Only A Prayer Meeting by C. H. Spurgeon
That was a very neat way of putting the matter when someone spoke of “a rich Christ for poor sinners and saints.” I think I might put another expression side by side with it, which would be equally good as descriptive of our experience of Christ’s preciousness. It is this,- A full Christ for empty sinners and saints. There is emptiness in the sinner’s heart, apart from the guilt which makes his heart worse than empty; and the believer, day by day, as much depends upon the continued grace of God as at the first, when, full of guilt, and covered with shame, he came to Christ for pardon.
So, first, let me speak a word or two about a full Christ for empty sinners. Are you empty, brothers, to-night? Then Christ’s fulness is precisely what you want, and your emptiness is precisely what Christ is looking for; and when the two meet, then, as our brother just now said in his prayer, the right things are in the right place. Where could your emptiness be in a more suitable place than where Christ fills it? Where could Christ’s fulness be more useful than in filling up the emptiness of a poor guilty sinner?
“Alas!” says one; “I do not feel my emptiness.” Then, my friend, you are one of the very empty ones, because you have not even a sense of emptiness to fill you. I generally find that those who think they do not feel their sinfulness are those who feel it most; and if anybody were to say, “I do sufficiently feel the burden of sin,” I think I should tell him that he did not know anything at all about it. Fully to feel the burden of sin, is utterly overwhelming; and no man ever thinks he repents enough, or, if he does so think, it is evidence that he has not really repented at all of his sins.
“Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears for ever flow,”-
none of these would be as fitting or as full an expression as we need to denote all the repentance that we ought to feel because of sin. “I am afraid,” says one, “I have no good thing in me at all.” Then, my brother, you are another of the empty ones. “But, oh, I am afraid to hope that I am such an one!” Then you seem to be even empty of hope and of courage. Well, well, you are empty indeed. “I have sometimes thought that, if I could feel despair, then, strange to say, I could have some hope; but I have not even that feeling.” Well, friend, I see that you are empty. If I search you through and through, even with a candle, there is not a good thing, nor a rag of a good thing, to be found in you.
But what then? This only proves what an empty sinner you are; and there is a full Christ for all empty sinners. Only let them be but empty, and the Master is ready enough to fill them. Confess your emptiness, acknowledge that in you dwelleth no good thing; and ask Him, according to the infinitude of His mercy, the multitude of His tender mercies, to fill you, even you. I am sure that, the moment when we are accepted in Christ is the moment when we realize our need of Christ, and yield up our emptiness to be filled from His fulness. We generally get Christ, I think, when we acknowledge ourselves to be the very lowest and most unworthy of men. He that is bankrupt and beggared of all consciousness of creature merit, and of all human hope, is the man to whom the riches of the covenant of grace most surely belong.
“’Tis perfect poverty alone,
That sets the soul at large;
While we can call one mite our own,
We have no full discharge.”
The Lord bring us down to realize what we are in His sight, to be in our apprehension what we are in fact, “less than nothing, and vanity”!
But, dear hearers, whilst I have spoken these few words about your emptiness, I beg you to think much of the fulness of Christ. You are full of sin; well, but He is full of mercy. You are full of guilt; He is full of atoning merit. You are full of hardness of heart; He is full of longsuffering and tenderness towards you. You are full of mistakes; He is full of wisdom. You are empty of all power; He is full of might. Though you have nothing, He has everything. The mercy is that, just in those very points where you fail, Christ excels; and His merits just fit your demerits as the key fits the wards of the lock. Christ was prepared on purpose for such an one as you are! His character and His work precisely meet the needs of your sad and fallen condition.
Now, if you want Christ because you are empty, and Christ wants you because He is full, who forbids the banns when it is proposed that you two should be united? There is a tree laden with beautiful fruit; it is late in the autumn, and the apples are all of a red and yellow colour. They are all ready to be gathered; what, then, is wanted? Why, they want baskets. And what kind of baskets? “See,” says one, “there is a basketful here.” That is no use at all. Another says, “Here is another full basket.” But that is of no use. What that tree wants, with its mellow fruit, is that somebody should bring empty baskets. Now there is Jesus Christ, the Tree of life, laden with the ripe fruits of His abundant grace. What does He want? Why, not you who are already full; no, but you who are like empty baskets, you who have need of Christ’s glorious fruit of life. He wants you, and you want Him. Now, who is here, I say again, to forbid the banns, when Christ loves sinners, and sinners want Him?
