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I. THE MAGNIFICENCE OF PRAYER
“Lord, teach us to pray.”—Luke xi. 1.
“A royal priesthood.”—1 Pet. ii. 9.
“I am an apostle,” said Paul, “I magnify mine office.” And we also have an office. Our office is not the apostolic office, but Paul would be the first to say to us that our office is quite as magnificent as ever his office was. Let us, then, magnify our office. Let us magnify its magnificent opportunities; its momentous duties; and its incalculable and everlasting rewards. For our office is the “royal priesthood.” And we do not nearly enough magnify and exalt our royal priesthood. To be “kings and priests unto God”—what a magnificent office is that! But then, we who hold that office are men of such small and such mean minds, our souls so decline and so cleave to this earth, that we never so much as attempt to rise to the height and the splendour of our magnificent office. If our minds were only enlarged and exalted at all up to our office, we would be found of God far oftener than we are, with our sceptre in our hand, and with our mitre upon our head. If we magnified our office, as Paul magnified 4 his office, we would achieve as magnificent results in our office as ever he achieved in his. The truth is,—Paul’s magnificent results were achieved more in our office than in his own. It was because Paul added on the royal priesthood to the Gentile apostleship that he achieved such magnificent results in that apostleship. And, if we would but magnify our royal priesthood as Paul did—it hath not entered into our hearts so much as to conceive what God hath prepared for those who properly perform their office, as Kings and Priests unto God.
Prayer is the magnificent office it is, because it is an office of such a magnificent kind. Magnificence is of many kinds, and magnificent things are more or less magnificent according to their kind.. This great globe on which it strikes its roots and grows is magnificent in size when compared with that grain of mustard seed: but just because that grain of mustard seed is a seed and grows, that smallest of seeds is far greater than the great globe itself. A bird on its summer branch is far greater than the great sun in whose warmth he builds and sings, because that bird has life and love and song, which the sun, with all his immensity of size, and with all his light and heat, has not. A cup of cold water only, given to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple, is a far greater offering before God than thousands of rams, and ten thousands of rivers of oil; because there is charity in that cup of cold 5 water. And an ejaculation, a sigh, a sob, a tear, a smile, a psalm, is far greater to God than all the oblations, and incense, and new moons, and Sabbaths, and calling of assemblies, and solemn meetings of Jerusalem, because repentance and faith and love and trust are in that sob and in that psalm. And the magnificence of all true prayer—its nobility, its royalty, its absolute divinity—all stand in this, that it is the greatest kind of act and office that man, or angel, can ever enter on and perform. Earth is at its very best; and heaven is at its very highest, when men and angels magnify their office of prayer and of praise before the throne of God.
I. The magnificence of God is the source and the measure of the magnificence of prayer. “Think magnificently of God,” said Paternus to his son. Now that counsel is the sum and substance of this whole matter. For the heaven and the earth; the sun and the moon and the stars; the whole opening universe of our day; the Scriptures of truth, with all that they contain; the Church of Christ, with all her services and all her saints—all are set before us to teach us and to compel us indeed to “think magnificently of God.” And they have all fulfilled the office of their creation when they have all combined to make us think magnificently of their Maker. Consider the heavens, the work of His fingers, the moon and the stars, which He hath ordained: consider the intellectual heavens also, angels and 6 archangels, cherubim and seraphim: consider mankind also, made in the image of God: consider Jesus Christ, the express image of His person: consider a past eternity and a coming eternity, and the revelation thereof that is made to us in the Word of God, and in the hearts of His people—and I defy you to think otherwise than magnificently of God. And, then, after all that, I equally defy you to forget, or neglect, or restrain prayer. Once you begin to think aright of Him Who is the Hearer of prayer; and Who waits, in all His magnificence, to be gracious to you—I absolutely defy you to live any longer the life you now live. “First of all, my child,” said Paternus to his son, “think magnificently of God. Magnify His providence: adore His power: frequent His service; and pray to Him frequently and instantly. Bear Him always in your mind: teach your thoughts to reverence Him in every place, for there is no place where He is not. Therefore, my child, fear and worship, and love God; first, and last, think magnificently of God.”
