Only A Prayer Meeting by C. H. Spurgeon
“It is time for Thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void Thy law.” – Psalm 119:126.
There are many ways of pleading for the same thing when we draw near to God in prayer. In one condition of heart one form of argument will rise to the lip; while, at another season, our circumstances may suggest quite a different way of pleading with God. I was noticing, while reading in the one-hundred and nineteenth Psalm, the plea which the psalmist urges with the Most High while entreating Him graciously to work among men. He says, “It is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law.” We might urge, as reasons for the Lord’s working, the sorrows of mankind, the terrors of the world to come, the glory of God, and the merits of the Saviour. We might plead the promises, the covenant, the prophecies, and the long weary time of waiting before they are fulfilled; but it is a bright use of a gloomy fact when we can turn even the infidelity, the superstition, and the rebellion of man into an argument for the Lord’s interference: “It is time for Thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void Thy law.” Thus we set our sail so as to use an adverse wind. We extract a reason for grace out of the reeking of iniquity.
We observe that many men now deny the inspiration of the Scriptures, and that is making void the law of the Lord. Of what use is the Bible to us if it be not infallibly inspired of the Holy Spirit? An erring guide is as bad as none at all when a step may lead to ruin. If we have not the very mind of God in these pages, their essence, their authority, their life, and their power are gone. Yet certain ministers, ay, ministers of Nonconformist churches, speak of the Bible as though it were, in considerable portions of it, blurred with mistakes, and by no means to be relied upon. They talk of “essential parts of the Old Testament,” as if other parts might be laid aside; and some of them set up the Gospels above the Epistles, as if the one Spirit had not dictated all the Word. It is grievous to hear divines undermining the foundations of the faith which they are supposed to preach. “O Lord, we turn from these Thine unfaithful servants to Thyself, and cry, ‘Do Thou prove the truth of the Scriptures, fulfil the promises, and put power into the teaching of the cross, so that men may be compelled to own that Thy law is not void, but that the Scripture cannot be broken.’”
Thirty years ago or more, John Angell James said, “Infidelity was never more subtle, more hurtful, more plausible, perhaps more successful, than in the day in which we live. It has left the low grounds of vulgarity, and coarseness, and ribaldry, and entrenched itself upon the lofty heights of criticism, philology, and even science itself. It pervades to a fearful extent our popular literature; it has invested itself with the charms of poetry, to throw its spell over the public mind; it has endeavoured to enweave itself with science; and he must be little acquainted with the state of opinion in this land, who does not know that it is espoused by a large portion of the cultivated mind of this generation. ‘It is time for Thee, Lord, to work.’” The statement is even more true at this hour, for still “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” Let our prayers increase in fervour as we implore that “philosophy, falsely so called,” may not be allowed to poison the springs of Gospel teaching.
Certain bold spirits make void the law of God, in a very dreadful way, by teaching a code of morals and a system of ethics contrary to the Word of God. Laws as to property are freely assailed, as if the Lord had never said, “Thou shalt not covet.” Killing is thought to be no murder if it is performed upon an enormous scale. The sacred chastities which give stability to family institutions are abused, and an attempt is made to exalt lust into the place which is due only to conjugal affection; indeed, there are filthy pens which dare to write of the marriage bond as if it were a chain and a curse. Lewd tongues attack all laws by which the social fabric is held together; the Sabbath is ridiculed, and the honouring of parents is considered out of date. Images are set up in places of worship, and material objects are publicly adored, as if this had not been most positively forbidden by the Lord of all. If it were not that the Lord of hosts has left unto us a small remnant, we should long ere this have been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrah.
Politically, we should before now have shot over our national Niagara into anarchy and abomination; and we should have seen in London all the horrors of the French Revolution if it had not been for the godly who leaven the mass. How dreadful it must have been to have lived in Paris when all the foundations of society were loosed; when religion was debased into the worship of the goddess of reason; when virtue was regarded as vice, and vice as virtue! Ere it comes to that dreadful pass, be it ours to cry out unto the Lord, “It is time for Thee to work.” Surely it is now needful for the Lord to vindicate His holy law when loudmouthed blasphemers criticize the Saviour, censure their God, and propose to overturn from its base the pillar of society. They not only make their own lives void of morality, but they labour to make void the law itself, that no one may regard it. As Caryl says, they act “as if they would not only sin against the law, but sin away the law; not only withdraw themselves from the obedience of it, but drive it out of the world; they would make void and repeal the holy acts of God, that their own wicked acts might not be questioned; and lest the law should have a power to punish them, they will deny it a power to rule them.”
