“But we will give ourselves continually to prayer,
and to the ministry of the word,” <440604>Acts 6:4.
1. ATTENTION to, and fidelity in the exercise of, the duty of prayer, is not
one of those obligations which are peculiar to the ministry of the gospel. It
is one of the most essential duties of Christianity. Every real Christian is a
man of prayer: his views, his desires, his hopes, his affections, yea, even
his conversation, are all in heaven. Every Christian is a citizen of the world
to come, and a stranger here below: all exterior objects which here surround
him should be to him only so many ties and obstacles, which, retarding his
course and prolonging his banishment, ought to increase and inflame his
desire after his country: all the temptations which the world offers or throws
it his way, all his secret conflicts with his passions —
all these should lead
him to lift up his eyes continually to heaven; there to send up his sighs and
prayers, and to address himself in secret, and in every place, to that faithful,
heavenly, invisible witness of all his dangers, and all his troubles, from
whose protection alone he expects his consolation and his strength. Every
Christian, then, is a man of prayer; and he who lives not in the exercise and
spirit of prayer, is a man without God, without divine worship, without
religion, without hope; and if this be an incontestable truth, what
instructions are not due to the people, to animate them to the love and
exercise of prayer.
2. But, my brethren, if the spirit of prayer be the soul of Christianity; if that
homage of love which we render to God in publishing his greatness and
loving kindness, or in soliciting his mercies and succors — if all other
ordinances of the gospel are only helps and assistants to this spirit of
prayer; if all external worship be established only to form of the simple
believer the man of devotion, the man of prayer; if he who calls himself a
Christian, and possesses not this spirit, and of course lives not in the
exercise of it, be without religion, without God, without hope; what a
monster must be the minister of this religion, an interpreter of its laws, an
expounder of its doctrines, a dispenser of its graces, a public intercessor
before God for the faithful, if he himself be not a man of prayer; if he be not
faithful to this essential duty! O, my brethren, if there be any among you
who do not feel the full power of these truths, what cause have we to
lament on your account, before that holy dove, that true source of the spirit
of prayer, who groans and prays incessantly in the hearts and by the
mouths of his ministers!
3. St. Peter went up upon the housetop to pray, <441009>Acts 10:9. In our text
we are informed, that all the apostles were resolved to give themselves
continually to prayer: and from the gospels we find that our Lord himself
spent whole nights in prayer, on mountains, and in other secret places,
<401423>Matthew 14:23, etc. And shall any of us presume to live in the omission
of the frequent and habitual exercise of this supporting, nourishing,
quickening, indispensable duty? But I have known many of you, my
brethren, for years; and am confident that one of the most leading features
of your character is the exercise of this holy duty in its spirit and power. I
therefore chiefly desire to stir up your pure minds to remembrance: and O
that I may be the means, under divine grace, by this little mite of love, of
confirming you in your present spirit: yea, of animating you to still greater
fidelity and to higher degrees of fervor in this blessed conversation with
4. We are called to be the lights of those who are in darkness: but it is
prayer and study, always accompanied to the sincere minister of the gospel
with the divine light, which truly renders us lights to the people. Prayer
may be termed the science of the heart, that alone renders useful those
studies which form the science of the mind.
5. It was the indubitable and experimental conviction of this truth,
confirmed to them by the infallible inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God,
which induced the college of apostles to come to the determination in my
text, “We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of
the word:” not that they did not before live in the exercise, and spirit, and
very life of prayer; but they were determined now to lay aside every weight
which duty could dispense with, and give themselves up more entirely than
ever to this holy communion with God.
6. It is probable that, like Moses of old, the apostles had, from motives of
pure love, taken an active share in all the minutest parts of the temporal
affairs of the church: but a murmuring arising between the Grecians (that is
to say, such converted Jews as had been dispersed abroad among the
Greeks) and the Hebrews, in respect to the distribution of the church’s
money among their widows respectively, the apostles embrace this
opportunity of shaking off that heavy burden, which so intruded upon the
more important parts of their ministerial and apostolic functions; declaring
that they would give themselves “continually to prayer and to the ministry
of the word”
7. We must here observe to prevent mistakes, that though the apostles
delivered up the management of the poor, and other inferior points, to the
direction of subordinate officers of the church, they still reserved in
themselves the ultimate power of decision in all matters which they judged
of sufficient importance to call for their interference: this is evidently clear
from the following chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. But we proceed to
show how indispensably necessary the duty of constant prayer, which the
apostles themselves could by no means dispense with, is for every minister
of the gospel; having already enlarged upon the other subject, of the
ministry of the word, in my former discourses.
8. In considering the present subject, we shall, first, show the necessity of
continual prayer, as it respects ourselves, particularly considered in our
ministerial capacity; and then, secondly, as it respects our flocks.
I. FIRST, AS IT RESPECTS OURSELVES.
1. The temptations we meet with, to distaste and weariness in our duties,
can only be overcome by the exercise and life of prayer.
If we would fill up our ministry with fidelity, we must wholly devote
ourselves to it; we must sacrifice our ease, our rest, to fill up its various
calls; we cannot dispose of our time as we please: it is a holy servitude,
which makes us no longer our own, but wholly the people’s: we must be
able to say with the apostle, that heat and cold, fatigue, difficult roads,
hunger and thirst, are some of the fruits of our ministry, and signs of our
apostleship. We even often labor among the ungrateful: our pains are often
recompensed with indifference, unteachableness, and murmurs; yea, they
sometimes draw upon us the aversion of those whose salvation we seek.
When we are under these trials, we have reason to guard against disgust
and discouragement. We are ready, perhaps, to throw up the great work in
which we are engaged, when we see not the end of it, and but little of the
fruits. On such occasions, self-love, unsupported by the wished for
success, reclaims its rights, and secretly insinuates, that such painful and
apparently almost useless cares cannot be our duties. Now how can we
possibly support ourselves under such temptations to disgust as these are,
which are dangerous, and so frequent in the course of a long and laborious
ministry, if we do not continually renew our strength at the feet of Jesus
Christ — If we have not the consolation of continually drawing near to him
to open to him all our sorrows and discouragements, as to the great
Shepherd whose place we occupy. It is there we shall be confounded before
him, for making any account of the light troubles of our functions, when
compared to those of the first propagators of Christianity, who sacrificed
their lives for the truth: it is there we shall blush to have indulged a
temptation to lay down our arms almost before we had begun the combat,
and to have been disheartened and discouraged by labors so light; when
those holy ministers of God had defied tribulations, anguish, hunger,
nakedness, persecution, fires, gibbets, and all the fury of tyrants, who
would have separated them from the love of God in Christ Jesus their Lord:
it is from thence, my brethren, that we should always return with a new
taste for all the functions of our office — with a new zeal for the salvation
of souls: returning from thence, what before appeared burdensome and
painful, would now become light, yea, delightful to us; and the fatigues and
contradictions of sinners, inseparable from the duties of our office, would
be to us a most comfortable proof of our calling to the ministry of the word.
Let none of us, my brethren, deceive ourselves: without the constant
exercise and life of prayer, we continually feel every thing which is
disagreeable and distressing in our ministry: we draw in a yoke which
overpowers us: we bear with reluctance the burden and heat of the day. But
by prayer all is sweetened: the yoke is no more heavy: the labors increase;
but the pain, the disgust, the discouragements, vanish away.
sometimes, my brethren, perhaps, are ready to complain of the oppression
and weariness of Spirit which the multitude and difficulties of your
avocations bring upon you, and of your inability to fulfill your duties: but if
you address yourselves constantly to him who changes our weakness into
strength. If you be faithful to the duty of prayer, these difficulties will
disappear; the mountains will become plains; you will find your selves new
men; and you will no longer complain, but that you have not labored or
suffered enough for Jesus Christ.
2. IF PRAYER ALONE CAN SWEETEN ALL THE PAINS AND
DISCOURAGEMENTS ATTENDANT ON THE EXERCISE OF
OUR SACRED FUNCTIONS, IT ALONE CAN PREVENT, OR
DELIVER US FROM, ALL THE DANGERS TO WHICH THEY
1. As there is nothing, perhaps, more dangerous in our situation than the
dissipation of mind which is, almost unavoidably, more or less produced
by the constant administration of exterior duties, I will venture to assert that
the exercise and spirit of prayer can alone preserve us from its bad effects.
It is in reality but too true, that the inward man weakens, and the life of God
decays in the soul, in the midst of all the public exercises and constant
activity which our ministerial office requires, if we do not continually give
ourselves to prayer. We are real losers ourselves, while we give up
ourselves incessantly to the wants of others; we lose the secret and hidden
life of faith, in which consists the whole soul and life of piety: we accustom
ourselves to be all outward, always from home, and never within our own
hearts: we at last appear before the people to perform the public duties of
our office with dissipated spirits, divided by a variety of foreign and
tumultuous images which occupy them; and we no more experience the
silence of the senses and of the imagination, in respect to every thing but the
great and solemn work on which we are entering, which is so necessary to
call us back to a holy recollection, and to a secret consciousness of our utter
unworthiness and incapacity of ourselves to stand between the living and
the dead. Alas! we are no more acquainted with these things!
laboring always for others, and hardly ever for ourselves, the spiritual
strength of the soul wears out we live entirely out of ourselves; we give
ourselves up to this life of hurry and agitation; and we at last become
incapable of any profitable communion with ourselves or with God; we
even seek for occasions and pious pretexts to fly from retirement; we cannot
be in any wise comfortable without the company of others, and are
immediately tired with God alone.
2. Now, this conduct and disposition of mind, which have nothing
blameable in them in the judgment of the world, appear in a very different
light in the sight of God. Alas! we quite exhaust our spiritual strength, if we
be not continually repairing it at the footstool of the throne of grace; all our
cares and solicitudes are confined to external things; we act and stir
outwardly for God, but we do not commune and wrestle privately with
him, though true love thinks all hours too short in communing with its
Beloved. We run, but we run alone: the Lord, whom we neglect to call to
our assistance, leaves us to our own weakness; and our ordinary humor,
temper, vivacity, vanity, and love of popularity, rule us, rather than the
genuine love of our duty, and the love of son Is.
3. There is nothing but faithfulness in the exercise of prayer, which can
save us from these rocks: and, without neglecting in the least degree the
necessary functions of our ministry, we may live in this blessed exercise;
we may continually carry with us that spirit of piety and recollection, which
moderates, regulates, and sanctifies all our external duties, and even makes
them so many preparations for returning with still greater advantage to
retirement, recollection, and communion with God. It is for these reasons,
that we are repeatedly informed in the gospels, that our Lord warned his
disciples to watch and pray, that they might not enter into temptation,
<402641>Matthew 26:41. In St. Luke he says,” Watch ye, therefore, and pray
always;” <422136>Luke 21:36. And in St. Mark, “Take ye heed, watch and pray,”
3. OUR NECESSARY INTERCOURSE WITH THE WORLD
MAKES THE CONSTANT EXERCISE OF PRAYER
AN INDISPENSABLE DUTY.
1. Though the exercise, the spirit, the very life of prayer, are absolutely
necessary for the salvation of every private Christian, we ministers, more
than others, have continually need of the help of prayer. The more our
duties lead us into the midst of the world, the more do they expose us to its
vanity and seductions, if they be not supported by the spirit of prayer. It is
not sufficient, that we are not infected or debilitated by the contagious air
which we must there breathe; we are required to appear among men, clothed
with more strength, more modesty, more virtue, more holiness, than the
generality of professors themselves, in the midst of whom we must daily
be: we ought everywhere to be the sweet savor of Jesus Christ.
difficult must it be for a minister, if the habit of prayer has not established in
him a certain solidity of virtue, to find himself continually in the midst of
the abuses and dissipations of a vain world, to hear daily the apologies
which the world makes for itself and not be shaken or weakened in the
spiritual life thereby! He carries with him a heart void of all those deep
sentiments of religion which the habit of prayer alone can engrave upon the
soul, and influenced by all those inclinations which can render the world
amiable to him! There are but too few among believers, who do not,
sometimes, feel themselves inwardly seduced and shaken by the objects
which surround them: what then can that minister do, who carries with him
but his weakness and his frailties? And though decency may keep him
within certain bounds; yet still the world is in his heart;
he adopts it for his
own; and there is nothing now to be observed, even in his public
administrations, of that firmness and becoming majesty which announce the
minister and ambassador of God: he is now like salt which has lost its
savor; and which is not only unable to preserve other things from
corruption, but is itself changed into rottenness and putrefaction.
2. A minister, therefore, who lives without the habit of prayer, without
fidelity to that sacred and indispensable means of grace, however
irreprehensible he may otherwise be in the eyes of men, is but the shadow
of a minister; he is but a bare representation of a pastor of the flock of
Christ: he has not the soul, the reality of that holy vocation; and his whole
ministry has nothing in it but an empty title; which neither binds him to
God, with whom he has no communication, nor to the church of God, to
which he is of no manner of use.
3. When I speak of the necessity of prayer for a minister of the gospel, I do
not mean that this holy exercise should occupy the greatest part of the day:
he owes himself to his flock, and his public duties ought never to suffer by
the length of his prayers. But I understand hereby that prayer should always
precede his public duties, and sanctify them; I mean, also, that the spirit of
prayer should accompany him throughout; that he should in every thing,
even in the most indifferent of his actions, show forth that “inward man,
which is renewed” through prayer, “day by day,” <470416>2 Corinthians 4:16, —
that secret commerce with God, wherein consists the essence of religion
and piety; that he render his ministry in all places respectable, and make his
very presence alone an instruction to all those who approach him. Behold
what I understand by the spirit of prayer, so essential for a minister of the
church of God.
4. We are, my brethren, divinely appointed to combat the vices and unruly
passions of the world, to destroy the empire of the devil among men, and to
establish and to extend the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Our ministry snatches
us from external repose, and clothes us with armor: but our arms are only
prayer and faith working by love. It is from these divine arms, under grace,
that all our instructions, all our labors, and all our efforts, derive their
whole strength and success: without these, we are but weak, rash men,
exposed without defense in the midst of enemies, with whom we ought to
have been prepared to fight; and soon become the miserable sport of their
seductions, and of the snares which they continually throw in our way: that
is to say, we soon ourselves become like to them, whom we ought to have
converted to God and gained for Jesus Christ. Like minister, like people!
Would to God my observations were never verified. But, alas! from long
experience in the ministry of the word, I am indubitably convinced, that a
minister, without the spirit of prayer and habitual recollection, cannot long
be supported in the divine life; he becomes dissipated; he neglects his
duties, especially where a cross accompanies them; or he performs them
without piety, without any of that deep inward sentiment of true religion,
and often without that respect and holy dignity which the world itself
expects: till at last he becomes a stumbling-block and an offense to the
flock, and sometimes even a public reproach to the church to which he
II. I now proceed to the second head of my discourse; namely, to show the
necessity of our living in the constant exercise and spirit of prayer, as it
respects the interests of our flocks.
1. THE EXERCISE, SPIRIT, AND LIFE OF PRAYER,
Are necessary, not only to preserve us from disgust and discouragement in
our duties, and from all the dangers with which we are surrounded in all
our pastoral engagements, in our intercourse with the world, and otherwise;
but also to assure fruit and success to our ministry.
1. It is not sufficient that we run no hazard of losing our own souls; (if that
were possible, in respect to any prayerless person;) it is still more necessary
for the church of God that we be useful to others. Now, you well know,
my brethren, that we may cultivate the ground, we may plant and water, but
it is God alone who gives the increase <460306>1 Corinthians 3:6. But how can
we expect it if we be not faithful in asking it — if we do not, by our fervent
and continual prayers, draw down from heaven those blessings on our
labors which alone can make them fruitful? Too many labor without fruit,
without success, because they labor all alone, and as if the success
depended only on themselves. They expect it from their own gifts, their
own cares, and the improvement of their own understandings. They call not
Him to their assistance, who alone can give the blessing to all their toils,
and render them useful.
2. I repeat it, my brethren, the little usefulness of many ministers, even
when they fill up all the public parts of their office, is entirely owing to the
want of living in the spirit of prayer. They think they have discharged every
thing required, when they have fulfilled all the external duties of their
ministry; and never infer from the little fruit of their labors that there is some
secret vice or essential neglect which renders them useless. Thus, while
they engage not God by their prayers in the success of their undertakings;
while they begin them without solemnly and earnestly addressing
themselves to him, that he himself would prepare the hearts of those they
are going to instruct — they spend their days, as at one time did the
apostles, in casting their nets and taking nothing. They live, perhaps, a long
and painful life, (if they do not entirely plunge into the world,) and at last
die, with having done little, if any thing at all, in the gaining of immortal
souls for Jesus Christ.
2. THE CONSTANT EXERCISE AND SPIRIT OF PRAYER
ARE INDISPENSABLY NECESSARY TO OBTAIN DIVINE
1. What success can that minister promise himself; on Scripture grounds,
who accustoms not himself to live within the veil — who comes not
constantly to the throne of grace, there to fill himself with the love of those
truths which he is about to declare, and with that spirit of unction which
alone can render them lovely and profitable to the people — to draw from
thence that affecting zeal, that grace, that strength, which is irresistible?
What success, I say, can he possibly promise himself, who comes to
address his audience as from God, who yet never himself speaks to God?
What dryness in his discourses! He announces truths; but they come from
his mouth, and not from his heart; nor are they those which the Father has
revealed to him in secret. He instructs with spirit; but it is with the spirit of
man, and not with the Spirit of God. He shows forth the truth; but he does
not make it amiable. Those external actions which he gives himself in order
to persuade, do not even appear to persuade, to touch, to penetrate himself.
A spiritual person easily perceives that he speaks a strange language, which
is not drawn from the bottom of his heart. Solomon, from the language of
the two women, quickly discovered the true mother. It is very easy for a
truly spiritual person to distinguish between a true and a false shepherd,
from their language and discourses — to determine which is the true father
of the flock; which is he who speaks the language of paternal love, who
bears his children on his heart; who is continually employed before God in
their behalf, and who is abundantly more jealous of their safety and
salvation than of his own titles of shepherd, minister, or ambassador of
And I appeal to you, my brethren, for the truth of my observation
— that a holy minister, a man of prayer, with only moderate talents, will be
more successful, will leave his congregation more affected and influenced
by his discourse, than many others whose talents are vastly superior, but
who have not by prayer drawn down that unction, that tender taste of piety,
which alone knows how to speak to the heart. A minister speaks very
differently the truths he loves, and which he is accustomed to meditate
upon, and taste all his days, at the feet of Jesus Christ!
The heart has a
language which nothing can imitate. In vain does a minister thunder from
the pulpit, and put his studied actions and forced clamors in the place of zeal
and piety. We may always perceive the man: we may always feel that it is a
fire which descends not from heaven. All that vehement and forced noise in
the preacher never announces the descent of the Spirit of God upon the
hearts of those who are assembled to hear. I am not now speaking of the
genuine cries of sinners and mourners in Zion, when struck and humbled
under the word. I well know that thousands, in these lands, can refer,
under grace, their conviction or conversion to those times of weeping, of
melting, of crying, of apparent confusion in the sight of the world, but of
blessed order in the sight of God. I speak only against the substituting, on
the one hand, of human wisdom and human art, or, on the other, of noise
and clamor, for the unction of the Holy One of Israel.
2. I cannot, my brethren, help dwelling on this important subject. I must
repeat the question — what success can our discourses produce, if the
habit, and life, and spirit of prayer draw not down upon them that grace,
that unction, which alone makes them useful to those who hear? Without
this, the whole is but as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. The preacher
speaks only to the ears of his audience, or at best to their understandings,
merely because the Spirit of God speaks not by his mouth.
The spirit by
which he speaks, and which animates his tongue, is not that spirit of
unction, of force, of fire, which, as it formerly moved on the face of the
waters, so now moves upon the passions of the heart quiet in its sins,
troubles it, agitates it, and then separates and clears up the chaos. It is in
vain for him to thunder or borrow his zeal from without — throughout the
whole, he only, as the apostle speaks, beats the air: his language is as cold,
as barren, as insipid as his heart; and the ministry of the word is no longer
to him but a forced duty, which disgusts him, which overwhelms him, and
from the labor of which he excuses himself as much as possible; or
otherwise it is a theater of vanity, where he rather seeks for the vile
commendations of those that hear him than for their conversion and
3. How can that minister make the people taste the sweetness and power of
the truths of God, who has never tasted them himself, or does not at least
now taste them at the footstool of the throne? How can he ever inspire the
people with a love of prayer, or a conviction of the necessity of it, who
experiences not the consolations, nor feels the wants, which make the habit
of prayer so essential to every true believer? How can he form real
Christians, that is to say, spiritual men, “whose life is hid with Christ in
God,” — he, whose whole life is a life out of himself and out of God, and
whom the life of prayer does not cause to enter into himself, and into an
examination of his own heart? No, my brethren! Take from a minister the
spirit of prayer, and you take from him his soul, his strength, his life: he is
no more than a dead carcass, which quickly infects those who approach it.
3. MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL “ARE AMBASSADORS FOR
CHRIST, TO PRAY THE PEOPLE TO BE RECONCILED TO
<470520>2 Corinthians 5:20, and not only so, but to plead with God, through the
great atonement, in their behalf.
1. But how can they who are not known or acknowledged of God plead
with God for the people, when the want of the spirit of prayer has shut up
all access to his throne; when they have not contracted, by their fidelity in
the exercise of prayer, that holy familiarity with him which authorizes them
to lay before him with confidence the wants of their flocks, and to bring
down into the hearts of the penitent the blessings of pardoning love, and
into those of believers the blessings of establishing grace, strength against
temptation, and the perfect love of God; in a word, to use a sacred violence
to the mercy of God in Christ, and to speak to him all the language of
tenderness, pity, faith, and zeal in behalf of their flocks that language which
the constant habit of prayer alone can teach us?
2. “Howbeit,” says our Lord, speaking of bodily diabolical possessions,
“this kind goeth not out, but by prayer and fasting,” <401721>Matthew 17:21. And
can we imagine that less prayer is necessary to overturn the kingdom, the
power, yea, the very nature of the devil in the souls of men? What is then
sufficient for this? I answer, faith and prayer, with the promises and
blessings annexed thereto. “Verily, I say unto you,” says Christ to his
“if ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is
done to the fig-tree; but also, if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be
thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, it shall be done. And all
things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall
receive,” <402121>Matthew 21:21, 22.
O that we had all of us but faith and piety sufficient to give full credit to the
word of God! then should we know and be astonished at the truth of those
words of our Savior,
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works
that I do, shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do,
because I go unto my Father: and whatsoever ye shall ask in my
name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If
ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it,” <431412>John 14:12,14.
Accordingly, the great apostle, that close copier of the life of Christ, writes
to the Colossians,
“We do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that you might be
filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual
understanding,” <510109>Colossians 1:9, etc.;
and to the Thessalonians,
“What thanks can we render to God again for you, etc., night and
day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might
perfect that which is lacking in your faith,” <520309>1 Thessalonians
And we may be assured that the apostle would never have prayed so
continually and exceedingly for his flocks, if he had not been certain that his
prayers would be heard for many of them in a glorious manner.
4. IF PRAYER WERE NOT SO INDISPENSABLE FOR
IN PARTICULAR AS IT IS, WE OWE IT TO OUR PEOPLE.
1. Are we not charged, by our character of pastor and minister, to pray for
them without ceasing? Is it not a duty incumbent on us to lay before God
the wants of our flocks, and to solicit for them the riches of his mercy?
Should we not groan before him by reason of the vices with which too
many of our hearers among whom we labor are infected; and which all our
cares and all our zeal are not able to correct? Are we not bound to ask at the
throne strength for the weak, compunction for hard-hearted sinners, and
perseverance for the righteous? The more numerous the wants of our
people, the more earnest and frequent should be our prayers. We should
never appear before God, but, like the high-priest of the law, bearing before
the Most High the names of the tribes written on our hearts; that is to say,
the names of the people intrusted to our care: this should always be a
principal subject of our prayers. Such is the order of the dispensation of
grace. Though every genuine Christian is a king and priest to God and the
Father, ministers especially are the public conduit-pipes, through which the
divine grace and blessings run to the people: they form the grand public
resource, by the instrumentality of which the goodness of God in Christ
corrects the disorders which reign among men.
2. You see, then, my brethren, on the whole, that prayer is the most
intimate and inseparable duty of a gospel minister: it is, if I may so speak,
the soul of his office: it is, under the grace of God, his only safety. This
alone sweetens all the distastes and discouragements he meets with: this
alone guards him from all the dangers with which he is surrounded from his
intercourse with the world, or from the spirit of professors themselves: this
alone, under grace, assures success to his ministry; alone imparts the divine
unction to his discourses; alone enables him to give a taste of the divine
truths to the people, having first tasted them himself in communion with his
God; alone qualifies him to plead successfully with God in behalf of his
flock; and therefore is an absolutely indispensable debt which he owes to
I shall now conclude the whole with a few general deductions from what
has been advanced.
1. A minister, who lives not in the spirit and exercise of prayer, who prays
only in a formal manner at set seasons, to satisfy a hardened conscience, is
no pastor; he is a stranger, who is nowise interested by the wants of his
flock: the people who are intrusted to his care are not his children; they are
poor orphans without a father; his heart, his bowels, say nothing in their
behalf; he loves the title which puts them under his direction, but he loves
not that which is a grand means of their conversion and salvation: he loves
not the office of a shepherd he loves not the flock: for if he loved it, could
he omit any essential duty in behalf of the faithful, the mourners, or the
sinners, intrusted to his care, to the end that none of those whom the Father
had given him might perish? What say you, my brethren?
A pastor, who
lives not in the exercise of prayer for his people, not only loves them not,
but deprives them of that which they have a right to exact from him: in
depriving them of his prayers he deprives them of a resource to which God
is always pleased to adjoin many graces, many blessings: he fills the place
of a holy shepherd, whose prayers would have drawn down a thousand
blessings on the poor flock, and is absolutely guilty, in a great degree, of all
the crimes which the prayers of that holy man would have prevented.
Examine, therefore, if you be faithful in representing to God all the wants
of your people; if you be solicitous, importunate, to draw down upon them
the gracious regard of a good God. O, brethren, the fervent prayers of a
faithful pastor are rarely useless. That God, who has charged us to pray for
our people, has also promised to hear us.
2 . May I venture, without offense, to urge the following objection
(conscious how inapplicable it is to most, if not all of you, my brethren) —
“How can a traveling preacher have much leisure for prayer, in the midst of
the vast multiplicity of business which a circuit requires?”
Alas! In the midst
of all our labors and cares, how many vacant, unemployed moments have
we? Can a pastor, an ambassador of Christ to mankind, God’s minister,
charged with the important office of presenting the wishes and prayers of
the congregation before the throne, not have time to present his own — a
dispenser of the doctrines and graces of the gospel not hold constant
intercourse with Him who has intrusted to him this glorious ministry, and
in the name of whom he speaks and acts — never render an account to God
of the gifts and celestial riches with which he has been intrusted! The royal
psalmist says of himself, “I give myself unto prayer,” <19A904>Psalm 109:4. And
“Evening and morning and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud:
and he shall hear my voice,” <195517>Psalm 55:17.
