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Witnessing Better Than Knowing the Future
August 29, 1889 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:6-8 .
These are among the last words of our Lord. We greatly prize the last words of good men. Let us set high store by these later words of our ascending Lord. It is very curious to my mind that Jesus should make mention of John the Baptist and of John's baptism in these last words. Read the fifth verse: "John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." It is very usual for good men's memories, in their last hours, to go back to their first hours. I trust that some of us will think of our baptism even when we are dying.
"High heaven, that beard the solemn vow, That vow renew'd shall daily hear: Till in life's latest hour I bow, And bless in death a bond so dear."
Our Lord began in such a way that he could afford to look back on his beginning. Some do not commence so; their beginning is so undecided, so imperfect, so hesitating, that they may well wish to have it forgotten. But our Lord, at the close of his sojourn on earth, thinks of John the Baptist, and pays him a dying word of respect just before he is taken up into glory. I like to notice that interesting fact. But, now, to come more to the text, a question was put to our Lord. Many questions were asked of him by his disciples, some of them not very wise ones. We are very glad that they asked them, for they have extracted from the Savior a great amount of instruction; and although this question about restoring the kingdom to Israel may have been a mistaken one, and they may have meant a more material and carnal kingdom than our Savior intended to establish (of that I am not sure), yet the question brought to us a reply which we may well store up in our memories and hearts: "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." We have three things to talk about to-night; first, some things which are not for us; secondly, some things for us to receive; and thirdly, something for us to be. I. First, then, let us consider SOME THINGS WHICH ARE NOT FOR US. It is not for us to know the times and the seasons, and to be able to make a map of the future. There are some great events of the future very clearly revealed. The prophecy is not at all indistinct about the facts that will occur; but as to when they will occur, we have no data. Some think that they have; but our Lord here seems to say that we do not know the times and the seasons, and that it is not for us to know them. I pass no censure upon brethren who think that, by elaborate calculations, they find out what is to be in the future; I say that I pass no censure, but time has passed censure of the strongest kind upon all their predecessors. I forget how many miles of books interpreting prophecy there are in the British Museum; but I believe it amounts to miles, all of which have been disproved by the lapse of time. Some of the writers were wonderfully definite; they knew within half-an-hour when the Lord would come. Some of them were very distinct about all the events; they had mapped them all within a few years. The men who wrote the books, happily for themselves, had mostly died before the time appointed came. It is always wise to pitch on a long period of prophecy, that you may be out of the way if the thing does not come off; and they mostly did so. There were very few of them who lived to suffer the disappointment which would certainly have come to them through having fixed the wrong date. I let time censure their mistake. God forgave it, for they did it with a desire for his glory. The bulk of them were most sincere students of the Word, and herein are a lesson to us, even though they were mistaken in their calculations; but, beloved, it is not for you to know the times and the seasons. First, it is not proper for you. It is not your work. You are not sent into the world to be prophets; you are sent into the world to be witnesses. You do not come here to be prognosticators of the events of tomorrow about yourself, or about your children, or about your friends, or about the nations of the earth. A veil hangs between you and the future. Your prayer is to be, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." You are told to look for the coming of your Lord, and to stand in perpetual expectation of his return; but to know the time when he will come, is no part of your office. You are servants who are to look for your Lord, who may come at cock-crowing, or at midday, or at midnight. Keep you always on the tiptoe of expectation. It would be wrong for you to profess that you need not watch until such and such a time, for he would not come until such a date arrived. As it is not proper for you, so it is not profitable for you. What would you be the better if you could make a map of all that is yet to be? Suppose it were revealed to yon to-night, by an angel, in what respect would it alter your conduct for to-morrow? In what Way would it help you to perform the duties which your Master has enjoined upon you? I believe that it would be to you a very dangerous gift; you would be tempted to set yourself up as an interpreter of the future. If men believed in you, you would become eminent and notable, and you would be looked upon with awe. The temptation would be to become a prophet on your own account, to head a new sect, to lead a new company of men to believe in yourself. I say that that would be the temptation. For my part, I would rather not know any more than my Lord pleases to reveal to me; and if he did reveal all the future to me, I should feel like the prophets who spake of "the burden of the Lord." Neither would it ensure your salvation to be able to foretell the future, for Balaam was a great prophet, but he was a great sinner; he was an arch-rebel although he was an arch-divine. Nor do I know that, by foretelling the future, you would convince your fellow-men; for Noah told them that the world would be destroyed by the flood, he could give them a very accurate account of the time when the rain would descend, and yet they were not converted by his preaching, neither did they come into the ark. Those truths which God has revealed, you must accept for yourselves and proclaim to others; they are profitable for all purposes, and sufficient for your work; but the future is known only to God. And as it is not proper or profitable, so it is not possible for you to know the times and the seasons. You may study as you will, and pray as you please; but the times and the seasons are not committed to you. Our Lord, as man, spoke of one great event of which lie did not know the time: "Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." He does not say that now that he has risen from the dead, but he seems to hint that he did not know so as to tell his disciples; he must keep secret, even from them, that, which the Father bath put in his own power." Notice, next, dear friends, that it is not good for you to know the times and the seasons. That is what the Savior means when he says, "It is not for you to know." For, first, it would distract your attention from the great things of which you have to think. It is enough for your mind to dwell upon the cross and the coming glory of your Lord. Keep these two things distinctly before you, and you need not puzzle your brains about the future. If you did know that something important was going to happen very speedily, you might be full of consternation, and do your work in a great hurry. You might be worked up into a frenzy that would spoil all your service. Or, if there was a long time to elapse before the great event, you might feel the indifference of distance. If our Lord were not to come for another hundred years, and he may not, we cannot tell, then we might say, "My Lord delayeth his coming," and so we might begin to sleep, or to play the wanton. It is for our good to stand ever in this condition, knowing that he is coming, knowing that he will reign, knowing that certain great events will certainly transpire; but not knowing the exact times and seasons when those events are to be expected. But there is something better than knowing the times or the seasons; it is good for us to know that they are in the Father's power: "which the Father hath put in his own power." The events will come to pass, then, in due time. The future is all in God's hand. No prophecy will lack its mate. No word of God will fall unfulfilled to the ground. Possess your souls in patience: the things that are foretold are sure to happen. "Though the vision tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." I am persuaded that God never is before his time, but he never is too late. He never failed to keep tryst with his people to the tick of the clock. The future is in the Father's power. And especially let it be remembered that it is in his power as our Father. He must arrange it rightly; he must arrange it in infinite love to us. It cannot be that, in some dark hour yet to come, he will forget us. He is our Father; will he forget his children? If the times could be in my hand, how earnestly would I pray that Christ would take them into his hand, or that the Father would take away from me the dangerous power, and wield it all himself! Did we not sing just now,
"All my times are in thy hand, All events at thy command"?
