Only A Prayer Meeting by C. H. Spurgeon
This sentence I met with in one of those marvellous letters which Samuel Rutherford left as a priceless legacy to the Church of God in all ages. Truly, he hath dust of gold. I thought it would make a capital text for a prayer-meeting address, so I jotted it down. It gripped me, and so I gripped it, in the hope that it might grip you, and lead you “to fasten your grips.” But do not imagine that I have taken a text from Rutherford because I could not find one in the Bible, for there are many passages of Scripture which teach the same lesson. As for instance, that exhortation, “Lay hold on eternal life,” or that other, “Hold fast that thou hast,” or that other, “Hold fast the form of sound words.” The things of God are not to be trifled with, “lest at any time we should let them slip.” They are to be grasped, as Jacob seized the angel, crying, “I will not let thee go.”
Faith is first the eye of the soul, wherewith it sees the invisible things of God; and then it becomes the hand of the soul, with which it gets a grip of the substance of the things not seen as yet. A man has two hands, and I would urge you to take a double hold upon these things which Satan will try to steal from you. Take hold of them as the limpet takes hold upon the rock, or as the magnet takes hold of steel. Give a life grip, a death grip: “I pray you to fasten your grips.”
And, first, do this with regard to the Lord Jesus Christ. Cling to His cross as the sole hope of your soul. You, who already hold Him by faith, I would stir up to hold fast the beginning of your confidence even to the end. Hold to Him more intelligently and more decidedly than ever. Let everything else go, but keep your hand upon Him as Joab held to the horns of the altar. Should Jesus ask you, “Will ye also go away?” answer at once, “Lord, to whom should we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” As He holds you by His grace, so hold Him by the grace which He has wrought in you. You must not ever have to think, as that Swedish sailor did, of whom Mr. Faithfull told us that he said, “he once had Christ, and had lost Him.” “I pray you to fasten your grips” so firmly that no such awful thought shall ever darken your minds. “I held Him,” said the spouse in the Canticles, “and would not let Him go, until I had brought Him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.” You cannot bring Jesus to others if you do not hold Him fast yourselves. Never dream of letting Him go who is your hope, your joy, your all. He is yours to have and to hold when death shall part you from all beside.
If any of you have never taken hold upon Christ Jesus, “I pray you to fasten your grips” on Him tonight. Oh, that the Holy Spirit may teach you, lead you, and enable you to do so at this moment! Christ is no shadow; you can lay hold of Him, there is something to lay hold upon. Grasp Him now as a drowning man would seize a life-buoy, as a man dying of hunger would clutch at a bit of bread. Jesus will not try to get away from you. He did not withdraw His garment from the woman who touched it for healing; He never denied Himself to a seeking soul. Hold Him, then, with a daring grasp. Make bold with our good Lord, for He loves a daring faith. Hath He not said, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out”? Grasp Him, for He puts Himself in your way at this good hour. Men are eager enough to snatch at the shadows of this poor fleeting world; why are you so slow to “fasten your grips” upon Him who is grace and truth? What life, what salvation, what everlasting joy shall come streaming out of Him into you, if you are now moved to lay hold on Him, and take Him as your own! Think it no robbery. He is God’s unspeakable gift, freely bestowed on needy sinners.
In the next place, “I pray you to fasten your grips” on the doctrines of the Gospel. You do believe them, dear friends, or you would not rally around the preacher. If there are any of you who do not believe them, and yet are members of this church, you can scarcely remain so with a clear conscience, for our Confession of Faith is most explicit on those points. When any cease to hold the grand doctrines of a freegrace Gospel, they generally clear out within a very short time, for they are weary of the constant preaching of them. My ministry is a flail which parts the chaff from the wheat, and a fan which drives the chaff, and I desire it to be so. I aim at separating the chaff from the wheat. If I hear that somebody has been offended because of the truth which I have preached, I remember that many were offended at that infinitely greater Preacher who, on one occasion, found that many went back, and walked no more with Him, for He had uttered a hard saying, “who could hear it?” Doth this offend you? You will be more offended yet, as we further and further dive into the truth of sovereign, distinguishing grace. But you, dear friends, have taken hold of the doctrines of grace, and “I pray you to fasten your grips.”
These are times when everything will be snatched away from you unless you hold it fast. Some years ago, I was highly nattered by a neighbour of rather advanced views, who said that the region of South London was difficult to work in, because the people were infected with a kind of teaching which it was impossible to destroy; for when people once got hold of it, they obstinately refused to let it go. I am rejoiced that this is the case. The doctrines of a gracious Gospel are so Scriptural, so comforting, so self-evidencing, so satisfying, that men will not readily quit them when once they know their virtue. “Free grace and dying love” are such old wine that no man desireth new. Gospel truths saturate a believer right through, and remain in the grain of the cloth like the old red of soldiers’ coats. The Gospel is like some perfumes, which never leave the boxes in which they have once lain. The love of free grace dwells in the core of our heart. It has not only reached our bone, but it has impregnated the marrow; you cannot get it out of us, even if you kill us. I judge how it is with you by what I know of myself; I could be ground into atoms so small that you could not see them without a powerful microscope, but every atom would sparkle with belief in the atoning sacrifice, and the eternal love which gave it.
