall be, for the glory will have departed. Up to this moment we have never had to sigh and cry because the Lord has left us without an increase; but only suppose that the benediction should be withdrawn. You can cause it to be withdrawn, if you so will, by restraining prayer. Only let the cry which goes up to God continually from thousands of earnest hearts cease for a while, and it will be a sign that the blessing has also ceased. Only as long as there shall be this enquiring at the hand of the Lord can we expect that he will do as he has done, namely, multiply us with men as with a flock. Enquire, therefore, eagerly, because the blessing depends on it.
10. Next, we ought to have much of this enquiry, because it is a business which is above all others quite remunerative. Look at the text: “I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock.” That is a beautiful idea of multitude. You have perhaps seen an immense flock, a teeming concourse of congregated life. Such shall the increase of the church be. But then it is added, to enhance the blessing, “As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts.” This to the Jewish mind conveyed a great idea of number. At the three great feasts of Pentecost, the Passover, and the Feast of Tabernacles, the Israelites were accustomed to offer sacrifices in vast numbers; and therefore lambs and sheep were brought into Jerusalem in such enormous numbers that without a book before me I would not like to mention the figures which have been put down by Josephus and others. We read of Solomon’s offering “a hundred and twenty thousand sheep,” and of seventeen thousand sheep offered in a single day, in Hezekiah’s time; we may therefore imagine what the need was in our Saviour’s day that there should be a sheep market by the Pool of Bethesda, for there would be need of immense places for such numerous flocks. Then might the city be described in the language of Isaiah when he said, “All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together to you, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall come up with acceptance upon my altar.” Now, says the Lord, I will not only multiply you as the sheep are multiplied upon Sharon and Carmel, but as the flocks in Jerusalem when they come together from every quarter on solemn feast days, by hundreds and by thousands. You shall ask, “Who are these who fly as a cloud and as the doves to their windows?” The Lord will multiply the people beyond all count. There is this additional beauty about the promise, that the sheep which were brought to Jerusalem on the solemn feasts were not only numerous, but they were the best sheep in the land, because no animal could be offered to God if it had any blemish. The priests were particularly careful to select the lambs for the Passover and the sheep for the sacrifice, and they were always the pick of the flock, the choice sheep of all the flocks of Palestine. What a mercy when the Lord multiplies the church with a holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem on her solemn feast days! Then, in addition, not only were they the choice of the flock, but they were all consecrated to God, for they were brought to Jerusalem, on purpose to be sacrificed. Oh happy church which receives a host of self-sacrificing members who do not come to the church in name only, but to present their bodies a living sacrifice to God: to place body, soul, and spirit at the feet of Jesus, and say, “We are yours, oh Son of David, and all that we have.”
11. See, then, what can be had by enquiring for it. “For this I will be enquired of.” And what is the “this” which is spoken of? Why this, that God will give us a numerous people, a choice people, his own elect, and they shall be all consecrated to himself. They shall give themselves first to the Lord, and afterwards to us by the word of God. This is to be had by praying for it. Ah, my Lord, how foolish we are not to pray more! Your church has her societies, and her agencies, and so on, and she has perhaps looked to these more than to you, but you are our battle-axe and weapons of war, you can multiply the people and increase the joy. You can fill the quiver of the church with spiritual children, and thus make her blessed. We can look to you only for this favour. My soul, wait only upon God, for my expectation is from him. The Lord is a man of war, the Lord is his name. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him the victory. Therefore, oh house of Israel, enquire at the hands of the Lord, and a boundless blessing shall come.
12. I need not stop, I think, to say that it is necessary for us to pray, because the results of prayer as I have already described them are such as greatly glorify God. Kindly read the last sentence of the text; it is important: “And they shall know that I am the Lord.” When a church is increased largely with choice people thoroughly consecrated, then the church knows anew that there is a God in Israel; the world also opens its eyes with wonder, and admits that there is something in prayer after all. When the kingdom of God is greatly increased in answer to prayer, there is a wonderful power abroad to answer the arguments of sceptics, and put to silence the ribaldry of ungodly tongues. “This is the finger of God,” they say. How bitterly they ridiculed Whitfield and Wesley when first they began to preach the blessed gospel. They were fanatics and enthusiasts, disturbing the peace of the land! They were Jesuits, Jacobites, and I do not know what they were not, but everything conceivable that is bad! But when the Lord put power into those men, and multiplied their adherents by tens of thousands, then presently the world changed its tone, and dreaded and feared those whom they had formerly despised. So it is now. If we do not pray, if we grow cold in heart, and the blessing is withdrawn, then the worldly-wise begin to say, “It is an old, effete doctrine, proclaimed by the last of the Puritans — it is dying out”; but as soon as ever they see God blessing us, and the multitudes coming together, and the church growing to be a power in the land, they do not like it any better, but they are obliged to respect it. Oh, that the Lord would stir you up as a church to pray, and do the same with all the churches of the land. This would strike his enemies upon the cheekbone, and silence his adversaries. This would baffle both the scorner, infidelity, and the prostitute, ritualism, and make both scepticism and superstition acknowledge that in the grand old truth of Jesus there still resides the omnipotence of the Lord God.
