Only A Prayer Meeting by C. H. Spurgeon
(A few words spoken by Mr. Spurgeon, at a Tabernacle prayer-meeting, when a friend had been carried out in a fit.)
POSSESS your souls in quietness, beloved friends. When we are engaged in prayer, or in any other form of worship, interruptions may occur, especially in large assemblies. We cannot expect all nature to be hushed because we are bowing the knee. Permit not your minds to be easily distracted, or you will often have your devotion destroyed. Rather let us learn a lesson from a painful incident. I seemed to hear a voice in that sorrowful cry of our friend, and it bade me have pity upon the many whose life is one long agony. Let that doleful moan awaken sympathy for thousands in the hospital, and out of it, who are grievously tormented. We are in good health, and are sitting in the midst of a happy company of our fellow-Christians; let us be grateful that we have not been struck down, to be carried out amid the distress of anxious friends.
Sympathy and gratitude are two choice emotions; and if both of these are aroused- by this interruption, we shall have gained more by it than we can possibly have lost. Sympathy, or fellow-feeling, may well be excited by the sight or hearing of pain in our fellow-creatures. We may indulge it freely, for it is not only due to the sufferer, but exceedingly beneficial to the humane heart which feels it. Those who are never out of health themselves, and keep aloof from the poor and the sick, are apt to undergo a hardening process of the most injurious kind. It is a sad thing for the blind man, who has to read the raised type, when the tips of his fingers harden, for then he cannot read the thoughts of men which stand out upon the page; but it is far worse to lose sensibility of soul, for then you cannot peruse the book of human nature, but must remain untaught in the sacred literature of the heart. You have heard of “the iron Duke,” but an iron Christian would be a very terrible person. A heart of flesh is the gift of Divine grace, and one of its sure results is the power to be very pitiful, tender, and full of compassion.
You would feel all the greater sympathy with some afflicted ones if you knew how good they are, and how patient they are under their sufferings. I am delighted with the diligent way in which some of our tried sisters come out to religious services. When many in good health stay away from the meetings upon the most frivolous excuses, there are certain dear sick ones who are never absent. There is one among us who has many fits in a week, but how she loves to be here! I beg her to sit near the door, for her fits may come upon her at any moment, but she is an example to us all in the constancy of her attendance. Have sympathy with all the sick, but especially with those who might be spoken of in the words applied to
Lazarus, “Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick.”
I mentioned gratitude also, and I hope it will not be forgotten. Let the cry of pain remind us that we owe our Lord a song of thanksgiving for screening us from the greater ills of life, – consumption sapping the constitution, asthma making it misery to breathe, epilepsy tearing us to pieces, or palsy causing every limb to lose its power. Blessed be God for our limbs and senses, and for health which sweetens all. We shall never become too grateful; let us abound in thanksgiving.
This interruption speaks to us with a still deeper and more solemn tone. Our friend is not dead, but might readily enough have been so. That cry says to me, “Prepare to meet thy God.” We are liable to death at any moment, and ought always to be ready for it; I mean, not only ready because we are washed in the blood of the Lamb, but because we have set our house in order, and are prepared to depart. I feel it right, when I lay my head upon my pillow, to ask myself, “If I never wake on earth, is it well with my soul?” and then to reply, –
“Sprinkled afresh with pardoning blood,
I lay me down to rest,
As in the embraces of my God,
Or on my Saviour’s breast.”
Could we now, dear friends, at this moment, resign our breath, and without further preparation enter upon the eternal world? Breathing out the prayer, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” could we now ascend from earth, made meet for the inheritance above? It should be so. Everything about us should be in such order that, if our Lord should come while we are in the field, we should not wish to go into the house, but could depart at once. I agree with the great scholar Bengel that death should not become a spiritual parade, but should be regarded as the natural close of our ordinary life; the final note of the psalm of which each day has been a stanza. We ought so to live that to die would be no more remarkable than for a man in the middle of business to hear a knock at the street door, and quietly to step away from his engagements. There should be no hurrying for a clergyman to administer “sacraments” as some call them, or for a lawyer to write a hasty will, or for an estranged relative to make peace; but all should be arranged and ordered as if we kept our accounts closely balanced, expecting an immediate audit. This would make noble living, and do more for God’s glory than the most triumphant death-scene.
A friend remarked to George Whitefield that, should he survive him, he would wish to witness the preacher’s death, and hear his noble testimony for Christ. The good man replied, “I do not think it at all likely that I shall bear any remarkable witness in death, for I have borne so many testimonies to my Lord and Master during my life.” This is far better than looking forward to the chill evening or actual sunset of life as the time of bearing witness. Let us set about that holy work immediately, lest swift death arrest us on the spot, and seal our lips in silence. Be faithful every day that you may be faithful to the end. Let not your life be like a tangled mass of yarn, but keep it ever in due order on the distaff, so that, whenever the fatal knife shall cut the thread, it may end just where an enlightened judgment would have wished. Practise the excellent habit of Mr. Whitefield, to whom I before referred, for he could not bear to go to bed and leave even a pair of gloves out of place. He felt that his Master might come at any moment, and he wished to be ready even to the minutest details.
Now that disturbing incident is over, we shall settle down again, all the more ready to unite in prayer and praise.