A Call To Worship

by C. H. Spurgeon, being a sermon delivered on Lord’s Day Morning 20th April, 1873 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington (Part 2 of 2 )

"And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of Hosts: I will go also" (Zechariah 8:21).

Urgency to Attendance at Holy Exercises

III. I must pass on to notice that it appears from our text that it is a sure mark of God’s visiting a people, when THEY ARE URGENT TO ATTEND UPON THESE HOLY EXERCISES AT ONCE. The text says, "Let us go speedily to pray;" by which is meant, I suppose, that when the time came to pray, they were punctual, they were not laggards; they did not come into the assembly late; they did not drop in one by one long after the service had begun, but they said, "Let us gospeedily." They looked up to their clocks and said, "How long will it take us to walk so as to be there at the commencement? Let us start five minutes before that time lest we should not be able to keep up the pace, and shovel by any means reach the door after the first prayer."

I wish late comers would remember David’s choice. You remember what part he wished to take in the house of God: he was willing to be a doorkeeper, and that not because the doorkeeper has the most comfortable berth, for that is the hardest post a man can choose, but he knew that doorkeepers are the first in and the last out, and so David wished to be first at the service and the last at the going away. How few would be of David’s mind! It has been said that Dissenters in years gone by placed the clock outside the meeting-house, so that they might never enter late, but the modern Dissenters place the clock inside, that their preachers may not keep them too long. There is some truth in the remark, but it is not to our honor. This was, however, a fault with our forefathers, for quaint old Herbert said —

"O be drest,
stay not for th’ other pin:
why thou hast lost
A joy for it worth worlds."

Let us mend our ways and say one to another in the language of the text, "Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord." Let us go with quick feet. If we go slowly to market, let us go quickly to meeting; if we are slow on weekdays, let us go quickly on the Sabbath. Let us never keep Jesus Christ waiting, and we shall do so if we are not in time, for he is sure to be punctual, even if only two or three are met together in his name. The expression, however, means more than this. "Let us go speedily" means, let us go heartily: do not let us crawl to prayer, but let us go to it as men who have something before them which attracts them.

When the angels serve God they never do it as though they were half asleep. They are all alive and burning like flames of fire. They have six wings, and, I warrant you, they use them all. When the Lord saith, "Gabriel, go upon my bidding," he outstrips the lightning.

O, to exhibit some such ardor and zest in the service of God. If we pray, let us pray as if we moan it: if we worship, let us worship with our hearts. "Let us go speedily," and may the Lord make our hearts to be like the chariots of Ammi-nadib for swiftness and rapidity; gloving wheels and burning axles may God give to our spirits, that we may never let the world think we are indifferent to the love of Jesus. "Let us go speedily."

The words, "Let us go speedily" mean — let us go at once, or instantly. If any good thing has been neglected, and we resolve to attend to it later, let us do it at once. Revivals of religion, — when is the best time for them? Directly. When is the best time to repent of sin? To-day. When is the best time for a cold heart to grow warm? To-day. When is the season for a sluggish Christian to be industrious? To-day. When is the period for a backslider to return? To-day. When is the time for one who has crawled along the road to heaven to mend his pace? To-day. Is it not always to-day? And, indeed, when should it be? "To-morrow," say you. Ah, but you may never have it; and, when it comes, it will still be to-day. To-morrow is only in the fool’s almanac: it exists nowhere else. To-day, to-day, let us go speedily. I beseech the Church of God here to be yet more alive, and at once to wake up. Time is flying — we cannot afford to lose it. The devil is wide awake, why should we be asleep? Error is stalking through the land, evil influences are abroad everywhere; men are dying, hell is filling, the grave is gorged and yet is insatiable, and the maw of destruction is not yet satisfied; shall we lie down in wicked satisfaction, yielding to base supineness?