13. II. Secondly, let us answer the question — HOW SHOULD THIS DUTY BE PERFORMED?
14. First, it should be by the entire body of the church. Let us turn in our Bibles and read the text again: “For this I will be enquired of by” — By the ministers? By the elders? By the little number of good people who always come together to pray? Look! Look carefully! “By the house of Israel”; that is by the whole company of the Lord’s people. To obtain a great increase there must be unanimous prayer, prayer from the whole house of Israel; everyone must join, without exception. Where two or three are met together there will be an answer of peace; the prayer of one prevails; but if ever the house of Israel, the whole company of the faithful, shall get together in prayer, ah, then we shall see the multiplication of saints as the flock of Jerusalem on her solemn feasts; and it will not be until then. When Israel was defeated at Ai, one of the reasons for their failure was that there was an abominable thing in the tent of Achan, but another cause of defeat was this, that they said “Do not let all the people labour there.” A part of the people were to go and take Ai, and the rest were to lie at ease. The church of God will always have bad times as long as a few people are left to do what should be done by all the redeemed. The whole house of Israel must besiege Ai if Ai is to be taken; the whole army of the living God must bow the knee together, and together plead with God if any great victory is to be achieved.
15. Next, the successful way to enquire of the Lord is for the church to take personal interest in the matter. “Thus says the Lord God; ‘I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.’ ” When the people feel that the conversion of souls is their own personal affair; when the Sunday School teachers feel that the multiplication of the church would be something done for them, and each Christian labourer feels that he has a personal interest in the saving of souls, then the Lord’s work will be done on a great scale. Brethren, when the case of poor sinners becomes our case, and our heart cries, “I must break unless those souls are saved,” then we are sure to succeed. If the sinner will not repent, let us break our heart about him. Let us go and tell the Lord his sins, and mourn over them as if they were our own. If men will not believe, let us by faith bring them before God, and plead his promise for them. If we cannot get them to pray, let us pray for them and intercede on their behalf, and in answer to our repentance they shall be made to repent, in answer to our faith they shall be led to believe, and in reply to our prayer they shall be moved to pray. The Lord says he will do it, but he will have us seek it as a personal favour, that by this our souls may be made earnest in his cause.
16. The blessing will come in the third place, to the prayer of a dependent church. See how it is put: “I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them”; that is to say, they will not dream of being able to do it for themselves, but will apply to God for it. Christian men should never speak of getting up a revival. Where are you going to get it up from? I do not know any place from which you can get it up except a place which it is better to have no connection with. We must bring a revival down, if it is to be worth having. We must enquire of the Lord to do it for us. Too often the temptation is to enquire for an eminent revivalist, or ask whether a great preacher could not be induced to come. Now, I do not object to inviting soul winning preachers, or to any other plans of usefulness; but our main business is to enquire of the Lord, for after all he alone can give the increase. Suppose we collect a crowd of people, what of that? It is a fine thing to put in the papers; but what is the good of it, if it ends there? Suppose we have large services, and intense excitement, and the whole thing ends in a pack of moonshine, where is the glory to God? On the contrary, his name is dishonoured, and his church is discouraged from making special attempts; but when the holy work begins in prayer, continues in prayer, and everything is confessedly dependent upon the power of God, then the blessing is indeed worth having. Enquire of the Lord to multiply you, and you will be multiplied. We must wait upon God, conscious that we can do nothing by ourselves, and we must look to the Holy Spirit as the only power for the conversion of souls. If we pray in this dependent way we shall obtain an overflowing answer.
