Only A Prayer Meeting by C. H. Spurgeon
When I think of the great work of foreign missions, and of all that may result, with the Lord’s blessing, from our obedience to His command, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature,” the chief emotion that thrills my heart is that of gratitude to God for enabling me to have some sort of fellowship with his infinity, with His greatness. It was enough for me, at the beginning of my Christian life, to have fellowship with God’s mercy, to rejoice in His compassion as a pardoning God, “merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” I rejoiced to know, not only that God is merciful and gracious; but that His mercy and His grace had been displayed in pardoning my sins and iniquities. I praised the Lord because I could say with David, “Great is Thy mercy toward me: and Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.” Ever since that glad hour when I first saw Jesus as my Saviour, I have delighted to sing to Him, whose mercy endureth for ever. I have no sympathy with those who would set down as a vain repetition that oft-repeated refrain recorded in the hundred and thirty-sixth Psalm, “For His mercy endureth for ever.” Long as we live, and till we die, this should be the grateful song of all who have tasted that the Lord is gracious,-
“For His mercies shall endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.”
This, then, was my first Christian experience; a sense of overflowing gratitude for the Lord’s forgiving mercy. When I had advanced a little further along the heavenward way, I came to have sympathy with God’s justice. I began to see something of the horrible character of sin, both in myself and in other people; and, sometimes, I felt a burning passion of righteous indignation within my heart as I heard, or read, of vice and crime in some of their grosser forms, or as I became acquainted with sinful men’s intense hatred of Christ, the altogether lovely One. Our modern doubters talk with contempt of “the cursing Psalms” of David; but we have often needed just such language as he used; not for the purpose of vindictively calling for judgments upon our fellow-creatures, but as a prophecy of the doom that certainly awaits evil-doers.
Even under the milder radiance of the Gospel, we have the awful apostolic anathema, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maran-atha” (let him be accursed, the Lord cometh). Preachers of “another gospel, which is not another” (Gospel}, ought to take warning from Paul’s solemn imprecation, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” God’s danger-signals have flamed forth from the time of our first parents’ entrance into the Garden of Eden, and the red lamp of His inflexible justice is still undimmed. By its crimson light we can clearly read that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” The righteous God “will by no means clear the guilty.” “God is angry with the wicked every day.” “The Lord is a God of judgment.” As I thought of God’s justice, and then saw how He had vindicated it by the great sacrifice on Calvary’s cross, “that He might be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus,” I think I rejoiced as much in His justice as I had formerly done in His mercy.
Since then, on many occasions, I have seemed to have fellowship with God’s power. During the terrific thunderstorms that we have had lately, I have thought of Job’s words, “The pillars of Heaven tremble and are astonished at His reproof. He divideth the sea with His power, and by His understanding He smiteth through the proud. By His Spirit He hath garnished the Heavens; His hand hath formed the crooked serpent. Lo, these are parts of His ways: but how little a portion is heard of Him? but the thunder of His power who can understand?” I have had to get Dr. Watts to help me to understand “the thunder of His power,” and I have joined him in singing,-
“The God that rules on high,
And thunders when He please
That rides upon the stormy sky,
And manages the seas:
“This awful God is ours,
Our Father and our love;
He shall send down His heavenly powers
To carry us above.”
It is not easy for poor creatures, such as we are, to have sympathy with God’s great power as manifested in the thunderstorm; some of us can scarcely do more than lie down, cowed by its majestic grandeur. What would become of us if the Lord were to let loose all His wonderful power? Our comfort is that all the might of omnipotence is pledged to defend us who belong to Christ; and that greater is He that is for us than all that can be against us.
Thus, you see, I have had fellowship with God’s mercy, God’s justice, and God’s power; but when I come to the mission-field, and begin to think of the work of foreign missions, I get more communion with God’s infinity there than I do in almost anything else. You look at the mass of mankind, and talk of the population of the globe as being nearly fifteen hundred millions! What do we know about fifteen hundred millions? We cannot comprehend what one million means; indeed, we do not know much about fifteen hundred: what can we know about fifteen hundred millions? When we get into these long figures, we may as well talk about a million millions at once, or any larger number that you please, for we are quite out of our depth even with the smaller numbers. It is like a man who cannot swim, and who is cast overboardwhere the sea is five thousand fathoms deep; he would have been drowned if it had been only five fathoms deep; and he would not have been any more drowned if it had been five million fathoms deep. The term “millions” is one, after all, of which we have a very faint idea; and how can we think of the multitudes of men and women and children who swarm upon this globe, and not be overwhelmed with the magnitude of their numbers? Are these
millions to be converted to God? That is our great aim and object, to seek to bring back this world to its rightful Lord and Master; that, filled with redeemed souls, it may shine among its sister stars with a fair, clear light to the praise and glory of God’s grace.
