Only A Prayer Meeting by C. H. Spurgeon
Two great dangers are common in the streets of the City of Vanity in which we are called upon to sojourn for a season. If we were to shut ourselves up within doors, and never go abroad, we might possibly avoid one of these dangers; but we should certainly fall into the other. The two perils are those of getting harm from others, and doing mischief to others; the latter we can fall into by doing nothing at all; possibly, we may, in this way, occasion more mischief than by mistaken activity. These dangers are equally great, and equally imminent, unless we are strictly upon our guard. Happy is that man who shall reach Heaven unharmed and harmless, having neither gotten nor given a wound.
Illustrations sometimes come in our way, and demand a hearing. I have lately been instructed by two parables, which have met me on the road, and compelled me to learn from them whether I would or not. I cannot refrain from telling them to you. As I rode home, the other evening, I had like to have fallen a victim to the Drink Traffic in a very literal sense. A loaded dray came thundering along the road with its freight of barrels. It was hard to tell which side of the way it would take, and certainly there was nothing to be done but to yield it the road without dispute. As it was very much upon the wrong side, there was nothing better for my driver to do than to get on the path, and shout, in the hope of arousing the attention of the Jehu in command. No such person was visible; there was no Jehu to say, “Geewoah!” Nevertheless, the sensible horses steered more nearly to the centre of the road; and as they went by at a great rate, we saw that they were their own masters. We escaped that peril, and were thankful. Their driver was refreshing himself at the next public-house; and his poor steeds, having waited patiently till they felt the cold night air, were making the best of their way home, to the serious peril of her Majesty’s subjects.
There are a great many runaway teams upon the road of life in these evil days; indeed, it was always so in the best of times. If we would not be run down by transgressors of one sort or another, we shall have need to be always on the watch. One cannot go into the street, the shop, or the workroom, without being exposed to more or less of risk. Immense damage may befall us through the evil deeds or wicked words of unregenerate men and women. Satan assails us through our fellows. He has his apostles, evangelists, and ministers everywhere; nor is he without his house-to-house visitors and tract distributors. With great noise or with none, the drays and chariots of the evil one rush along the road, and will soon run us down unless we get out of their way. This is so difficult a task, that when we have prayed, “Lead us not into temptation,” we are bidden to add, “but deliver us from evil;” for the most careful avoidance of evil will not suffice to prevent our being in peril. The devil does not keep to his own side of the road, but drives in where we least expect him. When the sons of God came together, did not Satan come also among them? Yes, he is not omnipresent: that none can be but the Lord Himself; but it is very hard to tell where he is not. “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” We are careful not to go into harm’s way. In places where sin is open and rife, we are never found; but we must watch even in the safest places lest, in an hour when we are not aware, we should be battered and bruised by some mighty evil.
The second peril is that of doing harm to others. This would be sadness indeed. If we are run into by others, we must bear the damage, and in due time we shall get over it; but if we were to cause grievous harm to another, how could we bear the painful reflection? A sensitive mind would be driven into the depths of misery by considering the injury which it had unwittingly inflicted. Now it happened to me that almost my next journey to London was on the Bank Holiday; and, alas! there were on that day sadly abundant signs of the dominion of John Barleycorn in the open streets. An intoxicated man fell from the pavement full upon his back. It was an ugly fall for the back of his head; but, by the good providence of God, a worse evil was averted. We were passing at that instant; and, as I looked out of the carriage window, I saw that a few inches further would have laid that drunken cranium, or the neck of the beery one, right under our wheel. Had we passed over his prostrate body, we could not have helped it, for his fall was altogether unexpected; but what a horrible event for us as well as for the poor tippler! I would very much have preferred an accident to myself. It is not easy to avoid injuring others, and you may do it when you are where you have a right to be, and when you would gladly empty your purse to avoid it. I rejoiced exceedingly to have escaped this second peril. I think I was more glad on this occasion than on the former one. To injure another is worse by far than being injured ourselves. It is always painful for me to cause the least pain to those around me, or indeed to anyone.
On the highway of life, such minor accidents as treading upon people’s corns are very common to me; I have been doing it rather much of late, without the slightest intention of so doing. I shall have to buy a pair of list slippers, and muffle my oratorical feet in them; for I fear my boots must have rather heavy soles, since people complain of their weight even when I think I am tripping very lightly. I hope the crushed corns will soon forgive me.
It is worse when there is somewhat in our example which becomes an unavoidable but real injury to others. Though we may not be aware of it at the time, we make a sad discovery when we find out, in after days, that what we did without a thought was turned to sad account by some young observer, and made the occasion of evil. We did not, at the time, look around for all the consequences of our act, neither did we foresee what would be sure to be made of it; and so the deed was done, and a wound inflicted which we would give our eyes to cure, but cannot. We may yet have to make very humiliating discoveries of the evils wrought inadvertently by us. Who among us can hope to be quite clear? A look of vexation, or a word coldly spoken, or a little help thoughtlessly withheld, may produce long issues of regret. This should warn us to walk circumspectly both in the present and in the future, and go carefully in and out among men. He who has to deal with young lambs, or little children, has great need to guard his movements.
I see that great objection has been taken to my warning you not to be partakers of other men’s sins by setting an example in the matter of drink, which it would be unsafe for others to follow. I thought that I put the case very temperately. I neither said nor implied that it was sinful to drink wine; nay, I said that, in and by itself, this might be done without blame. But I remarked that, if I knew that another would be led to take it by my example, and this would lead him on to further drinking, and even to intoxication, then I would not touch it. I did not urge abstinence as a duty to one’s self, as I might have done; but I gently placed it on the footing of concern for the welfare of others. I thought every Christian man would agree to this. I did not make it a matter of law, but of love. I set forth no doctrine of salvation by meats and drinks, and I laid no ban upon the exercise of your liberty. I did, however, entreat you not to endanger others by an inexpedient use of things lawful. It was saying no more than Paul meant when he said, “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no meat while the world standeth.” This has made some brethren very angry; but, in truth, I see no cause. May I not express my opinion? I sincerely hope that this is the case. Are they so insecure in their own position that they are afraid to have it challenged, even in the gentlest manner? One friend asks, “Are we to give up shaving because people may cut their throats with razors?” To which I answer that, if I had an insane friend in my house, who was likely to commit suicide, I would far rather leave my beard alone than put a razor in his way. If I knew of even one poor friend who had cut his throat with my razor, I should hate the sight of it, and I would make sure that no second person should be tempted to destruction by any razor of mine. It would be an awful memory to have carelessly contributed to a suicide, and it would be still worse to have aided in ruining a soul by strong drink.
The same friend enquires, “If I am a skater myself, must I keep off the ice because my skating would induce another to come upon the ice, who might fall down?” This also is not a difficult question. If my skating caused no further mischief than a tumble or two to those inexpert in the exercise, I should not feel called upon to abstain; for the only result would be an increase of merriment, with a possible bruise or two which would soon be gone. But if I saw legs broken, spines injured, and lives lost, I should never forgive myself if I enticed a single person into such peril. But the subject under consideration is no child’s play. The falls in this case are not such as boys may get upon a slide. Oh, that they were such harmless casualties! The skating which is now under consideration is performed on a more dangerous element than frozen water; it causes jeopardy to character, to position, to eternal well-being, and it is not for Christians to speak lightly of it. When I think of the poverty, misery, and crime which are caused by drunkenness, I can see no parallel between these things and healthy sport upon the ice. It may seem trivial to some; but to those who come in daily contact with the evil, it is a solemn business.
Brethren, let us have all our eyes open, that in the highway of life we neither suffer injury from others nor inflict injury upon them unawares.