17. Again, the way to obtain the promised blessing is that the prayer must be offered by an anxious, observant, enterprising church. The expression used, “I will be enquired of,” implies that the people must think and ask questions, must argue and plead with God. It is good to ask him why he has not given the blessing, and to urge strong reasons why he should do so now. We should quote his promise to him, tell him of our trouble and great need, and then come back again to asking, enquiring, and pleading our cause. Such a church, pleading, will win a blessing beyond all doubt. It must be a church which remembers the waste places; the text puts it in the promise, and it must not be forgotten in the prayer — “The waste cities shall be filled with flocks of men.” A church which anxiously remembers the departments of service which are not succeeding, casts a friendly eye over other churches which may be failing, and takes careful notice of those places where the Spirit of God does not seem to be at work, and mentions all those in prayer, is the church to which the promise is made. I pray the Lord to give you, dear brethren, heart-break over sinners whose hearts do not break, to give you painful anxiety for those who are not anxious; in fact, may God make all the members of this church into anxious enquirers, and when the saved ones are anxious enquirers themselves there will be plenty of anxious enquirers brought from the world. The way to have enquiring sinners is for us to become enquiring saints. When the saints enquire of the Lord the sinners will ask their way to Zion with their faces towards there. Every prayer meeting ought, as a matter of fact, to be an enquirers’ meeting, where true hearts behold the beauty of the Lord and enquire in his temple.
18. If we are to obtain the blessing in answer to prayer, that prayer must be offered by a believing church. Oh that we did believe God’s promise. The Lord says, “I will be enquired of, to do it for them”: but unbelieving enquiries are only a mockery of God. How few really believe in prayer! I was reading the other day that the Chinese converts of the China Inland Mission have shown a feature of piety which is not very common. When they learned that God would hear prayer, they wanted to be always praying, because, they said, “If it is so, that the great God hears prayer, let us ask for a great deal.” We do not wonder, therefore, that they have received answers to their believing prayers so remarkable that the missionary scarcely cares to narrate them, lest to unbelievers they should seem to be as idle tales. Indeed, his fears are not at all unreasonable, for in other cases the written lives of praying men have been wretchedly doubted. Huntingdon’s “Bank of Faith” has been called a bank of nonsense, yet I believe him to have been a thoroughly honest recorder of facts, and quite incapable of a lie. When they read the story of Sammy Hick, and his turning the wind by prayer, most people are dubious, but why? Bread was needed for a religious meeting, and no flour could be had, for the mill could not go without wind. Hick took his bag of grain to the miller and asked him to grind it. “But there is no wind, Sammy,” said the miller. “Never mind, there will be if you only put the grain into the hopper.” It was put in, the wind ground the wheat, and then it ceased. “Ah,” people say, “that is a Methodist story.” Yes, it is, and there are many others of the same kind; and some of us have had them happen to ourselves. Answers to prayer do not now appear to us to be contrary to the laws of nature; it seems to us to be the greatest of all the laws of nature that the Lord must keep his promises and hear his people’s prayers. Gravitation and other laws may be suspended, but this cannot be. “Oh,” one says, “I cannot believe that.” No, and so your prayers are not heard. You must have faith, for if faith is absent you lack the very backbone and soul of prayer. Oh, for mighty faith! If we once see a church filled with real active faith, exercised in believing prayer to the living God, the God of Israel, we shall see the churches multiplied with men as with a flock.
19. III. We are now to seek comfort for you who do not come to prayer meetings, or otherwise wrestle in prayer. FOR WHAT REASON CAN ANYONE BE EXCUSED FROM THE DUTY OF PRAYER?
20. Answer: For no reason whatever. You cannot be excused on the basis of common humanity for if it is so that God will save sinners in answer to prayer, and I do not pray, what am I? Souls dying, perishing, sinking to hell, while the ordained machinery for salvation is prayer, and the preaching of the word and if I restrain prayer, what am I? Surely the milk of human kindness has been drained from my breast, and I have ceased to be human, and if so, it is idle to talk about communion with the divine. He who has no pity on a wounded man, and would not seek to relieve one dying from hunger, is a monster: but he who has no pity on souls who are sinking into everlasting fire, what is he? Let him answer for himself.
