A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, October 29, 1871, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. 8/20/2011*8/20/2011
But I am poor and needy: come quickly to me, oh God: you are my help and my deliverer; oh Lord, do not delay. (Psalms 70:5)
1. Young painters were anxious, in the olden times, to study under the great masters. They concluded that they should more easily achieve excellence if they entered the schools of eminent men. At this present time, men will pay large premiums so that their sons may be apprenticed or articled to those who best understand their trades or professions; now, if any of us would learn the sacred art and mystery of prayer, it is well for us to study the productions of the greatest masters of that science. I am unable to point out one who understood it better than the psalmist David did. He knew how to praise so well, that his psalms have become the language of good men in all ages; and he understood how to pray so well, that if we catch his spirit, and follow his mode of prayer, we shall have learned to plead with God in the most prevalent way. Place before you, first of all, David’s Son and David’s Lord, that most mighty of all intercessors, and, next to him, you shall find David to be one of the most admirable models for your imitation.
2. We shall consider our text, then, as one of the productions of a great master in spiritual matters, and we will study it, praying all the while that God will help us to pray in a similar way.
3. In our text we have the soul of a successful pleader under four aspects: we view, first, the soul confessing: “I am poor and needy.” You have, next, the soul pleading, for he makes a plea from his poor condition, and adds, “Come quickly to me, oh God!” You see, thirdly, a soul in its urgency, for he cries, “Come quickly,” and he varies the expression but keeps the same idea: “Do not delay.” And you have, in the fourth and last view, a soul grasping God, for the psalmist expresses it like this: “You are my help and my deliverer”; so with both hands he lays hold upon his God, so as not to let him go until a blessing is obtained.
4. I. To begin, then, see in this model of supplication, A SOUL CONFESSING. The wrestler strips before he enters into the contest, and confession does the same thing for the man who is about to plead with God. A racer on the plains of prayer cannot hope to win, unless, by confession, repentance, and faith, he lays aside every weight of sin.
5. Now, let it be always remembered that confession is absolutely necessary for the sinner when he first seeks a Saviour. It is not possible for you, oh seeker, to obtain peace for your troubled heart, until you shall have acknowledged your transgression and your iniquity before the Lord. You may do what you wish, indeed, even attempt to believe in Jesus, but you shall find that the faith of God’s elect is not in you, unless you are willing to make a full confession of your transgression, and lay your heart bare before God. We do not usually think of giving charity to those who do not acknowledge that they need it: the physician does not send his medicine to those who are not sick. There is too much to be done in the world of necessary work for us to undertake works of supererogation; and, surely, to clothe those who are not naked, and to feed those who are not hungry, is to attempt superfluous work, which will bring us no credit. God will not do this: you must be empty before you can be filled by him, and you must confess your emptiness, too, or else assuredly he will not come to fill the full, nor to lift up those who are already high enough in their own esteem. The blind man in the gospels had to feel his blindness, and to sit by the wayside begging; if he had entertained a doubt concerning whether he were blind or not, the Lord would have passed him by. He opens the eyes of those who confess their blindness, but of others, he says, “Because you say we see, therefore, your sin remains.” He asks of those who are brought to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” in order that their need may be publicly affirmed. It must be so with all of us: we must offer the confession, or we cannot gain the benediction.
6. Let me speak especially to you who desire to find peace with God, and salvation through the precious blood: you will do well to make your confession before God very frank, very sincere, very explicit. Surely you have nothing to hide, for there is nothing that you can hide. He knows your guilt already, but he would have you know it, and therefore he asks you to confess it. Go into the details of your sin in your secret acknowledgments before God; strip yourself of all excuses, make no apologies; say, “Against you and you only, I have sinned, and done this evil in your sight”: so that you might be justified when you speak, and be acquitted when you judge. Acknowledge the evil of sin, ask God to make you feel it; do not treat it as a trifle, for it is not. To redeem the sinner from the effect of sin Christ himself must die, and unless you are delivered from it you must die eternally. Therefore, do not play with sin; do not confess it as though it were some minor fault, which would not have been noticed unless God had been too severe; but labour to see sin as God sees it, as an offence against all that is good, a rebellion against all that is kind; see it to be treason, to be ingratitude, to be a foul and base thing. Do not think that you can improve your condition before God by painting your case in brighter colours than it should be. Blacken it: if it were possible blacken it, but it is not possible. When you feel your sin most you have not half felt it; when you confess it most fully you do not know a tithe of it; but oh, to the utmost of your ability make a clean breast of it, and say, “I have sinned against heaven, and before you.” Acknowledge the sins of your youth and your manhood, the sins of your body and of your soul, the sins of omission and of commission, sins against the law and offences against the gospel; acknowledge all, neither for a moment seek to deny one portion of the evil with which God’s law, your own conscience, and his Holy Spirit justly charge you.