The time of birth, the time of the new birth, the time of a sore trial, the time of the death of your beloved one, the time of your sickness, and how long it shall last, all these times must come, and last, and end, as shall please your Father. It is for you to know that your Father is at the helm of the ship, and therefore it cannot be wrecked. It may rock and reel to and fro; but, since he rules the waves, the vessel will not have one more tossing than his infinite love permits. Let us, then, not seek to unroll the map of the future, but calmly say,
"My God, I would not long to see My fate with curious eyes, What gloomy lines are writ for me, Or what bright scenes arise;"
but just leave it all with God. The Father hath it in his own hands, and there we wish it to be. So much concerning some things which are not for us. II. And now, secondly, there are SOME THINGS FOR US TO RECEIVE. The Savior said to the eleven that they were to wait at Jerusalem till they had received power by the Holy Ghost coming upon them. This is what we want; we want the Holy Ghost. We often speak about this; but, in truth, it is unspeakable, the power of the Holy Ghost, mysterious, divine. When it comes upon a man, he is bathed in the very essence of the Deity. The atmosphere about him becomes the life and power of God. There is an old proverb that knowledge is power; Christ has taken away the knowledge that is not power. He said, "It is not for you, child; it is not for you." But he gives you the knowledge that is power; or, rather, that power which is better than all knowledge, the power of the Holy Spirit. Gotthold, in his parables, speaks of his little child who wanted to come into his room; but he was doing something there which he did not wish the child to see, and so he went on with his work, when, to his horror and surprise, he found that his child had in some way climbed up outside the window, and was standing on the sill trying to look in to see what his father was doing hazarding his life in the attempt. You may guess that it was not long before that child was taken down with a pat, and Something more, to teach him not to pry into his father's secrets. It is so with some of us; we need just a little pat, and perhaps more than that, to keep us from looking into things that do not belong to us. We may be comforted even if we do not know the times and the seasons, for we may get something vastly better, namely, the Holy Spirit to give us real power for our life-work. The Holy Spirit gives to his people power which may be looked at from different points. He gave to some of them in the olden times miraculous power, and they went forth, having received the Spirit of God, to do great signs and wonders in the name of Christ. If you have not that, you may hope to have mental power. The Holy Spirit does not educate us, or give us culture after the common method of men, and yet there is an inner education and a higher culture which is much more to be desired, which comes from him. He leads us into all truth; he makes us feel the force of truth; he gives us a grip of truth; he writes truth upon the heart; he applies it to the understanding. Many a man has become quick of understanding in the fear of the Lord, who was very slow of understanding in other respects. The Holy Spirit takes the fool, and makes him know the wonders of redeeming love. It is amazing how persons, of very scanty gifts, and very small attainments, have, nevertheless, become wise toward God, their mental faculties being quickened with regard to heavenly things in a very remarkable manner. The power of the Spirit is also, in part, moral power. He gives to men qualities that make them strong and influential over their fellow-men, he imparts dauntless courage, calm confidence, intense affection, burning zeal, deep patience, much-enduring perseverance. Many other hallowed influences besides these are graces of the Spirit of God, which form in men a moral power exceedingly useful and exceedingly forcible. I have known men who have been slow of speech, and who have exhibited very few gifts, who have, nevertheless, been very strong men in our assemblies, true pillars of the church, for piety is power, and grace is power. Besides that, there is a more secret, subtle power still, spiritual power, wherein, in the spiritual world, a man is made a prince with God, and hath power with God; and learning how to prevail with God for men, he catches the art of prevailing With men for God. He is first a wrestler alone by Jabbok; then he becomes a wrestler in the midst of the host of sinners, conquering them for Christ, taking them captive in the name of the Most High. Power in prayer is the highest form of power; and. communion with God is power; and holiness, above all things, is a great power among the sons of men. This spiritual power makes a man influential, in a sense very different from that in which the world uses the word "influential" a disgraceful use of the word. We want men who have influence in the divinest sense, men who, somehow or other, cast a spell over their fellow-men. In their presence men cannot do what they are accustomed to do elsewhere; when these men are in any company, they check sin without a word, they incite to righteousness almost without a sentence. They carry everything before them, not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord who dwells in them. Have I not seen some, decrepit and bedridden, yet ruling a house, and influencing a parish? Have I not seen some tottering old woman who, nevertheless, has been a very queen in the circle in which she moved? Have I not seen some poor, humble rustic from the plough who, nevertheless, has worn a coronet in the midst of his fellow-men by the holiness of his life, and the spiritual power that God the Holy Ghost had imparted to him? Now, beloved, I have not time fully to describe this endowment; I have only mentioned one or two points in which it is seen, but this endowment is what we need before we can do anything for Christ. Do you always think enough of this? The teacher prepares her lesson; but does she also prepare herself by seeking the power of the Holy Spirit? The minister studies his text; but does he ask for a baptism of the Holy Ghost? I am afraid that this spiritual qualification, the most essential of all, is frequently overlooked. Then, the Lord have mercy upon us! The soldier had better go to battle without sword or rifle, the artilleryman had better wheel up his gun without powder or shot, than that we should attempt to win a soul until first of all the Holy Spirit has given us power. Power must go with the word that is preached or taught if any large result is to follow; and that power must first be in the man who speaks that word. For this power the disciples were to wait. The world was dying, bell was raging, yet they must tarry at Jerusalem till they had that power. Impetuous Peter must hold his tongue, and loving John must be quiet and must commune in secret with his Master. None of them must go out into the street or stand in the temple to proclaim the words of this life. They must stop till God should see fit to pour out his Spirit upon them; and I would to God that sometimes we could be quiet, too. It were better to be dumb than to speak only in the power of our own spirit. It were better to lay the finger on the lip than to begin to talk before our message has been burnt into us by the Holy Ghost. Wait for the live coal from off the altar to blister thy lip, for then only canst thou speak with power when thou thyself hast felt the fire of the Spirit. III. Now we pass on to the third point, which is a very important practical one, SOMETHING FOR US TO BE. If you are a disciple of Christ, you are not to look into the times and the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power; you are to receive the Spirit of God, and then there is something for you to be. Did you expect me to say that then there is something for you to do? Well, there is a great deal for you to do; but the text says, "Ye shall be witnesses"; not "Ye shall act as witnesses" only, but "Ye shall be witnesses." Every true Christian should, in his own proper person, be a witness for his Lord. "Here I stand," says he, "myself a proof of what my Lord can do. I, his servant, saved by him, and renewed by him, washed in his blood, it is I who, while I live, whether I speak or not, am a monument of his love, a trophy of his grace." "Ye shall be Witnesses unto me." Dear friends, we are to be witnesses of what Christ has done. If we have seen Christ, if we believe in Christ, let us tell it honestly. These apostles had a great deal to tell. They had been with Christ in private; they had seen his miracles; they had heard his choicest and more secret words; they had to go and bear witness to it all. And you, who have been let into the secrets of Christ, you who have communed with him more closely than others, you have much to tell. Tell it all, for whatever he has said to you in the closet you are to proclaim upon the housetop. You are to witness what you have seen, and tasted, and handled, concerning your Lord. You are to witness to what he has revealed, to make known to others the doctrine that he preached, or taught by his apostles. Mind that you do not tell any other. You are not sent to be "an original thinker", to make up a gospel as you go along; you are a witness, that is all, a retailer of Christ's truth, and you miss the end of your life unless you perpetually witness, and witness, and witness to what you know of him, and to what you have learnt from him. Let this be your prayer and your resolve,
"Give me thy strength, O God of power! Then let winds blow, or thunders roar, Thy faithful witness will I be: 'Tis fixed: I can do all through thee."
You are to witness to what you have experienced concerning Christ. Now, what is that? I will just run over this witness, feeling that there are many hundreds of dear friends here to-night who could bear the same testimony, and who will do so as they have opportunity. First, I beg to say to all present here, to-night, that the Lord Jesus Christ can remove despair, and every form of spiritual distress. He did so to me. I was full of darkness, the shadow of death was upon me, and I found no comfort till I heard that blessed text, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." I looked unto him, and was lightened, and my face was not ashamed; and I am here tonight to bear witness that it load was thus taken from me, which I could not get rid of in any other way, and my midnight was, in a single moment, turned into the blaze of midday. Neither have I ever gone back to that darkness, nor have I again had reason to cry, "Woe is me that ever I was born." Nay, there is in the name of Jesus a balm for every mental wound, a relief for all the agony of a tortured spirit. I am sure of it; I am not saying to you what I have merely heard from other people, but what I have myself felt, and there are many here who can endorse my testimony that there is no relief to a sinner's aching heart Like that which Jesus brings. I wish that you would all prove this truth for yourselves; but, at any rate, we are witnesses that it is so. And, next, our Lord Jesus is a great transformer of character. I do not like to speak of myself, but I will speak of many a man whom I know. He came into this Tabernacle a drunkard, a swearer, a lover of unholy pleasures, and while the Word was preached, the Lord broke him down, and melted his heart. Now he hates what once he loved; and as to those pursuits which were once distasteful to him, so that he cursed and swore at the very mention of them, or at least poured ridicule upon others who loved them, he now loves them himself, and it is a wonder to himself to find himself where he now is. He never dreamt of being what he is. Ask his wife whether there is a change in him; ask his little children whether there is a change in him; ask his workmates, ask his employer, ask anybody, and they will all say, "He is not the same man." The Lord Jesus Christ has turned everything upside down with him. It was the wrong way up before, and so he has put it all right. He can turn the lion into a lamb, the raven into a dove; and he has done so to many of our friends who are sitting in this house to-night, as they would willingly bear witness. Oh, if there are any here, to-night, who would learn the way of righteousness, and quit the paths of sin, let them believe my testimony, which comes not out of feigned lips! "I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not." The Lord is able to transform character in a very wonderful way; he has done it for many of us, and if thou believest in him, he will do it for thee also. Next, we should like to bear witness to the sustaining power of Christ under temptation. After being saved, we have been tempted, and we are men of like passions with others. I speak for my sisters as well as for my brothers here. We have all been tempted, and we have been well nigh thrown back to our old condition; but when we have fled to Christ, and trusted in him, our feet have stood firm even upon the brink of the precipice. We have passed through fire and water by way of trial and temptation, and yet we stand, for Christ is able to guard us even from stumbling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with In exceeding joy. We are not talking to you of things that we have dreamt. O sirs, we would not like to tell some of you how we have been tempted, how hard it has gone with us, how we have been saved by the skin of our teeth; but saved we have been, to the praise of God's mighty grace. Let his name be praised for ever and ever. That is our witness. If you would be kept from temptation, come and trust him, too. We wish also to say that the Spirit of God coming from Christ moves men to high and noble thoughts. Selfishness no longer rules the man who believes in Christ; he loves his fellow-men, he desires their good, he can forgive them if they persecute him, he can lay down his life for them. Have we not had many who have gone forth among the heathen, and laid down their lives for Christ? I was speaking with a brother from the Congo on Monday, and I spoke of the many deaths there, and he said, "Yes, it looks a sad. thing that so many missionaries should die; but, sir," he added, "that is the first thing that we have done in Africa that is really hopeful. I have often heard the natives say to me, 'These men must believe a true religion, or else they would not come here to die for us poor black men.' Men begin to believe this new kind of evidence. The blood of the missionary becomes the seed of the Church." I do not doubt that it is so and, beloved, if you and I can live wholly and alone for Christ, if we can live nobly, if we can get out of ourselves, if we can rise superior to worldly advantages, and prove that we believe all we say, we shall convince our fellow-men of the truth of our religion. This is what the Holy Spirit would have us to be, and we desire to obey his promptings more and more.
