A Collection of the Best Sermons of R.A. Torrey
Written by: Torrey, R.A. Posted on: 04/09/2003
Reuben Archer Torrey (1856-1928) was both an evangelist and a Bible scholar.
Long associated with D. L. Moody, he became most prominent during world
preaching tours in 1902 and 1921. His preaching in Wales in 1902 has been
noted as one cause for the Welsh revivals of the early 1900s. He was the
first superintendent of the Moody Bible Institute and wrote numerous
devotional and theological books.
Spiritual awakening followed R. A. Torrey throughout his career as an
evangelist. In revivals with the popular gospel singer Charles W. Alexander,
Dr. Torrey filled meeting halls with his magnetic presence, passion, and
To help the reading of this classic work, the original Scripture references
have been replaced by the language of our time--the NIV. Also, obviously
archaic terminology and passages obscured by expressions not totally familiar
in our day have been revised. However, neither Torrey's meaning nor intent
have been tampered with.
All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL
VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of
Zondervan Bible Publishers.
There is nothing more important in the Christian life than beginning right.
If we begin right, we Reuben Archer Torrey (1856-1928) was both an evangelist
and a Bible scholar. Long associated with can go on right. If we begin
wrong, the whole life that follows is likely to be wrong. If anyone who
reads these pages has begun wrong, it is a very simple matter to begin over
again and begin right. What the right beginning in the Christian life is we
are told in John 1:12, "To all who received him, to those who believed in his
name, he gave the right to become children of God." The right way to begin
the Christian life is by receiving Jesus Christ. To anyone who receives Him,
He at once gives power to become a child of God. If the reader of this book
should be the wickedest man on earth and should at this moment receive Jesus
Christ, that very instant he would become a child of God. God says so in the
most unqualified way in the verse quoted above. No one can become a child of
God in any other way. No man, no matter how carefully he has been reared, no
matter how well he has been sheltered from the vices and evils of this world,
is a child of God until he receives Jesus Christ. We are "sons of God
through faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26), and in no other way.
What does it mean to receive Jesus Christ? It means to take Christ to be to
yourself all that God offers Him to be to everybody. Jesus Christ is God's
gift. "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that
whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John
3:16). Some accept this wondrous gift of God. Everyone who does accept this
gift becomes a child of God. Many others refuse this wondrous gift of God,
and everyone who refuses this gift of God perishes. He is condemned already.
"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe
stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one
and only Son" (John 3:18).
What does God offer His Son to be to us?
1. First of all, God offers Jesus to us to be our sin-bearer. We have all
sinned. There is not a man or woman or a boy or a girl who has not sinned
(Romans 23:22, 23). "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and
the truth is not in us. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to
be a liar and his word has no place in our lives" (1 John 1:8, 10). Now, we
must each of us bear our own sin or some one else must bear it in our place.
If we were to bear our own sins, it would mean we must be banished forever
from the presence of God, for God is holy. "God is light; in him there is no
darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). But God Himself has provided another to bear
our sins in our place, so that we should not need to bear them ourselves.
This sin-bearer is God's own Son, Jesus Christ: "God made him who had no sin
to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2
Corinthians 5:21). When Jesus Christ died on the cross of Calvary He
redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse in our stead
(Galatians 3:13). To receive Christ, then, is to believe this testimony of
God about His Son, to believe that Jesus Christ did bear our sins in His own
body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), and to trust God to forgive all our sins
because Jesus Christ has borne them in our place. "We all, like sheep, have
gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on
him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6).
Our own good works, past, present, or future, have nothing to do with the
forgiveness of our sins. Our sins are forgiven, not because of any good
works that we do; they are forgiven because of the atoning work of Christ on
the cross of Calvary in our place. If we rest in this atoning work we shall
do good works, but our good works will be the outcome of our being saved and
the outcome of our believing on Christ as our sin-bearer. Our good works
will not be the ground of our salvation, but the result of our salvation, and
the proof of it. We must be very careful not to mix in our good works at all
as the ground of salvation. We are forgiven, not because of Christ's death
and our good works, but solely and entirely because of Christ's death. To
see this clearly is the right beginning of the true Christian life.
2. God offers Jesus to us as our deliverer from the power of sin. Jesus not
only died, He rose again. Today He is a living Savior. He has all power in
heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). He has power to keep the weakest sinner
from falling (Jude 24). He is able to save not only completely, but
"completely," all that come to the Father through Him ("Therefore he is able
to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives
to intercede for them." -Hebrews 7:25) "If the Son sets you free, you will
be free indeed" (John 8:36). To receive Jesus is to believe this that God
tells us in His Word about Him, to believe that He did rise from the dead, to
believe that He does now live, to believe that He has power to keep us from
falling, to believe that He has power to keep us from the power of sin day by
day, and just trust Him to do it.
This is the secret of daily victory over sin. If we try to fight sin in our
own strength, we are bound to fail. If we just look up to the risen Christ
to keep us every day and every hour, He will keep us. Through the crucified
Christ we get deliverance from the guilt of sin, our sins are all blotted
out, we are free from all condemnation; but it is through the risen Christ
that we get daily victory over the power of sin. Some receive Christ as a
sin-bearer and thus find pardon, but do not get beyond that, and so their
life is one of daily failure. Others receive Him as their risen Savior also,
and thus enter into an experience of victory over sin. To begin right we
must take Him not only as our sin-bearer, and thus find pardon; but we must
also take Him as our risen Savior, our Deliverer from the power of sin, our
Keeper, and thus find daily victory over sin.
3. But God offers Jesus to us, not only as our sin-bearer and our Deliverer
from the power of sin, but also as our Lord and King. We read in Acts 2:36,
"Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you
crucified, both Lord and Christ." Lord means Divine Master, and Christ means
anointed King. To receive Jesus is to take Him as our Divine Master, as the
One to whom we yield the absolute confidence of our intellects, the One whose
word we believe absolutely, the One whom we will believe, though many of the
wisest of men may question or deny the truth of His teachings; and as our
King to whom we gladly yield the absolute control of our lives, so that the
question from this time on is never going to be, What would I like to do or
what do others tell me to do, or what do others do? but "What would my King
Jesus have me do?" A right beginning involves an unconditional surrender to
the Lordship and Kingship of Jesus.
The failure to realize that Jesus is Lord and King, as well as Savior, has
led to many a false start in the Christian life. We begin with Him as our
Savior, as our sin-bearer and our Deliverer from the power of sin, but we
must not end with Him merely as Savior; we must know Him as Lord and King.
There is nothing more important in a right beginning of the Christian life
than an unconditional surrender, both of the thoughts and the conduct, to
Jesus. Say from your heart and say it again and again, "All for Jesus."
Many fail because they shrink back from this entire surrender. They wish to
serve Jesus with half their heart, and part of themselves, and part of their
possessions. To hold back anything from Jesus means a wretched life of
stumbling and failure.
The life of entire surrender is a joyous life all along the way. If you have
never done it before, go alone with God today; get down on your knees, and
say, "All for Jesus," and mean it. Say it very earnestly; say it from the
bottom of your heart. Stay on your knees until you realize what it means and
what you are doing. It is a wondrous step forward when one really takes it.
If you have taken it already, take it again, take it often. It always has
fresh meaning and brings fresh blessedness. In this absolute surrender is
found the key to the truth. Doubts rapidly disappear for one who surrenders
all (John 7:17). In this absolute surrender is found the secret of power in
prayer (1 John 3:22). In this absolute surrender is found the supreme
condition of receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32).
Taking Christ as your Lord and King involves obedience to His will, so far as
you know it, in each smallest detail of life. There are those who tell us
that they have taken Christ as their Lord and King who at the same time are
disobeying Him daily in business, in domestic life, in social life, and in
personal conduct. Such persons are deceiving themselves. You have not taken
Jesus as your Lord and King if you are not striving to obey Him in everything
each day. He Himself says, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do
what I say?" (Luke 6:46).
To sum it all up, the right way to begin the Christian life is to accept
Jesus Christ as your sin-bearer and to trust God to forgive your sins because
Jesus Christ died in your place; to accept Him as your risen Savior who ever
lives to make intercession for you, and who has all power to keep you, and to
trust Him to keep you from day to day; and to accept Him as your Lord and
King to whom you surrender the absolute control of your thoughts and of your
life. This is the right beginning, the only right beginning of the Christian
life. If you have made this beginning, all that follows will be
comparatively easy. If you have not made this beginning, make it now.
Looking To Jesus
R. A. Torrey
If we are to run with patience the race that is set before us, we must always
keep looking to Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3). One of the simplest and yet one of
the mightiest secrets of abiding joy and victory is to never lose sight of
1. First of all, we must keep looking at Jesus as the ground of our
acceptance before God. Over and over again, Satan will make an attempt to
discourage us by bringing up our sins and failures and thus try to convince
us that we are not children of God, or not saved. If he succeeds in getting
us to keep looking at and brooding sins, he will soon get us discouraged, and
discouragement means failure. But if we will keep looking at what God looks
at, the death of Jesus Christ in our place that completely atones for every
sin that we ever committed, we will never be discouraged because of the
greatest of our sins. We shall see that while our sins are great, very
great, indeed they have all been atoned for. Every time Satan brings up one
of our sins, we shall see that Jesus Christ has redeemed us from its curse by
being made a curse in our place (Galatians 3:13). We shall see that while in
ourselves we are full of unrighteousness, nevertheless in Christ we are made
the righteousness of God, because Christ was made to be sin in our place (2
Corinthians 5:21). We will see that every sin that Satan taunts us about has
been borne and settled forever (1 Peter 2:24; Isaiah 53:6). We shall always
be able to sing,
Jesus paid my debt,
All the debt I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
If you are this moment troubled about any sin that you have ever committed,
either in the past or in the present, just look at Jesus on the cross;
believe what God tells you about Him, that this sin which troubles you was
laid upon Him (Isaiah 53:6). Thank God that the sin is all settled, be full
of gratitude to Jesus, who bore it in your place, and worry about it no more.
It is an act of base ingratitude to God to brood over sins that He in His
infinite love has canceled. Keep looking at Christ on the cross and walk
always in the sunlight of God's favor. This favor of God has been purchased
for you at great cost. Gratitude demands that you should always believe in
it and walk in the light of it.
2. In the second place, we must keep looking at Jesus as our risen Savior,
who has all power in heaven and on earth and is able to keep us every day and
every hour. Are you tempted to do some wrong at this moment? If you are,
remember that Jesus rose from the dead, remember that at this moment He is
living at the right hand of God in the glory; remember that He has all power
in heaven and on earth, and that, therefore, He can give you victory right
now. Believe what God tells you in His Word, that Jesus has power to save
you this moment "completely" (Hebrews 7:25). Believe that He has power to
give you victory over that sin that now besets you. Ask Him to give you
victory; expect Him to do it. In this way, by looking unto the risen Christ
for victory, you may have victory over sin every day, every hour, every
moment. "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead" (2 Timothy 2:8).
God has called every one of us to a victorious life, and the secret of this
victorious life is always looking to the risen Christ for victory. Through
looking to Christ crucified we obtain pardon and enjoy peace. Through
looking to the risen Christ we obtain present victory over the power of sin.
If you have lost sight of the risen Christ and have yielded to temptation,
confess your sin and know that it is forgiven because God says so (1 John
1:9), and look to Jesus, the risen One, again to give you victory now, and
keep looking to Him.
3. In the third place, we must keep looking to Jesus as the One whom we
should follow in our daily conduct. Our Lord Jesus says to us, His disciples
today, as He said to His early disciples, "Follow me." The whole secret of
true Christian conduct can be summed up in these two words "Follow me."
"Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" (1 John 2:6). One of
the commonest causes of failure in Christian life is found in the attempt to
follow some good man whom we greatly admire. No man and no woman, no matter
how good, can be safely followed. If we follow any man or woman, we are
bound to go astray. There has been but one absolutely perfect Man on this
earth--the Man Christ Jesus. If we try to follow any other man we are surer
to imitate his faults than his excellencies. Look to Jesus and Jesus only as
If at any time you are in any perplexity as to what to do, simply ask the
question, What would Jesus do? Ask God by His Holy Spirit to show you what
Jesus would do. Study your Bible to find out what Jesus did do, and follow
Him. Even though no one else seems to be following Jesus, be sure that you
follow Him. Do not spend your time or thought in criticizing others because
they do not follow Jesus. See that you follow Him yourself. When you are
wasting your time criticizing others for not following Jesus, Jesus is always
saying to you, "What is that to you? You must follow me" (John 21:22). The
question for you is not what following Jesus may involve for other people.
The question is, What does following Jesus mean for you?
This is the really simple life, the life of simply following Jesus. Many
perplexing questions will come to you, but the most perplexing question will
soon become as clear as day if you determine with all your heart to follow
Jesus in everything. Satan will always be ready to whisper to you, "Such and
such a good man does it," but all you need to do is to answer, "It matters
not to me what this or that man may do or not do. The only question to me
is, What would Jesus do?" There is wonderful freedom in this life of simply
following Jesus. This path is straight and plain. But the path of him who
tries to shape his conduct by observing the conduct of others is full of
twists and turns and pitfalls. Keep looking at Jesus. Follow on trustingly
where He leads. This is the path of the righteous, shining ever brighter
till the full light of day (Proverbs 4:18). He is the Light of the world,
anyone who follows Him shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light
of life all along the way (John 8:12).
The Personality of the Holy Spirit
R. A. Torrey
Before one can correctly understand the work of the Holy Spirit, he must
first of all know the Spirit himself. A frequent source of error and
fanaticism about the work of the Holy Spirit is the attempt to study and
understand His work without, first of all, coming to know Him as a person.
It is of the highest importance from the standpoint of worship that we decide
whether the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, worthy to receive our adoration,
our faith, our love, and our entire surrender to Himself, or whether it is
simply an influence emanating from God or a power or an illumination that God
imparts to us. If the Holy Spirit is a person, and a Divine Person, and we
do not know Him as such, then we are robbing a Divine Being of the worship
and the faith and the love and the surrender to Himself which are His due.
It is also of the highest importance from the practical standpoint that we
decide whether the Holy Spirit is merely some mysterious and wonderful power
that we in our weakness and ignorance are, somehow, to get hold of and use,
or whether the Holy Spirit is a real Person, infinitely holy, infinitely
wise, infinitely mighty and infinitely tender, who is to get hold of and use
us. The former conception is utterly heathenish, not essentially different
from the thought of the African fetish worshiper who has his god whom he
uses. The latter conception is sublime and Christian.
If we think of the Holy Spirit, as so many do, as merely a power of
influence, our constant thought will be, "How can I get more of the Holy
Spirit?" But if we think of Him in the Biblical way as a Divine Person, our
thought will rather be, "How can the Holy Spirit have more of me?" The
conception of the Holy Spirit as a Divine influence or power that somehow, we
are to get hold of and use, leads to self-exaltation and self-sufficiency.
One who so thinks of the Holy Spirit and who at the same time imagines that
he has received the Holy Spirit will almost inevitably be full of spiritual
pride and strut about as if he belonged to some superior order of Christians.
One frequently hears such persons say, "I am a Holy Spirit man," or "I am a
Holy Spirit woman." But if we once grasp the thought that the Holy Spirit is
a Divine Person of infinite majesty, glory and holiness and power, who in
marvelous condescension has come into our hearts to make His abode there and
take possession of our lives and make use of them, it will put us in the dust
and keep us in the dust. I can think of no thought more humbling or more
overwhelming than the thought that a person of Divine majesty and glory
dwells in my heart and is ready to use even me.
It is of the highest importance from the standpoint of experience that we
know the Holy Spirit as a person. Thousands and tens of thousands of men and
women can testify to the blessing that has come into their own lives as they
have come to know the Holy Spirit, not merely as a gracious influence
(emanating, it is true, from God), but as a real Person, just as real as
Jesus Christ Himself, an ever-present, loving Friend and mighty Helper, who
is not only always by their side but dwells in their heart every day and
every hour, and who is ready to undertake for them in every emergency of
life. Thousands of ministers, Christian workers and Christians in the
humblest spheres of life have spoken to me, or written to me, of the complete
transformation of their Christian experience that came to them when they
grasped the thought (not merely in a theological, but in an experimental way)
that the Holy Spirit was a Person, and consequently came to know Him.
There are at least four distinct lines of proof in the Bible that the Holy
Spirit is a person.
1. All the distinctive characteristics of personality are ascribed to the
Holy Spirit in the Bible.
What are the distinctive characteristics, or marks, of personality?
Knowledge, feeling, or emotion, and will. Any entity that thinks and feels
and wills is a person. When we say that the Holy Spirit is a person, there
are those who understand us to mean that the Holy Spirit has hands and feet
and eyes and ears and mouth, and so on, but these are not the characteristics
of personality but of bodily existence. All of these characteristics or
marks of personality are repeatedly ascribed to the Holy Spirit in the Old
and New Testaments. We read in 1 Corinthians 2:10, 11, "But God has revealed
it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things
of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's
spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except
the Spirit of God." Here knowledge is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. We are
clearly taught that the Holy Spirit is not merely an influence that
illuminates our minds to comprehend the truth but a Being who Himself knows
In 1 Corinthians 12:11, we read, "All these are the work of one and the same
Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines." Here will is
ascribed to the Spirit and we are taught that the Holy Spirit is not a power
that we get hold of and use according to our will but a Person of sovereign
majesty, who uses us according to His will. This distinction is of
fundamental importance in getting into right relations with the Holy Spirit.
It is at this very point that many honest seekers after power and efficiency
in service go astray. They are reaching out after, and struggling to get,
possession of some mysterious and mighty power that they can make use of in
their work according to their own will. They will never get possession of
the power they seek until they come to recognize that there is not some
Divine power for them to get hold of and use in their blindness and
ignorance, but that there is a Person, infinitely wise, as well as infinitely
mighty, who is willing to take possession of them and use them according to
His own perfect will.
When we stop to think of it, we must rejoice that there is no Divine power
that beings so ignorant as we are, so liable to err, can get hold of and use.
How appalling might be the results if there were. But what a holy joy must
come into our hearts when we grasp the thought that there is a Divine Person,
One who never errs, who is willing to take possession of us and impart to us
such gifts as He sees best and to use us according to His wise and loving
We read in Romans 8:27, "He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the
Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's
will." In this passage mind is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. The Greek word
translated "mind" is a comprehensive word, including the ideas of thought,
feeling, and purpose. It is the same that is used in Romans 8:7, where we
read that "the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's
law, nor can it do so." So, then, in this passage we have all the
distinctive marks of personality ascribed to the Holy Spirit.
We find the personality of the Holy Spirit brought out in a most touching and
suggestive way in Romans 15:30, "I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus
Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to
God for me." Here we have "love" ascribed to the Holy Spirit. The reader
would do well to stop and ponder those five words, "the love of the Spirit."
We dwell often on the love of God the Father. It is the subject of our daily
and constant thought.
We dwell often on the love of Jesus Christ the Son. Who would think of
calling himself a Christian who passed a day without meditating on the love
of his Savior, but how often have we meditated on "the love of the Spirit"?
Each day of our lives, if we are living as Christians ought, we kneel down in
the presence of God the Father and look up into His face and say, "I thank
You, Father, for Your great love that led You to give Your only Son to die on
the cross of Calvary for me." Each day of our lives we also look up into the
face of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and say, "Oh, glorious Lord and
Savior, Jesus, Son of God, I thank You for Your great love that led You not
to count it a thing to be grasped to be equal with God but to empty Yourself
and, forsaking all the glory of heaven, come down to earth with all its shame
and to take my sins upon Yourself and die in my place on the cross of
But how often do we kneel and say to the Holy Spirit, "Oh, eternal and
infinite Spirit of God, I thank You for Your great love that led You to come
into this world of sin and darkness and to seek me out and to follow me so
patiently until You brought me to see my utter ruin and need of a Savior and
to reveal to me my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as just the Savior whom I
need"? Yet we owe our salvation just as truly to the love of the Spirit as
to the love of the Father and the love of the Son. If it had not been for
the love of God the Father looking down on me in my utter ruin and providing
a perfect atonement for me in the death of His own Son on the cross of
Calvary, I would have been in hell today.
If it had not been for the love of Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God,
looking on me in my utter ruin and in obedience to the Father, putting aside
all the glory of heaven for all the shame of earth and taking my place, the
place of the curse on the cross of Calvary and pouring out His life utterly
for me, I would have been in hell today. If it had not been for the love of
the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in answer to the prayer of the Son (John
14:16), leading Him to seek me out in my utter blindness and ruin and to
follow me day after day, week after week, and year after year, when I
persistently turned a deaf ear to His pleadings, following me through paths
of sin where it must have been agony for that Holy One to go, until at last I
listened and He opened my eyes to see my utter ruin and then revealed Jesus
to me as just the Savior that would meet my every need and then enabled me to
receive this Jesus as my own Savior; if it had not been for this patient,
long-suffering, never-tiring, infinitely tender love of the Holy Spirit, I
would have been in hell today. Oh, the Holy Spirit is not merely an
influence or a power or an illumination, but is a Person just as real as God
the Father or Jesus Christ His Son.
The personality of the Holy Spirit comes out in the Old Testament as truly as
in the New, for we read in Nehemiah 9:20, "You gave your good Spirit to
instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you
gave them water for their thirst." Here both intelligence and goodness are
ascribed to the Holy Spirit. There are some who tell us that while it is
true the personality of the Holy Spirit is found in the New Testament, it is
not found in the Old. But it is certainly found in this passage. As a
matter of course, the doctrine of the personality of the Holy Spirit is not
so fully developed in the Old Testament as in the New. But the doctrine is
There is perhaps no passage in the entire Bible in which the personality of
the Holy Spirit comes out more tenderly and touchingly than in Ephesians
4:30, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for
the day of redemption." Here grief is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. The Holy
Spirit is not a blind, impersonal influence or power that comes into our
lives to illuminate, sanctify, and empower them. No, He is immeasurably more
than that, He is a holy Person, who comes to dwell in our hearts, One who
sees clearly every act we perform? every word we speak, every thought we
entertain, even the most fleeting fancy that is allowed to pass through our
minds; and if there is anything in act, or word or deed that is impure,
unholy, unkind, selfish, mean, petty or untrue, this infinitely holy One is
deeply grieved by it. I know of no thought that will help one more than this
to lead a holy life and to walk softly in the presence of the holy One.
How often a young man is kept back from yielding to the temptations that
surround young manhood by the thought that if he should yield to the
temptation that now assails him, his holy mother might hear of it and would
be grieved by it beyond expression. How often some young man has had his
hand on the door of some place of sin that he is about to enter and the
thought has come to him, "If I should enter there, my mother might hear of it
and it would nearly kill her," and he has turned his back on that door and
gone away to lead a pure life, that he might not grieve his mother. But
there is One who is holier than any mother, One who is more sensitive against
sin than the purest woman who ever walked this earth, and who loves us as
even no mother ever loved. This One dwells in our hearts, if we are really
Christians, and He sees every act we do by day or under cover of the night;
He hears every word we utter in public or in private; He sees every thought
we entertain, He beholds every fancy and imagination that is permitted even a
momentary thoughts in our mind, and if there is anything unholy, impure,
selfish, mean, petty, unkind, harsh, unjust, or any evil act or word or
thought or fancy, He is grieved by it.
If we will allow those words, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God," to sink
into our hearts and become the motto of our lives they will keep us from many
a sin. How often some thought or fancy has knocked for an entrance into my
own mind and was about to find entertainment when the thought has come, "The
Holy Spirit sees that thought and will be grieved by it," and that thought
2. Many acts that only a Person can perform are ascribed to the Holy Spirit.
If we deny the personality of the Holy Spirit, many passages of Scripture
become meaningless and absurd. For example, we read in 1 Corinthians 2:10,
"But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all
things, even the deep things of God." This passage sets before us the Holy
Spirit, not merely as an illumination whereby we are enabled to grasp the
deep things of God, but a Person who Himself searches the deep things of God
and then reveals to us the precious discoveries which He has made.
We read in Revelation 2:7, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit
says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from
the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." Here the Holy Spirit is
set before us, not merely as an impersonal enlightenment that comes to our
mind but as a Person who speaks and out of the depths of His own wisdom
whispers into the ear of His listening servant the precious truth of God.
In Galatians 4:6, we read, "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his
Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.'" Here the Holy
Spirit is represented as crying out in the heart of the individual believer.
Not merely a Divine influence producing in our own hearts the assurance of
our sonship, but one who cries out in our hearts, who bears witness together
with our spirit that we are sons of God. (See also Romans 8:16)
The Holy Spirit is also represented in the Scripture as one who prays. We
read in Romans 8:26, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes
for us with groans that words cannot express." It is plain from this passage
that the Holy Spirit is not merely an influence that moves us to pray, not
merely an illumination that teaches us how to pray, but a Person who Himself
prays in and through us. There is wondrous comfort in the thought that every
true believer has two Divine Persons praying for him, Jesus Christ, the Son
who was once on this earth, who knows all about our temptations, who can be
touched with the feeling of our infirmities and who is now ascended to the
right hand of the Father and in that place of authority and power ever lives
to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1); and another Person,
just as Divine as the Son, who walks by our side each day, yes, who dwells in
the innermost depths of our being and knows our needs, even as we do not know
them ourselves, and from these depths makes intercession to the Father for
us. The position of the believer is indeed one of perfect security with
these two Divine Persons praying for him.
We read again in John 15:26, "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to
you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he
will testify about me." Here the Holy Spirit is set before us as a Person
who gives His testimony to Jesus Christ, not merely as an illumination that
enables the believer to testify of Christ, but as a Person who Himself
testifies; and a clear distinction is drawn in this and the following verse
between the testimony of the Holy Spirit and the testimony of the believer to
whom He has borne His witness, for we read in the next verse, "And you also
must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning." So there are
two witnesses, the Holy Spirit bearing witness to the believer, and the
believer bearing witness to the world.
The Holy Spirit is also spoken of as a teacher. We read in John 14:26, "But
the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will
teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."
And in a similar way, we read in John 16:12-14, "I have much more to say to
you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he
will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak
only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring
glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you." And in
the Old Testament, Nehemiah 9:20, "You gave your good Spirit to instruct
them." In all these passages it is perfectly clear that the Holy Spirit is
not a mere illumination that enables us to apprehend the truth, but a Person
who comes to us to teach us day by day the truth of God. It is the privilege
of the humblest believer in Jesus Christ, not merely to have his mind
illumined to comprehend the truth of God, but to have a Divine Teacher to
teach him daily the truth he needs to know (cf. 1 John 2:20, 27).
The Holy Spirit is also represented as the Leader and Guide of the children
of God. We read in Romans 8:14, "Because those who are led by the Spirit of
God are sons of God." He is not merely an influence that enables us to see
the way that God would have us go, nor merely a power that gives us strength
to go that way, but a Person who takes us by the hand and gently leads us on
in the paths in which God would have us walk.
The Holy Spirit is also represented as a Person who has authority to command
men in their service of Jesus Christ. We read of the Apostle Paul and his
companions in Acts 16:6, 7, "Paul and his companions traveled throughout the
region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from
preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of
Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow
them to." Here it is a Person who takes the direction of the conduct of Paul
and his companions and a Person whose authority they recognize and to whom
they instantly submit.
Further still than this, the Holy Spirit is represented as the One who is the
supreme authority in the church, who calls men to work and appoints them to
office. We read in Acts 13:2, "While they were worshiping the Lord and
fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the
work to which I have called them.'" And in Acts 20:28, "Keep watch over
yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.
Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood."
There can be no doubt to a candid seeker after truth that it is a Person, and
a person of Divine majesty and sovereignty, who is here set before us.
From all the passages here quoted, it is evident that many acts that only a
person can perform are ascribed to the Holy Spirit.
3. An office is predicated of the Holy Spirit that can be predicated only of
Our Savior says in John 14:16, 17, "I will ask the Father, and he will give
you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth. The world
cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know
him, for he lives with you and will be in you." Our Lord had announced to
the disciples that He was about to leave them. An awful sense of desolation
took possession of them. Sorrow filled their hearts (John 16:6) at the
contemplation of their loneliness and absolute helplessness when Jesus should
thus leave them alone. To comfort them the Lord tells them that they shall
not be left alone, that in leaving them He was going to the Father and that
He would pray the Father, who would give them another Comforter to take the
place of Himself during His absence. Is it possible that Jesus Christ could
have used such language if the other Comforter who was coming to take His
place was only an impersonal influence or power? Still more, is it possible
that Jesus could have said as He did in John 16:7, "But I tell you the truth:
It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor
will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you," if this Comforter
whom He was to send was simply an impersonal influence or power? No, one
Divine Person was going, another Person just as Divine was coming to take His
place, and it was expedient for the disciples that the One go to represent
them before the Father, for another just as Divine and sufficient was coming
to take His place. This promise of our Lord and Savior of the coming of the
other Comforter and of His abiding with us is the greatest and best of all
for the present dispensation. This is the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4),
the promise of promises. We shall take it up again when we come to study the
names of the Holy Spirit.
4. A treatment is predicated of the Holy Spirit that could be predicated
only of a Person.
We read in Isaiah 63:10, "Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So
he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them." Here
we are told that the Holy Spirit is rebelled against and grieved (cf.
Ephesians 4:30). Only a person can be rebelled against and only a person of
authority. Only a person can be grieved. You cannot grieve a mere influence
or power. In Hebrews 10:29, we read, "How much more severely do you think a
man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who
has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him,
and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?" Here we are told that the Holy
Spirit is "insulted." There is but one kind of entity in the universe that
can be insulted and that is a person. It is absurd to think of insulting an
influence or a power or any kind of being except a person. We read again in
Acts 5:3, "Then Peter said, 'Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your
heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some
of the money you received for the land?'" Here we have the Holy Spirit
represented as one who can be lied to. One cannot lie to anything but a
In Matthew 12:31, 32, we read, "And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy
will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be
forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,
but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in
this age or in the age to come." Here we are told that the Holy Spirit is
blasphemed against. It is impossible to blaspheme anything but a person. If
the Holy Spirit is not a person, it certainly cannot be a more serious and
decisive sin to blaspheme Him than it is to blaspheme the Son of man, our
Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ Himself.
Here, then, we have four distinctive and decisive lines of proof that the
Holy Spirit is a Person. Theoretically most of us believe this, but do we,
in our real thoughts of Him and in our practical attitude toward Him, treat
Him as if He were indeed a Person? At the close of an address on the
Personality of the Holy Spirit at a Bible conference some years ago, one who
had been a church member many years, a member of one of the most orthodox of
our modern denominations, said to me, "I never thought of It before as a
Person." Doubtless this Christian woman had often sung:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Doubtless she had often sung:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
World without end, Amen.
But it is one thing to sing words; it is quite another thing o realize the
meaning of what we sing. If this Christian woman had been questioned in
regard to her doctrine, she would doubtless have said that she believed that
there were three Persons in the Godhead--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--but a
theological confession is one thing, a practical realization of the truth we
confess is quite another. So the question is altogether necessary, no matter
how orthodox you may be in your creedal statements, Do you regard the Holy
Spirit as indeed as real a Person as Jesus Christ, as loving and wise and
strong, as worthy of your confidence and love and surrender as Jesus Christ
The Holy Spirit came into this world to be to the disciples of our Lord after
His departure, and to us, what Jesus Christ had been to them during the days
of His personal companionship with them (John 14:16, 17). Is He that to you?
Do you know Him? Every week in your life you hear the apostolic benediction,
"May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the
fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." (2 Corinthians 13:14), and
while you hear it, do you take in the significance of it? Do you know the
communion of the Holy Ghost? The fellowship of the Holy Ghost? The
partnership of the Holy Ghost? The comradeship of the Holy Ghost? The
intimate personal friendship of the Holy Ghost? Herein lies the whole secret
of a real Christian life, a life of liberty and joy and power and fullness.