7. And oh, soul, if you wish to get peace and approval with God in prayer, confess the proper punishment due for your sin. Submit yourself to whatever divine justice may sentence you to endure: confess that the deepest hell is your just due, and do not confess this with your lips only, but with your soul. Let this be the doleful ditty of your innermost heart —
Should sudden vengeance seize my breath,
I must pronounce thee just in death;
And, if my soul were sent to hell,
Thy righteous law approves it well.
If you will condemn yourself, God will acquit you; if you will put the rope around your neck, and sentence yourself, then he who otherwise would have sentenced you will say, “I forgive you, through the merit of my Son.” But never expect that the King of heaven will pardon a traitor, if he will not confess and forsake his treason. Even the most tender father expects that the child should humble himself when he has offended, and he will not withdraw his frown from him until with tears he has said, “Father, I have sinned.” Do you dare to expect God to humble himself to you if you will not first humble yourself before him? Would you have him overlook your faults and wink at your transgressions? He will have mercy, but he must be holy. He is ready to forgive, but not to tolerate sin; and, therefore, he cannot let you be forgiven if you hug your sins, or if you presume to say, “I have not sinned.” Come quickly, then, oh seeker, come quickly, I urge you, to the mercy seat with this upon your lips: “I am poor and needy, I am sinful, I am lost; have pity on me.” You begin your prayer well with such an acknowledgment, and through Jesus you shall prosper in it.
8. Beloved hearers, the same principle applies to the church of God. We are praying for a display of the Holy Spirit’s power in this church, and, in order to be successful in pleading this matter, it is necessary that we should unanimously make the confession of our text, “I am poor and needy.” We must admit that we are powerless in this business. Salvation is from the Lord and we cannot save a single soul. The Spirit of God is treasured up in Christ, and we must seek him who is the great head of the church. We cannot command the Spirit, and yet we can do nothing without him. He blows where he wishes. We must deeply feel and honestly acknowledge this. Will you not heartily assent to it my brothers and sisters at this hour? May I not ask you unanimously to renew the confession this morning? We must also acknowledge that we are not worthy that the Holy Spirit should condescend to work with us and by us. There is no fitness in us for his purposes, unless he shall give us that fitness. Our sins might well provoke him to leave us: he has striven with us, he has been tender towards us, but he might well go away and say, “I will no more shine upon that church, and no more bless that ministry.” Let us feel our unworthiness, it will be a good preparation for earnest prayer; for, notice brethren, God will have his church know before he blesses it that the blessing is altogether from himself. “ ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord.”
9. The career of Gideon was a very remarkable one, and it began with two most instructive signs. I think our heavenly Father would have all of us learn the very same lesson which he taught to Gideon, and when we have mastered that lesson, he will use us for his own purposes. You remember Gideon laid a fleece upon the barnfloor, and in the morning it was dry all around and the fleece alone was wet. God alone had saturated the fleece so that he could wring it out, and its moisture was not due to its being placed in a favourable location, for all around it was dry. He would have us learn that, if the dew of his grace fills any one of us with its heavenly moisture, it is not because we lie upon the barnfloor of a ministry which God usually blesses, or because we are in a church which the Lord graciously visits; but we must be made to see that the visitations of his Spirit are fruits of the Lord’s sovereign grace, and gifts of his infinite love, and not of the will of man, neither by man. But then the miracle was reversed, for, as old Thomas Fuller says, “God’s miracles will bear to be turned inside out and look as glorious one way as another.” The next night the fleece was dry and all around it was wet. For sceptics might have said, “Yes, but a fleece would naturally attract moisture, and if there were any in the air, it would be likely to be absorbed by the wool.” But, lo, on this occasion, the dew is not where it might be expected to be, even though it lies thickly all around. Damp is the stone and dry is the fleece. So God will have us know that he does not give us his grace because of any natural adaptation in us to receive it, and even where he has given a preparedness of heart to receive, he will have us understand that his grace and his Spirit are most free in action, and sovereign in operation: and that he is not bound to work after any rule of our making. If the fleece is wet he bedews it, and that not because it is a fleece, but because he chooses to do so. He will have all the glory of all his grace from first to last. Come then, my brethren, and become disciples to this truth. Consider that from the great Father of lights every good and perfect gift must come. We are his workmanship, he must work all our works in us. Grace is not to be commanded by our position or condition: the wind blows where it wishes, the Lord works and no man can hinder; but if he does not work, the mightiest and the most zealous labour is all in vain.