2. “Why has God established prayer?” asks Pascal. And Pascal’s first answer to his own great question is this. God has established prayer in the moral world in order “to communicate to His creatures the dignity of causality.” That is to say, to give us a touch and a taste of what it is to be a Creator. But then, “there are some things 7 ultimate and incausable,” says Bacon, that interpreter of nature. And whatever things are indeed ultimate to us, and incausable by us, them God “hath put in His own power.” But there are many other things, and things that far more concern us, that He communicates to us to have a hand of cause and creation in. Not immediately, and at our own rash and hot hand, and at our precipitate and importunate will, but always under His Holy Hand, and under the tranquillity of His Holy Will. We hold our office and dignity of causality and creation under the Son, just as He holds His again under the Father. But instead of that lessening our dignity, to us, it rather ennobles and endears our dignity. All believers are agreed that they would rather hold their righteousness of Christ than of themselves; and so would all praying men: they would rather that all things had their spring and rise and rule in the wisdom and the love and the power of God, than in their own wisdom and love and power, even if they had the wisdom and the love and the power for such an office. But then, again, just as all believing men put on Jesus Christ to justification of life, so do they all put on, under Him, their royal robe and their priestly diadem and breastplate. And that, not as so many beautiful ornaments, beautiful as they are, but as instruments and engines of divine power. “Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel,”—as He clothes 8 His priests with salvation,—“Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons, and concerning the work of My hands command ye me.” What a thing for God to say to man! What a magnificent office! What a more than royal dignity! What a gracious command, and what a sure encouragement is that to pray! For ourselves, first, as His sons,—if His prodigal and dishonourable sons,- and then for our fellows, even if they are as prodigal and as undeserving as we are. Ask of me! Even when a father is wounded and offended by his son, even then, you feel sure that you have his heartstrings in your hand when you go to ask him for things that concern his son; and that even though he is a bad son: even when he sends you away in anger, his fatherly bowels move over you as you depart: and he looks out at his door to see if you are coming back to ask him again concerning his son. And when you take boldness and venture back, he falls on your neck and says, Command me all that is in your heart concerning my son. Now, that is the “dignity of causality,” that in which you are the cause of a father taking home again his son: and the cause of a son saying, I will arise and go to my father. That is your “magnificent office.” That is your “royal priesthood.”
3. And, then, there is this magnificent and right noble thing in prayer. Oh, what a noble God we have!—says Pascal,—that God shares His 9 creatorship with us! And I will, to the praise and the glory of God this day, add this, that He makes us the architects of our own estates, and the fashioners of our own fortunes. It is good enough to have an estate left us in this life, if we forget we have it: it is good enough that we inherit a fortune in this world’s goods, if it is not our lasting loss. Only there is nothing great, nothing noble, nothing magnanimous or magnificent in that. But to have begun life with nothing, and to have climbed up by pure virtue, by labour, and by self-denial, and by perseverance, to the very top,—this world has no better praise to give her best sons than that. But there is another, and a better world, of which this world at its best is but the scaffolding, the preparation, and the porch: and to be the architect of our own fortune in that world will be to our everlasting honour. Now, there is this magnificence about the world of prayer, that in it we work out, not our own bare and naked and “scarce” salvation only, but our everlasting inheritance, incorruptible and undefilable, with all its unsearchable riches. Heaven and earth, time and eternity, creation and providence, grace and glory, are all laid up in Christ; and then Christ and all His unsearchable riches are laid open to prayer; and then it is said to every one of us—Choose you all what you will have, and command Me for it! All God’s grace, and all His truth, has been coined—10 as Goodwin has it—out of purposes into promises; and then all those promises are made “Yea and amen” in Christ; and then out of Christ, they are published abroad to all men in the word of the Gospel; and, then, all men who read and hear the Gospel are put upon their mettle. For what a man loves, that that man is. What a man chooses out of a hundred offers, you are sure by that who and what that man is. And accordingly, put the New Testament in any man’s hand, and set the Throne of Grace wide open before any man; and you need no omniscience to tell you that man’s true value. If he lets his Bible lie unopened and unread: if he lets God’s Throne of Grace stand till death, idle and unwanted: if the depth and the height, the nobleness and the magnificence, the goodness and the beauty of divine things have no command over him, and no attraction to him—then, you do not wish me to put words upon the meanness of that man’s mind. Look yourselves at what he has chosen: look and weep at what he has neglected, and has for ever lost! But there are other men: there are men of a far nobler blood than that man is: there are great men, royal men: there are some men made of noble stuff, and cast into a noble mould. And you will never satisfy or quiet those men with all you can promise them or pour out upon them in this life. They are men of a magnificent heart, and only in prayer have their 11 hearts ever got full scope and a proper atmosphere. They would die if they did not pray. They magnify their office. You cannot please them better than to invite and ask them to go to their God in your behalf. They would go of their own motion and accord for you, even if you never asked them. They have prayed for you before you asked them, more than you know. They are like Jesus Christ in this; and He will acknowledge them in this. While you were yet their enemies, they prayed for you, and as good as died for you. And when you turn to be their enemies again, they will have their revenge on you at the mercy seat. When you feel, somehow, as if coals of fire were—from somewhere—being heaped upon your head, it is from the mercy seat, where that magnanimous man is retaliating upon you. Now not Paul himself ever magnified his office more or better than that. And it was in that very same way that our Lord magnified His royal priesthood when He had on His crown of thorns on the cross, and when His shame covered Him as a robe and a diadem in the sight of God, and when He interceded and said—“They know not what they do.”
