2851. Unseasonable Prayer

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Unseasonable Prayer

No. 2851-49:469. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, October 14, 1877, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Published On Thursday, October 1, 1903.

Why do you cry to me? {Ex 14:15}

 For other sermons on this text:
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 548, “Forward! Forward! Forward!” 539}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2851, “Unseasonable Prayer” 2852}
   Exposition on Ex 13:21-14:31 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3283, “Voices of Our Days, The” 3285 @@ "Exposition"}

1. At first sight, we might suppose that crying to God was so good a thing, that it would never be necessary for the Lord to ask the question, “Why do you cry to me?” But the question we are now to consider shows that there may be a time when, even for a man like Moses, it is necessary for God to ask, “Why do you cry to me?” Think of the circumstances in which the Israelites were then in; the Red Sea was before them, and the Egyptians were behind, so that when the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me?” he might very properly have replied, “What else can I do? There are great multitudes of bloodthirsty foes behind us, and nothing but the roaring sea in front of us; what can we do except cry to you?” But the fact was, that the time for praying about the matter was past, and the time for action had come; so the Lord said to Moses, in effect, “Do not speak to me; but ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward’; — forward through the sea that now rolls in front of them. That sea will divide as they march into it, so you need not pray any more about that difficulty. I will prepare a pathway for the people 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 not prayer alone, for there comes, every now and then, a time when even prayer must take a secondary place, and faith must come in, and lead us not to cry to God but to act as he tells us to, even as the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward; but lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.”

2. It is perfectly clear, then, that there may come a time when crying to God becomes unseasonable. Our Lord’s command to his disciples is, “Ask”; but what follows that command? Why, the promise, “you shall receive.” Then there must be a time for receiving, as well as a time for asking. But if, instead of stretching out my hand gratefully to receive what God is waiting to give, I still continue to ask, and forget or neglect to receive, I put prayer out of its proper place. Our Saviour also said, “Seek, and you shall find.” Well, if I have sought, and at last have found the treasure I have been looking for, if instead of perceiving that it is there, and taking possession of it, and blessing God that I have found it, — if I still go on looking for it, then I 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 also with the command and promise, “Knock, and it shall be opened to you.” Suppose that I have knocked, and that the door has been opened to me, but that I still stand knocking on it, it is obvious that I am acting foolishly and wrongly, — that I am casting reflections on the Owner of the house, and also on the sincerity of my own knocking, for it is doubtful whether I really did knock with the honest purpose of getting the door opened if, when that opening has taken place, I do not avail myself of the opportunity to enter, but still continue to knock. I do not say that we may not pray for something else, but I do say, in respect to the one thing which we have asked God for, that there comes a time for receiving rather than asking; with regard to the thing which we have sought from the Lord, there comes a time for finding; and concerning the door at which we have knocked, there comes a time for opening; and, in each of these cases, the Lord’s question to Moses comes appropriately to each one of us, “Why do you cry to me.”

3. When do you think, dear friends, that prayer about anything becomes out of date? I answer, — When we ought to believe that we have the answer to our supplication. I believe that, many a time, some of you go on asking for a certain blessing after you have really received it, though you are not conscious that you have it. I am glad that you still ask for it since you think that you have not received it; but it would be a better evidence of your spiritual growth if you perceived that, when God has given you a certain thing in answer to your petitions, you certainly do not still need to ask for it. You have it, so rejoice over it, and bless the Lord for giving it to you. I think there are some Christians, who have received many blessings for which they are quite unaware. They have what they asked for, yet they still continue to pray for them. For example, in some cases, the prayer for assurance is offered long after assurance has been granted. Someone says that he believes the promise of God, but he wants to be more fully assured concerning it. My dear brother, what do you mean? To be more assured that God made the promise? Because, if so, you will have to go into the question of the authenticity of that particular passage, and of the Bible in 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 whether God will fulfil the promise that he has given? Because, if so, I must say, with all solemnity, that you ought to be assured that 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 should not allow anything like a question to arise over this matter. “Has he said, and shall he not do it? Or has he spoken, and shall 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 one of you, and you were to come to me later, and say, “Give me further assurance,” I should feel that you did not believe that I could or would do what I had promised. If such treatment as that were meted out to me by any one of you, I should not feel that you had done me any honour by finding it difficult to believe my word; yet why should I expect you to honour me? But I do expect that a son should honour his own father; and I do expect that a child of God should so fully believe his Heavenly Father that he should not talk about needing assurance of the truthfulness and reliability of his promises of grace. Instead of continuing to pray for God to keep his word, it would be far better for you to believe that he has done so, and that he always will do so.