10. It is very significant that before Christ fed the thousands, he made the disciples count all their provisions. It was well to let them see how low the supplies had become, for then when the crowds were fed they could not say the basket fed them, nor that the lad had done it. God will make us feel how little are our barley loaves, and how small our fishes, and compel us to enquire, “What are they among so many?” When the Saviour asked his disciples to cast the net on the right side of the ship, and they dragged such a mighty shoal of fish to land, he did not work the miracle until they had confessed that they had toiled all the night and had taken nothing. So they were taught that the success of their fishery was dependent upon the Lord, and that it was not their net, nor their way of dragging it, nor their skill and art in handling their vessels, but that altogether and entirely their success came from their Lord. We must get down to this, and the sooner we come to it the better.
11. Before the ancient Jews kept the Passover, observe what they did. The unleavened bread is to be brought in, and the paschal lamb to be eaten; but there shall be no unleavened bread, and no paschal lamb, until they have purged out the old leaven. If you have any old strength and self-confidence; if you have anything that is your own, and is, therefore, leavened, it must be swept right out; there must be a bare cupboard before there can come in the heavenly provision, upon which the spiritual Passover can be kept. I thank God when he cleans us out; I bless his name when he brings us to feel our soul poverty as a church, for then the blessing will be sure to come.
12. One other illustration will show this, perhaps, still more distinctly. Behold Elijah with the priests of Baal at Carmel. The test appointed to decide Israel’s choice was this — the God who answers by fire let him be God. Baal’s priests invoked the heavenly flame in vain. Elijah is confident that it will come upon his sacrifice, but he is also sternly resolved that the false priests and the fickle people shall not imagine that he himself had produced the fire. He determines to make it clear that there is no human contrivance, trickery, or manoeuvre about the matter. The flame must be seen to be from the Lord, and from the Lord alone. Remember the stern prophet’s command, “ ‘Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.’ And he said, ‘Do it a second time’; and they did it a second time. And he said, ‘Do it a third time’; and they did it a third time. And the water ran all around the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.” There could be no latent fires there. If there had been any combustibles or chemicals calculated to produce fire after the manner of the cheats of the time, they would all have been waterlogged and spoiled. When no one could imagine that man could burn the sacrifice, then the prophet lifted up his eyes to heaven, and began to plead, and down came the fire of the Lord, which consumed the burnt sacrifice and the wood, and the altar stones and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. Then when all the people saw it they fell on their faces, and they said, “Jehovah is the God; Jehovah is the God.” The Lord in this church, if he intends to bless us greatly, may send us the trial of pouring on the water once, and twice, and three times; he may discourage us, grieve us, and test us, and bring us low, until all shall see that it is not by the preacher, it is not by the organisation, it is not by man, but altogether by God, the Alpha and the Omega, who works all things according to the council of his will.
13. So I have shown you that for a successful season of prayer the best beginning is confession that we are poor and needy.
14. II. Secondly, after the soul has unburdened itself of all weights of merit and self-sufficiency, it proceeds to prayer, and we have before us A SOUL PLEADING. “I am poor and needy, come quickly to me, oh God. You are my help and my deliverer: oh Lord, do not delay.” The careful reader will perceive four pleas in this single verse.
