Only A Prayer Meeting by C. H. Spurgeon
The letter, which I am about to read, comes from a certain county in Scotland. Each line begins in the original with a capital letter, so that it wears the appearance of poetry. I believe the idea is current in remote country places that this is the correct way of writing, and the writer is too earnest to do anything carelessly or contrary to rule. Here is the letter: –
“To the Very Rev. C. H. Spurgeon,-
Believing that you are one of the faithful servants of God, and also that you have a large congregation, and that there is many a true believer among them; therefore I proposed to write to you in the hope that you and your congregation will remember me in your daily prayers, and also that it will be made public that I am requesting the prayers of the Lord’s people for my soul and everlasting salvation, knowing that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Dear sir, I may tell you that I am suffering much from the adversary. It is true that I cannot compare myself to that holy man, John Bunyan; but in the book that he wrote under this title, ‘Grace Abounding,’ he tells us how he was tempted; and I feel that the old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, who deceived Eve in the Garden, and who was tempting that saint, John Bunyan, with many of the same temptations, tempteth me on this day; and if you would know all that I am suffering from his fiery darts, you would have commiseration with me. I believe it will be twenty-five years now, if not more, since I began to pray to God, and yet my temptations are terrible. Yet I cannot say that I am in despair, for I know that my Redeemer liveth, and I will see Him. My trials from the adversary are awful. It may be when I am on my knees praying to God that he will come to me as sudden as a gunshot, and I believe doing all he can to steal my heart and affections away from God and Heaven, and trying to make me say some wrong word; and many a time he will make my heart and flesh tremble while I am at my meat or talking, or in the house of worship, or travelling. In whatever condition I am, I feel that he is doing all he can to ruin my poor soul; therefore, I request the earnest prayer of all Christians for my poor soul, and I know for one, and for the first one, that you will not refuse this supplication to me. I believe that we never saw one another in the flesh, and God only knows if we will see each other on the face of the earth; but I hope we will see one another in Heaven where the adversaries can never come near us. I hope this will be told before your congregation on Sabbath first.-
I am, dear sir, your obedient servant, who resides in the county of –. ‘The Lord knoweth all them that are His.’
“P.S.- I will be happy to see your kind advice either in a tract or in a newspaper. I am a reader of the Herald.”
I very much demur to the commencement, “To the Very Reverend C. H. Spurgeon,” for no reverence is due to me. Romaine used to say that it was very astonishing to observe how many reverend, right reverend, and very reverend sinners there were upon the face of the earth. Assuredly, reverend and sinner make a curious combination – and as I know that I am the second, I repudiate the first. To me, it is surprising that such a flattering title should have been invented, and more amazing still that good men should be found who are angry if this title be not duly given to them. However, the superscription is a small matter. I would make a few remarks upon the letter itself, in order that we may the more intelligently and fervently present our supplications on the writer’s behalf.
And, first, we notice with pleasure that the writer is not altogether in despair, for he expressly says, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” If he would dwell more on his living Redeemer, and look less at the changeful current of his own thoughts, the snare would be broken, and he would escape. It is very charming to see how poor souls, when tossed to and fro by the devil, will yet hold on to their hope; half afraid to think that Jesus is theirs, they nevertheless feel that they could not give up what little hope they have. By a blessed inconsistency, they doubt and yet cling, dread and yet trust, condemn themselves and yet hope. Such souls are a riddle, puzzling their friends, and most of all confusing themselves. Could we but persuade them to give their thoughts to that blessed “I know,” they would soon chase away the enemy, for Satan abhors a believing “I know.” He is more content with “I hope,” and best pleased with “I am afraid”; but “I know” stings him dreadfully; and if he, who can truly say it, will arm himself
with that mind, he will ere long overcome the enemy. Satan dreads the Redeemer’s Name, and he falls like lightning from Heaven before those who know how to plead it with confidence.
Having noticed the pleasing point in the letter, we are now forced to remark that it is a very dreadful thing to be tempted twenty-five years in this way, and yet this is not the only case we have heard of, in which temptation has been both long and strong. I have, in my library, a book by Timothy Rogers upon “Trouble of Mind,” in which he tells us of Mr. Rosewell and Mr. Porter, both ministers, the latter of whom was six years oppressed by Satan, and yet afterwards rejoiced in the light of God’s countenance. Mr. Robert Bruce, many years ago minister in Edinburgh, was twenty years under terrors of conscience, and yet found deliverance. Rogers says: – “You have, in ‘the Book of Martyrs,’ written by Mr. Fox, an instance of Mr. Glover, who was so worn and consumed with inward trouble for the space of five years, that he neither had any comfort in his meat nor any quietness of sleep, nor any pleasure of life; he was as perplexed as if he had been in the deepest pit of hell, yet at last this good servant of God, after such sharp temptations, and strong buffetings of Satan, was freed from all his trouble, and was thereby led to great mortification, and was like one already placed in Heaven, leading a life altogether celestial, abhorring in his mind all profane things.”