4. “But it may be presumption,” someone says. No, it can never be presumption to believe God; it is presumption to ever doubt him. However great his promise may be, it must be true; and it is presumptuous for anyone to ask, “Can this be true?” or, “How can it be accomplished?” It should be enough for me that God has said it; how he will fulfil his promise, is his business, not mine. I rest on 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 to me?’ Believe my word, and rest assured that I shall certainly fulfil all that I have promised.”

5. 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 man, — knowing such and such a thing to be right, yet not attending to it, but saying that he was praying about it. 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 is revealed plainly enough in the Scriptures; the man could see it there, and did not doubt its authenticity, but he wanted it to be “brought home” to his conscience, so he said. Well, all I can say about such conduct as that is that it is a kind of rebellion against God, a shameful piece of hypocrisy, pretending to honour God in one duty while you know that you are neglecting another. My dear brother, if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you know that it is the will of Christ that all believers should be baptized even as he was, do not go home, and pray about it, but be baptized. If you are not a member of a Christian church, and you know that it was the practice of the early Christians first to give themselves to the Lord, and afterwards to give themselves to his church, do not tell me that you have been praying about that matter for months; cease praying about it, and go and do it! It is idle to talk about praying about things which are clearly according to the will of God. Cease praying about them, and 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 is not what you have been doing; you have only been trying to see whether you could not find a loophole by which you could escape from an uncongenial but recognised duty. Go and do it, dear friend; and do not any longer act the hypocrite’s part by pretending to 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 say to us, as he did to Moses, — only he may say it to us with more anger, — “ ‘Why do you cry to me’ about such a thing as that? Do what you know to be right.”

6. 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 OFTEN TO ASK HIMSELF THE QUESTION, “WHY DO I PRAY? WHY DO I CRY TO GOD?”

7. In some cases, I fear that the answer will be extremely unsatisfactory. One replies, “I pray because I was always trained to 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 mother had taught you the Mohammedan form of prayer, I suppose you would have kept on repeating it; or if she had taught you to worship a block of wood or stone, you would have done so. I do not wish to speak with contempt concerning the influence of a mother’s teaching, but I must say that this alone is a very unsatisfactory reason for presenting a prayer to God. Let me ask, — Did your mother, when she taught you that form of prayer, merely mean that you should repeat those words, without any particular thought as for what they meant? If she did, your mother knew very little about vital godliness; and, probably, you know even less. You must pray to God from your innermost heart, your soul must have real fellowship with him, or else the prayer your mother taught you may be of no more avail for you than if you repeated the alphabet backwards or forwards. I have heard of a man of seventy, who said that he always prayed night and morning. When he was asked what he said in his prayer, it turned out that he only repeated the form which he had been taught to say as a little child. Now, if you had taught a parrot to say a prayer like that, the parrot would not have been saved, nor will you, if that is all you have to depend on. 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 sepulchre of devotion with no life in it, an external form which cannot please God.