To have as one's ever-present Friend, and to be conscious that one has as his
ever-present Friend, the Holy Spirit, and to surrender one's life in all its
departments entirely to His control, this is true Christian living. The
doctrine of the Personality of the Holy Spirit is as distinctive of the
religion that Jesus taught as the doctrines of the Deity and the atonement of
Jesus Christ Himself. But it is not enough to believe the doctrine--one must
know the Holy Spirit Himself. The whole purpose of this chapter (God help me
to say it reverently) is to introduce you to my Friend, the Holy Spirit.
The Power of Prayer
R. A. Torrey
"You do not have, because you do not ask God."
I bring you a message from God contained in ten short words. Nine of the
words are monosyllables, and the remaining word has but two syllables and is
one of the most familiar and most easily understood words in the English
language. Yet there is so much in these ten short, simple words that they
have transformed many a life and brought many an inefficient worker into a
place of great power.
I spoke on these ten words some years ago at a Bible conference in Central
New York. Some months after the conference I received a letter from the man
who had presided at the conference, one of the best known ministers of the
Gospel in America. He wrote me: "I have been unable to get away from the ten
words upon which you spoke at Lake Keuka; they have been with me day and
night. They have transformed my ideas, transformed my methods, transformed
my life, and, I think I have a right to add, transformed my ministry." Since
he wrote those words the man has been the pastor of what is probably the most
widely known of any evangelical church in the world. I trust that the words
may sink into some of your hearts today as they sank into his on that
occasion, and that some of you will be able to say in future months and
years, "I have been unable to get away from those ten words, they have been
with me day and night. They have transformed my ideas, transformed my
methods, transformed my life, and transformed my service for God."
You will find these ten words in James 4:2, the ten closing words of the
verse, "You do not have, because you do not ask God."
These ten words contain the secret of the poverty and powerlessness of the
average Christian, of the average minister, and of the average church. "Why
is it," many a Christian is asking, "that I make such poor progress in my
Christian life? Why do I have so little victory over sin? Why do I win so
few souls to Christ? Why do I grow so slowly into the likeness of my Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ?" And God answers in the words of our text
--"Neglect of prayer. You do not have, because you do not ask God."
"Why is it," many a minister is asking, "that I see so little fruit from my
ministry? Why are there so few conversions? Why does my church grow so
slowly? Why are the members of my church so little helped by my ministry,
and built up so little in Christian knowledge and life?" And again God
replies: "Neglect of prayer. You do not have, because you do not ask God."
"Why is it," both ministers and churches are asking, "that the Church of
Jesus Christ is making such slow progress in the world today? Why does it
make so little headway against sin, against unbelief, against error in all
its forms? Why does it have so little victory over the world, the flesh, and
the devil? Why is the average church member living on such a low plane of
Christian living? Why does the Lord Jesus Christ get so little honor from
the state of the Church today?" And, again, God replies: "Neglect of prayer.
You do not have, because you do not ask God."
When we read the only inspired church history that ever was written, the
history of the Church in the days of the Apostles as it is recorded by Luke
(under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) in the Acts of the Apostles, what
do we find? We find a story of constant victory, a story of perpetual
progress. We read, for example, such as this in Acts 2:47, "The Lord added to
their number daily those who were being saved," and such statements as this
in Acts 4:4, "But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men
grew to about five thousand," and such statements as this in Acts 5:14,
"Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were
added to their number." And such statements as this in Acts 6:7, "So the word
of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a
large number of priests became obedient to the faith."
And so we go on, chapter after chapter, through the twenty-eight chapters of
the book, and in every one of the twenty-seven chapters after the first we
find the same note of victory. I once went through the Acts of the Apostles
marking the note of victory in every chapter, and without one single
exception the triumphant shout of victory rang out in every chapter. How
different the history of the Church as here recorded is from the history of
the Church of Jesus Christ today. Take, for example, that first statement,
"The Lord added to their number daily [that is, every day, or, as the Revised
Version puts it, "day by day"] those who were being saved." Why, nowadays if
we have a revival once a year with an accession of fifty or sixty members and
spend all the rest of the year slipping back to where we were before, we
think we are doing pretty well. But in those days there was a revival all
the time and accessions every day of those who not only "made professions"
but" who were [really] being saved."
Why this difference between the Early Church and the Church of Jesus Christ
today? Someone will answer, "Because there is so much opposition today."
Ah, but there was opposition in those days: most bitter, most determined,
most relentless opposition, opposition in comparison with which that which
you and I meet today is but child's play. But the Early Church went right on
beating down all opposition, surmounting every obstacle, conquering every
foe, always victorious, right on without a setback from Jerusalem to Rome, in
the face of the most firmly entrenched and most mighty heathenism and
unbelief. I repeat the question--"Why was it?" If you will turn to the
chapters from which I have already quoted, you will get your answer.
Turn, for example, to the first chapter from which I quoted, Acts 2, and read
the 42nd verse: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the
fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." That is a picture, very
brief but very suggestive, of the Early Church. It was a praying church. It
was a church in which they prayed not merely occasionally, but in which they
all "continued steadfastly . . . in the prayers." They all prayed, not a
select few, but the whole membership of the church; and all prayed
continuously with steadfast determination. "They gave themselves to prayer,"
as the same Greek word is translated in Acts 6:4. Now turn to the last
chapter from which I quoted, the sixth chapter, verse 4, and you will get the
rest of your answer. "We will give our attention to prayer." That is a
picture of the Apostolic ministry, it was a praying ministry, and a ministry
that "gave themselves continually to prayer," or, to translate that Greek
word as it is translated in the former passage (Acts 2:42), "They continued
steadfastly in prayer." A praying church and a praying ministry! Ah, such a
church and such a ministry can achieve anything that ought to be achieved.
It will go steadily on beating down all opposition, surmounting every
obstacle, conquering every foe, just as much today as it did in the days of
There is nothing else in which the church of today, and the ministry of
today, or, to be more explicit, in which you and I, have departed more
notably and more lamentably from apostolic precedent than in this matter of
prayer. We do not live in a praying age. A very considerable proportion of
the membership of our evangelical churches today do not believe even
theoretically in prayer, that is, they do not believe in prayer as bringing
anything to pass that would not have come to pass even if they had not
prayed. They believe in prayer as having a beneficial "reflex influence,"
that is, as benefiting the person who prays, a sort of lifting yourself up by
your spiritual boot-straps, but as for prayer bringing anything to pass that
would not have come to pass if we had not prayed, they do not believe in it
and many of them frankly say so, and even some of our "modern ministers" say
And with that part of our church membership that does believe in prayer
theoretically--and, thank God, I believe it is still the vast majority in our
evangelical churches--even they do not make the use of this mighty instrument
that God has put into our hands that one would naturally expect. As I said,
we do not live in a praying age. We live in an age of hustle and bustle, of
man's efforts and man's determination, of man's confidence in himself and in
his own power to achieve things, an age of human organization, and human
machinery, and human push, and human scheming, and human achievement, which
in the things of God means no real achievement at all. I think it would be
perfectly safe to say that the Church of Christ was never in all its history
so fully and so skillfully--and so thoroughly and so perfectly organized as
it is today. Our machinery is wonderful, it is just perfect, but, alas, it
is machinery without power; and when things do not go right, instead of going
to the real source of our failure, our neglect to depend on God and to look
to God for power, we glance around to see if there is not some new
organization we can get up, some new wheel that we can add to our machinery.
We have altogether too many wheels already. What we need is not so much some
new organization, some new wheel, but "the Spirit of the living creature in
the wheels" we already possess.
I believe that the devil stands and looks at the church today and laughs in
his sleeve as he sees how its members depend on their own scheming and powers
of organization and skillfully devised machinery. "Ha, ha," he laughs, "you
may have your Y.M.C.A.'s, and Y.W.C.A.'s, and your W.C.T.U.'s, and
Y.P.S.C.E.'s, and B.Y.P.U.'s, and your Boy Scouts, and your costly church
edifices, and your fifty-thousand-dollar church organs, and your brilliant
university-bred preachers, and your high-priced choirs, and your gifted
sopranos, and altos, and tenors, and basses, and your wonderful quartets;
your immense Men's Bible Classes, yes, and your Bible Conferences, and your
Bible Institutes, and your special evangelistic services, all you please of
them, but it does not in the least trouble me if only you will leave out of
them the power of the Lord God Almighty sought and obtained by the earnest,
persistent, believing prayer that will not take 'no' for an answer." But when
the devil sees a man or woman who really believes in prayer, who knows how to
pray, and who really does pray, and, above all, when he sees a whole church
on its face before God in prayer, "he trembles" as much as he ever did, for
he knows that his day in that church or community is at an end.
Prayer has as much power today, when men and women are themselves on praying
ground and meeting the conditions of prevailing prayer, as it ever has had.
God has not changed, and His ear is just as quick to hear the voice of real
prayer and His hand is just as long and strong to save as they ever were.
"Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to
hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have
hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear" (Isaiah 59:1, 2). Prayer
is the key that unlocks all the storehouses of God's infinite grace and
power. All that God is, and all that God has, is at the disposal of prayer.
But we must use the key. Prayer can do anything that God can do, and as God
can do anything, prayer is omnipotent. No one can stand against the man who
knows how to pray and who meets all the conditions of prevailing prayer and
who really prays. "The Lord God omnipotent" works for him and works through
I. Prayer Will Promote Our Personal Holiness as Nothing Else, Except the
Study of the Word of God
But what, specifically, will prayer do? We have been dealing in
generalities; let us come down to the definite and specific. The Word of God
very plainly answers the question.
In the first place, prayer will promote our personal piety, our individual
holiness, our individual growth into the likeness of Our Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ as almost nothing else, as nothing else but the study of the
Word of God; and these two things, prayer and study of the Word of God,
always go hand in hand, for there is not true prayer without study of the
Word of God, and there is no true study of the Word of God without prayer.
Other things being equal, your growth and mine into the likeness of our Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ will be in exact proportion to the time and to the
heart we put into prayer. Please note exactly what I say: "Your growth and
mine into the likeness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be in exact
proportion to the time and to the heart we put into prayer." I put it in
that way because there are many who put a great deal of time into praying but
they put so little heart into their praying that they do very little praying
in the long time they spend at it; while there are others who perhaps may not
put so much time into praying but who put so much heart into their praying
that they accomplish vastly more by their praying in a short time than the
others accomplish by their praying a long time. God Himself has told us in
Jeremiah 29:13, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your
We are told in the Word of God in Ephesians 1:3 that God has blessed us with
every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. That is to say,
that Jesus Christ, by His atoning death and by His resurrection and ascension
to the right hand of the Father, has obtained for every believer in Jesus
Christ every possible spiritual blessing.
There is no spiritual blessing that any believer enjoys that may not be
yours. It belongs to you now, Christ purchased it by His atoning death, and
God has provided it in Him. It is there for you; but it is your part to
claim it, to put out your hand and take it, and God's appointed way of claim
ing blessings, or putting out your hand and appropriating to yourself the
blessings that are procured for you by the atoning death of Jesus Christ, is
by prayer. Prayer is the hand that takes to ourselves the blessings that God
has already provided in His Son.
Go through your Bible and you will find it definitely stated that every
conceivable spiritual blessing is obtained by prayer. For example, it is in
answer to prayer, as we learn from Psalm 139:23, 24, that God searches us and
knows our hearts, tries us and knows our thoughts, brings to light the sin
that there is in us, and delivers us from it. It is in answer to prayer, as
we learn from Psalm 19:12, 13, that we are cleansed from secret faults and
God keeps us back from presumptuous sins. It is in answer to prayer, as we
learn from the 14th verse of the same Psalm, that "May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and
my Redeemer." It is in answer to prayer, as we learn from the 25th Psalm,
verses 4 and 5, that God shows us His ways and teaches us His path, and
guides us in His truth. It is in answer to prayer, as we learn from the
prayer our Lord Himself taught us, that we are kept from temptation and
delivered from the power of the wicked one (Matthew 6:13). It is in answer to
prayer, as we learn from Luke 11:13, that God gives us His Holy Spirit. And
so we might go on through the whole catalog of spiritual blessings, and we
would find that every one is obtained by asking for it. Indeed, our Lord
Himself said in Matthew 7:11, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to
give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven
give good gifts to those who ask him!"
One of the most instructive and suggestive passages in the entire Bible as
showing the mighty power of prayer to transform us into the likeness of our
Lord Jesus Himself, is found in 2 Corinthians 3:18, "And we, who with
unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his
likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the
Spirit." The thought is this, that the Lord is the sun, you and I mirrors,
and just as a mischievous boy on a bright sunshiny day will catch the rays of
the sun in a piece of broken looking-glass and reflect them into your eyes
and mine with almost blinding power, so we as mirrors, when we commune with
God, catch the rays of His moral glory and reflect them out on the world
"from glory to glory," that is, each new time we commune with Him we catch
something new of His glory and reflect it out on the world.
Do You remember the story of Moses, not "folklore" as some would have us be
lieve, but actual history, how he went up to the mountain and tarried alone
for forty days with God, gazing on that ineffable glory, and caught so much
of the glory in his own face that when he came down from the mountain, though
he did not know it, his face shone so much that he had to put a veil over it
to hide the blinding glory of it from his fellow Israelites. Even so we,
going up to the mountain of prayer, away from the world, alone with God, and
remaining long alone with God, catch the rays of His glory so that when we
come down to our fellow men, it is not so much our faces that shine (though I
do believe that sometimes even our faces shine), as our characters, with the
glory that we have been beholding, and we reflect out on the world the moral
glory of God from "glory to glory," each new time of communion with Him
catching something new of His glory to reflect out on the world. Oh, here is
the secret of becoming much like God--remaining long alone with God. If you
won't stay long with Him you won't be much like Him.
One of the most remarkable men in Scotland's history was John Welch, son-in-
law of John Knox, the great Scotch reformer, not so well known as his famous
father-in-law but in some respects a far more remarkable man than John Knox
himself. Most people have the idea that it was John Knox who prayed: "Give
me Scotland or I die." It was not, it was John Welch, his son-in-law. John
Welch put it on record before he died that he counted that day ill spent that
he did not put seven or eight hours into secret prayer; and when John Welch
came to die, an old Scotchman who had known him from his boyhood said of him,
"John Welch was a type of Christ." Of course, that was an inaccurate use of
language, but what the old Scotchman meant was that Jesus Christ had stamped
the impress of His character on John Welch. When had Jesus Christ done it?
In those seven or eight hours of daily communion with Himself. I do not
suppose that God has called many of us, if any of us, to put seven or eight
hours a day into prayer, but I am confident God has called most of us, if not
every one of us, to put more time into prayer than we now do. That is one of
the great secrets of holiness; indeed, the only way in which we can become
really holy and continue holy.
Some years ago we often sang a hymn, "Take Time to be Holy." I wish we sang
it more in these days. It takes time to be holy; one cannot be holy in a
hurry, and much of the time that it takes to be holy must go into secret
prayer. Some people express surprise that professing Christians today are so
little like their Lord, but when I stop to think how little time the average
Christian today puts into secret prayer the thing that astonishes me is, not
that we are so little like the Lord, but that we are as much like the Lord as
we are, when we take so little time for secret prayer.
II. Prayer Will Bring the Power of God into Our Work
But not only will prayer promote as almost nothing else our personal
holiness, but prayer will also bring the power of God into our work. We read
in Isaiah 40:31, "Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They
will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will
walk (plod along day after day, which is far harder than running or flying),
and not be faint."
It is the privilege of every child of God to have the power of God in his
service. And the verse just quoted tells us how to obtain it, and that is by
"hoping in the Lord." Sometimes you will hear people stand up in a meeting,
not so frequently perhaps in these days as in former days, and say, "I am
trying to serve God in my poor, weak way." Well, if you are trying to serve
God in your poor, weak way, quit it: your duty is to serve God in His strong,
triumphant way. But you say, "I have no natural ability"; then get
supernatural ability. The religion of Jesus Christ is a supernatural
religion from start to finish, and we should live our lives in supernatural
power, the power of God through Jesus Christ, and we should perform our
service with supernatural power, the power of God ministered by the Holy
Spirit through Jesus Christ. You say, "I have no natural gifts." Then get
supernatural gifts. The Holy Spirit is promised to every believer in order
that he may obtain the supernatural gifts which qualify him for the
particular service to which God calls him. "He (the Holy Spirit) gives to
each one [that is, to each and every believer] just as He determines"
(1 Corinthians 12:11). It is ours to have the power of God if only we will
seek it by prayer, in any and every line of service to which God calls us.
Are you a mother or a father? Do you wish power from God to bring your own
children up in the "training and instruction of the Lord"? God commands you
to do it, and especially commands the father to do it. God says in Ephesians
6:4, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the
training and instruction of the Lord."
Now, God never commands the impossible, and as He commands us fathers, and
the mothers also, to bring our children up in the training and instruction of
the Lord it is possible for us to do it. If any one of your children is not
saved, the first blame lies at your own door. Paul said to the jailer in
Philippi, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your
household" (Acts 16:31).
Yes, it is the solemn duty of every father and mother to have every one of
their children saved. But we can never accomplish it unless we are much in
prayer to God for power to do it. In my first pastorate I had as a member of
my church a most excellent Christian woman, but she had a little boy of six
who was one of the most incorrigible youngsters I ever knew in my life. He
was the terror of the community, the most difficult boy, I think, I ever
knew. One Sunday, at the close of the morning service, his mother came to me
and said: "You know--" calling her boy by his first name. "Yes," I replied,
"I know him." Everybody in town knew him. Then she said, "You know he is
not a very good boy." "Yes," I replied, "I know he is not a very good boy."
Indeed, that was a rather simple way of putting it; in point of fact, he was
the terror of the neighborhood. Then this heavy-hearted mother said, "What
shall I do?" I replied, "Have you ever tried prayer?" "Why," she said, "of
course I pray." "Oh," I said, "that is not what I mean. Have you ever asked
God definitely to regenerate your boy and expected Him to do it?" "I do not
think I have ever been as definite as that." "Well," I said, "you go right
home and be just as definite as that." She went home, she was just as
definite as that; and I think it was from that very day, certainly from that
week, that the boy was a transformed boy and so began to grow up into fine
Oh, mothers and fathers, it is your privilege to have every one of your
children saved. But it costs something to have them saved. It costs your
spending much time alone with God, to be much in prayer, and it costs also
your making those sacrifices, and straightening out those things in your life
that are wrong; it costs the fulfilling of the conditions of prevailing
prayer. And if any of you have unsaved children, when you go home today get
alone with God and ask God to show you what it is in your own life that is
responsible for the present condition of your children, and straighten it out
at once, and then get down alone before God and hold on to Him in earnest
prayer for the definite conversion of each one of your children, and do not
rest until, by prayer and by putting forth every effort, you know beyond
question that every one of your children is definitely and positively
converted and born again.
Are you a Sunday-school teacher? Do you wish to see every one of your
Sunday-school pupils converted? That is primarily what you are a Sunday-
school teacher for, not merely to teach Bible geography and Bible history, or
even Bible doctrine, but to get the pupils in your class, one and all, saved.
Do you want power from on high to enable you to save them? Ask God for it.
When Mr. Alexander and I were holding meetings in Sydney, Australia, the
meetings were held in the Town Hall, which seated about five thousand people.
But the crowds were so great that some days we had to divide the crowds and
have women only in the afternoon, and men only at night. One Sunday
afternoon the Sydney Town Hall was packed with women. When I gave out the
invitation for all who would accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior,
and surrender to Him as their Lord and Master, and begin to confess Him as
such before the world, and so strive to live from this time on as to please
Him in every way from day to day, over on my left a whole row of young women
of, I should say, about twenty years of age, rose to their feet, eighteen in
all. As I saw them stand side by side, I said to myself, "That is someone's
Bible class." Afterward they made a public confession of their acceptance of
Jesus Christ. When the meeting was over, a young lady came to me, her face
wreathed in smiles, and said, "That is my Bible class; I have been praying
for their conversion, and every one of them has accepted Jesus Christ today."
When we were holding meetings in Bristol, England, a prominent manufacturer
in Exeter had a Bible class of twenty-two men in that city. He invited all
of them to go to Bristol with him and hear me preach. Twenty-one of them
consented to go. At that meeting twenty of them accepted Christ. The
twenty-first accepted Christ in the train on the way home, and then they all,
on their return, gathered around the remaining one who would not go, and he
also accepted Christ. That manufacturer was praying for the conversion of
the members of his class and was willing to make the sacrifices necessary to
get his prayers answered. What a revival we would have here in this city if
all the Sunday-school teachers would go to praying the way they ought for the
conversion of every pupil in his or her class!
Are you in more public work, a preacher perhaps, or speaking from the public
platform? Do you long for power in that work? Ask for it. I shall never
forget a scene I witnessed many years ago in Boston. It was at the Inter
national Christian Workers' Convention, held in the old Tremont Temple,
seating thirty-five hundred people. It was my privilege to preside at the
convention. On a Saturday morning at eleven o'clock the Tremont Temple was
packed to its utmost capacity; every seat was taken, every inch of standing
room where men and women were allowed to stand was taken, and multitudes
outside were still clamoring for admission. The audience was as fine in its
quality as it was large in its numbers. As I looked back of me on the
platform, it seemed as if every leading minister and clergyman, not only of
Boston, but of New England, was on that platform. Looking down in front of
me, I saw seated there the leaders, not only in the church life, but in the
social and commercial and political life of Boston and the surrounding
I rose to announce the next speaker on the program, and my heart sank, for
the next speaker was a woman. In those days I had a prejudice against any
woman speaking in public under any circumstances. But this particular woman
was a professing Christian, and a Presbyterian at that (and I suppose that is
orthodox enough for most of us), but she had been what we call a "worldly
Christian," a dancing, card-playing, theater-going, low-necked-dress
Christian. She had had, however, an experience of which I had not heard.
One night, sitting in their beautiful home in New York City, for she was a
woman of wealth, she turned to her husband as he sat reading the evening
paper, and said: "Dear, I hear they are doing a good work down at Jerry
McAuley's Mission at 316 Water Street. Let's go down and help them." He was
a man of very much the same type as she was a woman, kind-hearted, generous,
but very much of a worldling. He laid aside his paper and said, "Well, let's
go." They put on their wraps and started for 316 Water Street.
When they got there they found the Mission Hall very full and took seats down
by the door. As they sat there and listened to one after another of those
rescued men, they were filled with new interest, a new world seemed opening
to them; and, at last, the woman turned to her husband and whispered, "I
guess they will have to help us instead of our helping them. They've got
something we haven't." And when this finely dressed, cultured gentleman and
his wife knelt down in the sawdust along with the drunken "bums" and other
outcasts of Water Street, and they got real salvation.
But of this I knew nothing. I knew only the type of woman she had been, and
when I saw her name on the Program, as I said, my heart sank and I thought,
"What a waste of a magnificent opportunity, Here is this wonderful audience
and only this woman to speak to them." But I had no authority to change the
program; my business was simply to announce it. And summoning all the
courtesy I could command under the circumstances, I introduced this lady, and
then sank into the chairman's seat and buried my face in my hands and began
to pray to God to save us from disaster. Some years afterward I was in
Atlanta, and one of the leading Christian workers of that city, who had been
at the Boston Convention, came to me, laughing, and said, "I shall never
forget how you introduced Mrs.-- at the Boston Convention, and then dropped
into your chair and covered your face with your hands as if you had done
something you were ashamed of."
Well, I had. But as I said, I began to pray. In a little while I took my
face out of my hands and began to watch as well as pray. Every one of those
thirty-five hundred pairs of eyes were riveted on that little woman as she
stood there and spoke. Soon I saw tears come into eyes that were
unaccustomed to weeping, and I saw men and women taking out their
handkerchiefs and at first trying to pretend they were not weeping, and then,
throwing all disguise to the winds, I saw them bow their heads on the backs
of the seats in front of them and sob as if their hearts would break. And
before that wonderful address was over that whole audience was swept by the
power of that woman's words as the trees of our Western forests sometimes are
swept by the cyclone.
This was Saturday morning. The following Monday morning Dr. Broadbeck, at
that time pastor of the leading Methodist church in Boston, came to me and
said with a choking voice, "Brother Torrey, I could not open my mouth to
speak to my own people in my own church yesterday morning without bursting
into tears as I thought of that wonderful scene we witnessed here on Saturday
morning." When that wonderful address was over, some of us went to this
woman and said to her, "God has wonderfully used you this morning." "Oh,"
she replied, "would you like to know the secret of it? Last night as I
thought of the great throng that would fill the Tremont Temple this morning,
and of my own inexperience in public address, I spent the whole night on my
face before God in prayer." Oh, men and women, if we would spend more nights
before God on our faces in prayer there would be more days of power when we
faced our congregations!
The Prayer of Faith
R. A. Torrey
"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we
ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know
that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we
asked of him."
1 John 5:14, 15
Please notice carefully exactly what God tells us in this passage. Here we
are told that there is a way in which certain people can pray so as not only
to get the very thing that they ask, but also to know before they actually
get it, that God has heard their prayer and that therefore the thing which
they have asked of Him He has granted to them. Listen again to these
wonderful words that the Holy Spirit inspired John to write: "This is the
confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to
his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we
know that we have what we asked of him." Certainly that is an astonishing
statement: it gives us the plain and positive assurance that there are some
people who can pray in a certain way, and that if those people pray in that
way they will not only get whatsoever they ask, but that, furthermore, they
may know before they get it that God has heard their prayer and granted what
they have asked. It is certainly a great joy when one prays to be able to
know that the prayer we have offered has been heard and that what we have
asked has been granted, and to be just as sure that it is ours as we shall be
when we actually have it in our hand.
I. To Whom the Promise Is Made
Please note, first of all, just who it is to whom God makes this promise. As
I have said so often before, when you try to understand and apply the
promises of God which you find in the Bible you must always be very careful to
note just exactly who the people are to whom the promise is made. Just who
the persons are to whom this promise is made we are told in the immediate
context, in the verse that immediately precedes, "I write these things to you
who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have
eternal life." Then immediately follows the promise that we are studying
today, so it is as clear as day that the promise is made to those who
"believe on the name of the Son of God," to them and to nobody else, and
anyone who does not believe on the name of the Son of God has no right
whatever to take this promise to himself, or to think that if he does take
the promise to himself and it is not fulfilled, God's Word has failed. The
fault is with himself, and not with God's Word. He has taken to himself a
promise that was made to somebody else. Just what it means to believe on the
Son of God we are told in the Gospel written by the same one who wrote this
Epistle, the Gospel of John; John 1:12, "To all who received him [that is,
received Jesus Christ], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right
to become children of God."
So John himself interprets "believing on the name of the Son of God" to mean
receiving the Son of God, that is, receiving Him to be to ourselves what He
offers Himself to be to all who put their trust in Him, our personal Savior,
who bore our sins in His own body on the cross, and our Lord and Master to
whom we surrender the absolute control of our thoughts, our will, and our
conduct. So, then, this promise is made to those who have received Jesus
Christ as their personal Savior and trusted God to forgive them because Jesus
Christ died on the cross in their place, and also who have received Him as
their Lord and Master to whom they have surrendered the absolute control of
their thoughts, their will, and their conduct, those who have made an
absolute surrender to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is made to them, and
to no one else, and no one else has the least right to claim it.
Just here is where many go astray, they do not really "believe on the name of
the Son of God," they have not really "received him," yet they appropriate to
themselves this promise that was never made to them.
II. How We Must Pray in Order to Know that God
Has Heard Our Prayers and Granted the Thing
that We Have Asked
Now we come to the question, How must "those who believe on the name of the
Son of God" pray in order to know that God has heard their prayer, and has
granted the thing that they asked? Read the fourteenth verse again. "This
is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything
according to his will, he hears us." In order to know that God has heard our
prayer and granted us what we asked, we must pray according to His will.
When we who believe on the name of the Son of God pray for anything that we
know to be according to His will, then we may know, for the all-sufficient
reason that God says so in His Word, that God has heard the prayer and
granted us what we asked. We may know it, not because we feel it, not because
of any inward illumination of the Holy Spirit; we may know it for the very
best of all reasons-because God says so in His Word, and "God cannot lie."
But is it possible for us to know what the will of God is, so that we can be
sure while we are praying that we are asking something that is "according to
his will"? We can know the will of God with absolute certainty in many cases
when we pray. How can we know the will of God?
1. In the first place, we may know the will of God by the promises in His
Word. The Bible was given us for the specific purpose of revealing to us the
will of God, and when we find that anything is definitely promised in the
Word of God we know that that is His will, for He has said so in so many
words. And when we who believe on the name of the Son of God go to God and
ask Him for anything that is definitely promised in His Word, we may know
with absolute certainty that God has heard our prayer and that what we have
asked of God is granted. We do not have to feel it--God says so, and that is
For example, God says in His Word, James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he
should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it
will be given to him." So when I go to God and ask for wisdom, if I am a
believer on the name of the Son of God, I know with absolute certainty that
God has heard my prayer and that wisdom will be granted.
Some years ago I was speaking at a Y.M.C.A. Bible Conference at Mahtomede,
White Bear Lake, Minnesota; I was speaking on the subject of prayer. I had
to hurry immediately from the amphitheater to the train. As I passed out of
the amphitheater I saw another minister from Minneapolis, who was to follow
me immediately on the program. He was greatly excited. He stopped me and
said, "Mr. Torrey, I am going to tear to pieces everything that you have said
to these young men this morning." I replied, "If I have not spoken according
to the Bible, I hope you will tear it to pieces. But if I have spoken
according to the Book you had better be careful how you try to tear it to
pieces." "But," he exclaimed, "you have produced upon these young men the
impression that they can pray for things and get the very thing that they ask
for." I replied, "I do not know whether that is the impression that I have
produced or not, but it certainly is the impression that I intended to
"But," he said, "that is not right; you must say if it be according to God's
will." I replied, "If you do not know that the thing which you have asked is
according to God's will, then it is all right to say, 'If it be according to
Your will.' But if you know God's will, what is the need of saying, 'If it be
according to Your will'?" "But," he said, "we cannot know God's will." I
answered, "What was the Bible given to us for if it was not to reveal God's
will?" "Now," I said, "when you find a definite promise in the Bible and
take that promise to God, don't you know that you have asked something
according to His will? For example, we read in James 1:5, "If any of you
lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding
fault, and it will be given to him." "Now," I said, "when you ask for wisdom
do you not know that God is going to give it?" "But," he said, "I do not know
what wisdom is." I said, "If you did you would not need to ask it, but
whatever it may be, do you not know that God is going to give it?" He made
no reply. I never heard that he tried to tear what I said to pieces, but I
know that later he himself spoke very boldly on the subject of confidently
asking God for the things that we need of Him, and that are according to His
No, when you have a definite promise in God's Word you do not need to put any
"ifs" before it. All the promises of God are yes and amen in Christ Jesus (2
Corinthians 1:20). They are absolutely sure, and if you plead any plain
promise in God's Word you need not put any "ifs" in your petition. You may
know that you are asking something that is according to God's will, and it is
your privilege to know that God has heard you, and it is your privilege to
know that you have the thing you have asked; it is your privilege to get up
from prayer with the same absolute certainty that that thing is yours that
you will afterward have when you actually see it in your hand.
Suppose some cold winter morning when I lived in Chicago I had gone down on
South Clark Street that was then teeming with poor men, and some shivering
tramp should have come up to me and said, "Mr. Torrey, it is very cold and I
need an overcoat. Will you give me an overcoat?" And then I had replied, "If
you will come over to my house this afternoon at 39 East Pearson Street, at
two o'clock, I'll give you an overcoat." Promptly at two o'clock the tramp
makes his appearance. I meet him at the door and bring him into the house.
