TO THE MEMBERS OF A PRAYER MEETING
A letter by Robert Murray McCheyne.
It has been a matter of great joy to me to hear that you meet together from time to time to read the Word of God and pray Â— to pray for a blessing on yourselves and families, that you may be brought to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to pray for ministers, that they may be filled with the Holy Spirit, and made insatiably greedy for the salvation of souls, and that the Word of God preached on the Sabbath may rise and be glorified till the whole world bow the knee at the name of Jesus.
Oh, you that have had your eyes opened to see your lost condition by nature and by wicked works, you that have been drawn by the Father to believe in Jesus, to wash in the blood of the Lamb, and to put on the righteousness of God Â— oh! pray with all your heart that your dear friends may be brought to take the peace you feel, that your enemies may be brought to the same Saviour, and that all the world may be brought to know Him, whom to know is life eternal.
If you look at Matthew 13, 3-9, you will see how much of our preaching is in vain, and what need there is to pray that God would open the hearts we speak to.
Many among you, I fear, are like the hard wayside, so that, when the seed falls, it cannot get into your hearts, and the devil plucks it all
away (v. 3, 4). Is it not true that some of your hearts are like the footpath, trodden all the week by wicked thoughts? “Free passage this way” is written over your hearts Â— common worldly thoughts Â— busy, covetous desires of money Â— malicious thoughts Â— impure, abominable thoughts. Oh, who can tell what a constant thoroughfare of wicked imaginations is passing night and day through every unconverted mind! Oh, look at Genesis 6, 5, and weep over the Bible description of your own hard hearts.
Now, when you come to the church on Sabbath, your heart is like a footpath; the seed cannot fall in, it lies upon the surface. You do not understand the minister. Perhaps he preaches of the desperate wickedness of the heart, and the danger you are in of going to hell if you be not born again. You feel it to be a dry subject, and turn your head away. Perhaps he is preaching of the love of Jesus, in tasting death for every man; and that He will in no wise cast the vilest sinner out. Still you feel no interest, and perhaps you fall asleep during the sermon. Oh, you are the wayside hearers, the devil plucks all the seed away.
When you turn your back on the church, you turn your back on divine things; and before you have got halfway home, the devil has carried off every word of the sermon. Yea, often, I fear, before you have got a sight of your own cottage, or the trees before the door, the devil has filled your hearts with abominable, worldly thoughts, and your tongue with evil talk, unworthy of the Sabbath. O Satan, Satan! what a cunning friend thou art! Even when the hard hearts will not receive the Word, thou wilt not suffer it to remain; lest it should come back in a time of sickness or danger, thou carriest all away.
Dear believers, pray, that it be not so with you, nor with your friends; pray for a soft heart and a retentive memory; and often speak together of the sermons you hear, and get them harrowed into your hearts, that Satan may be cheated, and your soul saved.
Many, I fear, among you, are receiving the seed into stony places (Matt. 13, 6) Â— receiving the Word for a while, but soon withering away in time of persecution. I fear there may be some among you who are charmed with something about the gospel, instead of cleaving in heart to Christ. I can imagine that some of the wounded Israelites, that were bitten by the serpent, were much taken with Moses, as he held up the brazen serpent, instead of looking at the serpent itself. Many are fond of ministers, who are not fond of Christ. Read over Ezekiel 33, 30-32, and pray that this be not your case.
Now, I will give you two marks, by which you may know whether you are one of these unfruitful hearers. First, The rocky heart will remain the same. If you find that your liking to the gospel is from the surface, from curiosity, or fancy, or love to a minister Â—
if you find that your rocky heart has never been broken by conviction of sin, has never melted to flow towards Jesus Â— then you are an empty professor; you have a name to live, while you are spiritually dead.
Second, You will endure for a while. A really converted soul is like a branch. “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” It will cleave to it summer and winter. But if you have only a mock conversion, you will wither away when persecution comes. God knows how soon days of trial may come in Scotland. Be ye therefore ready. He that endureth to the end shall be saved. I fear, dear friends, that many of you receive the seed among thorns (Matt. 13, 7). Look into your heart and see, when you read your Bible in the morning, how many cares and anxieties are dancing before your eyes, so that you can hardly see the page you are reading. How often you come to the house of God, and you see the minister preaching of eternal things with all his might; but your heart is stuffed full of cares, and plans, and pleasure. Alas, alas! the world has got the first hold of your heart, and so you can think of nothing else. What will it profit you if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul?
One thing is plain, that thorns and wheat cannot grow on the same spot of ground; so that, if you will keep to your thorns, you must burn with them. Oh, dear souls, if you got but a glimpse of the beauty of Jesus, you would leave all and follow Him! If you got but a taste of the sweetness of forgiveness, you would count everything else but loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ. See how Matthew did (Matt. 9, 9). He was once as worldly as yourselves, and as greedy of money as any one of you; and yet a word from the sweet mouth of Christ made him leave all. Read that sweet command of Christ (Matt. 10, 37-38). Oh! pray to be made willing to leave all for Christ. He is kinder than father or mother Â— more precious than son or daughter. Take up your cross, then, and follow Him.
Last of all, I trust there are some among you like the good ground (Matt. 13,8), who receive the Word into a heart broken up by the Spirit of God, watered by prayer, and who bear fruit unto life eternal. Have you had your hearts broken, dear friends? Has God ploughed up your hard, unbelieving hearts? Have you had real concern for your perishing soul? Have you been driven to your knees? Have you ever wept in secret for your sins? Have you been made to tremble under your load of guilt? Do you come thus to the house of God, your heart like an open furrow, waiting for the seed? Inquire earnestly whether the fallow ground of your heart has ever
been broken up (Jer. 4, 3). A broken heart alone can receive a crucified Christ.
Have you understood the “gospel? Have you believed the record that God has given concerning His Son? Do you feel that it is true
that God is love? that Christ has died, the just for the unjust? that He is beckoning you to come to Him? Do you believe on the Son of God? He that believeth shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned (Mark 16, 16).
Do you bear fruit? Without holy fruit all evidences are vain. How vain would it be to prove to a farmer that his fields were good and productive, if they produced no corn! You might say to him, “Neighbour, your land is good; the soil is dry and well trenched.” “Oh! but,”he would say, “where is the yellow grain Â— where are the full ears falling before the sickle of the reaper?” Dear friends, you have awakenings, enlightenings, experiences, a full heart in prayer, and many due signs; but if you want holiness, you will never see the Lord. If you are a drinker, a swearer, a liar, a lascivious talker, a wanton, a slanderer, you are in the broad way that leads to destruction.
Read Matthew 7, 21-13, and pray that you may not be deceiving your own souls. Dear believers, pray that you may bear fruit an hundredfold. Do not be content with bearing thirtyfold or sixtyfold;
pray to be sanctified wholly (1 Thess. 5, 23). Pray that the whole lump may be leavened (Matt. 13, 33). Pray that, day or night, in company or alone, Sabbath and weekday, you may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. I often pray for you all, and desire that in secret, and in your families, you will not forget me.