We look back upon the ages past, and we mourn that so few have been brought to the Saviour. The years keep rolling on, and but slender progress is made, after all; and centuries, in which we hoped that so much would have been accomplished, pass away with comparatively little done for Christ and His cause and Kingdom. It is an awful struggle, this fight with sin; the cross against the tenfold midnight of human depravity; “the foolishness of preaching” against the wisdom of this world; nothing against everything, so far as appearances go! Yet God, who is All-in-all, is able to effect His eternal purposes concerning the salvation of men by the feeble means that I have ventured to describe as “nothing.”
When you come to the missionary meeting, you have gone beyond those trifling troubles with which some are so grievously perplexed. They are wasting their time in a fruitless discussion about the shape of a communion cup, or the colour of a vestment, or the position of a “celebrant” at what he calls “an altar.” You have left the puddles of the street, and are soaring upwards toward your God; you have forsaken the little molehills where the worldlings burrow, and you are high up among the Alps when you get to the work of foreign missions. Here is a field wherein the tallest of us may stretch his legs, and not be afraid of intruding into the domain of his fellow-labourer. There are some men, and some women, too, who would be all the better if they would stretch their minds, and not always confine their thoughts to one narrow circle.
Look at our small country villages; how rife they are with slander and scandal! Very often, it is because the people have nothing better to think about. I believe that the daily newspaper, with all its faults, has rendered some service to the cottagers of our hamlets, for it has enlarged their ideas, and shown them that there are other people in the world beside those who live at Little Pedlington or Slocum-in-the-Marsh. You hear them talk about the President of the French Republic, or the President of the United States, or the Emperor of Germany, or the Czar of Russia; and even if they talk nonsense, it is better than slandering their neighbours. When you transfer this idea to a higher sphere, when you begin to read God’s Word, when the Lord has brought you into fellowship with Himself through the death of His dear Son, when He has made you a new creature in Christ Jesus, and put His Holy Spirit within you, and given you something of His own compassion for souls; then all things else shrink into nothingness compared with the great redemptive work of Christ, and your obligation to make that work known among the millions of men upon the earth.
Compared with the tremendous conflict between God incarnate and the evil that still remains in the hearts and lives of millions of our fellow-creatures, all the battles that ever were fought on the earth seem only to be like the fights of ants in their nests. There is no chivalry like that which is possible to a good soldier of Jesus Christ. I seem to live in poetry when I get to the work of foreign missions. Some of our young brethren in the College, when they begin to make poetry (which is sometimes very poor-try, and at other times very cracked pottery), really imagine that one day they will become Miltons. Ah! well, there will be plenty of prose, and perhaps prosiness, too, in their ministry before it is finished; let us not take their poetry from them; but, brethren, if you want to be poets, think of missions to the heathen; there is a theme worthy of your muse. One feels as if his wings were beginning to grow as he contemplates the triumphs of the cross in foreign lands as well as in our own dear country. Are there not nations that are to be born to God, and are there not whole lands that are to be sown with the seeds of light for the reaping by-and-by?
Foreign missions supply a theme for the prophet as well as the poet. I like, as a rule, to prophesy after the event, or else when I am perfectly sure it is going to happen; and even then, I hold my tongue longer than most people would. But when a man begins to be a foreign missionary, he really does seem to grow into a prophet; there is something in his occupation congenial to the prophetic spirit, and he is linked on to the glorious company that in all ages has prophesied in the Name of the Lord. He has higher objects and aims than he used to have, and nobler ambitions than many of his fellows have; his object, and aim, and ambition are to carry out God’s purposes of mercy toward the sinful sons of men. So, if nothing came of our mission-work except the education of the workers, the lifting up of men until they are able to have some sort of sympathy with God, it were worth while to have our foreign missions; but, thank God, there is much more than that as the result of our efforts! Let India, China, Japan, Africa, and the islands of the sea testify what triumphs have been won for King Jesus by the heralds who have gone forth in His Name to all quarters of the earth. There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed, both at home and abroad. Enlarge your sympathies, dear friends, increase your contributions; give yourselves to this glorious work, if you can; and if that is absolutely impossible, help to support those who are both able and willing to go. Do not imagine that the decrees of God can be shut up in a small box, and put away in a cupboard in one of your rooms. They are too great to be confined to any box, or any cupboard, or any room, or any house, or any street, or any town, or any country; nay, they are not confined to the world in which we live; for all worlds are comprehended within the influence of the everlasting purposes of God. His decrees concern the smallest grain of dust that can only be discovered by the aid of the microscope; but they equally have to do with the orbs of Heaven, those starry hosts that He calleth by their names, and numbereth, as the Eastern shepherd does with his sheep. In this foreign mission work, I seem to get into the sweep of the spheres of God’s eternal purposes; and there I hear again that note that first brought peace and pardon to my burdened heart, “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”