And once more, “Seven times a day do I praise thee,” <19B9104>Psalm 119:104.
Now, can any of us imagine that the concerns of a mighty empire, which
lay on the mind of the royal psalmist, were less than the care of a circuit?
Again, the Scripture informs us that Daniel, when prime minister of the
greatest kingdom in the world,
“kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed
and gave thanks before God,” <270610>Daniel 6:10.
O that the Lord would now pour out upon us all, more abundantly than
ever, the spirit of grace and supplication!
3 . It is not, my brethren, the devotion of a part of your lives in the exercise
of prayer which we so much press upon you, as the privilege and
consolation of those souls, retired into themselves, who are occupied in
meditating on the wonders of the law and grace of God; and who taste, far
from the world, and in the secret places of his tabernacle, what happiness
they enjoy who love nothing in comparison to him, and who hold
communion incessantly with him. That which is essential to us, is the spirit
of prayer, which we ought to carry with us continually and into all our
duties: that which is particularly requisite for us, is, before we enter on our
public offices, always to go to the feet of Jesus Christ, there to fill
ourselves with that spirit which enables us to perform our duties holily for
ourselves, and usefully for others: it is, when we have finished our public
duties, to go for some precious moments to refresh ourselves before God,
and there to recover fresh strength to begin them again with new zeal: it is,
to accustom ourselves to this secret and almost perpetual intercourse with
God; to find him everywhere; to find ourselves always with him; and in
every place, and every thing, to find occasion to raise ourselves up to him.
Behold in what sense a minister of the gospel should be a man of prayer. O,
my brethren, if this spirit of prayer animate not all our duties, we shall have
much reason to complain while we are performing all that is painful in
them, and omitting the only thing which can soften them, support us under
them, and give them, under God, the wished-for success.
4. What a misfortune then is it, for a people to have over them a prayerless
pastor; I mean one who does not live in the life, and spirit, and exercise of
prayer; one who is governed by a spirit of dissipation, destitute of the spirit
of prayer and recollection; who is kept only by the fear of man from falling
into scandalous disorders! What assistance can this unfortunate people
promise themselves from such a minister! Can he administer to them those
words of piety, unction, and consolation, which can only be received from
Him “in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells for the church which
is his body?” Can he successfully oppose the vices and public disorders
which surround him? O! to be properly affected by these, he must be filled
by that zeal which is the flame of love; he must feel the value of the souls
among which he labors: but, to have a heart susceptible of this zeal and this
sympathy, he must be often softened and melted down at the foot of the
cross, in meditating on the price which these souls have cost our adorable
Redeemer. I therefore once more say, in what a miserable state is that
unfortunate people who are cursed with a prayerless minister!
have been like a salubrious cloud, placed between the heavens and the
precious field confided to his care. He should, by the habitual exercise of
prayer, have received from on high those holy influences with which he
should incessantly have watered, enriched, and rendered fruitful, that land
which he is charged to cultivate. But, having no communication with
heaven by prayer, he is only one of those “clouds without water, carried
about of wind,” <650112>Jude 12. No heavenly dew flows from his bosom; he
imparts nothing, because he receives nothing: or, if he do impart any thing,
it is only some dreadful rumor, a stench and a public noise of his scandal
5. Let us, my brethren, lay to heart these sacred truths. Let us never lose
sight of them through the course of our lives. The spirit of prayer is the
essential spirit of Christianity: but IT IS THE SOUL, THE SUBSTANCE, THE LIFE
OF A GOSPEL MINISTRY. Every thing in our exterior duties tends to unite us
to God — To raise us up to him: and shall our spirit and our heart only be
unmoved, in the midst of so many sacred employments, which call us back
to him: in the midst of so many graces and lovingkindnesses as we are
continually endeavoring to dispense in the ministry of the word, and which
flow from him alone: in the midst of so many errors, disorders, and vices,
which we daily see increasing among the people who surround us, and
which call so loud upon us to implore his pity, and to have recourse to Him
alone who can correct them? All these things considered is it possible for
any one of us to regard a secret and constant intercourse with God as a pain
and a cross; and in respect to present the experience, be obliged to consider
him as the people did formerly in the midst of Athens, AN UNKNOWN GOD!
6. In short, a real minister of the gospel is a man of prayer. Prayer is his
grand employment, his safety, his first and perpetual duty; and, I may add,
is, under grace, the grand source of his consolation. Our instructions will
be always barren, if they be not watered with our tears and prayers. Even if
our gifts be small, but we support them by our prayers, our defects will be
in a great measure supplied ,and divine unction become the blessed
7. Therefore I once more, for all, repeat it again, a minister who prays not,
who is not in love with prayer, is not a minister of the church of God: he is
a dry tree, which occupies in vain a place in Christ’s garden: he is an
enemy, and not a father, of the people, he is a stranger, who has taken the
place of the the shepherd, and to whom the salvation of the flock is an
indifferent thing. Be then, my brethren, faithful in prayer, and your
ministry will be more and more useful; your labors will be more and more
delightful to you; and the evils of the church of Christ, and of the world in
general, will the daily diminish.
“O my God, give to all the ministers of thy gospel a tender and
paternal heart toward their people; then will they always know how
to address thee in their behalf; then will their zealous spirits be one
continual prayer, speaking to thee for the souls which lie so near to
their hearts! But, more particularly, bless the preachers of our
connection, throughout Europe and America, with the abundance of
thy grace, and of this spirit of prayer. Glory be given to thee, thou
hast already bestowed much of it upon them: O! preserve it, increase
it, enflame it, till their very life be one constant sacrifice to thee; till,
by being daily stamped with brighter and brighter characters of
thyself, they continually bring down, like thy servant Moses, a
bright shining from the Mount.”
Category Archives: academics
“Do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry,
<550405>2 Timothy 4:5.
1. In my former discourses on St. Paul’s charge to Timothy, we
considered the necessity of true zeal in all the public duties of the ministry,
and in our intercourse with the people of the world, and the necessity of
watchfulness and enduring afflictions. We come now to enlarge on the two
remaining particulars of the charge, “Do the work of an evangelist, “make
full proof of thy ministry.”
2. The apostle’s solemn and pointed manner of writing to Timothy, not
only for his own sake, but for the benefit of the church in all ages, will
appear the more necessary and indispensable, if we recollect that the
corruption of the ministry has been alway the grand source of the corruption
of a people, of the general depravation of their manners, and of the
extinction of all the faith.
3. Those who are acquainted with the religious history of Christendom,
well know, that in proportion as the ministers of a church are holy, holiness
will reign among the people. The purity of Christianity, wherever it has
flourished, never has begun to decay but with the fall of the ministry; and
disorder has generally begun at the house of God. Thus it is in a
considerable measure we who decide, if I may so speak, on the salvation or
damnation of the people: upon us, in some sense, depend the increase or
diminution of the reign of Jesus Christ upon earth, the consummation or
destruction of his work, the utility or inutility of his blood and mission, the
glory or reproach of his religion, and all the designs of God concerning the
salvation of man.
4. From the moment we enter on the ministry of the gospel, we become
either holy pillars to support the feeble, or stones of offense against which
the strong themselves may break in pieces: we become either brazen
serpents raised on high, to heal through grace the plagues of the multitude,
or golden calves placed in the camp of the Lord, to be an occasion to them
of apostasy, wickedness, and idolatry. We are so situated, that we can
neither stand nor fall alone: the destiny of those souls over whom we are set
is in a considerable degree awfully attached to ours!
5. Now, what a frightful situation is this for an unfaithful pastor! He may
continually say to himself, “I am employed in the church to destroy and not
to build up: I am become the tempter and murderer of those souls of whom
I ought to have been instrumentally the savior and the father. I am charged
with a dispensation of the gospel, and yet only make every thing which
should facilitate the salvation of souls turn out to their ruin; and I, in effect,
employ against religion all that which religion has intrusted me with for its
maintenance and support.” Behold here, without exceeding the truth, the
character of a bad minister. Certainly, my brethren, a bad minister is the
greatest plague which the wrath of God can suffer to spring up among any
6. But the more the situation of an unfaithful pastor is to be deplored, the
more full of consolation is the character of a true minister of the Lord Jesus
Christ. He continues on earth the mission and ministry of his adorable
Master. He co-operates with him in the consummation of the happiness of
the saints, in the edification of his mystic body, and in the accomplishment
of all his designs of mercy toward man. He is instrumentally here below, as
Christ himself, a savior of his people, a reconciler of heaven and earth: and
when he shall one day appear before the throne of the great Judge of quick
and dead, with all his own, he will be able to say to him with confidence,
“Behold me, and the children thou hast given me. Those that thou gavest
me I have kept, and none of them is lost. I render them back to thee,
because thou didst deliver them to me, that they might be sanctified through
thy truth, and might sing with all thy redeemed the eternal praises of thy
7. O what a heavenly calling, my brethren, is ours! But our duties are as
great and as heavenly as our vocation. Let us, then, together animate each
other, both by the eminence and importance of our ministry, and by the
glorious and comfortable fruits which are the consequences of its faithful
8. Can we now be surprised at the repetition, in effect, which we find in
the apostle’s charge; or rather the different points of view in which he holds
forth the duties of the gospel ministry?
1st. “Preach the word.”
2dly. “Be instant in season, out of season: reprove, rebuke, exhort,
with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
3dly. “Watch in all things.”
4thly. “Endure affliction.”
5thly. “Do the work of an evangelist.”
6thly. “Make full proof of thy ministry.”
The first four of these we have enlarged upon. We now come to the fifth,
— “Do the work of an evangelist.”
The word “evangelist,” in its most comprehensive sense, implies a preacher
of glad tidings, or, in other words, a preacher of the gospel, with all his
concomitant duties. In the apostolic age, it more particularly signified an
extraordinary minister, appointed to assist the apostles in preaching and
publishing the gospel — in watering what the apostles planted: and in this
sense also it contained a very extensive meaning. But, at present, it is
generally applied to those inspired writers who were employed by the Spirit
of God to record the life and actions of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must
here, however, consider the word in its most enlarged sense; for Timothy
was, without doubt, in every point of view, a minister of the gospel.
1. IN CONSIDERING THIS DIVISION OF OUR SUBJECT,
WE SHALL, FIRST, TAKE A REVIEW OF THE NUMEROUS
ADVANTAGES OF A ZEALOUS GOSPEL MINISTRY.
1. A faithful minister, who consecrates himself to every good word and
work, who enters into the minute examination of all the miseries and wants
of his brethren, and labors to find a remedy for them all — represent, if you
can, all the works of salvation and mercy among men, of which such a
minister will be the instrument, through the blood of the covenant and the
grace of the Spirit! He heals those hearts which are sick and alienated from
God: he pierces the darkness with which shame so often covers the
indigent, and in affording them, by the means at least of his benevolent
friends, a secret succor, spares them even the confusion of being relieved:
useful institutions for the instruction or relief of the poor and the stranger,
which come within his circle, find in his care, or in his zeal, resources
which establish them, or which preserve them from falling, and give them a
new solidity. O what public disorders does he prevent; what occasions of
salvation does he improve! He stirs up the pious, and makes them useful in
the conversion or sanctification of others; he presides at every holy
enterprise; he is, as it were, the soul of piety in his circuit; even the greater
part of those sinners who attend his ministry, but still live in sin or vanity,
feel a hope that some day they shall be converted by his means.
animates all; he finds remedies for all. There is no public good within his
circle, and consistent with his calling, to which he does not sacrifice
himself; no good undertaking which he prevents; no sinner who does not
appear worthy of his zeal. In short, there is nothing which can quench or
stop his divine ardor, or the holy fervor of his love; “and there is nothing
hid from the heat thereof,” <191906>Psalm 19:6.
2. We read, <121321>2 Kings 13:21, that the corpse of a man being thrown near
the dead body of Elisha, it instantly revived; those eyes which death had
closed, open again; his tongue is unloosed; and we see him come from the
abode of death, and again enjoy life and light. Alas, my brethren, carcasses
the most putrefied, souls in which spiritual death and the corruption of sin
have reigned abundantly longer, can hardly approach a holy minister, an
ambassador of God, dead to himself, to the world and all its hopes, but
they instantly, through grace, feel a virtue go from him, a breath of life
which begins to reanimate them, to inspire into them good desires, and to
rouse them from their lethargy; and which, in those who are faithful to these
beginnings, will produce the fruits of grace and salvation.
3. And then his example! His piety, his disinterestedness, his mortified
spirit, his modesty, his ministerial gravity, have such a secret, constant,
powerful in influence, that he may be truly said to be sent for the salvation
of many. It is true, that neither the example nor labors of the holiest
ministers can have the least influence in the regeneration or salvation of
souls without the unction of the Holy Spirit; but the person, the words, the
actions of a devoted ambassador of Christ, are all anointed, and breathe
forth the savor of Jesus’ name. What a happiness must it be to a people
when God raises among them holy ministers, whose deep piety and
crucified lives serve, so to speak, as spectacles to angels and men They are
a continual gospel before their eyes! “Do,” therefore, “the work of an
2. FROM HENCE APPEARS THE NECESSITY OF EMINENT
ZEAL; IN ORDER TO INFLAME WITH DIVINE LOVE THE
HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE, AND TO BEAR DOWN ALL THE
OBSTACLES WHICH OPPOSE THE SPREAD OF THE
1. Frozen discourses will never set on fire the souls of the hearers. Indeed,
how can those ministers even appear to the people as animated with that
divine fire which carries the sparks of grace to the coldest and most
insensible hearts, who themselves are all ice in the practice of every duty;
and who feel not themselves all alive for the salvation of either their
brethren or themselves? If we fill up our public duties with an air of
custom, of weariness, of reluctance, (which is inseparable from a life of
lukewarmness,) and of unfaithfulness in the pastoral office, we shall leave
the same dispositions in those who hear us. Our labors will rouse neither
our faith nor piety, and will leave the same spiritual death on the minds of
our audience. Alas! my brethren, even in a holy and fervent minister, it calls
for prodigies of zeal, application, patience, and labor to bear down all the
obstacles which the world, the devil, and the present corruption of
manners, oppose to the success of his ministry. What then can the
cowardly, idle minister promise himself from his baseness and idleness?
What fruit can he expect from a field to which he never puts but a feeble,
languishing hand; and which seems to be intrusted to him, to be the sport of
his cruel neglect, rather than the object of his care?
2. “Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee
out of my mouth,” <660316>Revelation 3:16, says Christ. If a private professor,
who lives in the spirit of lukewarmness, is unfit for the kingdom of heaven,
and is rejected out of the mouth of Christ, as a lukewarm and disgusting
drink which raises the stomach; what is a minister good for, who does the
particular work of God negligently? What an object of disgust for a God
who is jealous of his gifts! What an afflicting spectacle to that part of the
church of God which beholds it — to see a place in that ministry which is
designed for zeal, for labor, and for the salvation of souls, filled by a
lukewarm, idle minister, instead of a faithful laborer; instead of one who
would have enlarged the kingdom of Jesus Christ who would have
snatched from their miseries a glorious number of sinners, who would have
edified and built up believers, and been the glory of Christ. <470823>2 Corinthians
3. Could the gospel have been spread through so large a part of the world,
and the foolishness of the cross have triumphed over numerous and great
nations, if those apostolic men who have preceded us had regarded the
oppositions which the people, yea, which the whole pagan world, made to
the progress of the gospel? Where should we have been, if difficulties
insurmountable by human prudence had abated their zeal or suspended their
labors; or if, in the persuasion of finding us as we were, savage and
rebellious, they had unhappily left us to the darkness of our primitive
ignorance? Do you fear inconveniences? But what is there to fear for a
pastor who fills up his ministry with edification and fidelity? “What?” it
may be answered, “Contempt, reproaches, and contradictions.” But these
are his glory, and form part of the present consoling reward of his zeal.
“What?” it may be added, “Evil treatment and insults of various kinds.”
these are the most honorable seals of his apostleship. I grant, however,
3dly. 1. That all this zeal should be continually guarded; and that the
universal maxim, which binds every private member of the church of
Christ, should be particularly written on the hearts of his ministers — “Let
your moderation be known unto all men,” <500405>Philippians 4:5. There is a
modesty which should run through the whole character of a minister of
Christ, and should manifest itself in all his words and actions; yea, even
upon those occasions when he most unbends his mind.
2. Nothing is of more importance than the moderation and modesty of
ministers who are consecrated to the Lord. The same decency, the same
circumspection, the same majesty, which accompanies them in their public
duties, should follow them everywhere; and as they are everywhere to
consider themselves as the ambassadors of Christ, they ought everywhere
to support the dignity of this character, in the wisdom of their words, in the
chaste decency of their dress, and in the seriousness of all their actions. I
have already, in a former discourse, spoken on this subject; but I would
wish to enlarge a little farther, on account of its importance.
3. If the sacred writings, by which we shall be judged, make every idle
word a transgression; if the gospel exacts from every private Christian such
circumspection, reserve, and modesty in conversation — what does it not
require from the immediate ministers of Jesus Christ! The lips of ministers
are, next to the word of God, the depositaries of divine knowledge, which
they are incessantly to administer to the people; and when the Spirit of God
calls them to the ministry, he says to them in some sense, as formerly to the
“I have put my words in thy mouth, and have covered thee in the
shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the
foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people,”
That is to say, to the end that you may make — as a new heaven and a new
earth, or at least as a part of it, — the people intrusted to your care; that you
may accustom them to regard me as the only God who deserves their
affections and homage; that they may learn to regard themselves as a holy
people, consecrated to me alone; that the heaven and earth which they
behold are the works of my liberal hand, which, with all things they
contain, deserve not their affections; and that I have prepared for them a
heaven infinitely more glorious and eternal, where they shall enjoy, with
my redeemed, pleasures for evermore. What follows from hence but that
our tongue is no more our own; that it is consecrated to the Word of God,
and the edification of the people; that witticisms and vain discourses are
unlawful amusements in the mouths of believers; but that they are
profanations in ours!
4. Far be it from me to speak against the relaxations of innocent society:
but that which I would say, my brethren, is this — that our conversation
should be always marked with a peculiar character of piety, gravity, and
modesty; that, in conversing, we should with a holy joy endeavor to edify
each other; and all around us, with words of love and truth; and that we
should banish from our discourse all profane and immoderate joy, and all
the low and all the genteel pleasantries of the world.
5. I would just add, that all our relaxations, even when we most unbend
our minds, should have in them a peculiarity of decency, reserve, and
seriousness. I know that both the soul and body need relaxation but those
moments which we give to nature are neither useful nor permitted, but as
they dispose us for our duties, and prepare us for farther toil. Repose is
appointed for us, to the end that we may gain new strength to continue our
course; and therefore every kind of relaxation which tends to estrange us
from it, to discourage us, or to inspire us with a distaste of our toil and
public labors, is to us improper, yea, criminal.
6. But as for you, my brethren, permit me to finish this head of my
discourse with those words of the apostle, “Ye have not so learned Christ,”
<490420>Ephesians 4:20. No, brethren: it is not thus that you dishonor your
ministry: it is not thus that you turn into a stumblingblock the sacred
character which you have received from Jesus Christ for their salvation.
Continue, then, my brethren, to conduct yourselves before your people in a
manner worthy the holiness and gravity of your vocation. We live in times
when infidelity moves with gigantic strides; when the licentiousness of the
public manners leaves us nothing to avoid the malignity of suspicion, and
the contempt of the world, but this respectable gravity, modesty, and piety,
supported throughout the minutest particulars of our conduct and manners.
Irreligion is come to a point; and the world is charmed to find so many
ministers like themselves. It seems to be a victory and gain to them, when
they can persuade themselves, or when they can perceive, that any ministers
tread under foot the duties of their station. They see not that the
unfaithfulness and misconduct of ministers consecrated to the service of
religion is the greatest judgment God can inflict upon a people, except the
entire removal of the candlestick of the gospel. <660205>Revelation 2:5. Let none
of us then, my brethren, increase the blindness of the world, by confirming
it in its errors through our example. O! let none of us become stones of
stumbling, and the most grievous plagues to those to whom we should be
guides in the way of salvation!
7. In a word, my brethren, feed the flock which is in trusted to your care,
with the tenderness of fathers, with the vigilance of guides, and with all the
modesty, simplicity, and holiness, which becomes ministers of Jesus
Christ. Let your example, under the grace of God, give you assurance of
the fruit and success of your ministry: appear not occupied or touched with
any thing but their salvation: forget, as it were, your own temporal interests;
or never put them in the balance with the interest of their souls. Consider
yourselves as theirs. Your calling, your mission, your functions, are only
for them: give yourselves then wholly to them, as if you were created only
for their benefit. “Do the work of an evangelist.”
I now proceed to the last head of my subject “Make full proof of your
ministry.” So fulfill the whole, that none may charge you with the neglect
of your duty. Let the world see that you make it your own and only work to
1. How strong and comprehensive is this commandment! Should we not
therefore frequently examine ourselves concerning the purity of our zeal and
of our motives in respect to all the parts of our ministerial office — whether
“we make full proof of our ministry” in the sight of God as well as man?
When we enter on any employment, should we not first inquire, Will God
be glorified by this undertaking? Is it his work which I am entering upon?
Is that which I purpose to myself; really my duty? Does divine love
influence me to comfort the afflicted, to strengthen the weak, and to bring
sinners to Christ? Does divine zeal urge me to cultivate in secret the fruits of
my public labors; to support the rising conversation by spiritual discourse;
to heal domestic dissensions by the counsels of meekness and wisdom; to
reconcile fathers to their children; to restore to wives the affections of their
husbands; and to carry the peace of Jesus Christ into all the families I visit?
Does the spirit of ministerial vigilance and holy solicitude lead me into every
work of mercy and piety? Do I “make full proof of my ministry?”
2. Do I visit the fatherless and widows in their afflictions? <590127>James 1:27.
Do I prefer “the house of mourning to the house of feasting?”
<210702>Ecclesiastes 7:2. Can a father see his children on the point of being taken
from him, without running to their succor, and leaving with them at least
some farewell marks of consolation and tenderness? And is he a shepherd,
or a savage, who sees his infirm, perhaps dying sheep, and condescends
not to offer them at least his spiritual assistance? No, my brethren; a pastor
who neglects the sick of his flock must have a heart as hard as a stone, or as
light as vanity. “I was sick,” will Christ say, “and ye visited me not,”
And if a poor sinner on the verge of eternity, though not a member of our
society implore my assistance at that awful period; shall I refuse him my
hand? How little must I know of, or at least how little regard, the value of a
soul, if I do not fly to his rescue? for who knows but he may be called,
even by my instrumentality, at the last hour of the day? And what shall I
answer before the tremendous Judge at his awful bar, when all the intricate
threads of human events are fully unraveled, if I find that that immortal
soul, now lost for ever would have been saved if I had been faithful? Will
not his blood, will not his soul, be required at my hands? God enable us to
“make full proof of our ministry!” But again,
3. Do I faithfully visit the poor? If such as neglect to feed the poor with
material bread, shall on the great day be placed on the left hand of the
Judge, how can those escape condemnation whose office is to dispense to
them spiritual bread, if they neglect so sacred a charge? I well know that the
generality of our traveling preachers are unable, out of their little pittance, to
afford much to the poor, for the supply of those temporal remedies or
comforts which their miseries demand; and therefore this is not what the
gospel particularly requires of them; nor do the poor in general, who know
them, expect it from them: though I have no doubt but you, my brethren,
give according to your ability, yea, and many of you, as the apostle says,
beyond it; softening at least by your cares, your sensibility, your advice,
and your prayers, the pains and distresses of your poorer brethren, and
suffering and sympathizing with those whom you cannot temporally
relieve. We are, you know, ministers of things future; and the riches which
God showers upon the people by our means, are the riches of grace and
Let us then be, if possible, more ready to succor, with our prayers and
advice, those among our people whose poverty incapacitates them from
recompensing our labors, than those who might reward them by temporal
kindnesses, and at the same time least need our counsels. Let us not divide
our cares among our people according to the means they possess to
compensate for them but according to the need they have of the assistance
of our ministry. Let the name of the poor be honorable in our eyes.
not have the hardness of heart to add to the distresses of their situation that
of our neglect and indifference; but let us make ample amends for our want
of power to supply their bodily necessities, by our zeal and assiduity in the
things which relate to their souls: let us make them conscious that their
poverty is a title which only endears them the more to us, as making them
more dependent upon us, and ourselves in consequence more responsible
for them. Let us consider them as the most privileged part of our flock; as,
in their outward condition, most resembling Christ when he abode upon
earth in the flesh. Let us consider ourselves happy in a constant interest in
their prayers. “The Lord heareth the poor,” <196933>Psalm 69:33 says the
psalmist. When they are poor in spirit, also, then it is the voice of that dove
which is always heard and answered, that groans within them. Let us suffer
with them in compassionating their pain: let us remember that our mission,
like that of our adorable Redeemer, is peculiarly to the poor. “The Spirit of
the Lord is upon me,” says Christ by Isaiah, “because he hath anointed me
to preach the gospel to the poor; and “this day,” says he in the synagogue,
“is this scripture fulfilled in your ears,” <236101>Isaiah 61:1; <420418>Luke 4:18, 21.
“Go,” says our Lord to the disciples of John the Baptist,
“and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: the
blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed,
and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the
gospel preached to them,” <401104>Matthew 11:4, 5.
As if he had said to them, Your master is so perfectly acquainted with the
nature of the Messiah’s kingdom, and the entire crucifixion to the pomps
and vanities of the world which its members must necessarily experience,
that one of the strongest proofs to him that I am Christ, will be this — that
“the poor have the gospel preached unto them.” Let us then, my brethren,
be thankful that we labor among a people who are in general poor; for it is
among such that the grace of the Spirit of God is most abundantly shed
abroad. We receive, it is true, but little from their indigence; but the harvest
is always rich for Jesus Christ! Well did the primitive bishop, on the
demand of the Roman emperor, that he should deliver up all the treasures of
his church, bring to him the poor indigent members of his flock, who,
though destitute of worldly comforts, were rich in faith! So it has been, is,
and probably will be, till the great millennial year rushes in upon the world.
Let us then take delight in daily visiting the poor: let none of us manifest so
little faith and crucifixion to the world as to regard those ministers most
happy who labor among the rich. They may be better paid; but will their
usefulness be greater? They may find those who are most ready, because
most able to supply their temporal wants; but will they find those who are
most ready to profit by their instructions? The thorns and anxiety
accompanying riches, generally choke and stifle the word of God.
<401322>Matthew 13:22. The field may be more adorned, but the soil in general is
barren and ungrateful. While, on the contrary, a minister who faithfully
labors among a poor people, possessing simple and teachable spirits,
penetrated with a love of the great obvious and essential truths of the
gospel, and submissive in their indigence to the divine hand which corrects
them such a one, I say, has the consolation of daily seeing his ministry
abundant in fruits for heaven. Let us then consider it as one of our highest
duties to visit the poor: let us not account our labors in any wise
recompensed, but when they produce the fruits of life and salvation; and let
us not estimate concerning our duties or station, except by the gains we can
make thereby for Jesus Christ our Lord.