Then he says to me, "Mr. Torrey, you said to me this morning on South Clark
Street that if I would come to your home at two o'clock this afternoon you
would give me an overcoat. Now, if you will, please give me that overcoat."
What would I say? I'd say, "Man, what did you say?" He would reply, "I said,
if you will, please give me that overcoat." "But why do you put any 'if' in?
Did I not say I would?" "Yes." "Do you doubt my word?" "No." "Then why do
you put in an 'if'?" So why should we put any "ifs" in when we take to God
any promise of His own? Does God ever lie?
There are many cases in which we do not know the will of God, and in such
cases it is all right to put in "if it be Your will." And even in cases where
we do not know His will, our prayers should always be in submission to His
will, for the dearest of anything to the true child of God is God's will, but
there is no need to put any "ifs" in when He has revealed His will. To put
in an "if" in such a case as that is to doubt God, to doubt His Word, and
really is to "make God a liar."
This passage of Scripture is one of the most abused passages in the Bible.
God put it into His Word to give us "confidence" when we pray. It is
constantly misused to make us uncertain when we pray. Oftentimes when
some young and enthusiastic believer is asking for something with great
confidence, some cautious brother will go to him after the meeting is over
and say to him, "Now, my young brother, you must not be so confident as that
in your prayers. It may not be God's will, and we ought to be submissive to
the will of God, and you should say, 'If it be Your will."' And so some men
always have an element of uncertainty in their prayers, and one would think
that 1 John 5:14 read, "This is the lack of confidence we have in approaching
God: that we can never know God's will, and therefore can never be sure that
our prayer is heard." But that is not the way the verse reads. It reads,
"This is the confidence [not uncertainty, but absolute confidence] we have in
approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what
we asked of him." Oh, how subtle the devil is to take a passage of Scripture
that God has put into His Word to fill us with confidence when we pray, and
use it to make us uncertain when we pray.
2. But can we know the will of God when we pray, even when there is no
definite promise in regard to the matter about which we are praying? Yes, in
many cases we can. How? Romans 8:26-27, answers the question: "In the same
way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to
pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words
cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit,
because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."
It is the work of the Holy Spirit when we pray to make known to us what is
the will of God in the matter about which we are praying, and to show us if
the thing is according to His will, that it is according to His will. There
are many things we need which are not definitely promised in the Word, and it
doesn't follow at all that because they are not definitely promised in the
Word they are not "according to the will of God." It is the will of God to
give us very many things which He has not definitely promised in His Word,
and it is the method of God, when we pray, to give us, by the direct
illumination of the Holy Spirit, to know His will even in regard to things
about which He has given us no definite promise.
For example, while I was pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago, the child of
a man and woman who were both members of our church was taken very sick. The
child first had the measles, and the measles was followed by meningitis. The
child sank very low, and the doctor said to the mother, "I can do no more for
your child. Your child cannot live." She immediately hurried to my house to
get me to come up to their house and pray for her child. But I was out of
town holding meetings in Pittsburgh. So she sent for my assistant pastor,
Rev. W. S. Jacoby, and he went to the house with one of my colleagues in the
Bible Institute, and prayed for the child. That night when I got home from
Pittsburgh he came around to my house to tell me about it, and he said, "Mr.
Torrey, if I ever had an answer to my prayers in my life, it was today when I
was praying for the Duff child." He was confident that God had heard his
prayer and that the child would be healed. And the child was healed right
away. This was Saturday. The next morning the doctor called again at the
house and there was such a remarkable change in the child that he said to
Mrs. Duff, "What have you done for your child?" She told him just what she
had done. Then he said, "Well, I will give her some more medicine." "No,"
she said, "you will not. You said you could do no more for the child, that
the child must die, and we went to God in prayer and God has healed the
child. You are not going to take the honor to yourself by giving him some
more medicine." Indeed, the child was not only improved that morning, the
child was well, and Mrs. Duff was at the morning service and would have
brought the child with her if it had not been such a stormy morning that she
thought it would be better not to take it out in the intense cold.
Now, neither Mr. Jacoby nor I could pray for every sick child in that way,
for it is not the will of God to heal every sick child, nor every sick adult.
It is God's general will in regard to His children that they be well in body,
but there are cases when God, for wise purposes of His own, does not see fit
to heal the sick; and there are cases, if we are living near to God and
listening for the voice of His Spirit, and are entirely surrendered to the
Spirit in our praying, in which the Spirit of God will make clear to us the
will of God, and we shall know that our prayer is heard, and we will know
that the request is ours long before we actually get it.
Take another and entirely different illustration, for the healing of the body
is only one of the ways in which God answers prayer, and not by any means the
most important. In my first pastorate we had a union meeting of all the
churches of the town. In the course of the meetings we had a day of fasting
and prayer. During the morning meeting while we were praying, God led me to
pray that one of the most unlikely men in the town might be saved that night.
The man had led a wild, roaming life; few in his family were Christians; but
as we knelt in prayer that morning God put a great burden on my heart for
that man's salvation, and I prayed that he might come to the meeting and be
saved that night. And as I prayed, God gave me great confidence that the man
would come and be saved. And come he did, and saved he was, that night.
There was not a man in that whole town who was more unlikely to be saved than
he. That was more than forty years ago, but when I was in Chattanooga,
Tennessee, a few years ago, I met another man whose mother was saved about
the same time, and he told me that this man was then living in Tennessee and
was still living a Christian life. Now, I cannot pray for the salvation of
every unsaved person in that way, but by His Spirit, God revealed to me His
will regarding that man, and in many a case He has revealed His will.
Take still another illustration. One day, when I was in Northfield, Mass., I
received word from Mr. Fitt, Mr. Moody's son-in-law, in Chicago, that we
needed five thousand dollars for the work in Chicago at once, and asking me
to pray for it. Another member of the faculty of the Bible Institute was in
Northfield at that time, and that night we went out into a summer-house on my
place and knelt down and prayed God to send that five thousand dollars. And
God gave my friend great confidence that He had heard the prayer, and he said
to me, "God has heard the prayer and the five thousand dollars will come."
Mr. Fitt and Mr. Gaylord also prayed in Chicago, and God gave Mr. Gaylord a
great confidence that the five thousand dollars would come. We knew it was
ours, we knew that God had heard the prayer and that we had received the five
thousand dollars. And a telegram came the next day (I think it was) from
Indianapolis, saying that five thousand dollars had been deposited in a bank
in Indianapolis to our account and was awaiting our order. Though we had
prayed for the money and expected it, Mr. Fitt could hardly believe the news,
and sent to our bank in Chicago, which inquired of the bank in Indianapolis
if the information were true, and learned that it was. So far as I know, the
man who put that money in the bank in Indianapolis at our call had never
given a penny to the Bible Institute before. I did not know there was such a
man in the world, and, so far as I know, he has never given a penny to the
Bible Institute since. Now, I cannot go to God every time I want money and
think I need it and ask God for it with that same confidence, but there are
times when I can. There have been many such times in my life, and God has
never failed, and He never will. Banks sometimes fail; God never falls.
To sum it all up, when God makes known His will, either by a specific promise
of His Word or by His Holy Spirit while we are praying, that what we ask for
is "according to His will," it is our privilege to know--if we really believe
on the name of the Son of God--that our prayer is granted, and that it is
ours, just as truly ours, as it will be when later we actually have it in our
III. Praying in Faith
The passage we have been studying is closely related to another passage in
the Gospel of Mark, which contains a promise of our Lord Himself that God
will answer prayer. It is a very familiar passage; you will find it in Mark
11:24, "I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have
received it, and it will be yours." I will not stop to call your attention
to whom this promise is made, further than to say that it is made, as are all
the other promises of God to answer prayer which we have been studying, to
those who believe on Jesus Christ, those who are united to Jesus Christ by
a living faith that manifests itself in an obedient love. This is evident
from the context, as you can find out for yourself if you will read the
promise in its context.
And how must we pray in order to get the thing that we ask? We must pray in
faith, that is, we must pray with confident expectation of getting the very
thing that we ask. Some say that any prayer that is in submission to the
will of God, and in faith and dependence on Him, is a prayer of faith. But
it is not "the prayer of faith" in the Bible sense of "the prayer of faith."
"The prayer of faith," in the Bible sense, is the prayer that has no doubt
whatever that God has heard and granted the specific thing "which we have
asked of him." This is evident from James 1:5-7, "If any of you lacks wisdom,
he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it
will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt,
because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the
wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord."
No matter how positive the promises of God may be, we will never receive them
in our own experience till we absolutely believe them, and the prayer that
gets what it asks is "the prayer of faith," that is, the prayer that has no
doubt whatever of getting the very thing that is asked.
This comes out clearly in Mark 11:24, "I tell you, whatever you ask for in
prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." When we
pray to God, and pray according to His will as known by the promises of His
Word, or as known by the Holy Spirit revealing His will to us, we should
confidently believe that the very thing that we have asked is granted us. We
should "believe that" we "have received," and what we thus believe we have
received we shall afterward have in actual personal experience.
Take, for example, the matter of praying for "the baptism with the Holy
Spirit." When anyone prays for the Holy Spirit, anyone who is united to Jesus
Christ by a living faith that reveals itself in an obedient love, anyone who
has received Jesus Christ as his Savior and is trusting God to forgive him on
the sole ground that Jesus Christ died in his place, and who has received
Jesus Christ as his Lord and Master, and has surrendered all his thoughts and
purposes and conduct to God's control, he may know that he has prayed for
something according to God's will, for Jesus Christ definitely says in Luke
11:13, "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your
children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to
those who ask him!" And as one knows that he has asked something which is
according to God's will as God has clearly revealed it in His Word, it is
one's privilege to say, "I have what I asked. I have the Holy Spirit."
It is not a question at all of whether one feels that he has received the
Holy Spirit or not; it is not a question of some remarkable experience: it is
simply a question of taking God at His Word and that he who prays believes
that he has received, just because God says so. And what he has taken by
naked faith on the Word of God, simply believing he has received, because God
says so, he will afterward actually possess. There is no need that he go to
any "special meeting," no need that he work himself up into a frenzy of
emotionalism, no need that he fall into a trance, or fall into
unconsciousness, an experience utterly foreign to anything described in the
New Testament. He has far better ground for his assurance that he has
received what he asked than any feeling or any ecstasy; he has the immutable
Word of God, "God who cannot lie."
Praying in faith, that is praying with an unquestioning belief that you will
receive just exactly what you ask; yes, believing as you pray that God has
heard your prayer and that you have received the thing that you ask, is one
of the most important factors in obtaining what we ask when we pray. As
James puts it in 1:6-7, "When he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because
he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That
man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord." That is, let
not the man who has any doubt that God has heard his prayer think that he
shall receive anything of the Lord. So the tremendously important question
arises, How can we pray the prayer of faith? How can we pray with a
confident, unquestioning certainty in our minds that God has heard our prayer
and granted the thing that we ask? This has been partly answered in what we
have already said, but in order that it may be perfectly clear, let us repeat
the substance of it again.
1. To pray the prayer of faith we must, first of all, study the Word of God,
especially the promises of God, and find out what the will of God is and
build our prayers on the written promises of God. Intelligent faith, and
that is the only kind of faith that counts with God, must have a warrant. We
cannot believe by just trying to make ourselves believe. Such belief as that
is not faith but credulity, it is "make-believe."
The great warrant for intelligent faith is God's Word. As Paul puts it in
Romans 10:17, "Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard
through the word of Christ." The faith that is built on the sure Word of God
is an intelligent faith, it has something to rest on. So if we would pray
the prayer of faith we must study much the Word of God and find out what God
has definitely promised, and then, with God's promise in mind, approach God
and ask Him for that thing which He has promised.
Here is the point at which many go astray. Here is the point at which I went
astray in my early prayer life. Not long after my conversion I got hold of
this promise of our Lord Jesus in Mark 11:24, "I tell you, whatever you ask
for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." I
said to myself, "All that I need to do if I want anything is to ask God for
it and then make myself believe that I am going to get it, and I'll have it."
So whenever I wanted anything I asked God for it and tried to make myself
believe I was going to get it, but I didn't get it, for it was only "make-
believe" and I did not really believe at all. But I later learned that
"faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the
word of Christ," and that if I wished to Pray "the prayer of faith" I must
have some warrant for my faith, some ground on which to rest my faith, and
that the surest of all grounds for faith was the Word of God. So when I
desired anything of God I would search the Scriptures to find if there was
some promise that covered that case, and then go to God and plead His own
promise; and thus testing on that promise I would believe that God had heard,
and He had, and I got what I asked.
One of the mightiest men of prayer of the last generation was George Mueller
of Bristol, England, who in the last sixty years of his life (he lived to be
ninety-two or ninety-three) obtained the English equivalent of seven million
four hundred dollars by prayer ($7,000,400). But George Mueller never prayed
for something just because he wanted it, or even just because he felt it was
greatly needed for God's work. When it was laid on George Mueller's heart to
pray for anything, he would search the Scriptures to find if there was some
promise that covered the case. Sometimes he would search the Scriptures for
days before he presented his petition to God. And then, when he found the
promise, with his open Bible before him and his finger on that promise, he
would plead that promise and so he received what he asked. He always prayed
with an open Bible before him.
2. But this is not all that is to be said about how to pray the prayer of
faith. It is possible for us to have faith in many an instance when there is
no definite promise covering the case, and to pray with the absolute
assurance that God has heard our prayer, to believe with a faith that has not
a shadow of doubt in it that we have received what we have asked. The way
that comes to pass we are plainly told in the passage to which I have already
referred in the earlier part of this sermon, Romans 8:26-27, "In the same
way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to
pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words
cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit,
because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."
That is to say, the Holy Spirit, as we have already said, often times makes
clear to us as we pray what it is the will of God to do, so that, listening
to His voice, we can pray with absolute confidence, with a confidence that
has not a shadow of doubt, that God has heard our prayer and granted the
thing that was asked.
My first experience, at least the first that I recall, of this wonderful
privilege of knowing the will of God, and praying with confident faith even
when one had no definite promise in the written Word that God would hear the
prayer, came very early in my ministry. There was a young dentist in my
congregation whose father was a member of our church. This dentist was taken
very ill with typhoid fever, and went down to the very gates of death. I
went to see him and found him unconscious. The doctor and his father were by
the bedside, and the doctor said to me, "He cannot live. The crisis is past
and it has turned the wrong way. There is no possibility of his recovery."
I knelt down to pray, and as I prayed a great confidence came into my heart,
an absolutely unshakable confidence that God had heard my prayer and that the
man was to be raised up. As I rose from my knees I said to the father and
the doctor, "Ebbie will get well. He will not die at this time." The doctor
smiled and said, "That is all right, Mr. Torrey, from your standpoint, but he
cannot live. He will die." I replied, "Doctor, that is all right from your
standpoint, but he cannot die; he will live." I went home. Not long after,
word was brought to me that the young man was dying. They told me what he
was doing, and said that no one ever did that except just when he was dying.
I calmly replied, "He is not dying. He will not die. He will get well." I
knew he would: he did. The last I knew of him he was still living, and his
healing took place between forty and forty-five years ago. But I cannot pray
for every sick man in that way, not even though he is an earnest Christian,
as this man was not at that time. Sometimes it is God's will to heal,
usually it is God's will to heal, if the conditions are met; but it is not
always God's will to heal. "The prayer offered in faith will make the sick
person well," God tells us in James 5:15; but it is not always possible to
pray "the prayer of faith"; we can pray it only when God makes it possible by
the leading of His Holy Spirit
But "the prayer of faith" will not only heal the sick, it will bring many
other blessings, blessings of far more importance than physical healing. It
will bring salvation to the lost; it will bring power into our service; it
will bring money into the treasury of the Lord; it will bring great revivals
of religion. In my first pastorate one of the first persons to accept Christ
was a woman who had been a backslider for many years. But she not only came
back to the Lord, but came back in a very thorough way. Not long after her
conversion God gave to her a great spirit of prayer for a revival in our
church and community. When I had been there about a year she was called to
go out to California with a sick friend, but before going she came into the
prayer meeting on her last prayer-meeting night there, and said, "God has
heard my prayer for a revival. You are going to have a great revival here in
the church." And we did have a revival, not only in the church, but in the
whole community, a revival that transformed every church in the community and
brought many souls to Christ. And the revival went on again the next year,
and the next, and the next, until I left that field. And it went on under
the pastor who followed me and the pastor who followed him.
Oh, yes, "the prayer of faith" is the great secret of getting the things of
all kinds that we need in our personal life, that we need in our service,
that we need in our work, that we need in our church, that we need
everywhere. There is no limit to what "the prayer of faith can do," and if we
would pray more and pray more intelligently, and pray "the prayer of faith,"
there is no telling what we could do as a church and as an institute (Moody
Bible Institute). But as we have said, in order to pray "the prayer of
faith" we must, first of all, study our Bible much in order that we may know
the promises of God, what they are, how large they are, how definite they
are, and just exactly what is promised. In addition to that, we must live so
near to God, be so fully surrendered to the will of God, have such a delight
in God and so feel our utter dependence on the Spirit of God, that the Holy
Spirit Himself can guide us in our prayers and indicate clearly to us what
the will of God is, and make us sure while we pray that we have asked for
something that is according to God's will, and thus enable us to pray with
the absolute confidence that God has heard our prayer, and that "we have
received" the things that we asked of Him.
Here is where many of us fail in our prayer life: We either do not know that
it is our privilege to "pray in the Spirit," that is, to pray under the
Spirit's guidance; or else we do not realize our utter dependence on the Holy
Spirit, and cast ourselves on Him to lead us when we pray, and therefore we
pray for the things which our own heart, our own selfish desire, prompts us
to pray for; or else we are not in such an attitude toward God that the
Spirit of God can make His voice heard in our hearts.
Oh that we might all be made to realize the immeasurable blessings for
ourselves, for our friends, and for the church and for the world, that lie
within the reach of "the prayer of faith," and determine that we would pray
"the prayer of faith"; and then get down to the study of the Word of God so
that we could know God's will and what to pray for; and be in such a relation
toward God, be so fully surrendered to His will and in utter, constant
dependence on the Holy Spirit, looking to the Holy Spirit that as we pray it
might not be so much we who pray as the Holy Spirit praying through us! Then
we would soon see this spiritual-desert city, and our spiritual-desert
churches, "blossom as the rose."
How to Pray
R. A. Torrey
"The church was earnestly praying to God for him."
Our Subject is, "How to Pray So As to Get What You Ask." I can think of
nothing more important that I could tell you. Suppose it had been announced
that I was to tell the business men of this city how they could go to any
bank here and get all the financial accommodation they desired any day in the
year, and suppose, also, that I knew that secret and could really tell it, do
you think that the business men of this city would consider the information
important? It would be difficult to think of anything that they would
consider more important. But praying is going to the bank, going to the bank
that has the largest capital of any bank in the universe, the Bank of Heaven,
a bank whose capital is absolutely unlimited. And if I can show you this
morning how you can go to the Bank of Heaven any day in the year, and any
hour of the day or night, and get from that bank all that you desire, that
will certainly be of incalculable importance.
Now, the Bible tells us that very thing. It tells us how we can go to the
Bank of Heaven, how we can go to God in prayer any day of the year and any
hour of the day or night, and get from God the very things that we ask. What
the Bible teaches along this line has been put to the test of practical
experiment by tens of thousands of people, and has been found in their own
experience to be absolutely true. And that is what we are to discover from a
study of God's own Word.
In the twelfth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we have the record of a
most remarkable prayer, remarkable because of what was asked for and
remarkable because of the results of the asking. King Herod had killed
James, the brother of John. This greatly "pleased the Jews," so he proceeded
further to arrest the leader of the whole apostolic company, the Apostle
Peter, with the intention of killing him also. But the arrest was during
Passover Week, the Holy Week of the Jews; and, while the Jews were perfectly
willing to have Peter assassinated, eager to have him assassinated, they were
not willing to have their Holy Week desecrated by his violent death. So
Peter was cast into prison to be kept until the Passover week was over, and
then to be executed. The Passover week was nearly over, it was the last
night of the Passover week, and early the next morning Peter was to be taken
out and beheaded.
There seemed to be little hope for Peter, indeed, no hope at all. He was in
a secure dungeon, in an impregnable fortress, guarded by sixteen soldiers,
and chained by each wrist to a soldier who slept on either side of him.
There appeared to be no hope whatever for Peter. But the Christians in
Jerusalem undertook to get Peter out of his perilous position, to completely
deliver him. How did they go at it? Did they organize a mob and storm the
castle? No, there was no hope whatever of success that way. The castle was
impregnable against any mob, and, furthermore, it was garrisoned by trained
Roman soldiers who would be more than a match for any mob. Did the
Christians circulate a petition and get the names of the leading Christians
in Jerusalem signed to it to present to Herod, asking that he would release
Peter? No. That might have had weight, for the Christians in Jerusalem at
that time were numbered by the thousands and among them were not a few
influential persons, and a petition signed by so many people, and by some
people of such weight, would have had influence with a wily politician such
as Herod was. But the Christians did not attempt that method of deliverance.
Did they take up a collection and gather a large amount of money from the
believers in Jerusalem to bribe Herod to release Peter? Quite likely that
might have proved successful, for Herod was open to that method of
approachment. But they did not do that.
What did they do? They held a prayer meeting to pray Peter out of prison.
Was anything apparently more futile and ridiculous ever undertaken by a
company of fanatics? Praying a man so securely incarcerated, and so near his
execution, out of prison? If the enemies of Peter and the church had known
of that attempt they doubtless would have been greatly amused, and have
laughed at the thought of these fanatical Christians praying Peter out of
prison, and doubtless would have said to one another, "We'll see what will
become of the prayers of these fool Christians."
But the attempt to pray Peter out of prison was entirely successful.
Apparently Peter himself had no fears, but was calmly resting in God; for he
was fast asleep on the very eve of his proposed execution. While Peter was
sound asleep, guarded by the six teen soldiers, chained to a soldier sleeping
on either side of him, suddenly there shone in the prison a light, a light
from heaven; and "an angel of the Lord" could have been seen standing by
Peter. The angel struck Peter on the side as he slept, and woke him, and
said, "Quick, get up!" Instantly Peter's chains fell from his hands and he
arose to his feet. The angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and your
sandals." Peter did so, and then the angel said, "Wrap your cloak around you
and follow me." Peter, dazed and wondering, thought he was dreaming; but he
was wise enough to obey God even in his sleep and he went out and followed
the angel, though he "thought he was seeing a vision." The soldiers were all
asleep, and, unhindered, the angel and Peter passed the first guard and the
second guard and came to the strong iron gate that led into the city. Moved
by the finger of God, the gate "opened for them by itself." They went out and
silently passed through one street.
Now Peter was safe, and the angel left him. Standing there in the cold night
air, Peter came to himself, and realized that he was not dreaming, and said,
"Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from
Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating."
Stopping a few moments to reflect, he may have said to himself, "There is a
prayer meeting going on. It must be at Mark's mother's house; I will go
there." And soon those who are praying are startled by a heavy pounding at
the outside gate of Mark's mother's home. A little servant girl named Rhoda
must have been kneeling among those praying. Instantly she sprang to her
feet and rushed to the gate, "When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so
overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, 'Peter is at the
door!'" "Oh, Rhoda, you are crazy," cried the unbelieving company. "No,"
Rhoda said, "I am not crazy. It is Peter. God has answered our prayers. I
know his voice. I knew he would come and he is here." Then they all cried,
"It is not Peter, it is his angel." But Peter kept on knocking, and they
opened the door, and there stood Peter, the living evidence that God has
answered their prayer.
Now, if we can find out how these people prayed, then we shall know just how
we, too, can pray so as to get what we ask. In the fifth verse we are told
exactly how they prayed. Let me read it to you. "The church was earnestly
praying to God for him." The whole secret of prevailing prayer, the prayer
that gets what it asks, is found in four phrases in this brief description of
their prayer. The first phrase is, "earnestly." The second, "the Church."
The third, "to God." The fourth, "for him."
I. To God
Let us take up these four phrases and study them. We take up first the third
phrase, for it is really the most important one, "to God." The prayer that
gets what it asks is the prayer that is to God. But someone will say, "Is
not all prayer to God?" No. Comparatively few of the prayers that go up
from this earth today are really to God. I sometimes think that not one
prayer in a hundred is really "to God." You ask, "What do you mean?" I mean
exactly what I say, that not one prayer in a hundred is really to God. "Oh,"
you say, "I know what you mean. You are talking about the prayers of the
heathen to their idols and their false gods." No, I mean the prayers of
people who call themselves Christians. I do not think that one in a hundred
of them is really unto God. "Oh," you say, "I know what you mean. You are
talking of the prayers of the Roman Catholics to the Virgin Mary and to the
saints." No, I mean the prayers of people who call themselves Protestants.
I do not believe that one in a hundred of the prayers of Protestant believers
is really to God. "What do you mean?" you ask. I mean exactly what I say.
Stop a moment and think. Is it not often the case, when men stand up to pray
in public, or kneel down to pray in private, that they are thinking far more
of what they are asking for than they are of the great God who made heaven
and earth, and who has all power? Is it not often the case that in our
prayers we are not thinking much of either what we are asking for or of Him
from whom we are asking it, but, instead, our thoughts are wandering off
everywhere? We take the name of God on our lips, but there is no real
conscious approach to God in our hearts.
We are really taking the name of God in vain when we fancy we are praying to
Him. If there is to be any power in our prayer, if our prayer is to get
anything, the first thing to be sure of when we pray is that we really have
come into the presence of God, and are really speaking to Him. We should
never utter one syllable of prayer, either in public or in private, until we
are definitely conscious that we have come into the presence of God and are
actually praying to Him. Oh, let those two words, "to God," "to God," "to
God," sink deep into your heart; and from this time on never pray, never
utter one syllable of prayer, until you are sure that you have come into the
presence of God and are really talking to Him.
Some years ago in our church in Chicago, before we began the great Saturday
night prayer meetings to pray for a world-wide revival, a little group of us
used to meet every Saturday night for prayer, to pray for God's blessing on
tomorrow's work. Never more than a handful of people came, but we had
wonderful times of blessing. One night, after we had gathered together, I
rose to open the meeting and said to those gathered there, "Now we are going
to kneel in prayer and every one of you feel at perfect liberty to ask for
what God puts into your heart to ask for; but be sure that you do not utter a
word of prayer until you have really come into the presence of God, and know
that you are talking to Him." Then we knelt in prayer. A friend of mine, a
business man, had come in just before I said that. One day the following
week I met him and he said to me, "Mr. Torrey, I ought to be ashamed to
confess it, but do you know that that thought you threw out last Saturday
night just before we knelt in prayer, that not one of us should utter a
syllable of prayer until we had really come into the presence of God and knew
that we were talking to Him, was an entirely new thought to me and it has
transformed my prayer life?" I could easily understand that, for I can
remember when that thought transformed my prayer life. I was brought up to
pray. I was taught to pray so early in life that I have not the slightest
recollection of who taught me to pray. I have no doubt it was my mother, but
I have no recollection of it. In my earliest days the habit of prayer was so
thoroughly ingrained into me that there has never been a single night of my
life as far back as my memory goes, that I have not prayed; with the
exception of one night when I was carried home unconscious and did not regain
consciousness until the next morning.
Even when I had wandered far from God, and had definitely decided that I
would not accept Jesus Christ, I still prayed every night. Even when I had
come to a place where I doubted that the Bible was the Word of God, and that
Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and even doubted that there was a personal
God, nevertheless, I prayed every night. I am glad that I was brought up
that way, and that the habit of prayer was so instilled into me that it
became permanent, for it was through that habit that I came back out of the
darkness of agnosticism into the clear light of an intelligent faith in God
and His Word. Nevertheless, prayer was largely a mere matter of form. There
was little real thought of God, and no real approach to God. And even after
I was converted, yes, even after I had entered the ministry, prayer was
largely a matter of form. But the day came when I realized what real prayer
meant, realized that prayer was having an audience with God, actually coming
into the presence of God and asking and getting things from Him. And the
realization of that fact transformed my prayer life. Before that, prayer had
been a mere duty, and sometimes a very irksome duty, but from that time on
prayer has been not merely a duty but a privilege, one of the most highly
esteemed privileges of life. Before that, the thought I had was, "How much
time must I spend in prayer?" The thought that now possesses me is, "How
much time may I spend in prayer without neglecting the other privileges and
duties of life?"
Suppose some Englishman were summoned to Buckingham Palace to meet King
George. He answers the summons and is waiting in the outer room to be
ushered into the presence of the King. What do you think that man would say
to himself while he waited to be brought into the presence of the King? Do
you think he would say, "I wonder how much time I have to spend with the
King?" No, indeed; he would think, "I wonder how much time the King will
give me." But prayer is having an audience with the King of kings, that
eternal, omnipotent King, in comparison with, all earthly kings are as
nothing; and would any intelligent person who realizes that fact ever ask
himself, "How much time must I spend in prayer?" No, our thought will be,
"How much time may I spend in prayer, how much time will the King give me?"
So let these two words, "to God," sink deep into your heart and govern your
prayer life from this day on. Whenever you kneel in prayer, or stand in
prayer, whether it be in public or in private, be absolutely sure before you
utter a syllable of prayer that you have actually come into the presence of
God and are really speaking to Him. Oh, it is a wondrous secret.
But at this point a question arises. How can we come into the presence of
God, and how can we be sure that we have come into the presence of God, and
that we are really talking to Him? Some years ago I was speaking on this
verse of Scripture in Chicago, and at the close of the address a very
intelligent Christian woman, one of the most intelligent and deeply spiritual
women I ever knew, came to me and said, "Mr. Torrey, I like that thought of
'to God,' but how can we come into the presence of God and how can we be
absolutely sure that we have come into the presence of God, and that we are
really talking to Him?" It was a wise question and a question of great
importance; and it is clearly answered in the Word of God. There are two
parts to the answer.
1. You will find the first part of the answer in the Epistle to the Hebrews,
chapter ten, verse nineteen, "We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place
by the blood of Jesus." That is the first part of the answer. We come into
the presence of God "by the blood of Jesus"; and we can come into the
presence of God in no other way. Just what does that mean? It means this:
You and I are sinners, the best of us are great sinners, and God is
infinitely holy, so holy that even the seraphim, those wonderful "burning
ones" (for that is what seraphim means, burning ones), burning in their own
intense holiness, must veil their faces and their feet in His presence
(Isaiah 6:2). But our sins have been laid on another; they were laid on the
Lord Jesus when He died on the cross of Calvary and made a perfect atonement
for our sins. When He died there He took our place, the place of rejection
by God, the place of the "curse," and the moment we accept Him and believe
God's testimony concerning His blood, that by His shed blood He made perfect
atonement for our sin, and trust God to forgive and justify us because the
Lord Jesus died in our place, that moment our sins are forgiven and we are
reckoned righteous and enter into a place above the seraphim, the
place of God's only and perfect Son, Jesus Christ. And we do not need to
veil our faces or our feet when we come into His presence, for we are made
perfectly "in the One he loves" (Ephesians 1:6).