But where is the ring? How shall we effect the marriage? The ring is faith. If thou wilt simply trust Christ Jesus, thou art saved. Persons sometimes say, “What! am I to believe such-and-such a thing in order to be saved?” No, that is not the point; you are not saved by believing in things; it is not believing even doctrine that saves you; it is trusting a Person, relying upon Christ Jesus; and if you trust in Him, your faith is the wedding-ring which espouses you unto the Lord Jesus for ever. The marriage may be now performed in this very place, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Now, secondly, I want to say a word or two about a full Christ for empty saints. I do not think we know much about Christ yet; at any rate, we who are but beginners in the things of God. Some of our elder brethren may know more; but I think I know enough to say that, probably, he knows most of Christ who has discovered most of his own emptiness; that, in proportion as we go down, Christ goes up; and as we see more and more of the deep depravity of our own hearts, we shall see more and more of the amazing excellence of the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, how is a Christian made to feel himself an empty saint? Well, there are many ways. Some of us, at certain times, have been made to be empty of our own wills. Now, you who have had an invalid child, or a sick husband, or an ailing wife, or beloved sister, you have prayed and wrestled with strong crying and tears to God; and night and day you have carried your burden, and of course it has been very heavy. At last, you have been brought to this point: “Lord, I see there is self here; I have wanted to have my own way;” and the Holy Ghost has brought you to say, “Not my will, but Thine be done.” It has taken a long time, perhaps, to bring you to that point; but, at last, you have laid self-will right down at the Lord’s feet, and you would have nothing more to do with it. You have said, “Nay, Lord, I will not complain; I will scarcely express a desire; there is the whole case, do as Thou wilt. I have told Thee what nature suggests, and Thou hast helped me now to play the man of grace rather than of nature. The decision rests with Thee; do as Thou wilt.”
Well, now, it is at such a time, when you are emptied of your own will, that you begin to see the fulness of Christ; for I am persuaded that our self-will is the cataract on the eye, which prevents the soul from having a clear view of Jesus; but if self-will is brought into subjection to Christ, and if it can be kept under His dominion, what a sweet and comforting sense of the love of Jesus we may always enjoy! We should have a fulness of joy in the will of God, if we were emptied of our own will. It would be sweet to us to be in pain, and we should rejoice even to be in sorrow, if our will were quite subdued to the will of God; and we could even kiss the rod with which He corrects us.
Another kind of emptiness is emptiness of all power. We, who are constantly engaged in the Lord’s work, have to feel that emptiness pretty often. You feel as if you were quite unequal to that next sermon, or to meet that class, or to talk with those who are in affliction. You often feel, like Jonah, as if you would like to take ship, and be off to Tarshish. The work is sweet; but you do not seem to feel any capacity for the task. You go to it, and are very graciously helped; but you go home complaining, “Who hath believed our report?” and are as disheartened as ever. Some of those whom you thought were converted have gone back; others, whom you fancied able to meet sorrow with unshaken faith, have not been able to stand firm in the time of trial; and you go home greatly discouraged and bowed down. Oh, it is then that Christ rises! There is nothing that forms such a suitable frame to set the picture of Christ in as a thoroughly broken-down spirit. Then we come to Him, and feel that He is the great All-in-all, and we are poor nothings; then we run to Him, and ask Him to make our work acceptable through His own merits, to plead before His Father for us that our infirmities may be removed, or else that even these may make room for the greater display of the grace of God, and that we may bring even more glory to God because through such weak instruments He can do such great exploits. You never see the fulness of Jesus Christ as the omnipotent Saviour so well as when you are emptied of all power.
And let me also tell you that there are times, with believers, when they seem to be emptied even of all spiritual life. Of course, they never are so emptied, because, while Christ lives, they must live also; yet it appears to them sometimes as if they had quite lost their religion, and there was not a spark of vital godliness left in them. You may rake and stir the embers, and go down on your knees and blow; but you cannot find even a spark. You ought to be grateful to God for all His goodness; but you feel as if a great stone had been rolled over the door of your heart, and that it had been turned into a sepulchre. You have no light. You want to pray, you feel that you must pray; you cannot do without prayer; yet your prayers are “groanings which cannot be uttered.” You feel as if they would burst the bonds of your soul; and yet you feel as if you did not feel at all. You say with Cowper,-
“If aught is felt, ’tis only pain
To find I cannot feel.”