8. Another says, “I pray because prayer is a part of my religion.” Yes, and it is a part of every true Christian’s religion to pray; it must be an essential part of his religion. But what kind of prayer is this of yours which seeks to justify itself on the basis of being a part of your religion; and what is the religion of which it is a part? Is it a religion which knows God, 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 your religion, and the prayer that is a part of it! But if your religion consists merely in attendance at church, or at the meeting-house, so many times on the Lord’s day, and in the repetition of certain words which you have been taught, may God deliver you from it! If your religion is to be worth anything, it must have a heart, — there must be heart-work, — the work of the Holy Spirit on your hearts, and the drawing near of your souls to God. Otherwise, all your outward performances, however excellent they may appear to be, will land you short of heaven.

9. Another friend replies, “I pray because it is a right thing to do.” There is something hopeful about that answer; but the question is, “What kind of prayer do you pray?” I make that enquiry, because, although it is right to pray, it is not right to pray some kinds of prayer. It is the right thing for a clerk in the telegraph office to work the telegraph key; but suppose that he should merely move a handle backwards and forwards, for a whole day, yet never send a message or receive one, I should not think it was right for him to keep on moving that handle for no purpose. Evidently, a wire is broken, or something is out of order, there is no connection with the electric current, for the machinery does not work. And in the same way, a prayer that never reaches the heart of God as it should, and never brings an answer to your supplicant soul, — a prayer in which you have no fellowship with the invisible Jehovah, — is not a right kind of prayer to pray; and I cannot say of such prayer that it has any good reason why it should be presented. If you do not mean the petitions that you present, you mock God when you utter them, for they are only words, and nothing but words.

10. There are some, who would not like to say, just in so many words, exactly what they think, but they really pray because they regard 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 procure salvation for the soul. All these things go into the scale; and, at last, they make up the required weight; that seems to be their idea. In fact, according to some, our Lord Jesus Christ himself is only a make-weight; {a} and our prayers, and tears, and alms, and good works count for a great deal. These people do not quite advocate salvation by works, they do not go the full length of the road that the Roman Catholics take, but they go a very long way in the same direction through their belief that there is some kind of merit about various things pertaining to themselves, and, especially, that their prayer is meritorious. I will speak about this error very strongly, lest I should not be understood by everyone; and I state my final conviction that, if any man thinks that his prayers have any merit in and of themselves, every prayer that he presents is an insult to the Lord Jesus Christ, for he is presented as the only propitiation for sin. If you think that your prayers help, in any degree, to put away sin, you make an antichrist of your prayers. Christ’s blood and righteousness form the only basis for your acceptance before God. If you consider your prayers as a basis, or medium, or help for your acceptance with God, you so far push the cross of Christ into the background, and put your prayers into the place of the only Substitute for sinners; and the more you pile them up, the more you multiply your sin.

11. Possibly, I have quoted the answers which would be given if I were to ask many of you why you cry to the Lord in prayer. I would like to listen to the prayer of every man present here; without his knowing that I was doing so, I would like to put my ear to the keyhole of his room, and hear the style of his praying; but, since I cannot do that, I would like to ask whether you would wish anyone to hear it. How does your prayer appear to the eye of God? Has it been humble, earnest, sincere, trustful, relying on the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and on the effective working of the Holy Spirit? If so, it is good; 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 condition of the Highland soldier of whom I have read? In our war with our American colonists, before they gained their freedom from this country, a certain Highland regiment was engaged. Every evening, one of the men was observed to go away from the camp into an adjacent woods, and it was suspected that he had gone to give information to the enemy. He was, therefore, arrested, and brought before the colonel of the regiment, and the other officers said to him, “Now tell us what you have been doing while you have been absent from the camp.” “Well,” he said, “I have been accustomed, whenever I can, to retire for an hour or two for private prayer.” The colonel happened to be a 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 soul before God, seeking deliverance from the Lord, and resigning his spirit into the keeping of his Heavenly Father; and he prayed with such earnest, simple power that, when he had finished, the colonel said to the other officers, “A man, who can come on parade like that, must have been drilled a good many times. I think we may confidently accept what he has said as being true. 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 time as that, so that they should be compelled to say of him, “That man has often prayed before tonight; he has the very brogue of one who communes with heaven.” But he, who gives such answers as I have been quoting, would certainly not be able to pray before others as that soldier did.