4. When all these holy duties, privileges and vocations are duly estimated,
may not the minister of the gospel profitably enter into some such soliloquy
as the following? “I can neither through my unfaithfulness damn, nor
through grace save, myself alone. From the time that I enter the holy
ministry, I must necessarily be either a plague sent from God, or permitted
in his wise providence for the punishment of mankind, or a gift from
heaven for their blessing and felicity. I must resemble either that dragon in
the Revelation, who, in falling, drew with him the third part of the stars of
heaven, or that great antitype of the brazen serpent, Jesus Christ, who being
lifted up draws all who believe to himself, and heals all the diseases and
infirmities of the people. I have only this alternative.
“What a most powerful motive is this for fidelity in my office; for
watchfulness over my conduct; for zeal in my ministry; for filial fear
in my situation; for a continual renewal in the spirit of my vocation
for glowing hope, or confusion, in the expectation of the coming of
the great Bishop of souls, who will then demand from me an
account of the use or neglect of my talents, and who will present to
me those souls which he had intrusted to my care, either as my
condemnation, if they have perished through my neglect, or as my
glory and crown if they have under his grace found life and
salvation by the means of my ministry!”
5 .“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things
are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report,
if there be any virtue. and if there be any praise, think on these
things,” <500408>Philippians 4:8.
“Whatsoever things are true,” — hold in its purity that most sacred
depository of faith and truth, the holy word of God. Draw from the pure
sources, from the Scriptures, all the principles of holiness and morality, by
which you should regulate your own conduct, and that of your flocks.
Never depart from those rules of truth, without which all that bears the
name of piety is nothing but hypocrisy, and a scandal to others.
“Whatsoever things are honest,” — show a due reservedness in your
manners and conversations. Let nothing which is in the least degree
indecent, or contrary to the sanctity of your ministry, ever escape you. Bear
always on your countenance a holy modesty, and that ministerial gravity,
which make religion respectable even to those who love it not: avoid all
suspicious familiarities; and remember, that your willfully saying or doing
any thing which may cause suspicion, is a crime in a minister, which
innocence itself cannot justify.
“Whatsoever things are just,” — let the most delicate and in violable
equity be manifested in all your conduct, disinterestedness in all the
exercises of your ministry, prudence and love in your zeal, and an equal
affection (as ministers) toward all the faithful who are in trusted to your
care, as you are equally the spiritual fathers of them all; no animosity,
except against vice; no predilection, but in favor of holiness: no acceptance
of persons; but let the wants alone of your flocks regulate all your cares and
all your attention.
“Whatsoever things are pure,” — Inspire the people with a due respect
for all the ordinances of the gospel, by administering them yourselves in the
fear of God and with holy dignity. On all such occasions, appear as the
elders before the throne of the Lamb, struck with the majesty of God, and
expecting a revelation of his love to your own souls and those of the people;
and let such modesty, awe, and depth of piety be manifested in all your
administrations, that your people may learn from your whole deportment
what dispositions are necessary for themselves on such occasions. But,
above all, and in all, and through all, let us press upon every one the
necessity of holiness. Let us never forget our calling — that we were called
and sent forth to raise a holy people. Let all your doctrines, and all your
discipline, all your labors, and all your conversation, center in this. Let this
be the grand burden of your testimony — “Without holiness no man shall
see the Lord.”
“Whatsoever things are lovely,” — render yourselves amiable in the
eyes of your people, if you would be useful to them; amiable, not by
improper familiarities, but by partaking of their afflictions, and becoming
their comforters in all their distresses. Gain their hearts, and draw their
souls to Jesus Christ. Render not your sacred function odious by the
rudeness, the moroseness, or the caprice of your humors; nor contemptible,
by a baseness of sentiment. Refuse not upon any occasion, to the believers
or penitents who are committed to your charge, your assistance or advice,
since you owe to them your very life. Be their consolation, and they will be
yours; love them as your children, and they will love you as their fathers.
“Whatsoever things are of good report,” — Neglect nothing which
can preserve your reputation pure and spotless in the judgment of your
people. Abstain from every thing, even the most lawful, which can become
a cause of offense to your brethren. Remember that the fruit of your
ministry is in a great measure attached to the good opinion they have of
you. Disgrace not, therefore, our holy religion, by disgracing yourselves.
Let your examples prepare the way for the success of your instructions. Let
no one have occasion to reproach you for doing that which you are obliged
to testify against to others; and let the sweet savor of your lives spread
through your circuits, and become itself a constant censure of the vices or
faults of others.
In short, my brethren, if the remembrance of the glorious army of martyrs,
whose blood became the seed of the church, can affect you; if the example
of your late venerable father in the gospel [John Wesley], and of the first
Methodist preachers, who endured the heat and burden of the day, and bore
the ark of the testimony against an opposing world, can move you; if you
have ruling within you (as I doubt not you have) the principles of holiness
and truth — “if there be any virtue, think on these things.” If our most
excellent discipline, so faithfully enforced by your predecessors, inspire
you with a sacred emulation; if you be ashamed to degenerate from the holy
fortitude of those who have gone before you, whose praise is in all our
churches, — “if there be any praise, think on these things.” Then, under
almighty grace, you will continue to do honor to your holy ministry; you
will be the blessed means of sanctifying the people, and “the God of peace
will be ever with you.
“Watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an
In my discourse on the former part of the apostle’s charge to Timothy, I
considered the zeal which the ministers of the gospel should constantly
manifest for the salvation of souls; particularly in all the public duties of
their office, and by the improvement of every opportunity afforded them to
bear a testimony for God to the people of the world. We now proceed to
speak upon the remaining particulars of this solemn charge.
I. “Watch thou in all things.” The duty of watchfulness cannot be too
strongly impressed on every private Christian; for, without the constant
exercise of it, the life of God cannot possibly be preserved in the soul. But
to enlarge on the duty as it respects the private character would carry me
beyond the limits of a discourse; and therefore I shall chiefly consider it as it
belongs to the office of a minister of the gospel.
The spirit of our ministry is a spirit of separation from the world; of prayer
and secret intercession for the souls of men, and, especially for the church
of Christ; of labor; of firmness and fidelity; of knowledge; and of piety. Our
watchfulness, therefore, as ministers, should be particularly directed against
those things which oppose the above essential properties of the spirit of our
1. AGAINST THE SPIRIT OF THE WORLD,
BECAUSE THE SPIRIT OF OUR MINISTRY
IS A SPIRIT OF SEPARATION FROM THE WORLD.
1 . That unction from above which reserves us, sanctifies us, sets us apart
for the ministry, (and if we have not received it we are no ministers,)
withdraws us also from all the other public functions of society; not that we
cease from being citizens of our country, or from the obedience and
submission due to the king, and all that are in authority — to the powers
that are; for “the powers which be are ordained of God,” <451301>Romans 13:1;
but the ministry of the word is become our great employment; the public
temples of God, “where his honor dwelleth,” are our places of public
resort; the visitation of the sick and the poor, and all the other works of
piety and charity, our subordinate tasks; and prayer and praise our
recreation and pleasure.
2 . All things then should be holy in a minister of the gospel, and separated
from common use. His tongue should only discourse of God: useless
conversations at least, however harmless in themselves, defile his tongue;
as, under the law, a holy vessel would have been defiled by common
meats. His eyes have entered into covenant not to behold vanity; or if they
do, they lose, without genuine repentance, the right of entering into the
interior of the tabernacle, to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus
Christ. In short, the whole person of a minister of Christ should be a living
example of true religion, which ought always to be surrounded with
decency, gravity, and respect.
3 . This, then, is the first point — to watch against the desire of worldly
things: for the cares, the solicitudes, the employments of the world, when
you enter into them, will rob you of your unction, however your natural or
improved talents may remain; and will not only profane, but in time entirely
destroy all the genuine virtue of your vocation, and bring you thoroughly
under the yoke of the world. The vessels and ornaments which were used
in the temple under the law were never appropriated to common use; it
would have been a crime which would have defiled their consecration: now
a minister of the gospel, consecrated to God by his own blessed Spirit, in a
manner infinitely more holy than that of the sacred vessels and ornaments
under the law, defiles and profanes abundantly more his consecration, if he
makes his person, his talents, his spirit, his heart, to serve to dead works
and the common employments of the world. O thou holy doctrine of the
cross, how little art thou known by those ministers who enter into the
affairs, agitations, and commotions of this miserable world! The apostle has
warned them in vain, that
“no man who warreth, entangleth himself with the affairs of this
life; that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier,”
<550204>2 Timothy 2:4.
Alas! these become principal actors on the stage of the world. The
dispensers of the truths and blessings of Heaven become the ministers of
carnal views and projects: those whom God has charged with the eternal
interests of the people, neglect them, and make it their glory to spend their
strength in carrying on worldly affairs.
2. WE MUST WATCH AGAINST THE LIGHT AND
TRIFLING SPIRIT OF THE WORLD, BECAUSE THE SPIRIT
OF OUR MINISTRY IS A SPIRIT OF PRAYER AND
Although it is the privilege of a faithful minister to have a river of peace
continually flowing in his soul, yet, paradoxical as it may appear, his life, at
the same time, is a life of prayer, lamentation, and complaint. The Prophet
Isaiah, on a prophetic view of the great millennium, “when all flesh should
come to worship before the Lord,” cried out,
“Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her;
rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her,”
<236610>Isaiah 66:10, 23.
When we see so large a part of the inhabitants of the globe lying in the
wicked one, covered with heathen or Mohammedan darkness; — or, what
is still worse, when we see infidelity reigning in the midst of the blaze of
gospel day, it is impossible, if we breathe the true spirit of the gospel
ministry, but we shall be daily, yea, habitually praying between the porch
and the altar, with groanings which cannot be uttered. <290217>Joel 2:17;
<450826>Romans 8:26. Jesus Christ, the prince and model of ministers, wept over
Jerusalem, when he saw her hardened in her blindness. Yes, my brethren,
as long as Satan reigns upon earth, the true ministers of God will more or
less mourn and lament. As long as the children of Israel, on the plain,
employ themselves in dances and revels, forget the God of their fathers,
and madly prostitute their homage to the golden calf, the true Moseses on
the mountains will tear their garments — will break their hearts before the
Lord. “The world will rejoice,” says Christ to his apostles: its children will
run on dancing and sending forth cries of joy, till they precipitate
themselves into the abyss. Let their laughter and their sports be their
portion: let that holy sorrow which is consistent with constant joy in the
Holy Ghost be ours. The world, in the midst of which we live, will be
continually to us a spectacle of grief and concern; and even when they
persecute us not, though crosses and gibbets do not attend us, their entire
depravation will itself alone be an unexhausted source of lamentation before
3. WE MUST WATCH AGAINST INDOLENCE, BECAUSE
THE SPIRIT OF OUR MINISTRY IS A SPIRIT OF TOIL.
1. We fill a laborious office. The church of Christ upon earth is a vineyard,
a field, a harvest, a building which should be daily rising and growing to
perfection, and a holy warfare — all terms which announce cares and
fatigues; all symbols of labor and application.
2. This the time of a minister of the gospel is due to the church: all the days
and moments which he employs in the commerce of the world, in
dissipation, or in the vanities of worldly society, except where occasional
duties call him, are days and moments which were due to the salvation of
his fellow-creatures, and of which those souls which suffer through his
neglect will demand a strict account at the tribunal of Jesus Christ. By the
divine unction he has received, and by his devotion of himself to the
ministry — the church of Christ has acquired, a peculiar property in his
person, his leisure, his occupations, and his talents. These are all now
consecrated things, which form part of the property of the church of God.
He is only the depositary of them, and has no right to dispose of them at his
pleasure: he is responsible for them to God and his church. It is not for
himself that he has been numbered among the ministers of Christ, but for
the church, that he may bear his part in her toils and ministry. He degrades
the title she has given him when he abandons the labors she has appointed
for him: he ceases to be a minister, from the moment he ceases to be a
laborer: he spends in worldly commerce and frivolous occupations that time
on which rolls the salvation of the souls among whom he should have toiled
— that time on which depends the eternal destiny of his brethren — that
time to which God has attached the salvation of sinners, the strengthening
of the weak, and the perfecting of the strong. “May the Spirit of the Holy
One increase our zeal!”
4. WE MUST WATCH AGAINST THE BETRAYING OF OUR
TRUST — AGAINST UNFAITHFULNESS, BECAUSE THE
SPIRIT OF OUR MINISTRY IS A SPIRIT OF FIRMNESS
1. We are appointed to “reprove, rebuke, exhort, in season and out of
season, with all longsuffering and doctrine.” The public vices should
always find us inflexible, inexorable. The countenance of a minister of
Christ should never blush at the reproaches which never fail to accompany
the liberty and faithful execution of his office. He bears written on his
forehead, with much more true majesty than the high priest of the law,
HOLINESS TO THE LORD, <022836>Exodus 28:36. The divine unction which the
Spirit of God has bestowed upon him for the ministry of the gospel is a
grace of strength and courage it inspires the soul marked by this divine zeal
with an heroic disposition, which raises it above its own natural weakness;
which puts into it noble, great, and generous sentiments, worthy of the
dignity of its ministry; and gives it an elevation of mind which raises it
above the fears, the hopes, — the reputation, — the reproaches, and every
thing else, which rule over and regulate the conduct of the generality of
men: yea, which bestows upon us that ministerial vigor and apostolic fire
which so gloriously manifested themselves in the founders and first heroes
of our divine religion.
2. Now this spirit of firmness and fidelity is precisely the character the
most opposed to the spirit of the world. For the spirit of the world is
continually shown in a commerce of attentions, complaisance, art, and
management: it seems to have hardly an opinion of its own: it can overlook,
if not applaud, an improper sentiment covered with art and delicacy: it can
bend, yea, accustom its ears to the witty, but cruel touches of smooth
malevolence; and can suffer, without reproof, rebuke, or exhortation, the
preference which is daily given to the gifts of nature over those of grace. In
short, the minister (so called) who will live in the bustle of the world, must
think, or at least speak, as the world does: he must not discover the firm
and serious spirit of a minister of God: if he did, he would soon become its
butt and its laugh; and all his worldly plans would be entirely defeated. No:
we, who should be the salt of the earth, would in such case be obliged to
lend ourselves, to accommodate ourselves, and to putrefy with the children
of this earth. We who are called to be the censors of the world, would soon
become in some sense its panegyrist: we, who should be the lights of the
world, would by our open suffrage, or by our base, dastardly silence,
perpetuate its blindness: in short, we, who should be instrumentally the
resource and salvation of the world, would miserably perish with it.
3. Nothing, my brethren, so softens the firmness and fidelity of the
ministerial spirit as the busy commerce of the world. We enter by little, and
imperceptibly, into its prejudices, its excuses, and all its vain reasonings.
The more we meddle with it, the less we find it culpable. We can at last
even plead for its softness, its idleness, its luxury, and its ambition. We
begin, like the world, to give soft names to all these passions and
indulgences; and that which confirms us in this new system of conduct is,
that we have the universal plaudit of worldly men; for they will give to our
baseness and cowardice the specious names of moderation, elevation of
spirit, and a talent for making virtue amiable; while they give to the contrary
conduct the odious names of littleness, rusticity, excess, and hardness of
heart, only fit to withdraw men from goodness, and render piety hateful or
contemptible. Thus we treat obligingly a world which gives to our baseness
and unfaithfulness all the honors due to prudence; and we believe it not to
be so guilty as is commonly imagined among believers, from the time we
love its esteem. For, alas! my brethren, there are too few of the Sauls and
Barnabases who would not relax from the truth, though they thereby caused
themselves to be stoned even by those people who, a few moments before,
would have offered incense to them as gods just descended from heaven!
4. The spirit of ministerial firmness and fidelity is therefore absolutely
incompatible with the busy commerce of the world: you will no more find
any thing there to reprove, in proportion as you familiarize yourselves with
those things which are reprehensible in it: you will lose the views of those
great rules of conduct which have governed the faithful ministers of God in
all the ages of the church: you will no longer cultivate those seeds of divine
science which, through grace, have helped to make you useful in the Lord’s
vineyard: the Scriptures, and the writings of the best divines, will became
strange and tiresome: you will soon have lost your taste for them; and you
will prefer to those serious studies, so conformable to your ministerial
duties, books which, to you, should be comparatively vain and frivolous;
but which render you more serviceable and agreeable to the world to which
you have delivered up yourself. These observations lead me to a fifth
reflection on this head; namely, that,
5. WE SHOULD WATCH AGAINST A NEGLECT
AND DISTASTE OF STUDY, BECAUSE THE SPIRIT
OF OUR MINISTRY IS A SPIRIT OF DIVINE SCIENCE.
1. The lips of a minister of the gospel are the public depositories of the
doctrines of divine truth: we are required, like the prophet, to devour the
book which contains the law and the gospel, notwithstanding all the
bitterness which may accompany our studies and watchings: we must
nourish our souls with the bread of the word of God, as it were by the
sweat of our brow; and adorn our souls internally with the divine law, as
the Jewish priests adorned themselves eternally with their sacred garments.
The divine writings are the basis and substance of our gospel ministry,
which we may compare to the two great lights which God has set in the
firmament: like them, we should rule over the day and the night; over the
day, in guiding the faith and piety of believers; and over the night, in
clearing our minds from all darkness of error, and filling them with spiritual
light. We are the chief interpreters of the divine law and gospel, the guides
of the people, the seers and prophets appointed by Christ to clear their
doubts, and from the divine word to discover to them the whole will of
2. But can these titles be supported in the hurry of worldly commerce?
Alas! nothing is so fatal as that to a taste for study and retirement. I am not
now speaking of profound studies, of sounding all the depths of antiquity
for the elucidation of the doctrines and discipline of Christianity, or of
furnishing the church of God with new and useful publications: these are
not the things which the spirit of your vocation exacts from you: these are
studies and talents manifested in an eminent degree by only a small number
of the wisest ministers whom God has raised up to be general lights of their
age. But I say that for those common, ordinary studies, which are
indispensably necessary to qualify a minister to “divide the word of truth
aright, and to give to each their portion of meat in due season;” in short, to
be in a situation to exercise his functions with light and success: I say that
for these studies he must have a spirit accustomed to think, to meditate, and
to be with and in himself; he must fly from that commerce with the world
which soon annexes to his books a weariness which is insupportable; he
must have a desire of increasing in divine knowledge; a character of mind
which is an enemy to frivolous employments; a habit of retirement and
reflection; an arrangement of life, whereby he can give an account to
himself of his progress, and whereby the moments set apart for the different
duties of his situation will always find them selves in their own place, and
conformable to their destination; in a word, a kind of uniform, occupied,
regulated life, which can in nowise have the least alliance with the perpetual
variations and derangements of a worldly life and conversation.
6. I SHALL FINISH THIS HEAD WITH ONE REFLECTION
MORE; NAMELY, THAT WE SHOULD WATCH AGAINST
THE LEAST ALIENATION OF OUR MINDS FROM GOD,
BECAUSE THE SPIRIT OF OUR MINISTRY IS A SPIRIT OF
1. By this spirit of piety, I understand not only blamelessness of morals,
but that candor of conscience, that tenderness of religion, that taste of God,
that delicacy of soul, which the appearance alone of evil alarms. Behold that
spirit of piety, which is the soul and safeguard of our ministry!
2. We live, as it were, in a continual commerce with holy things. But what
a life of prayer, of retirement, of circumspection, of faith, and of rigorous
attention to the senses, ought we not to lead, that we may be always
prepared for our holy duties! All the dispositions, desires, and affections of
our hearts, should be purified, sanctified, consecrated by the unction of the
Holy Spirit, residing within us. How can we appear before the
congregation of the Lord, in their name to raise ourselves up to the footstool
of the eternal throne, there to humble ourselves with the dominions and
powers of heaven into a sort of self-annihilation, there to sing praises with
them to the majesty of God, when just before we were drawn a hundred
different ways through the dirt of the world? How can we in such case
ascend the pulpit, and manifest to the people all the seriousness and grief of
true zeal? With what grace can we speak of a death to the world, of
avoiding the dangers to which it exposes us, and the snares which Satan
there lays in our way, of the necessity of prayer, retirement, and
watchfulness, of the eye which should be plucked out, of the hand and foot
which should be cut off; <401808>Matthew 18:8, 9, of the account we must render
even for every idle word, <401236>Matthew 12:36, and in short of all those
crucifying maxims so unknown to the world, and so contrary to its
manners? To be good preachers of Jesus Christ, and of him crucified, we
must ourselves be fastened to the cross of Jesus Christ: to inspire a taste of
God, and the things of heaven, we must feel them ourselves: to touch the
hearts of the people, our own hearts must be touched with the living coal.
3. I grant, as observed in my former discourse, that our itinerant plan
keeps us at a considerable distance from the world in general. But among
the families which we visit, are there not, in most of them, some who do
not make even a profession of religion? How cautious should we then be
that we do not enter into their spirit, thereby hardening them against the
truth, and injuring the minds of those who are truly religious! And of our
own people, alas! all are not Israel who are of Israel. To such, instead of
indulging them in their vain conversation, how closely, how faithfully
should we speak, as being peculiarly responsible for their souls! If in a
family there be any mourners in Zion, how dangerous, how dreadful would
it be for such to hear any thing trifling from the lips of him to whom they
are looking for a word of comfort! No time can be lost in laboring to bring
such to Christ. All reading and study should be laid aside, while the
opportunity is afforded us of leading to the Savior’s blood an immortal soul
under the convincing operations of the Holy Spirit. Such occasions should
be peculiarly prized — occasions of fixing jewels of the highest value in our
crown of glory, for
“they that turn many to righteousness shall shine
as the stars for ever and ever,” <271203>Daniel 12:3.
Again, when we meet with souls which enjoy the love of God, how careful
should we be to feed them with spiritual food, — how careful to say
nothing which might injure the tender spiritual life within them, or grieve
that holy Comforter who has thus far brought them on their way to heaven!
But, especially, when we meet with those who have drunk deep of the
waters of life, and live in close fellowship with God, then we should
improve the precious moments for the welfare of our own souls; and from
their spiritual observations learn more to enlarge in our public addresses on
the most important of all subjects, Christian experience. Here is a field of
action! Here are opportunities for doing good! What mighty privileges do
we enjoy as traveling preachers! “May the Lord enable us to improve them
to the uttermost, for his glory and the salvation of millions!”
4. But I must here observe, once for all, that these discourses are
addressed only to ministers of the gospel. The private members of the
church of Christ have a different calling; and if they improve the means
which the Lord affords them, he will preserve them in the midst of all their
business; and use many of them in their respective stations in his church for
the advancement of his kingdom upon earth. One grand truth which I have
been laboring to establish is this, — that when any receive a full call to the
ministry, it is their duty to sacrifice every secular employment to it; and if
not, that divine unction which they received for their office — that peculiar
apostolic spirit which, according to their measure, was bestowed upon
them, and which none can comprehend but those who possess it, will soon
be extinguished; and they themselves will incur the guilt of unfaithfulness to
the vocation of God, in the high office to which he has called them, or in
I now proceed to consider the next grand particular in the apostle’s charge
to Timothy: “Endure afflictions.”
1. We have reason to bless God that we are not called to suffer like the
faithful ministers of Christ in former ages. A spirit of civil and religious
liberty has accompanied even the spirit of infidelity; whereby the enemies of
revelation have, in a considerable degree, disarmed and incapacitated
themselves from injuring the church of God: and the earth has been made in
a wonderful manner to help the woman. <661216>Revelation 12:16. We have
succeeded to the ministry of that noble army of martyrs, who suffered “for
the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God,” <662004>Revelation 20:4; and we
are sent forth like them as “sheep in the midst of wolves,” <401016>Matthew
10:16. No thanks are due to our opponents, if we be not persecuted like our
predecessors. If we had reason, like the martyrs of old, to fear the barbarity
of the enemies of our religion — if the most cruel torments were the only
recompense we could promise ourselves in this life for all our zeal and
labors, we also should be brought to the alternative of renouncing Jesus
Christ, and the sacred ministry with which he has honored us, or to face
these dangers with holy joy. But, on the contrary, what in comparison have
we to suffer? Only the insults occasionally of the vilest of the people, which
will not touch even the skirts of our clothes, if we suffer them not to affect
our hearts; and those crosses which are indispensably necessary to keep us
at the feet of Jesus Christ, and to render us fit instruments for His service
who will not give his glory to another.
2. If we will be disciples, much more ministers of Christ, we must daily
take up his cross. Without this, he refuses to acknowledge us as his
disciples, or to make us partakers of that glory into which he entered not
himself but by the way of the cross.
“Whosoever doth not bear his cross, says Christ,
“and come after me, cannot be my disciple,” <421427>Luke 14:27.
“If [we be] children,” says St. Paul, “then heirs; heirs of God, and
joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may
be also glorified together,” <450817>Romans 8:17.
1 . But, perhaps, you will say,” I am too weak to endure afflictions.” Alas!
it is because we are weak; because the least disappointment in our favorite
pursuit makes us revolt against the will of Providence; because
contradiction raises our anger, or commendation and success our vanity and
pride, that the Lord sees it necessary we should pass through tribulation and
2. In short, what is it to be weak in the present sense of the word? It is to
love ourselves excessively: it is to live more by nature than by faith: it is to
suffer ourselves to be conducted by the vivacity of our own natural
inclinations, and not by the wisdom from above. Now, with this excessive
fund of self-love, if the Lord were not to manage our weakness, and to
humble us by affliction; if he did not strike our bodies with some habitual
languor, to render the world insipid to us; if he did not prepare for us some
losses in our substance; if he did not defeat some of our most favorite
projects; if he did not place us in such situations, that the most trying and
yet unavoidable duties should fill up our happiest hours; if he were not to
raise up a against us opposition by false brethren or by true brethren in a
word, if he were not to fix between us and our weakness some kind of
barrier, which might be strong enough to arrest and retain us, we should
soon be deceived by our false peace and prosperity; we should soon be
without a bridle for ourselves or our desires. The same weakness and selflove
which make us so sensible of trials and afflictions would make us still
more sensible of; and less prepared for, the dangers of pleasure and
3. If; therefore, we be discouraged under trials and afflictions, let us not
endeavor to excuse ourselves, by saying we are weak. The weakness of our
hearts arises only from the weakness of our faith; the soul of a Christian
should be a strong soul, proof against persecutions, reproaches, infirmities,
and death itself. The Christian may be oppressed, but he cannot be
subdued; you may snatch from him his goods, his reputation, his whole
fortune, yea, his life itself; but you cannot rob him of the treasure of faith
and grace which lies at the bottom of his heart; and abundantly compensates
for all his frivolous and temporary losses: you may, perhaps, make him
shed tears of sensibility and sorrow, for religion does not extinguish the
feelings of nature; but his heart in an instant resists, disavows, as it were,
his weakness, and turns even his tears into tears of piety. What shall I say?