4. And then there is this fine and noble thing about prayer also, that the acceptableness of it, and the power of it, are in direct proportion to the secrecy and the spirituality of it. As its stealth is: as its silence is: as its hiddenness away with 12 God is: as its unsuspectedness and undeservedness with men is: as its pure goodness, pure love, and pure goodwill are—so does prayer perform its magnificent part when it is alone with God. The true closet of the true saint of God is not built of stone and lime. The secret place of God; and His people, is not a thing of wood and iron, and bolts and bars. At the same time, Christ did say—Shut your door. And in order to have the Holy Ghost all to himself, and to be able to give himself up wholly—body, soul and spirit—to the Holy Ghost, the man after God’s own heart in prayer always as a matter of fact builds for himself a little sanctuary, all his own; not to shut God in, but to shut all that is not of God out. He builds a house for God, before he has as yet built a house for himself. You would not believe it about that man of secret prayer. When you see and hear him, he is the poorest, the meekest, the most contrite, and the most silent of men: and you rebuke him because he so trembles at God’s word. If you could but see him when he is alone with the King! If you could but see his nearness and his boldness! You would think that he and the King’s Son had been born and brought up together—such intimacies, and such pass-words, are exchanged between them. You would wonder, you would not believe your eyes and your ears. If you saw him on his knees you would see a sight. Look! He is in the 13 Audience Chamber. Look! He is in the Council Chamber now. He has a seat set for him among the peers. He is set down among the old nobility of the Empire. The King will not put on His signet ring to seal a command, till your friend has been heard. “Command Me,” the King says to him. “Ask Me,” He says, “for the things of My sons: command Me things to come concerning them”! And, as if that were not enough, that man of all-prayer is still on his knees. He is “wrestling” on his knees. There is no enemy there that I can see. There is nothing and no one that I can see near him: and yet he wrestles like a mighty man. What is he doing with such a struggle? Doing? Do you not know what he is doing? He is moving heaven and earth. The man is removing mountains. He is casting this mountain, and that, into the midst of the sea. He is casting down thrones. He is smiting old empires of time to pieces. Yes: he is wrestling indeed! For he is wrestling now with God; and now with man: now with death; and now with hell: See! the day breaks over his place of prayer! See! the Kingdom of God begins to come in on the earth! What a spot is that! What plots are hatched there! What conspiracies are planned there! How dreadful is this place! Let us escape for our life out of it! Is that man, in there with God, your friend? Can you trust him with God? Will he speak about you when he 14 is in audience? And what will he say? Has he anything against you? Have you anything on your conscience, or in your heart, against him? Then I would not be you, for a world! But no! Hear him! What is that he says? I declare I hear your name, and your children’s names! And the King stretches forth His sceptre, and your friend touches it. He has “commanded” his God for you. He has “asked concerning” you and your sons. Such access, such liberty, such power, such prevalency, such a magnificent office has he, who has been made of God a King and a Priest unto God.
5. And, then, to cap and to crown it all—the supreme magnanimity, and the superb generosity of God, to its top perfection, is seen in this—in the men He selects, prepares for Himself, calls, consecrates, and clothes with the mitre and with the ephod, and with the breastplate. It is told in the Old Testament to the blame of Jeroboam, that “he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.” But what is written and read in the Levitical law, to Jeroboam’s blame, that vary same thing, and in these very same words, God’s saints are this Sabbath day singing in their thousands to His praise before the throne of God and the Lamb. For, ever since the day of Christ, it has been the lowest of the people—those lowest, that 15 is, in other men’s eyes, and in their own—it has been the poor and the despised, and the meek, and the hidden, and the down-trodden, and the silent, who have had secret power and privilege with God, and have prevailed. It was so, sometimes, even in the Old testament. The New Testament sometimes broke up through the Old; and in nothing more than in this in the men,—and in their mothers,—who were made Kings and Priests unto God. “The Lord maketh poor,” sang Samuel’s mother, “and maketh rich: He bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory.” And the mother of our great High Priest Himself sang, as she sat over His manger—“He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden. . . . He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich hath He sent empty away.” This, then, is the very topmost glory, and the very supremest praise of God—the men, from among men, that He takes, and makes of them Kings and Priests unto God. Let all such men magnify their office; and let them think and speak and sing magnificently of their God!16
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