13. “Why do you cry to me?” There are times, dear brothers and sisters, when a sinner’s crying to God in prayer hinders him from 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 favourite sin, of which he 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 do you cry to me?’ Give up your sin; this is not a matter for you to pray about, but to repent of.” The man says, “I was asking for repentance.” Ask, if you wish, for repentance, but exercise it as well. Christ does not tell us to pray to have our right hand cut off, or our right eye plucked out; but he says, “If your right eye offends you, pluck it out, and cast it from you. … And if 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 putting prayer into the place of genuine repentance and immediate forsaking of sin.

14. The same is true of those who put prayer into the place of believing in Christ. “I intend to pray about the salvation of my soul,” says someone. My dear friend, the gospel says to you, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” “I have been praying for salvation, sir, and I hope to get it if I keep on praying.” No, you will not; on the contrary, you will be lost for ever 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 that cross is your only hope; trust my Son, and you shall be saved.” “Lord,” you reply, “I will pray about the matter.” Again the Lord says to you, “You see my well-beloved Son hanging on 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 to me, and be saved.’ ” “Lord, I will pray.” To put the matter very strongly, might not the man almost as well say, “Lord, I will swear?” Is there not just as much of the spirit of rebellion in the one answer as in the other? He has chosen his own way instead of accepting God’s way. God’s way is, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe shall be damned”; and to this the man replies, “Lord, I will pray”; and if that is all he does, he sets his seal to his own condemnation. In such a case, the Lord asks the question in my text, “Why do you cry to me?” What are you crying for? For another atonement besides that of the Lord Jesus Christ? Crying for God to save you in some other way than by believing in Jesus? Crying for someone else to believe for you? Crying to the Holy Spirit to repent for you? Is that what you want? He will not do it; why should he repent for you? You must repent for yourself, and believe for yourself; for the Holy Spirit cannot repent for you, or believe for you. If a man, instead of believing the truth of God, which is so plain, and which is evidently able to save him, — if, instead of simply resting on the atoning sacrifice of Christ, — he says, “I will pray about the matter,” he betrays the fatal ignorance of his heart in supposing that God will make a new way of salvation for him instead of the one which he has plainly revealed in his Word.

15. Perhaps another one says, “I am in hopes that, by praying, I shall be made more fit for believing in Christ.” Fit for believing in Christ! You also are on the wrong tack, like these others of whom I have been speaking. Your ignorance is misleading you. 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 really 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 does not come as an act of grace, but as an act of justice, if there is no guilt; but, for the display of God’s pardoning grace, guilt is needed. If you are guilty, if you are black, if you are foul, you have all the fitness that is required; so, come, and find in Jesus Christ all that meets your greatest and most urgent need.

16. 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, “I am 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. Oh you who are most empty, most guilty, most lost, most ruined, you are the most “fit” for the great Saviour to save! May the Holy Spirit enable you to understand this, and drive out of you the foolish notion that your praying is to help Christ to save you, and to take you part of the way on the road to heaven! Your prayer will not help the divine surgery which alone can cure you; so, just as you are in all your wretchedness and sin, trust Christ to save you, for he is able to save you, from first to last, without any help of yours.

17. III. Now I am going to close by mentioning OTHER ANSWERS WHICH MAY BE GIVEN TO THIS QUESTION: “Why do you cry to me?”