Next, can any excuse be found in Christianity for neglect of
prayer. I answer, there is none to be found in Christianity any more
than in humanity, for if Christ has saved us, he has given us his
Spirit; “If any man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is none of
his.” And what was the Spirit of Christ? Did he look upon Jerusalem
and say, “I believe that the city is given up, predestinated to be
destroyed,” and then coolly go on his way? No, not he. He believed in
predestination, but that truth never chilled his heart. He wept over
Jerusalem, and said, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have
gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chickens under
her wings, and you would not.”
Did Christ o’er sinners weep,
And shall our cheeks be dry?
22. Shall there be no prayer in our hearts, when God has appointed prayer to be the channel of blessing to sinners as well as to ourselves? Then how can we say that we are Christians? In God’s name, how can we make a profession of Christianity if our hearts do not ascend in mighty prayer to God for a blessing on the sons of men?
23. But perhaps an excuse is found in the fact that the Christian man does not feel that his prayer is of very much consequence, for his heart is in a barren state. Ah, well, this is no excuse, but an aggravation of the sin. My dear brother, if you feel you cannot pray, you are the man who ought to pray twice as much as anyone else. Whenever your mind falls into a condition into which it is indisposed for prayer, that condition should serve as a danger-signal; something is very much amiss. At such a time there should be a double calling upon God that the Spirit of prayer may be bestowed.
24. I do charge you, professing Christians, not to restrain prayer to God for a blessing, for, if you do, you harm all the rest of the brotherhood. Get a bit of dead bone into your body and it harms first the member in which it is placed and subsequently the whole body. From head to foot the whole system is all the worse because of the fragment of dead matter which is present in the body. So if there is a prayerless professor among us, he is a detriment to the entire company. Some of you are the baggage of the army, and hinder its marches and its fighting. We have a great army here, and if you were all able-bodied men, and would march on to the battle, we should see great victories; but we have to carry our diseased ones in ambulances, and half the time of the pastor and church officers has to be taken up in looking after the inefficient soldiers, who are fit only for the hospital “Who do you mean?” one says. You my friend — very likely, you. Your own conscience shall decide to whom it refers.
25. Now, surely we ought to be much in prayer, because after all we owe a great deal to prayer. Those who were in Christ before me prayed for me: should I not pray for others? By a mother’s prayers some of you when you were girls were brought to Christ; will you not pay back the debt to your mother by praying for your own children? By a father’s prayers, young man, you were brought to the Saviour’s feet; now pray for those who are younger than yourself that they may be brought to Jesus too. The treasury of the church’s prayers has been expended upon us in bringing us to Christ’s feet, let us now contribute to the common stock, casting in our prayers for the conversion of others. Common gratitude demands that we attend to this.
26. I am afraid I shall have also to plead that I must suspect your soundness in the faith, brethren, if you do not join in prayer. I know some who, if they are anything at all, are sound in the faith. This is their beginning and their ending. I used to know years ago a few people who were sound all over, and never cared whether souls were saved or not because they were so sound. That kind of soundness is empty sound, from which may the Lord deliver us. Correct opinions are a poor apology for heartlessness towards our fellow men. If we are orthodox, we believe that regeneration is the work of the Spirit of God. Then, dear friend, the natural inference is that those of us who are regenerated, should pray for the Holy Spirit to regenerate others. If it is entirely his work, and we cannot depend upon the preacher at all, we must invoke the divine power. If you do not thus call in divine energy, where is your soundness? I am sure that you desire to see souls saved, but if it is the Spirit’s work, and you do not pray for the Spirit to do that work, surely you do not believe your own doctrine. By your soundness in the faith, therefore, I would plead with you that you increase your earnestness in prayer.
27. You may say, “Well, I think I may be excused,” but I must reply you cannot. “I am very sick,” one says. Ah, then you can lie in bed and pray. None of us can fully estimate the blessings which have come down on this Tabernacle in answer to the pleadings of our friends who are constant invalids. I believe the Lord sets apart a certain section of the church to keep up prayer through the night watches: and when you and I who are healthy are sound asleep the watchers do not slumber, or keep silence, but either in praise or prayer they make the hours holy with their devout exercises. I consider that I sustain great losses when dear Christian men and women who have for years, sustained me by their prayers are taken home to glory. Who will fill the gaps?
28. “I am so poor,” one says. Well, you are not called upon to pay a shilling every time you pray to God. It does not matter how poor you are, your prayers are just as acceptable; only, remember, if you are so poor, you ought to pray all the more, because you cannot give your offering in the form of gold. I should like you to say with the apostle, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I give to you. My Master, I will be much in prayer.”