15. Upon this topic I would remark that it is the habit of faith, when she is praying, to use pleas. Mere prayer sayers, who do not pray at all, forget to argue with God; but those who wish to prevail bring their reasons and their strong arguments, and they debate the question with the Lord. Those who play at wrestling catch here and there at random, but those who are really wrestling have a certain way of grasping the opponent — a certain mode of throwing, and the like; they work according to order and rule. Faith’s art of wrestling is to plead with God, and say with holy boldness, “Let it be thus and thus, for these reasons.” Hosea tells us of Jacob at Jabbok, “that there he spoke with us”; from which I understand that Jacob instructed us by his example. Now, the two pleas which Jacob used were God’s precept and God’s promise. First, he said, “You said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives’ ”: as much as if he said this: — “Lord, I am in difficulty, but I have come here through obedience to you. You told me to do this; now, since you command me to come here, into the very teeth of my brother Esau, who comes to meet me like a lion, Lord, you cannot be so unfaithful as to bring me into danger and then leave me in it.” This was sound reasoning, and it prevailed with God. Then Jacob also urged a promise: “You said, ‘I will surely do you good.’ ” Among men, it is a masterly way of reasoning when you can challenge your opponent with his own words: you may quote other authorities, and he may say, “I deny their relevance”; but, when you quote a man against himself, you foil him completely. When you bring a man’s promise to his mind, he must either confess himself to be unfaithful and changeable, or, if he holds to being the same, and being true to his word, you have him, and you have won your will over him. Oh, brethren, let us so learn to plead the precepts, the promises, and whatever else may serve our purpose; but let us always have something to plead. Do not imagine you have prayed unless you have pleaded, for pleading is the very marrow of prayer. He who pleads well knows the secret of prevailing with God, especially if he pleads the blood of Jesus, for that unlocks the treasury of heaven. Many keys fit many locks, but the master key is the blood and the name of him who died but rose again, and lives for ever in heaven to save to the uttermost.
16. Faith’s pleas are plentiful, and this is well, for faith is placed in various positions, and needs them all. She has many needs, and having a keen eye she perceives that there are pleas to be urged in every case. I will not, therefore, tell you all faith’s pleas, but I will just mention some of them, enough to let you see how abundant they are. Faith will plead all the attributes of God. “You are just, therefore spare the soul for whom the Saviour died. You are merciful, blot out my transgressions. You are good, reveal your bounty to your servant. You are immutable — you have done thus and thus to others of your servants, do thus to me. You are faithful, can you break your promise, can you turn away from your covenant?” Properly viewed, all the perfections of Deity become pleas for faith.
17. Faith will boldly plead all God’s gracious relationships. She will say to him, “Are you not the Creator? Will you forsake the work of your own hands? Are you not the Redeemer, you have redeemed your servant, will you cast me away?” Faith usually delights to lay hold upon the fatherhood of God. This is generally one of her master points: when she brings this into the field she wins the day. “You are a Father, and would you chasten us as though you would kill? A Father, and will you not provide? A Father, and have you no sympathy and no heart of compassion? A Father, and can you deny what your own child asks from you?” Whenever I am impressed with the divine majesty, and so, perhaps, a little dispirited in prayer, I find the short and sweet remedy is to remember that, although he is a great King, and infinitely glorious, I am his child, and no matter who the father is, the child may always be bold with his father. Yes, faith can plead any and all of the relationships in which God stands to his chosen.
18. Faith, too, can ply heaven with the divine promises. I need not enlarge here, for I trust you all do this continually. When you can as it were bring home the Lord’s word to himself, it is well. That is the conquering argument, “Do as you have said.” “You have spoken it, and you have made your promise to be yea and amen in Christ Jesus for your own glory by us, will you not fulfil it? Will you run back from your own word? Will you fail to carry out your own declaration? May that be far from you, oh Lord!” Brethren, we want to be more businesslike and use common sense with God in pleading promises. If you were to go to one of the banks in Lombard Street, and see a man go in and out and lay a piece of paper on the table, and take it up again and nothing more; if he did that several times a day, I think there would soon be orders issued to the porter to keep the man out, because he was merely wasting the clerk’s time, and doing nothing of value. Those city men who come to the bank in earnest present their cheques, they wait until they receive their money and then they go, but not without having transacted real business. They do not put the paper down, speak about the excellent signature and discuss the correctness of the document, but they want their money for it, and they are not content without it. These are the people who are always welcome at the bank and not the triflers. Alas, a great many people play at praying, it is nothing better. I say they play at praying, they do not expect God to give them an answer, and so they are mere triflers, who mock the Lord. He who prays in a businesslike way, meaning what he says, honours the Lord. The Lord does not play at promising, Jesus did not sport at confirming the word by his blood, and we must not make a jest of prayer by going about it in a listless unexpecting spirit.
19. The Holy Spirit is in earnest, and we must be in earnest also. We must go for a blessing, and not be satisfied until we have it; like the hunter, who is not satisfied because he has run so many miles, but is never content until he takes his prey.