None of these cases extend to quite the length of time mentioned in the letter; but I remember to have heard of one who lay in the prison-house some twenty-seven years, and yet came forth to perfect liberty: but even this is less remarkable than the case mentioned by Turner in his “Remarkable Providences,” of Mr. Charles Langford, the author of a book called “God’s Wonderful Mercy in the Mount of Woeful Extremity.” He therein says that, for nearly forty years, he had been severely buffeted by Satan, who left no stone unturned to do him all the mischief he could. For forty years was he led through the uncomfortable wilderness of temptation; and his clearest day, all that time, was but dark; Satan filling his soul with cursed injections, blasphemous thoughts, and dreadful temptations. The Lord was pleased to make use of his godly wife for his deliverance. He overheard her pleading at the throne of grace, as was her wont, after this fashion, “My Father! My Father! What wilt Thou do with my husband? He hath been speaking and acting still in Thy cause. Oh, destroy him not, for Thine own glory! What dishonour will come to Thy great Name if Thou do it! Oh, rather do with me as Thou wilt; but spare my husband,” &c. “God, who delights to advance His own power by using small and unlikely means, came,” said he, “and owned His own ordinance, and crowned the cries, and faith, and patience of a poor woman with such success that my praise shall be continually of Him. Mine adversary, the devil, was sent to his own place by my dear Lord Christ, who brake the door of brass, and rescued me from his fury.” So, you see, that long temptation by Satan is not so rare a trial as some would suppose.
But these temptations of the devil, do they come to really gracious rnen? Certainly. The instances I have given prove it; and, besides, our reason would lead us to expect it. If a thief were on the road, and knew something about the travellers, he would not stop beggars, for he would know that they have nothing to lose. Would he try to rob the rich or the poor? Those that have money, of course, would be his game; and, just so, Satan assaults those who have grace, and leaves those who have none.
When a sportsman is engaged in duck-shooting, he does not hurry himself to pick up the dead ducks that fall around him; he pays all his attention to those which are full of life, and are only wounded, and may perhaps get away. He can pick up the dead ones at any time. Even so, when Satan sees that a man’s soul is wounded, and yet that it has a measure of spiritual life, he bends his strength in that direction, in the hope of securing that poor bleeding spirit. It is grace that attracts his malicious eye and his diabolical arrows. He would not sift if there were no wheat, nor break into the house if there were no treasure within. It is no ill proof, therefore, when you find yourself tempted of Satan; his assaults are no sign of a want of grace, but rather a token of the presence of it.
But can a good man be tempted to use bad language? Ah, that he can! The purest mind is sometimes most of all assaulted by insinuations of the filthiest thoughts and most horrible words. I was brought up, as a child, with such care that I knew but very little of foul or profane language, having scarcely ever heard a man swear. Yet do I remember times, in my earliest Christian days, when there came into my mind thoughts so evil that I clapped my hand to my mouth for fear I should be led to give utterance to them. This is one way in which Satan tortures those whom God has delivered out of his hand. Many of the choicest saints have been thus molested. Beloved, think it not strange concerning this fiery trial when it comes upon you, for no new thing is happening unto you but such as is common to godly men.
What is to be done, then, in the case of one who is beaten down and harassed by fierce temptation? If I were the writer of this letter, I suppose I should do as he does; but if I acted rightly, I would go and tell the Lord Jesus Christ all about the devil’s suggestions, and beg Him to interfere, and restrain the evil one. It is His office to bruise the serpent’s head, and He can and will do it. We need not fear that our poor cries and tears will be in vain. Jesus is very faithful, and will come to our rescue. “That great Shepherd of the sheep” will not allow the wolf to worry His lambs to death. In addition to spreading his case before the Lord, it may be helpful to the tempted one to write down his trouble. Very much of perturbation of mind arises out of absolute confusion of thought, and a written statement may help to clear away the cobwebs. Luther threw an inkstand at the devil’s head at the Wartburg, and the example may bewisely followed; for, often, when you see your misty thought condensed in black and white before your own eyes, it will not exercise over you one half the power which it possessed before, and often there will be an end of it altogether. I have told you, before, of the poor woman who complained to her minister that she did not love the Saviour. So the pastor went to the window, and with his pencil wrote on a piece of paper, “I do not love the Lord Jesus Christ.” Taking it to the good woman, he said, “Now, Sarah, will you put your name to the bottom of that?” Her horror was most manifest, and she cried, “Oh, no, sir! I could not do it; I would die first.” “But you said so.” “Yes, I did, but I will not write it. I love the Lord Jesus too much to sign any such a document.” Is there not wisdom in my advice to write down your temptation?
Still, the main remedy is to keep on going to the Saviour as each new blasphemy is injected, and as each fresh sin is suggested, for He will send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to deliver you. If Satan sees a soul constantly driven to Christ by his temptations, he is too crafty to continue them. He will say to himself, “These attacks of mine accomplish nothing; for, every time that I tempt him, he runs to his Saviour, and so becomes stronger and holier. I will let him alone, and perhaps he will then go to sleep, and so I shall do him greater mischief by my quietness than by roaring at him.” The devil is a cowardly spirit, and fears to meet the courageous in heart. Stretch out your hand, and lay hold upon the sword of the Spirit, and give him a believing thrust, and he will spread his dragon wings in dastard flight. A man had better go a hundred miles roundabout, over hedge and ditch, rather than meet the archenemy; yet, if any of you must meet him, be not dismayed, but face it out with him. Resist ihe devil, and he will flee from you. May we, in all our conflicts with him, fight the good fight so bravely that, when a memorial is set up to record the conflict, it may bear those lines of honest John Bunyan,-
“The man so bravely played the man
He made the fiend to fly;
Whereof a monument I stand,
The same to testify.”
May the brother, whose letter I have read, find the Lord to be his strong helper, and speedily come forth out of darkness into marvellous light!