To "enter into the holiest," then, to come into the very presence of God, "by
the blood of Jesus," means that when we draw near to God we should give up
any and every thought that we have any acceptability before God in ourselves,
realize that we are miserable sinners, and also believe that every sin of
ours has been atoned for by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and therefore
come "with boldness" into the very presence of God, "into the holiest, by the
blood of Jesus." The best man or woman on earth cannot come into the presence
of God on the ground of any merit of his own, not for one moment; nor get
anything from God on the ground of his own goodness, not even the smallest
blessing. But on the ground of the shed blood of Jesus Christ the vilest
sinner who ever walked this earth, who has turned from his sin and accepted
Jesus Christ and trusts in the shed blood as the ground of his acceptance
before God, can come into the presence of God any day of the year, and any
hour of the day or night, and with perfect boldness speak out every longing
of his heart and get what he asks from God. Isn't that wonderful? Yes, and,
thank God, it is true.
Christian Scientists cannot really pray. What they call prayer is simply
meditation or concentration of thought. It is not asking a personal God for
a definite blessing; indeed, Mrs. Eddy denies the existence of a personal
God, and she denies the atoning efficacy of the blood. She said that when
the blood of Jesus Christ was shed on the cross of Calvary it did no more
good than when it was running in His veins. So a Christian Scientist cannot
really pray; he is not on praying ground.
Neither can a Unitarian really pray. Oh, he can take the name of God on his
lips and call Him Father, and say beautiful words, but there is no real
approach to God. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, "I am the way and the
truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Some
years ago in Chicago I was on a committee of three persons, one of whom was
one of the leading Unitarian ministers of the city. He was a charming man in
many ways. One day, at the close of our committee meeting, this Unitarian
minister turned to me and said, "Brother Torrey, I often come over to your
church to hear you." I replied, "I am very glad to hear it." Then he
continued, "I especially love to go to your prayer meetings. Often on Friday
nights I drop into your prayer meeting and sit down by the door, and I
greatly enjoy it." I replied, "I am glad that you do. But tell me
something. Why don't you have a prayer meeting in your own church?" "Well,"
he said, "you have asked me an honest question and I will give you an honest
answer. Because I can't. I have tried it and it has failed every time."
Of course it failed, they had no ground of approach to God--they denied the
But there is many a supposedly orthodox Christian, and often in these days
even supposedly orthodox ministers, who deny the atoning blood. They do not
believe that the forgiveness of our sins is solely and entirely on the ground
of the shedding of Jesus' blood as an atonement for sin on our behalf on the
cross of Calvary, and, therefore, they cannot really pray. There are not a
few who call the theology that insists on the truth so very clearly taught in
the Word of God, the doctrine of the substitutionary character of Christ's
death and that we are saved by the shedding of His blood, a "theology of the
shambles" (that is, of the butcher shop).
Mr. Alexander and I were holding meetings in the Royal Albert Hall in London.
I received through the mail one day one of our hymnbooks that some man had
taken from the meeting. He had gone through it and cut out every reference
to the blood of Christ. With the hymnbook was an accompanying letter, in
which the man said, "I have gone through your hymnbook and cut out every
reference to the blood in every place where it is found, and I am sending
this hymnbook back to you. Now sing your hymns this way, with the blood left
out, and there will be some sense in them." I took the hymnbook to the
meeting with me that afternoon and displayed it; it was a sadly mutilated
book. I read the man's letter, and then I said, "No, I will not cut the
blood out of my hymnology, and I will not cut the blood out of my theology,
for when I cut the blood out of my hymnology and my theology I will have to
cut all access to God out of my experience." No, men and women, you cannot
approach God on any other ground than the shed blood, and until you believe
in the blood of Jesus Christ as a perfect atonement for your sins, and as the
only ground on which you can find forgiveness and Justification, real prayer
is an impossibility.
2. You will find the second part of the answer to the question, How can we
come into the presence of God and how can we be sure that we have come into
His presence? In Ephesians 2:18, "For through him we both have access to the
Father by one Spirit." Here we have the same thought that we have already
had, that we have just been presenting, that it is "through him," that is,
through Jesus Christ, that we have our access to the Father. But we have an
additional thought, the thought that when we come into the presence of God
through Jesus Christ, we come "in" the One Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit.
Just what does that mean? It means this: It is the work of the Holy Spirit,
when you and I pray, to take us by the hand as it were and lead us into the
very presence of God and introduce us to Him, and to make God real to us as
we pray. The Greek word translated "access" is the exact equivalent in its
etymology of the word "introduction," which is really a Latin word
transliterated into English. As I say, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to
introduce us to God, that is, to lead us into God's presence, and to make God
real to us as we pray (or return thanks, or worship). And in order that we
may really come into the presence of God and be sure that we have come into
His presence when we pray, we must look to the Holy Spirit to make God real
to us while we are praying.
Have you ever had this experience, that when you knelt to pray it seemed as
if there were no one there, as if you were just talking into the air, or into
empty space? What shall we do at such a time as that? Shall we stop praying
and wait until some time when we feel like praying? No, when we least feel
like praying, and when God is least real to us, that is the time we most need
to pray. What shall we do, then? Simply be quiet and look up to God and ask
Him to fulfill His promise and send His Holy Spirit to lead us into His
presence and to make Him real to us, and then wait and expect. And the Holy
Spirit will come, and He will take us into God's presence, and He will make
God real to us. I can testify today that some of the most wonderful seasons
of prayer I have ever had, have been times when as I first knelt to pray I
had no real sense of God. It seemed that no one was there, it seemed as if I
were talking into empty space; and then I have just looked up to God and
asked Him and trusted Him to send His Holy Spirit to teach me to pray, to
lead me into His presence, and to make Him real to me, and the Spirit has
come, and He has made God so real to me that it almost seemed that if I
opened my eyes I could see Him; in fact, I did see Him with the eyes of my
One night at the close of a sermon in one of the churches on the South Side
in Chicago, I went down the aisle to speak to some of the people. I stepped
up to a middle-aged man and said to him, "Are you a Christian?" "No," he
replied, "I am an infidel. Did you ever see God?" I quickly replied, "Yes,
I have seen God." The man was startled and silenced. Did I mean that I had
seen God with these eyes of my body? No. But, thank God, I have two pair of
eyes; not only does my body have eyes, but my soul also has eyes. I pity the
person who has only one pair of eyes, no matter how good those eyes are. I
thank God I have two pairs of eyes, these bodily eyes with which I see you,
and the eyes of my soul, with which I see God. God has given me wonderful
eyes for my body, that at sixty-seven years of age I have never had to wear
glasses and do not know what it means to have my eyes weary or painful under
any circumstances. But I will gladly give up these eyes rather than those
other eyes that God has given me, the eyes with which I see God.
This, then, is the way to come into the presence of God and to be sure that
we have come into His presence: first, to come by the blood; second, to come
in the Holy Spirit, looking to the Holy Spirit to lead us into the presence
of God, and to make God real to us.
In passing, let me call your attention to the great practical importance of
the doctrine of the Trinity. Many think that the doctrine of the Trinity is
a purely abstract, metaphysical, and utterly impractical doctrine. Not at
all. It involves our whole spiritual life, and it is of the highest
importance in the very practical matter of praying. We need God the Father
to pray to; we need Jesus Christ the Son to pray through; and we need the
Holy Spirit to pray in. It is the prayer that is to God the Father, through
Jesus Christ the Son, under the guidance and in the power of the Holy Spirit,
that God the Father answers.
II. With Intense Earnestness
Now let us consider another of the four words/phrases used in Acts 12:5 that
contain the whole secret of prevailing prayer, the word "earnestly"--"The
church was earnestly praying to God for him." The word "earnestly" comes far
nearer giving the force of the original language but even "earnestly" does
not give the full force of the Greek word used. The Greek word is "ektenos,"
which means, literally, "stretched-out-edly." The King James translators
came to translate it "without ceasing": they thought of the prayer as
stretched out a long time--unceasing prayer. But that is not the thought at
all. The Greek word is never used in that sense anywhere in the New
Testament, and I do not know of a place in Greek literature outside of the
Bible where it is so used. The word is a pictorial word, as so many words
are. It represents the soul stretched out in the intensity of its
earnestness toward God.
Did you ever see a foot race? The racers are all toeing the mark waiting for
the starter to say "Go," or to fire the revolver as a signal to start. As
the critical moment approaches, the runners become more and more tense, until
when the word "Go" comes, or the revolver cracks, they go racing down the
track with every nerve and muscle stretched toward their goal, and sometimes
the veins stand out on the forehead like whipcords--every runner would be the
winner! That is the picture, the soul stretched out in intense earnestness
toward God in intense earnestness of desire.
It is the same word that is used in the comparative mood in Luke 22:44, which
reads, "Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like
drops of blood falling to the ground." The thought is, as I have said, of
the soul being stretched out toward God in intense earnestness of desire.
Probably the most accurate translation that could be given in a single word
would be "intensely": "The church was intensely praying to God for him." In
fact, the word "intensely" is from the same root, but has a different prefix.
In the 1911 Bible the passage is translated, "Instant and earnest prayer was
made of the church unto God for him," which is not a bad paraphrase, though
it is not a translation. And "Intensely earnest prayer was made of the
church unto God for him" would be an even better rendering.
It is the intensely earnest prayer to which God pays attention, and which He
answers. This thought comes out again and again in the Bible. We find it
even in the Old Testament, in Jeremiah 29:13, "You will seek me and find me
when you seek me with all your heart." We here discover the reason why so
many of our prayers are unheard of God. There is so little heart in them, so
little intensity of desire for the thing asked, that there is no reason why
God should pay any attention to them. Suppose I should ask all of you if you
prayed this morning. Doubtless almost every one of you would reply, "Yes, I
did." Then suppose I should ask you again, "For what did you pray this
morning?" I fear that some of you would hesitate and ponder and then have to
say, "Really, I forget for what I did pray this morning." Well, then, God
will forget to answer. But if I should ask some of you if you prayed this
morning you would say, "Yes." Then if I asked you for what you prayed you
could tell me at once, for you always pray for the same thing. You have just
a little rote of prayer that you go through each morning or each night. You
fall on your knees, go through your little prayer automatically, scarcely
thinking of what you are saying, in fact, oftentimes you do not think of what
you are saying but think of a dozen other things while you are repeating your
prayer. Such prayer is profanity, taking the name of God in vain.
When Mrs. Torrey and I were in India, she went up to Darjeeling, in the
Himalayas, on the borders of Tibet. I was unable to go because of being so
busy with meetings in Calcutta. When she came back she brought with her a
Tibetan praying wheel. Did you ever see one? A little round brass cup on the
top of a stick; the cup revolves when the stick is whirled. The Tibetan
writes out his prayers, drops them into the cup, and then whirls the stick
and the wheel goes round and the prayers are said. That is just the way a
great many Americans pray, except that the wheel is in their head instead of
being on the top of a stick. They kneel down and rattle through a rote of
prayer, day after day the same thing, with scarcely any thought of what they
are praying for. That kind of prayer is profanity, "taking the name of God
in vain," and it has no power whatever with God. It is a pure waste of time,
or worse than a waste of time.
But if I should ask some of you what you prayed for this morning you could
tell me, for as you were in prayer the Spirit of God came on you, and with a
great heartache of intensity of desire you cried to God for that thing you
must have. Well, God will hear your prayer and give you what you asked.
If we are to pray with power we must pray with intense earnestness, throw our
whole soul into the prayer. This thought comes out again and again in the
Bible. For example, we find it in Romans 15:30, "I urge you, brothers, by
our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my
struggle by praying to God for me." The word translated "struggle" in this
verse is "sunagonizo" (Greek). "Agonizo" (Greek) means to "contend" or
"strive" or "wrestle" or "fight."
We hear a great deal these days about "the rest of faith," by which men
usually mean that we should take things very calmly in our Christian life,
and when we pray we simply come into God's presence like a little child and
quietly and trustfully ask Him for the thing desired and count it ours, and
go away very calmly, and consider the thing ours. Now, there is a truth in
that, a great truth; but it is only one side of the truth, and a truth
usually has two sides. And the other side of the truth is this, that there
is not only the "rest of faith" but there is also the "fight of faith," and my
Bible has more to say about "the fight of faith" than it has about "the rest
of faith." The thought of wrestling or fighting in prayer is not the thought
that we have to wrestle with God to make God willing to grant our prayers.
No, "our wrestling is . . . against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of
evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12), against the devil and all his
mighty forces, and there is no place where the devil so resists us as when we
pray. Sometimes when we pray it seems as if all the forces of hell sweep in
between us and God. What shall we do? Give up? No! A thousand times, no!
Fight the thing through on your knees, wrestle in your prayer to God, and
Some years ago I was attending a Bible conference in Dr. James H. Brooks' old
church in St. Louis. On the program was one of the most distinguished and
most gifted Bible teachers that America ever produced, and he was speaking
this day on "The Rest of Faith." He said, "I challenge anybody to show me a
single passage in the Bible where we are told to wrestle in prayer." Now one
speaker does not like to contradict another, but here was a challenge, and I
was sitting on the platform, and I was obliged to take it up. So I said in a
low tone of voice, "Romans 15:30, brother." He was a good enough Greek
scholar to know that I had him, and what is more rare, he was honest enough
to own it up on the spot. Yes, the Bible bids us "wrestle in prayer," and it
is the prayer in which we actually wrestle in the power of the Holy Spirit
that wins with God. The root of the word translated "struggle" is "agone"
(Greek), from which our word "agony" comes. Oh that we might have more
Turn now to Colossians 4:12, 13, and you will find the same thought again,
put in other words, "Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ
Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you
may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for
him that he is working hard for you." The words translated "working hard" is
a very strong word; it means intense toil, or, painful labor. Do you know
what it means to toil in prayer, to labor with painful toil in prayer? Oh,
how easily most of us take our praying, how little heart we put into it, and
how little it takes out of us, and how little it counts with God.
The mighty men of God who throughout the centuries have wrought great things
by prayer are the men who have had much painful toil in prayer. Take, for
example, David Brainerd, that physically feeble but spiritual mighty man of
God. Trembling for years on the verge of consumption (TB), from which he
ultimately died at an early age, David Brainerd felt led of God to labor
among the North American Indians in the early days, in the primeval forests
of northern Pennsylvania, and sometimes on a winter night he would go out
into the forest and kneel in the cold snow when it was a foot deep and so
labor with God in prayer that he would be wringing wet with perspiration even
out in the cold winter-night hours. And God heard David Brainerd and sent
such a mighty revival among the North American Indians as had never been
heard of before, as, indeed, had never been dreamed of.
And not only did God send an answer to David Brainerd's prayers this mighty
revival among the North American Indians, but also in answer to David
Brainerd's prayers he transformed David Brainerd's father-in-law, Jonathan
Edwards, that mighty prince of metaphysicians, probably the mightiest thinker
that America has ever produced (the only American metaphysician whose name is
in the American Hall of Fame), into Jonathan Edwards the flaming evangelist,
who so preached on the subject of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," in
the church at Enfield, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that the strong men
in the audience felt as if the very floor of the church were falling out and
they were sinking into hell, and they sprang to their feet and threw their
arms around the pillars of the church and cried to God for mercy. Oh that we
had more men who could pray like David Brainerd, then we would have more men
that could preach like Jonathan Edwards.
I once used this illustration of David Brainerd at a conference in New York
State. Dr. Park, the grandson and biographer of Jonathan Edwards, who was in
my audience, came to me at the close and said, "I have always felt that there
was something abnormal about David Brainerd." I replied, "Doctor Park, it
would be a good thing for you and a good thing for me if we had a little more
of that kind of abnormality." Indeed it would, and it would be a good thing
if many of us who are here this morning had that kind of so-called
"abnormality" that bows a man down with intensity of longing for the power of
God, that would make us pray in the way that David Brainerd prayed.
But a very practical question arises at this point. How can we get this
intense earnestness in prayer? The Bible answers the question very plainly
and simply. There are two ways of having earnestness in prayer, a right way
and a wrong way. The wrong way is to work it up in the energy of the flesh.
Have you never seen it done? A man kneels down by a chair to pray; he begins
very calmly and then he begins to work himself up and begins to shout and
scream and pound the chair, and sometimes he spits foam, and he screams until
your head is almost splitting with the loud uproar. That is the wrong way,
that is false fire; that is the energy of the flesh, which is an abomination
to God. If possible, that is even worse than the careless, thoughtless
prayers of which I have spoken.
But there is a right way to obtain real, heart-stirring, heart-wringing, and
God-moving earnestness in prayer. What the right way is the Bible tells us.
It tells us in Romans 8:26-27, "The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do
not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us
with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows
the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in
accordance with God's will." That is the right way--look to the Spirit to
create the earnestness. The earnestness that counts with God is not the
earnestness that you or I work up; it is the earnestness that the Holy Spirit
creates in our hearts. Have you never gone to God in prayer and there was no
earnestness in your prayer at all, it was just words, words, words, a mere
matter of form, when it seemed there was no real prayer in your heart? What
shall we do at such a time as that? Stop praying and wait until we feel more
like praying? No. If there is ever a time when one needs to pray it is when
he does not feel like praying. What shall we do? Be silent and look up to
God to send His Holy Spirit, according to His promise, to move your heart to
prayer and to awaken and create real earnestness in your heart in prayer: and
God will send Him and you will pray with intense earnestness, very likely
"with groanings which cannot be uttered."
I wish to testify right here that some of the times of deepest earnestness
that I have ever known in prayer came when at the outset I seemed to have no
prayer in my heart at all, and all attempt to pray was mere words, words,
empty form. And then I looked up to God to send His Spirit according to His
promise to teach me to pray, and I waited and the Spirit of God came on me in
mighty power and I cried to God, sometimes with groanings which could not be
I shall never forget a night in Chicago. After the general prayer meetings
for a world-wide revival had been going on for some time, the man who was
most closely associated with me in the conduct of the meetings came over to
my house one night after the meeting was over and said, "Brother Torrey, what
do you say to our having a time alone with God every Saturday night after the
other meetings are over? I do not mean," he continued, "that we will
actually promise to come together every Saturday night; but let us have it
tonight, anyway." Oh, such a night of prayer as we had that night. I shall
never forget that, but it was not that night that I am especially thinking of
now. After we had been meeting some weeks, he suggested that we invite in a
few others, which we did; and every Saturday night after the general prayer
meeting was closed at ten o'clock we few would gather in some secluded place
where we would not disturb others to pray together. There were never more
than a dozen persons present; usually there were six or seven. One night,
before kneeling in prayer, we told one another the things we desired
especially to ask of God that night, and then we knelt to pray and a long
silence followed. No one prayed. And one of the little company looked up
and said, "I cannot pray, there seems to be something resisting me." Then
another raised his head and said, "Neither can I pray, something seems to be
resisting me." We went around the whole circle, and each one had the same
What did we do? Break up the prayer meeting? No. If ever we felt the need of
prayer it was then, and quietly we all bowed before God and looked to Him to
send His Holy Spirit to enable us to pray to victory. And soon the Spirit of
God came on one and another, and I have seldom heard such praying as I heard
that night. And then the Spirit of God came on me and led me out in such a
prayer as I had never dreamed of praying. I was led to ask God that He would
send me around the world preaching the Gospel, and give me to see thousands
saved in China, in Japan, in Australia, in New Zealand, in Tasmania, in
India, in England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, France, and Switzerland; and
when I finished praying that night I knew I was going, and I knew what I
would see as well as I knew afterward when the actual report came of the
mighty things that God had wrought. That prayer meeting sent me around the
world preaching the Gospel. Oh, that is how we must pray if we would get
what we ask in prayer--pray with the intense earnestness that the Holy Spirit
alone can inspire.
III. The Church
Now let us look briefly at another one of the four phrases, the phrase "the
church." The prayer that God particularly delights to answer is united
prayer. There is power in the prayer of a single individual, and the prayer
of individuals has wrought great things, but there is far greater power in
united prayer. Our Lord Jesus taught this same great truth in Matthew 18:19,
20, "I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for,
it will be done for you by my Father in heaven." God delights in the unity
of His people, and He does everything in His power to promote that unity, and
so He especially honors unity in prayer. There is power in the prayer of one
true believer: there is far more power in the united prayer of two, and
greater power in the united prayer of still more.
But it must be real unity. This comes out in the exact words our Lord uses.
He says, "If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be
done for you by my Father in heaven." It is one of the most frequently
misquoted and most constantly abused promises in the whole Bible. It is
often quoted as if it read this way, "If two of you on earth agree to ask
anything, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven." But it actually
reads, "If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be
done for you by my Father in heaven." Someone may say, "I do not see any
essential difference." Let me explain it to you. Someone else has a burden
on his heart, he comes to you and asks you to unite with him in praying for
deliverance and you consent, and you both pray for it. Now you are "agreed"
in praying, but you are not agreed at all "about anything" you ask. He asks
for it because he intensely desires it; you ask for it simply because he asks
you to ask for it. You are not at all agreed "about anything" you ask. But
when God, by His Holy Spirit, puts the same burden on two hearts, and they
thus in the unity of the Spirit pray for the same thing, there is not power
enough on earth or in hell to keep them from getting it. Our Heavenly
Father will do for them the thing that they ask.
IV. For Him
Now let us look at the fourth phrase, "for him." The prayer was definite
prayer for a definite person; and that is the kind of prayer God answers,
definite prayer. Oh how general and vague many of our prayers are. They are
very pretty, they sound nice, they are charmingly phrased, but they ask no
definite, specific thing, and they get no definite, specific answer. When
you pray to God, have a very definite, clear-cut idea of just exactly what it
is you want of God, and ask Him for that definite and specific thing; and, if
you meet the other conditions of prevailing prayer, you will get that
definite, specific thing which you asked. God's answer will be just as
definite as your prayer.
In closing, let me call your attention to our dependence on the Holy Spirit
in all our praying if we are to accomplish anything by our prayers. It is
the Holy Spirit, as we saw in our study of the first phrase, who enables us
really to pray "to God," who leads us into the presence of God and makes God
real to us. It is the Holy Spirit, again, who gives us the intense
earnestness in prayer that prevails with God. Still again, it is the Holy
Spirit who brings us into unity so that we know the power of really united
prayer. And it is the Holy Spirit who shows us the definite things for which
we should definitely pray.
To sum it all up, the prayer that God answers is the prayer that is to God
the Father, that is on the ground of the atoning blood of God the Son, and
that is under the direction and in the power of God the Holy Spirit.
The Great Attraction
R. A. Torrey
"But I, when I am lifted up from the earth,
will draw all men to myself."
In a recent advertisement of a Sunday evening service in one of our American
cities it was stated that there would be three attractions: a high-class
movie show, a popular gospel pianist and his wife, and a melody from the
opera, "Madame Butterfly," rendered by a well-known prima donna. It is
somewhat startling when an unusually gifted and popular preacher, or his
advertising committee, thinks of the Gospel of the Son of God as having so
lost its power to draw that it must be bolstered up by putting on a selection
from a very questionable opera, rendered by a professional opera singer, as
an additional attraction to help out our once-crucified and now-glorified
Savior and Lord.
This advertisement set me to thinking as to what really was the great
attraction to men in this day as well as in former days. At once there came
to my mind the words of our text containing God's answer to this question:
"But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."
There is nothing else that draws like the uplifted Christ. Movies may get a
crowd of empty-headed and empty-hearted young men and maidens, and even
middle-aged folks without brains or moral earnestness, for a time, but
nothing really draws and holds the men and women who are worthwhile like
Jesus Christ lifted up. Nineteen centuries of Christian history prove the
drawing power of Jesus when He is properly presented to men. I have seen
some wonderful verifications of the assertion of our text as to the marvelous
drawing power of the uplifted Christ.
In London, for two continuous months, six afternoons and evenings each week,
I saw the great Royal Albert Hall filled and even jammed, and sometimes as
many turned away as got in, though it would seat ten thousand people by
actual count and provide standing room for two thousand more in the dome. On
the opening night of these meetings a leading reporter of the city of London
came to me before the service began and said, "You have rented this building
for two consecutive months?" "Yes." "And you expect to fill it every day?"
"Yes." "Why," he said, "no one has ever attempted to hold two weeks
consecutive meetings here of any kind. Gladstone himself could not fill it
for two weeks. And you really expect to fill it for two months?" I replied,
"Come and see." He came and he saw.
On the last night, when the place was jammed to its utmost capacity and
thousands outside clamored for admission, he came to me again, and I said,
"Has it been filled?" He smiled and said, "It has." But what filled it? No
show on earth could have filled it once a day for many consecutive days. The
preacher was no remarkable orator. He had no gift of wit and humor, and
would not have exercised it if he had. The newspapers constantly called
attention to the fact that he was no orator, but the crowds came and came and
came; rainy days, and fine days they crowded in or stood outside, oftentimes
in a downpour of rain, in the vain hope of getting in. What drew them? The
uplifted Christ preached and sung in the power of the Holy Spirit, given in
answer to the daily prayers of forty thousand people scattered throughout the
In Liverpool, the Tournament Hall, that was said to seat twenty thousand
people, and that by actual count seated 12,500 comfortably, located in a very
out-of-the-way part of the city, several blocks from the nearest street-car
line, and perhaps half a mile from all the regular street-car lines, was
filled night after night for three months, and on the last night they crowded
fifteen thousand people into the building at seven o'clock, and then emptied
it, and crowded another fifteen thousand in who had been patiently waiting
outside--30,000 people drawn in a single night! By what? By whom? Not by
the preacher, not by the singer, but by Him who had said nearly nineteen
hundred years before, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw
all men to myself."
I. The Exact Meaning of the Text
Let us now look at the exact meaning of the text.
1. First, notice who is the speaker, and what were the circumstances under
which He spoke? The Speaker was our Lord Jesus. Not the Christ of men's
imaginations, but the Christ of reality, the Christ of actual historic fact.
Not the Christ of Mary Baker Eddy's foolish fancy, or of Madam Besant's
mystical imaginings, but the Christ of actuality, who lived here among men
and was seen, heard, and handled by men, and who was seen to die a real death
to save real sinners from a real hell for a real heaven.
The circumstances were these. Certain Greeks among those who went up to
worship at the Jewish feast came to one of the apostles, Philip, and said,
"We would like to see Jesus." And Philip went to Andrew and told Andrew what
these Greeks had said. Andrew and Philip together came and told Jesus. In
the heart-cry of these Greeks, "We would like to see Jesus," our Lord
recognized the yearning of the universal heart, the heart of Greek, as well
as of Jew, for a satisfying Savior. The Greeks had their philosophers and
sages, their would-be satisfiers and saviors, the greatest the world has ever
known, Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Epictetus, Epimenides, and many others;
but they did not save, and they did not satisfy, and the Greeks cried, "We
would like to see Jesus"; and in their eagerness to see Him Jesus foresaw the
millions of all nations who would flock to Him when He had been crucified as
the universal Savior, meeting all the needs of all mankind, and so He cried,
"But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."
2. In the second place, notice the words, "When I am lifted up." To what does
Jesus refer? The next verse answers the question. "He said this to show the
kind of death he was going to die." Jesus referred to His lifting up on the
cross, to die as an atoning Savior for all mankind. This verse is often
quoted as if it meant that, if we lifted up Christ in our preaching, He would
draw men. That is true, and it is a crying shame that we do not more often
hold up only Him in our preaching, for we would draw far more people if we
did. But that is not our Lord's meaning. The lifting up clearly referred,
not to Him not being lifted up in our preaching, but to His being lifted up
on the cross by His enemies to expose Him to awful shame and to an agonizing
death. It is Christ crucified who draws, it is Christ crucified who meets
the deepest needs of the heart of all mankind; it is an atoning Savior, a
Savior who atones for the sins of men by His death, and thus saves from the
holy wrath of an infinitely holy God, who meets the needs of men, and thus
draws all men, for all men are sinners. Preach any Christ but a crucified
Christ, and you will not draw men for long. Preach any gospel but a gospel
of atoning blood, and it will not draw for long.
Unitarianism does not draw men. Unitarian churches are born only to die.
Their corpses strew New England today. Many of their ministers have been
intellectually among the most brilliant our country has ever known, but their
churches even under scholarly and brilliant ministers die, die, die! Why?
Because Unitarianism presents a gospel without atoning blood, and Jesus has
said and history has proven it true, "But I, when I am lifted up from the
earth, will draw all men to myself." "Christian Science," strangely so
called, for, as has been often truly said, "it is neither Christian nor
scientific," draws crowds of men and women of a certain type, men and women
who have or imagine that they have physical ailments, and who will follow
anything, no matter how absurd, that promises them a little release from
their real or imagined pains. It also draws crowds who wish to fancy that
they have some religion without paying the price of true religion, genuine
love, real self-sacrifice, and costly sympathy.
But Christian Science does not draw all men, that is, all kinds and
conditions and ranks of men. In fact, for the most part, it does not draw
men at all, but women, and the alleged men it draws are for the most part
women in trousers, and men who see an easy way to make a living by preying on
the vulnerability of luckless females. No, a bloodless gospel, a gospel with
a Christ but not a Christ lifted up on a cross, does not meet the universal
needs of men, and so does not draw all men.
Congregationalism of the past years has been sadly tinctured with
Unitarianism. In spite of the fact that it has been an eyewitness to
Unitarianism's steady decay and death, Congregationalism has largely dropped
the atoning blood out of its theology, and consequently it is rapidly going
to the wall. Its once-great Andover Seminary, still great in the size of its
endowment given for the teaching of Bible orthodoxy, but which the
conscienceless teachers of a bloodless theology have deliberately taken for
the exploitation of their "damnable heresies" (2 Peter 2:1), and which is
still great in the number of its professors, graduated at their annual
exercises last spring just three men, one a Japanese, one a Hindu, and one an
American. A theology without a crucified Savior, without the atoning blood,
won't draw. It does not meet the need. No, no, the words of our Lord are
still true, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to
3. Note, in the third place, the words, "Draw all men." Does "all men" mean
all individuals or men of all races? Did Jesus mean that every man and woman
who lived on this earth would be drawn to Him, or did He mean that men of all
races would be drawn to Him? The context answers the question. The Greeks,
as we have seen, came to one of the apostles, Philip, and said, "We would
like to see Jesus," and Philip had gone and told Andrew, and Andrew and
Philip had gone and told Jesus. Our Lord's ministry during His earthly life
was to Jews only, and in the coming of these Greeks so soon before His death
our Lord saw the sign of the coming days when by His death on the cross the
barrier between Jews and Gentiles would be broken down and all nations would
have their opportunity equally with the Jews, when by His atoning death on
the cross men of all nations would be drawn to Him. He did not say that He
would draw every individual, but all races of men, Greeks as well as Jews,
Romans, Scythians, French, English, Germans, Japanese, Americans, and men of
He is a universal Savior, and true Christianity is a universal religion.
Mohammedanism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and all religions but Christianity,
are religions of a restricted application. Christianity, with a crucified
Christ as its center, is a universal religion and meets the needs of all
mankind. It meets the needs of the European as well as the needs of the
Asiatic, the needs of the Occident as well as the needs of the Orient, the
needs of the American Indian and the needs of the African Negro; and so our
Lord said, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to
No race has ever been found anywhere on this earth to which the Gospel did
not appeal and whose deepest need the crucified Christ did not meet. Many
years ago, when Charles Darwin, the eminent English scientist, came in
contact with the Terre del Fuegans in their gross degradation, he publicly
declared that here was a people to whom it was vain to send missionaries, as
the Gospel could not do anything for them. But brave men of God went there
and took the Gospel to them in the power of the Holy Spirit and demonstrated
that it met the need of the Terre del Fuegans, with such great results that
Charles Darwin publicly admitted his mistake and became a regular subscriber
to the work.
The Gospel, with a crucified Christ as its center, meets the needs of all
conditions and classes of men as well as of all races. It meets the need of
the millionaire and the need of the pauper; it meets the need of great men of
science like James D. Dana and Lord Kelvin, and the need of the man or woman
who cannot read or write; it meets the need of the king on the throne and the
need of the laborer in the ditch. I myself have seen with my own eyes
noblemen and servant girls, university deans and men who could scarcely read,
prisoners in penitentiaries and leaders in moral uplift, brilliant lawyers
and dull, plodding workingmen, come under its attraction, and be saved by its
power. But it was only because I made "Christ crucified," His atoning work,
the center of my preaching.