29. “Ah,” another says, “but I have no talent.” That is another reason why you should pray more, and not why you should be prayerless, because if you cannot contribute to the church’s public service due to lack of talent, you should be all the more zealously to contribute to her strength by the private exercise of prayer and intercession, and thus make those strong who are better suited to go to the front of the battle.
“Ah,” one says, “but I am just converted; I have hardly obtained
peace myself: how can I pray?” If you want an answer to that question
read the fifty-first psalm. David begins, “Have mercy upon me, oh
God, according to the multitude of your tender mercies,” and so on,
but he does not continue long before he cries, “Do good in your good
pleasure to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem.” He has hardly been
washed himself from sin before he begins to pray to be useful — “Then
I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners shall be converted
to you.” You new converts are the very people to pray with power. So
from my innermost soul, as if I were pleading for my life (and it
lies nearer my health and continued life than some may imagine) I
plead with you to enquire of the Lord. In so doing I am pleading for
this church’s long prosperity, I am pleading for the good of London,
I am pleading for the benefit of the whole world. If you love the
Lord Jesus, brothers and sisters, enquire at the hands of the Lord
concerning this great promise of an increase to the church; prove him
now, and see if he does not pour out a blessing for you, yes, if he
does not increase you with men as with a flock, as the holy flock, as
the flock of Jerusalem on her solemn feast days. May God grant his
blessing for Christ’s sake. Amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Eze 36:1-14,24-38]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 145” 145 @@ "(Part 1)"]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Public Worship, Prayer Meetings — Our Advocate Above” 985]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Public Worship, Revivals and Missions — Prayer To The Captain Of The Host” 968]
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 145 (Part 1)
1 Long as I live I’ll bless thy name,
My King, my God of love;
My work and joy shall be the same,
In the bright world above.
2 Great is the Lord, his power unknown,
And let his praise be great:
I’ll sing the honours of thy throne,
Thy works of grace repeat.
3 Thy grace shall dwell upon my tongue;
And, while my lips rejoice,
The men that hear my sacred song
Shall join their cheerful voice.
4 Fathers to sons shall teach thy name,
And children learn thy ways;
Ages to come thy truth proclaim,
And nations sound thy praise.
5 Thy glorious deeds of ancient date
Shall through the world be known;
Thine arm of power, thy heavenly state,
With public splendour shown.
6 The world is managed by thy hands,
Thy saints are ruled by love;
And thine eternal kingdom stands,
Though rocks and hills remove.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 145 (Part 2)
1 Sweet is the memory of thy grace,
My God, my heavenly King;
Let age to age thy righteousness
In sounds of glory sing.
2 God reigns on high, but not confines
His goodness to the skies;
Through the whole earth his bounty shines
And every want supplies.
3 With longing eyes thy creatures wait
On thee for daily food;
Thy liberal hand provides their meat,
And fills their mouths with good.
4 How kind are thy compassions, Lord!
How slow thine anger moves!
But soon he sends his pardoning word
To cheer the souls he loves.
5 Creatures, with all their endless race,
Thy power and praise proclaim;
But saints that taste thy richer grace
Delight to bless thy name.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Public Worship, Prayer Meetings
985 — Our Advocate Above
1 Thou Lamb of God, for sinners slain!
We glorify thy love;
High Priest in heaven’s eternal fane,
Our Advocate above.
2 Now, through thy rended veil of flesh,
We dare the throne draw nigh,
And sprinkled with thy blood afresh,
With boldness Abba cry.
Josiah Conder, 1856.
Public Worship, Revivals and Missions
968 — Prayer To The Captain Of The Host
1 Captain of thine enlisted host,
Display thy glorious banner high;
The summons send from coast to coast,
And call a numerous army nigh.
2 A solemn jubilee proclaim,
Proclaim the great sabbatic day;
Assert the glories of thy name:
Spoil Satan of his wish’d-for prey.
3 Bid, bid thy heralds publish loud
The peaceful blessings of thy reign;
And when they speak of sprinkled blood,
The mystery to the heart explain.
4 Chase the usurper from his throne,
Oh! chase him to his destined hell;
Stout-hearted sinners overcome;
And glorious in thy temple dwell.
5 Fight for thyself, oh Jesus, fight,
The travail of thy soul regain;
To each blind soul make darkness light,
To all let crooked paths be plain.
Christopher Batty, 1757, a.