Awake, arise, ye Christians! Now, even now, lest it be said of you, "Curse ye Heron, saith the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof, because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty." I know we are all apt to think that we live in the most important era of history; and I admit that under certain aspects every day is a crisis, but I claim liberty to say that there never was a period in the world’s history when Christian activity, and prayerfulness, and genuine revival were more needed than just now. Where is our nation? Is it not on the very verge of becoming once again a province of the Pope’s dominion? Are not the modern Pharisees compassing sea and land to make proselytes? Does it not seem as if the people were gone mad upon their idols, and were altogether fascinated by the charms of the whore of Babylon, and drunken with her cup? Do you not see everywhere the old orthodox faith forsaken, and men occupying Christian pulpits who do not believe, but even denounce the doctrines which they have sworn to defend? Might I not say of Christendom in England, that "her whole head is sick and her whole heart faint"? The daughter of Zion staggers in the street for weakness: there is none to help her among all her sons; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies. Her adversaries are the chiefs; her enemies prosper. Her Nazarites were purer than snow, and their separation from the world was known of all men, but now they are defiled with worldliness until they are blacker than coal. From the daughter of Zion her beauty is departed. O ye that love her, let your bowels sound as a harp for her! O ye that love her, weep day and night for her halting, for except the Lord return unto her the time of her sore distress draweth nigh. Thus saith the Lord, "Arise, cry out in the night season, pour out your hearts like water before the Lord, and then the Lord will return and be gracious to his inheritance."

A Special Eye to God at the Duties

IV. For a moment I shall call your attention to another point. When God visits a people they will not only attend to prayer and preaching, and stir each other up to do so at once, but THEY WILL HAVE A SPECIAL EYE TO GOD IN THESE DUTIES. Observe, they shall say, "Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts." Alas, many go to religious meetings to be seen of men. I am afraid there is a great deal too much exhibition of dress in some quarters, and there certainly, cannot be a greater abomination than to make the house of God a showroom for our finery. Jesus might say, "Take these things hence. It is written my house shall be called a house of prayer, but ye have made it an exhibition wherein to display yourselves." Some go to worship because it is the custom, and it would not be respectable to stay away. "We must have a pew in church," you know, "or we should be remarked upon in society." I am glad that people attend divine worship for any reason, but mere custom is a poor motive, and is no sign of grace. The people in the text did not say, "We will go that we may see our neighbors, and that our neighbors may see us." No: they went to "pray before the Lord." They did not assemble to seek a man; they did not go to hear Mr. So-and-so preach. Of course they would sooner hear one who preached all the gospel, and preached it plainly, than another who preached half the gospel and fired over their heads; but still, they looked through the man to the man’s Master, and they did not think that the Master was tied up to any one man.

May we cultivate in our midst the desire to worship for God’s sake, not for the preacher’s sake, whoever he may be. I believe it is not wrong for a Christian man to feel that he is better fed by one minister than by another, and therefore to be most glad when God’s servant is in the pulpit; but if that feeling grows so that if he cannot hear his favourite preacher he will stay at home, it is most mischievous. I thank God that my Master has other preachers besides Paul; there is Apollos, there is Cephas, and beyond these I see a great company of them that publish the good news. I will hear what God will speak through them.

I would have you note, beloved, how different is my text from that formal worship into which it is so easy to fall. "I have been to the prayer. I have done my duty, and I can go home satisfied. I have taken a seat at the tabernacle and listened to two sermons on the Sunday, and I feel I have done my duty." Oh, dear hearer, that is a poor way of living. I want a great deal more than all that, or I shall be wretched. At the prayer meeting I must see God, I must pour out my soul before him; I must feel that the spirit of prayer has been there, and that I have participated in it, otherwise, what was the good of my being there? I must, when in the assembly on the Sabbath day, find some blessing to my own soul; I must get another glimpse of the Savior; I must come to be somewhat more like him; I must feel my sin rebuked, or my flagging graces revived; I must feel that God has been blessing poor sinners and bringing them to Christ; I must feel, indeed, that I have come into contact with God, or else what is my Sunday worth, and what is my having been in the assembly worth? If God shall bless you, indeed, you will worship spiritually, and you will count nothing to be true worship which is not of the spirit and of the heart and soul. May God quicken us all up to that point, and he shall have the praise.