4. Notice, in the fourth place, the words, "to myself." "I will draw all men
to myself." It is not to a creed or a system of doctrine that Jesus draws
men, but to a Person, to Himself. That is what we need, a Person, Jesus
Himself. As He Himself once said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and
burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Creeds and confessions
of faith are all right in their place, they are of great value; the organized
church is of great value, it is indispensable, and it is the most important
institution in the world today. Society would soon go to rack and ruin
without it; we are all under solemn obligation to God and to our fellow man
to support it and belong to it; but creeds and confessions of faith cannot
save; the church cannot save; a Divine Person can save, Jesus Christ, and He
alone. So He says, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw
all men to myself."
II. Why Christ Lifted Up on the Cross
Draws All Men to Himself
But why does Christ lifted up on the cross, the crucified Christ, draw all
men unto Himself? There are two reasons why Christ lifted up, and Christ
crucified, draws all men unto Himself.
1. First of all, Christ crucified draws all men to Himself because Christ
crucified meets the first, the deepest, the greatest and most fundamental
need of man. What is man's first, greatest, deepest, most fundamental need?
A Savior? A Savior from what? First of all, and underlying all else, a
Savior from the guilt of sin. Every man of every race has sinned. As Paul
put it in Romans 3:23, "There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall
short of the glory of God."
There is no difference between Jew and Gentile at this point, nor is there
any difference between English and German at this point; there is no
difference between American and Japanese at this point, no difference between
European and Asiatic, no difference between the American and the African.
"There is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of
God." Every man of every race is a sinner; "there is no difference" at this
point. And every man will have to answer for his sin to the infinitely holy
God who rules this universe. Therefore, all men need an atoning Savior, who
can by His atoning death make propitiation for, and so cover up, our sins,
and thus reconcile us to this holy God, and deliver us from His awful wrath,
and bring us out into the glorious sunlight of His favor. And Jesus lifted
up is the only atoning Savior in the universe. He who alone was at the same
time God and man, He alone can make atonement for sin; and He has made it,
has made a perfect atonement, and God has accepted His atonement and
testified to His acceptance of His atonement by raising Him from the dead.
The Lord Jesus actually meets our need, He actually meets every man's first,
greatest, deepest, most fundamental need, and He alone. In all the universe
there is no religion but Christianity that even offers an atoning Savior.
Mohammedanism offers Mohammed, "The Prophet," a teacher, but not a Savior;
Buddhism offers Buddha, supposedly at least a wonderful teacher, "The Light
of Asia," but not an atoning Savior; Confucianism offers Confucius, a
marvelous teacher far ahead of his time, but not an atoning Savior. No
religion but Christianity offers an atoning Savior, an atonement of any real
character. This is the radical point of difference between Christianity and
every other religion in the world, yet some fool preachers are trying to
eliminate from Christianity this supreme fact, its very point of radical
difference from all other religions. But such an emasculated Christianity
will not reach the needs of men and will not draw men. It never has and it
never will. The Bible and history are at one on this.
Jesus Christ offers Himself lifted up on the cross to redeem us from the
curse of the law by "becoming a curse for us." "Christ redeemed us from the
curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is
everyone who is hung on a tree'" (Galatians 3:13). Men know their need; they
may try to forget it, they may try to deny it; they may try to drown their
sense of it by drink and indulgence or by wild pleasure-seeking or wild
money-getting, or by listening to fake preachers in supposedly orthodox
pulpits, like one who in this city declared recently that "the old sense of
sin is fast disappearing," and added, "The change is for the better, not for
the worse." He spoke also of "imaginary and artificial sins like 'the sin of
unbelief,'" and then went on to say, "In this we agree with Christ,"
apparently not knowing enough about the Bible to know that Jesus Himself was
the very one who said in John 16:8-9, "When he comes, he will convict the
world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to
sin, because men do not believe in me."
But in spite of all our attempts to drown or stupefy or silence our sense of
sin, our consciousness of guilt before a Holy God, we all have it, and, it
will not disappear. Nothing gives the guilty conscience abiding peace but
the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. And so Christ lifted up draws all men to
Him, and even wicked ministers of Satan, like the preacher I have just
referred to, sometimes come to their senses and flee to the real Christ,
Christ crucified, as I hope this one may. Yes, Jesus, Jesus only, Jesus
lifted up on the cross, Jesus crucified for our sins, making full atonement
for our sins, He and He alone meets the deepest need of us all, and so His
cross draws us all men to Himself. Happy the man or the woman who yields to
that drawing. Woe be to the man or woman who resists that drawing; final
gloom, despondency, and despair are their lot. Oh, how many men and women
who have gotten their eyes opened to see the facts, to see their awful guilt,
and who have been plunged into deepest consequent despair, have come to me,
and I have pointed them to Jesus on the cross, and have shown them by God's
Word all their sins laid upon Him and thus settled, and they have come to
Him, and believed God's testimony about Him, that He had borne all their sins
in His own body on the cross, and they have found perfect peace and boundless
joy. And that is the only way to find perfect peace and boundless joy.
Will you set out to find peace? If you do not, great gloom, utter despair,
awaits you some day, in this world or in the world to come. In my first
pastorate I tried to get a man to come to Christ lifted up to meet his need
of pardon; but though it was many years ago he held to the theology that is
preached as "new theology" today, and sought to quiet the voice of
conscience, and stupefy his sense of sin by denying his guilt and his need of
an atoning Savior. He did not wish to listen to me nor to see me. But the
hour came when death drew near. A cancer was eating its way through scalp
and skull into his brain; then he cried to those about his dying bed, "Send
for Mr. Torrey." I hurried to his side. He was in despair. "Oh!" he said,
"Dr. Tidhall tells me that I have only a short time to live, that as soon as
this cancer gets a little farther and cuts through the thin film of skull and
touches the brain I am a dead man. Tell me how to be saved." I sat down
beside him, and told him what to do to be saved. I tried to make as plain as
I knew how the way of salvation through the uplifted Christ, Christ uplifted
on the cross, and I think I know how to make it plain, but he had waited too
long, he could not grasp it. I stayed with him. Night came on. I said to
his family, "You have been up night after night with him, I will sit with him
tonight." They instructed me what to do, how to minister to him. Time after
time during the night I had to go to another room to get some nourishment for
him, and as I would come back into the room where he lay, from his bed in the
corner there would rise the constant cry, "Oh, I wish I were a Christian.
Oh, I wish I were a Christian. Oh, I wish I were a Christian." And thus he
2. In the second place, Christ lifted up on the cross, Christ crucified,
draws all men to Him, because lifted up there to die for us He reveals His
wonderful love, and the wondrous love of the Father for us. "This is how we
know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to
lay down our lives for our brothers" (1 John 3:16), and "You see, at just the
right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. God
demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ
died for us" (Romans 5:6, 8). There is nothing that draws men like love.
Love draws all men of every region. But no love draws like the love of God.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever
believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) that
verse has broken thousands of hard hearts.
One night, preaching in my own church in Minneapolis, the whole choir stayed
for the after-meeting. The leading soprano was an intelligent young woman
but living a worldly life. She remained with the rest. In the after-meeting
her mother arose in the back of the church and said, "I wish you would pray
for the conversion of my daughter." I did not look around but knew
instinctively that the daughter's cheeks were flushing, and her eyes flashing
with anger. As soon as the meeting was dismissed, I hurried down so that I
would meet her before she got out of the church. As she came toward me I
held out my hand to her. She stamped her foot, and with flashing eyes cried,
"Mr. Torrey, my mother knows better than to do that. She knows it will only
make me worse." I said, "Sit down, Cora." She sat down, and without any
argument I opened my Bible to Isaiah 53:5, and began to read, "He was pierced
for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment
that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." She
burst into tears, and the next night accepted Jesus Christ. I had to go to
Duluth for a few days, and when I returned I found that she was seriously
ill. One morning her brother came hurrying up to my home and said that she
was apparently dying, that she was unconscious, and white from the loss of
blood. I hastened down, and as I entered the room she lay there with her
eyes closed, with the whitest face I ever saw on one who was not actually
dead. She was apparently unconscious, scarcely breathing. I knelt by her
side to pray, more for the sake of the mother who stood beside the bed than
for her, for I supposed that she was beyond help or hearing. But no sooner
had I finished my prayer than in a clear, full, richly musical tone she began
to pray. These were her words, "Heavenly Father, if it be Your will, raise
me up that as I have used my voice for myself and only to please myself that
I may use my voice for Your glory, but if in Your wisdom You see that it is
best for me not to live, I shall be glad to go to be with Christ," and she
went to be with Christ.
Oh, I have seen thousands melted as I have repeated to them and shown them
the picture of Christ on the cross, as told in Isaiah 53:5, "He was pierced
for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment
that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."
A few days ago I received a missionary magazine containing a testimony from
one who was going to Egypt under the Egypt General Mission. This young
missionary said, "When I was twelve years old, during the Torrey-Alexander
meetings, in 1904, I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus Christ. Dr. Torrey was
speaking on the text, Isaiah 53:5, and he asked us to repeat the words with
him, but changing the word 'our' into the word 'my.' While repeating the text
in this way I suddenly realized, as if for the first time, that Jesus had
really suffered all this for me, and there and then I gave my life to Him."
Oh, men and women, look now! See Jesus Christ lifted up on the cross, see Him
hanging on that awful cross, see Him wounded for your sins, bruised for your
sins, and the punishment due you was given to Him. Oh, men and women living
in sin, men and women rejecting Christ for the world, men and women who have
looked to the lies of other systems that deny His atoning blood, listen! "He
was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the
punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are
healed." Won't you yield to that love, won't you give up your sin, give up
your worldly pleasures, give up your willful errors, and accept the Savior
who loves you, and died for you, who was "pierced for your transgressions;
crushed for your iniquities" and upon whom the punishment that brought us
peace was laid? Accept Him right now!
The Most Important Question
R. A. Torrey
"What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?"
If I should put to this audience tonight the question, What is the most
important question of the day, I presume I would get a great variety of
answers. Some of you would say that the disarmament question or the Four
Power Treaty question was the most important question of the day. Some would
say that the labor question was the most important question of the day. And
still others would say that the Prohibition question was the most important
question of the day, and so on. But all these answers would be wrong. There
is another question of vastly more importance than any one of these, a
question of the right decision on which immeasurably more depends than on the
decision of any of these questions. That question is this, "What shall I do,
then, with Jesus who is called Christ?"
It is not a new question. Pontius Pilate asked it nearly nineteen hundred
years ago, and answered it wrong, and his earthly life went out in darkness,
and his eternity was endless torment. Thousands on thousands have asked it
since. A right decision to that question hangs everything that is really
worth having for time and for eternity for each one of us. If you do the
right thing with Jesus, the Christ of God, you will get everything that is
really worth having for time as well as for eternity, whether a right
decision is given on these various other questions or not. If you do the
wrong thing with Jesus, the Christ of God, you will lose everything that is
worth having for time as well as for eternity, even though all these other
questions are answered correctly.
I. What We Will Get if We Do the Right Thing
with Jesus Christ
Let us look at some of the things that we will get if we do the right thing
with Jesus Christ.
1. In the first place, if you do the right thing with Jesus you will get the
forgiveness of all your sins. Peter says in Acts 10:43, "All the prophets
testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of
sins through his name." Now this statement is as plain as day, and in it
God's inspired apostle declares that "everyone who believes in" Jesus Christ
"receives forgiveness of [his] sins." If the vilest sinner on earth would
come in here tonight and would put his trust in Jesus Christ, the moment he
did it all his sins would be forgiven, blotted out.
The forgiveness of our sins depends solely on what we do with Jesus Christ.
It does not depend on our prayers or on our penances or on our good works.
If you do the right thing with Jesus Christ you get forgiveness of all your
sins, whatever else you may do or not do. If you do the wrong thing with
Jesus Christ you will not get forgiveness of sins, whatever else you may do
or not do. The same truth is put in a different way in John 3:18, "Whoever
believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands
condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and
What an unspeakable blessing the forgiveness of all your sins is. Wealth,
honors, pleasures, are not so eagerly to be desired as the forgiveness of our
sins. All of them together are not to be compared with the forgiveness of
our sins. Forgiveness of sin brings joy anywhere it comes, whether it be
into the palace or into the prison cell. King David had wealth, honor,
power, pleasures, and privileges without number, but he was not happy.
Indeed, he was perfectly miserable. His own description of his condition is
found in the Thirty-second Psalm, the third and fourth verses; "When I kept
silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and
night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of
summer." Then he found forgiveness of sin and in his joy he shouted,
"Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose
spirit is no deceit" (Psalm 32:1-2).
Down in a wretched cell in Sing Sing Prison there was a man under a fifteen-
year sentence for manslaughter. He was, of course, a very unhappy man. But
there in his cell he got hold of a Bible and read it, and through the Bible
the Holy Spirit showed him the Lord Jesus as his Savior who died in his
place, and he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. It was in the middle of
the night when he finally found the Savior through meditating on what he had
read in the Word of God, and though it was in the middle of the night and in
a prison cell, such joy came into his soul that he began to shout. The guard
came along and rapped on his door and told him to keep still. "I can't keep
still," he shouted back, "my sins are forgiven." Yes, there is a more
wonderful joy in knowing that our sins are all forgiven than there is in
anything that this world has to give.
And we get this forgiveness of sin by simply believing in
the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. In the second place, you will get peace of conscience by doing the right
thing with Jesus Christ. It is a blessed thing to have a conscience that
does not accuse you, a conscience that has found perfect peace. It is an
awful thing to have a conscience that accuses. It is the greatest misery on
earth. It drives many men and many women to suicide. Oh, in what agony of
mind men and women have come to me from different ranks of society because of
an accusing conscience. And there are many who never unburden their hearts
to others who are in misery from the same cause. There are men and women
here tonight who spend days and nights of misery because of an accusing
conscience. You try to drown the voice of conscience in many ways, but you
fail utterly. You try to drown the voice of conscience in pleasure and
indulgence. You try to drown the voice of conscience in business. You try
to drown the voice of conscience in drink and in drugs, and in other ways;
but you do not succeed. You never will succeed.
One who perhaps knows as much about the life of the movie colony in Hollywood
as anyone else told a friend of mine a few weeks ago of two of the leading
stars in the movie world, two women whose names are constantly in the daily
papers and who are admired and envied by thousands, that they were the
hopeless slaves of drugs, and all over this land people who are counted
gifted, and on whom others look in envy, are trying to silence the voice of
conscience by drugs. But no one ever yet found real peace in that way, and
no one ever will. Jesus Christ alone can give the guilty conscience peace.
In Romans 5:1, God put it through the Apostle Paul in this way, "Since we
have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord
Jesus Christ." Do the right thing with Jesus Christ and you will get true
peace of conscience, deep, abiding peace, perfect peace. As Isaiah puts it,
"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he
trusts in you" (26:3). But do the wrong thing with Jesus Christ, and you
cannot find peace of conscience in this world or in the next, no matter what
else you may do to get peace.
I was dealing once in my office with a woman who told me that she had been in
a perfect hell for fourteen years because of an accusing conscience. I
pointed her to Jesus Christ. I showed her from God's Word how all her sins
had been laid on Jesus Christ. She believed it. She took God's Word for it,
put her trust in Him as her atoning Savior. After fourteen years of agony,
of hell on earth, she went out from my office that day with a radiant
countenance, for she had found peace of conscience in the only way in which
peace of conscience can ever be found by anybody, through her Lord Jesus
Christ. And that joy continues until this day.
3. In the third place, you will get deliverance from the power of sin by
doing the right thing with Jesus Christ. It is a dreadful thing to be in the
power of sin. There is no other slavery so binding, so degrading, and so
crushing as the slavery of sin. We all know what a dreadful thing it is to
be in the power of some sins. We all know, for example, what an awful thing
it is to be in the power of strong drink. We know what an awful thing it is
to be in the power of morphine, or cocaine, or some other kind of drug. Many
of us know through stories, distressing and agonizing, that have been poured
into our ears, what an awful thing it is to be in the power of lust. How
many men have come to me in despair this past year and told the story of
their dreadful slavery. It is an awful thing to be in the power of sin of
There is, however, a way to get free. There is a way by which any man or
woman who is the slave of any sin of any kind can get instantaneous and
complete deliverance from the power of that sin. There is, however, only one
way. That way is by doing the right thing with Jesus Christ. The Apostle
Paul was once in the power of sin. He was once helplessly and hopelessly
enslaved. With all the power of an unusually strong will he tried to break
away from the power of sin, but the more he tried to break away, the more
completely he seemed to be in sin's grip forever, until at last, in utter
despair, he cried, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this
body of death?" (Romans 7:24). And then he found Christ and took Him as his
Deliverer from the power of sin, and he found perfect freedom and cried
again, "Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!" You cannot get out
of sin's power unless you do the right thing with Jesus Christ. You may get
free from some bad habits. You may, for example, give up drinking without
the help of Christ, though very few do; but whether you do or do not, you
will not get out of sin's grip, you will simply turn from one sin to another.
Christ alone can save you from sin's power. I could stand here by the hour
and tell you of men and women I have personally known, men and women as
completely enslaved by sin in one form or another as any man or woman who
ever walked the earth, whom the Lord Jesus Christ has set free when they did
the right thing with Him.
4. In the fourth place, you will get great joy by doing the right thing with
Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter says "Though you have not seen him, you love
him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are
filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy," by doing the right thing with
Jesus Christ. You cannot get inexpressible and glorious joy in any other
Way. You know happy people, of course, who are not Christians, but you do
not know anyone who is not a Christian who has "inexpressible and glorious
joy." You do not know anyone who is not a Christian who has the deep,
constant, satisfying, and overflowing joy, that those men and women have who
are not merely nominal Christians but real Christians, those men and women
who have fully accepted Christ as their personal Savior and are really
trusting God for the forgiveness of all their sins because they fully believe
God's testimony concerning Jesus Christ having borne every one of their sins
when He died on the cross, thus fully settling their sins forever, and who
have without reservation surrendered the entire control of their thoughts and
lives to Jesus Christ, and who are confessing Jesus Christ as their Lord
before the world every reasonable opportunity they get, and who are watching
for every opportunity to lead others to Christ, and who are serving Jesus
Christ with all their strength every day.
Do the right thing with Jesus Christ and you get this wonderful joy. Reject
Jesus Christ and you lose it. How foolish men and women are! There are many
men in this audience tonight who are rejecting Christ because they think they
will lose joy if they take Christ. Are you blind, men? Do you not see that
those who have taken Christ really are happier than you are? Do you not see
that many Christians are happier in poverty than skeptics and worldly people
are in wealth? Are you deaf, women? Have you not heard many whose word you
must believe, and from all ranks of society, testify that they have found a
joy since they took Christ that they never dreamed of in the world?
I do not think that many of you could tell me much that I do not know about
this world's joys. I have tasted pretty much all of them, but I never knew
"inexpressible and glorious joy," until I took Jesus Christ. I do now. My
every day is full of joy. I have perplexities, I have annoyances, I have
experiences that could easily prove exasperating. I have burdens of many
kinds, I have what may appear to be great losses, I have things said to me
and written to me, and said and printed about me, that would cut to the quick
if I did not know the Lord Jesus; but, through it all, every day is
inexpressibly happy. Not so long ago I had more things come to me that might
have caused grief and anxiety and worry and heartache and deep sorrow than in
almost any other week of my life, but it was a radiantly happy week. Why?
Simply because of what Jesus Christ is to me, and what He is to me, just
because I have done the right thing with Him.
5. In the fifth place, if you do the right thing with Jesus Christ you will
get eternal life. Eternal Life! What a wonderful phrase that is, eternal
life. Life that never ends! Life that knows no death! Life of unutterable
beauty and dignity and honor and glory and rapture! Life that is endless in
its duration and perfect in its quality! Life like the life of God Himself.
Eternal life! What has the world to put in comparison with that? What is
the wealth of a millionaire compared with eternal life? I would rather be a
penniless pauper all my days, living in destitution and hunger and rags and
cold, and have eternal life, than to roll in wealth all my days and have all
that wealth can buy, and not have eternal life. I have no envy of the rich.
No, I know their lives and hearts too well. I have often a greater pity for
them than for the poor, for often they are more to be pitied than the poor.
The life of the average millionaire is a sad, sad life.
What is the wisdom of the world's greatest scientist or philosopher compared
with eternal life? What are the honors of a great general or a mighty ruler
of men compared with eternal life? What are the pleasures of the most
devoted seeker of pleasure compared with eternal life? Put all the world
has, absolutely everything the world can give, into one pan of the scales.
Put eternal life into the other scale. See the world's side go up. It is
lighter than the smallest dust in the balance in comparison with eternal
life. Eternal life! Oh, who can fathom all the depth of meaning that there
is in these two wondrous words?
And you get it by simply doing the right thing with Jesus Christ. Do the
right thing with Jesus Christ and you get eternal life. Do the wrong thing
with Jesus Christ and you lose eternal life. Listen to God's own Word about
that, John 3:36, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever
rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." Listen
to God's Word again, "This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life,
and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not
have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:11-12).
Are you going to do the right thing with Jesus Christ now and get eternal
life, or are you going to do the wrong thing with Jesus Christ and forever
lose eternal life?
6. But there is something better even than eternal life that you get by doing
the right thing with Jesus Christ. By doing the right thing with Jesus
Christ you become a child of God, an heir of God and joint heir with Jesus
Christ. We read in God's own Word, in John 1:12, "To all who received him,
to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of
God." And in Romans 8:17 we read, "Now if we are children, then we are
heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ." Just think of that a moment,
a child of God, and an heir of God, and a joint heir (or fellow heir) with
Jesus Christ. We have heard these words very often but have we ever stopped
to weigh their meaning and to take in their wondrous meaning? A child of
God! Think of it! God the Infinite One, God the Creator of all things, God
to whom the whole race of men and the whole company of angels is as nothing,
less than a speck of dust is in comparison to the whole earth; God in
comparison with whom the greatest of philosophers, the mightiest of monarchs,
and the purest of saints is less than the most ignorant idiot is in
comparison with the greatest philosopher--and we to become His children and
His heirs! Heirs of all this Infinite God is and all this Infinite God has.
It staggers the mind to try to think of it. That is what is open to each one
of us. That is what is open to you and open to me by just doing the right
thing with Jesus Christ.
One day, years ago, I met the son and heir of one of the richest men in the
whole world, and he invited me to dinner. As I sat and talked with him it
seemed to me as if it might be in some respects a fine thing to be the son
and heir of the richest millionaire on earth. But that is nothing, just
nothing at all, to being a child of God, an heir of God and fellow heir with
Jesus Christ. That is what is open to us, to each one of us; but it can be
obtained in only one way, and that is by doing the right thing with Jesus
Christ. Do the right thing with Jesus Christ and in a moment you become a
child of God, an heir of God and fellow heir with Jesus Christ. Listen to
God's own statement about it again, "To all who received him, to those who
believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God"
Do the wrong thing with Jesus Christ and you lose forever your chance of
becoming a child of God, an heir of God and fellow heir with Jesus Christ.
Oh, what a loss that is! The loss of untold wealth, the loss of earth's
greatest honors, the loss of dearest friends, is nothing in comparison with
the loss of becoming a child of God, an heir of God and fellow heir with
Jesus Christ. That is the awful cost of doing the wrong thing with Jesus
Christ. We see, then, something of what we gain by doing the right thing
with Jesus Christ, and something of what we lose by doing the wrong thing
with Jesus Christ. By doing the right thing with Jesus Christ we gain
forgiveness of all our sins. By doing the right thing with Jesus Christ we
gain peace of conscience. By doing the right thing with Jesus Christ we gain
deliverance from sin's power. By doing the right thing with Jesus Christ we
gain joy inexpressible and glorious. By doing the right thing with Jesus
Christ we gain eternal life. By doing the right thing with Jesus Christ we
become children of God, heirs of God, and fellow heirs with Jesus Christ. Is
it not evident, then, that the most important question of this day and of all
days is, "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?"
But what will you do with Him? Will you do the right thing with Him, or will
you do the wrong thing with Him? Will you do the right thing and gain all,
or will you do the wrong thing and lose all? I put the question to each
individual reader. What will you do with Jesus? It does not matter whether
you are a church member or not, I put the question to you, What will you do
with Jesus? I put the question to the most worldly man or woman here as well
as to the most religious, "What will you do with Jesus who is called Christ?"
I put the question to the one who is most sunken in sin, for there is hope
for you of getting all these things if you do the right thing with Jesus
Christ, just as much as there is for the most moral and upright and highly
respected man or woman here. "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is
called Christ?" I ask each one of you, Will you do the right thing with
Jesus Christ, or will you do the wrong thing with Jesus Christ?
7. But there is something better than anything I have mentioned yet that
depends entirely on what you do with Jesus Christ. If you do the right thing
with Jesus Christ, then some day you will become just like Him. Listen to
what God says, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we
should be called children of God! And that is what we are! Dear friends, now
we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But
we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as
he is" (1 John 3:1-2). "What," someone will say, "can I become like Jesus
Christ?" Yes, even you can become just like Jesus Christ. Think of it! You
and I, with all our present failings, with all our shortcomings, meannesses
and pettinesses, some of which we do not see but others see very clearly, for
they stick out all over us and generally they stick out most conspicuously on
those of us who have the best opinion of ourselves--even we can become just
like Him, be like Him in every perfection and glory of His matchless,
faultless, glorious, Divine character. Yes, and we can be like Him in the
glory of His outward appearance too; for it is written in the Word of God,
"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior
from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to
bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that
they will be like his glorious body" (Philippians 3:20-21). And how can we
become just like Him? By doing the right thing with Jesus Christ.
II. What Is the Right Thing to Do with Jesus Christ?
1. First of all, the right thing to do with Jesus Christ is to receive Him,
to receive Him as your Savior. This is evident from the verse that we have
quoted already a number of times, John 1:12, "To all who received him, to
those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."
He died for your sins. "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has
turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all"
(Isaiah 53:6). Will you accept Him as your sin-bearer? Will you say, "Oh,
God, I believe what Your Word says about Jesus Christ. I believe He bore my
sins in His own body on the cross. I believe every one of my sins was laid
on Him and settled fully and forever when He died on the cross in my place.
And I now take Him as my sin-bearer. Forgive all my sins for Jesus Christ's
Take Him not only as your Savior from the guilt of sin but also as your
Savior from the power of sin. He not only died to make atonement for your
sins, He also rose again, and He lives today to set you free from the power
of sin and to make intercession for you (Hebrews 7:25). Will you take Him now
as your Deliverer from the power of sin? Will you come to this risen and
mighty Lord Jesus with all your weakness and sins and trust Him to set you
free? That is the right thing to do with Jesus Christ: Just take Him as your
Savior, your crucified Savior, from the guilt of sin and your risen Savior
from the power of sin.
2. The next right thing to do with Jesus is to let Him into your heart. He
says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and
opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation
3:20). Jesus is standing at the door of every heart. He is knocking at the
door of every heart. Will you open the door and let Him in? Who will? Who
will say, "Lord Jesus, come in; come in and reign"?
3. The next right thing to do with Jesus is to enthrone Him in your heart.
He is the Christ, God's anointed King, because God has made Him so. As Peter
said on the day of Pentecost, "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified,
both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). Will you enthrone Him as King in your
heart? Will you say honestly to Him, "Lord Jesus, take the throne of my
heart and live and reign there supreme"? Who will do it?
4. Once more, the right thing to do with Jesus Christ is to confess Him
before the world as your Lord and Master. He Himself says in Matthew 10:32,
33, "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before
my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him
before my Father in heaven." And Paul says in Romans 10:9-10, "If you
confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God
raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Who will do it?
There is just one more right thing to do with Jesus.
What is it? Go tell others about Him, when you yourself have taken Him as
your Savior and let Him into your heart, and enthroned Him as King and
confessed Him before the world as your Lord. When Jesus was here on earth He
cast several thousand demons out of a wretched man who was in their control.
The condition of that man before he met Jesus was awful beyond description,
but the condition of that man after he met Jesus was glorious beyond
description. And that man naturally wanted to go with Jesus wherever He
went. But Jesus said, "'Return home and tell how much God has done for you.'
So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him."
Oh, if you have taken Jesus go tell everyone you can about Him and bring
every one you can to Him.
These are the right things to do with Jesus. Who will do them now and gain
all that is worth having for time and for eternity? Who of you will take Him
as your Savior? Who of you will listen to His voice and let Him into your
heart? Who of you will enthrone Him in your heart as King? Who of you will
begin the confession of Him as your Lord?
How God Guides
R. A. Torrey
"Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward
you will take me into glory."
There are no promises in God's Word more precious to the man who wishes to do
His will, and who realizes the goodness of His will, than the promises of
God's guidance. What a cheering, gladdening, inspiring thought is that
contained in the text, that we may have the guidance of infinite wisdom and
love at every turn of life and that we have it to the end of our earthly
There are few more precious words in the whole Book of Psalms, which is one
of the most precious of all the books of the Bible, than these: "You hold me
by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will
take me into glory." How the thoughtful and believing and obedient heart
burns as it reads these wonderful words of the text! I wish we had time to
dwell on the characteristics of God's guidance as they are set forth in so
many places in the Word of God, but we must turn at once to consideration of
the means God uses in guiding us.
I. God Guides by His Word
First of all, God guides by His Word. We read in Psalm 119:105, "Your word
is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path," and in the 130th verse of this
same Psalm we read, "The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives
understanding to the simple." God's own written Word is the chief instrument
that God uses in our guidance. God led the children of Israel by a pillar of
cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The written Word, the Bible, is
our pillar of cloud and pillar of fire. As it leads we follow. One of the
main purposes of the Bible, the Word of God, is practical guidance in the
affairs of everyday life. All other readings must be tested by the Word.
Whatever promptings may come to us from any other source, whether it be by
human counsel or by the prompting of some invisible spirit, or in whatever
way it may come, we must test the promptings, or the guidance or the counsel,
by the sure Word of God, "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not
speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn" (Isaiah 8:20).
Whatever spirit or impulse may move us, whatever dream or vision may come to
us, or whatever apparently providential opening we may have, all must be
tested by the Word of God. If the impulse or leading, or prompting, or
vision, or providential opening is not according to the Book, it is not of
God. "'Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who
has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?'
declares the LORD" (Jeremiah 23:28). If Christians would only study the Word
they would not be misled as they so often are by seducing spirits, or by
impulses of any kind, that are not of God but of Satan or of their own
deceitful hearts. How often people have said to me that the Spirit was
leading them to do this or that, when the thing that they were being led to
do was in direct contradiction to God's Word.
For example, a man once called on me to consult me about marrying a woman who
he said was a beautiful Christian, that they had deep sympathy for the work
of God, and that the Spirit of God was leading them to marry one another.
"But," I said to the man, "you already have one wife." "Yes," he replied,
"but you know we have not gotten along very well together." "Yes," I said, "I
know that, and, furthermore, I have had a conversation with her and believe
it is your fault more than hers. But, however that may be, if you should put
her away and marry this other woman, Jesus Christ says that you would be an
adulterer." "Oh, but," he replied, "the Spirit of God is leading us to one
another." Now, whatever spirit may have been leading that man, it certainly
was not the Spirit of God, for the Spirit of God cannot lead anyone to do
that which is in direct contradiction to the Word of God. I replied to this
man, "You are a liar and a blasphemer. How dare you attribute to the Spirit
of God action that is directly contrary to the teaching of Jesus Christ?"