"Holy Spirit, dwell in me; I, myself, would holy be."
I will not detain you many minutes more; but I must bear my testimony to the supporting power of Christ in the time of trouble. There are many here, who would have been in the asylum, in their time of trial, if it had not been that they could carry their grief to Christ. There are some of us who are not strangers to very acute pain, and to a long continuance of it, too; and we have found no comfort in the world like going to our Lord when racked with anguish, and torn with pain. There is a power about him to charm us into joy; when everything would drive us to distress, and almost to despair. And, specially, I want to bear my witness, not of course a personal one, but that of an observer, as to the power of our holy religion in the hour of death. I have been at many death-beds; I have seen many Christians just about to die. There it is that the power of our holy religion comes in. How calm, how resigned, sometimes how triumphant, how ecstatic, is the frame of mind of the departing believer! I never heard one of them regret that he was a Christian. In times when men sift what they have done and believed, and when they tell no lies, for the naked truth comes up before them, I have heard them glory in belonging to Christ, and in resting in him; but I have never heard them regret that they did so. Our religion is not all of the future; it is not a thing that dreams concerning the world to come. It gives us present joy, present strength, present comfort, and we commend it to you most heartily, for this is our duty, to be witnesses for Christ. There are some who can give their evidence-in-chief, but the pity is that, when they come to be cross-examined, when they get among the ungodly in the world, they make a mess of it. The Lord have mercy upon some who come in among us, and even profess to know Christ, and do not; it is their lie that taints the testimony of the true in the judgment of mankind! Be you the more zealous to overbear their treachery by your consistency. Be you the more full of integrity, and stern truthfulness, and boundless love, to make up for these wounds which your Lord receives so often in the house of his friends. May the Spirit of God rest upon you, beloved in the Lord, and may you hear your Master say to you, Ye shall be witnesses unto me"! Amen.
The Ascension and the Second Advent Practically Considered
December 28th, 1884 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." Acts 1:10 , Acts 1:11 .
Four great events shine out brightly in our Savior's story. All Christian minds delight to dwell upon his birth, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension. These make four rounds in that ladder of light, the foot of which is upon the earth, but the top whereof reacheth to heaven. We could not afford to dispense with any one of those four events, nor would it be profitable for us to forget, or to under-estimate the value of any one of them. That the Son of God was born of a woman creates in us the intense delight of a brotherhood springing out of a common humanity. That Jesus once suffered unto the death for our sins, and thereby made a full atonement for us, is the rest and life of our spirits. The manger and the cross together are divine seals of love. That the Lord Jesus rose again from the dead is the warrant of our justification, and also a transcendently delightful assurance of the resurrection of all his people, and of their eternal life in him. Hath he not said, "Because I live ye shall live also"? The resurrection of Christ is the morning star of our future glory. Equally delightful is the remembrance of his ascension. No song is sweeter than this "Thou hast ascended on high; thou hast led captivity captive, thou hast received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." Each one of those four events points to another, and they all lead up to it: the fifth link in the golden chain is our Lord's second and most glorious advent. Nothing is mentioned between his ascent and his descent. True, a rich history comes between; but it lies in a valley between two stupendous mountains: we step from alp to alp as we journey in meditation from the ascension to the second advent. I say that each of the previous four events points to it. Had he not come a first time in humiliation, born under the law, he could not have come a second time in amazing glory "without a sin-offering unto salvation." Because he died once we rejoice that he dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over him, and therefore he cometh to destroy that last enemy whom he hath already conquered. It is our joy, as we think of our Redeemer as risen, to feel that in consequence of his rising the trump of the archangel shall assuredly sound for the awaking of all his slumbering people, when the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout. As for his ascension, he could not a second time descend if he had not first ascended; but having perfumed heaven with his presence, and prepared a place for his people, we may fitly expect that he will come again and receive us unto himself, that where he is there we may be also. I want you, therefore, as in contemplation you pass with joyful footsteps over these four grand events, as your faith leaps from his birth to his death, and from his resurrection to his ascension, to be looking forward, and even hastening unto this crowning fact of our Lord's history; for ere long he shall so come in like manner as he was seen go up into heaven. This morning, in our meditation, we will start from the ascension; and if I had sufficient imagination I should like to picture our Lord and the eleven walking up the side of Olivet, communing as they went, a happy company, with a solemn awe upon them, but with an intense joy in having fellowship with each other. Each disciple was glad to think that his dear Lord and Master who had been crucified was now among them, not only alive but surrounded with a mysterious safety and glory which none could disturb. The enemy was as still as a stone: not a dog moved his tongue: his bitterest foes made no sign during the days of our Lord's after-life below. The company moved onward peacefully towards Bethany Bethany which they all knew and loved. The Savior seemed drawn there at the time of his ascension, even as men's minds return to old and well-loved scenes when they are about to depart out of this world. His happiest moments on earth had been spent beneath the roof where lived Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. Perhaps it was best for the disciples that he should leave them at that place where he had been most hospitably entertained, to show that he departed in peace and not in anger. There they had seen Lazarus raised from the dead by him who was now to be taken up from them: the memory of the triumphant past would help the tried faith of the present. There they had heard the voice saying, "Loose him, and let him go," and there they might fitly see their Lord loosed from all bonds of earthly gravitation that he might go to his Father and their Father. The memories of the place might help to calm their minds and arouse their spirits to that fullness of joy which ought to attend the glorifying of their Lord. But they have come to a standstill, having reached the brow of the hill. The Savior stands conspicuously in the center of the group, and, following upon most instructive discourse, he pronounces a blessing upon them. He lifts his pierced hands, and while he is lifting them and is pronouncing words of love, he begins to rise from the earth. He has risen above them all to their astonishment! In a moment he has passed beyond the olives, which seem with their silvery sheen to be lit up by his milder radiance. While the disciples are looking, the Lord has ascended into mid-air, and speedily he has risen to the regions of the clouds. They stand spell-bound with astonishment, and suddenly a bright cloud, like a chariot of God, bears him away. That cloud conceals him from mortal gaze. Though we have known Christ after the flesh, now after the flesh know we him no more. They are riveted to the spot, very naturally so: they linger long in the place, they stand with streaming eyes, wonder-struck, still looking upward. It is not the Lord's will that they should long remain inactive; their reverie is interrupted. They might have stood there till wonder saddened into fear. As it was, they remained long enough; for the angel's words may be accurately rendered, "Why have ye stood, gazing up into heaven?" Their lengthened gaze needed to be interrupted, and, therefore, two shining ones, such as aforetime met the women at the sepulcher, are sent to them. These messengers of God appear in human form that they may not alarm them, and in white raiment as if to remind them that all was bright and joyous; and these white-robed ministers stood with them as if they would willingly join their company. As no one of the eleven would break silence, the men in white raiment commenced the discourse. Addressing them in the usual celestial style, they asked a question which contained its own answer, and then went on to tell their message. As they had once said to the women, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen;" so did they now say, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." The angels showed their knowledge of them by calling them "men of Galilee," and reminded them that they were yet upon earth by recalling their place of birth. Brought back to their senses, their reverie over, the apostles at once gird up their loins for active service; they do not need twice telling, but hasten to Jerusalem. The vision of angels has singularly enough brought them back into the world of actual life again, and they obey the command, "Tarry ye at Jerusalem." They seem to say, the taking up of our Master is not a thing to weep about: he has gone to his throne and to his glory, and he said it was expedient for us that he should go away. He will now send us the promise of the Father; we scarcely know what it will be like, but let us, in obedience to his will, make the best of our way to the place where he bade us await the gift of power. Do you not see them going down the side of Olivet, taking that Sabbath-day's journey into the cruel and wicked city without a thought of fear; having no dread of the bloodthirsty crew who slew their Lord, but happy in the memory of their Lord's exaltation and in the expectation of a wonderful display of his power. They held fellowship of the most delightful kind with one another, and anon entered into the upper room, where in protracted prayer and communion they waited for the promise of the Father. You see I have no imagination: I have barely mentioned the incidents in the simplest language. Yet try and realize the scene, for it will be helpful so to do, since our Lord Jesus is to come in like manner as the disciples saw him go up into heaven. My first business this morning will be to consider the gentle chiding administered by the shining ones: "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up unto heaven?" Secondly, the cheering description of our Lord which the white-robed messengers used, "This same Jesus"; and then, thirdly, the practical truth which they taught "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." I. First, then, here is A GENTLE CHIDING. It is not sharply uttered by men dressed in black who use harsh speech, and upbraid the servants of God severely for what was rather a mistake than a fault. No; the language is strengthening, yet tender: the fashion of a question allows them rather to reprove themselves than to be reproved; and the tone is that of brotherly love, and affectionate concern. Notice, that what these saintly men were