20. Faith, moreover, pleads the performances of God, she looks back on the past and says, “Lord, you delivered me on such and such an occasion; will you fail me now?” She, moreover, takes her life as a whole, and pleads like this: —
After so much mercy past,
Wilt thou let me sink at last?
“Have you brought me so far that I may be put to shame at the end?” She knows how to bring the ancient mercies of God, and make them arguments for present favours. But your time would all be gone if I tried to exhibit, even a thousandth part of faith’s pleas.
21. Sometimes, however, faith’s pleas are very exceptional. As in this text, it is by no means according to the proud rule of human nature to plead — “I am poor and needy, come quickly to me, oh God.” It is like another prayer of David: “Have mercy upon my iniquity, for it is great.” It is not the manner of men to plead so, they say, “Lord, have mercy upon me, for I am not so bad a sinner as some.” But faith reads things in a truer light, and bases her pleas on truth. “Lord, because my sin is great, and you are a great God, let your great mercy be magnified in me.” You know the story of the Syrophenician woman; that is a grand example of the ingenuity of faith’s reasoning. She came to Christ about her daughter, and he did not say a word to her. What do you think her heart said? Why, she said in herself, “It is well, for he has not denied me: since he has not spoken at all, he has not refused me.” With this for an encouragement, she began to plead again. Presently Christ spoke to her sharply, and then her brave heart said, “I have gained words from him at last, I shall have deeds from him by and by.” That also cheered her; and then, when he called her a dog. “Ah,” she reasoned, “but a dog is a part of the family, it has some connection with the master of the house. Though it does not eat food from the table, it gets the crumbs under it, and so I have you now, great Master, dog as I am; the great mercy that I ask from you, great as it is to me, is only a crumb to you; grant it then I beseech you.” Could she fail to leave her request? Impossible! When faith has a will, she always finds a way, and she will win the day when all things forebode defeat.
22. Faith’s pleas are exceptional, but, let me add, faith’s pleas are always sound; for after all, it is a very telling plea to argue that we are poor and needy. Is that not the main argument with mercy? Necessity is the very best plea with benevolence, either human or divine. Is not our need the best reason we can advance? If we would have a physician come quickly to a sick man, “Sir,” we say, “it is no common case, he is at the point of death, come to him, come quickly!” If we wanted our city firemen to rush to a fire, we would not say to them, “Hurry, for it is only a small fire”; but, on the contrary, we argue that “it is an old house, full of combustible materials, and there are rumours of petroleum and gunpowder on the premises; besides, it is near a lumber yard, hosts of wooden cottages are close by, and before long we shall have half the city ablaze.” We state the case as badly as we can. Oh for wisdom to be equally wise in pleading with God, to find arguments everywhere, but especially to find them in our necessities.
23. They said two centuries ago that the trade of beggary was the easiest one to carry on, but it paid the worst. I am not sure about the last at this time, but certainly the trade of begging with God is a hard one, and undoubtedly it pays the best of anything in the world. It is very noteworthy that beggars with men have usually plenty of pleas on hand. When a man is hard pressed and starving, he can usually find a reason why he should ask for aid from every likely person. Suppose it is a person to whom he is already under many obligations, then the poor creature argues, “I may safely ask from him again, for he knows me, and has always been very kind.” If he never asked from the person before, then he says, “I have never worried him before; he cannot say he has already done all he can for me; I will boldly begin with him.” If it is one of his own relatives, then he will say, “Surely you will help me in my distress, for you are a relative”; and if it is a stranger, he says, “I have often found strangers kinder than my own blood, help me, I entreat you.” If he asks from the rich, he pleads that they will never miss what they give; and if he begs from the poor, he argues that they know what poverty means, and he is sure they will sympathise with him in his great distress. Oh that we were half as much on the alert to fill our mouths with arguments when we are before the Lord. How is it that we are not half awake, and do not seem to have our spiritual senses aroused. May God grant that we may learn the art of pleading with the eternal God, for in that shall rest our prevalence with him, through the merit of Jesus Christ.