Many, many times Christian people have promptings from various sources which
they attribute to the Holy Spirit, but which are in plain and flat
contradiction to the clear and definite teachings of God's Word. The truth
is, many so neglect the Word that they are all in a maze regarding the
impulses and readings that come to them, as to where they come from; whereas,
if they studied the Word they would at once detect the real character of
But the Word itself must be used in a right way if we are to find the leading
of God from it. We have no right to seek guidance from the Word of God by
using it in any fantastic way, as some do. For example, there is no warrant
whatever in the Word of God for trying to find out God's will by opening the
Bible at random and putting a finger on some text without regard to its real
meaning as made clear by the context. There is no warrant whatever in the
Bible for any such use of it. The Bible is not a talisman, or a fortune-
telling book, it is not in any sense a magic book; it is a revelation from an
infinitely wise God, made in a reasonable way, to reasonable beings, and we
obtain God's guidance from the Bible by taking the verse of Scripture in
which the guidance is found, in the connection in which it is found in the
Bible, and interpreting it, led by the Holy Spirit, in its context as found
in the Bible. Many have fallen into all kinds of fanaticism by using their
Bible in this irrational and fantastic way.
Some years ago a prediction was made by a somewhat prominent woman Bible
teacher that on a certain date Oakland and Alameda and some other California
cities, and I think also Chicago, were to be swallowed up in an earthquake.
The definite date was set and many were in anticipation, and many in great
dread. A friend of mine living in Chicago was somewhat disturbed over the
matter and sought God's guidance by opening her Bible at random, and this was
the passage to which she opened:
The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, tremble as you eat
your food, and shudder in fear as you drink your water. Say to
the people of the land: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says
about those living in Jerusalem and in the land of Israel: They
will eat their food in anxiety and drink their water in despair,
for their land will be stripped of everything in it because of
the violence of all who live there. The inhabited towns will be
laid waste and the land will be desolate. Then you will know
that I am the LORD.'" The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of
man, what is this proverb you have in the land of Israel: 'The
days go by and every vision comes to nothing'? Say to them,
'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to put an end
to this proverb, and they will no longer quote it in Israel.'
Say to them, 'The days are near when every vision will be
fulfilled. For there will be no more false visions or
flattering divinations among the people of Israel. But I the
LORD will speak what I will, and it shall be fulfilled without
delay. For in your days, you rebellious house, I will fulfill
whatever I say, declares the Sovereign LORD.'" The word of the
LORD came to me: "Son of man, the house of Israel is saying,
'The vision he sees is for many years from now, and he
prophesies about the distant future.'" Therefore say to them,
"This is what the Sovereign LORD says: 'None of my words will be
delayed any longer; whatever I say will be fulfilled, declares
the Sovereign LORD'" (Ezekiel 12:17-28).
Of course, this seemed like a direct answer, and, if it were a direct answer,
it clearly meant that the prophecy of the destruction of Oakland, Alameda,
and Chicago would be fulfilled at once, on the day predicted. The woman told
me of this that very day, but I was not at all disturbed. As we all know,
the prophecy was not fulfilled, and this would-be prophetess sank out of
sight, and, so far as I know, has not been heard from since. Many years
afterward an earthquake did come to San Francisco and work great destruction,
but San Francisco was not in this woman's prophecy, and Oakland and Alameda
were, and they were left practically untouched by the earthquake, and
certainly did not sink out of sight as the woman had predicted. And,
furthermore, the earthquake that came to an adjoining city was many years
after the prophesied date. This is only one illustration among many that
might be given of how utterly misleading is any guidance that we get in this
fantastic and unwarranted way.
Furthermore, the fact that some text of Scripture comes into your mind at
some time when you are trying to discover God's will is not by any means
proof positive that it is just the Scripture for you at that time. The devil
can suggest Scripture. He did this in tempting our Lord (Matthew 4:6), and
he does it today. If the text suggested, taken in its real meaning as
determined by the language used and by the context, applies to your present
position, it is, of course, a message from God for you, but the mere fact
that a text of Scripture comes to mind at some time, which by a distortion
from its proper meaning might apply to our case, is no evidence whatever that
it is the guidance of God. May I repeat once more than in getting guidance
from God's Word we must take the words as they are found in their context,
and interpret them according to the proper meaning of the words used and
apply them to those to whom it is evident from the context that they were
intended to apply. But with this word of warning against seeking God's
guidance from the Word of God in fantastic and unwarranted ways, let me
repeat that God's principal way of guiding us, and the way by which all other
methods must be tested, is by His written Word.
II. God Leads by His Spirit
God also leads us by His Spirit, that is, by the direct leading of the Spirit
in the individual heart. Beyond question, there is such a thing as an "inner
light." We read in Acts 8:29, "The Spirit told Philip, 'Go to that chariot
and stay near it.'" In a similar way, we read in Acts 16:6-7, of the Apostle
Paul and his companions: "Paul and his companions traveled throughout the
region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from
preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of
Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow
them to." In one of these passages we see God by His Holy Spirit giving
direct personal guidance to Philip as to what he should do, and in the other
passage we see the Spirit restraining Paul and his companions from doing
something they otherwise would have done. There is no reason why God should
not lead us as directly as He led Philip and Paul in their day, and those who
walk near God can testify that He does so lead.
I was once walking on South Clark Street, Chicago, near the corner of Adams,
a very busy corner. I had passed by hundreds of people as I walked.
Suddenly I met a man, a perfect stranger, and it seemed to me as if the
Spirit of God said to me, "Speak to that man." I stopped a moment and
stepped into a doorway and asked God to show me if the guidance was really
from Him. It became instantly clear that it was. I turned around and
followed the man, who had reached the corner and was crossing from one side
of Clark Street to the other. I caught up to him in the in middle of the
street. Providentially, for a moment there was no traffic at that point.
Even on that busy street we were alone in the middle of the street. I laid
my hand on his shoulder as we crossed to the farther sidewalk, and said to
him, "Are you a Christian?" He replied, "That is a strange thing to ask a
perfect stranger on the street." I said, "I know it is, and I do not ask
every man that I meet on the street that question, but I believe God told me
to ask you." He stopped and hung his head. He said, "This is very strange.
I am a graduate of Amherst College, but I am a perfect wreck through drink
here in Chicago, and only yesterday my cousin, who is a minister in this
city, was speaking to me about my soul, and for you, a perfect stranger, to
put this question to me here on this busy street" I did not succeed in
bringing the man to a decision there on the street, but shortly afterward he
was led to a definite acceptance of Christ.
A friend of mine walking the busy streets of Toronto suddenly had a deep
impression that he should go to the hospital and speak to someone there. He
tried to think of someone he knew at the hospital and he could think of but
one man. He took it for granted that he was the man he was to speak to, but
when he reached the hospital and came to this man's bedside there was no
reason why he should speak to him, and nothing came of the conversation. He
was in great perplexity, and standing by his friend's bed he asked God to
guide him. He saw a man lying on the bed right across the aisle. This man
was a stranger, he had been brought to the hospital for an apparently minor
trouble, some difficulty with his knee. His case did not seem at all urgent,
but my friend turned and spoke to him and had the joy of leading him to
Christ. To everybody's surprise, that man passed into eternity that very
night. It was then or never.
So God often guides us today (if we are near Him and listening for His
guidance), leading us to do things that otherwise we would not do, and
restraining us from doing things we otherwise would do. But these inward
readings must be always tested by the Word, and we do well when any prompting
comes to look up to God and ask Him to make clear to us if this leading is of
Him, otherwise we may be led to do things which are absurd and not at all
according to the will of God.
But though it is oftentimes our privilege to be thus led by the Spirit of
God, there is no warrant whatever in the Word of God for our refusing to act
until we are thus led. Remember, this is not God's only method of guidance.
Oftentimes we do not need this particular kind of guidance. Take the cases
of Philip and of Paul to which we have referred. God did not guide Philip
and Paul in this way in every step they took. Philip had done many things in
coming down through Samaria to the desert where he met the treasurer of Queen
Candace, and it was not until the chariot of the treasurer appeared that God
led Philip directly by His Spirit. And so with Paul, who in the missionary
work to which God had called him had followed his own best judgment as God
enlightened it until the moment came when he needed the special direct
prohibition of the Holy Spirit of his going into a place where God would not
have him go at that time.
There is no need for our having the Spirit's direction to do that which the
Spirit has already told us to do in the Word. For example, many a man who
has fanatical and unscriptural notions about the guidance of the Holy Spirit
refuses to work in an after-meeting because, as he says, the Holy Spirit does
not lead him to speak to anyone, and he is waiting until the Holy Spirit
does. But as the Word of God plainly teaches him to be a fisher of men
(Matthew 4:19; 28:19; Acts 8:4), if he is to obey God's word, whenever there
is opportunity to work with men he should go to work, and there is no need of
the Holy Spirit's special guidance. Paul would have gone into these places
to preach the Gospel if the Holy Spirit had not forbidden him. He would not
have waited for some direct command of the Spirit to preach, and when we have
an opportunity to speak to lost souls we should speak, unless restrained.
What we need is not some direct impulse of the Holy Spirit to make us speak,
the Word already commands us to do that; what we need, if we are not to
speak, is that the Spirit should directly forbid us to speak.
Furthermore, let me repeat again what we should bear in mind about the
Spirit's guidance, that He will not lead us to do anything that is contrary
to the Word of God. The Word of God is the Holy Spirit's book, and He never
contradicts His own teaching. Many people do things that are strictly
forbidden in the Word of God, and justify themselves in so doing by saying
the Spirit of God guides them to do it; but any spirit that guides us to do
something that is contrary to the Holy Spirit's own book cannot by any
possibility be the Holy Spirit.
For example, some time ago, in reasoning with one of the leaders of the
Tongues Movement about the utterly unscriptural character of their
assemblies, I called his attention to the fact that in the 14th chapter of
1st Corinthians we have God's explicit command that not more than two, or, at
the most, three, persons should be allowed to speak "in a tongue" in any one
meeting, and that the two or three that did speak must not speak at the same
time, but "in turn," and if there were no interpreter present, not even one
should be allowed to speak in a tongue, that (while he might speak in private
with himself in a tongue, even with no interpreter present) he must "keep
silent in the church." I called this man's attention to the fact that in
their assembly they disobeyed every one of these three things that God
commanded. He defended himself and his companions by saying, "But we are led
by the Spirit of God to do these things, and therefore are not subject to the
Word." I called his attention to the fact that the Word of God in this
passage was given by the Holy Spirit for the specific purpose of guiding the
assembly in its conduct and that any spirit that led them to disobey these
explicit commandments of the Holy Spirit Himself, given through His Apostle
Paul and recorded in His Word, could not by any possibility be the Holy
Spirit. Here, again, we should always bear in mind that there are spirits
other than the Holy Spirit, and we should "test the spirits to see whether
they are of God," and we should try them by the Word. One of the gravest
mistakes that anyone can make in his Christian life is that of being so
anxious for spirit guidance that he is willing to open his soul to any spirit
who may come along and try to lead him.
Furthermore, we should always bear in mind that there is absolutely no
warrant in the Word of God for supposing that the Holy Spirit leads into
strange and absurd ways, or does strange and absurd things. For example,
some have certain signs by which they discern, as they say, the Holy Spirit's
guidance. For example, some look for a peculiar twitching of the face, or
for some other physical impulse. With some the test is a shudder, or cold
sensation down the back. When this comes they take it as clear evidence that
the Holy Spirit is present. In a former day, and to a certain extent today,
some judge the Spirit's presence by what they call "the jerks," that is, a
peculiar jerking that takes possession of a person, which they suppose to be
the work of the Holy Spirit. All this is absolutely unwarranted by the Word
of God and dishonoring to the Holy Spirit. We are told distinctly and
emphatically in 2 Timothy 1:7 that the Holy Spirit is a spirit "of power, of
love and of self-discipline." The word translated "self-discipline" really
means "sound sense," and, therefore, any spirit that leads us to do
ridiculous things, cannot be the Holy Spirit.
There are some who defend the most outrageous improprieties and even
indecencies in public assemblies, saying that the Holy Spirit prompts them to
these things. By this claim they make flies directly in the face of God's
own Word, which teaches us specifically in 1 Corinthians 14:32-33 "The
spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a
God of disorder but of peace." And in the 40th verse we are told that
"everything" in a Spirit-governed assembly should be "done in a fitting and
orderly way." The word translated "fitting" in this passage means "in a
becoming [or respectable] way," which certainly does not permit the disorders
and immodsesties, and confusions and indecencies and absurdities that occur
in many assemblies that claim to be Spirit led, but which, tested by the Word
of God, certainly are not led by the Holy Spirit.
III. God Guides Us by Enlightening Our Judgment
In the third place, God guides us by enlightening our judgment. We see an
illustration of this in the case of the Apostle Paul in Acts 16:10. God had
been guiding Paul by a direct impression produced in his heart by the Holy
Spirit, keeping him from going to certain places which otherwise he would
have gone. Then God gives to Paul in the night a vision, and, having
received the vision, Paul, by his own enlightened judgment, concludes from it
what God has called him to do. This is God's ordinary method of guidance
when His Word does not specifically tell us what to do. We go to God for
wisdom, we make sure that our wills are completely surrendered to Him, and
that we realize our dependence on Him for guidance, then God clears up our
judgment and makes it clear to us what we should do. Here again we should
always bear in mind that "God is light and in him is no darkness at all," and
that, therefore, God's guidance is clear guidance, and we should not act
until things are made perfectly plain.
Many miss God's guidance by doing things too soon. Had they waited until God
had enabled them to see clearly, under the illumination of His Holy Spirit,
they would have avoided disastrous mistakes. The principle that "the one who
trusts will never be dismayed," (Isaiah 28:16) applies right here. On the
other hand, when any duty is made clear we should do it at once. If we
hesitate to act when the way is made clear, then we soon get into doubt and
perplexity and are all confused as to what God would have us do. Many, many
a man has seen the path of duty as clear as day before him, and, instead of
stepping out at once, has hesitated even when the will of God has become
perfectly clear, and before long was plunged into absolute uncertainty as to
what God would have him do.
IV. God May Guide by Visions and Dreams
In Acts 16:9-10, we are told how God guided Paul by a vision, and there are
other instances of such guidance, not only before Pentecost, but after. God
may so guide people today. However, that was not God's usual method of
guiding men, even in Bible times, and it is even less His usual way since the
giving of His Word and the giving of the Holy Spirit. We do not need that
mode of guidance as the Old Testament saints needed it, for we now have the
complete Word and we also have the Spirit in a sense and in a fullness that
the Old Testament saints did not have. God does lead by dreams today.
When I was a boy, sleeping in a room in our old home in Geneva, N. Y., I
dreamed I was sleeping in that room and that my mother, who I dreamed was
dead (though she was really living at the time) came and stood by my bed,
with a face like an angel's, and begged me to enter the ministry, and in my
sleep I promised her that I would. In a few moments I awoke and found it all
a dream, but I never could get away from that promise. I never had rest in
my soul until I did give up my plans for life and promise God that I would
But the matter of dreams is one in which we should exercise the utmost care,
and we should be very careful and prayerful and Scriptural in deciding that
any dream is from God. Only the other day a brilliant and highly educated
woman called at my office to tell me some wonderful dreams that she had and
what these dreams proved. Her interpretation of the dreams was most
extraordinary and fantastic. But while dreams are a very uncertain method of
guidance, it will not do for us to say that God never so guides, but it is
the height of folly to seek God's guidance in that way, and especially to
dictate that God shall guide in that way.
V. God Does Not Guide by Casting Lots
in This Dispensation
In Acts 1:24-26 we learn that the apostles sought guidance in choosing by lot
one to take the place of Judas. This method of finding God's will was common
in the Old Testament times, but it belongs entirely to the old dispensation.
This is the last case on record. It was never used after Pentecost. We need
today no such crude way of ascertaining the will of God, as we have the Word
and the Spirit at our disposal. Neither should we seek signs. That belongs
to the imperfect dispensation that is past, and even then it was a sign of
VI. God Guides by His Providence
God has still another way of guiding us besides those already mentioned, and
that is by His providences, that is, He so shapes the events of our lives
that it becomes clear that He would have us go in a certain direction or do a
certain thing. For example, God puts an unsaved man directly in our way so
that we are alone with him and thus have an opportunity for conversation with
him. In such a case we need no vision to tell us, and we need no mighty
impulse of the Holy Spirit to tell us, that we ought to speak to this man
about his soul. The very fact that we are alone with him and have an
opportunity for conversation is of itself all the Divine guidance we need.
We do need, however, to look to God to tell us what to say to him and how to
say it, but God will not tell us by some supernatural revelation what to say,
but by making clear to our own minds what we should say.
In a similar way, if a man needs work to support himself or family, and a
position for honest employment opens to him, he needs no inner voice, no
direct leading of the Holy Spirit, to tell him to take the work; the opening
opportunity is of itself God's guidance by God's providence.
We must, however, be very careful and very prayerful in interpreting "the
readings of providence." What some people call "the leading of providence"
means no more than the easiest way. When Jonah was fleeing from God and went
down to Joppa he found a ship just ready to start for Tarshish (Jonah 1:3).
If he had been like many today he would have interpreted that as meaning it
was God's will that he should go to Tarshish, as there was a ship Just
starting for Tarshish, instead of to Nineveh, to which city God had commanded
him to go. In point of fact, Jonah did take the ship to Tarshish but he "was
under no illusion in the matter, he knew perfectly well that he was not going
where God wanted him to go, and he got into trouble for it. Oftentimes
people seek guidance by providence by asking God to shut up a certain way
that is opening to them, if it is not His will that they should go that way.
There is no warrant whatever for doing that. God has given us our judgment
and is ready to illuminate our judgment, and we have no right to act the part
of children and to ask Him to shut up the way so we cannot possibly go that
way if it is not His will.
Some fancy that the easy way is necessarily God's way, but oftentimes the
hard way is God's way. Our Lord Himself said, as recorded in Matthew 16:24,
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross
and follow me." That certainly is not the easy way. There are many who
advise us to "follow the path of least resistance," but the path of least
resistance is not always God's way by any means.
Some ask God to guide them providentially by removing all difficulties from
the path in which He would have them go, but we have no right to offer such a
prayer. God wishes us to be men and women of character and to surmount
difficulties, and oftentimes He will allow difficulties to pile up in the
very way in which we ought to go, and the fact that we see that a path is
full of difficulties is no reason for deciding it is not the way God would
have us go. Nevertheless, God does guide us by His providence, and we have
no right to despise His providential guidance. For example, one may desire
to go to China or to Africa as a missionary, and God does not give him the
health requisite for going to China or to Africa. He should take that as
clear providential guidance that he ought not to go, and seek some other
opportunity for serving God.
Many people are asking God to open some door of opportunity, and God does
open a door of opportunity right away, but it is not the kind of work they
would especially like to do, so they decline to see in it a door of
opportunity. The whole difficulty is that they are not wholly surrendered to
the will of God.
Before we close this subject let us repeat again what cannot be emphasized
too much or too often, that all readings, whether they be by the Spirit, by
visions, by providences, by our own judgment, or by advice of friends, or in
any other way, must be tested by the Word of God.
The main point in the whole matter of guidance is absolute surrender of the
will to God, delighting in His will, and willingness to do joyfully the very
things we would not like to do naturally, the very things in connection with
which there may be many disagreeable circumstances, because, for example, of
association with, or even subordination to, those that we do not altogether
like, or difficulties of other kinds. It is to do joyfully what we are to
do, simply because it is the will of God, and the willingness to let God lead
in any way He pleases, whether it be by His Word, or His Spirit, or by the
enlightening of our judgment, or by His providence, or by whatever way He
will. If only we will completely distrust our own judgment and have absolute
confidence in God's judgment and God's willingness to guide us, and are
absolutely surrendered to His will, whatever it may be, and are willing to
let God choose His way of guidance, and will go on step by step as He does
guide us, and if we are daily studying His Word to know His will, and are
listening for the still small voice of the Spirit, going step by step as He
leads, He will guide us with His eye; He will guide us with His counsel to
the end of our earthly pilgrimage, and afterward receive us into glory.
Reuben Archer Torrey (1856-1928) was both an evangelist and a Bible
scholar. Long associated with D. L. Moody, he became most prominent
during world preaching tours in 1902 and 1921. His preaching in Wales in
1902 has been noted as one cause for the Welsh revivals of the early
1900s. He was the first superintendent of the Moody Bible Institute and
wrote numerous devotional and theological books.
Spiritual awakening followed R. A. Torrey throughout his career as an
evangelist. In revivals with the popular gospel singer Charles W.
Alexander, Dr. Torrey filled meeting halls with his magnetic presence,
passion, and earnestness.
To help the reading of this classic work, the original Scripture
references have been replaced by the language of our time--the NIV.
Also, obviously archaic terminology and passages obscured by expressions
not totally familiar in our day have been revised. However, neither
Torrey's meaning nor intent have been tampered with.
All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL
VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of
Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The Secret of Abiding Peace
R. A. Torrey
"Enoch walked with God;
then he was no more,
because God took him away."
Our subject is "The Secret of Abiding Peace. Abounding joy, and Abundant
Victory in War Times and at All Times." You will find the text in
Genesis 5:24, "Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God
took him away." In the description of Enoch's walk given in our text we
find the secret of abiding peace, abounding joy, and abundant victory in
war times and at all times. To my mind, the text is one of the most
fascinating and thrilling verses in the entire Bible. It sounds more
like a song from a heavenly world than a plain statement of historical
facts regarding a humble inhabitant of this world of ours, but such it
is, and it is possible for each one of us to so live and act that it may
be recorded of us, "He walked with God," and later, "then he was no more,
because God took him away."
The position of this verse in the Bible is significant and suggestive.
There has been, in the verses immediately preceding, a very ordinary,
commonplace, and, at first sight, long recital of how one man after
another of the olden time lived so many years, fathered a son, continued
to live so many years, and fathered other sons and daughters, and then
died. Then suddenly Enoch is introduced and the story begins just as the
other stories begin and goes on just as the other stories go on, and
seems about to end just as the other stories end, but, no, there is this
fresh breath from heaven and these melodious tones sound out: "Enoch
walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away." Then
the story goes on again in the same old strain. Remember that this
account belongs to a far-away time, thousands of years before Christ, and
about a thousand years before the Flood, and yet what depth of truth and
beauty there is in it. Are there not lessons for us to learn from that
far, far-away olden time?
The entire authentic history of Enoch is contained in nine verses in the
Bible, six in the Old Testament, three in the New. History outside of
the Bible is utterly unacquainted with him, yet he stands out as one of
the most remarkable and admirable men of whom history speaks, a man whom
God honored as He has honored but one other member of the entire race.
Enoch's greatness was the kind that pleases God. We are told in the 11th
chapter of Hebrews and the fifth verse that "By faith Enoch was taken
from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be
found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was
commended as one who pleased God." Quite likely his greatness did not
win very hearty commendation from his contemporaries. However, that was
not of much consequence. His greatness did not consist of military
renown, political power, profound scholarship, successful statesmanship,
splendid artistic or architectural genius, or even of magnificent
philanthropic achievement. It was greatness of a more quiet and less
pretentious and visible nature, but of a far more real and lasting
nature; it was greatness of character. "He walked with God," and God so
enjoyed his fellowship that He took Enoch to be with Himself permanently.
I wish to make clear to you all three things: first, what it is to walk
with God; second, what are some of the results of walking with God;
third, how we may get into such a walk ourselves.
I. What It Is to Walk with God?
First of all, I think I may safely say that for some of us here this
morning that question needs no answer. God Himself has answered it to us
in blessed, unspeakably blessed, experience. But for others of us--yes,
many of us--it does need an answer. We have read the words of the text
before, perhaps we have read them often. They have charmed us, soothed
us, thrilled us, and yet often the question has arisen in our hearts,
just what do they mean?
This question receives a very plain and simple answer:
To walk with God means to live one's life in the
consciousness of God's presence and in conscious communion
with Him, to have the thought constantly before us, "God is
beside me," and every now and then to be speaking to Him,
and, still more, listening for Him to speak to us. In a
word, to walk with God is to live in the real, constant,
conscious companionship of God.
We read that Enoch walked with God, not on a few rare occasions of
spiritual exaltation, such perhaps as most of us have known, but for
three hundred consecutive years after the birth of Methuselah (Genesis
6:22). It is possible for us to have this consciousness of the nearness
and fellowship of God in our daily life, to talk with Him as we talk with
an earthly friend; yes, as we talk with no earthly friend, and to have
Him talk to us, and to commune with Him in a silence that is far more
meaningful than any words could be. I would gladly linger here in this
sweet and holy place, but let us pass on to the results of walking with
II. The Results of Walking with God
1. The first result of walking with God is great joy, abounding joy. "In
Your presence," sings the Psalmist, "You will fill me with joy" (Psalm
There is no greater joy than that which comes from right companionship.
Who would not rather live in a hut with congenial companions than in a
palace with disagreeable associates? Who would not rather live on a
bleak and barren isle among real Christians than in the fairest land the
sun ever shone upon among infidels, blasphemers, drunkards, hoodlums, and
the sexually immoral? The most attractive feature of heaven is its
society, especially the society of God and the Lord Jesus. Samuel
Rutherford said: "I would rather be in hell with Christ than in heaven
without Christ: for if I were in hell with Christ that would be heaven to
me, and if I were in heaven without Christ that would be hell to me."
But when we have the conscious presence and companionship of God on
earth, "we have two heavens, the heaven to which we are going and a
heaven to go to heaven in." In one of the loneliest hours of His lonely
life Jesus looked up with radiant joy and said, "Yet I am not alone, for
my Father is with me" (John 6:32).
Can you remember some ecstatic hour of your life when you walked, and
sometimes talked and sometimes were silent, with an earthly companion
whom you loved as you loved no other? Oh, happy hour! but only faintly
suggestive of the rapture that comes from walking with God, for He is an
infinitely dearer and better and more glorious companion than any earthly
one could be. How the homely details of everyday life are transfigured
if we have the constant fellowship of God in them. There lived in the
Middle Ages a lad named Nicholas Hermann. He was a raw, awkward youth,
breaking all things that he touched, but one day the thought was brought
to his mind with great force that God was everywhere and that he might
have the constant thought of God's presence with him and do all things to
God's glory. This thought transformed his life. He soon took a job
where his duty was of the most menial character--in the kitchen, washing
pots and kettles, but, to use his own way of putting it, he "practiced
the presence of God" in the midst of his humble toil. That kitchen
became so holy a place that men took long journeys to meet Nicholas
Hermann and to converse with him.
2. The second result of walking with God is a great sense of security, of
In the Psalm already quoted the Psalmist sings again: "I have set the
LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be
shaken" (16:8). Certainly not. How can we be moved if God is with us?
What harm can befall us? How often God says to His servants as they
begin to tremble before approaching danger: "Do not fear, for I am with
you" (Isaiah 41:10). How safe the trusting child feels with father or
mother by its side. A little girl was once playing in a room below while
her mother was above, busy about household duties. Every little while
the child would come to the foot of the stairs and call up: "Mamma, are
you there?" "Yes, darling, what is it?" "Nothing, I only wanted to know
if you were there." Then again a little while: "Mamma, are you there?"
"Yes, darling, what is it?" "Nothing, I only wanted to know if you were
there." Ah! is not that all we want to know, that God is here, right here
by our side?
There may be plagues, there may be war, there may be famine, there may be
thugs on the street, there may be burglars in the house, there may be
houses of sin, and unprincipled men and women on every hand; yes, our
wrestling may not be with flesh and blood but "but against the rulers,
against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms," but what
does it matter? God is with us. Oh, if only we bore in mind at every
moment the thought of His presence with us, if only we could hear Him
saying, "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am
your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my
righteous right hand," there would never be one single bit of fear in our
hearts under any circumstances.
No matter how the war increases, no matter how near it may come to our
own doors, there would be unruffled calm, abounding peace. We could
constantly say, under all circumstances, "The LORD is my light and my
salvation--whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life--of
whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my
flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out
against me, even then will I be confident." No wonder the Psalmist wrote
in this connection, "One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to
gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple." The
conscious companionship of God is the great secret of abiding peace.
3. The third result of walking with God is spiritual enlightenment.
Communion with God rather than scholarship opens to us the mind and
thought of God. There is no hint that Enoch was a man of science or
letters. I am very sure he was not a higher critic, and yet this plain
man by walking with God and talking with God got such an insight into the
purposes of God as no other man of his time had. In the Epistle of Jude,
the 14th and 15th verses, we learn that even in that far-away day, a
thousand years before the flood, Enoch got hold of the great truth of the
second coming of Christ. So today some old washerwoman, or some humble
cobbler, who walks with God may know more of the mind of God than many an
eminent college professor, or even a professor in a theological seminary.
The important question concerning points in dispute in religion and
spiritual life is not, what do the scholars say, but what do the men and
women who walk with God say.
If one is considering going to some one for spiritual instruction, the
first question is not how much of a scholar he is, not how much does he
know of Latin and Hebrew and Greek and Syriac and philosophy and
psychology, but does he walk with God? This is the great condition of
spiritual insight, wisdom, and understanding.
4. The fourth result of walking with God is purity of heart and life.
Nothing else is so cleansing as the consciousness of God's presence.
Things that we have long tolerated become intolerable when we bring them
into the white light of the presence of the Holy One. How many things we
do in the darkness of the night, yes, even in the broad light of day,
that we could not for a moment think of doing if we realized God was
right there by our side looking. Many deeds we now do would be left
undone if we realized this. Many words we now speak would be left
unspoken, many thoughts and fancies we now cherish would be speedily
banished. There are certain things that we do in the absence of certain
holy friends that we would not for a moment do in their presence, but God
is always present, whether we know it or not, and if we walk in the
consciousness of His presence, if we walk with God, our lives and hearts
will speedily whiten.
I have a friend who in his early life, though he professed to be a
Christian, was very profane. He tried hard to overcome his profanity,
but failed. He felt he must give up his attempt to be a Christian, but
one day a wise Christian to whom he appealed for help, said to him,
"Would you swear if your father were present?" "No." "Well, when you go
to your work tomorrow remember that God is with you every moment. Keep
the thought of God's presence with you." At the end of the day, to his
amazement, he had not sworn once. He had had the thought of God with him
through the day and he could not be profane in that presence. The
consciousness of the presence of God will keep us from doing all the
things that we would not dream of doing in His presence. Herein lies the
secret of a holy life.
5. The next result of walking with God is closely akin to this, beauty of
We become like those with whom we habitually associate. How like their
parents children become. How many mothers and fathers have been startled
by seeing their own imperfections and follies mirrored in their children.
Husband and wife grow strangely like one another, thus also the one who
associates with God becomes like God. If we walk with God, more and more
will His beauty illumine and reflect itself in our lives. Moses' very
face shone as he came down from the forty days and forty nights of
conversation with God. So will our whole life soon shine with a heavenly
glow and glory if we habitually walk with God. "And we, who with
unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into
his likeness with ever-increasing glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
6. The next result of walking with God will be eminent usefulness.
Our lives may be quiet and even obscure; it may be impossible to point to
what men call great achievement, but the highest usefulness lies not in
such things but in the silent, almost unnoticed but potent and pervasive
influence of a holy life, whose light illumines, whose beauty
compliments, and whose nobility elevates all who come in contact with it.