doing seems at first sight to be very right. Methinks, if Jesus were among us now we would fix our eyes upon him, and never withdraw them. He is altogether lovely, and it would seem wicked to yield our eyesight to any inferior object so long as he was to be seen. When he ascended up into heaven it was the duty of his friends to look upon him. It can never be wrong to look up; we are often bidden to do so, and it is even a holy saying of the Psalmist, "I will direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up"; and, again, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help." If it be right to look up into heaven, it must be still more right to look up while Jesus rises to the place of his glory. Surely it had been wrong if they had looked anywhere else, it was due to the Lamb of God that they should behold him as long as eyes could follow him. He is the Sun: where should eyes be turned but to his light? He is the King; and where should courtiers within the palace gate turn their eyes but to their King as he ascends to his throne? The truth is, there was nothing wrong in their looking up into heaven; but they went a little further than looking; they stood "gazing." A little excess in right may be faulty. It may be wise to look, but foolish to gaze. There is a very thin partition sometimes between that which is commendable and that which is censurable. There is a golden mean which it is not easy to keep. The exact path of right is often as narrow as a razor's edge, and he must be wise that doth not err either on the right hand or on the left. "Look" is ever the right word. Why, it is "Look unto me, and be saved." Look, aye, look steadfastly and intently: be your posture that of one "looking unto Jesus," always throughout life. But there is a gazing which is not commendable, when the look becomes not that of reverent worship, but of an overweening curiosity; when there mingles with the desire to know what should be known, a prying into that which it is for God's glory to conceal. Brethren, it is of little use to look up into an empty heaven. If Christ himself be not visible in heaven, then in vain do we gaze, since there is nothing for a saintly eye to see. When the person of Jesus was gone out of the azure vault above them, and the cloud had effectually concealed him, why should they continue to gaze when God himself had drawn the curtain? If infinite wisdom had withdrawn the object upon which they desired to gaze, what would their gazing be but a sort of reflection upon the wisdom which had removed their Lord? Yet it did seem very right. Thus certain things that you and I may do may appear right, and yet we may need to be chidden out of them into something better: they may be right in themselves, but not appropriate for the occasion, not seasonable, nor expedient. They may be right up to a point, and then may touch the boundary of excess. A steadfast gaze into heaven may be to a devout soul a high order of worship, but if this filled up much of our working time it might become the idlest form of folly. Yet I cannot help adding that it was very natural. I do not wonder that the whole eleven stood gazing up, for if I had been there I am sure I should have done the same. How struck they must have been with the ascent of the Master out of their midst! You would be amazed if some one from among our own number now began to ascend into heaven! Would you not? Our Lord did not gradually melt away from sight as a phantom, or dissolve into thin air as a mere apparition: the Savior did not disappear in that way at all, but he rose, and they saw that it was his very self that was so rising. His own body, the materialism in which he had veiled himself, actually, distinctly, and literally, rose to heaven before their eyes. I repeat, the Lord did not dissolve, and disappear like a vision of the night, but he evidently rose till the cloud intervened so that they could see him no more. I think I should have stood looking to the very place where his cloudy chariot had been. I know it would be idle to continue so to do, but our hearts often urge us on to acts which we could not justify logically. Hearts are not to be argued with. Sometimes you stand by a grave where one is buried whom you dearly loved: you go there often to weep. You cannot help it, the place is precious to you; yet you could not prove that you do any good by your visits, perhaps you even injure yourself thereby, and deserve to be gently chidden with the question, "why?" It may be the most natural thing in the world, and yet it may not be a wise thing. The Lord allows us to do that which is innocently natural, but he will not have us carry it too far; for then it might foster an evil nature. Hence he sends an interrupting messenger: not an angel with a sword, or even a rod; but he sends some man in white raiment, I mean one who is both cheerful and holy, and he, by his conduct or his words, suggests to us the question, "Why stand ye here gazing?" Cui bono? What will be the benefit? What will it avail? Thus our understanding being called into action, and we being men of thought, we answer to ourselves, "This will not do. We must not stand gazing here for ever," and therefore we arouse ourselves to get back to the Jerusalem of practical life, where in the power of God we hope to do service for our Master. Notice, then, that the disciples were doing that which seemed to be right and what was evidently very natural, but that it is very easy to carry the apparently right and the absolutely natural too far. Let us take heed to ourselves, and often ask our hearts, "Why?" For, thirdly, notice that what they did was not after all justifiable upon strict reason. While Christ was going up it was proper that they should adoringly look at him. He might almost have said, "If ye see me when I am taken up a double portion of my spirit shall rest upon you." They did well to look where he led the way. But when he was gone, still to remain gazing was an act which they could not exactly explain to themselves, and could not justify to others. Put the question thus: "What purpose will be fulfilled by your continuing to gaze into the sky? He is gone, it is absolutely certain that he is gone. He is taken up, and God himself has manifestly concealed all trace of him by bidding yonder cloud sail in between him and you. Why gaze ye still? He told you 'I go unto my Father.' Why stand and gaze?" We may under the influence of great love, act unwisely. I remember well seeing the action of a woman whose only son was emigrating to a distant colony. I stood in the station, and I noticed her many tears and her frequent embraces of her boy; but the train came up and he entered the carriage. After the train had passed beyond the station, she was foolish enough to break away from friends who sought to detain her; she ran along the platform, leaped down upon the railroad and pursued the flying train. It was natural, but it had been better left undone. What was the use of it? We had better abstain from acts which serve no practical purpose; for in this life we have neither time nor strength to waste in fruitless action. The disciples would be wise to cease gazing, for nobody would be benefitted by it, and they would not themselves be blessed. What is the use of gazing when there is nothing to see. Well, then, did the angels ask, "Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" Again, put another question, What precept were they obeying when they stood gazing up into heaven? If you have a command from God to do a certain thing, you need not inquire into the reason of the command, it is disobedient to begin to canvas God's will; but when there is no precept whatever, why persevere in an act which evidently does not promise to bring any blessing? Who bade them stand gazing up into heaven? If Christ had done so, then in Christ's name let them stand like statues and never turn their heads: but as he had not bidden them, why did they do what he had not commanded, and leave undone what he had commanded? For he had strictly charged them that they should tarry at Jerusalem till they were "endued with power from on high." So what they did was not justifiable. Here is the practical point for us: What they did we are very apt to imitate. "Oh," say you, "I shall never stand gazing up into heaven." I am not sure of that. Some Christians are very curious, but not obedient. Plain precepts are neglected, but difficult problems they seek to solve. I remember one who used always to be dwelling upon the vials and seals and trumpets. He was great at apocalyptic symbols; but he had seven children, and he had no family prayer. If he had left the vials and trumpets and minded his boys and girls, it would have been a deal better. I have known men marvellously great upon Daniel, and specially instructed in Ezekiel, but singularly forgetful of the twentieth of Exodus, and not very clear upon Romans the eighth. I do not speak with any blame of such folks for studying Daniel and Ezekiel, but quite the reverse; yet I wish they had been more zealous for the conversion of the sinners in their neighborhoods, and more careful to assist the poor saints. I admit the value of the study of the feet of the image in Nebuchadnezzar's vision, and the importance of knowing the kingdoms which make up the ten toes, but I do not see the propriety of allowing such studies to overlay the common-places of practical godliness. If the time spent over obscure theological propositions were given to a mission in the dim alley near the good man's house, more benefit would come to man and more glory to God. I would have you understand all mysteries, brethren, if you could; but do not forget that our chief business here below is to cry, "Behold the Lamb!" By all manner of means read and search till you know all that the Lord has revealed concerning things to come; but first of all see to it that your children are brought to the Savior's feet, and that you are workers together with God in the upbuilding of his church. The dense mass of misery and ignorance and sin which is round about us on every side demands all our powers; and if you do not respond to the call, though I am not a man in white apparel, I shall venture to say to you, "Ye men of Christendom, why stand ye gazing up into the mysteries when so much is to be done for Jesus, and you are leaving it undone?" O ye who are curious but not obedient, I fear I speak to you in vain, but I have spoken. May the Holy Spirit also speak. Others are contemplative but not active, much given to the study of Scripture and to meditation thereon, but not zealous for good works. Contemplation is so scarce in these days that I could wish there were a thousand times as much of it; but in the case to which I refer everything runs in the one channel of thought, all time is spent in reading, in enjoyment, in rapture, in pious leisure. Religion never ought to become the subject of selfishness, and yet I fear some treat it as if its chief end was spiritual gratification. When a man's religion all lies in his saving his own self, and in enjoying holy things for his own self; there is a disease upon him. When his judgment of a sermon is based upon the one question, "Did it feed me?" it is a swinish judgment. There is such a thing as getting a swinish religion in which you are yourself first, yourself second, yourself third, yourself to the utmost end. Did Jesus ever think or speak in that fashion? Contemplation of Christ himself may be so carried out as to lead you away from Christ: the recluse meditates on Jesus, but he is as unlike the busy self-denying Jesus as well can be. Meditation unattended with active service in the spreading of the gospel among men, well deserves the rebuke of the angel, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" Moreover, some