Personal Resolutions to Wait Upon God

V. The last thing is this: it is a blessed sign of God’s visiting a people, when EACH ONE OF THEM IS RESOLVED, PERSONALLY, THAT HE WILL, IN A SPIRITUAL MANNER, WAIT UPON GOD. Notice the last four words: "I will go also." "Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of Hosts:I will go also." That is the point — "I will go also." The Christian man should neither be content, when he goes to worship, to leave others behind, nor should he be content to drive others before him and stop behind himself. It is said of Julius Caesar that he owed his victories to the fact that he never said to his soldiers, "Go," but always said, "Let us go." That is the way to win. Example is mightier than precept. We read of the Pharisees of old that they laid burdens on other men’s shoulders, but they themselves did not touch them with one of their fingers: true Christians are not so. They say, "I will go also." Was not that bravely spoken of poor old Latimer, when he was to be burnt with Ridley? Ridley was a younger and stronger man, and as he walked to the stake, old Latimer, with his quaintness about him to the last, cried to his brother Ridley, "Have after, as fast as my poor old legs can carry me." The dear old saint was marching to his burning as fast as he could; not at all loath to lay his aged body upon the altar for his Lord. That is the kind of man who makes others into men; the man who habitually says, "I will go also; even if I am called to be burned for Christ. Whatever is to be done or suffered, I will go also." I would be ashamed to stand here and say to you, "Brethren; pray; brethren, preach; brethren, labor," and then be an idler myself; and you also would be ashamed to say to others, "Let us pray; let us be earnest," while you are not praying and not earnest yourselves. Example is the backbone of instruction. Be thyself what thou wouldst have others be, and do thyself what thou wouldst have others do.

"I will go also," because I need to pray as much as anybody else. I will go to hear the word, for I need to hear it as well as others; I will go and wait upon God, for I need to see his face. I will cry to him for a blessing, for I want a blessing. I will confess my sin before him, for I am full of it. I will ask mercy through the precious blood of Jesus, for I must have it or perish. "I will go also." If nobody else will go, I will go; and if all the rest go I will go also. I do not want to pledge any of you this morning; I shall not, therefore, ask you to hold up your hands, but I should like to put it very personally to all the members of this church. We have enjoyed the presence and blessing of God for many years in a very remarkable manner, and it is not taken from us; but I am jealous, I believe it is a godly jealousy and not unbelief, — lest there should be among us a slackness in prayer, and a want of zeal for the glory of God, and a neglecting of the souls of our neighbors, and a ceasing to believe to the full in our mission and in the call of God to be each one of us in this world as Christ was, saviours of others. My brethren, knit together as we are in church fellowship, and bound by common cords to one blessed Master, let each one say within himself, "I will go also"; the church shall be the subject of my prayer; the minister shall share in my petitions; the Sabbath school shall not be forgotten; the College shall be remembered in supplication; the Orphanage shall have my heart’s petitions; I will plead with God for the evangelists; I will consider the congregation at the Tabernacle, and pray that it may gently melt into the church; I will pray for the strangers who fill the aisles and crowd the pews that God will bless them; yea, I will say unto God this day, "By God, thou hast saved me, given me a part and lot among thy people, and put me in thy garden, where thy people grow and flourish; I will not be a barren tree, but abound in fruits, especially in prayer: if I cannot do anything else I can pray; if this be my one mite, I will put that into the treasury; I will put thee in remembrance, and plead with thee, and give thee no rest, until thou establish thy cause and make it praise in the earth."

I am not asking more of you than Jesus would ask, nor do I exact anything at your hands: you will cheerfully render that which is a tribute due to the infinite love of your Lord. Now, do not say, dear brother, "I hope the church will wake up." Leave it alone, and mind that you wake up yourself. Do not say, "I hope they will be stirred up this morning." Never mind others! Stir up yourself. Begin to enquire, "Which prayer meeting shall I go to, for I mean to join the people of God, and let them hear my voice, or at least have my presence; and if I cannot go to the Tabernacle I will drop in near my own house; and if there is no meeting there I will open my own house: the largest room of any cottage shall be used for a prayer-meeting, or my parlour if I have one. I will have a share in the glorious work of attracting a blessing from the skies; I will send up my electric rod of prayer into the clouds of blessing to bring down the divine force." Do it; do it! Let each one say, "I will go also."

May God bless this word to his people, and I am sure it will result in benediction to sinners. For, remember, you ungodly ones, that all this noise is about you. What we want the blessing of God for, is that you may be saved. We cannot bear that you should remain as you are, unconverted, and I am asking God’s people to pray specially with an eye to your salvation. Shall we think about your souls, and will you not think about them yourselves? Are we inclined to move heaven and earth that you might be saved, and will you sit still and perish? May the Lord awaken you to say, "If others are going to pray unto the Lord and seek his face, I will go also"; and the Lord bless you, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.