Enoch has produced immeasurably more good for man than Nebuchadnezzar,
who built the marvelous structures of Babylon, than Augustus who "found
Rome brick and left it marble," than the Egyptian monarchs who built the
pyramids to amaze and mystify the world for thousands of years to come;
and today the man or woman, no matter how humble or obscure, who walks
with God is accomplishing more for God and man than Morse with his
telegraph, Fulton with his steamboat, Stevenson with his locomotive,
Cyrus Field with his Atlantic cable, Roebling with his marvelous bridges,
Marconi with his wireless telegraphy and telephony, Edison and Tesla with
their electric and electrifying discoveries, or any of the renowned
political reformers of the day, with all their futile schemes for turning
this world into a terrestrial paradise. Friends, if you wish to be
really, permanently, eternally useful, walk with God.
7. But there is a still better result than this from walking with God--we
please God. Before his translation Enoch had this testimony borne to
him, that he "was commended as one who pleased God" (Hebrews 11:5). This
is more than being useful. God wants our company, God wants us to walk
with Him, and He is well pleased when we do. God is more concerned that
we walk with Him than that we work for Him. Martha was taken up with her
service for her Lord, but Mary was taken up with her Lord Himself, and He
testified that Mary had chosen the better part. It is quite possible
today to be so occupied with our work for God that we forget Him for whom
we work. If we would please Him we should first see to it that we walk
8. There is one result of walking with God still left to be mentioned,
that is, God's eternal companionship. "Enoch walked with God; then he
was no more, because God took him away." The man who walks on earth with
God, God will sooner or later take to be with Himself forever. "Whoever
serves me," says Christ, "must follow me; and where I am, my servant also
will be." If we do not walk with God on earth we are not likely to live
with God in heaven. If we do not care to cultivate His society now, we
may be sure that He will not take us to be in His society forever.
III. How to Enter into a Walk with God
These eight immeasurably precious results come from walking with God:
abounding joy, abiding peace, spiritual enlightenment, purity of heart
and life, beauty of character, eminent usefulness, pleasing God, God's
eternal companionship. Do we not all then long to walk with Him? To
come then face to face with the great practical question, what must we do
that we ourselves may enter into this joyous, blessed walk with Him? The
question can be plainly and simply answered.
1. First of all, we must trust in the atoning blood of Christ. "By
faith," the record reads, "Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did
not experience death" (Hebrews 11:5). Comparing this with what is said
immediately before about Abel, we see that the faith by which he pleased
God and was translated was faith in what God said about the blood. God
is holy and we are sinners. Sin separates, as a deep and impassable
gorge between us and Him. There can be no walk with Him until sin is put
away and the gorge thus bridged, and it is the blood, and the blood
alone, that puts away sin (Hebrews 9:22). It is vain for us to attempt
to cultivate the presence of God until we have accepted the provision
that God Himself has made for putting away sin from between us and
Himself. Indeed, if we have any real thought of God's holiness and our
sinfulness there could be no joy, but only agony, in fellowship with Him,
unless our sin was covered up, washed away, blotted out by the blood.
There are many today who are spurning the blood and still attempting to
walk with God. Vain attempt! It is utterly impossible.
2. If we would walk with God we must obey God. Jesus said, "If anyone
loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will
come to him and make our home with him" (John 14:23). Obedience to God,
absolute surrender to His will, is necessary if we are to walk with Him.
We cannot walk with God unless we go His way. Two cannot walk together
unless they be agreed (Amos 3:3). There are many who once knew the
presence of God every day and every hour. They know it no longer. The
old and heavenly joy has faded from their lives. They wonder why it is.
Ah! there is no mystery--disobedience. Come back, get right with God,
surrender again and absolutely to His will.
There is but one thing more to say. If we would walk with God we must
cultivate the thought of His presence. As Nicholas Hermann, or Brother
Lawrence, put it, we must "practice the presence of God" constantly.
Call to mind the fact that God is with you when you are about your work.
Often say to yourself, "God is with me." When you lie down at night say,
"God is with me." If you wake at night remember "God is here with me." So
in all the relations and experiences of life.
There are four great aids to this:
(1) First, the study of God's Word. When we open this Book we realize,
or ought to realize, that God Himself is speaking to us.
(2) Second, prayer. In prayer we come face to face with God.
(3) Third, thanksgiving. In intelligent and specific thanksgiving to God
He is more real to us than even in petition.
(4) Fourth, worship. In worship we bow before God and contemplate Him.
Oh, how near He gets at such a time.
It is the Holy Spirit who will make our walk with God true and real. It
is in connection with the coming of the Spirit that Christ speaks of His
own manifestation of Himself to us and of the coming of the Father and of
Himself to be with us (John 14:16, 17, 18, 21, 23). Look, then, to God
Himself by His Spirit to make His presence known and felt.
Brethren, shall we walk with God? God is saying to each of us today,
"Come, take a walk with me." If we accept the wondrous invitation He
will lead us on as long as we will let Him, and some day it will be true
of us, as some one has quaintly said of Enoch, we will walk so far with
God that we will not come back, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
How to Be Inexpressibly Happy
R. A. Torrey
"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not
see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and
1 Peter 1:8
I have here a beautiful text, a text that you all know, but I wonder how
many of you have ever pondered it enough to take in all its wonderful
wealth of meaning.
A young woman in England many years ago always wore a golden locket that
she would not allow anyone to open or look into, and everyone thought
there must be some romance connected with that locket and that in that
locket must be the picture of the one she loved. The young woman died at
an early age, and after her death the locket was opened, everyone
wondering whose face he would find within. And in the locket was found
simply a little slip of paper with these words written upon it, "Though I
have not seen Him, I love." Her Lord Jesus was the only lover she knew
and the only lover she longed for, and she had gone to be with Him, the
one object of her whole heart's devotion, the unseen but beloved Savior.
But it is to the last part of the verse that I wish to call your
particular attention tonight, "Even though you do not see him now, you
believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy."
This text informs us (and many of us do not need to be informed of it,
for we know it by blessed experience) that one who really believes on
Jesus Christ, our unseen, but ever living Lord and Savior, rejoices with
"inexpressible and glorious joy." The Greek word translated "joy" is a
very strong word, describing extreme joy or jubilant joy. The word
"inexpressible" declares that this jubilant joy is of such a character
that we cannot, by any possibility, explain it adequately to others.
Everyone who really believes on the Lord Jesus does rejoice with an
jubilant joy that is beyond all description. And those who do truly
believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are the only ones who rejoice this way.
Others may have a certain amount of joy, a certain measure of gladness,
but the only people who really know "inexpressible and glorious joy" are
those who really believe on Jesus Christ.
Who is there among us who does not wish to be happy? Happiness is the
one thing all men are seeking. One man seeks it in one way, and another
man seeks it in another way, but all men are in pursuit of it. Even the
man who is "happy only when he is miserable" is seeking happiness in this
strange way of cultivating a delightful melancholy by always looking on
the dark side of things. One man seeks money because he thinks that
money will make a man happy. Another man seeks worldly pleasure because
he thinks that worldly pleasure will make a man happy. Still another
seeks learning, the knowledge of science, or philosophy, or history, or
literature, because he thinks that learning brings the true joy; but they
are all in pursuit of the one thing, happiness.
The vast majority of men who seek happiness do not find it. You may say
what you please, but for the majority of men this is an unhappy world. I
go down into the houses of the poor, I do not find many happy people
there. I go into the homes of the rich, I do not find many happy people
even there. Study the faces of the people you meet on the street, at
places of entertainment, or anywhere else, how many really radiant faces
do you see? When you do see one it is so exceptional that you note it at
once. But there is a way, and a very simple way, a very sure way, and a
way that is open to all, not only to find happiness, but to be
unspeakably happy. Our text tells us what that way is. Listen, "Even
though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an
inexpressible and glorious joy."
This statement of Peter's is true. How do I know it is true? In the
first place, I know it is true because the Word of God says so. Whatever
this book says is true. In the second place, I know it is true because I
have put the matter to the test of personal experience, and found it
true. A good many people say, "I do not believe the Bible." Well, I do.
I believe the Bible for a good many sufficient reasons; but there is this
one reason why I believe the Bible that I wish to mention tonight: I
believe the Bible because I have personally tested scores and scores of
its most astonishing and apparently most incredible statements and found
every one of them true in my own experience. Don't you think that if I
knew a man who made very many statements that I could test for myself,
some of them apparently incredible, and I tested these statements one
after another through a long period of years, and found every one of them
true, and never one single statement failed, don't you think that I would
believe that man after a while? Well, that is just my experience with
the Bible, and I believe it. I would be a fool if I did not. The
statement of the text is one of those that I have tested, and I have
found it true.
I was not always happy. Indeed, I was once unspeakably miserable. I had
sought happiness very earnestly. I had sought happiness in amusement and
sin, and found, not joy, but wretchedness. In my pursuit of happiness I
had tried study, the study of languages, science, philosophy and
literature, but I did not find happiness in these things. At last I
turned to Jesus Christ and believed on Him, and I found not merely
happiness, but something better, joy, "inexpressible and glorious joy."
Whatever heaven may be or may not be, I know that on this earth he who
really believes on Jesus Christ, who puts himself in Christ's hands, to
be led, and taught, and guided, and strengthened, puts himself in the
hands of Jesus Christ for Jesus Christ to do all He will with him, I know
that such a person finds "inexpressible and glorious joy."
I. Why Those Who Believe in Jesus Christ Have
Inexpressible and Glorious Joy
1. First of all, those who believe on Jesus Christ have "inexpressible
and glorious joy" because they know that their sins are all forgiven. It
is a wonderful thing to know that your sins are all forgiven, to know
that there is not one single, slightest cloud between you and God, to
know that no matter how many, or how great your sins may have been, that
they are all blotted out; to know that God has put them all behind His
back, where no one can ever get at them; to know that God has sunk all
your sins in the depths of the sea, from which they can never be raised;
that they are all gone. A little boy once asked his mother, "Mother,
where are our sins after they are blotted out?" His mother replied, "My
boy, where are those figures that you erased from your paper yesterday?"
He answered, "I rubbed them out." Then she asked, "Where are they now?"
he replied, "They are nowhere." "Well," she said, "that is just the same
with your sins when God has blotted them out. They are nowhere. They
have ceased to be."
Oh, friends, what a joy it is to know that there is not one single tiny
cloud between you and the Holy God whom we call Father and who rules this
universe. Suppose that you had offended the laws of the nation and had
been sent to prison on a life sentence, and a pardon were brought to you,
do you not think you would be happy? But that is nothing compared with
the joy of knowing that your every sin is blotted out. Some years ago
Governor Stuart of Pennsylvania determined to pardon one of the prisoners
in the Pennsylvania State prison, so he sent for Mr. Moody and said to
him, "I have determined to pardon one of the prisoners in our state's
prison, and I want you to go and take the pardon to him. You can preach
to the prisoners if you want to while you are doing it." So Mr. Moody
went, carrying the pardon with him, and before he began to preach he
said, "I have a pardon for one of you men that the Governor has sent by
me." He did not intend to tell who it was who was pardoned until the
sermon was over, but as he looked around on his audience and saw how
anxious they all were, how eager they were, how a very agony of suspense
was in their faces, Mr. Moody thought, "This will never do, I can't keep
these men in this suspense," so he said, "I will tell you now who the man
is," and he read his name from the pardon. Do you not think that that
was a glad moment for that one man out of those hundreds of prisoners, a
glad moment for the one man who had the Governor's pardon, and who could
walk out of prison a free man? Yes, but that is nothing to knowing that
the eternal God has eternally pardoned your sins. Every true Christian
knows that, he knows that every one of his sins is forgiven. How does he
know it? Because the Bible says so in many places.
For example, it says in Acts 13:39, "Through him everyone who believes is
justified from everything," so we know it because God says so. But no
one but the believer in Jesus Christ knows that his sins are all
forgiven. If anyone who is not a believer in Jesus Christ says, "I know
my sins are all forgiven," he says what is not true; for he does not know
it, and cannot know it, for it is not a fact; but a Christian knows it
because the Word of God says so.
The Christian knows his sins are all forgiven for another reason, that
is, because the Holy Spirit bears witness in his own heart to the fact.
One day, when the Apostle Peter was preaching to Cornelius, the Roman
officer, and to his household, he said, "All the prophets testify about
him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins
through his name" (Acts 10:43), and everyone in his audience believed it.
The Spirit of God descended right then and there and filled their hearts
with the knowledge of sins forgiven, and they "began to magnify God" with
jubilant hearts and jubilant voices. I tell you that was a joyful
A king, a great king, once wrote one of the greatest songs that ever was
written. That song has lasted through the ages. It has been sung and is
still being sung by thousands. It has been sung by millions, and though
it was written many centuries ago, it is just as sweet today as the day
the king wrote it. The man who wrote this song was a great king, the
greatest king of his day, he was also one of the greatest generals of his
day, one of the greatest generals of any day. He had great armies, the
all-conquering armies of the day. He had a magnificent palace. I do not
suppose that any other earthly king was ever so beloved as he was. His
song was about joy and about happiness. He does not say in that song,
"How happy is the man who is a great king," or, "How happy is the man who
is a great general." What does he say? "Blessed is he whose
transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered" (Psalm 32:1,
translated literally from the Hebrew): "There is no happiness like the
joy of knowing your sins are all forgiven." Oh, what a joy thrills the
heart when a man knows that his sins are fully, freely, and forever
forgiven. That is one reason why he who believes on Jesus Christ is
inexpressibly happy, and you can have that inexpressible happiness today.
I do not care how black your life may have been in the past; I do not
care how far you may have wandered from God; I do not care how old you
may have grown in sin; if you take Jesus Christ today for your Savior and
your Lord, and believe on Him, your every sin will be blotted out, and it
will be your privilege to know it.
2. In the second place, those who believe on Jesus Christ rejoice with
"inexpressible and glorious joy" because they are free from the most
grinding and crushing of all forms of slavery, the slavery of sin. There
is many a slave in this audience tonight. Some of you are slaves of
strong drink. Some of you men and some of you women are slaves of drink.
You know you are slaves of drink. Some of you are slaves of drugs. Some
of you are slaves of an uncontrollable temper. Some of you are slaves of
acts of impurity or impurity of thought. Some of you are slaves of other
sins. The grossest, vilest, most degrading slavery in the universe is
the slavery of sin. Yes, many of you here tonight are slaves. But the
Lord Jesus says in John 8:31, 32, "If you hold to my teaching, you are
really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will
set you free." He says again in the thirty-sixth verse, "If the Son sets
you free, you will be free indeed." There is not a slave in this
building tonight who cannot have his chains snapped in a moment, yes, in
a moment, by the mighty Son of God, if only he will believe on Jesus and
trust Him to do it. How many a man and how many a woman I have known who
once were slaves of sin in its most degrading and hopeless forms, who now
One of the dearest and most honored and most useful friends I ever had
was Sam Hadley of New York City. Sam Hadley was once hopelessly enslaved
by sin. Strong drink had utterly mastered him and undermined his
character. He had committed 138 forgeries, and was being sought for by
the police. One night, after having spent the night before in a New York
jail with the "shakes," in a mission meeting a few blocks away from the
jail he cried to Jesus to save him, and Jesus saved him right then and
there; and I have often heard him say that never from that night had he
ever had the slightest desire for that which had enslaved him more than
anything else, intoxicating drink. My, what a happy man he became! All
who knew him testified that he had "inexpressible and glorious joy." I
wish you could have looked in Sam Hadley's face and seen the joy in that
redeemed and radiant countenance. But we do not need to call Sam Hadley
back from heaven to testify, for there are hundreds of people right here
in this building tonight who once were complete slaves, who now are God's
free men and free women, and who could testify to the fact. That is one
reason why we are inexpressibly happy, because we are free. How the
Southern Blacks rejoiced when they came to understand they were set free.
They shouted and sang, "Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!" Why? Because once
they were slaves, but now were free. No wonder, then, that we rejoice
with "inexpressible and glorious joy" because we know that we are free,
and free forever.
3. In the third place, those who believe on Jesus Christ rejoice with
"inexpressible and glorious joy," because they are delivered from all
fear. There is nothing that darkens the human heart more and robs it of
all joy and fills it with gloom than fear in some of its many forms.
Those who truly believe on Jesus Christ are saved from all fear. They
are delivered from all fear of misfortune; they are delivered from all
fear of man; they are delivered from all fear of death; they are
delivered from all fear of eternity. Do you know, friends, that to a
true believer in Jesus Christ "eternity" is one of the sweetest words in
the English language? Oh, how it makes our hearts swell, that word,
"eternity." But "eternity" is not a sweet word to the unsaved. Write
these words, "Where will you spend eternity?" on a card and hand it to a
man who is not a Christian, and they will make him mad; write these same
words, "Where will you spend eternity?" on a card and hand it to a
Christian, and they will make him glad. Why is it? Simply because a
true believer on Jesus Christ is not afraid of but delights in thoughts
of eternity. Why, to him who believes on Jesus Christ eternity is glory.
4. In the fourth place, he who believes on Jesus Christ rejoices with
"inexpressible and glorious joy" because he knows he will live forever.
Is not that something to rejoice over? Is it not wonderful? We read in
1 John 2:17, "The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does
the will of God lives forever." We all know that it is true that "the
world passes away." We certainly ought to know it by this time; but it
is equally true that "he who does the will of God lives forever."
Sometimes as we ride along our beautiful roads we see the stately
mansions of our multimillionaires, and one will think, "It must be very
pleasant to live there." Well, I suppose it must be, but think a moment.
How long will these people live there? Perhaps the father of the
household may live there ten years, possibly twenty years. Then where
does he live? Some of the children may live there twenty, thirty,
possibly, forty years, then what? The grave. I tell you it is not worth
much after all. But the Christian looks on, and on, and on, to a life
that has no end, to a life that is eternal. Glory!
5. In the fifth place, those who truly believe on Jesus Christ rejoice
greatly with "inexpressible and glorious joy" because they know they are
children of God. It is a great thing to know that you are a child of
God. How does the Christian know it? He knows it because God says so in
John 1:12, "To all who received him, to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God." A child of God, think of
it! Sometimes as I have traveled around the world someone would point
out to me some man, and say, "That man is the son of such and such a man,
naming some king. Would you not like to be the son of a great king?
Just look at that young man. He is the son of a king." In one country
many years ago, when the king business was better than it is today, I was
taken up and introduced to the son of one of the reigning monarchs of
Europe, and the man who introduced me whispered to me, "He is the son of
So-and-So" (naming the king). Well, what of it? He was a fine man in
himself, but what if he was the son of a king? I am a son of God, and
that is far greater, and every believer in Jesus Christ in this building
tonight is a child of God, the child of "the King of kings." And any one
of you here tonight, if you are not already a child of God, can become
one in an instant by receiving the Lord Jesus.
6. In the sixth place, and very closely connected with the last, true
believers in Jesus Christ rejoice with "inexpressible and glorious joy"
because they are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. Is
that not wonderful? We are so familiar with it we do not stop to take in
the meaning of it. One of England's dukes lay dying. He called his
brother to him, the one who would succeed to the title, and said,
"Brother, in a few hours now you will be a duke and--and I will be a
king." He was already a child of the King and in a few hours he himself
would be a king. I, too, will be a king in a few days. You may say, "It
may be many years." Well, many years are only a few days on the scale of
eternity. And, if you really are a believer in Christ Jesus, if you have
a real living faith in Him, you, too, will be a king in a few days.
There was never a royal pageant sweeping through the streets of London at
any coronation comparable in glory to the glory that awaits you and me
just over yonder. "When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also
will appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:4). We may be poor today.
That does not matter. This life will be over in a moment and the other
life begun, and that life is eternal.
7. In the seventh place, those who truly believe on Jesus Christ, those
who throw their hearts wide open to Him, is those who surrender
absolutely to Him, rejoice with "inexpressible and glorious joy" because
God gives them the Holy Spirit, and there is no other joy in the present
life like the joy of the Holy Spirit. One Monday morning, in Chicago, my
front doorbell rang. I kept Monday in those days for my rest day, and
had a notice above the doorbell, "Mr. Torrey does not see anyone on
Monday." The maid went to the door, and there stood a poor woman. The
maid said, "Mr. Torrey does not see anyone on Monday. Did you not see
the notice over the doorbell?" She said, "I knew that, but I have got to
see him and you just go and tell him a member of his church must see
him." So the maid brought her into the reception room. She was a
washerwoman. The maid showed the washerwoman a seat and came upstairs
and said to me, "There is a woman downstairs who is a member of your
church and says she has got to see you." So down I went.
As I entered the room she arose and hurried toward me, and said, "Mr.
Torrey, I knew you did not see anybody on Monday, but I had to see you.
Last night after I went to bed I was filled with the Holy Spirit right
there in my bed, and I was so happy I could not sleep all night, and this
morning I had to come and tell somebody. I could not afford to give up a
day's work to come around and tell you about it, but I knew I must tell
somebody and I did not know anybody I would so like to tell as you. I
know you won't be angry." Indeed, I was not angry. I was glad she had
come, and rejoiced with her, that old washerwoman filled with the Holy
Spirit and so full of joy that, poor as she was, she had to give up a
day's work to go and tell somebody she loved all about it.
Before I came to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ I was one of the bluest
men who ever lived. I would sit down by the hour and brood. I have
never known what the blues mean since the day I really became a
Christian, absolutely surrendered to God. I have had troubles. I have
had losses. There have been times in my life when I have lost pretty
much everything the world holds dear. I know what it is to have a wife
and four children, and to lose everything of a financial kind I had in
the world, and not know from meal to meal where the next meal was coming
from. I was absolutely without resources, living from hand to mouth
--from God's hand to my mouth. I have known what it is to be with a wife
and child in a foreign country where they spoke a strange language, and
for some reason or other supplies did not come, and I did not know anyone
in the city well enough to turn to for help; but I did not worry. I knew
it was all in God's hands, that it would all come out right somehow, and
of course it did come out right.
The first time I ever visited London, thirty-nine years ago last
September, I was planning to spend two weeks in England, and then start
for America. I expected to find money waiting for me I when I reached
London, and I reached London with a wife and child, and not a letter and
no money. But I said, "The letter and the money will come tomorrow or
the next day." My wife made some purchases, taking it for granted we
would have money when the purchases came home; but the money did not
come. Day after day passed, and the dresses came home and it was about
time for the landlady to come with her board bill. It came to be the
very last day before our boat started, and not a penny in sight. I went
down to the bank. I did not know a soul in London. There were three or
four million people there then--a stranger amid three or four millions of
people, money absolutely gone, three thousand miles from friends. I did
not worry. I knew the money would come. I did not know how it would
come, for the source I expected to receive it from seemed utterly cut
off; but yet I was happy. Why? Because I was a child of God; I had the
promises of the Bible; I knew they were absolutely certain. I never lost
an hour's sleep. I never worried. I just trusted. It seemed as though
I would have to be fed somewhat as Elijah was, but I knew I would be fed.
I knew my wife and child would be provided for. The money came, and I
sailed on the steamer I expected to sail on, with every penny due paid,
and money in my pocket. Friends, a Christian is happy at all times and
under all circumstances. We rejoice with "inexpressible and glorious
joy" every one of the twenty-four hours of the day that we are awake, and
sometimes in our sleep. You, too, can have that joy.
II. How to Get This Inexpressible
and Glorious Joy
Now arises the question, "What must anyone here tonight who does not have
this inexpressible and glorious joy do to get it?" I have really
answered that question several times in what I have already said, but to
be sure that we all really understand it, let me answer it again, or
rather let my text answer it, "Though you have not seen him, you love
him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are
filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy." The text tells us that
the way to obtain this "inexpressible and glorious joy," the way to be
inexpressibly happy at all times and under all circumstances, is just by
believing on the unseen Christ Jesus. What does it mean to believe on
Jesus Christ? There is no mystery at all about that. It simply means to
put confidence in Jesus Christ to be what He claims to be and what He
offers Himself to be to us, to put confidence in Him as the One who died
in our place, the One who bore our sins in His own body on the cross, and
to trust God to forgive us all our sins because Jesus Christ died in our
place; to put confidence in Him as the One who was raised from the dead
and who now has "all power in heaven and on earth," and therefore is able
to keep us day by day, and give us victory over sin, and to trust this
risen Christ to give us victory over sin day by day; and to put
confidence in Him as our absolute Lord and Master, and therefore to
surrender our thoughts and wills and lives entirely to His control,
believing everything He says, even though every scholar on earth denies
it, obeying everything He commands, whatever it may cost; and to put
confidence in Him as our Divine Lord, and confess Him as Lord before the
world, and worship and adore Him. It is wonderful the joy that comes to
him who thus believes on Jesus Christ. But one must really believe on
Jesus Christ to have this joy.
Merely being a member of a church is not enough. Merely being baptized
is not enough. Merely reading your Bible is not enough. Merely praying
is not enough. Merely going to church is not enough. Merely going to
the Lord's table and partaking of the Lord's Supper is not enough. But
if you are a real believer on Jesus Christ, if you have put all your
trust in the Lord Jesus as your atoning Savior and your risen Savior, and
your risen Lord and Master, and surrendered your thoughts and life to Him
utterly as your Lord and Master, and are confessing Him as such before
the world, if you have thrown your heart's door wide open for the Lord
Jesus to come in, and live, and rule, and reign there, you will have
"inexpressible and glorious joy" at all times and under all
All anyone has to do, then, to be inexpressibly happy at all times and
under all circumstances, is to believe on Jesus Christ. It does not make
any difference what his circumstances may be: he may be rich or he may be
poor; he may be highly educated, or he may be ignorant; he may be in good
health or he may be a hopeless invalid; he may have been a moral, clean,
upright man, or he may have been the vilest of sinners, it matters not.
Everyone who believes on the unseen but living Christ will find
"inexpressible and glorious joy." I can bring scores, hundreds,
thousands of witnesses to prove that. You cannot bring a single witness
on the other side. Col. Robert Ingersoll delighted to say, "It doesn't
make one happy to be a Christian." How did he know? He never tried it.
You can search the earth through and you cannot find me one single man or
woman who was ever an out-and-out believer in Jesus Christ, a real
wholehearted believer in Jesus Christ, one who had surrendered all to
Jesus Christ; I say you cannot find me even one such man or woman who
will deny that Jesus Christ gives "inexpressible and glorious joy" to
those who thus believe on Him. Here, then, is the way the case stands:
Every single competent witness, that is, every witness who has ever tried
it, testifies that believing in Jesus Christ does bring "inexpressible
and glorious joy," and these witnesses number thousands, tens of
thousands and hundreds of thousands, people from every rank of society
and culture, and not one witness on the other side. Is it demonstrated
or not? It certainly is.
I take it that I am speaking tonight to reasonable men and women. You
desire "inexpressible and glorious joy." I have told you how to get it.
There can be no doubt about it. The evidence is overwhelmingly
convincing. There is, then, but one rational thing for you to do,
believe on Jesus Christ tonight. Will you do it?
Once a man who was utterly miserable came to me. He was a rarely gifted
man, a brilliant scholar, but utterly miserable. If ever I saw a man in
hell he was the man. He had attempted suicide at least four times. He
had been so near succeeding in his attempts that on two occasions it had
been necessary to pump out of him the poison he had taken and thus bring
him back to life. I urged him to believe on Jesus Christ. He replied,
"I cannot, I have sinned away the Day of Grace." Day after day I talked
with the man and always I had but one message, and that was, "Come to
Jesus Christ. Believe on Jesus Christ." At last, one day the man did
come to Jesus Christ. He found "inexpressible and glorious joy."
Sometimes I have seen that man when his face was radiant. Out of hell
into heaven by just believing on Jesus Christ! Will you take that same
The Day of Golden Opportunity
R. A. Torrey
"The Holy Spirit says, Today"
The day of golden opportunity is today. Golden opportunities,
opportunities of priceless worth, are open to every one of us today. But
"tomorrow" has no sure promise for any one of us. "The Holy Spirit says,
Today," and Conscience also cries, "Today," and the voice of Reason and
the voice of History and the voice of Experience unite in one loud chorus
and shout, "Today." Only the voices of indifference and laziness and
folly murmur, "Tomorrow." The Holy Spirit is ever calling, "Today." Men
in their folly are forever saying, "Tomorrow."
When the frightful plague of frogs came on Pharaoh of old and on his
people, Pharaoh, in his terror, sent for Moses and Aaron and said, "Pray
to the LORD to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let
your people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD" (Exodus 8:8). Moses
replied, "I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for
you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be
rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile." One would
naturally suppose Pharaoh would have answered, "At once," but Pharaoh,
like many another king, played the fool and answered, "Tomorrow" (Exodus
8:9, 10). Men show a similar folly and often a greater folly in these
days. When urged to forsake sin with its miseries and degradation and
perils and turn to Christ with the joy and peace, and elevation of our
character and tranquility that He gives, they answer, "Yes, I think I
will." "When?" "Oh, tomorrow." But "the Holy Spirit says, Today."
A poor wretch came into my office one day. He had been drinking, and
drinking had brought misery into his heart and ruin into his life. I
asked, "Will you quit drinking and turn to Jesus Christ?" "Oh," he
exclaimed, "there is nothing else that I can do, I will." "Will you do it
now?" He hung his head, and murmured, "Not now, tomorrow." But "the Holy
Spirit says, Today." Tomorrow is the devil's day and the fool's day.
Today is God's day, and the wise man's day.
I wish to give you tonight some conclusive and unanswerable reasons why
every man and woman in this auditorium who makes any pretensions to
intelligence and common sense should not only accept the Lord Jesus as
his Lord and Savior, but should accept Him here before he leaves this
building tonight, if he has not already done it. What I want to get is
action, immediate action, intelligent and wise action. And the only
action that is intelligent and wise for anyone who has not already
accepted Jesus Christ is to accept Him right here tonight. Resolutions
to do the right thing and the wise thing at some indefinite time in the
future are of no value whatever. God's time is now. "The Holy Spirit
I. Because the Lord Jesus Brings Peace
to the Tormenting Conscience
The first reason why every man and woman in this auditorium who has not
already accepted Jesus Christ should not only accept Him but accept Him
now is because the Lord Jesus brings peace to the tormenting conscience
as soon as He is accepted, and the really wise man will not only desire
that peace but desire it just as soon as he can get it. Wherever there
is sin there will be an accusing conscience. And we "all have sinned."
If any man has sinned and his conscience does not accuse him and torment
him he has sunk very low, very low. There are, of course, different
degrees of torment of conscience and different kinds of torment of
conscience. With some the pain is sharp and piercing, with some it is
dull and grinding, but there is pain, there is unrest, there is no peace
in the heart where sin has entered until that sin has been forgiven. But
Jesus Christ gives peace to the most agonized conscience. Men and women
have come to me in all degrees of misery over the memory of some sin they
have committed, and I have pointed them to the Lord Jesus, and everyone
who has really gone to Him has found rest. I could not tell how many men
and women have come to me who were driven to the very verge of hopeless
despair by the accusations of their conscience and were contemplating
self-destruction in the hope of thus getting away from their mental
agony. But I led them to Jesus Christ, and now they have rest and the
peace of God that passes all understanding.
A young man came to me one Sunday morning in Chicago in awful agony. He
had sinned grievously and was reaping the harvest. He was contemplating
all sorts of sinful actions to escape the inevitable consequences of his
sin. I pointed him to the Son of God and the young man accepted Him.