are careful and anxious and deliriously impatient for some marvellous interposition. We get at times into a sad state of mind, because we do not see the kingdom of Christ advancing as we desire. I suppose it is with you as it is with me, I begin to fret, and I am deeply troubled, and I feel that there is good reason that I should be, for truth is fallen in the streets, and the days of blasphemy and rebuke are upon us. Then we pine; for the Master is away, and we cry, "When will he be back again? Oh, why are his chariots so long in coming? Why tarries he through the ages?" Our desires sour into impatience, and we commence gazing up into heaven, looking for his coming with a restlessness which does not allow us to discharge our duty as we should. Whenever anybody gets into that state, this is the word, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?" In certain cases this uneasiness has drawn to itself a wrong expectation of immediate wonders, and an intense desire for sign-seeing. Ah me, what fanaticisms come of this! In America years ago, one came forward who declared that on such a day the Lord would come, and he led a great company to believe his crazy predictions. Many took their horses and fodder for two or three days, and went out into the woods, expecting to be all the more likely to see all that was to be seen when once away from the crowded city. All over the States there were people who had made ascension-dresses in which to soar into the air in proper costume. They waited, and they waited, and I am sure that no text could have been more appropriate for them than this, "Ye men of America, why stand ye here gazing up into heaven?" Nothing came of it; and yet there are thousands in England and America who only need a fanatical leader, and they would run into the like folly. The desire to know the times and seasons is a craze with many poor bodies whose insanity runs in that particular groove. Every occurrence is a "sign of the times": a sign, I may add, which they do not understand. An earthquake is a special favourite with them. "Now," they cry, "the Lord is coming"; as if there had not been earthquakes of the sort we have heard of lately hundreds of times since our Lord went up into heaven. When the prophetic earthquakes occur in divers places, we shall know of it without the warnings of these brethren. What a number of persons have been infatuated by the number of the beast, and have been ready to leap for joy because they have found the number 666 in some great one's name. Why, everybody's name will yield that number if you treat it judiciously, and use the numerals of Greece, Rome, Egypt, China, or Timbuctoo. I feel weary with the silly way in which some people make toys out of Scripture, and play with texts as with a pack of cards. Whenever you meet with a man who sets up to be a prophet, keep out of his way in the future; and when you hear of signs and wonders, turn you to your Lord, and in patience possess your souls. "The just shall live by his faith." There is no other way of living among wild enthusiasts. Believe in God, and ask not for miracles and marvels, or the knowledge of times and seasons. To know when the Lord will restore the kingdom is not in your power. Remember that verse which I read just now in your hearing, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons." If I were introduced into a room where a large number of parcels were stored up, and I was told that there was something good for me, I should begin to look for that which had my name upon it, and when I came upon a parcel and I saw in pretty big letters, "It is not for you," I should leave it alone. Here, then, is a casket of knowledge marked, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power." Cease to meddle with matters which are concealed, and be satisfied to know the things which are clearly revealed. II. Secondly, I want you to notice THE CHEERING DESCRIPTION which these bright spirits give concerning our Lord. They describe him thus, "This same Jesus." I appreciate the description the more because it came from those who knew him. "He was seen of angels"; they had watched him all his life long, and they knew him, and when they, having just seen him rise to his Father and his God, said of him, "This same Jesus," then I know by an infallible testimony that he was the same, and that he is the same. Jesus is gone but he still exists. He has left us, but he is not dead; he has not dissolved into nothing like the mist of the morning. "This same Jesus" is gone up unto his Father's throne, and he is there to-day as certainly as he once stood at Pilate's bar. As surely as he did hang upon the cross, so surely does he, the self-same man, sit upon the throne of God and reign over creation. I like to think of the positive identity of the Christ in the seventh heaven with the Christ in the lowest deeps of agony. The Christ they spat upon is now the Christ whose name the cherubim and seraphim are hymning day without night. The Christ they scourged is he before whom principalities and powers delight to cast their crowns. Think of it and be glad this morning; and do not stand gazing up into heaven after a myth or a dream. Jesus lives; mind that you live also. Do not loiter as if you had nothing at all to do, or as if the kingdom of God had come to an end because Jesus is gone from the earth, as to his bodily presence. It is not all over; he still lives, and he has given you a work to do till he comes. Therefore, go and do it. "This same Jesus" I love that word, for "Jesus" means a Savior. Oh, ye anxious sinners here present, the name of him who has gone up into his glory is full of invitation to you! Will you not come to "this same Jesus"? This is he who opened the eyes of the blind and brought forth the prisoners out of the prison-house. He is doing the same thing to-day. Oh that your eyes may see his light! He that touched the lepers, and that raised the dead, is the same Jesus still, able to save to the uttermost. Oh that you may look and live! You have only to come to him by faith, as she did who touched the hem of his garment; you have but to cry to him as the blind man did whose sight he restored; for he is the same Jesus, bearing about with him the same tender love for guilty men, and the same readiness to receive and cleanse all that come to him by faith. "This same Jesus." Why, that must have meant that he who is in heaven is the same Christ who was on earth, but it must also mean that he who is to come will be the same Jesus that went up into heaven. There is no change in our blessed Master's nature, nor will there ever be. There is a great change in his condition:
"The Lord shall come, but not the same As once in lowliness he came, humble man before his foes, A weary man, and full of woes."
He will be "the same Jesus" in nature though not in condition: he will possess the same tenderness when he comes to judge, the same gentleness of heart when all the glories of heaven and earth shall gird his brow. Our eye shall see him in that day, and we shall recognize him not only by the nail-prints, but by the very look of his countenance, by the character that gleams from that marvellous face; and we shall say, "'Tis he! 'tis he! the self-same Christ that went up from the top of Olivet from the midst of his disciples." Go to him with your troubles, as you would have done when he was here. Look forward to his second coming without dread. Look for him with that joyous expectancy with which you would welcome Jesus of Bethany, who loved Mary, and Martha, and Lazarus. On the back of that sweet title came this question, "Why stand ye here gazing into heaven?" They might have said, "We stay here because we do not know where to go. Our Master is gone." But oh, it is the same Jesus, and he is coming again, so go down to Jerusalem and get to work directly. Do not worry yourselves; no grave accident has occurred; it is not a disaster that Christ has gone, but an advance in his work. Despisers tell us nowadays, "Your cause is done for! Christianity is spun out! Your divine Christ is gone; we have not seen a trace of his miracle-working hand, nor of that voice which no man could rival." Here is our answer: We are not standing gazing up into heaven, we are not paralyzed because Jesus is away. He lives, the great Redeemer lives; and though it is our delight to lift up our eyes because we expect his coming, it is equally our delight to turn our heavenly gazing into an earthward watching, and to go down into the city, and there to tell that Jesus is risen, that men are to be saved by faith in him, and that whosoever believeth in him shall have everlasting life. We are not defeated, far from it: his ascension is not a retreat, but an advance. His tarrying is not for want of power, but because of the abundance of his long-suffering. The victory is not questionable. All things work for it; all the hosts of God are mustering for the final charge. This same Jesus is mounting his white horse to lead forth the armies of heaven, conquering and to conquer. III. Our third point is this, THE GREAT PRACTICAL TRUTH. This truth is not one that is to keep us gazing into heaven, but one that is to make each of us go to his house to render earnest service. What is it? Why, first, that Jesus in gone into heaven. Jesus is gone! Jesus is gone! It sounds like a knell. Jesus is taken up from you into heaven! that sounds like a marriage peal. He is gone, but he is gone up to the hills whence he can survey the battle; up to the throne, from which he can send us succour. The reserve forces of the omnipotent stood waiting till their Captain came, and now that he is come into the centre of the universe, he can send legions of angels, or he can raise up hosts of men for the help of his cause. I see every reason for going down into the world and getting to work, for he is gone up into heaven and "all power is given unto him in heaven and in earth." Is not that a good argument "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"? Jesus will come again. That is another reason for girding our loins, because it is clear that he has not quitted the fight, nor deserted the field of battle. Our great Captain is still heading the conflict; he has ridden into another part of the field, but he will be back again, perhaps in the twinkling of an eye. You do not say that a commander has given up the campaign because it is expedient that he should withdraw from your part of the field. Our Lord is doing the best thing for his kingdom in going away. It was in the highest degree expedient that he should go, and that we should each one receive the Spirit. There is a blessed unity between Christ the King and the commonest soldier in the ranks. He has not taken his heart from us, nor his care from us, nor his interest from us: he is bound up heart and soul with his people, and their holy warfare, and this is the evidence of it, "Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." Then, moreover, we are told in the text and this in a reason why we should get to our work that he is coming in like manner as he departed. Certain of the commentators do not seem to understand English at all. "He which is taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven," this, they say, relates to his spiritual coming at Pentecost. Give anybody a grain of sense, and do they not see that a spiritual coming is not a coming in the same manner in which he went up into heaven? There is an analogy, but certainly not a likeness between the two things. Our Lord was taken up; they could see him rise: he will come again, and "every eye shall see him." He went up not in spirit, but in person: he will come down in person. "This same Jesus shall so come in like manner." He went up as a