24. III. I must be brief on the next point. It is A SOUL URGENT: “Come quickly to me, oh God. Oh Lord, do not delay.”
25. We may well be urgent with God, if as yet we are not saved, for our need is urgent; we are in constant peril, and the peril is of the most tremendous kind. Oh sinner, within an hour, within a minute, you may be where hope can never visit you; therefore, cry, “Come quickly, oh God, to deliver me: come quickly to help me, oh Lord!” Yours is not a case that can bear lingering: you do not have time to procrastinate; therefore, be urgent, for your need is so. And, remember, if you really are under a sense of need, and the Spirit of God is at work with you, you will and must be urgent. An ordinary sinner may be content to wait, but a quickened sinner needs mercy now. A dead sinner will lie quiet, but a living sinner cannot rest until pardon is sealed home to his soul. If you are urgent this morning, I am glad of it, because your urgency, I trust, arises from the possession of spiritual life. When you cannot live longer without a Saviour, the Saviour will come to you, and you shall rejoice in him.
26. Brethren, members of this church, as I have said on another point, the same truth applies to you. God will come to bless you, and come speedily, when your sense of need becomes deep and urgent. Oh, how great is this church’s need! We shall grow cold, unholy, and worldly; there will be no conversions, there will be no additions to our numbers; there will be diminutions, there will be divisions, there will be mischief of all kinds; Satan will rejoice, and Christ will be dishonoured, unless we obtain a larger measure of the Holy Spirit. Our need is urgent, and when we thoroughly feel that need, then we shall get the blessing which we desired. Does any melancholy spirit say, “We are in so bad a state that we cannot expect a large blessing?” I reply, perhaps if we were worse, we should obtain it all the sooner. I do not mean if we were really so, but if we felt we were worse, we should be nearer the blessing. When we mourn that we are in a bad state, then we cry the more vehemently to God, and the blessing comes. God never refused to go with Gideon because he did not have enough valiant men with him, but he paused because the people were too many. He brought them down from thousands to hundreds, and he diminished the hundred before he gave them victory. When you feel that you must have God’s presence, but that you do not deserve it, and when your consciousness of this lays you in the dust, then the blessing shall be bestowed.
27. For my part, brothers and sisters, I desire to feel a spirit of urgency within my soul as I plead with God for the dew of his grace to descend upon this church. I am not bashful in this matter, for I have a licence to pray. Begging is forbidden in the streets, but, before the Lord I am a licensed beggar. Jesus has said, “Men ought always to pray and not to faint.” You land on the shores of a foreign country with the greatest confidence when you carry a passport with you, and God has issued passports to his children, by which they come boldly to his mercy seat; he has invited you, he has encouraged you, he has invited you come to him, and he has promised that whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive. Come, then, come urgently, come importunately, come with this plea, “I am poor and needy; do not delay, oh my God,” and a blessing shall surely come; it will not tarry. May God grant that we may see it, and give him the glory for it.
28. IV. I am sorry to have been so brief where I should have enlarged, but I must close with the fourth point. Here is another part of the art and mystery of prayer — THE SOUL GRASPING GOD.
29. She has pleaded, and she has been urgent, but now she comes to close quarters; she grasps the covenant angel with one hand, “You are my help,” and with the other, “You are my deliverer.” Oh, those blessed “my’s,” those potent “my’s.” The sweetness of the Bible lies in the possessive pronouns, and he who is taught to use them as the psalmist did, shall be a conqueror with the eternal God. Now sinner, I pray God you may be helped to say this morning to the blessed Christ of God, “You are my help and my deliverer.” Perhaps you mourn that you cannot go to that length, but, poor soul, have you any other help? If you have, then you cannot hold two helpers with the same hand. “Oh, no,” you say, “I have no help anywhere. I have no hope except in Christ.” Well, then, poor soul, since your hand is empty, that empty hand was made on purpose to grasp your Lord with: lay hold on him! Say to him, today, “Lord, I will hang on you as poor lame Jacob did; now I cannot help myself, I will cleave to you: I will not let you go unless you bless me.” “Ah, it would be too bold,” one says. But the Lord loves holy boldness in poor sinners; he would have you be bolder than you think of being. It is an unhallowed bashfulness that dares not trust a crucified Saviour. He died on purpose to save such as you are; let him have his way with you, and trust him. “Oh,” one says, “but I am so unworthy.” He came to seek and save the unworthy. He is not the Saviour of the self-righteous: he is the sinners’ Saviour — “friend of sinners” is his name. Unworthy one, lay hold on him! “Oh,” one says, “but I have no right.” Well, but that is the very reason you should grasp him, for right is for the court of justice, not for the hall of mercy. I would advise you not to try your rights, for you have no right except to be condemned; but you need no rights when dealing with Jesus. Nothing makes a charitable person refuse his alms like a beggar’s saying, “I have a right.” “Indeed,” says the giver, “If you have rights, go and get them; I will give you nothing.” Since you have no right, your need shall be your claim: it is all the claim you need. I think I hear one say, “It is too late for me to plead for grace.” It cannot be: it is impossible. While you live and desire mercy, it is not too late to seek it. Notice the parable of the man who wanted three loaves. I will tell you what crossed my mind when I read it: the man went to his friend at midnight; it was late, was it not? Why, his friend might have said, and, indeed, did in effect say to him, that it was too late, but still the pleader received the bread after all. In the parable the time was late, it could not have been later; for if it had been a little later than midnight, it would have been early in the next morning, and so not late at all. It was midnight, and it could not be later; and so, if it is downright midnight with your soul, yet, be of good cheer, Jesus is an out of season Saviour; many of his servants are “born out of due time.” Any season is the right season to call upon the name of Jesus; therefore, only do not let the devil tempt you with the thought that it can be too late. Go to Jesus now, go at once, and lay hold on the horns of the altar by a venturesome faith, and say, “Sacrifice for sinners, you are a sacrifice for me. Intercessor for the graceless, you are an intercessor for me. You who distribute gifts to the rebellious, distribute gifts to me, for I have been a rebel. When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. I am such a one, good Master; let the power of your death be seen in me to save my soul.”