A Christian rejoices even in tribulations; he regards them as marks of the
benevolence and watchful providence of him God, as precious sureties of
future promises, and as the happy characters of his resemblance of Jesus
4. All the precepts of the gospel require strength from above; and if we
have not sufficient to support the crosses which the Lord is pleased to lay
upon us, we have not sufficient for those other duties which the gospel
prescribes. It requires strength of grace to pardon an injury; to speak all the
good we can of those who calumniate us; or to hide the defects of those
who would destroy our reputation or usefulness. It requires strength of
grace to fly from a world which allures us; to snatch ourselves from
pleasures, or to oppose inclinations, which would draw us into evil; to
resist customs to which the usage of the world has given the authority of
laws or to use prosperity in a Christian spirit. It requires strength of grace to
conquer ourselves; to repress the rising desire; to stifle the pleasing
sentiments; continually to recall to the strict rules of the gospel a heart which
is so given to wander. In short, were we to review all the precepts of the
gospel, there would not be one which does not suppose a strong and
generous soul, fortified by grace. Throughout it is necessary that we do
violence to ourselves. The kingdom of God is a field, which must be
cleared and rooted up; a vineyard, in which we must bear the heat and
burden of the day; a career, in which we must perpetually and valiantly fight
the battles of the Lord. In a word, the whole life of a true disciple of Jesus
Christ bears the character of the cross; and if we lose for an instant this
strength of grace, we fall. To say then that you cannot endure afflictions
because you are weak, is to say that you are destitute of the spirit of the
5. But, besides this, my brethren, however weak we may really be, we
should have a confidence in the goodness of our God, that he will never
prove, afflict, or try us beyond our strength; that he always proportions the
afflictions to our weakness; that he gives his chastisements, as he does his
judgments, in weight and measure; that in afflicting he wills not to destroy
us, but to purify and save us, and qualify us for greater usefulness in his
church; that he who aids us, himself bears the crosses which he himself
imposes upon us; that he chastises us as a father, and not as a judge; that the
same hand which strikes us, supports us; that the same rod which gives the
wound, brings the oil and the honey to soften it. He knows the character of
our hearts, and how far our weakness goes; and, as in afflicting us his will
in Christ Jesus is our sanctification, <520403>1 Thessalonians 4:3, he knows how
far to weigh his hand, and lay the burden upon us.
6. Alas! What other design can our gracious Lord have in afflicting his
ministers and disciples? Is he a cruel God, who takes pleasure in the
sufferings of his servants? Is he a barbarous tyrant, who finds his grandeur
and safety only in the tears and blood of the subjects who adore him? It is
then for our benefit alone that he punishes and chastises us; his tenderness
suffers, if I may so speak, from our woes; and yet his love is so just and
wise, that he still leaves us to suffer, because he foresees that by
terminating our afflictions he would in the end increase our misery, and
prevent our usefulness and glory. He is like a skillful surgeon, who has
pity indeed on the cries and sufferings of his patient, and yet cuts to the
quick all that he finds corrupted in the wound; he is never more kind or
beneficent to his servants than when he appears to be most severe; and it is
indubitably evident that afflictions are necessary and useful to us, since a
God so good and so kind can resolve to lay them upon us. We read in the
histories of the martyrs, how weak girls could set at defiance all the
barbarity of tyrants! how children, before they were able to support the
labors of life, could run with joy to meet the rigors of the most dreadful
deaths! how old men, sinking already under the weight of their bodies,
seemed, by their cries of triumph, to feel their youth renewed like that of an
eagle, in the midst of the torments of slow martyrdoms! And are you weak,
my brethren? Then that weakness itself if you be faithful to the grace of
God, will bring glory to the faith and religion of Jesus Christ. It is on that
account that the Lord has chosen you, to make known in you and by you
how much stronger grace is than nature. He
“hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise;
and hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things
which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which
are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to
bring to naught the things that are, that no flesh should glory in his
presence,” <460127>1 Corinthians 1:27-29.
7. If you were born with any spiritual strength, you would do no honor to the
power of grace; that patience which is now the pure gift of God, would then
be justly attributed to man. Thus, in a sense, the weaker we are, the fitter
instruments we become for the designs and glory of God. He delights to
choose the feeble for his greatest purposes, that man may attribute nothing
to himself; and that the vain constancy of the wise and the philosophers may
be confounded by their example. His first disciples were but feeble lambs
when he sent them into the world, and exposed them in the midst of
wolves. These are the earthen vessels which the Lord is pleased to break,
like those of Gideon, that in them the light and power of faith might shine
with greater splendor and magnificence. And if you enter into the designs of
his mercy and wisdom, your weakness, which in your eyes justifies your
murmurs or unfaithfulness, would prove one of the sweetest consolations
of your trials.
8. “Lord,” you would say to him all your days, “I ask not that proud
reason or philosophy, which seeks all the consolations of its pains in the
glory of suffering with constancy. I ask not that insensibility of heart which
either feels not its miseries, or despises them. Give me, Lord, that sweet
simplicity, that tender sensible heart, which appears so little fit to support its
tribulations and trials: only increase thy comforts and thy graces. Then, the
weaker I appear in the eyes of men, the greater wilt thou appear in my
weakness; and the more will the children of this world admire the power of
faith, which alone can raise the feeblest and most timid souls to that point of
constancy and firmness which philosophy has never been able to attain.”
“Endure,” therefore, “afflictions.”
II. 1. Nothing is more common, than for ministers and private professors
to justify their murmurs or unfaithfulness, by the character or peculiarity of
the afflictions themselves. We easily persuade ourselves that we could bear
crosses of another nature with resignation; but those which the Lord has
laid upon us are of such a character as can yield no consolation; that the
more we examine what passes among men, the more singular we find our
trials or afflictions to be, and our situation almost without example.
2. But to remove this feeble defense — of self-love, so unworthy of
genuine faith, I would answer, That the more extraordinary our trials or
afflictions are, the more clearly may we discover the hand of Providence in
them; the more evidently may we observe the secret designs of a God ever
attentive to our interests; the more may we presume, that under such new
events he conceals new views and singular designs of mercy, for the
welfare of our souls, and for our future usefulness in his church.
3. Now, what is the most powerful consolation under trials and afflictions?
“God sees me.” He counts my sighs; he weighs my afflictions; “he puts my
tears in his bottle;” he blesses the whole to my present sanctification and
usefulness in his church, and to my eternal happiness. Since I have felt his
heavy hand upon me, in so singular a manner that there seemed to be no
resource remaining here below, I feel myself more than ever under his
immediate inspection. O! if I had enjoyed a more tranquil situation, his eyes
would not have been upon me as they are at present; perhaps I should have
been forgotten, and confounded among those who have their portion in this
world. Lovely sufferings! which, in depriving me of all human succor,
restore to me my God, and make him my refuge and resource through his
blessing. Precious afflictions! which, in making me forget the creatures,
have rendered me, through the co-operation of rich and suffering grace, a
continual object of the remembrance and mercies of my Lord!
4. But is there any one among us who wishes that he may not be called to
endure afflictions? Alas! take care that the Lord does not hear thee in his
wrath: take care that he does not punish thee in granting thee thy desire; that
he does not find thee unworthy of his temporal afflictions; for
“whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,
and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth,” <581206>Hebrews 12:6.
5. To all these truths, so consoling to an afflicted soul, I could still add, my
brethren, that if our pains and trials appear excessive, it is only through the
excess of corruption in our affections, which gives strength to our
sufferings: our losses or afflictions become so grievous to us, only through
those attachments which bind us to external objects; and the excess of our
sorrows or chagrin is always the excess of an unjust love of the creatures.
Alas, brethren, the woes and afflictions of others are too often nothing in
our eyes. We do not observe that the trials of thousands around us are
greater than our own; that our afflictions have innumerable resources,
which theirs have not; that in our habitual infirmities, or in our trials in the
church, we find in the number of persons who are still attentive to our
wants, an abundance of comforts denied to others — when we have lost a
warm and faithful friend, we have many ways to soften our bitterness:
when persecuted by our relations or families, we can find in the tenderness
an confidence of our friends and brethren, attentions and kindness which
we found not at home. In short, we have an abundance of human sources
of satisfaction, to compensate for our trials; and if we put into the scale, on
one side our comfort, and on the other our afflictions, we shall find that our
comforts, if improved, far overbalance our sorrows,
BESIDE THE CONSOLATIONS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD.
6. Truly, my brethren, it is not only the excessive love of ourselves, but
hardness of heart toward our fellow creatures, which magnifies in our eyes
our own afflictions. Let us daily enter under the unfurnished and miserable
roofs of the poor, where shame frequently conceals miseries the most
frightful and affecting: let us go to those asylums of wretchedness, where
calamities seem to be heaped together: it is there we shall learn what we
ought to think of our own afflictions: it is there that touched with the excess
of so many and great miseries, we shall blush to have given names to the
lightness of our own: it is there that our murmurs an unfaithful attentions
will change into expressions, and into the very spirit of gratitude and
thankfulness: and, less occupied with the thoughts of those light crosses
which we bear, than with the many from which we have been delivered, we
shall almost begin to fear the indulgence of our God, so far from
complaining of his severity. Endure,” therefore, “afflictions.”
III. 1. I will conclude this head of the apostle’s charge with the following
important reflection: That God, in all the trials and afflictions which he lays
upon, or suffers to happen to, his zealous ministering servants, has but two
ends in his view and in his gracious intention; first, their sanctification and
eternal happiness; secondly, their usefulness in his church. Every thing he
permits or does for them here below, he does it, or permits it, only to
facilitate these gracious designs: every agreeable or afflictive event which
any way concerns them, he has prepared for them, to make them more
holy, useful, and eternally glorious. All his plans concerning them have
reference to these purposes alone: all that they are in the order of nature,
their birth, their talents, the age in which they live, their friends, and their
vocation — all these, in his views of mercy toward them, and mercy toward
the world, have entered into his divine impenetrable designs for the eternal
salvation of themselves and others; and not all the powers of earth and hell,
no, NONE BUT THEMSELVES, can possibly defeat or counteract them. All this
visible world itself was only made for the world which is to come: all that
passes here has its secret connection with eternity: all that which we see is
only the figure of things invisible. This world would not be worthy of the
care of an infinitely wise and merciful God, but as far as, by secret and
wonderful connections, its various revolutions tend to form that church in
the heavens, that immortal assembly of the redeemed, where he will be
eternally glorified: he acts not in time but for eternity; and he is in this the
great model which we should in ever thing follow.
2. “Ah! When shall it be, O our God, that our souls, raised by faith above
all the creatures, shall no more adore but thee in and through them all; shall
no more attribute to them events, of which thou alone, in thy immediate or
permissive providence, art the author; shall acknowledge in all the various
situations in which thou hast placed us the adorable conduct and wisdom of
thy providence; and in the midst of crosses themselves shall taste that
unutterable peace which the world and all its pleasure can never bestow!”
3. Religion alone, my brethren, can afford us solid comfort under all our
trials and afflictions. Philosophy may stop our complaints, but can never
truly soften our grief. The world may stupefy our anxiety, but can never
heal it; and in the midst of all its employments or amusements, the secret
sting of sorrow will remain always deeply plunged in the bottom of the
heart. God alone can prove the effectual comforter of all our pains; and is
there need of any other for the faithful soul? Weak mortals, by their vain
discourse and ordinary language of tenderness and compassion, may speak
to the ears of the body; but it is the God of all consolation who alone knows
how to speak to the heart.
4. It would perhaps be presumption in me to call any afflictions heavy
which I have experienced; and it was probably owing to my want of grace,
that they to me appeared to be great. But I can bless God that ever I was
tried and afflicted; and hardly know for which to thank him most, his
disguised or undisguised mercies. O how he has broken my stubborn will,
and humbled my proud heart, and moderated my ambitious views, (though
all seemed to be for his glory,) by trials and afflictions! And I doubt not but
many of my brethren, as well as myself, (though not in the same degree
with me, because they did not equally need it,) can bear testimony to the
grace and power of God in the use of this profitable. means. Let us, then,
“endure afflictions:” let us “take unto us the whole armour of God,
that we may be able to withstand in the evil day;
and having done all, to stand,” <490613>Ephesians 6:13.
5. “O God, it is thou alone who canst support us under all our trials: we are
weakness itself without thee. It is thy grace alone which can sanctify the
means, and make our afflictions profitable. Lord, teach us to depend wholly
upon thee: it is with thee alone we desire to forget all our trials, all our
pains, all the creatures. But, alas! too often have we wished that the foolish
projects of our own hearts should serve as the rule of thine infinite wisdom!
We have wandered, and been lost in our thoughts: our imaginations have
formed a thousand flattering dreams; our hearts have run after phantoms.
We have desired more favor from men, more health of body, more talents,
more glory, as if we had been wiser and better acquainted with our true
interests than thou, O omniscient Lord God! We have not entered, as we
might, into the gracious designs of thy love in our favor. But O! from this
time thou shalt be our only comforter; and we will seek, in the meditation of
thy holy law, those solid and lasting consolations which the creatures can
never afford. Lord, take us into thyself; be thou the joy of our hearts, be
thou the delight of our eyes, be thou our portion for ever! Even so, Lord
THE NECESSITY OF PRAYER
by E. M. Bounds
1 PRAYER AND FAITH
IN any study of the principles, and procedure of prayer, of its activities
and enterprises, first place, must, of necessity, be given to faith. It is the
initial quality in the heart of any man who essays to talk to the Unseen.
He must, out of sheer helplessness, stretch forth hands of faith. He must
believe, where he cannot prove. In the ultimate issue, prayer is simply
faith, claiming its natural yet marvelous prerogatives — faith taking
possession of its illimitable inheritance. True godliness is just as true,
steady, and persevering in the realm of faith as it is in the province of
prayer. Moreover: when faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live.
Faith does the impossible because it brings God to undertake for us, and
nothing is impossible with God. How great — without qualification or
limitation — is the power of faith! If doubt be banished from the heart,
and unbelief made stranger there, what we ask of God shall surely come to
pass, and a believer hath vouchsafed to him “whatsoever he saith.”
Prayer projects faith on God, and God on the world. Only God can move
mountains, but faith and prayer move God. In His cursing of the fig-tree
our Lord demonstrated His power. Following that, He proceeded to
declare, that large powers were committed to faith and prayer, not in order
to kill but to make alive, not to blast but to bless.
At this point in our study, we turn to a saying of our Lord, which there is
need to emphasize, since it is the very keystone of the arch of faith and
“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire when ye
pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
We should ponder well that statement — “Believe that ye receive them,
and ye shall have them.” Here is described a faith which realizes, which
appropriates, which takes. Such faith is a consciousness of the Divine, an
experienced communion, a realized certainty.
Is faith growing or declining as the years go by? Does faith stand strong
and four square, these days, as iniquity abounds and the love of many
grows cold? Does faith maintain its hold, as religion tends to become a
mere formality and worldliness increasingly prevails? The enquiry of our
Lord, may, with great appropriateness, be ours. “When the Son of Man
cometh,” He asks, “shall He find faith on the earth?” We believe that He
will, and it is ours, in this our day, to see to it that the lamp of faith is
trimmed and burning, lest He come who shall come, and that right early.
Faith is the foundation of Christian character and the security of the soul.
When Jesus was looking forward to Peter’s denial, and cautioning him
against it, He said unto His disciple:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, to sift you
as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fall not.”
Our Lord was declaring a central truth; it was Peter’s faith He was seeking
to guard; for well He knew that when faith is broken down, the
foundations of spiritual life give way, and the entire structure of religious
experience falls. It was Peter’s faith which needed guarding. Hence
Christ’s solicitude for the welfare of His disciple’s soul and His
determination to fortify Peter’s faith by His own all-prevailing prayer.
In his Second Epistle, Peter has this idea in mind when speaking of growth
in grace as a measure of safety in the Christian life, and as implying
“And besides this,” he declares, “giving diligence, add to your faith
virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and
to temperance patience; and to patience godliness.”
Of this additioning process, faith was the starting-point — the basis of the
other graces of the Spirit. Faith was the foundation on which other things
were to be built. Peter does not enjoin his readers to add to works or gifts
or virtues but to faith. Much depends on starting right in this business of
growing in grace. There is a Divine order, of which Peter was aware; and so
he goes on to declare that we are to give diligence to making our calling and
election sure, which election is rendered certain adding to faith which, in
turn, is done by constant, earnest praying. Thus faith is kept alive by
prayer, and every step taken, in this adding of grace to grace, is
accompanied by prayer.
The faith which creates powerful praying is the faith which centers itself
on a powerful Person. Faith in Christ’s ability to do and to do greatly, is
the faith which prays greatly. Thus the leper lay hold upon the power of
Christ. “Lord, if Thou wilt,” he cried, “Thou canst make me clean.” In this
instance, we are shown how faith centered in Christ’s ability to do, and
how it secured the healing power.
It was concerning this very point, that Jesus questioned the blind men
who came to Him for healing:
“Believe ye that I am able to do this?” He asks. “They said unto
Him, Yea, Lord. Then touched He their eyes, saying, According to
your faith be it unto you.”
It was to inspire faith in His ability to do that Jesus left behind Him, that
last, great statement, which, in the final analysis, is a ringing challenge to
faith. “All power,” He declared, “is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.”
Again: faith is obedient; it goes when commanded, as did the nobleman,
who came to Jesus, in the day of His flesh, and whose son was grievously
Moreover: such faith acts. Like the man who was born blind, it goes to
wash in the pool of Siloam when told to wash. Like Peter on Gennesaret it
casts the net where Jesus commands, instantly, without question or doubt.
Such faith takes away the stone from the grave of Lazarus promptly. A
praying faith keeps the commandments of God and does those things
which are well pleasing in His sight. It asks, “Lord, what wilt Thou have
me to do?” and answers quickly, “Speak, Lord, Thy servant heareth.”
Obedience helps faith, and faith, in turn, helps obedience. To do God’s
will is essential to true faith, and faith is necessary to implicit obedience.
Yet faith is called upon, and that right often to wait in patience before
God, and is prepared for God’s seeming delays in answering prayer.
Faith does not grow disheartened because prayer is not immediately honored; it
takes God at His Word, and lets Him take what time He chooses in
fulfilling His purposes, and in carrying on His work. There is bound to be
much delay and long days of waiting for true faith, but faith accepts the
conditions — knows there will be delays in answering prayer, and regards
such delays as times of testing, in the which, it is privileged to show its
mettle, and the stern stuff of which it is made.
The case of Lazarus was an instance of where there was delay, where the
faith of two good women was sorely tried: Lazarus was critically ill, and
his sisters sent for Jesus. But, without any known reason, our Lord
delayed His going to the relief of His sick friend. The plea was urgent and
touching — “Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick,” — but the
Master is not moved by it, and the women’s earnest request seemed to fall
on deaf ears. What a trial to faith! Furthermore: our Lord’s tardiness
appeared to bring about hopeless disaster. While Jesus tarried, Lazarus
But the delay of Jesus was exercised in the interests of a greater good.
Finally, He makes His way to the home in Bethany.
“Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am
glad for your sakes, that I was not there, to the intent ye may
believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.”
Fear not, O tempted and tried believer, Jesus will come, if patience be
exercised, and faith hold fast. His delay will serve to make His coming the
more richly blessed. Pray on. Wait on. Thou canst not fail. If Christ delay,
wait for Him. In His own good time, He will come, and will not tarry.
Delay is often the test and the strength of faith. How much patience is
required when these times of testing come! Yet faith gathers strength by
waiting and praying. Patience has its perfect work in the school of delay.
In some instances, delay is of the very essence of the prayer. God has to
do many things, antecedent to giving the final answer — things which are
essential to the lasting good of him who is requesting favor at His hands.
Jacob prayed, with point and ardor, to be delivered from Esau. But before
that prayer could be answered, there was much to be done with, and for
Jacob. He must be changed, as well as Esau. Jacob had to be made into a
new man, before Esau could be. Jacob had to be converted to God, before
Esau could be converted to Jacob.
Among the large and luminous utterances of Jesus concerning prayer, none
is more arresting than this:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the
works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall
he do; because I go unto My Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask
in My Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the
Son. If ye shall ask anything in My Name, I will do it.”
How wonderful are these statements of what God will do in answer to
prayer! Of how great importance these ringing words, prefaced, as they
are, with the most solemn verity! Faith in Christ is the basis of all
working, and of all praying. All wonderful works depend on wonderful
praying, and all praying is done in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amazing
lesson, of wondrous simplicity, is this praying in the name of the Lord
Jesus! All other conditions are depreciated, everything else is renounced,
save Jesus only. The name of Christ — the Person of our Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ — must be supremely sovereign, in the hour and article of
If Jesus dwell at the fountain of my life; if the currents of His life have
displaced and superseded all self-currents; if implicit obedience to Him be
the inspiration and force of every movement of my life, then He can safely
commit the praying to my will, and pledge Himself, by an obligation as
profound as His own nature, that whatsoever is asked shall be granted.
Nothing can be clearer, more distinct, more unlimited both in application
and extent, than the exhortation and urgency of Christ, “Have faith in
Faith covers temporal as well as spiritual needs. Faith dispels all undue
anxiety and needless care about what shall be eaten, what shall he drunk,
what shall be worn. Faith lives in the present, and regards the day as being
sufficient unto the evil thereof. It lives day by day, and dispels all fears for
the morrow. Faith brings great ease of mind and perfect peace of heart.
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on
Thee: because he trusted in Thee.”
When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are, in a measure,
shutting tomorrow out of our prayer. We do not live in tomorrow but in
today. We do not seek tomorrow’s grace or tomorrow’s bread. They
thrive best, and get most out of life, who live in the living present. They
pray best who pray for today’s needs, not for tomorrow’s, which may
render our prayers unnecessary and redundant by not existing at all!
True prayers are born of present trials and present needs. Bread, for
today, is bread enough. Bread given for today is the strongest sort of
pledge that there will be bread tomorrow. Victory today, is the assurance
of victory tomorrow. Our prayers need to be focused upon the present,
We must trust God today, and leave the morrow entirely with Him. The
present is ours; the future belongs to God. Prayer is the task and duty of
each recurring day — daily prayer for daily needs.
As every day demands its bread, so every day demands its prayer. No
amount of praying, done today, will suffice for tomorrow’s praying. On
the other hand, no praying for tomorrow is of any great value to us today.
Today’s manna is what we need; tomorrow God will see that our needs
are supplied. This is the faith which God seeks to inspire. So leave
tomorrow, with its cares, its needs, its troubles, in God’s hands. There is
no storing tomorrow’s grace or tomorrow’s praying; neither is there any
laying-up of today’s grace, to meet tomorrow’s necessities. We cannot
have tomorrow’s grace, we cannot eat tomorrow’s bread, we cannot do
tomorrow’s praying. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof;” and,
3 PRAYER AND TRUST
PRAYER does not stand alone. It is not an isolated duty and independent
principle. It lives in association with other Christian duties, is wedded to
other principles, is a partner with other graces. But to faith, prayer is
indissolubly joined. Faith gives it color and tone, shapes its character, and
secures its results.
Trust is faith become absolute, ratified, consummated. There is, when all is
said and done, a sort of venture in faith and its exercise. But trust is firm
belief, it is faith in full flower. Trust is a conscious act, a fact of which we
are sensible. According to the Scriptural concept it is the eye of the
new-born soul, and the ear of the renewed soul. It is the feeling of the soul,
the spiritual eye, the ear, the taste, the feeling — these one and all have to
do with trust. How luminous, how distinct, how conscious, how
powerful, and more than all, how Scriptural is such a trust! How different
from many forms of modern belief, so feeble, dry, and cold! These new
phases of belief bring no consciousness of their presence, no “Joy
unspeakable and full of glory” results from their exercise. They are, for the
most part, adventures in the peradventures of the soul. There is no safe,
sure trust in anything. The whole transaction takes place in the realm of
Maybe and Perhaps.
Trust like life, is feeling, though much more than feeling. An unfelt life is a
contradiction; an unfelt trust is a misnomer, a delusion, a contradiction.
Trust is the most felt of all attributes. It is all feeling, and it works only by
love. An unfelt love is as impossible as an unfelt trust. The trust of which
we are now speaking is a conviction. An unfelt conviction? How absurd!
Trust sees God doing things here and now. Yea, more. It rises to a lofty
eminence, and looking into the invisible and the eternal, realizes that God
has done things, and regards them as being already done. Trust brings
eternity into the annals and happenings of time, transmutes the substance
of hope into the reality of fruition, and changes promise into present
possession. We know when we trust just as we know when we see, just as
we are conscious of our sense of touch. Trust sees, receives, holds. Trust
is its own witness.
Yet, quite often, faith is too weak to obtain God’s greatest good,
immediately; so it has to wait in loving, strong, prayerful, pressing
obedience, until it grows in strength, and is able to bring down the eternal,
into the realms of experience and time.
To this point, trust masses all its forces. Here it holds. And in the struggle,
trust’s grasp becomes mightier, and grasps, for itself, all that God has done
for it in His eternal wisdom and plenitude of grace.
In the matter of waiting in prayer, mightiest prayer, faith rises to its
highest plane and becomes indeed the gift of God. It becomes the blessed
disposition and expression of the soul which is secured by a constant
intercourse with, and unwearied application to God.
Jesus Christ clearly taught that faith was the condition on which prayer
was answered. When our Lord had cursed the fig-tree, the disciples were
much surprised that its withering had actually taken place, and their
remarks indicated their in credulity. It was then that Jesus said to them,
“Have faith in God.”
“For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this
mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea, and shall
not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he
saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith.
Therefore, I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye
pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
Trust grows nowhere so readily and richly as in the prayer- chamber. Its
unfolding and development are rapid and wholesome when they are
regularly and well kept. When these engagements are hearty and full and
free, trust flourishes exceedingly. The eye and presence of God give
vigorous life to trust, just as the eye and the presence of the sun make fruit
and flower to grow, and all things glad and bright with fuller life.
“Have faith in God,” “Trust in the Lord” form the keynote and foundation
of prayer. Primarily, it is not trust in the Word of God, but rather trust in
the Person of God. For trust in the Person of God must precede trust in
the Word of God. “Ye believe in God, believe also in Me,” is the demand
our Lord makes on the personal trust of His disciples. The person of Jesus
Christ must be central, to the eye of trust. This great truth Jesus sought to
impress upon Martha, when her brother lay dead, in the home at Bethany.
Martha asserted her belief in the fact of the resurrection of her brother:
“Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the
resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus lifts her trust clear above the mere fact of the resurrection, to His
own Person, by saying:
“I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me, though
he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth
in Me, shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto Him,
Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God,
which should come into the world.”
Trust, in an historical fact or in a mere record may be a very passive thing,
but trust in a person vitalizes the quality, fructifies it, informs it with love.
The trust which informs prayer centers in a Person.
Trust goes even further than this. The trust which inspires our prayer
must be not only trust in the Person of God, and of Christ, but in their
ability and willingness to grant the thing prayed for. It is not only, “Trust,
ye, in the Lord,” but, also, “for in the Lord Jehovah, is everlasting
The trust which our Lord taught as a condition of effectual prayer, is not
of the head but of the heart. It is trust which “doubteth not in his heart.”