matter of fact: not in poetic figure and spiritual symbol, but as a matter of fact, "This same Jesus" literally went up. "This same Jesus" will literally come again. He will descend in clouds even as he went up in clouds; and "he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth" even as he stood aforetime. He went up to heaven unopposed; no high priests, nor scribes, nor Pharisees, nor even one of the rabble opposed his ascension; it were ridiculous to suppose that they could; and when he comes a second time none will stand against him. His adversaries shall perish; as the fat of rams shall they melt away in his presence. When he cometh he shall break rebellious nations with a rod of iron, for his force shall be irresistible in that day. Brethren, do not let anybody spiritualize away all this from you. Jesus is coming as a matter of fact, therefore go down to your sphere of service as a matter of fact. Get to work and teach the ignorant, win the wayward, instruct the children, and everywhere tell out the sweet name of Jesus. As a matter of fact, give of your substance and don't talk about it. As a matter of fact, consecrate your daily life to the glory of God. As a matter of fact, live wholly for your Redeemer. Jesus is not coming in a sort of mythical, misty, hazy way, he is literally and actually coming, and he will literally and actually call upon you to give an account of your stewardship. Therefore, now, to-day, literally not symbolically, personally and not by deputy, go out through that portion of the world which you can reach, and preach the gospel to every creature according as you have opportunity. For this is what the men in white apparel meant be ready to meet your coming Lord. What is the way to be ready to meet Jesus? If it is the same Jesus that went away from us who is coming, then let us be doing what he was doing before he went away. If it is the same Jesus that is coming we cannot possibly put ourselves into a posture of which he will better approve than by going about doing good. If you would meet him with joy, serve him with earnestness. If the Lord Jesus Christ were to come to-day I should like him to find me at my studying, praying, or preaching. Would you not like him to find you in your Sunday-school, in your class, or out there at the corner of the street preaching, or doing whatever you have the privilege of doing in his name? Would you meet your Lord in idleness? Do not think of it. I called one day on one of our members, and she was whitening the front steps. She got up all in confusion; she said, "Oh dear, sir, I did not know you were coming to-day, or I would have been ready." I replied, "Dear friend, you could not be in better trim than you are: you are doing your duty like a good housewife, and may God bless you." She had no money to spare for a servant, and she was doing her duty by keeping the home tidy: I thought she looked more beautiful with her pail beside her than if she had been dressed according to the latest fashion. I said to her, "When the Lord Jesus Christ comes suddenly, I hope he will find me doing as you were doing, namely, fulfilling the duty of the hour." I want you all to get to your pails without being ashamed of them. Serve the Lord in some way or other; serve him always; serve him intensely; serve him more and more. Go to-morrow and serve the Lord at the counter, or in the workshop, or in the field. Go and serve the Lord by helping the poor and the needy, the widow and the fatherless; serve him by teaching the children, especially by endeavoring to train your own children. Go and hold a temperance meeting, and show the drunkard that there is hope for him in Christ, or go to the midnight meeting and let the fallen woman know that Jesus can restore her. Do what Jesus has given you the power to do, and then, ye men of Britain, ye will not stand gazing up into heaven, but you will wait upon the Lord in prayer, and you will receive the Spirit of God, and you will publish to all around the doctrine of "Believe and live." Then when he comes he will say to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." So may his grace enable us to do. Amen.
August 30th, 1868 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
© Copyright 2004 by Tony Capoccia. This updated file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold. All rights reserved.
Verses quoted, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ©1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
This sermon, preached by Tony Capoccia, is now available on Audio Cassette or CD:
“They all joined together constantly in prayer.” [Acts 1:14 ]
In churches which are not completely tied and bound by liturgies and rituals, it has been common practice to hold meetings for corporate prayer. We call them prayer-meetings. Now, it may be profitable, now and then, to examine some of our traditions, to see whether they are Scriptural, to note their defects, to see in what respect they may be improved, or to observe their merits, so that we can be induced to continue in them even more. The subject, therefore, this evening, suggested to me by the fact that we are going to meet for a day of prayer tomorrow, is that of prayer-meetings assemblies of the people of God for that special kind of worship which consists in each one expressing their desire before the Lord. Let us go through this very briefly:
I. THE APOSTOLIC HISTORY OF MEETINGS FOR PRAYER.
These meetings must have been very common. They were, doubtless, everyday occurrences; but still there are a few facts connected with them which may be instructive.
1. One of the first uses of the prayer-meeting was to encourage a discouraged people. The first meeting for prayer which we find after our Lord’s ascension into heaven is the one mentioned in the text, and we are led from it to remark that united prayer is the comfort of a sorrowful church . Can you imagine the sorrow which filled the hearts of the disciples when their Lord had departed from them? They were an army without a leader, a flock without a shepherd, a family without a head. Exposed to innumerable trials, the strong, bold wall of Jesus’ presence, which had been around about them, was now withdrawn. In the deep desolation of their spirits they resorted to prayer. They were like a flock of sheep that will huddle together in a storm, or come closer to each other when they hear the sound of the wolf. Poor defenseless creatures as they were, yet they loved to come together, and would die together if need be. They felt that nothing made them so happy, nothing so encourage them, nothing so strengthened them to bear their daily difficulties, as to draw near to God in common prayer. Beloved, let every church learn the value of its prayer-meetings in its darkest hour. When the pastor is gone, and when it has been difficult to find a suitable successor; when, it may be, there are splits and divisions; when death falls upon honored members, when poverty comes in, when there is a spiritual famine, and when the Holy Spirit appears to have withdrawn himself then there is but one remedy for these and a thousand other evils, and that one remedy is contained in this short sentence, “Let us pray.”
Those churches which are now writing “Ichabod” (i.e., “The glory has departed”) on their walls, and who sorrowfully confess that the congregation is slowly dwindling, might soon restore their numbers if they only knew how to pray. These Brothers and Sisters, though they are presently discouraged, would soon change defeat into success, and their spirits would be revived simply by drawing near to God.
And if any of you are personally afflicted and troubled in your lives, you will find that, after meeting God in His throne room, your own private prayer closet will be especially comforting to you, and after that, come and unite with the saints of God, who have all most likely experienced the same struggles and assaults like yours, and as you hear them pouring out their hearts and making requests such as you would make, but scarcely know how to word them, you will clearly see the footsteps of the flock, and in time you will see the Shepherd himself. One of the first uses of the prayer-meeting, then, is to encourage a discouraged people.
2. The prayer-meeting has this second use, that it is the appointed place to receive power.
Again, if you look at the second chapter of the Book of Acts, you will perceive that the prayer-meeting is the place for the reception of divine power . “They were all together in one place,” [Acts 2:1 ] lifting up their prayer, and, as they waited there, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them,” [Acts 2:2-4 ] and they were clothed with the power which Jesus had promised them.
And what a difference it made in them! Common fishermen became the extraordinary messengers of heaven. Illiterate men spoke with languages that they had never heard before. They began to reveal mysteries which had not been revealed to philosophers or kings. These men were lifted out of the level of ordinary humanity, and became God-inspired, filled with the Deity himself, who came to dwell in their hearts and minds. The result was that poor wavering Peter became bold as a lion, and the impetuous John, who would have called fire down from heaven upon the Samaritans, had another fire fall upon him; one not to destroy, but to rescue and bless.
Now, the great need of the Church at all times is the power of the Holy Spirit. “We believe in the Holy Spirit,” says the doctrines of most churches, but how many, or rather how few, are there who really do believe in him? There is a mysterious, supernatural energy which comes from the Third Person of the blessed Trinity which really in this age falls upon men and women, as truly as when Peter spoke in languages unknown to him (tongues) or performed miracles; and though the power of working miracles is not given now, yet spiritual power is given, and this spiritual power is just as evident, and just as surely with us today, if we possess the Holy Spirit, as it was with the apostles. Now, if we want to get this, the most likely place in which to find it is the prayer-meeting.
I will guarantee you that the best men who are of the right spirit, are those who will be found here tomorrow evening, at our special prayer-meeting. I will guarantee you that the best ministers are those that do not despise the gathering of the people of God, and I am sure that the cream of the Christian Church, other things being considered of course, will be found here among those who most commonly assemble for prayer. Oh! yes, this is the place to meet with the Holy Spirit, and this is the way to get his mighty power. If we would have the Holy Spirit, we must meet in greater numbers; we must pray with greater fervency, we must watch with greater earnestness, and believe with firmer determination. The prayer-meeting, then, has this second use, that it is the appointed place for the reception of power. 3. The prayer-meeting has this third use, that it is the resource of the persecuted church.
You will find this next incident, in apostolic history, in the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts, and there you will see that the prayer-meeting is the resource of a persecuted church . Turn to the thirty-first verse. Peter and John had been locked up in prison. The Scribes and Pharisees had persecuted the disciples of Christ. The disciples resorted to prayer, and we read that “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind.” Yes, all the persecutions of each member should be lifted up in prayer before God, and if the entire Church should fall into disgrace through misrepresentation, or through the natural hostility of all men to God’s true Church, then it should resort to its Great Friend for its defense.