18. 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 for the 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 expression of the condition of my inward life. I cannot help praying. I think, if anyone were to say to me, “You must not kneel down to pray,” it would not make any difference to my praying. If I were not allowed to utter a word all day long, that would not affect my praying. If I could not have five minutes that I might spend in prayer by myself, I should pray all the same. Minute by minute, moment by moment, somehow or other, my heart must commune with my God. Prayer has become as essential for me as the heaving of my lungs, and the beating of my pulse. I ask God to give me power in prayer; and I chide myself if I am lax in prayer. Still, almost unconsciously, one gets praying in the streets, praying while preaching to you; indeed, sometimes, one almost prays in his sleep. One gets so into the spirit of prayer that, without always knowing it, there is a prayer leaping from 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 to me?” — I pray because I cannot help doing so.

19. It is an equally good answer when anyone can say, “I pray because I delight in it. There is no holy exercise which is so sweet, so blessed, so delightful, so inspiriting, so care-removing, as praying to my loving Heavenly Father. Nothing brings me so near to heaven, or opens its gate so wide for me, or gives me such a foretaste of its glory, as prayer mixed with praise.”

20. It would be also a good answer if you should say, “I pray because I have such great needs that I cannot help praying. I have such 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 I must 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 care how you get to the mercy seat as long as you do get there in spirit and in truth, and do really pray. But, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I do hope that these reasons for prayer are those that you yourselves would give if the Lord were to say to each one of you, “Why do you cry to me?”

21. I think I hear another say, “I pray 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 even more. I go to him when I fall, and ask him to hold me 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 little faith is most at home and at ease when I go to God in prayer. I tell the Lord that I trust him, and I ask him to increase my faith. I tell him that, if he should refuse to listen to me, I will still cling to the skirts 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 and faith.

22. “Indeed,” another says, “but I pray because I get more repentance and more faith by praying.” Just so; they grow while they are exercising themselves. He who weeps for sin, will weep more as he prays, and he who believes in Christ will believe more strongly while he expresses that believing in prayer for even greater faith.

23. All these are good reasons for praying without ceasing.

24. Perhaps one of the best is this. “I pray because I am nothing, and I want to get to the great ‘I AM.’ I pray because I have nothing, and I know that all I can have must come from him. I pray because my poverty would gladly draw on his infinite wealth, — because my weakness would drink in his eternal strength, — because my sin would be a partaker of his perfect holiness, — because my nothingness would 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 answer the Lord’s question, “Why do you cry to me?”

25. I suppose that there may have come into this place someone who never prays. If so, I do not know where you are, friend; I am glad I do not. I should look at you with the greatest pity if I knew you. The very thought of such a sad case as yours makes me feel heavy-hearted. A man who never speaks to his Maker! A man? Can he be a man? Let me look him up and down. A man, “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God, yet he never speaks to his Creator! Oh God, to what a terrible depth a man can sink if he can live without prayer! What a strange creature he is! A little chick drinks, and lifts its head each time it sips; “the ox knows his owner, and the donkey” — you know how stupid the donkey is, yet he knows “his master’s crib”; but here is a man, whom God has made, and kept in being all these years, and given to him a household, and made him well-to-do among his fellow men, 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! Oh knees that never bend before the Lord; oh hearts that never yield yourselves to God, are you not accursed? Ah, sirs! assuredly a curse rests on the man who never prays. He who does not pray, does not believe; and what does the Word of God say concerning the man who does not believe? “He who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.” From my innermost soul, I pity even guilty men who are condemned to die because they have broken the laws of their country, and taken the lives of their fellow creatures; yet, oh you unbelievers, their condition only differs in degree from yours, for you also are “condemned already” because you have not believed in the only-begotten Son of God! Oh, I beseech you, turn to him before it is too late, and you are cast into hell, where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched for ever and ever! If you believe that what I have said is false, you will take no notice of it; but if 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 your lives; do not look 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 in 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 only Saviour for sinners. Believe in him; trust in him; and go your way forgiven. May God grant it, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

{a} Make-weight: A person or thing of insignificant value thrown in to make up a deficiency or fill a gap. OED.