Such trust has the Divine assurance that it shall be honored with large and
satisfying answers. The strong promise of our Lord brings faith down to
the present, and counts on a present answer.
Do we believe, without a doubt? When we pray, do we believe, not that
we shall receive the things for which we ask on a future day, but that we
receive them, then and there? Such is the teaching of this inspiring
Scripture. How we need to pray, “Lord, increase our faith,” until doubt be
gone, and implicit trust claims the promised blessings, as its very own.
This is no easy condition. It is reached only after many a failure, after
much praying, after many waitings, after much trial of faith. May our faith
so increase until we realize and receive all the fullness there is in that Name
which guarantees to do so much.
Our Lord puts trust as the very foundation of praying. The background of
prayer is trust. The whole issuance of Christ’s ministry and work was
dependent on implicit trust in His Father. The center of trust is God.
Mountains of difficulties, and all other hindrances to prayer are moved out
of the way by trust and his virile henchman, faith. When trust is perfect
and without doubt, prayer is simply the outstretched hand, ready to
receive. Trust perfected, is prayer perfected. Trust looks to receive the
thing asked for — and gets it. Trust is not a belief that God can bless, that
He will bless, but that He does bless, here and now. Trust always operates
in the present tense. Hope looks toward the future. Trust looks to the
present. Hope expects. Trust possesses. Trust receives what prayer
acquires. So that what prayer needs, at all times, is abiding and abundant
Their lamentable lack of trust and resultant failure of the disciples to do
what they were sent out to do, is seen in the case of the lunatic son, who
was brought by his father to nine of them while their Master was on the
Mount of Transfiguration. A boy, sadly afflicted, was brought to these
men to be cured of his malady. They had been commissioned to do this
very kind of work. This was a part of their mission. They attempted to
cast out the devil from the boy, but had signally failed. The devil was too
much for them. They were humiliated at their failure, and filled with
shame, while their enemies were in triumph. Amid the confusion incident
to failure Jesus draws near. He is informed of the circumstances, and told
of the conditions connected therewith. Here is the succeeding account:
“Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse
generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer
you? Bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil, and he
departed out of him and the child was cured from that very hour.
And when He was come into the house, His disciples asked Him
privately, Why could not we cast him out? And He said unto
them, This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and
Wherein lay the difficulty with these men? They had been lax in
cultivating their faith by prayer and, as a consequence, their trust utterly
failed. They trusted not God, nor Christ, nor the authenticity of His
mission, or their own. So has it been many a time since, in many a crisis in
the Church of God. Failure has resulted from a lack of trust, or from a
weakness of faith, and this, in turn, from a lack of prayerfulness. Many a
failure in revival efforts has been traceable to the same cause. Faith had not
been nurtured and made powerful by prayer. Neglect of the inner chamber
is the solution of most spiritual failure. And this is as true of our personal
struggles with the devil as was the case when we went forth to attempt to
cast out devils. To be much on our knees in private communion with God
is the only surety that we shall have Him with us either in our personal
struggles, or in our efforts to convert sinners.
Everywhere, in the approaches of the people to Him, our Lord put trust in
Him, and the divinity of His mission, in the forefront. He gave no
definition of trust, and He furnishes no theological discussion of, or
analysis of it; for He knew that men would see what faith was by what
faith did; and from its free exercise trust grew up, spontaneously, in His
presence. It was the product of His work, His power and His Person.
These furnished and created an atmosphere most favorable for its exercise
and development. Trust is altogether too splendidly simple for verbal
definition; too hearty and spontaneous for theological terminology. The
very simplicity of trust is that which staggers many people. They look
away for some great thing to come to pass, while all the time “the word is
nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart.”
When the saddening news of his daughter’s death was brought to Jairus
our Lord interposed: “Be not afraid,” He said calmly, “only believe.” To
the woman with the issue of blood, who stood tremblingly before Him, He
“Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be
whole of thy plague.”
As the two blind men followed Him, pressing their way into the house, He
“According to your faith be it unto you
And their eyes were opened.”
When the paralytic was let down through the roof of the house, where
Jesus was teaching, and placed before Him by four of his friends, it is
recorded after this fashion:
“And Jesus seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy: Son,
be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”
When Jesus dismissed the centurion whose servant was seriously ill, and
who had come to Jesus with the prayer that He speak the healing word,
without even going to his house, He did it in the manner following:
“And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast
believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the
When the poor leper fell at the feet of Jesus and cried out for relief, “Lord,
if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean,” Jesus immediately granted his
request, and the man glorified Him with a loud voice. Then Jesus said unto
him, “Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.”
The Syrophenician woman came to Jesus with the case of her afflicted
daughter, making the case her own, with the prayer, “Lord, help me,”
making a fearful and heroic struggle. Jesus honors her faith and prayer,
“O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.
And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”
After the disciples had utterly failed to cast the devil out of the epileptic
boy, the father of the stricken lad came to Jesus with the plaintive and
almost despairing cry, “If Thou canst do anything, have compassion on us
and help us.” But Jesus replied, “If thou canst believe, all things are
possible to him that believeth.”
Blind Bartimaeus sitting by the wayside, hears our Lord as He passes by,
and cries out pitifully and almost despairingly, “Jesus, Thou son of David,
have mercy on me.” The keen ears of our Lord immediately catch the
sound of prayer, and He says to the beggar:
“Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he
received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.”
To the weeping, penitent woman, washing His feet with her tears and
wiping them with the hair of her head, Jesus speaks cheering,
soul-comforting words: “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”
One day Jesus healed ten lepers at one time, in answer to their united
prayer, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,” and He told them to go and
show themselves to the priests. “And it came to pass as they went, they
6 PRAYER AND IMPORTUNITY
OUR Lord Jesus declared that “men ought always to pray and not to
faint,” and the parable in which His words occur, was taught with the
intention of saving men from faint-heartedness and weakness in prayer.
Our Lord was seeking to teach that laxity must be guarded against, and
persistence fostered and encouraged. There can be no two opinions
regarding the importance of the exercise of this indispensable quality in our
Importunate prayer is a mighty movement of the soul toward God. It is a
stirring of the deepest forces of the soul, toward the throne of heavenly
grace. It is the ability to hold on, press on, and wait. Restless desire,
restful patience, and strength of grasp are all embraced in it. It is not an
incident, or a performance, but a passion of soul. It is not a want,
half-needed, but a sheer necessity.
The wrestling quality in importunate prayers does not spring from
physical vehemence or fleshly energy. It is not an impulse of energy, not a
mere earnestness of soul; it is an inwrought force, a faculty implanted and
aroused by the Holy Spirit. Virtually, it is the intercession of the Spirit of
God, in us; it is, moreover, “the effectual, fervent prayer, which availeth
much.” The Divine Spirit informing every element within us, with the
energy of His own striving, is the essence of the importunity which urges
our praying at the mercy-seat, to continue until the fire falls and the
blessing descends. This wrestling in prayer may not be boisterous nor
vehement, but quiet, tenacious and urgent. Silent, it may be, when there are
no visible outlets for its mighty forces.
Nothing distinguishes the children of God so clearly and strongly as
prayer. It is the one infallible mark and test of being a Christian. Christian
people are prayerful, the worldly- minded, prayerless. Christians call on
God; worldlings ignore God, and call not on His Name. But even the
Christian had need to cultivate continual prayer. Prayer must be habitual,
but much more than a habit. It is duty, yet one which rises far above, and
goes beyond the ordinary implications of the term. It is the expression of a
relation to God, a yearning for Divine communion. It is the outward and
upward flow of the inward life toward its original fountain. It is an
assertion of the soul’s paternity, a claiming of the sonship, which links
man to the Eternal.
Prayer has everything to do with molding the soul into the image of God,
and has everything to do with enhancing and enlarging the measure of
Divine grace. It has everything to do with bringing the soul into complete
communion with God. It has everything to do with enriching, broadening
and maturing the soul’s experience of God. That man cannot possibly be
called a Christian, who does not pray. By no possible pretext can he claim
any right to the term, nor its implied significance. If he do not pray, he is a
sinner, pure and simple, for prayer is the only way in which the soul of
man can enter into fellowship and communion with the Source of all
Christlike spirit and energy. Hence, if he pray not, he is not of the
household of faith.
In this study however, we turn our thought to one phase of prayer — that
of importunity; the pressing of our desires upon God with urgency and
perseverance; the praying with that tenacity and tension which neither
relaxes nor ceases until its plea is heard, and its cause is won.
He who has clear views of God, and Scriptural conceptions of the Divine
character; who appreciates his privilege of approach unto God; who
understands his inward need of all that God has for him — that man will
be solicitous, outspoken and importunate. In Holy Writ, the duty of
prayer, itself, is advocated in terms which are only barely stronger than
those in which the necessity for its importunity is set forth. The praying
which influences God is declared to be that of the fervent, effectual
outpouring of a righteous man. That is to say, it is prayer on fire, having
no feeble, flickering flame, no momentary flash, but shining with a
vigorous and steady glow.
The repeated intercessions of Abraham for the salvation of Sodom and
Gomorrah present an early example of the necessity for, and benefit
deriving from importunate praying. Jacob, wrestling all night with the
angel, gives significant emphasis to the power of a dogged perseverance in
praying, and shows how, in things spiritual, importunity succeeds, just as
effectively as it does in matters relating to time and sense.
As we have noted, elsewhere, Moses prayed forty days and forty nights,
seeking to stay the wrath of God against Israel, and his example and
success are a stimulus to present-day faith in its darkest hour. Elijah
repeated and urged his prayer seven times ere the raincloud appeared
above the horizon, heralding the success of his prayer and the victory of
his faith. On one occasion Daniel though faint and weak, pressed his case
three weeks, ere the answer and the blessing came.
Many nights during His earthly life did the blessed Savior spend in prayer.
In Gethsemane He presented the same petition, three times, with
unabated, urgent, yet submissive importunity, which involved every
element of His soul, and issued in tears and bloody sweat. His life crises
were distinctly marked, his life victories all won, in hours of importunate
prayer. And the servant is not greater than his Lord.
The Parable of the Importunate Widow is a classic of insistent prayer. We
shall do well to refresh our remembrance of it, at this point in our study:
“And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought
always to pray, and not to faint; saying, There was in a city a
judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man; and there was a
widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of
my adversary. And he would not for a while; but afterward he said
within himself, Though I fear not God nor regard man; yet because
this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual
coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust
judge saith. And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry
day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you
He will avenge them speedily.”
This parable stresses the central truth of importunate prayer. The widow
presses her case till the unjust judge yields. If this parable does not teach
the necessity for importunity, it has neither point nor instruction in it.
Take this one thought away, and you have nothing left worth recording.
Beyond all cavil, Christ intended it to stand as an evidence of the need that
exists, for insistent prayer.
We have the same teaching emphasized in the incident of the
Syrophenician woman, who came to Jesus on behalf of her daughter. Here,
importunity is demonstrated, not as a stark impertinence, but as with the
persuasive habiliments of humility, sincerity, and fervency. We are given a
glimpse of a woman’s clinging faith, a woman’s bitter grief, and a woman’s
spiritual insight. The Master went over into that Sidonian country in order
that this truth might be mirrored for all time — there is no plea so
efficacious as importunate prayer, and none to which God surrenders
Himself so fully and so freely.
The importunity of this distressed mother, won her the victory, and
materialized her request. Yet instead of being an offense to the Savior, it
drew from Him a word of wonder, and glad surprise. “O woman, great is
thy faith! Be it unto thee, even as thou wilt.”
He prays not at all, who does not press his plea. Cold prayers have no
claim on heaven, and no hearing in the courts above. Fire is the life of
prayer, and heaven is reached by flaming importunity rising in an
Reverting to the case of the importunate widow, we see that her
widowhood, her friendlessness, and her weakness counted for nothing
with the unjust judge. Importunity was everything. “Because this widow
troubleth me,” he said, “I will avenge her speedily, lest she weary me.”
Solely because the widow imposed upon the time and attention of the
unjust judge, her case was won.
God waits patiently as, day and night, His elect cry unto Him. He is
moved by their requests a thousand times more than was this unjust judge.
A limit is set to His tarrying, by the importunate praying of His people,
and the answer richly given. God finds faith in His praying child — the
faith which stays and cries — and He honors it by permitting its further
exercise, to the end that it is strengthened and enriched. Then He rewards
it by granting the burden of its plea, in plenitude and finality.
The case of the Syrophenician woman previously referred to is a notable
instance of successful importunity, one which is eminently encouraging to
all who would pray successfully. It was a remarkable instance of
insistence and perseverance to ultimate victory, in the face of almost
insuperable obstacles and hindrances. But the woman surmounted them all
by heroic faith and persistent spirit that were as remarkable as they were
successful. Jesus had gone over into her country, “and would have no man
know it.” But she breaks through His purpose, violates His privacy,
attracts His attention, and pours out to Him a poignant appeal of need and
faith. Her heart was in her prayer.
At first, Jesus appears to pay no attention to her agony, and ignores her
cry for relief. He gives her neither eye, nor ear, nor word. Silence, deep and
chilling, greets her impassioned cry. But she is not turned aside, nor
disheartened. She holds on. The disciples, offended at her unseemly
clamor, intercede for her, but are silenced by the Lord’s declaring that the
woman is entirely outside the scope of His mission and His ministry.
But neither the failure of the disciples to gain her a hearing nor the
knowledge — despairing in its very nature — that she is barred from the
benefits of His mission, daunt her, and serve only to lend intensity and
increased boldness to her approach to Christ. She came closer, cutting her
prayer in twain, and falling at His feet, worshipping Him, and making her
daughter’s case her own cries, with pointed brevity — “Lord, help me!”
This last cry won her case; her daughter was healed in the self-same hour.
Hopeful, urgent, and unwearied, she stays near the Master, insisting and
praying until the answer is given. What a study in importunity, in
earnestness, in persistence, promoted and propelled under conditions
which would have disheartened any but an heroic, a constant soul.
In these parables of importunate praying, our Lord sets forth, for our
information and encouragement, the serious difficulties which stand in the
way of prayer. At the same time He teaches that importunity conquers all
untoward circumstances and gets to itself a victory over a whole host of
hindrances. He teaches, moreover, that an answer to prayer is conditional
upon the amount of faith that goes to the petition. To test this, He delays
the answer. The superficial pray-er subsides into silence, when the answer
is delayed. But the man of prayer hangs on, and on. The Lord recognizes
and honors his faith, and gives him a rich and abundant answer to his
12 PRAYER AND THE WORD OF GOD
GOD’S Word is a record of prayer — of praying men and their
achievements, of the Divine warrant of prayer and of the encouragement
given to those who pray. No one can read the instances, commands,
examples, multiform statements which concern themselves with prayer,
without realizing that the cause of God, and the success of His work in
this world is committed to prayer; that praying men have been God’s
vicegerents on earth; that prayerless men have never been used of Him.
A reverence for God’s holy Name is closely related to a high regard for His
Word. This hallowing of God’s Name; the ability to do His will on earth,
as it is done in heaven; the establishment and glory of God’s kingdom, are
as much involved in prayer, as when Jesus taught men the Universal
Prayer. That “men ought always to pray and not to faint,” is as
fundamental to God’s cause, today, as when Jesus Christ enshrined that
great truth in the immortal settings of the Parable of the Importunate
As God’s house is called “the house of prayer,” because prayer is the
most important of its holy offices; so by the same token, the Bible may be
called the Book of Prayer. Prayer is the great theme and content of its
message to mankind.
God’s Word is the basis, as it is the directory of the prayer of faith. “Let
the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom,” says St. Paul,
“teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual
songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
As this word of Christ dwelling in us richly is transmuted and assimilated,
it issues in praying. Faith is constructed of the Word and the Spirit, and
faith is the body and substance of prayer.
In many of its aspects, prayer is dependent upon the Word of God. Jesus
“If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what
ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
The Word of God is the fulcrum upon which the lever of prayer is placed,
and by which things are mightily moved. God has committed Himself, His
purpose and His promise to prayer. His Word becomes the basis, the
inspiration of our praying, and there are circumstances under which, by
importunate prayer, we may obtain an addition, or an enlargement of His
promises. It is said of the old saints that they, “through faith obtained
promises.” There would seem to be in prayer the capacity for going even
beyond the Word, of getting even beyond His promise, into the very
presence of God, Himself.
Jacob wrestled, not so much with a promise, as with the Promiser. We
must take hold of the Promiser, lest the promise prove nugatory. Prayer
may well be defined as that force which vitalizes and energizes the Word
of God, by taking hold of God, Himself. By taking hold of the Promiser,
prayer reissues, and makes personal the promise. “There is none that
stirreth up himself to take hold of Me,” is God’s sad lament. “Let him
take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me,” is God’s
recipe for prayer.
By Scriptural warrant, prayer may be divided into the petition of faith and
that of submission. The prayer of faith is based on the written Word, for
“faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” It receives its
answer, inevitably — the very thing for which it prays.
The prayer of submission is without a definite word of promise, so to
speak, but takes hold of God with a lowly and contrite spirit, and asks and
pleads with Him, for that which the soul desires. Abraham had no definite
promise that God would spare Sodom. Moses had no definite promise
that God would spare Israel; on the contrary, there was the declaration of
His wrath, and of His purpose to destroy. But the devoted leader gained
his plea with God, when he interceded for the Israelites with incessant
prayers and many tears. Daniel had no definite promise that God would
reveal to him the meaning of the king’s dream, but he prayed specifically,
and God answered definitely.
The Word of God is made effectual and operative, by the process and
practice of prayer. The Word of the Lord came to Elijah, “Go show
thyself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.” Elijah showed himself
to Ahab; but the answer to his prayer did not come, until he had pressed
his fiery prayer upon the Lord seven times.
Paul had the definite promise from Christ, that he “would be delivered
from the people and the Gentiles,” but we find him exhorting the Romans
in the urgent and solemn manner concerning this very matter:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake,
and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in
your prayers to God for me; that I may be delivered from them
that do not believe in Judaea, and that my service which I have for
Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints.”
The Word of God is a great help in prayer. If it be lodged and written in
our hearts, it will form an outflowing current of prayer, full and
irresistible. Promises, stored in the heart, are to be the fuel from which
prayer receives life and warmth, just as the coal, stored in the earth,
ministers to our comfort on stormy days and wintry nights. The Word of
God is the food, by which prayer is nourished and made strong. Prayer,
like man, cannot live by bread alone, “but by every word which
proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord.”
Unless the vital forces of prayer are supplied by God’s Word, prayer,
though earnest, even vociferous, in its urgency, is, in reality, flabby, and
vapid, and void. The absence of vital force in praying, can be traced to the
absence of a constant supply of God’s Word, to repair the waste, and
renew the life. He who would learn to pray well, must first study God’s
Word, and store it in his memory and thought.
When we consult God’s Word, we find that no duty is more binding, more
exacting, than that of prayer. On the other hand, we discover that no
privilege is more exalted, no habit more richly owned of God. No promises
are more radiant, more abounding, more explicit, more often reiterated,
than those which are attached to prayer. “All things, whatsoever” are
received by prayer, because “all things whatsoever” are promised. There is
no limit to the provisions, included in the promises to prayer, and no
exclusion from its promises. “Every one that asketh, receiveth.” The word
of our Lord is to this all-embracing effect: “If ye shall ask anything in My
Name, I will do it.”
Here are some of the comprehensive, and exhaustive statements of the
Word of God about prayer, the things to be taken in by prayer, the strong
promise made in answer to prayer:
“Pray without ceasing;” “continue in prayer;” “continuing instant
in prayer;” “in everything by prayer, let your request be made
known unto God;” “pray always, pray and not faint;” “men
should pray everywhere;” “praying always, with all prayer and
What clear and strong statements are those which are put in the Divine
record, to furnish us with a sure basis of faith, and to urge, constrain and
encourage us to pray! How wide the range of prayer, as given us, in the
Divine Revelation! How these Scriptures incite us to seek the God of
prayer, with all our wants, with all our burdens!
In addition to these statements left on record for our encouragement, the
sacred pages teem with facts, examples, incidents, and observations,
stressing the importance and the absolute necessity of prayer, and putting
emphasis on its all- prevailing power.
The utmost reach and full benefit of the rich promises of the Word of God,
should humbly be received by us, and put to the test. The world will never
receive the full benefits of the Gospel until this be done. Neither Christian
experience nor Christian living will be what they ought to be till these
Divine promises have been fully tested by those who pray. By prayer, we
bring these promises of God’s holy will into the realm of the actual and
the real. Prayer is the philosopher’s stone which transmutes them into
If it be asked, what is to be done in order to render God’s promises real,
the answer is, that we must pray, until the words of the promise are
clothed upon with the rich raiment of fulfillment.
God’s promises are altogether too large to be mastered by desultory
praying. When we examine ourselves, all too often, we discover that our
praying does not rise to the demands of the situation; is so limited that it
is little more than a mere oasis amid the waste and desert of the world’s
sin. Who of us, in our praying, measures up to this promise of our Lord:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the
works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall
he do, because I go to My Father.”
How comprehensive, how far reaching, how all-embracing! How much is
here, for the glory of God, how much for the good of man! How much for
the manifestation of Christ’s enthroned power, how much for the reward
of abundant faith! And how great and gracious are the results which can be
made to accrue from the exercise of commensurate, believing prayer!
Look, for a moment, at another of God’s great promises, and discover how
we may be undergirded by the Word as we pray, and on what firm ground
we may stand on which to make our petitions to our God:
“If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what
ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
In these comprehensive words, God turns Himself over to the will of His
people. When Christ becomes our all-in-all, prayer lays God’s treasures at
our feet. Primitive Christianity had an easy and practical solution of the
situation, and got all which God had to give. That simple and terse
solution is recorded in John’s First Epistle:
“Whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His
commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in His
Prayer, coupled with loving obedience, is the way to put God to the test,
and to make prayer answer all ends and all things. Prayer, joined to the
Word of God, hallows and makes sacred all God’s gifts. Prayer is not
simply to get things from God, but to make those things holy, which
already have been received from Him. It is not merely to get a blessing, but
also to be able to give a blessing. Prayer makes common things holy and
secular things, sacred. It receives things from God with thanksgiving and
hallows them with thankful hearts, and devoted service.
In the First Epistle to Timothy, Paul gives us these words:
“For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it
be received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified by the word of
God and prayer.”
That is a statement which gives a negative to mere asceticism. God’s good
gifts are to be holy, not only by God’s creative power, but, also, because
they are made holy to us by prayer. We receive them, appropriate them
and sanctify them by prayer.
Doing God’s will, and having His Word abiding in us, is an imperative of
effectual praying. But, it may be asked, how are we to know what God’s
will is? The answer is, by studying His Word, by hiding it in our hearts,
and by letting the Word dwell in us richly. “The entrance of Thy word,
To know God’s will in prayer, we must be filled with God’s Spirit, who
maketh intercession for the saints, and in the saints, according to the will
of God. To be filled with God’s Spirit, to be filled with God’s Word, is to
know God’s will. It is to be put in such a frame of mind, to be found in
such a state of heart, as will enable us to read and interpret aright the
purposes of the Infinite. Such filling of the heart, with the Word and the
Spirit, gives us an insight into the will of the Father, and enables us to
rightly discern His will, and puts within us, a disposition of mind and
heart to make it the guide and compass of our lives.
Epaphras prayed that the Colossians might stand “perfect and complete in
all the will of God.” This is proof positive that, not only may we know
the will of God, but that we may know all the will of God. And not only
may we know all the will of God, but we may do all the will of God. We
may, moreover, do all the will of God, not occasionally, or by a mere
impulse, but with a settled habit of conduct. Still further, it shows us that
we may not only do the will of God externally, but from the heart, doing it
cheerfully, without reluctance, or secret disinclination, or any drawing or
14 PRAYER AND THE HOUSE OF GOD
PRAYER stands related to places, times, occasions and circumstances. It
has to do with God and with everything which is related to God, and it has
an intimate and special relationship to His house. A church is a sacred
place, set apart from all unhallowed and secular uses, for the worship of
God. As worship is prayer, the house of God is a place set apart for
worship. It is no common place; it is where God dwells, where He meets
with His people, and He delights in the worship of His saints.
Prayer is always in place in the house of God. When prayer is a stranger
there, then it ceases to be God’s house at all. Our Lord put peculiar
emphasis upon what the Church was when He cast out the buyers and
sellers in the Temple, repeating the words from Isaiah, “It is written, My
house shall be called the house of prayer.” He makes prayer preeminent,
that which stands out above all else in the house of God. They, who
sidetrack prayer or seek to minify it, and give it a secondary place, pervert
the Church of God, and make it something less and other than it is
ordained to be.
Prayer is perfectly at home in the house of God. It is no stranger, no mere
guest; it belongs there. It has a peculiar affinity for the place, and has,
moreover, a Divine right there, being set, therein, by Divine appointment
The inner chamber is a sacred place for personal worship. The house of
God is a holy place for united worship. The prayer-closet is for individual
prayer. The house of God is for mutual prayer, concerted prayer, united
prayer. Yet even in the house of God, there is the element of private
worship, since God’s people are to worship Him and pray to Him,
personally, even in public worship. The Church is for the united prayer of
kindred, yet individual believers.
The life, power and glory of the Church is prayer. The life of its members
is dependent on prayer and the presence of God is secured and retained by
prayer. The very place is made sacred by its ministry. Without it, the
Church is lifeless and powerless. Without it, even the building, itself, is
nothing, more or other, than any other structure. Prayer converts even the
bricks, and mortar, and lumber, into a sanctuary, a holy of holies, where
the Shekinah dwells. It separates it, in spirit and in purpose from all other
edifices. Prayer gives a peculiar sacredness to the building, sanctifies it,
sets it apart for God, conserves it from all common and mundane affairs.
With prayer, though the house of God might be supposed to lack
everything else, it becomes a Divine sanctuary. So the Tabernacle, moving
about from place to place, became the holy of holies, because prayer was
there. Without prayer the building may be costly, perfect in all its
appointments, beautiful for situation and attractive to the eye, but it
comes down to the human, with nothing Divine in it, and is on a level with
all other buildings.
Without prayer, a church is like a body without spirit; it is a dead,
inanimate thing. A church with prayer in it, has God in it. When prayer is
set aside, God is outlawed. When prayer becomes an unfamiliar exercise,
then God Himself is a stranger there.
As God’s house is a house of prayer, the Divine intention is that people
should leave their homes and go to meet Him in His own house. The
building is set apart for prayer especially, and as God has made special
promise to meet His people there, it is their duty to go there, and for that
specific end. Prayer should be the chief attraction for all spiritually minded
church-goers. While it is conceded that the preaching of the Word has an
important place in the house of God, yet prayer is its predominating,
distinguishing feature. Not that all other places are sinful, or evil, in
themselves or in their uses. But they are secular and human, having no
special conception of God in them. The Church is, essentially, religious
and Divine. The work belonging to other places is done without special
reference to God. He is not specifically recognized, nor called upon. In the
Church, however, God is acknowledged, and nothing is done without Him.