There are promises, but you cannot grip them; there are threatenings, but you do not feel their power. At such times, it is a blessed thing to remember that Christ “is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Empty saints rejoice that Christ is the sinner’s Saviour still. Often and often are we driven to Christ alone, as at the first. We are obliged to look up, for we feel that if we could not look up, it would be death to look within, for within there can be nought to comfort. It is in looking up to Jesus, looking away from self, and looking into the wounds of Christ, and reading His heart’s love, that we get comfort. To believe that I am saved when the graces of the Holy Spirit abound in my soul, is no faith; that is only sight. But to believe in Christ when you cannot see any evidence, when sin abounds, and doubts and fears roll over you, to come even in the dark, and in your consciousness of natural depravity to say, “Lord Jesus, I believe; over all this mountain of sin, from the dark pit of this iniquity, right here out of the depth of my soul’s abasement, I cling to Thy cross. Though I feel myself to be by nature as a very devil, only fit to be an outcast from Thy mercy, and to be driven into the lowest hell, yet I do believe Thou canst save me, and I cast myself on Thee, and Thee alone.” Then it is that the empty saint, like the empty sinner, finds a full Christ exactly suited to him.
As I was singing those verses, just now, my mind seemed to picture our Lord Jesus Christ, and I stood before Him in meditation, and did sing, I hope, from my heart,-
“If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.”
There I see Him stand, clothed with a linen garment down to His feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle; and as I look at Him, how He remains ever the same, and yet how He changes! One moment, there is a mitre on His head, and He is my Priest; and I see that breastplate hung with golden chains, and set with precious stones, and I rejoice that He is my blessed priestly Intercessor! And then I look again, and behold there is a crown instead of a mitre. He is a King, and how truly royal does He appear, King over Heaven, and earth, and hell, King of my soul, my bosom’s Lord! Look at the silver sceptre, how He wields it! If He should smite with it, He could break the nations as the potter’s vessel is broken with a rod of iron; but He stretches it out, and bids me touch it; “Thou,” saith He to each believer, “Thou hast obtained favour of the Lord.” Now I look again, and the crown is gone for a moment; and I see Him with the Prophet’s mantle about Him. How wise He is! What wisdom drops from those blessed lips! How I wish to sit down at His feet, and to be taught of Him! He is the infallible and the good Teacher, who teaches the heart, while others teach but the head or the hand. Now look at Him, and, as you gaze, one moment you catch a glimpse of the nail-prints, and you worship Him as the Lamb that was slain. And the next moment the nail-prints are gone, and you see Him as Solomon saw Him, “His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: His belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.” His glory shines forth now resplendent with heavenly brightness.
“No more the bloody spear,
The cross and nails no more,
For hell itself shakes at His Name,
And all the Heavens adore.”
See Him again, and for the moment, as you gaze upon Him, your eyes are dazzled, the Godhead is so grand and so glorious; but you turn again, and the manhood is so soft, so sweet! If that Deity were alone, you might flee from it; but when you see it shining through the transparent glass of Christ’s manhood, you are comforted, and you say, in the language of the Song of Solomon, “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth: for Thy love is better than wine.”
Can you not see Him now? Do you not behold Him? The angels bow before Him around the glassy sea; and the elders, with their vials full of odours, and their harps of gold, cast their crowns before the throne. Can ye not see Him, as, at the right hand of the Father, “God blessed for ever,” Jesus, the Son of the Virgin, sits supreme. Son of God, and Son of man? Our hearts exclaim, “Blessed be Thy Name for ever; be Thou exalted in the highest Heavens; worthy art Thou, O dying Lamb; worthy, O risen Lord! Let all the angels of God worship Thee, Thou Well-beloved, the Only-begotten of the Father!”
And what shall we say next to Him? Just this, “Lord, reveal Thyself to us. Come, now, and if our hearts be shut up, put in Thine hand by the hole of the door, and our bowels shall be moved towards Thee. If thou standest at the door, and knockest, Lord, by the sweet influence of Thy grace, let the door be opened, and come in, and sup with us, and we with Thee. We will find the empty house in our poor hearts, and Thou shalt find the feast, and we will sup with Thee, and Thou shalt sup with us.”
Do you not long for His presence, my fellow-believer? I know you do, if you are empty; for there is no such fulness or such satisfaction in all Heaven beside as can be found in Him, under whose shadow we sit with great delight when He brings us into His banqueting-house, and His banner over us is love.
Two things I want you to recollect, and I have done. One is, believer, that you are altogether Christ’s; body, soul, and spirit. Do not pilfer anything that belongs to your Lord; do not be a traitor to Him, and do not dispute your Master’s right to all that He has so dearly bought.
The next truth is, that Christ is all yours, every part of Him, His Godhead, and His manhood; His time-life, and His eternal existence; all His promises, all His offices, all His graces; all He bought on Calvary; all He scattered among His followers when He ascended to His Father; all He has laid by in the covenant stipulation; and all He is to be when He cometh in the glory of His Father, and all His holy angels with Him. Till He comes, glory in the truth that He is wholly yours, and you are wholly His; and live “to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” God bless you all! Amen.