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Lu 18:1-27}

1. And he spoke a parable to them for this purpose, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;

Especially, not to faint 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, who did not fear God, neither regarded man: and there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Avenge me of my adversary.’

He would not have interested himself in her case simply because she was a poor widow, he had no heart of compassion for her; nor would it have concerned him at all that her adversary had wronged her. He did not take the trouble to discharge the duties pertaining to his office. No fear of God and no respect for public opinion, affected him at all.

4. And he would not for a while: but afterwards he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God, nor regard man;

He even boasted about the very thing of which he ought to have been ashamed: “ ‘I do not fear God, nor regard man’; — I care for no one, and defy everyone.”

5. Yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she wearies me.’ ”

He cared for no one but himself. He was concerned about his own peace of mind. The poor woman could win, through his selfishness, what she could not get from his sense of justice, since that had no weight with him. Her persistence won for her what nothing else could procure.

6-8. And the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge says, and shall not God avenge his own elect, who cry day and night to him, 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, is like a widow left forlorn. Her cries go up to God, pleading that he will vindicate her cause; and he will do so. He may wait for a while; but the prayers of his people are not lost. Eventually, he will avenge his own elect.

So it is with regard to all true prayer. Though, for wise reasons, God may delay to reply, yet he files our petitions; they are registered in heaven. Their power 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 anyone can, for he knows what faith is, and 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 asked; and among a great many who profess to have faith, he will find none at all. Brethren, we pray so feebly, we expect so little, we ask with such doubt, we have such slight courage in prayer, that, if the Son of man himself came among us to search us, how little faith he would discover!

9-12. And he spoke this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed like this with himself, ‘God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.’

He could not even magnify his own excellencies without sneering at the poor tax collector who had said nothing against him, or about him. That is a poor kind of religion which has to look down on all others before it can look up to itself. What, oh Pharisee, if others are not, apparently, as 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 yourself as you are in God’s sight! A correct knowledge of your own heart would have led you to a very different conclusion. It is a good thing that the Pharisee appeared to be thankful for something; but, probably, that was merely a complimentary speech, which meant very little. He did not thank God half as much as he praised himself.

13. And the tax collector, standing afar off, —

Away in some distant corner, —

13. Would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven but beat on his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’

He makes no reflection on 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 who exalts himself shall be abased; and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” And they brought to him also infants, so 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 of bringing them for his blessing?

16. But Jesus called them to him, and said, “Permit the little children to come to me, and do not forbid them: for of such is the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God consists of childlike spirits, people like these children. Instead of needing to grow bigger in order to be fit to be Christians, we need to grow smaller. It is not the supposed wisdom of manhood, but the simplicity of childhood, that will prepare us for the reception of divine truth. Alas! we are often too much like men; if we were more like children, we should receive the kingdom of God far more readily.

17-19. Truly I say to you, ‘Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter into it.’ ” And a certain ruler asked him, saying, “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good, except one, that is, God.

Yet the ruler was right. He did not know that he was speaking to One who 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, Honour your father and your mother,’ ” and he said, “I have kept all these things from my youth up.”

All which appears to be simple enough, if you only look on the surface; but when you come to remember that there is an inward, spiritual meaning to all this, — that a licentious look breaks the command about adultery, — that a covetous desire is stealing, — that the utterance of a slander is bearing false witness, and so on, — who is he who shall enter into life on 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 to him, “Yet you lack one thing:

Christ gives him a test. If he is what he thinks he is, he will be ready to obey whatever command God lays on him. Christ is about to lay one on him; let us see whether he will obey that.

22. Sell all that you have, and distribute to 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 hard it is for those who have riches to enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” And those who 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 earnest endeavour to make it hard for them to be saved. They are trying, as much as they ever can, to block up the road to eternal life, — hoarding up what will be a grievous burden for them, even if God shall lead them in the way to heaven. How much better it is to live entirely for God, and then, whether we are rich or poor, consecrate everything to him, and live for his praise and glory!

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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