30. Oh, you who are saved and, therefore, love Christ, I want you, dear brethren, as the saints of God, to practise this last part of my subject; and be sure to lay hold upon God in prayer. “You are my help and my deliverer.” As a church we throw ourselves upon the strength of God, and we can do nothing without him; but we do not mean to be without him, we will hold him firmly. “You are my help and my deliverer.” There was a boy at Athens, according to the old story, who used to boast that he ruled all Athens, and when they asked him how, he said, “Why, I rule my mother, my mother rules my father, and my father rules the city.” He who knows how to be master of prayer will rule the heart of Christ, and Christ can and will do all things for his people, for the Father has committed all things into his hands. You can be omnipotent if you know how to pray, omnipotent in all things which glorify God. What does the Word itself say? “Let him lay hold on my strength.” Prayer moves the arm that moves the world. Oh for grace to grasp Almighty love in this fashion. We need more holdfast prayer; more tugging, and gripping, and wrestling prayer, that says, “I will not let you go.”
31. That picture of Jacob at Jabbok shall suffice for us to close with. The covenant angel is there, and Jacob wants a blessing from him: he seems to put him off, but no refusals will do for Jacob. Then the angel endeavours to escape from him, and tugs and strives: so he may, but no efforts shall make Jacob relax his grasp. At last the angel switches from ordinary wrestling to wounding him in the very seat of his strength; and Jacob will let his thigh go, and all his limbs go, but he will not let the angel go. The poor man’s strength shrivels under the withering touch, but in his weakness he is still strong: he throws his arms around the mysterious man, and holds him as in a death grip. Then the other says, “Let me go, for the day breaks.” Notice, he did not shake him off, he only said, “Let me go”; the angel will do nothing to force him to relax his hold, he leaves that to his voluntary will. The valiant Jacob cries, “No, I am determined, I am resolved to win an answer to my prayer. I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Now, when the church begins to pray, it may be at first, the Lord will make as though he would have gone further, and we may fear that no answer will be given. Hold on, dear brethren. Be steadfast, unmoveable, notwithstanding all. By and by, it may be, there will come discouragements where we looked for a glowing success; we shall find brethren hindering, some will be slumbering, and others sinning; backsliders and impenitent souls will abound; but let us not be deterred. Let us be all the more eager. And if it should so happen that we ourselves become distressed and dispirited, and feel we never were so weak as we are now; never mind, brethren, still hold on, for when the sinew is shrunk the victory is near. Grasp with a tighter clutch than ever. May this be our resolution, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Remember the longer the blessing is coming the richer it will be when it arrives. What is gained speedily by a single prayer is sometimes only a second rate blessing; but what is gained after many a desperate tug, and many an awful struggle, is a full weighted and precious blessing. The children of importunity are always fair to look upon. The blessing which costs us the most prayer will be worth the most. Only let us be persevering in supplication, and we shall gain a broad far reaching benediction for ourselves, the churches, and the world. I wish it were in my power to stir you all to fervent prayer; but I must leave it with the great author of all true supplication, namely, the Holy Spirit. May he work in us mightily, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Genesis 32; Luke 11:1-13]
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