“I pray you to fasten your grips” upon the revealed truths of God’s Word, so that you shall never flinch from avowing and defending them, whatever ridicule your adherence to them may cost you. I told an American friend yesterday that I could claim no credit for preaching a free-grace Gospel, because I did not know any other, and would not know any other if I could. “I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” I will be an agnostic to all but my Lord and His infallible Word. Once, when I had been preaching in Wales, an old lady told me that she had been very pleased with what I had said, but I was inferior to Christmas Evans, because he had only one eye, while I had two. I hope I have only one eye however, in the higher sense. When a man gets a single eye for God’s glory, and preaches nothing else but the doctrine of the Word, he will take good aim, and hit a glorious mark. I pray that I may myself “fasten my grips” more and more upon the one and only Gospel, and that all of you may do the same, without a single exception. We will not let go a particle of that perfect system of revealed truth of which Christ is the centre, and grace is the circumference.
Thirdly, dear friends, for your own comfort, “I pray you to fasten your grips” on the promises of God. In days to come, the younger ones amongst us may see the wisdom of this advice. I will tell you what will help you to fasten your grips, – a sharp touch of rheumatism, if grace goes with it. I do not want you to have the rheumatism, or any other trial; but if you do, I trust you will have grace given to lay hold upon precious promises suitable to your condition. Sanctified afflictions will help you to fasten your grips. If you have a very dear one long lying ill, or if your property is melting away, or if your jubilant spirits are sinking in depression, you will want the promises, and you will feel the necessity of fastening your grips. A grip of a promise of God is better than a grasp of a bag of gold. A grip of such a promise as this, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” will enable you to understand the exhortation which Paul saddles upon it, “Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” If you are afraid of trouble, if you are doubting and fearing, “I pray you to fasten your grips” on the everlasting covenant. You have an anchor within the veil which will never give way; but mind that your cable is firmly held on board your vessel, for it is to this end of it that your care must be given; and, therefore, “I pray you to fasten your grips.”
“I pray you to fasten your grips,” also, on the service which God has given you to do. You who conduct Bible-classes and missions, you who teach in the Sunday-school, you who visit the kitchens of the lodginghouses,you who go round with those brown-covered sermons, and leave them from door to door, you who labour for your gracious Lord in any way,- did you say that you thought of giving up your work? What are you at? “I pray you to fasten your grips.” I heard, the other day, of a place of worship from which the congregation has gradually migrated, till very, very few remain. On looking over it, I said to one of the deacons, “This place might do for me when I give up the Tabernacle, because of my general weakness and failure of health.” He gave me no verbal answer, but he laughed, as if he could not contain himself, and that was all he said. I did not ask him to explain what he meant by laughing at my remarks. The laughter said more than words. I see you are laughing, too. Well, you are going to give up your class, are you? Shall I laugh? I would if it would be interpreted by you as I interpreted my deacon’s laugh. It does seem ridiculous for anyone who has a work to do for Christ to talk of giving it up, unless there is a sheer inability to go on. I could rather weep than laugh, for it is even more sad than absurd. Here you are highly honoured by having the opportunity of doing good, and winning souls, and you talk of giving up? “I pray you to fasten your grips.” Of course, when you cannot do the work because of age and infirmity, it will be your wisdom to stand out of the way, and let somebody else do it better; but as long as you can do it, “I pray you to fasten your grips.” Some old men of my acquaintance carried on Sunday-school work till they died, and some aged ministers have been useful to the very last. One good point in the chapter from the Acts, which we read yesterday morning, was the fine fidelity of the Roman soldiers. The Sadducees and the high priest — little can be said in their praise; but the soldiers stood at the door of the prison in the morning, though an angel had set the apostles free. They stood as sentries where they were bidden to stand; and you, who are good soldiers of Jesus Christ, must stand where your Lord and Master has placed you,— sentries fixed like statues till recalled.
I have heard that, on one occasion, Sir Henry Havelock was going over London Bridge with his son, and that he said, “Stop here, Harry, until I come back.” He forgot all about his boy, finished his business in the city, and went home. His wife said to him, “Where is Harry?” “Bless me,” he replied, “he is on London Bridge; I told him to stop there until I returned, and I am sure he will do so.” He hastened to the spot, and there was young Harry. “What, Harry, are you still here?” “Yes, father; you told me to stop here until you came back, and I have done so.” A soldier’s son could do no otherwise; and you are sons of the great Captain of our salvation, even the Lord of hosts. Keep your places, whatever happens; and work on, whatever occurs. Having done all, still stand; and you have not done all yet. Blessed shall that servant be whom his Lord at His coming shall find watching and working. To desert your posts will be too shameful. Are you weary? Rest in your Lord. Are you discouraged? Let patience have her perfect work. No, no, my beloved, we will not one of us think of retiring. “I pray you to fasten your grips.”