Often, times of persecution are very good for the Church, because they compel her to pray. When the devil, like the wild boar from the woods, should break up the vineyard, the vines seem to flourish all the more, because they are watered with the dew of heaven in answer to prayer. Let the burning stakes of the martyrs smoke, and the saints of God go up to heaven in chariots of fire, and then we will see the Word of God greatly multiplied, for the death of the martyrs brings down the blessing to the church and the nation in which they live.
Anything that would make us pray would be a blessing, and if we ever should face times of persecution again we must fly to the shadow of the Eternal, and keeping close together in simple, intense prayer, we will find a shelter from the blast.
4. The prayer-meeting has this fourth use, that it is the means of individual deliverance.
Still staying in the Book of Acts, in the twelfth chapter you find the prayer-meeting was a means of individual deliverance . You know the story well. Peter was in prison, and Herod promised himself the great pleasure of putting him to death. “The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. But the church was earnestly praying to God for him” [Acts 12:4-5 ]. The walls of the prison were very thick, but prayer was made without ceasing. The soldiers were very watchful; there were sixteen of them four squads of four soldiers each appointed to watch him in shifts four at a time, and he was chained by both hands to two of them. Yet prayer was made without ceasing by the Church for him, and prayer laughs at stone walls, and handcuffs and iron bars, and gates of brass. And so in the middle of the night an angel struck Peter on the side waking him up, and told him to quickly get up and the chains fell off of his wrists. Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him. Every locked door opened by itself as he advanced, and Peter found himself in the street, and wondered whether he was awake, or whether he was seeing a vision. And when he got to the house where many people had gathered and were praying, they were all equally surprised, and thought it must be Peter’s spirit, and that it could never be Peter himself. Yet there he was, in his flesh and blood, released from his prison in answer to their prayers.
And so in the prayer-meeting of the Church, God’s people may plead for individuals. It may not be God’s will, there may be no necessity for it, that every one of God’s people would be brought out of prison, or raised up from sickness, or saved from their needs; but if it was the Master’s will, and is the right thing, Then God will grant it. Therefore when we come together we may unite in exacting and personal supplications. I don’t doubt that many a life has been spared in answer to united prayer, that many a soul that has been, as it were, spirit-burdened has obtained gracious liberty through the prayers of the brothers and sisters. It is good if we often raise up our prayers for one another, remembering those who are in prison for their faith in Christ, as if we are tied with them. Observe here, then, another valuable use of the Christian prayer-meeting, that it is the means of individual deliverance.
5. The prayer-meeting has this fifth use, that it is the means of suggesting missionary operations.
Further on, in the next chapter, we find a prayer-meeting suggesting missionary operations . While the servants of God were meeting together see the second and third verses of the thirteenth chapter fasting and in prayer, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”
We sit down, and we begin to figure the expenses of such-and-such a form of Christian service, and we think that it would be a good plan, and then another plan, and a third plan, and a fourth, and a fifth all pieces of human wisdom. But I think if we would spend more time on our knees about God’s work, we would more often do right, and the right methods and the right men, and the right plans would come to us. Christ is the head of the Church and who thinks so much about the Church as the head of the Church?
And while we wait upon him I believe that fresh plans and fresh methods will be marked out, and that different kinds of men will be called to the work as distinctly as if angels had touched their lips with a live coal from the burning altar, and who may be “separated” to teach the Word where, perhaps, it has never reached before. Our country needs many who will shake her and waken her out of her sleep. She needs a new race of Whitfields, men suited to its culture. She needs some “Sons of Thunder,” who will thunder out the Word, some men who will be like lightning in carrying out their holy mission. She needs men who will preach the truth, and tell it to her poor men and women, yes, and to her rich men and women too, and if she ever gets these men, it will only be in answer to prayer. Oh! that we would not only pray for such men, and, having received them, pray that God would make them full of His Spirit, for they cannot run over with blessings to others, until they are full of blessing themselves. We would truly understand what the prayer-meeting is all about, if we did this. I look forward to tomorrow for a blessing of this kind. There may be sitting here now some man to whom China and India will be forever grateful. I don’t know who it may be, but there may be one here who will yet bring up diamonds from the very depths, and who will be inspired to do so in answer to our prayers. 6. The prayer-meeting has a sixth purpose, that it is may be the first step in a new work for Christ.
Once more, I will remind you of a prayer-meeting which perhaps, you may have forgotten, but which is recorded in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts. What was the first Christian service that was held in Europe? Do you know? Why, it was a prayer-meeting. The very first service was not an Episcopal ordination, nor even the preaching of a sermon, for Paul went to the place where prayer was needed to be made by the river-side, and there he met with Lydia, and preached to her, and her heart was so opened that she received the truth. So, then, a prayer-meeting became in Europe the first foothold of the gospel for Europeans, you ought never to forget, disown, or think lightly of prayer-meetings. How you ought to value them. Very often, I don’t doubt, in a Christian enterprise, the first foothold that a cause gets is the prayer-meeting. Some of you live in some of the dark parts of this city, and you would like to see a cause for Christ there. Well, begin with a prayer-meeting, just as Paul did. Or you live in a small village, perhaps, where there is no church with whom you can worship. Well then, hold a prayer-meeting. This costs you nothing; this will enrich you; this will serve for a beginning, and although you may not be content with that as the only service on Sunday, give it a little time, just begin with it. This, then, is the missionary’s lever; he begins with the prayer-meeting.
Thus I have, as briefly as I could, gone through the early history of prayer-meetings, and shown you the extreme value of such to the God’s Holy Church. And now, secondly, and very briefly:
II. WHAT ARE THE USES OF THE PRAYER-MEETING?
The prayer-meeting is useful to us in itself, and also very useful from the answer which its gets, and bring to us from God.
1. It is a very useful thing for Christians to pray with each other, even apart from the answer. God has made our holiness to be a thing which shall be personal, but yet he looks for family holiness. Happy is the household where the altar burns day and night with the sweet perfume of family worship! He also gives us more extended views, and makes us feel that all the saints are our brothers and sisters, and that, therefore, our meetings as Christian families, and as Christian Churches in the prayer-meeting, become the exponents and natural outgrowth of social godliness. We sing together and pray together, and thus our Christian brotherhood is manifested to the world, and is even more enjoyed by ourselves.
2. The prayer-meeting serves another purpose: sometimes it also generates devotion . Some of the brothers and sisters may be very dull and serious, but others who are at that time in a lively state of mind may stimulate and excite them. I must confess very often to deriving much fire from some of our brothers and sisters who pray here, when God gives them grace really to pray. When you have been busy all day long, and are not able to shake off the cares of business, you get warmed up by getting near to each other in your prayers. And, more than that, the united fires being placed together on the hearth, the fire-brands are made to burn with greater power. There is a kind of divine excitement that comes upon us sometimes at the prayer-meeting. I remember in one of our prayer-meetings where we fasted and prayed and an intense excitement was there, not fleshly, but deeply spiritual. How we felt ourselves bowed down at one time, and then lifted up again at another. I have sometimes sat side by side with a brother who has said, “Can you bear this much longer? I feel it is too much for my physical frame.” Oh! the calm delight which springs from close communion with the invisible God! I have had such sweet times of prayer that have caused me to lay prostrate all the next day from extreme joy, from the excess of delight. Oh! this is good for us! This is good for you! “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” [2 Corinthians 4:16 ]. Oh! it is a great thing thus to be made fit again, with all of our joints oiled, and muscles all braced, and nerves all strung, for the battle of life. United prayer, then, serves this purpose, and therefore is it valuable.
3. The prayer-meeting serves another purpose: God has promised extraordinary and special blessings in connection with it.
United prayer is useful inasmuch as God has promised extraordinary and special blessings in connection with it , [we see this principle described in the context of church discipline]: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” [Matthew 18:20 ]. “If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven” [Matthew 18:19 ]. God asks for agreement, and, once the saints agree, he pledges himself that the prayer of his agreeing ones shall be answered. Why, see what accumulated force there is in prayer, when one after another pours out their passionate desires; when many seem to be tugging at the rope; when many seem to be knocking at mercy’s gate; when the mighty cries of many burning hearts come up to heaven. When, my beloved, you go and shake the very gates of heaven with the powerful battering-ram of holy passion, and sacred insistence, then will the kingdom of heaven forcefully advance. When first one, and then another, and yet another, throws their whole soul into the prayer, the kingdom of heaven is conquered and the victory is very great indeed.
As I was sitting for a little while and thinking over this text I thought of the accumulated love of God which there is in a prayer-meeting, because God loves every one of his children. There is so much love for one, and here is another, and there is so much love for him, and then, if God’s love to one of his people is a reason for answering his requests, if there are ten present, there is ten times the reason; and if there is a thousand present then surely there must be a thousand times the force of love to move our Heavenly Father to grant the accumulated desires of the assembly.
