Only A Prayer Meeting by C. H. Spurgeon
I saw a painter doing up the posts of a gate which led into a gentleman’s grounds. The paint was very foul, so the workman had a brazier, filled with glowing coals, which he held close to the paint, to burn it off. His aim was to paint the posts, and he began his work by scorching them with hot coals. He was no simpleton, but knew his business well; and he knew that, before he could put on fresh paint, he must first burn off the old paint, or else the work would be badly done. Seeing that painter at work, I said to myself, “That man is doing what the Lord has often done to me;” and it is what He may be doing to some of you who are now suffering greatly in the process. You have been seeking the Lord, and you had hoped that you would be converted, and enter into peace at once; instead of which, the sermons you have heard have made you feel worse and worse. You are more troubled now than when you began in earnest to seek salvation. It is all right; the old paint is being burned off. Your self-righteousness and self-sufficiency are being destroyed, and you are keenly feeling the fire of the Lord’s wrath against sin burning into your very soul.
If the old self had been left, the colour of grace could never have soaked into your mind: the old stuff would have kept it out; you would have taken a mere film of grace, and soon the old rubbish of nature would have appeared through the new colour of grace. The more completely the old paint is burned off, the better will the new work stand; and it is for this reason that the Holy Spirit is to you a Spirit of judgment, and a Spirit of burning, before He works for your renewal. See this, and understand the wisdom and lovingkindness of the Lord.
A similar process goes on with godly people, as well as with the unconverted. Your spiritual beauty gets old with the wear and tear of life; you lose your freshness, you get into a mouldy and defiled condition; for this is a damp and smoky atmosphere in which you stand, even the best of you. Then the Lord comes to you, to restore your soul, and give you the renewing of the Holy Ghost. In order to do this, He removes the old comeliness, and turns your beauty into corruption. There is nothing like the burning process for really, effectually preparing the way for a fair and abiding renewal.
No mill has yet been invented for grinding old people young again; but if ever it should be invented, the old man will have to be crushed very small, and broken into the finest powder. I am afraid that most of us would steal away rather than endure the grinding. But yet the crushing is the only sure way to the restoring; we must die daily that we may fully enter into life. By the gate of death, multitudes of saints find their way into Heaven; and by a deeper death to sin and self, we rise more fully into an experimental enjoyment of newness of life. Some of us owe a great deal to the brazier of glowing coals, for this is a chief instrument in the process by which we renew our freshness. Our youth is renewed like the eagle’s, and the eagle renews its youth by moulting; it loses its glorious feathers, and seems worn and haggard, and then newer, fresher, and brighter plumage covers it. The ways of the Lord are only strange to inexperience; faith sees how perfectly natural they are.
Learn, also, another lesson from the brazier. I said to a friend, as we looked at the painter burning off the old paint, “That is what the devil tries to do with me; he endeavours to burn the doctrines of grace and the old Evangelic faith out of me.” Ah, friends! the hot brazier of ridicule and unkindness has been laid very close to my soul! But the attempt is not successful; for those truths, in my case, are not paint, and so they cannot be burnt off. The Gospel is in the very grain of my soul. Even the devil himself cannot burn off that which is part and parcel of myself, my life, my all. When the doctrines of the Word are taught us by God the Holy Ghost, and made to tincture and season our inmost life-blood, no burning process can take them from us, or cause us to give them up. That which is in the grain of the wood becomes more apparent the more deeply the plane cuts its way. My belief in the Gospel of the grace of God, and especially in the doctrine of our Lord’s substitution, is no veneer; but is in me and of me. I live upon this truth, and by God’s help I could die sooner than renounce it. The true child of God does not hold truth so much as truth holds him; it cannot be taken away from him, for he cannot be taken away from it. All the power of fire or water, time or eternity, life or death, can never separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, nor take away from us the blessed truth which He has engraved upon our hearts. This, then, is our little sermon from the painter’s brazier.