Prayer is the one distinguishing mark of the house of God. As prayer
distinguishes Christian from unchristian people, so prayer distinguishes
God’s house from all other houses. It is a place where faithful believers
meet with their Lord.
As God’s house is, preeminently, a house of prayer, prayer should enter
into and underlie everything that is undertaken there. Prayer be longs to
every sort of work appertaining to the Church of God. As God’s house is
a house where the business of praying is carried on, so is it a place where
the business of making praying people out of prayerless people is done.
The house of God is a Divine workshop, and there the work of prayer
goes on. Or the house of God is a Divine schoolhouse, in which the lesson
of prayer is taught; where men and women learn to pray, and where they
are graduated, in the school of prayer.
Any church calling itself the house of God, and failing to magnify prayer;
which does not put prayer in the forefront of its activities; which does not
teach the great lesson of prayer, should change its teaching to conform to
the Divine pattern or change the name of its building to something other
than a house of prayer.
On an earlier page, we made reference to the finding of the Book of the
Law of the Lord given to Moses. How long that book had been there, we
do not know. But when tidings of its discovery were carried to Josiah, he
rent his clothes and was greatly disturbed. He lamented the neglect of
God’s Word and saw, as a natural result, the iniquity which abounded
throughout the land.
And then, Josiah thought of God, and commanded Hilkiah, the priest, to
go and make inquiry of the Lord. Such neglect of the Word of the Law was
too serious a matter to be treated lightly, and God must be inquired of, and
repentance shown, by himself, and the nation:
“Go inquire of the Lord for me, and for them that are left in Israel
and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found; for
great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out upon us, because
our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do after all that
is written in this book.”
But that was not all. Josiah was bent on promoting a revival of religion in
his kingdom, so we find him gathering all the elders of Jerusalem and Judah
together, for that purpose. When they had come together, the king went
into the house of the Lord, and himself read in all the words of the Book of
the Covenant that was found in the house of the Lord.
With this righteous king, God’s Word was of great importance. He
esteemed it at its proper worth, and counted a knowledge of it to be of
such grave importance, as to demand his consulting God in prayer about it,
and to warrant the gathering together of the notables of his kingdom, so
that they, together with himself, should be instructed out of God’s Book
concerning God’s Law.
When Ezra, returned from Babylon, was seeking the reconstruction of his
nation, the people, themselves, were alive to the situation, and, on one
occasion, the priests, Levites and people assembled themselves together as
one man before the water gate.
“And they spake unto Ezra the scribe, to bring the book of the law
of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the
priest brought the law before the congregation, both of men and
women, and all that could hear with understanding. And he read
therein before the street that was before the water gate from the
morning until midday; and the ears of all the people were attentive
unto the book of the law.”
This was Bible-reading Day in Judah — a real revival of Scripture-study.
The leaders read the law before the people, whose ears were keen to hear
what God had to say to them out of the Book of the Law. But it was not
only a Bible-reading day. It was a time when real preaching was done, as
the following passage indicates:
“So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly and gave the
sense, and caused them to understand the reading.”
Here then is the Scriptural definition of preaching. No better definition can
be given. To read the Word of God distinctly — to read it so that the
people could hear and understand the words read; not to mumble out the
words, nor read it in an undertone or with indistinctness, but boldly and
clearly — that was the method followed in Jerusalem, on this auspicious
day. Moreover: the sense of the words was made clear in the meeting held
before the water gate; the people were treated to a high type of expository
preaching. That was true preaching — preaching of a sort which is sorely
needed, today, in order that God’s Word may have due effect on the hearts
of the people. This meeting in Jerusalem surely contains a lesson which all
present-day preachers should learn and heed.
No one having any knowledge of the existing facts, will deny the
comparative lack of expository preaching in the pulpit effort of today.
And none, we should, at least, imagine, will do other than lament the lack.
Topical preaching, polemical preaching, historical preaching, and other
forms of sermonic output have, one supposes, their rightful and
opportune uses. But expository preaching — the prayerful expounding of
the Word of God is preaching that is preaching — pulpit effort par
For its successful accomplishment, however, a preacher needs must be a
man of prayer. For every hour spent in his study-chair, he will have to
spend two upon his knees. For every hour he devotes to wrestling with an
obscure passage of Holy Writ, he must have two in the which to be found
wrestling with God. Prayer and preaching: preaching and prayer! They
cannot be separated. The ancient cry was: “To your tents, O Israel! “The
modern cry should be: “To your knees, O preachers, to your knees!”
PREACHER AND PRAYER
Edward McKendree (E. M.) Bounds
We are constantly on a stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new methods,
new plans, new organizations to advance the Church and secure
enlargement and efficiency for the gospel. This trend of the day has a
tendency to lose sight of the man or sink the man in the plan or
organization. God’s plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than
of anything else. Men are God’s method. The Church is looking for better
methods; God is looking for better men. “There was a man sent from God
whose name was John.” The dispensation that heralded and prepared the
way for Christ was bound up in that man John. “Unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given.” The world’s salvation comes out of that cradled
Son. When Paul appeals to the personal character of the men who rooted
the gospel in the world, he solves the mystery of their success. The glory
and efficiency of the gospel is staked on the men who proclaim it.
When God declares that “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the
whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is
perfect toward him,” he declares the necessity of men and his dependence
on them as a channel through which to exert his power upon the world.
This vital, urgent truth is one that this age of machinery is apt to forget.
The forgetting of it is as baneful on the work of God as would be the
striking of the sun from his sphere. Darkness, confusion, and death would
What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new
organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost
can use — men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does
not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on
machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men — men of
An eminent historian has said that the accidents of personal character have
more to do with the revolutions of nations than either philosophic
historians or democratic politicians will allow. This truth has its
application in full to the gospel of Christ, the character and conduct of the
followers of Christ — Christianize the world, transfigure nations and
individuals. Of the preachers of the gospel it is eminently true.
The character as well as the fortunes of the gospel is committed to the
preacher. He makes or mars the message from God to man. The preacher is
the golden pipe through which the divine oil flows. The pipe must not
only be golden, but open and flawless, that the oil may have a full,
unhindered, unwasted flow.
The man makes the preacher. God must make the man. The messenger is,
if possible, more than the message. The preacher is more than the sermon.
The preacher makes the sermon. As the life-giving milk from the mother’s
bosom is but the mother’s life, so all the preacher says is tinctured,
impregnated by what the preacher is. The treasure is in earthen vessels,
and the taste of the vessel impregnates and may discolor. The man, the
whole man, lies behind the sermon. Preaching is not the performance of an
hour. It is the outflow of a life. It takes twenty years to make a sermon,
because it takes twenty years to make the man. The true sermon is a thing
of life. The sermon grows because the man grows. The sermon is forceful
because the man is forceful. The Sermon is holy because the man is holy.
The sermon is full of the divine unction because the man is full of the
Paul termed it “My gospel;” not that he had degraded it by his personal
eccentricities or diverted it by selfish appropriation, but the gospel was
put into the heart and lifeblood of the man Paul, as a personal trust to be
executed by his Pauline traits, to be set aflame and empowered by the
fiery energy of his fiery soul. Paul’s sermons — what were they? Where
are they? Skeletons, scattered fragments, afloat on the sea of inspiration!
But the man Paul, greater than his sermons, lives forever, in full form,
feature and stature, with his molding hand on the Church. The preaching is
but a voice. The voice in silence dies, the text is forgotten, the sermon
fades from memory; the preacher lives.
The sermon cannot rise in its life-giving forces above the man. Dead men
give out dead sermons, and dead sermons kill. Everything depends on the
spiritual character of the preacher. Under the Jewish dispensation the high
priest had inscribed in jeweled letters on a golden frontlet: “Holiness to the
Lord.” So every preacher in Christ’s ministry must be molded into and
mastered by this same holy motto. It is a crying shame for the Christian
ministry to fall lower in holiness of character and holiness of aim than the
Jewish priesthood. Jonathan Edwards said: “I went on with my eager
pursuit after more holiness and conformity to Christ. The heaven I desired
was a heaven of holiness.” The gospel of Christ does not move by popular
waves. It has no self-propagating power. It moves as the men who have
charge of it move. The preacher must impersonate the gospel. Its divine,
most distinctive features must be embodied in him.
The constraining power of love must be in the preacher as a projecting, eccentric,
an all commanding, self-oblivious force. The energy of self-denial must be his
being, his heart and blood and bones. He must go forth as a man among
men, clothed with humility, abiding in meekness, wise as a serpent,
harmless as a dove; the bonds of a servant with the spirit of a king, a king
in high, royal, independent bearing, with the simplicity and sweetness of a
child. The preacher must throw himself, with all the abandon of a perfect,
self-emptying faith and a self-consuming zeal, into his work for the
salvation of men. Hearty, heroic, compassionate, fearless martyrs must the
men be who take hold of and shape a generation for God. If they be timid
timeservers, place seekers, if they be men pleasers or men fearers, if their
faith has a weak hold on God or his Word, if their denial he broken by any
phase of self or the world, they cannot take hold of the Church nor the
world for God.
The preacher’s sharpest and strongest preaching should be
to himself. His most difficult, delicate, laborious, and thorough work must
he with himself. The training of the twelve was the great, difficult, and
enduring work of Christ. Preachers are not sermon makers, but men
makers and saint makers, and he only is well-trained for this business who
has made himself a man and a saint. It is not great talents nor great learning
nor great preachers that God needs, but men great in holiness, great in
faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God — men always preaching
by holy sermons in the pulpit, by holy lives out of it. These can mold a
generation for God.
After this order, the early Christians were formed. Men they were of solid
mold, preachers after the heavenly type — heroic, stalwart, soldierly,
saintly. Preaching with them meant self-denying, self-crucifying, serious,
toilsome, martyr business. They applied themselves to it in a way that
told on their generation, and formed in its womb a generation yet unborn
for God. The preaching man is to be the praying man. Prayer is the
preacher’s mightiest weapon. An almighty force in itself, it gives life and
force to all.
The real sermon is made in the closet. The man — God’s man — is made
in the closet. His life and his profoundest convictions were born in his
secret communion with God. The burdened and tearful agony of his spirit,
his weightiest and sweetest messages were got when alone with God.
Prayer makes the man; prayer makes the preacher; prayer makes the
The pulpit of this day is weak in praying. The pride of learning is against
the dependent humility of prayer. Prayer is with the pulpit too often only
official — a performance for the routine of service. Prayer is not to the
modern pulpit the mighty force it was in Paul’s life or Paul’s ministry.
Every preacher who does not make prayer a mighty factor in his own life
and ministry is weak as a factor in God’s work and is powerless to project
God’s cause in this world.
The preaching that kills may be, and often is, orthodox — dogmatically,
inviolably orthodox. We love orthodoxy. It is good. It is the best. It is the
clean, clear-cut teaching of God’s Word, the trophies won by truth in its
conflict with error, the levees which faith has raised against the desolating
floods of honest or reckless misbelief or unbelief; but orthodoxy, clear and
hard as crystal, suspicious and militant, may be but the letter well-shaped,
well-named, and well-learned, the letter which kills. Nothing is so dead as a
dead orthodoxy, too dead to speculate, too dead to think, to study, or to
The preaching that kills may have insight and grasp of principles, may be
scholarly and critical in taste, may have every minutiae of the derivation
and grammar of the letter, may be able to trim the letter into its perfect
pattern, and illume it as Plato and Cicero may be illumined, may study it
as a lawyer studies his text-books to form his brief or to defend his case,
and yet be like a frost, a killing frost. Letter preaching may be eloquent,
enameled with poetry and rhetoric, sprinkled with prayer, spiced with
sensation, illumined by genius, and yet these be but the massive or chaste,
costly mountings, the rare and beautiful flowers which coffin the corpse.
The preaching which kills may he without scholarship, unmarked by any
freshness of thought or feeling, clothed in tasteless generalities or vapid
specialties, with style irregular, slovenly, savoring neither of closet nor of
study, graced neither by thought, expression, or prayer. Under such
preaching how wide and utter the desolation! how profound the spiritual
This letter-preaching deals with the surface and shadow of things, and not
the things themselves. It does not penetrate the inner part. It has no deep
insight into, no strong grasp of, the hidden life of God’s Word. It is true to
the outside, but the outside is the hull which must be broken and
penetrated for the kernel. The letter may be dressed so as to attract and be
fashionable, but the attraction is not toward God nor is the fashion for
heaven. The failure is in the preacher. God has not made him. He has never
been in the hands of God like clay in the hands of the potter.
He has been busy about the sermon, its thought and finish, its drawing and impressive
forces; but the deep things of God have never been sought, studied,
fathomed, experienced by him. He has never stood before “the throne high
and lifted up,” never heard the seraphim song, never seen the vision nor
felt the rush of that awful holiness, and cried out in utter abandon and
despair under the sense of weakness and guilt, and had his life renewed, his
heart touched, purged, inflamed by the live coal from God’s altar.
His ministry may draw people to him, to the Church, to the form and
ceremony; but no true drawings to God, no sweet, holy, divine
communion induced. The Church has been frescoed but not edified,
pleased but not sanctified. Life is suppressed; a chill is on the summer air;
the soil is baked. The city of our God becomes the city of the dead; the
Church a graveyard, not an embattled army. Praise and prayer are stifled;
worship is dead. The preacher and the preaching have helped sin, not
holiness; peopled hell, not heaven.
Preaching which kills is prayerless preaching. Without prayer the preacher
creates death, and not life. The preacher who is feeble in prayer is feeble in
life-giving forces. The preacher who has retired prayer as a conspicuous
and largely prevailing element in his own character has shorn his preaching
of its distinctive life-giving power. Professional praying there is and will
be, but professional praying helps the preaching to its deadly work.
Professional praying chills and kills both preaching and praying. Much of
the lax devotion and lazy, irreverent attitudes in congregational praying are
attributable to professional praying in the pulpit. Long, discursive, dry,
and inane are the prayers in many pulpits. Without unction or heart, they
fall like a killing frost on all the graces of worship. Death-dealing prayers
they are. Every vestige of devotion has perished under their breath. The
deader they are the longer they grow. A plea for short praying, live
praying, real heart praying, praying by the Holy Spirit — direct, specific,
ardent, simple, unctuous in the pulpit — is in order. A school to teach
preachers how to pray, as God counts praying, would be more beneficial
to true piety, true worship, and true preaching than all theological schools.
Stop! Pause! Consider! Where are we? Preaching to kill? Praying to God!
the great God, the Maker of all worlds, the Judge of all men! What
reverence! what simplicity! what sincerity! what truth in the inward parts
is demanded! How real we must be! How hearty! Prayer to God the
noblest exercise, the loftiest effort of man, the most real thing! Shall we
not discard forever accursed preaching that kills and prayer that kills, and
do the real thing, the mightiest thing — prayerful praying, life-creating
preaching, bring the mightiest force to bear on heaven and earth and draw
Never was there greater need for saintly men and women; more imperative
still is the call for saintly, God-devoted preachers. The world moves with
gigantic strides. Satan has his hold and rule on the world, and labors to
make all its movements subserve his ends. Religion must do its best work,
present its most attractive and perfect models. By every means, modern
sainthood must he inspired by the loftiest ideals and by the largest
possibilities through the Spirit. Paul lived on his knees, that the Ephesian
Church might measure the heights, breadths, and depths of an
unmeasurable saintliness, and “be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Epaphras laid himself out with the exhaustive toil and strenuous conflict
of fervent prayer, that the Colossian Church might “stand perfect and
complete in all the will of God.” Everywhere, everything in apostolic
times was on the stretch that the people of God might each and “all come
in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a
perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” No
premium was given to dwarfs; no encouragement to an old babyhood. The
babies were to grow; the old, instead of feebleness and infirmities, were to
bear fruit in old age, and be fat and flourishing. The divinest thing in
religion is holy men and holy women.
No amount of money, genius, or culture can move things for God.
Holiness energizing the soul, the whole man aflame with love, with desire
for more faith, more prayer, more zeal, more consecration — this is the
secret of power. These we need and must have, and men must be the
incarnation of this God-inflamed devotedness. God’s advance has been
stayed, his cause crippled, his name dishonored for their lack. Genius
(though the loftiest and most gifted), education (though the most learned
and refined), position, dignity, place, honored names, high ecclesiastics
cannot move this chariot of our God. It is a fiery one, and fiery forces only
can move it. The genius of a Milton fails. The imperial strength of a Leo
fails. Brainerd’s spirit can move it. Brainerd’s spirit was on fire for God,
on fire for souls. Nothing earthly, worldly, selfish came in to abate in the
least the intensity of this all-impelling and all-consuming force and flame.
Prayer is the creator as well as the channel of devotion. The spirit of
devotion is the spirit of prayer. Prayer and devotion are united as soul and
body are united, as life and the heart are united. There is no real prayer
without devotion, no devotion without prayer. The preacher must be
surrendered to God in the holiest devotion. He is not a professional man,
his ministry is not a profession; it is a divine institution, a divine devotion.
He is devoted to God. His aim, aspirations, ambition are for God and to
God, and to such prayer is as essential as food is to life.
The preacher, above everything else, must be devoted to God. The
preacher’s relations to God are the insignia and credentials of his ministry.
These must be clear, conclusive, unmistakable. No common, surface type
of piety must be his. If he does not excel in grace, he does not excel at all.
If he does not preach by life, character, conduct, he does not preach at all.
If his piety be light, his preaching may be as soft and as sweet as music, as
gifted as Apollo, yet its weight will be a feather’s weight, visionary,
fleeting as the morning cloud or the early dew. Devotion to God — there is
no substitute for this in the preacher’s character and conduct. Devotion to
a Church, to opinions, to an organization to orthodoxy — these are paltry,
misleading, and vain when they become the source of inspiration, the
animus of a call. God must be the mainspring of the preacher’s effort, the
fountain and crown of all his toil. The name and honor of Jesus Christ, the
advance of his cause, must be all in all. The preacher must have no
inspiration but the name of Jesus Christ, no ambition but to have him
glorified, no toil but for him. Then prayer will be a source of his
illuminations, the means of perpetual advance, the gauge of his success.
The perpetual aim, the only ambition, the preacher can cherish is to have
God with him.
Never did the cause of God need perfect illustrations of the possibilities of
prayer more than in this age. No age, no person, will be ensamples of the
gospel power except the ages or persons of deep and earnest prayer. A
prayerless age will have but scant models of divine power.
Prayerless hearts will never rise to these Alpine heights. The age may be a better age
than the past, but there is an infinite distance between the betterment of an
age by the force of an advancing civilization and its betterment by the
increase of holiness and Christlikeness by the energy of prayer. The Jews
were much better when Christ came than in the ages before. It was the
golden age of their Pharisaic religion. Their golden religious age crucified
Christ. Never more praying, never less praying; never more sacrifices,
never less sacrifice; never less idolatry, never more idolatry; never more of
temple worship, never less of God worship; never more of lip service,
never less of heart service (God worshipped by lips whose hearts and
hands crucified God’s Son!); never more of churchgoers, never less of
It is prayer-force which makes saints. Holy characters are formed by the
power of real praying. The more of true saints, the more of praying; the
Prayer, with its manifold and many-sided forces, helps the mouth to utter
the truth in its fullness and freedom. The preacher is to be prayed for, the
preacher is made by prayer. The preacher’s mouth is to be prayed for; his
mouth is to be opened and filled by prayer. A holy mouth is made by
praying, by much praying; a brave mouth is made by praying, by much
praying. The Church and the world, God and heaven, owe much to Paul’s
mouth; Paul’s mouth owed its power to prayer. How manifold, illimitable,
valuable, and helpful prayer is to the preacher in so many ways, at so
many points, in every way! One great value is, it helps his heart.
Praying makes the preacher a heart preacher. Prayer puts the preacher’s
heart into the preacher’s sermon; prayer puts the preacher’s sermon into
the preacher’s heart.
The heart makes the preacher. Men of great hearts are great preachers.
Men of bad hearts may do a measure of good, but this is rare. The hireling
and the stranger may help the sheep at some points, but it is the good
shepherd with the good shepherd’s heart who will bless the sheep and
answer the full measure of the shepherd’s place.
We have emphasized sermon-preparation until we have lost sight of the
important thing to be prepared — the heart. A prepared heart is much
better than a prepared sermon. A prepared heart will make a prepared
Volumes have been written laying down the mechanics and taste of
sermon-making, until we have become possessed with the idea that this
scaffolding is the building. The young preacher has been taught to lay out
all his strength on the form, taste, and beauty of his sermon as a
mechanical and intellectual product. We have thereby cultivated a vicious
taste among the people and raised the clamor for talent instead of grace,
eloquence instead of piety, rhetoric instead of revelation, reputation and
brilliancy instead of holiness. By it we have lost the true idea of preaching,
lost preaching power, lost pungent conviction for sin, lost the rich
experience and elevated Christian character, lost the authority over
consciences and lives which always results from genuine preaching.
It would not do to say that preachers study too much. Some of them do
not study at all; others do not study enough. Numbers do not study the
right way to show themselves workmen approved of God. But our great
lack is not in head culture, but in heart culture; not lack of knowledge but
lack of holiness is our sad and telling defect — not that we know too
much, but that we do not meditate on God and his word and watch and
fast and pray enough. The heart is the great hindrance to our preaching.
Words pregnant with divine truth find in our hearts nonconductors;
arrested, they fall shorn and powerless.
Can ambition, that lusts after praise and place, preach the gospel of Him
who made himself of no reputation and took on Him the form of a
servant? Can the proud, the vain, the egotistical preach the gospel of him
who was meek and lowly? Can the bad-tempered, passionate, selfish,
hard, worldly man preach the system which teems with long-suffering,
self-denial, tenderness, which imperatively demands separation from
enmity and crucifixion to the world? Can the hireling official, heartless,
perfunctory, preach the gospel which demands the shepherd to give his
life for the sheep? Can the covetous man, who counts salary and money,
preach the gospel till he has gleaned his heart and can say in the spirit of
Christ and Paul in the words of Wesley:
“I count it dung and dross; I
trample it under my feet; I (yet not I, but the grace of God in me) esteem it
just as the mire of the streets, I desire it not, I seek it not?”
God’s revelation does not need the light of human genius, the polish
and strength of human culture , the brilliancy of human thought, the force
of human brains to adorn or enforce it; but it does demand the simplicity, the
docility, humility, and faith of a child’s heart.
It was this surrender and subordination of intellect and genius to the divine
and spiritual forces which made Paul peerless among the apostles. It was
this which gave Wesley his power and radicated his labors in the history
of humanity. This gave to Loyola the strength to arrest the retreating
forces of Catholicism.
Our great need is heart-preparation. Luther held it as an axiom: “He who
has prayed well has studied well.” We do not say that men are not to think
and use their intellects; but he will use his intellect best who cultivates his
heart most. We do not say that preachers should not be students; but we
do say that their great study should be the Bible, and he studies the Bible
best who has kept his heart with diligence. We do not say that the
preacher should not know men, but he will be the greater adept in human
nature who has fathomed the depths and intricacies of his own heart.
We do say that while the channel of preaching is the mind, its fountain is the
heart; you may broaden and deepen the channel, but if you do not look
well to the purity and depth of the fountain, you will have a dry or
polluted channel. We do say that almost any man of common intelligence
has sense enough to preach the gospel, but very few have grace enough to
do so. We do say that he who has struggled with his own heart and
conquered it; who has taught it humility, faith, love, truth, mercy,
sympathy, courage; who can pour the rich treasures of the heart thus
trained, through a manly intellect, all surcharged with the power of the
gospel on the consciences of his hearers — such a one will be the truest,
Unction is that indefinable, indescribable something which an old,
renowned Scotch preacher describes thus: “There is sometimes somewhat
in preaching that cannot be ascribed either to matter or expression, and
cannot be described what it is, or from whence it cometh, but with a sweet
violence it pierceth into the heart and affections and comes immediately
from the Lord; but if there be any way to obtain such a thing, it is by the
heavenly disposition of the speaker.”
We call it unction. It is this unction which makes the word of God “quick
and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the
dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and a
discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It is this unction which
gives the words of the preacher such point, sharpness, and power, and
which creates such friction and stir in many a dead congregation. The same
truths have been told in the strictness of the letter, smooth as human oil
could make them: but no signs of life, not a pulse throb; all as peaceful as
the grave and as dead. The same preacher in the meanwhile receives a
baptism of this unction, the divine afflatus is on him, the letter of the
Word has been embellished and fired by this mysterious power, and the
throbbings of life begin — life which receives or life which resists. The
unction pervades and convicts the conscience and breaks the heart.
This divine unction is the feature which separates and distinguishes true
gospel preaching from all other methods of presenting the truth, and which
creates a wide spiritual chasm between the preacher who has it and the one
who has it not. It backs and impregnates revealed truth with all the energy
of God. Unction is simply putting God in his own word and on his own
preacher. By mighty and great prayerfulness and by continual
prayerfulness, it is all potential and personal to the preacher; it inspires
and clarifies his intellect, gives insight and grasp and projecting power; it
gives to the preacher heart power, which is greater than head power; and
tenderness, purity, force flow from the heart by it. Enlargement, freedom,
fullness of thought, directness and simplicity of utterance are the fruits of
Often earnestness is mistaken for this unction. He who has the divine
unction will be earnest in the very spiritual nature of things, but there may
be a vast deal of earnestness without the least mixture of unction.
Earnestness and unction look alike from some points of view. Earnestness
may be readily and without detection substituted or mistaken for unction.
It requires a spiritual eye and a spiritual taste to discriminate.
Earnestness may be sincere, serious, ardent, and persevering. It goes at a
thing with good will, pursues it with perseverance, and urges it with ardor;
puts force in it. But all these forces do not rise higher than the mere
human. The man is in it — the whole man, with all that he has of will and
heart, of brain and genius, of planning and working and talking.
He has set himself to some purpose which has mastered him, and he pursues to
master it. There may be none of God in it. There may be little of God in it,
because there is so much of the man in it. He may present pleas in
advocacy of his earnest purpose which please or touch and move or
overwhelm with conviction of their importance; and in all this earnestness
may move along earthly ways, being propelled by human forces only, its
altar made by earthly hands and its fire kindled by earthly flames.
It is said of a rather famous preacher of gifts, whose construction of Scripture
was to his fancy or purpose, that he “grew very eloquent over his own
exegesis.” So men grow exceeding earnest over their own plans or
movements. Earnestness may be selfishness simulated.
What of unction? It is the indefinable in preaching which makes it
preaching. It is that which distinguishes and separates preaching from all
mere human addresses. It is the divine in preaching. It makes the preaching
sharp to those who need sharpness. It distills as the dew to those who
need to be refreshed. It is well described as:
“a two-edged sword
Of heavenly temper keen,
And double were the wounds it made
Where’er it glanced between.
‘Twas death to sin; ‘twas life
To all who mourned for sin.
It kindled and it silenced strife,
Made war and peace within.”