Now here is a harder bit. “I pray you to fasten your grips” upon the cross. I mean, the cross which you are to bear after Jesus. You see, you are bound to carry it, for all believers in the Crucified must be crossbearers. The cross of Christ has saved you, and now there is a cross of your own which the Lord has prepared for your shoulders, which you are to carry because you are saved. On affliction, loss, reproach for Christ’s sake, “I pray you to fasten your grips.” This cross you must take up. You are not to wait to have it forced upon unwilling shoulders. Your Lord’s command is, “Take up thy cross, and follow Me.” Stoop down to it, grasp it, and bear it. Let your hand embrace it for Christ’s sake. Do not shun that which is the badge of true saints, and at once their burden and their blessing. Is it reproach? Count it greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. Is it loss for the sake of holiness? Espouse it, as your joyful bride. Is it any form of persecution? Rejoice and be exceeding glad that you are counted worthy to suffer for your Lord’s sake. Is it any other form of sorrow which attaches to the life of the godly? Do not rebel against it, but “take it up,” and bear cheerfully the sacred load. Sanctified afflictions are spiritual promotions. Even if your cross grows heavier as you carry it, welcome it, and follow on in the footsteps of the Wellbeloved, as one of an elect train, chosen in the furnace of affliction. Some day, you will come to see we excellent uses of your crosses, and then you will praise God for them. By faith and patience you may even fall in love with the cross, till you would not even wish to part with it. Submission is the near road to comfort, and cheerful acquiescence finds the cross on the back to be like wings to the shoulders. “We glory in tribulations also.” “I pray you to fasten your grips” upon your cross, and hold it fast as a treasure rather than an affliction. What I say unto you, I say also to myself. I owe more than I can ever tell you to pain, and weakness, and other forms of my Lord’s dear cross. It is not an iron cross, as I once thought it, it is only a wooden one; and He Himself always bears the heavier end. I could almost sing, “sweet affliction;” surely its bitterness is soon over.
“I pray you to fasten your grips” in a practical manner upon one another. Brethren, let us love one another, for love is of God. We are heartily joined together in one spirit: let us remain so. Let our love increase exceedingly, as we are pressed together by surrounding opposition. Let all those who are one in the common faith get together, and cheer each other. I will not venture upon shaking hands at this moment with Mr. Faithfull, the brother who labours in Marseilles, because example is very contagious, and he has told us that the sailors give him awful grips when they shake hands. A very little while ago, I could not even hold a pen, and I dare not run the risk of a sailor’s grip with this most excellent friend; but spiritually, if not corporeally, let us all give each other one of those sailor grips with out hearts, if not with our hands. Brethren, you are very, very dear to me, and you return that love. Be of like mind among yourselves. Are you out at elbows with one another? Are there even two women who cannot agree? Remember how our apostle said, “I beseech Euodias, and I beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.” They were only two private members, but Paul could not let them fall out. Put an end to discord at once. “I pray you to fasten your grips.” Be not cold and distant towards your fellow-members, but let love reign supreme everywhere.
“’Tis a shameful sight,
When children of one family
Fall out, and chide, and fight.”
Get to know each other better. “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” Bear and forbear, feeling that you are not yourselves perfect. Let us live in hearty love, first to our adorable Lord, and then with all our fellow-servants, and so we shall become strong in the Lord, and the Lord will command His blessing to fall like the dew of Hermon where He sees brotherly love abounding. I speak not thus because you fail in this respect, but I speak the more freely because I trust you excel in it. Oh, that all churches were abodes of love! What do we see in many places? No contending earnestly for the faith, but much contending as to who shall be the greatest. I heard, the other day, of a church which has come to nothing, and one told me that the reason was that “everybody wanted to be boss.” You know what the word means; I think it is of American origin, and includes a good deal. Diotrephes is a dreadful mischiefmaker. Let us not imitate him, but let us be ready to wash the saints’ feet. “I pray you to fasten your grips” on all God’s chosen in every place; on all God’s Church throughout the whole world; let us pray for all the Lord’s people. Let us grip our brethren in America, who have sent so many gracious representatives among us. Let us do the same with the churches on the Continent, for whom our brother Faithfull has spoken. God bless France, and save her! Our evangelist, Mr. Harmer, has just touched the coast of Africa, and his presence makes us think of the Congo and the Cape. With both hands, and with all our hearts, we salute all the people of God throughout the world, rejoicing that we are one body in Christ Jesus. In this holy love, “I pray you to fasten your grips.” Amen.