The prayer-meeting is an institution which ought to be very precious to us, and to be cherished by us as a Church, for to it we owe everything. When our comparatively little chapel was all but empty, was it not a well-known fact that the prayer-meeting was always full? And when the Church increased, and the place was scarcely large enough, it was the prayer meeting that did it all. When we then met at Exeter Hall, we were a praying people, indeed; and when we entered into an even larger arena, the Surrey Music-hall, what cries and tears went up to heaven for our success! And so it has been ever since. It is in the spirit of prayer that our strength lies; and if we lose this, the hair will be cut off from Samson’s head, and God’s Holy Church will become weak as water and though we, as Samson did, go and try to shake ourselves as at other times, we shall hear the cry, “The Philistines are upon you,” and our eyes will be put out, and our glory will depart, unless we continue mightily and earnestly in prayer.
But now, once again, let us ask:
III. WHAT ARE THE HINDRANCES TO THE PRAYER-MEETING?
Now listen, for perhaps some of you will hear something about yourselves. What are the hindrances to the prayer-meeting?
1. There is the hindrance of unholiness.
There are some hindrances before the people even come. Unholiness hinders prayer. A man or woman cannot walk contrary to God, and then expect to have their prayers heard. Jesus said, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love” [John 15:10 ]. There is a promise made to those who keep God’s commands. They will have power with God; but, on the other hand, inconsistent Christians will not be answered.
2. There is the hindrance of discord.
Discord always spoils prayer. When believers do not agree, and are picking each other apart, they do not really love one another, and then their prayers cannot succeed. Discord spoils prayer.
3. There is the hindrance of hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy always spoils prayer: for hypocrites will creep in, you cannot help it, and the larger the church the more, I believe, do hypocrites get in, just as you see many a noxious creeping thing come and get into a garden after a rain shower. The very things that make the flowers glad bring out these noxious things, and likewise hypocrites get in and drain much of the Church’s sap away, and help spoil the prayer-meeting. Now, which among you does this belong to? I am not reflecting upon any person in particular, but God knows why some of you don’t ever come to the prayer-meeting. Some of you, I know, have business that really prevents your coming, and others are serving Christ in other ways and that keeps them away; but surely some of our friends who have no other urgent engagement or duty, constantly stay away from the prayer-meeting. I only wish that their consciences were even half-awake, for I am sure it would convict them for neglecting this duty. I wish that they would feel ashamed that they have missed this very great privilege, for had they come with us they might have drawn near to God and been healed in their hearts and souls.
4. There is the hindrance of long prayers.
There are some things which hinder the prayer-meeting when we are there praying. One is long prayers . It is dreadful to hear a brother or sister pray us into a good frame of mind and heart, and then, by their long prayer, pray us out of it again. You remember what John MacDonald once said, “When I am in a bad frame of mind I always pray short prayers, because my prayer will not be of any use, and when I am in a good frame of mind and heart, I pray short prayers, because if other people are in a good frame too, I might, if I kept on longer, pray them into a bad frame.” Long prayers, then, spoil prayer-meetings, for long prayers and true devotion in our public assemblies seem pretty much to be divorced from one another.
5. There is the hindrance of preaching little sermons in our prayers.
Prayer-meetings are also hindered when those who get up to pray do not pray, but preach a little sermon , and tell the Lord all about themselves, though he knows them better than they do, instead of immediately asking for what they want.
6. There is the hindrance of a lack of being direct with our prayers.
Prayer-meetings are often hindered by a lack of directness , and by beating around the bush. I did admire a prayer I heard at our last prayer-meeting, in which a brother said, “Lord, the orphanage needs money, £3,000 to be exact [3,000 British Pounds]; please send it.” Now, that was a straightforward request. Another brother would have said, “Lord, we have great difficulties in our work; please help us”; but this brother just stated the case, and I think he believed that God would hear him. Another way to never grow weary in prayer is to do as a good Scotsman said he did. He said, “I never go to God unless I have business to do with him, unless there is something I want to praise him for, to confess to him, or to seek at his hands.” We must not come merely with well-sounding words and polished English, but really to pray, and really to praise, and really to confess and seek cleansing; and if we do this, the prayer-meeting will not disappoint us.
7. There is the hindrance of a lack of real intensity in our prayers.
Prayer-meetings are sometimes hindered by a lack of real intensity in those who pray, and in those who pray in silence. Oh! brothers and sisters, one warm, hearty prayer is worth twenty of those packed in ice. I fear that much of our prayer is lost because we don’t sufficiently throw our hearts into it. It is possible for us to attend the prayer-meeting and all the while be thinking of things at home, the infant in the nursery, or the office, the factory, and who knows what else. Is it any wonder then that prayer stops? The brother who prays may be burning with intense desire, but his prayer lags because we are not backing it with silent agreement and passionate longing for God’s blessing. Oh! brothers and sisters, we have often spoiled our prayer-meetings this way. We have each, I fear, in our turn done something towards it; let us pray that we may never again sin this way.
8. There is the hindrance of a lack of faith.
The prayer-meeting may also be spoiled after we have been to it . “How?” you say. Why, by our asking a blessing, and then not expecting to receive it. God has promised that he will answer us according to our faith, but if our faith is nothing, then the answer will also be nothing.
9. There is the hindrance of inconsistency in our prayers.
Inconsistency in not practically carrying out your desires will also spoil the prayer-meeting. If you ask God to convert souls, but you will not do anything for those souls; if you ask God to save your children, but you will not talk to them about their salvation; if you ask God to save your neighbors, and you do not distribute tracts among them, nor do anything else for them, are you not truly a hypocrite? You pray, but you refuse to do anything to affect an answer. You pray for fruit, but you will not put out your hand to pick it, and all this spoils the prayer-meeting. Earnest prayer, however, is always to be followed up by persevering efforts, and then the result will be very great.
Now for just a moment I will occupy your time on the next point, and then we will be done.
IV. WHAT SHOULD BE THE GREAT OBJECT OF THE PRAYER-MEETING, AND THAT FOR WHICH WE SHOULD SEEK THE ANSWER?
1. First, it must be for the glory of God , or else the prayer is invalid.
How much of the Lord’s Prayer consists in prayers for God, rather than for ourselves! “Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven;” and then comes, “Give us today our daily bread.” Don’t we often begin by asking for the bread, and ignore the glory of God? Pray that King Jesus may have his own way. Pray that the crown-royal may be set upon that dear head, that once was surrounded with thorns. Pray that the thrones of the heathen may totter from their pedestals, and that Jesus may be acknowledged as the King of kings and Lord of lords. This is to be the great object of our prayer. You remember how David put it, “May the whole earth be filled with his glory. This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse” [Psalms 72:20 ]. For the coming of Christ in power, for the extension of his kingdom, for the downfall of error, for the end of the times of darkness, for the ingathering of the Jews and the Gentiles for all these things let us pray, in order that God may be glorified, and on that account alone.
2. Secondly, we must pray for a blessing on the Church.
We ought to exercise a little of our love for one another in praying for our fellow-members. Pray for the minister, for he needs it most; his necessities in that direction are the greatest, and therefore let him always be remembered. Pray for the church officers: pray for the workers in all organizations: pray for those who suffer: pray for the strong, for the weak, for the rich, for the poor, for the trembling, for the sick, for the backsliding, for the sinful. Yes, for every part of the one great body of Jesus let our supplications perpetually ascend. Let our prayers be continual.
3. Thirdly, we must pray for the conversion of the ungodly.
Oh! This ought to be like a burden on our hearts; this ought to be prayed out of the lowest depths of a soul that is all aglow with sympathy for them. They are dying; they are dying; they are dying without hope. I stood yesterday at the graveside of one of our brothers, an elder of the church. The place that knew him once will know him no more, and someone else now occupies the seat where he formerly sat. It was a great joy to know that he had rested on the rock so long, and that he had now entered into the rest which Jesus had promised him; but oh! to stand by those who die without hope is depressing work; this is to sorrow without alleviation, to mourn without any sweet thoughts to wipe away the tears. Oh! my dear friends, will you die in your sins? Will you live in your sins, for if you live in them you will die in them. My friends, will you die without a Savior? Will you live without a Savior? For if you live without him, you will assuredly die without him.
It is of no use for me to preach to the people, my dear Christian brothers and sisters, unless you pray for them. It is of no use holding special services for the quickening of the spiritually dead unless the Holy Spirit is brought to them by our prayers. It may be that you who pray have more to do with the blessed results than we who preach.
I think I have told you of the old story of the preacher who had been very successful in his preaching, but a message came from heaven to him that it would not have been so if it had not been for the prayers of an old deaf brother preacher, who sat on the pulpit stairs and pleaded with God for the conversion of the listeners. It may be true. We may appear to the eyes of men to have the credit of success, but all the while the real honor may belong to someone else, and I do certainly myself always ascribe the conversions brought about in this church to the prayers of God’s people. Let it always be so ascribed, and let God have all the glory in it. But do pray for conversions. Never give up praying for your unconverted wife or husband! Never cease to pray for your unconverted children. Never let the devil tempt you to be silent concerning your ungodly neighbors, but day and night, in the house and on the road, lift up your hearts to God in real prayer, and say to him, “Oh! that Ishmael might live before you!” He has given us his pledge that he will answer: believe it, and you shall see it, and you shall have the joy of it while He shall have the glory. Amen
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Acts 1". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25