This unction comes to the preacher not in the study but in the closet. It is
heaven’s distillation in answer to prayer. It is the sweetest exhalation of
the Holy Spirit. It impregnates, suffuses, softens, percolates, cuts, and
soothes. It carries the Word like dynamite, like salt, like sugar; makes the
Word a soother, an arraigner, a revealer, a searcher; makes the hearer a
culprit or a saint, makes him weep like a child and live like a giant; opens
his heart and his purse as gently, yet as strongly as the spring opens the
leaves. This unction is not the gift of genius. It is not found in the halls of
learning. No eloquence can woo it. No industry can win it. No prelatical
hands can confer it. It is the gift of God — the signet set to his own
messengers. It is heaven’s knighthood given to the chosen true and brave
ones who have sought this anointed honor through many an hour of
tearful, wrestling prayer.
Earnestness is good and impressive; genius is gifted and great. Thought
kindles and inspires, but it takes a diviner endowment, a more powerful
energy than earnestness or genius or thought to break the chains of sin, to
win estranged and depraved hearts to God, to repair the breaches and
restore the Church to her old ways of purity and power. Nothing but this
Somehow the practice of praying in particular for the preacher has fallen
into disuse or become discounted. Occasionally have we heard the practice
arraigned as a disparagement of the ministry, being a public declaration by
those who do it of the inefficiency of the ministry. It offends the pride of
learning and self-sufficiency, perhaps, and these ought to be offended and
rebuked in a ministry that is so derelict to allow them to exist.
Prayer, to the preacher, is not simply the duty of his profession, a
privilege, but it is a necessity. Air is not more necessary to the lungs than
prayer is to the preacher. It is absolutely necessary for the preacher to
pray. It is an absolute necessity that the preacher be prayed for. These
two propositions are wedded into a union which ought never to know any
divorce: the preacher must pray; the preacher must be prayed for. It will
take all the praying he can do, and all the praying he can get done, to meet
the fearful responsibilities and gain the largest, truest success in his great
work. The true preacher, next to the cultivation of the spirit and fact of
prayer in himself, in their intensest form, covets with a great covetousness
the prayers of God’s people.
The holier a man is, the more does he estimate prayer; the clearer does he
see that God gives himself to the praying ones, and that the measure of
God’s revelation to the soul is the measure of the soul’s longing,
importunate prayer for God. Salvation never finds its way to a prayerless
heart. The Holy Spirit never abides in a prayerless spirit. Preaching never
edifies a prayerless soul. Christ knows nothing of prayerless Christians.
The gospel cannot be projected by a prayerless preacher. Gifts, talents,
education, eloquence, God’s call, cannot abate the demand of prayer, but
only intensify the necessity for the preacher to pray and to be prayed for.
The more the preacher’s eyes are opened to the nature, responsibility, and
difficulties in his work, the more will he see, and if he be a true preacher
the more will he feel, the necessity of prayer; not only the Increasing
demand to pray himself, but to call on others to help him by their prayers.
Paul is an illustration of this. If any man could project the gospel by dint
of personal force, by brain power, by culture, by personal grace, by God’s
apostolic commission, God’s extraordinary call, that man was Paul. That
the preacher must be a man given to prayer, Paul is an eminent example.
That the true apostolic preacher must have the prayers of other good
people to give to his ministry its full quota of success, Paul is a
preeminent example. He asks, he covets, he pleads in an impassioned way
for the help of all God’s saints. He knew that in the spiritual realm, as
elsewhere, in union there is strength; that the concentration and aggregation
of faith, desire, and prayer increased the volume of spiritual force until it
became overwhelming and irresistible in its power. Units of prayer
combined, like drops of water, make an ocean which defies resistance.
So Paul, with his clear and full apprehension of spiritual dynamics,
determined to make his ministry as impressive, as eternal, as irresistible as
the ocean, by gathering all the scattered units of prayer and precipitating
them on his ministry. May not the solution of Paul’s preeminence in
labors and results, and impress on the Church and the world, be found in
this fact that he was able to center on himself and his ministry more of
prayer than others? To his brethren at Rome he wrote:
“Now I beseech
you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the
Spirit, that ye strive together with me in prayers to God for me.”
To the Ephesians he says: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in
the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication
for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may
open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” To
the Colossians he emphasizes: “Withal praying also for us, that God
would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ,
for which I am also in bonds: that I may make it manifest as I ought to
speak.” To the Thessalonians he says sharply, strongly:
“Brethren, pray for us.”
Paul calls on the Corinthian Church to help him:
“Ye also helping together by prayer for us.”
This was to be part of their work. They were
to lay to the helping hand of prayer. He in an additional and closing charge
to the Thessalonian Church about the importance and necessity of their
prayers says: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord
may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: and that we
may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men.” He impresses the
Philippians that all his trials and opposition can be made subservient to
the spread of the gospel by the efficiency of their prayers for him.
Philemon was to prepare a lodging for him, for through Philemon’s prayer
Paul was to be his guest.
Paul’s attitude on this question illustrates his humility and his deep insight
into the spiritual forces which project the gospel. More than this, it
teaches a lesson for all times, that if Paul was so dependent on the prayers
of God’s saints to give his ministry success, how much greater the
necessity that the prayers of God’s saints be centered on the ministry of
Paul did not feel that this urgent plea for prayer was to lower his dignity,
lessen his influence, or depreciate his piety. What if it did? Let dignity go,
let influence be destroyed, let his reputation be marred — he must have
their prayers. Called, commissioned, chief of the Apostles as he was, all
his equipment was imperfect without the prayers of his people. He wrote
letters everywhere, urging them to pray for him. Do you pray for your
preacher? Do you pray for him in secret? Public prayers are of little worth
unless they are founded on or followed up by private praying. The
praying ones are to the preacher as Aaron and Hur were to Moses. They
hold up his hands and decide the issue that is so fiercely raging around
The plea and purpose of the apostles were to put the Church to praying.
They did not ignore the grace of cheerful giving. They were not ignorant of
the place which religious activity and work occupied in the spiritual life;
but not one nor all of these, in apostolic estimate or urgency, could at all
compare in necessity and importance with prayer. The most sacred and
urgent pleas were used, the most fervid exhortations, the most
comprehensive and arousing words were uttered to enforce the all important
obligation and necessity of prayer.
“Put the saints everywhere to praying” is the burden of the apostolic
effort and the keynote of apostolic success. Jesus Christ had striven to do
this in the days of his personal ministry. As he was moved by infinite
compassion at the ripened fields of earth perishing for lack of laborers —
and pausing in his own praying — he tries to awaken the stupid
sensibilities of his disciples to the duty of prayer as he charges them,
“Pray ye the Lord of the harvest that he will send forth laborers into his
harvest.” “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought
Only glimpses of the great importance of prayer could the apostles get
before Pentecost. But the Spirit coming and filling on Pentecost elevated
prayer to its vital and all-commanding position in the gospel of Christ.
The call now of prayer to every saint is the Spirit’s loudest and most
exigent call. Sainthood’s piety is made, refined, perfected, by prayer. The
gospel moves with slow and timid pace when the saints are not at their
prayers early and late and long.
Where are the Christly leaders who can teach the modern saints how to
pray and put them at it? Do we know we are raising up a prayerless set of
saints? Where are the apostolic leaders who can put God’s people to
praying? Let them come to the front and do the work, and it will be the
greatest work which can be done. An increase of educational facilities and a
great increase of money force will be the direst curse to religion if they are
not sanctified by more and better praying than we are doing. More praying
will not come as a matter of course. The campaign for the twentieth or
thirtieth century fund will not help our praying but hinder if we are not
careful, Nothing but a specific effort from a praying leadership will avail.
The chief ones must lead in the apostolic effort to radicate the vital
importance and fact of prayer in the heart and life of the Church. None but
praying leaders can have praying followers. Praying apostles will beget
praying saints. A praying pulpit will beget praying pews. We do greatly
need somebody who can set the saints to this business of praying. We are
not a generation of praying saints. Nonpraying saints are a beggarly gang
of saints who have neither the ardor nor the beauty nor the power of
saints. Who will restore this breach? The greatest will he be of reformers
and apostles, who can set the Church to praying.
We put it as our most sober judgment that the great need of the Church in
this and all ages is men of such commanding faith, of such unsullied
holiness, of such marked spiritual vigor and consuming zeal, that their
prayers, faith, lives, and ministry will be of such a radical and aggressive
form as to work spiritual revolutions which will form eras in individual
and Church life.
We do not mean men who get up sensational stirs by novel devices, nor
those who attract by a pleasing entertainment; but men who can stir
things, and work revolutions by the preaching of God’s Word and by the
power of the Holy Ghost, revolutions which change the whole current of
Natural ability and educational advantages do not figure as factors in this
matter; but capacity for faith, the ability to pray, the power of thorough
consecration, the ability of self-littleness, an absolute losing of one’s self
in God’s glory, and an ever-present and insatiable yearning and seeking
after all the fullness of God — men who can set the Church ablaze for
God; not in a noisy, showy way, but with an intense and quiet heat that
melts and moves everything for God.
God can work wonders if he can get a suitable man. Men can work
wonders if they can get God to lead them. The full endowment of the
spirit that turned the world upside down would be eminently useful in
these latter days. Men who can stir things mightily for God, whose
spiritual revolutions change the whole aspect of things, are the universal
need of the Church.
The Church has never been without these men; they adorn its history;
they are the standing miracles of the divinity of the Church; their example
and history are an unfailing inspiration and blessing. An increase in their
number and power should be our prayer.
That which has been done in spiritual matters can be done again, and be
better done. This was Christ’s view. He said: “Verily, verily, I say unto
you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall be do also; and
greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” The
past has not exhausted the possibilities nor the demands for doing great
things for God. The Church that is dependent on its past history for its
miracles of power and grace is a fallen Church.
God wants elect men — men out of whom self and the world have gone by
a severe crucifixion, by a bankruptcy which has so totally ruined self and
the world that there is neither hope nor desire of recovery; men who by
this insolvency and crucifixion have turned toward God perfect hearts. Let
us pray ardently that God’s promise to prayer may be more than realized.
The 613 Old Testament Commandments
The following information comes from WILLMINGTON’S GUIDE TO THE BIBLE by Dr. H. L. Willmington TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC. Wheaton, Illinois and are placed here for research and edification purposes only
The total number of the biblical commandments (precepts and prohibitions) is given in rabbinic tradition as 613. It is held that all 613 were revealed to Moses at Mt. Sinai, and that they fall into two classifications. 1. Mandatory laws—248 in number, corresponding to the limbs of the human body (divided into eighteen sections). 2. Prohibition laws—365 in number, equal to the solar days in a year (divided into thirteen sections).
The Mandatory Commandments
1. One must believe that God exists (Ex. 20:2).
2. Acknowledge his unity (Deut. 6:4).
3. Love God (Deut. 6:5).
4. Fear God (Deut. 6:13).
5. Serve God (Ex. 23:25; Deut. 11:13).
6. Cleave to God (Deut. 10:20).
7. Swear only by his name (Deut. 10:20).
8. Imitate God (Deut. 28:9).
9. Sanctify God’s name (Lev. 22:32).
10. The shema must be recited each morning and evening (Deut. 6:7).
11. Study the Torah and teach it to others (Deut. 6:7).
12. The Tefillin must be bound on one’s head (Deut. 6:8).
13. It should be also bound on one’s arm (Deut. 6:8).
14. A zizit is to be made for the garments (Num. 15:38).
15. A mezuzah is to be fixed on the door (Deut. 6:9).
16. The people are to assemble every seventh month to hear the Torah read (Deut. 31:12).
17. The king must write a special copy of the Torah for himself (Deut. 17:18).
18. Each Jew should have a Torah scroll for himself (Deut. 31:19).
19. God is to be praised after meals (Deut. 8:10).
Temple and the Priest
20. The Jews should build a Temple (Ex. 25:8).
21. They should respect it (Lev. 19:30).
22. It must be guarded at all times (Num. 18:4).
23. The Levites should perform their special duties in it (Num. 18:23).
24. Before entering the Temple or participating in its service, the priests must wash their hands and feet (Ex. 30:19).
25. The priests must light the candelabrum daily (Ex. 27:20, 21).
26. The priests must bless Israel (Num. 6:23).
27. They must set the shewbread and frankincense before the altar (Ex. 25:30).
28. The incense must be burned twice daily on the golden altar (Ex. 30:7).
29. Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually (Lev. 6:13).
30. The ashes are to be removed daily (Lev. 6:10, 11).
31. Ritually unclean persons must be kept out of the Temple (Num. 5:2).
32. Israel is to honor its priests (Lev. 21:8).
33. The priests must be dressed in special priestly raiment (Ex. 28:2).
34. The ark is to be carried on the shoulders of the priests (Num. 7:9).
35. The oil used in anointing must be prepared according to a special formula (Ex. 30:31). 3
6. The priestly families should officiate in rotation (Deut. 18:6-8).
37. In honor of certain dead close relatives, the priests should make themselves ritually unclean (Lev. 21:2, 3).
38. The high priest may marry only a virgin (Lev. 21:13).
39. The tamid sacrifice must be offered twice daily (Num. 28:3).
40. The high priest must also offer a meal offering twice daily (Lev. 6:13).
41. An additional sacrifice (musaf) should be offered every Sabbath (Num. 28:9).
42. One shall also be offered on the first of every month (Num. 28:11).
43. A musaf is to be offered on each of the seven days of Passover (Lev. 23:36).
44. On the second day of Passover a meal offering of the first barley must also be brought (Lev. 23:10).
45. On Shavuot a musaf must be offered (Num. 28:26, 27).
46. Two loaves of bread must be offered as a wave offering (Lev. 23:17).
47. An additional sacrifice must be made on Rosh Ha-Shanah (Num. 29:1, 2).
48. Another offering must be made on the day of atonement (Num. 29:7, 8).
49. On this day the avodah must also be performed (Lev. 16).
50. On every day of the festival of Sukkot a musaf must be brought (Num. 29:13).
51. It is to be brought also on the eighth day thereof (Num. 29:36).
52. Every male Jew should make pilgrimage to the Temple three times a year (Ex. 23:14).
53. He must appear there during the three pilgrim festivals (Ex. 34:23; Deut. 16:16).
54. One should rejoice on the festivals (Deut. 16:14).
55. On the fourteenth of Nisan one should slaughter the paschal lamb (Ex. 12:6).
56. The lamb is then to be roasted and eaten on the night of the fifteenth (Ex. 12:8).
57. Those who were ritually impure in Nisan should slaughter the paschal lamb on the fourteenth of Lyyar (Num. 9:11).
58. It should then be eaten with mazzah and bitter herbs (Ex. 12:8; Num. 9:11).
59. Trumpets should be sounded when the festive sacrifices are brought, and also in times of tribulation (Num. 10:10).
60. Cattle to be sacrificed must be at least eight days old (Lev. 22:27).
61. They must also be without blemish (Lev. 22:21).
62. All offerings must be salted (Lev. 2:13).
63. It is a mitzvah to perform the ritual of the burnt offering (Lev. 1:2).
64. This is also true with the sin offering (Lev. 6:18).
65. This is also true with the guilt offering (Lev. 7:1).
66. This is also true with the peace offering (Lev. 3:1).
67. This is also true with the meal offering (Lev. 2:1; 6:7).
68. Should the Sanhedrin err in a decision, its members must bring a sin offering (Lev. 4:13).
69. This offering must also be brought by a person who has unwittingly transgressed a karet (Lev. 4:27).
70. When in doubt as to whether one has transgressed such a prohibition, a “suspensive” guilt offering must be brought (Lev. 5:17, 18).
71. For stealing or swearing falsely and for other sins of like nature, a guilt offering must be brought (Lev. 5:15; 19:20, 21; 21-25).
72. In special circumstances the sin offering can be according to one’s means (Lev. 5:1-11).
73. One must confess one’s sins before God and repent for them (Num. 5:6, 7).
74. A man who has a seminal issue must bring a sacrifice (Lev. 15:13-15).
75. A woman who has an issue must bring a sacrifice (Lev. 15:28, 29).
76. A woman must also bring a sacrifice after childbirth (Lev. 12:6).
77. A leper must bring a sacrifice after he has been cleansed (Lev. 14:10). 78. One must tithe one’s cattle (Lev. 27:32).
79. The firstborn of clean (permitted) cattle are holy and must be sacrificed (Ex. 13:2).
80. The firstborn of man must be redeemed (Ex. 22:28; Num. 18:15).
81. The firstling of the ass must be redeemed (Ex. 34:20).
82. If not, its neck is to be broken (Ex. 13:13).
83. Animals set aside as offerings must be brought to Jerusalem without delay (Deut. 12:5, 6).
84. They may be sacrificed only in the Temple (Deut. 12:14).
85. Offerings from outside the land of Israel may also be brought to the Temple (Deut. 12:26).
86. Sanctified animals which have become blemished must be redeemed (Deut. 12:15).
87. A beast exchanged for an offering is also holy (Lev. 27:33).
88. The priests should eat the remainder of the meal offering (Lev. 6:9).
89. They also are to eat of the flesh of sin and guilt offerings (Ex. 29:33).
90. But consecrated flesh which has become ritually unclean must be burned (Lev. 7:19).
91. Also, that flesh not eaten within its appointed time must be burned (Lev. 7:17).
92. A Nazarite must let his hair grow during the period of his separation (Num. 6:5).
93. When that period is over he must shave his head and bring his sacrifice (Num. 6:18).
94. A man must honor his vows and his oaths (Deut. 23:24).
95. These can only be annulled in accordance with the law (Num. 30:3).
96. Anyone who touches a carcass becomes ritually unclean (Lev. 11:8, 24).
97. Anyone who touches one of the eight species of reptiles becomes ritually unclean (Lev. 11:29-31).
98. Food becomes unclean by coming into contact with a ritually unclean object (Lev. 11:34).
99. Menstruous women are ritually impure (Lev. 15:19).
100. After childbirth women are ritually impure for seven days (Lev. 12:2).
101. A leper is ritually unclean (Lev. 13:3).
102. A leprous garment is ritually unclean (Lev. 13:51).
103. A leprous house is unclean (Lev. 14:44).
104. A man having a running issue is unclean (Lev. 15:2).
105. Semen is unclean (Lev. 15:16).
106. A woman suffering from a running issue is unclean (Lev. 15:19).
107. A human corpse is unclean (Num. 19:14).
108. The purification water purifies the unclean, but it makes the clean ritually impure (Num. 19:13, 21).
109. It is a mitzvah to become ritually clean by ritual immersion (Lev. 15:16).
110. To become cleansed of leprosy one must follow the specified procedures (Lev. 14:2).
111. He must shave off all of his hair (Lev. 14:9).
112. Until cleansed, the leper must be bareheaded with clothing in disarray so as to be easily distinguishable (Lev. 13:45).
113. The ashes of the red heifer are to be used in the process of ritual purification (Num. 19:2-9).
Donations to the Temple
114. If a person undertakes to give his own value to the Temple he must do so (Lev. 27:2-8).
115. If a man declares an unclean beast as a donation to the Temple he must give the animal’s value in money as fixed by the priest (Lev. 27:11, 12).
116. This is true concerning a house (Lev. 27:14). 117. This is true concerning a field (Lev. 27:16, 22, 23).
118. If one unwittingly derives benefits from Temple property, full restitution plus a fifth must be made (Lev. 5:16).
119. The fruit of the fourth year’s growth of trees is holy and may be eaten only in Jerusalem (Lev. 19:24).
120. In reaping a field one must leave the corners for the poor (Lev. 19:9). 121. The gleanings also must be left (Lev. 19:9).
122. The forgotten sheaves must also be left (Deut. 24:19).
123. The misformed bunches of grapes must also be left (Lev. 19:10).
124. The gleanings of the grapes must also be left (Lev. 19:10).
125. The firstfruits must be separated and brought to the Temple (Ex. 23:19).
126. The great heave offering (terumah) must be separated and given to the priest (Deut. 18:4).
127. One must give one tenth of his produce to the Levites (Lev. 27:30; Num. 18:24).
128. A second tithe is to be separated and eaten only in Jerusalem (Deut. 14:22).
129. The Levites must give a tenth of their tithe to the priests (Num. 18:26).
130. In the third and sixth years of the seven-year cycle one was to separate a tithe for the poor instead of the second tithe (Deut. 14:28).
131. A declaration was to be recited when separating the various tithes (Deut. 26:13).
132. This was also required when bringing the firstfruits to the Temple (Deut. 26:5).
133. The first portion of the dough must be given to the priest (Num. 15:20).
The Sabbatical Year
134. In the seventh year everything that grows is ownerless and available to all (Ex. 23:11).
135. The fields were to be fallow and the ground was not to be tilled (Ex. 34:21).
136. The jubilee year (fiftieth) was to be sanctified (Lev. 25:10).
137. On the day of atonement the shafar was to be sounded and all Hebrew slaves set free (Lev. 25:9).
138. In the jubilee year all land was to be returned to its ancestral owners (Lev. 25:24).
139. In a walled city the seller had the right to buy back a house within a year of the sale (Lev. 25:29, 30).
140. Starting from entry into the land of Israel, the years of the jubilee must be counted and announced yearly and septennially (Lev. 25:8).
141. In the seventh year all debts are annulled (Deut. 15:3).
142. However, one could collect upon a debt owed by a stranger (Deut. 15:3).
Concerning Animals for Consumption
143. A priest must receive his share of a slaughtered animal (Deut. 18:3).
144. He also is to receive the first of the fleece (Deut. 18:4).
145. A herem (special vow) must distinguish between that which belongs to the Temple and that which goes to the priests (Lev. 27:21, 28).
146. To be fit for consumption, beast and fowl must be slaughtered according to the law (Deut. 12:21).
147. If they are not of a domesticated species, their blood must be covered with earth after slaughter (Lev. 17:13).
148. The parent bird was to be set free when taking the nest (Deut. 22:7).
149. Beasts to be examined to see if they were permitted for consumption (Lev. 11:2).
150. The same was true for fowls (Deut. 14:11).
151. The same was true for locusts (Lev. 11:21).
152. The same was true for fish (Lev. 11:9).
153. The Sanhedrin was to sanctify the first day of every month and reckon the years and the seasons (Ex. 12:2; Deut. 16:1).
154. One was to rest on the Sabbath (Ex. 23:12).
155. This day was to be declared holy at its onset and termination (Ex. 20:8).
156. On the fourteenth of Nisan all leaven was to be removed from each household (Ex. 12:15).
157. On the fifteenth of Nisan the Exodus account must be related (Ex. 13:8).
158. During the fifteenth the mazzah is to be eaten (Ex. 12:18).
159. On the first day of Passover one must rest (Ex. 12:16).
160. On the seventh day of Passover one must also rest (Ex. 12:16).
161. Starting from the day of the first sheaf (sixteenth of Nisan) one shall count forty-nine days (Lev. 23:35).
162. One was to rest on the Shavvot (Lev. 23).
163. One was to rest on Rosh Ha-Shanah (Lev. 23:24).
164. On the day of atonement one must fast (Lev. 16:29).
165. On the day of atonement one must rest (Lev. 16:29, 31).
166. One must rest on the first day of Sukkot (Lev. 23:35).
167. One must rest on the eighth day of Sukkot (Lev. 23:36).
168. During the festival of Sukkot, Israel was to dwell in booths (Lev. 23:42).
169. Four kinds of trees were to be included in the booth construction (Lev. 23:40).
170. On Rosh Ha-Shanah the shofar was to be sounded (Num. 29:1).
171. Every male was to give half a shekel to the Temple annually (Ex. 30:12, 13).
172. A prophet was to be obeyed (Deut. 18:15).
173. A king was to be appointed (Deut. 17:15).
174. The Sanhedrin was to be obeyed (Deut. 17:11).
175. In case of division, the majority opinion would prevail (Ex. 23:2).
176. Judges and officials shall be appointed in every town (Deut. 16:18).
177. They shall judge the people impartially (Lev. 19:15).
178. Whoever is aware of evidence must come to the court to testify (Lev. 5:1).
179. Witnesses shall be examined thoroughly (Deut. 13:15).
180. False witnesses shall have done to them what they intended to do to the accused (Deut. 19:19).
181. Each unsolved murder requires the sacrifice of a red heifer (Deut. 21:4).
182. Six cities of refuge should be established (Deut. 19:3).
183. The Levites shall be given cities to live in (Num. 35:2).
184. A fence should be built around one’s roof to protect others from potential hazards (Deut. 22:8).
185. Idolatry and its appurtenances must be destroyed (Deut. 7:5; 12:2).
186. A city which has been perverted must be treated according to the law (Deut. 13:17).
187. The seven Canaanite nations were to be destroyed (Deut. 20:17).
188. The memory of Amalek was to be blotted out (Deut. 25:19).
189. The deeds of Amalek were to be blotted out (Deut. 25:17).
190. All regulations concerning war were to be observed (Deut. 20:11, 12).
191. A priest was to be appointed for special duties in times of war (Deut. 20:2).
192. The military camp was to be kept in a sanitary condition (Deut. 23:14, 15).
193. Each soldier was to be equipped with the necessary implements to assure this (Deut. 23:14).
194. Stolen property must be restored to its owners (Lev. 6:4).
195. Give charity to the poor (Lev. 25:35, 36; Deut. 15:8).
196. When a Hebrew slave goes free, the owner must give him gifts (Deut. 15:14).
197. The poor were to receive loans without interest (Ex. 22:24).
198. A loan with interest was permitted to foreigners (Deut. 23:21).
199. Restore a pledge to its owner if he needs it (Ex. 22:25; Deut. 24:13).
200. Pay the worker his wages on time (Deut. 24:15).
201. He is also to be permitted to eat of the produce with which he is working (Deut. 23:24, 25).
202. Help must be given to unload an animal when necessary (Ex. 23:5).
203. Help must be given to load man or beast when necessary (Deut. 22:4).
204. Lost property must be restored to its owner (Ex. 23:4; Deut. 22:1).
205. It is required to reprove the sinner (Lev. 19:17).
206. It is required to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Lev. 19:18).
207. One must also love the proselyte (Deut. 10:19).
208. Weights and measures must be accurate (Lev. 19:36).
209. Respect the wise (Lev. 19:32).
210. Honor one’s parents (Ex. 20:12).
211. Fear one’s parents (Lev. 19:3).
212. One should marry to perpetuate the human race (Gen. 1:28).
213. Marriage is to be governed by the law (Deut. 24:1).
214. A bridegroom is to rejoice with his bride for one year (Deut. 24:5).
215. Male children must be circumcised (Gen. 17:10; Lev. 12:3).
216. If a man dies childless his brother should marry his widow (Deut. 25:5).
217. If not, he must then release her (halizah) (Deut. 25:9).
218. He who violates a virgin must marry her and may never divorce her (Deut. 22:29).
219. If a man unjustly accuses his wife of premarital promiscuity he shall be flogged, and may never divorce her (Deut. 22:18, 19).