Men of another order are active and earnest in attacking the law of God, from another side, by multiplying rites, and exalting ceremonies into a place which they should never usurp. Of these, I may say for the most part, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” “They have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” They make void the law of God through their traditions. Being in all things too superstitious, they destroy the worship of God by their will-worship. To support their own invented rites and ceremonies, they give us interpretations which becloud the Gospel, and afford cover for priestcraft, monkery, Mariolatry, and image-worship. Sometimes, these persons are called Papists, at other times, Ritualists; and, in many cases, it is extremely difficult to see the slightest distinction between them; they are two apples from the same tree.
Remember that, to worship God otherwise than He has ordained, is a sin which makes void His law. We are not really serving God at all if we presume to do it in our way rather than in His way. To present to God “the unbloody sacrifice of the mass,” is to dishonour the one sacrifice of our Lord Jesus. To worship Mary, is to offend Jehovah. To bow before a crucifix, is to commit idolatry under pretence of reverence. Superstition is as real an adversary to the truth as scepticism itself, and it ultimately leads to irreligion. Idolatry conducts men to atheism, and superstition lands them in infidelity. Now that we see Anglican Popery covering our land with its altars, we may well cry, “It is time for Thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void Thy law.” Plead with God, whenever you meet with either Rationalism or Ritualism, that He would graciously stretch out His hand, and get to His pure Word the victory.
I find that, upon the passage before us, I have written in my “Treasury of David” as follows: – “‘It is time for Thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void Thy law.’ David was a servant, and therefore it was always his time to work; but being oppressed by a sight of man’s ungodly behaviour, he feels that his Master’s hand is wanted, and therefore he appeals to Him to work against the working of evil. Men make void the law of God by denying it to be His law, by promulgating commands and doctrines in opposition to it, by setting up tradition in its place, or by utterly disregarding and scorning the authority of the lawgiver. Then sin becomes fashionable, a holy walk is regarded as a contemptible Puritanism; vice is styled pleasure, and vanity bears the bell. Then the saints sigh for the presence and power of their God. Oh, for an hour of the King upon His throne, wielding the rod of iron! Oh, for another Pentecost, with all its wonders, to reveal the energy of God to gainsayers, and make them see that there is a God in Israel! Man’s extremity, whether of need or of sin, is God’s opportunity. When the earth was without form and void, the Spirit came, and moved upon the face of the waters; should He not come when society is returning to a like chaos? When Israel in Egypt was reduced to the lowest point, and it seemed that the covenant would be void, then Moses appeared, and wrought mighty miracles; so, too, when the Church of God is trampled down, and her message is derided, we may expect to see the hand of the Lord stretched out for the revival of religion, the defence of the truth, and the glorifying of the Divine Name. The Lord can work either by judgments, which hurl down the ramparts of the foe, or by revivals, which build up the walls of His own Jerusalem. How heartily may we pray the Lord to raise up new evangelists, to quicken those we already have, to set His whole Church on fire, and to bring the world to His feet.”
Thus, dear friends, you see how the prominence of evil can be made to quicken us in supplication. Every sin may be used as a plea in prayer. If we were in a right state of mind, every time we heard a man swear in the street we should at once pray, “It is time for Thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void Thy law.” Every time we took up a newspaper, and our eye glanced upon a police case, we should pray in like manner. Every time we saw sin in our neighbours, or in our families, or felt its working in ourselves, we should cry out to God, “Lord, sin is at work, be Thou also at work! Sin is hardening, sin is defiling; come, Lord, and work with all the softening and quickening processes of Thy blessed Spirit, with all the purifying power of the water and of the blood, and so undo the evil working of the world, the flesh, and the devil! O Lord, meet energy with energy, meet fire with fire; and let Thy Son, the seed of the woman, meet the seed of the serpent, and destroy all the works of the devil!”
Thus, you see that good arguments for prayer may be raked up among the stubble of sin. As the Greenlanders find their wood washed up by the sea, so let us find fuel for the fire of our earnestness borne to us by the troubled sea of human wickedness. Brethren, let us wrestle in prayer, using this plea. Before we do so, let us distil a song from it, and sing a part of the twelfth Psalm,-
“Lord, when iniquities abound,
And blasphemy grows bold,
When faith is hardly to be found,
And love is waxing cold,-
“Is not Thy chariot hastening on?
Hast Thou not given this sign?
May we not trust and live upon
A promise so divine?
“‘Yes,’ saith the Lord, ‘now will I rise,
And make oppressors flee;
I shall appear to their surprise.
And set My servants free.’”