220. The seducer must be punished according to the law (Ex. 22:15-23).
221. The female captive must be treated in accordance with her special regulations (Deut. 21:11).
222. Divorce could be executed only by means of a written document (Deut. 24:1).
223. A woman suspected of adultery had to submit to the required test (Num. 5:15-27).
224. As required by the law, the punishment of flogging must be administered (Deut. 25:2).
225. The one guilty of unwitting homicide must be exiled (Num. 35:25).
226. Capital punishment may be by the sword (Ex. 21:20).
227. It may also be by strangulation (Ex. 21:16).
228. It may also be by fire (Lev. 20:14).
229. It may also be by stoning (Deut. 22:24).
230. In some cases the body of the executed shall be hanged (Deut. 21:22).
231. In this case the body must be buried on the same day (Deut. 21:23).
232. Hebrew slaves must be treated according to the special laws for them (Ex. 21:2).
233. The master should marry his Hebrew maidservant (Ex. 21:8).
234. If not, he must redeem her (Ex. 21:8).
235. The alien slave must be treated according to the regulations applying to him (Lev. 25:46).
236. The applicable law must be administered in the case of injury caused by a person (Ex. 21:18).
237. This is true if injury is caused by an animal (Ex. 21:28).
238. This is true if injury is caused by a pit (Ex. 21:33, 34).
239. Thieves must be punished (Ex. 21:36–22:3).
240. Judgment must be rendered in cases of trespass by cattle (Ex. 22:4).
241. This is true also in cases of arson (Ex. 22:5).
242. This is true also in cases of embezzlement by an unpaid guardian (Ex. 22:6-8).
243. This is also true in claims against a paid guardian (Ex. 22:9-12).
244. This is also true in claims against a hirer or a borrower (Ex. 22:13).
245. This is also true in disputes arising out of sales (Lev. 25:14).
246. This is also true concerning inheritance disputes (Ex. 22:8).
247. This is true in all other matters (Deut. 25:12).
The Prohibition Commandments
Idolatry and Related Practices
1. One must not believe in any but the one true God (Ex. 20:3).
2. Do not make images for yourself (Ex. 20:4).
3. Do not make images for others to worship (Lev. 19:4).
4. Do not make images for any purpose (Ex. 20:20).
5. Do not bow down to any image (Ex. 20:5).
6. Do not serve any image (Ex. 20:5).
7. Do not sacrifice children to Molech (Lev. 18:21).
8. Do not practice necromancy (Lev. 19:31).
9. Do not resort to familiar spirits (Lev. 19:31).
10. Do not take the mythology of idolatry seriously (Lev. 19:4).
11. Do not construct a pillar even for the worship of God (Deut. 16:22).
12. Do not construct a dais for the same purpose (Lev. 20:1).
13. Do not plant trees in the Temple (Deut. 16:21).
14. Do not swear by idols or instigate an idolater to do so (Ex. 23:13).
15. Do not encourage idol worship even by non-Jews (Ex. 23:13).
16. Do not encourage Jews to worship idols (Deut. 13:12).
17. Do not listen to anyone who disseminates idolatry (Deut. 13:8).
18. Do not withhold from hating him (Deut. 13:9).
19. Do not pity such a person (Deut. 13:9).
20. Do not defend such a person (Deut. 13:9).
21. Do not attempt to conceal his crime (Deut. 13:9).
22. It is forbidden to derive any benefit from the ornaments of idols (Deut. 7:25).
23. Do not rebuild destroyed idols (Deut. 13:17).
24. Do not enjoy any benefit from its wealth (Deut. 13:18).
25. Do not use anything connected with idols or idolatry (Deut. 7:26).
26. It is forbidden to prophesy in the name of idols (Deut. 18:20).
27. It is forbidden to prophesy falsely in the name of God (Deut. 18:20).
28. Do not listen to the one who prophesies for idols (Deut. 13:3, 4).
29. Do not fear the false prophet nor hinder his execution by death (Deut. 18:22).
30. Do not imitate the ways of idolaters or practice their customs (Lev. 20:23).
31. Do not practice their customs (Lev. 19:26).
32. Do not practice their soothsaying (Deut. 18:10).
33. Do not practice their enchanting (Deut. 18:10, 11).
34. Do not practice their sorcery (Deut. 18:10, 11).
35. Do not practice their charming (Deut. 18:10, 11).
36. Do not imitate their consulting of ghosts (Deut. 18:10, 11).
37. Do not imitate their speaking to familiar spirits (Deut. 18:10, 11).
38. Do not imitate their necromancy (Deut. 18:10, 11).
39. Women are not to wear male clothing (Deut. 22:5).
40. Men are not to wear female clothing (Deut. 22:5).
41. Do not tattoo yourself in the manner of the idolaters (Lev. 19:28).
42. Do not wear garments made of both wool and linen (Deut. 22:11).
43. Do not shave the sides of your head (Lev. 19:27).
44. Do not shave your beard (Lev. 19:27).
45. Do not lacerate yourself over your dead (Lev. 19:28; Deut. 14:1; 16:1).
Prohibitions Resulting from Historical Events
46. It is forbidden to return to Egypt and dwell there permanently (Deut. 17:16).
47. Do not indulge in impure thoughts or sights (Num. 15:39).
48. Do not make a pact with the seven Canaanite nations (Ex. 23:32).
49. Do not save the life of any of them (Deut. 20:16).
50. Do not show mercy to idolaters (Deut. 7:2). 51. Do not permit them to dwell in Israel (Ex. 23:33).
52. Do not intermarry with them (Deut. 7:3).
53. A Jewess may not marry an Ammonite or Moabite even if he converts to Judaism (Deut. 23:4).
54. One should not hate a descendant of Esau because of his genealogy (Deut. 23:8).
55. One should not hate an Egyptian because of his genealogy (Deut. 23:8).
56. Do not make peace with the Ammonite or Moabite nations (Deut. 23:7).
57. Fruit trees are forbidden to be destroyed even in times of war (Deut. 20:19).
58. Do not fear your enemy (Deut. 7:21).
59. Do not forget the evil done by Amalek (Deut. 25:19).
60. Do not blaspheme the holy name (Lev. 24:16).
61. Do not break an oath made by his holy name (Lev. 19:12).
62. Do not take God’s name in vain (Ex. 20:7).
63. Do not profane it (Lev. 22:32).
64. Do not try the Lord God (Deut. 6:16).
65. Do not erase God’s name from the holy texts or destroy institutions devoted to his worship (Deut. 12:4).
66. Do not allow the body of one hanged to remain so overnight (Deut. 21:23).
67. Be not lax in guarding the Temple. (Num. 18:5).
68. The high priest must not enter the Temple indiscriminately (Lev. 16:2).
69. A priest with a physical blemish may not enter there at all (Lev. 21:23).
70. He cannot serve there even if the blemish is of a temporary nature (Lev. 21:17).
71. He may not participate in the service there until it has passed (Lev. 21:18).
72. The Levites and the priests must not interchange in their functions (Num. 18:3).
73. Intoxicated persons may not enter the sanctuary or teach the law (Lev. 10:9-11).
74. It is forbidden for non-priests to serve in the Temple (Num. 18:4).
75. This is also true for unclean priests (Lev. 22:2).
76. This is also true for priests who have performed the necessary ablution but are still within the time limit of their uncleanness (Lev. 21:6).
77. No unclean person may enter the Temple (Num. 5:3).
78. No unclean person may enter the Temple mount (Deut. 23:11).
79. The altar must not be made of hewn stones (Ex. 20:25).
80. The ascent leading to it must not be by steps (Ex. 20:26).
81. The fire on it may not be extinguished (Lev. 6:6).
82. Nothing but the specified incense may be burned on the golden altar (Ex. 30:9).
83. Regular oil cannot be manufactured with the same ingredients as that of anointing oil (Ex. 30:32).
84. Anointing oil cannot be misused (Ex. 30:32).
85. Regular incense cannot be used on the golden altar (Ex. 30:37).
86. Do not remove the staves from the ark (Ex. 25:15).
87. Do not remove the breastplate from the ephod (Ex. 28:28).
88. Do not make any incision in the upper garment of the high priest (Ex. 28:32).
89. Do not offer sacrifices outside the Temple (Deut. 12:13).
90. Do not slaughter consecrated animals outside the Temple (Lev. 17:3, 4).
91. Do not sanctify a blemished animal (Lev. 22:20).
92. Do not slaughter a blemished animal (Lev. 22:22).
93. Do not sprinkle the blood of a blemished animal (Lev. 22:24).
94. Do not burn the inner parts of a blemished animal (Lev. 22:22).
95. Do not do any of the above even if the blemish is of a temporary nature (Deut. 17:1).
96. Do not even allow a Gentile to offer such an animal (Lev. 22:25).
97. Do not inflict a blemish on an animal consecrated for sacrifice (Lev. 22:21).
98. Leaven or honey may not be offered on the altar (Lev. 2:11).
99. Nothing unsalted may be offered on the altar (Lev. 2:13).
100. An animal received as the hire of a harlot or as the price of a dog may not be offered (Deut. 23:19).
101. Do not kill an animal and its young on the same day (Lev. 22:28).
102. It is forbidden to use olive oil in the sin offering (Lev. 5:11).
103. The same is true with frankincense (Lev. 5:11).
104. Do not use olive oil in the jealousy offering (Num. 5:15).
105. Do not use frankincense in the jealousy offering (Num. 5:15).
106. Do not substitute sacrifices (Lev. 27:10).
107. Do not take from one category and give to the other (Lev. 27:26).
108. Do not redeem the firstborn of permitted animals (Num. 18:17).
109. Do not sell the tithe of the herd (Lev. 27:33).
110. Do not sell a field consecrated by the herem vow (Lev. 27:28).
111. Do not redeem a field consecrated by the herem vow (Lev. 27:28).
112. In slaughtering a bird for a sin offering, do not split its head (Lev. 5:8).
113. Do not work with a consecrated animal (Deut. 15:19).
114. Do not shear a consecrated animal (Deut. 15:19).
115. Do not slaughter the paschal lamb while there is still leaven about (Ex. 34:25).
116. Do not leave overnight those parts that are to be offered up (Ex. 23:10).
117. Do not leave overnight those parts that are to be eaten (Ex. 12:10).
118. Do not leave any part of the festive offering until the third day (Deut. 16:4).
119. Do not leave any part of the second paschal lamb (Num. 9:13).
120. Do not leave the thanksgiving offering until the morning (Lev. 22:30).
121. Do not break a bone of the first paschal lamb (Ex. 12:46).
122. Do not break a bone of the second lamb (Num. 9:12).
123. Do not carry their flesh out of the house where it is being eaten (Ex. 12:46).
124. Do not allow the remains of the meal offering to become leaven (Lev. 6:10).
125. Do not eat the paschal lamb raw or sodden (Ex. 12:9).
126. Do not allow an alien resident to eat of it (Ex. 12:45).
127. Do not allow an uncircumcised person to eat of it (Ex. 12:48).
128. Do not allow an apostate to eat of it (Ex. 12:43).
129. A ritually unclean person must not eat of holy things (Lev. 12:4).
130. Holy things which have become unclean must not be eaten (Lev. 7:19).
131. Sacrificial meat which is left after the time-limit cannot be eaten (Lev. 19:6-8).
132. Meat slaughtered with the wrong intentions cannot be eaten (Lev. 7:18).
133. The heave offering cannot be eaten by a non-priest (Lev. 22:10).
134. Neither can a priest’s sojourner or hired worker eat it (Rev. 22:10).
135. Neither can an uncircumcised person eat it (Lev. 22:10).
136. Neither can an unclean priest eat it (Lev. 22:4).
137. The daughter of a priest who is married to a non-priest may not eat of holy things (Lev. 22:12).
138. The meal offering of the priest must not be eaten (Lev. 6:16).
139. The flesh of the sin offering sacrificed within the sanctuary may not be eaten (Lev. 6:23).
140. Consecrated animals which have become blemished cannot be eaten (Deut. 14:3).
141. Do not eat the second tithe of corn (Deut 12:17).
142. Do not drink the second tithe of wine (Deut. 12:17).
143. Do not eat the second tithe of oil (Deut. 12:17).
144. Do not eat unblemished firstlings outside Jerusalem (Deut. 12:17).
145. The priests may not eat the sin-offerings or the trespass-offerings outside the Temple courts (Deut. 12:17).
146. Do not eat the flesh of the burnt offerings at all (Deut. 12:17).
147. The lighter sacrifices may not be eaten before the blood has been sprinkled (Deut. 12:17).
148. A non-priest may not eat of the holiest sacrifices (Deut. 12:17).
149. A priest may not eat the firstfruits outside the Temple courts (Ex. 29:33).
150. One may not eat the second tithe while in the state of impurity (Deut. 26:14).
151. One may also not do this if in the state of mourning. (Deut. 26:14).
152. Its redemption money may not be used for anything other than food and drink (Deut. 26:14).
153. Do not eat untithed produce (Lev. 22:15).
154. Do not change the order of separating the various tithes (Ex. 22:28).
155. Do not delay payment of offerings, either freewill or obligatory (Deut. 23:22).
156. Do not come to the Temple on the pilgrim festivals without an offering (Ex. 23:15).
157. Do not break your word (Num. 30:3).
158. A priest may not marry a harlot (Lev. 21:7).
159. He may not marry a profane woman (Lev. 21:7).
160. He may not marry a divorcee (Lev. 21:7).
161. The high priest cannot marry a widow (Lev. 21:14).
162. He cannot take a concubine (Lev. 21:15).
163. Priests cannot enter the sanctuary with overgrown hair of the head (Lev. 10:6).
164. They must not enter the sanctuary with torn clothing (Lev. 10:6).
165. They must not leave the courtyard during the Temple service (Lev. 10:7).
166. An ordinary priest may not render himself ritually impure except for those relatives specified (Lev. 21:1).
167. The high priest cannot become impure for anybody (Lev. 21:11).
168. He cannot become impure for any reason (Lev. 21:11).
169. The tribe of Levi shall have no part in the division of the land of Israel (Deut. 18:1).
170. The tribe of Levi shall not partake of the spoils of war (Deut. 18:1).
171. It is forbidden to make oneself bald as a sign of mourning for one’s dead (Deut. 14:1).
172. A Jew may not eat unclean cattle (Deut. 14:7).
173. He may not eat unclean fish (Lev. 11:11).
174. He may not eat unclean fowl (Lev. 11:13).
175. He may not eat creeping things that fly (Deut. 14:19).
176. He may not eat creatures that creep upon the ground (Lev. 11:41).
177. He may not eat reptiles (Lev. 11:44).
178. He may not eat worms found in fruit or produce (Lev. 11:42).
179. He may not eat any detestable creature (Lev. 11:43).
180. He cannot eat an animal that has died naturally (Deut. 14:21).
181. He cannot eat a torn or mauled animal (Ex. 22:30).
182. He cannot eat any limb taken from a living animal (Deut. 12:23).
183. He cannot eat the sinew of the thigh (Gen. 32:32).
184. He cannot eat blood (Lev. 7:26).
185. He cannot eat a certain type of fat (Lev. 7:23).
186. It is forbidden to cook meat together with milk (Ex. 23:19).
187. It is forbidden to eat of such a mixture (Ex. 34:26).
188. One cannot eat an ox condemned to stoning (Ex. 21:28).
189. One may not eat bread made of new corn itself before the omer offering has been brought on the sixteenth of Nisan (Lev. 23:14).
190. One may not eat of roasted corn until the omer has been offered (Lev. 23:14).
191. One may not eat of green corn (Lev. 23:14).
192. One may not eat orlah (Lev. 19:23).
193. One may not eat the growth of mixed planting in the vineyard (Deut. 22:9).
194. Any use of wine libations to idols is prohibited (Deut. 32:38).
195. Gluttony and drunkenness is prohibited (Lev. 19:26; Deut. 21:20).
196. It is forbidden to eat anything on the day of atonement (Lev. 23:29).
197. One may not eat leaven (hamez) during the Passover (Ex. 13:3).
198. One may not eat anything containing an admixture of such during the Passover (Ex. 13:20).
199. One may not eat leaven the day before the Passover (Deut. 16:3).
200. During the Passover no leaven may be seen in one’s possession (Ex. 13:7).
201. During the Passover no leaven may be found in one’s possession (Ex. 12:19).
202. A Nazarite may not drink wine or any beverage made from grapes (Num. 6:3).
203. He may not eat fresh grapes (Num. 6:3).
204. He may not eat dried grapes (Num. 6:3).
208. He may not eat grape seeds (Num. 6:4). 206. He may not eat grape peel (Num. 6:4).
207. He may not render himself ritually impure for his dead (Num. 6:7).
208. He may not enter a tent in which there is a corpse (Lev. 21:11).
209. He must not shave his hair (Num. 6:5).
210. One cannot reap the whole of a field without leaving the corners for the poor (Lev. 23:22).
211. Do not gather up the ears of corn that fall during reaping or during harvest (Lev. 19:9).
212. Do not gather the misformed clusters of grapes (Lev. 19:10).
213. Do not gather the grapes that fall (Lev. 19:10).
214. Do not return to take a forgotten sheaf (Deut. 24:19).
215. Do not sow different species of seed together (Lev. 19:19).
216. Do not sow corn in a vineyard (Deut. 22:9).
217. Do not crossbreed different species of animals (Lev. 19:19).
218. Do not work with two different species yoked together (Deut. 22:10).
219. Do not muzzle an animal working in a field to prevent it from eating (Deut. 25:4).
220. Do not till the earth in the seventh year (Lev. 25:4).
221. Do not prune trees in the seventh year (Lev. 25:4).
222. Do not reap (in the usual manner) produce in the seventh year (Lev. 25:5).
223. Do not reap fruit in the seventh year (Lev. 25:5).
224. Do not till the earth or prune trees in the jubilee year (Lev. 25:11).
225. Do not harvest produce in the jubilee year (Lev. 25:11).
226. Do not harvest fruit in the jubilee year (Lev. 25:11).
227. One may not sell one’s landed inheritance in the land of Israel permanently (Lev. 25:23).
228. One may not change the lands of the Levites (Lev. 25:33).
229. One may not leave the Levites without support (Deut. 12:19).
Loans, Business, and the Treatment of Slaves
230. One cannot demand repayment of a loan after the seventh year (Deut. 15:2).
231. One may however refuse to lend to the poor because that year is approaching (Deut. 15:9).
232. Do not deny charity to the poor (Deut. 15:7).
233. Do not send a Hebrew slave away empty-handed when he finishes his period of service (Deut. 15:13).
234. Do not dun a debtor when you know he cannot pay (Ex. 22:24).
235. Do not lend to another Jew at interest (Lev. 25:37).
236. Do not borrow from another Jew at interest (Deut. 23:20).
237. Do not participate in an agreement involving interest either as a guarantor, witness, or writer of the contract (Ex. 22:24).
238. Do not delay payment of wages (Lev. 19:13).
239. Do not take a pledge from a debtor by violence (Deut. 24:10).
240. Do not keep a poor man’s pledge when he needs it (Deut. 24:12).
241. Do not take any pledge from a widow (Deut. 24:17).
242. Do not take a pledge from any debtor if he earns his living with it (Deut. 24:6).
243. Kidnaping a Jew is forbidden (Ex. 20:13).
244. Do not steal (Lev. 19:11).
245. Do not rob by violence (Lev. 19:13).
246. Do not remove a landmark (Deut. 19:14).
247. Do not defraud (Lev. 19:13).
248. Do not deny receipt of a loan or a deposit (Lev. 19:11).
249. Do not swear falsely regarding another man’s property (Lev. 19:11).
250. Do not deceive anybody in business (Lev. 25:14).
251. Do not mislead a man even verbally (Lev. 25:17).
252. Do not harm a stranger verbally (Ex. 22:20).
253. Do not do him injury in trade (Ex. 22:20).
254. Do not return a runaway slave who has fled to the land of Israel to his master (Deut. 23:16).
255. Do not take any advantage of such a slave (Deut. 23:17).
256. Do not afflict the widow or the orphan (Ex. 22:21).
257. Do not misuse a Hebrew slave (Lev. 25:39).
258. Do not sell a Hebrew slave (Lev. 25:42).
259. Do not treat him cruelly (Lev. 25:43).
260. Do not allow a heathen to mistreat him (Lev. 25:53).
261. Do not sell your Hebrew maidservant (Ex. 21:8).
262. If you marry her, do not withhold food, clothing, and conjugal rights from her (Ex. 21:10).
263. Do not sell a female captive (Deut. 21:14).
264. Do not treat her as a slave (Deut. 21:14).
265. Do not covet another man’s possessions (Ex. 20:17).
266. Even the desire alone is forbidden (Deut. 8:18).
267. A worker must not cut down standing corn during his work (Deut. 23:25).
268. He must not take more fruit than he can eat (Deut. 23:25).
269. One must not keep a lost article he has found (Deut. 22:3).
270. One cannot refuse to help a man or an animal which is collapsing under its burden (Ex. 23:5).
271. It is forbidden to defraud with weights and measures (Lev. 19:35).
272. It is forbidden to possess inaccurate weights (Deut. 25:13).
273. A judge must not perpetrate injustice (Lev. 19:15). 274. He must not accept bribes (Ex. 23:8).
275. He must not be partial (Lev. 19:15). 276. He must not be afraid (Deut. 1:17).
277. He may not favor the poor (Ex. 23:3; Lev. 19:15).
278. He may not discriminate against the wicked (Ex. 23:6).
279. He shall not pity the condemned (Deut. 19:13).
280. He shall not pervert the judgment of strangers or orphans (Deut. 24:17).
281. It is forbidden to hear one litigant without the other being present (Ex. 23:1).
282. A capital case cannot be decided by a majority of one (Ex. 23:2).
283. A judge should not accept another judge’s opinion unless he is convinced of its correctness (Ex. 23:2).
284. One ignorant of the law cannot be appointed as a judge (Deut. 1:17).
285. Do not give false testimony (Ex. 20:16).
286. Do not accept testimony from a wicked person (Ex. 23:1).
287. Do not accept testimony from relatives of a person involved in the case (Deut. 24:16).
288. Do not pronounce judgment on the basis of the testimony of one witness (Deut. 19:15).
289. Do not murder (Ex. 20:13).
290. Do not convict on circumstantial evidence alone (Ex. 23:7).
291. A witness must not sit as a judge in capital cases (Num. 35:30).
292. Do not execute anybody without proper trial and conviction (Num. 35:12).
293. Do not pity or spare the pursuer (Deut. 25:12).
294. Punishment is not to be inflicted for an act committed under duress (Deut. 22:26).
295. Do not accept ransom for a murderer (Num. 35:31).
296. Do not accept ransom for a manslayer (Num. 35:32).
297. Do not hesitate to save another person from danger (Lev. 19:16).
298. Do not leave a stumblingblock in the way (Deut. 22:8).
299. Do not mislead another person by giving wrong advice (Lev. 19:14).
300. Do not tell tales (Lev. 19:16).
301. It is forbidden to administer more than the assigned number of lashes to the guilty (Deut. 25:2, 3)
302. Do not bear hatred in your heart (Lev. 19:17).
303. Do not shame a Jew (Lev. 19:17).
304. Do not bear a grudge (Lev. 19:18).
305. Do not take revenge (Lev. 19:18).
306. Do not take the dam when you take the young birds (Deut. 22:6).
307. Do not shave a leprous scall (Lev. 13:33).
308. Do not remove other signs of that affliction (Deut. 24:8).
309. Do not cultivate a valley in which a slain body was found (Deut. 21:4).
310. Do not suffer a witch to live (Ex. 22:17).
311. Do not force a bridegroom to perform military service during the first year of his marriage (Deut. 24:5).
312. Do not rebel against the transmitters of the tradition of the law (Deut. 17:11).
313. Do not add to the precepts of the law (Deut. 13:1).
314. Do not subtract from the precepts of the law (Deut. 13:1).
315. Do not curse a judge (Ex. 22:27).
316. Do not curse a ruler (Ex. 22:27).
317. Do not curse any Jew (Lev. 19:14).
318. Do not curse a parent (Ex. 21:17).
319. Do not strike a parent (Ex. 21:15).
320. Do not work on the Sabbath (Ex. 20:10).
321. Do not walk further than the permitted limits (Ex. 16:29).
322. Do not inflict punishment on the Sabbath (Ex. 35:3).
323. Do not work on the first day of the Passover (Ex. 12:16).
324. Do not work on the seventh day of the Passover (Ex. 12:16).
325. Do not work on the Shavuot (Lev. 23:21).
326. Do not work on Rosh Ha-Shanah (Lev. 23:25).
327. Do not work on the first day of Sukkot (Lev. 23:35).
328. Do not work on the eighth day of Sukkot (Lev. 23:36).
329. Do not work on the day of atonement (Lev. 23:28).
Incest and Other Forbidden Relationships
330. It is forbidden to have sexual relations with one’s mother (Lev. 18:7).
331. This is true also with one’s step-mother (Lev. 18:8).
332. This is true with one’s sister (Lev. 18:9).
333. This is true with one’s step-sister (Lev. 18:11).
334. This is true with a daughter-in-law (Lev. 18:10).
335. This is true with a granddaughter (Lev. 18:10).
336. This is true with a daughter (Lev. 18:10).
337. This is also forbidden between mother and daughter (Lev. 18:17).
338. It is forbidden between a mother and her daughter-in-law (Lev. 18:17).
339. It is forbidden between a grandmother and her granddaughter (Lev. 18:17).
340. It is forbidden between nephew and aunt (Lev. 18:12).
341. It is forbidden between niece and aunt (Lev. 18:13).
342. It is forbidden with one’s paternal uncle’s wife (Lev. 18:14).
343. It is forbidden with one’s daughter-in-law (Lev. 18:15).
344. It is forbidden with one’s brother’s wife (Lev. 18:16).
345. It is forbidden with one’s wife’s sister (Lev. 18:18).
346. It is forbidden to have sexual relations with a menstruous woman (Lev. 18:19).
347. Do not commit adultery (Lev. 18:20).
348. A man shall not have sexual relations with an animal (Lev. 18:23).
349. A woman shall not have sexual relations with an animal (Lev. 18:23).
350. Homosexuality is forbidden (Lev. 18:22).
351. Homosexuality is forbidden with one’s father (Lev. 18:7).
352. Homosexuality is forbidden with one’s uncle (Lev. 15:14).
353. It is forbidden to have any intimate physical contact with anyone except one’s own wife (Lev. 18:6).
354. A mamzer may not marry a Jewess (Deut. 23:3).
355. Harlotry is forbidden (Deut. 23:18). 356. A divorcée may not be remarried to her first husband if, in the meanwhile, she has married another (Deut. 24:4).
357. A childless widow may not marry anybody other than her late husband’s brother (Deut. 25:5).
358. A man may not divorce a wife whom he married after having raped her (Deut. 22:29).
359. This is also true if he has slandered her (Deut. 22:19).
360. An eunuch may not marry a Jewess (Deut. 23:2).
361. Castration is forbidden (Lev. 22:24).
362. An elected king must be of the seed of Israel (Deut. 17:15).
363. He must not accumulate an excess number of horses (Deut. 17:16).
364. He must not multiply unto himself many wives (Deut. 17:17).
365. He must not multiply unto himself much wealth (Deut. 17:17).