Afterward he brought to me his companion in sin. She was fully
determined to commit a very wicked and desperate action that was likely
to land her in prison or in the cemetery. I pleaded with her and pointed
her to the real cure, to the Savior. When she left me she was still
undecided as to what she would do. She afterward decided and decided
right. One night a long time afterward, as I was going down the back
stairs of the Moody Church to the inquiry room, a young, happy-faced
woman stopped me and said, "I want to thank you for what you did for me,
and for my husband and for my child." I did not recognize her for a mo
ment, and she said, "I am the young woman who came to you," and she
explained the circumstances. It was the woman who had contemplated the
destruction of her child, and her own destruction for time and for
eternity. But she had found peace in Jesus Christ. Men and women with
tormenting consciences, and with uneasy, restless hearts, there is rest
for you in Jesus Christ. If you are wise you will not only find it, but
you will find it now. "The Holy Spirit says, Today." You need not spend
even one more day or one more hour in the agony of your accusing,
II. Because Jesus Christ Brings Inexpressible
and Glorious Joy to Those Who Accept Him
The second reason why every man and woman who have not already accepted
Jesus Christ should not only accept Him but accept Him now is because
Jesus Christ brings inexpressible and glorious joy, a joy to which the
joy of this world is as nothing in comparison, to all as soon as they
really accept and confess Him. Any really wise man will not only desire
this joy but desire it at once. I for one not only wish the best I can
get, but I wish it as quickly as I can get it. The joy that is in Jesus
Christ is the very best joy one can get. There is not a particle of
doubt about that. Ask anyone who has ever tried the world and has then
really tried Jesus Christ. You cannot find one single man or woman who
has really tried the joy that there is in Christ, anyone who has really
put his trust in Him as his personal Savior and unreservedly surrendered
to Him as his Lord and Master, who will not tell you that the world has
no joy for a moment comparable with that joy which is found in Jesus
Christ. No matter how rare their opportunities may have been for
enjoying the world, they will tell you without the slightest hesitation
that the joy that one finds in Christ is incomparably greater and finer
and more satisfying than any joy the world can give. There are millions
of witnesses to this fact, and their testimony is absolutely unanimous.
I know the joy that comes from wealth, I know the joy that comes from the
theater, I know the joy that comes from the dance, from the card table,
and the joy that comes from the race track, and the joy that comes from
the wine supper, and so on down to the end of the catalog of this world's
joys. I know also the joy that comes from literature and from art, the
joy that comes from music, from science, from philosophy and from travel.
I know practically every joy that this world has to give, but I say to
you that the joy of all these put together is nothing to the
inexpressible and glorious joy that comes from a genuine acceptance of
Jesus Christ as our Savior, and a wholehearted surrender to Him as our
Lord, and a constant and open confession of Him before the world, and
from receiving the Holy Spirit whom He gives to those who do thus accept
Him and fully surrender to Him and confess Him. Men and women, if you
wish the highest, deepest, purest, and most abounding joy, immeasurably
the most satisfying joy that is to be known, not only in the life which
is to come, but in the life which now is, not only come to Jesus Christ
but come now. "The Holy Spirit says, Today."
III. Because Jesus Christ Brings Deliverance
from the Power of Sin
The third reason why every man and woman in this auditorium who has not
already accepted Jesus Christ should not only accept Him but accept Him
tonight is because Jesus Christ brings deliverance from the power of sin,
and any wise man or woman not only wishes deliverance from the power of
sin but wishes it as soon as he or she can get it. There is no other form
of slavery known to man so degrading and so wretched as the slavery of
sin. Better far be the poor black slave of the most brutal slave driver
the South ever knew than to be the slave of rum, or the slave of lust, or
the slave of bad temper, or the slave of drugs, or the slave of an impure
imagination, or the slave of greed for gold, or the slave of any other
form of sin. Poor old Uncle Tom, groaning in his cabin after the cruel
blows of the brutal master, is not so pitiable an object as the wretch,
poor or rich, who is under the whip of appetite or of lust or of drugs or
of any other sin. But there is freedom right at hand, right now. Jesus
Christ sets men free from sin in all its forms. He sets free men who
have been slaves for years. He sets them free in a moment. Any sinner
can find deliverance in Christ from any sin, can find it now. What Jesus
said when He was here on earth is just as true today. "Everyone who sins
is a slave to sin" (John 8:34). But, thank God, it is also as true today
as when He said it that, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free
indeed" (John 8:36). Any man or woman who has a spark of intelligence
left will not only wish deliverance from sin and its awful bondage, but
wish it at once.
What would you have thought of any old time black slave of a vile and
cruel master who had been offered freedom and answered, "Yes, I wish
liberty. My bondage has been awful. But I don't want the freedom just
yet. I will wait until next year. I will wait until next month. I will
wait until next week. I will wait until tomorrow." You would exclaim,
"What a fool!" But he would not be so colossal a fool as you are when
you say, "Yes, I do wish deliverance from the power of sin," and then
add, "but not tonight-tomorrow." Oh, men, listen, "The Holy Spirit says,
IV. Because Jesus Christ Brings Beauty of Character
The fourth reason why every man and woman who has not already accepted
Jesus Christ should not only accept Him but accept Him tonight is because
Jesus Christ brings beauty of character, and every wise man and woman
will not only desire beauty of character, but desire it just as soon as
they can get it. I sometimes notice advertisements in the papers that
read, "The Secret of Beauty." I can tell you the secret of beauty, men
and women, the secret of permanent, indestructible beauty. It is Jesus
Christ in the heart. He not only beautifies the face, He beautifies the
soul. He makes over the soul that trusts in Him into His own glorious
likeness. I have seen some of the foulest men and women I ever knew made
over into the fairest, and it was Jesus Christ who did it.
Sam Hadley of the Water Street Mission, New York, was the friend of all
men who were down and out. He was always on the lookout for an
opportunity to help some man who was about as bad as they make them onto
his feet, and to lead him to Christ and to thus get the man saved. A man
said to Mr. Hadley one day, "I have a friend whom I wish you would take
an interest in." Sam Hadley asked, "Who is he?" "He is Bowery Ike."
"Well," said Hadley, "what is he, anyhow?" The man replied, "He is a
crook. He makes his living by stealing and picking pockets and all that
sort of thing. Presently he is on Blackwell's Island, serving a term
there. You can find him more easily now than usual." Sam Hadley went
over to Blackwell's Island and looked up Bowery Ike, and found him; for
he could not get away, he was behind bars. Bowery Ike had no use for Sam
Hadley, except that when he got out he came around to Sam to get a little
money to get a new suit of clothes. But he was soon off to the Island
again. Every time he would come out of confinement he would go around to
see Hadley, but as soon as he got on his feet again he would go back to
his crooked work.
Sam Hadley followed Bowery Ike for seven long years, and one day at the
end of the seventh year Bowery Ike was thoroughly sick and tired of sin,
and this time not only came to Sam Hadley, but came to Jesus Christ, and
Jesus Christ opened His arms and took Bowery Ike in. After Bowery Ike
had been saved about a year, Sam wrote me, saying, "Mr. Torrey, I have a
man who wants to study at your school. They used to call him Bowery Ike.
His right name is Ira Snyder. We believe in him. He has been a tough
customer. He has been a hard case. But he is saved and we believe God
wants to use him. Will you take him?" "Dear Sam," I replied, "I will
take anybody you recommend." He wrote back, "I recommend him." Then I
wrote, "Send him on." And Bowery Ike (Ira Snyder) came. Listen, men,
though that man had been a crook from his boyhood, for he commenced
picking pockets when a little lad; though he had been a crook nearly all
his life, he became one of the most beautiful Christians I have ever met
in all my life. And I say I have known thieves who have come to Christ,
burglars who have come to Christ, train robbers and bank robbers who have
come to Christ; I have known harlots, and murderers and people guilty of
every kind of crime I ever heard of, who have come to Christ and have
become some of the loveliest Christians I have ever known. Yes, some of
the men and women who were once down in the deepest depths of sin.
But to come back to Ira Snyder, Bowery Ike. He came on to Chicago. He
stayed with us about a year, a little over a year. One night he said to
me, "I want to walk home with you and have a little talk with you." On
the way to my home he said, "I made a little visit down in New York a few
weeks ago. I think they need me in New York. I have loved it in
Chicago, I would like to stay on, but I believe they need me in New York.
I have written Mr. Hadley that I am ready to go back to New York and help
in the work." A few days after this Ira Snyder was taken down with
influenza, a slight attack, not a very serious case, but he went to bed
with it. They did not think he was very ill. But as I was leaving the
dining table one night the maid told me that Mr. Hunter, who was one of
my assistants there at that time, as he is now here, wished to see me. I
met Mr. Hunter and he said, "Mr. Torrey, Ira Snyder is dead." I said,
"What, John? You don't mean Ira Snyder?" We had another man at the
Institute at the same time whose name was much the same, and who was very
ill at that time, too, and I thought Mr. Hunter must mean him. "You
don't mean Ira Snyder?" I said. "You must mean So-and-So," naming the
other man. "No," Mr. Hunter said. "Mr. Torrey, Ira Snyder is dead. He
died very suddenly." I asked, "Where is he, John?" "He is over at the
undertaker's. They have prepared him for his burial and have placed him
in his coffin. They are going to have the services tomorrow, and I
thought I should come to tell you tonight." "That was right, John," I
replied, "let us go over." We went to the undertaker's, which was not far
away, and walked into the parlors. And there in a beautiful coffin lay
Ira Snyder. When I looked down into that face, one of the noblest faces
I have ever looked into in my life, I will tell you what I did, I could
not help it, I broke down, and, leaning over, I kissed Ira Snyder's
beautiful face as he lay there in his coffin. Yes, friends, Bowery Ike
had been a crook before he became a Christian, but by the power of Jesus
Christ in his heart he became one of the loveliest Christians I ever knew
in my life. I don't think my heart ever ached over anybody outside my
own family as it did over Ira Snyder, who was formerly a pickpocket, a
burglar, and everything that was bad, but who in his lost and ruined
condition came to Jesus, and the heart of Jesus was big enough to take
him in, and Jesus came into his heart and transformed him into His own
likeness. The Lord Jesus is doing that sort of thing every day.
And the Lord Jesus is also taking others who are not so foul, who,
indeed, the world thinks good, and He is making them immeasurably better.
It is Jesus and Jesus only who makes truly lovely characters. Yes, men
and women, do you not wish to be good? Not only good in the eyes of man,
but good in the eyes of God? You may be. It is Jesus' work to make you
so. Let Him begin it at once. Let Him begin it now, "The Holy Spirit
says, Today." What do you say? "Tomorrow?" No, not if you have a particle
of sense left, and I believe you have. You will say, "Tonight. Right
V. Because Jesus Christ Fills Our Lives
with Highest Usefulness
The fifth reason why every man and woman who has not already accepted
Jesus Christ should not only accept Him but accept Him now is because
Jesus Christ fills our lives with highest usefulness; and every wise man
and every wise woman desires not only to be useful but desires to begin
being useful as soon as possible. The Christian life is the only really
useful life. We look at the life of many a one who is not a Christian,
and say, "There is a useful life"; but God looks at it and looks through
it, looks at it in all its directions, and writes this verdict on it,
"Useless." Whether you and I see it or not, the man or woman who is not
with Christ is against Him (Matthew 12:30), and the man who is against
Jesus Christ is against God and against humanity. His life is useless
and worse than useless. But the life that is fully surrendered to Jesus
Christ becomes at once a useful life. It may be the mere wreck of a
life, but it becomes at once a useful life.
A friend of mine found one of the most hopeless wrecks of womanhood in
New York City and brought her to Jesus Christ. I think this poor
creature lived less than two years after her conversion and many months
of that time were spent on a sick bed. But that woman was used to the
eternal salvation of more than a hundred persons while she lay there
dying, and the story of the transformed life of "the Bluebird of Mulberry
Bend" has gone around the world and saved thousands.
Come to Christ. Really come to Him. He will make you useful. Come at
once, that your usefulness may begin at once. I am glad I came to the
Lord Jesus when I did, but oh! if only I had come sooner. How many
precious years were wasted! How many golden opportunities were lost,
opportunities that will never return! Come, men and women. Come now.
"The Holy Spirit says, Today."
VI. Because the Sooner We Come to Christ, the Fuller
and Richer Will Be Our Eternity
The sixth reason why every man and woman in this auditorium who has not
already accepted Jesus Christ should not only accept Him but accept Him
tonight is because the sooner we come to Christ, the fuller and richer
will be our eternity. The eternity of each one of us will be just what
we make it in the life that now is. You are constructing your eternity
every day. Every day of true service for Christ makes our reward so much
the greater and our eternity so much the fuller and richer. Come to
Christ next Sunday and you will be behind for all eternity by as much as
you might have accomplished this week. You may cry in coming years,
"Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight," but Time will not turn
backward in its flight. Time cannot turn backward. Time is flying by
every moment and never returns. Today is hurrying by us at express
speed. Tomorrow will soon follow. And as I turn around and peer after
Yesterday and Today as they plunge into the unfathomable depths of the
Past, I cry, "Yesterday, where are you?" Out from the fathomless abyss
of bygone days comes the answer, "Gone forever." And I hear the Holy
Spirit crying, "Today! Today! Today!" "The Holy Spirit says, Today."
VII. Because If We Do Not Come to Jesus Christ Today
We May Never Come At All
I will give you one more reason why every man and woman who has not
already accepted Jesus Christ should not only accept Him but accept Him
at once, and that is because if we do not come to Jesus Christ today we
may never come at all. That is not at all a remote possibility.
Thousands and tens of thousands have been as near to an acceptance of
Jesus Christ as you are this moment and have said, "Not tonight," and now
they have passed without Christ into that world in which there is no hope
for repentance, no matter how "diligently with tears" they may seek it,
into that world in which there is no opportunity to change their mind or
their eternal destiny.
A man came into one of our tents one night in Chicago. It was the first
time he had ever been in a meeting of that kind in his life. The words
of Mr. Schiverea, who spoke that night, made a deep impression on him,
and after the meeting was over he lingered with a friend and talked
personally with Mr. Schiverea. His friend accepted Christ and he was on
the very verge of accepting Him. Mr. Schiverea said to him, "Will you
accept Jesus Christ right now?" "No," the man said, "this is the first
time in my life that I was ever in a meeting of this kind. I cannot
decide tonight, but I promise you that I will come back Sunday night and
accept Christ." It was Friday night and there was to be no meeting on
Saturday. Mr. Schiverea replied that he did not question at all the
honesty of the man's intention or the sincerity of his promise to return
Sunday night and settle it; but added, "We have no guarantee whatever
that you will live until Sunday night." "Oh," the man said, with a laugh,
"you don't suppose that God is going to cut me off after the first
meeting of this kind that I ever attended in my life and not give me
another opportunity?" Mr. Schiverea replied, "I do not know. But I do
know you are taking a great risk in waiting until Sunday night. I
greatly fear that if you do not accept Jesus Christ now you will never
accept Him and be lost forever." "No," the man said, "I give you my word
that I will be back here Sunday night and accept Christ." Mr. Schiverea
continued to plead with him, but the man would not yield. He went out of
the tent with his friend. They got into a carriage and turned toward
home. And as they drove up the street they passed a saloon. The man
said to his friend, "Let's stop and have one more drink and then we will
both stop drinking permanently." "No," said his friend, "I have settled
it already. I have accepted Christ and I will never take another drink."
"Well," said the other, "I'm going to have one more drink, anyhow. You
drive up the street and then come back for me and I will be waiting for
you outside." He entered the saloon. His friend drove up the street, and
after a few minutes returned to pick up the man. He was nowhere to be
seen. The friend went into the saloon to look for him. He was not
there. The friend went into the street again and looked up and down it
for the man, but he was nowhere in sight. Passing a high board fence, he
heard a groan, and passing swiftly around behind it, he discovered his
friend lying behind it stabbed, with an awful gash in his body,
unconscious and dying. He was taken to the Presbyterian Hospital and
lived until Monday morning, but never regained consciousness and passed
into eternity unsaved, lost forever. Why? Because when "the Holy Spirit
said, Today," the man said, "Tomorrow." So he passed unprepared into the
presence of God, and so will some of you if you do not listen to the Holy
Spirit now as He says, "Today."
One night when I was preaching in Bradford, England, a man and his wife
sat side by side in the meeting and were deeply moved, but they made no
decision. As they walked away from the meeting the wife said to her
husband, "Would it not have been nice if you and I both had accepted
Christ?" He answered, "Yes, it would." They reached home and retired.
About two o'clock the following morning his wife awakened him and said,
"I feel so strange." In a few minutes from that time she had passed into
eternity. After he had laid his wife's body away in the cemetery, he
came back to the meeting and told us this story and accepted Christ, but
he came alone. Oh, men and women, listen! Do you not hear the Holy
Spirit crying, "Today"?
There are so many things besides death that may make this the last
opportunity you will ever have and make a refusal now final and fatal.
Loss of opportunity may come. The Holy Spirit is here in power now. It
is a great opportunity, the Day of Golden Opportunity. A like
opportunity may never come again. It never will come again for some of
you. "The Holy Spirit says, Today."
A hardened heart may seal your doom. When a human heart is moved on by
the Spirit of God, as some of your hearts are, and the heart continues to
resist the Holy Spirit, it is likely to become very soon hardened and
One night in our church in Chicago, after the meeting in which many had
accepted Christ, I remained talking with a young man. He was under deep
conviction, within one step of a decision. I urged on him an immediate
acceptance and confession of Christ. "No," he said, "I cannot do it
tonight. But I will give you my word of honor that I will come back
tomorrow night and do it." I told him I did not question his word or his
intention; but I said, "I have no guarantee whatever that you will keep
your word. I have a feeling in my heart that if you do not settle it
tonight you will never come back." "Why," he replied, "my mother is here
every night. We live within a block of this place. I give you my word
of honor I will come tomorrow night and settle it." Again I said, "I do
question your word, but the Spirit of God is working mightily with you
tonight, and if you go out of here resisting the Spirit of God, I believe
your heart will be so hardened that your eternal destiny will be sealed
and you will never come back." "No," he said, "I cannot accept tonight,
but I will come tomorrow night and settle it." He walked away. I watched
him with a heavy heart as he passed out of the door. I said to myself,
"He will never come back," and he never did. Quite a while later I asked
his mother about him and she told me he had never come back into the
church from that night.
Men and women, listen! You cannot trifle with God, and you cannot trifle
with your own souls, and you cannot trifle with the Holy Spirit. The
Holy Spirit is not only saying in our text, but He is saying in your
hearts, "Today! Accept Christ right now." Will you listen to the mighty,
gracious Spirit of God? Will you do as He bids you? Will you listen
right now and harden not your heart, but accept Jesus Christ as your
Savior, surrender to Him as your Lord and Master, and begin to confess to
Him as such before the world, and be saved, and get right here and now
the wonderful blessings that He gives and that He alone can give?
Profitable Bible Study
R. A. Torrey
There are many profitable methods of Bible Study. There is something,
however, in Bible study more important than the best methods, that is,
the fundamental conditions of profitable study. He who meets these
conditions will get more out of the Bible, while pursuing the poorest
method, than will he who does not meet them, while pursuing the best
method. Many a one who is eagerly asking, "What method shall I pursue in
my Bible study?" needs something that goes far deeper than a new and
1. The first of the fundamental conditions of the most profitable Bible
study is that the student must be born again.
The Bible is a spiritual book, it "expresses spiritual truths in
spiritual words" (1 Corinthians 2:13), and only a spiritual man can
understand its deepest and most characteristic and most precious
teachings. "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that
come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he
cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned"
(1 Corinthians 2:14). Spiritual discernment can be obtained in but one
way, by being born again. "No one can see the kingdom of God unless he
is born again" (John 3:3).
No mere knowledge of the human languages in which the Bible was written,
however extensive and accurate it may be, will qualify one to understand
and appreciate it. One must understand the divine language in which it
was written as well, the language of the Holy Spirit. A person who
understands the language of the Holy Spirit, but who does not understand
a word of Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic, will get more out of the Bible than
one who knows all about Greek and Hebrew and cognate languages, but is
not born again, and, consequently, does not understand the language of
the Holy Spirit. It is a well-demonstrated fact that many common men and
women who are entirely ignorant of any knowledge of the original tongues
in which the Bible was written have a knowledge of the real contents of
the Bible, its actual teaching, in its depth and fullness and beauty,
that surpasses that of many learned professors in theological faculties.
One of the greatest follies of the day, is to get unregenerate men to
teach the Bible because of their rare knowledge of the human forms of
speech in which the book was written. It would be as reasonable to set a
man to teach art because he had an accurate technical knowledge of
paints. It requires esthetic sense to make a man a competent teacher of
art. It requires spiritual sense to make a man a competent teacher of
the Bible. The man who has esthetic discernment but little or no
technical knowledge of paint would be a far more competent critic of
works of art than a man who has a great technical knowledge of paint but
no esthetic discernment; and so the man who has no technical knowledge of
Greek and Hebrew but has spiritual discernment is a far more competent
critic of the Bible than he who has a rare technical knowledge of Greek
and Hebrew but no spiritual discernment. It is exceedingly unfortunate
that, in some quarters, more emphasis is laid on a knowledge of Greek and
Hebrew in training for the ministry than is laid on spiritual life and
its consequent spiritual discernment.
Unregenerate men should not be forbidden to study the Bible, for the Word
of God is the instrument the Holy Spirit uses in the New Birth (1 Peter
1:23; James 1:18); but it should be distinctly understood that, while
there are teachings in the Bible that the natural man can understand, and
beauties which he can see, its most distinctive and characteristic
teachings are beyond his grasp, and its highest beauties belong to a
world in which he has no vision. The first fundamental condition of the
most profitable Bible study is, then, "You must be born again." You
cannot study the Bible to the greatest profit if you have not been born
again. Its best treasures are sealed to you.
2. The second condition of the most profitable study is a love for the
A man who eats with an appetite will get far more good out of his meal
than one who eats from a sense of duty. It is good when a student of the
Bible can say with Job, "I have treasured the words of His mouth more
than my daily bread" (Job 23:12), or with Jeremiah, "When your words
came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear
your name, O LORD God Almighty" (Jeremiah 15:16). Many come to the table
God has spread in His Word with no appetite for spiritual food, and go
mincing here and there and grumbling about everything. Spiritual
indigestion lies at the bottom of much modern criticism of the Bible.
But how can one get a love for the Bible? First of all, by being born
again. Where there is life there is likely to be appetite. A dead man
never hungers. This brings us back to the first condition. But going
beyond this, the more there is of vitality, the more there is of hunger.
Abounding life means abounding hunger for the Word. Study of the Word
stimulates love for the Word. The author can well remember the time when
he had more appetite for books about the Bible than he had for the Bible
itself, but with increasing study there has come increasing love for the
Book. Bearing in mind who the author of the Book is, what its purpose
is, what its power is, what the riches of its contents are, will go far
toward stimulating love and appetite for the Book.
3. The third condition is willingness to do hard work.
Solomon has given a graphic picture of the Bible student who gets the
most profit out of his study, "My son, if you accept my words and store
up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your
heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for
understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as
for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and
find the knowledge of God" (Proverbs 2:1-5). Now, seeking for silver and
searching for hidden treasure means hard work, and he who wishes to get
not only the silver but the gold as well out of the Bible, and find its
"hidden treasure," must make up his mind to dig. It is not glancing at
the Word, or reading the Word, but studying the Word, meditating on the
Word, pondering the Word, that brings the richest yields.
The reason why many get so little out of their Bible reading is simply
because they are not willing to think. Intellectual laziness lies at the
bottom of a large percent of fruitless Bible reading. People are
constantly crying for new methods of Bible study, but what many of them
wish is simply some method of Bible study by which they can get all the
good out of the Bible without work. If someone could tell lazy
Christians some method of Bible study whereby they could put the
sleepiest ten minutes of the day, just before they go to bed, into Bible
study, and get the profit out of it that God intends His children shall
get out of the study of His Word, that would be just what they desire.
But it can't be done. Men must be willing to work, and work hard, if
they wish to dig out the treasures of infinite wisdom and knowledge and
blessing which God has stored up in His Word.
A business friend once asked me in a hurried call to tell him "in a word"
how to study his Bible. I replied, "Think." The Psalmist pronounces
that man "blessed" whose "delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his
law he meditates day and night" (Psalm 1:2). The Lord commanded Joshua
to meditate on it day and night, and assured him that as a result of this
meditation, "you will be prosperous and successful" (Joshua 1:8).
Of Mary, the mother of Jesus, we read, "Mary treasured up all these
things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). In this way alone can
one study the Bible to the greatest profit. One pound of beef well
chewed and digested and assimilated will give more strength than tons of
beef merely glanced at; and one verse of Scripture chewed and digested
and assimilated will give more strength than whole chapters simply
skimmed. Weigh every word you read in the Bible. Look at it. Turn it
over and over. The most familiar passages get a new meaning in this way.
Spend fifteen minutes on each word in Psalm 23:1 ("The LORD is my
shepherd, I shall not be in want."), or Philippians 4:19 ("My God will
meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."),
and see if it is not so.
4. The fourth condition is a will wholly surrendered to God.
Jesus said, "If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether
my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own" (John 7:17). A
surrendered will gives that clearness of spiritual vision which is
necessary to understand God's Book. Many of the difficulties and
obscurities of the Bible rise wholly from the fact that the will of the
student is not surrendered to the will of the author of the Book. It is
remarkable how clear and simple and beautiful passages that once puzzled
us become when we are brought to that place where we say to God, "I
surrender my will unconditionally to You. I have no will but Yours.
Teach me Your will." A surrendered will will do more to make the Bible
an open book than a university education. It is simply impossible to get
the largest profit out of your Bible study until you do surrender your
will to God. You must be very definite about this.
There are many who say, "Oh, yes, my will, I think, is surrendered to
God," and yet it is not. They have never gotten alone with God and said
intelligently and definitely to him, "O God, I here and now give myself
up to You, for You to command me, and lead me, and shape me, and send me,
and do with me, absolutely as You will." Such an act is a wonderful key
to unlock the treasure house of God's Word. The Bible becomes a new book
when a man does that. Doing that brought a complete transformation in
the author's theology and life and ministry.
5. The fifth condition is very closely related to the fourth. The
student of the Bible who would get the greatest profit out of his studies
must be obedient to its teachings as soon as he sees them.
It was good advice James gave to early Christians, and to us, "Do not
merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says"
(James 1:22). There are a good many who consider themselves Bible
students who are deceiving themselves in this way today. They see
what the Bible teaches, but they do not follow it, and they soon lose
their power to see it. Truth obeyed leads to more truth. Truth
disobeyed destroys the capacity for discovering truth. There must be not
only a general surrender of the will, but specific, practical obedience
to each new Word of God discovered. There is no place where the law,
"Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever
does not have, even what he has will be taken from him," is more
gloriously certain on the one hand and more sternly unavoidable on the
other than in the matter of using or refusing the truth revealed in the
Use, and you get more; refuse, and you lose all. Do not study the Bible
for the mere gratification of intellectual curiosity, but to find out how
to live and please God. Whatever duty you find commanded in the Bible,
do it at once. Whatever good you see in any Bible character, imitate it
immediately. Whatever mistake you note in the actions of Bible men and
women, scrutinize your own life to see if you are making the same
mistake, and if you find you are, correct it immediately. James compares
the Bible to a mirror (James 1:23, 24). The chief good of a mirror is to
show you if there is anything out of order about you; if you find there
is, you can set it right. Use the Bible in that way. Obeying the truth
you already see will solve the mysteries in the verses you do not yet
understand. Disobeying the truth you see darkens the whole world of
truth. This is the secret of much of the skepticism and error of the
day. Men see the truth, but do not follow it--then it is gone.
I knew a bright and promising young minister. He made rapid advancement
in the truth. He took very advanced ground on one point especially, and
the storm came. One day he said to his wife, "It is very nice to believe
this, but we need not speak too much about it." They began, or he, at
least, to hide their testimony. The wife died and he drifted. The Bible
became to him a sealed book. Faith reeled. He publicly renounced his
faith in some of the fundamental truths of the Bible. He seemed to lose
his grip even on the doctrine of immortality. What was the cause of it
all? Truth not lived and stood for flees. Today that man is much
admired and applauded by some, but daylight has given place to darkness
in his soul.
6. The sixth condition is a childlike mind.
God reveals His deepest truths to babes. No age needs more than our own
to lay to heart the words of Jesus, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven
and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and
learned, and revealed them to little children" (Matthew 11:25). We must
be babes if God is to reveal His truth to us, and we are to understand
His Word. A child is not full of its own wisdom. It recognizes its
ignorance and is ready to be taught. It does not oppose the ideas of its
teachers to those of its own. It is in that spirit we should come to the
Bible if we are to get the most profit out of our study.
Do not come to the Bible full of your own ideas, and seeking from it a
confirmation of them. Come rather to find out what are God's ideas as He
has revealed them there. Come not to find a confirmation of your own
opinion, but to be taught what God may be pleased to teach. If a man
comes to the Bible just to find his ideas taught there, he will find
them; but if he comes recognizing his own ignorance, just as a little
child to be taught, he will find something infinitely better than his own
ideas, even the mind of God. We see why it is that many persons cannot
see things which are plainly taught in the Bible. The doctrine taught is
not their idea, of which they are so full that there is no room left for
that which the Bible actually teaches.
We have an illustration of this in the apostles themselves at one stage
in their training. In Mark 9:31, we read, "He was teaching his
disciples. He said to them, 'The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into
the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.'"
Now, that is as plain and definite as language can make it, but it was
utterly contrary to the ideas of the apostles as to what was to happen to
the Christ. So we read in the next verse, "But they did not understand
what he meant." Isn't that amazing? But is it any more amazing than our
own inability to comprehend plain statements in the Bible when they run
counter to our preconceived ideas?
Problems many Christians find with portions of the Sermon on the Mount
would be plain enough if we just came to Christ like a child to be taught
what to believe and do, rather than coming as full-grown men who already
know it all, and who must find some interpretations of Christ's words
that will fit into our mature and infallible philosophy. Many a man is
so full of an unbiblical theology he has been taught that it takes him a
lifetime to get rid of it and understand the clear teaching of the Bible.
"Oh, what can this verse mean?" many a bewildered man cries. Why, it
means what it plainly says; but what you are after is not the meaning God
has manifestly put into it, but the meaning you can by some ingenious
trick of exegesis twist out of it and make it fit into your scheme.
Don't come to the Bible to find out what you can make it mean, but to
find out what God intended it to mean. Men often miss the real truth of
a verse by saying, "But that can be interpreted this way." Oh, yes, so
it can, but is that the way God intended it to be interpreted? We all
need to pray often if we would get the most profit out of our Bible
study, "Oh, God, make me a little child. Empty me of my own ideas.
Teach me Your own mind. Make me ready like a little child to receive all
that You have to say, no matter how contrary it is to what I have thought
before." How the Bible opens up to one who approaches it in that way!
How it closes up to the wise fool, who thinks he knows everything, and
imagines he can give points to Peter and Paul, and even to Jesus Christ
and to God Himself! Someone has well said the best method of Bible study
is "the baby method."
I was once talking with a minister friend about what seemed to be the
clear teaching of a certain passage. "Yes," he replied, "but that
doesn't agree with my philosophy." This man was sincere, yet he did not
have the childlike spirit, which is an essential condition of the most
profitable Bible study. But there are many who approach the Bible in the
same way. It is a great point gained in Bible study when we are brought
to realize that an infinite God knows more than we, that, indeed, our
highest wisdom is less than the knowledge of the most ignorant babe
compared with His. But we so easily and so constantly forget this that
every time we open our Bibles we would do well to get down humbly before
God and say, "Father, I am but a child, teach me."
7. The seventh condition of studying the Bible to the greatest profit is
that we study it as the Word of God.
The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Church of the Thessalonians, thanked
God without ceasing that when they received the Word of God they
"accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the Word of
God" (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Well might he thank God for that, and well
may we thank God when we get to the place where we receive the Word of
God as the Word of God. Not that one who does not believe the Bible is
the Word of God should be discouraged from studying it. Indeed, one of
the best things that one who does not believe that the Bible is the Word
of God can do, if he is honest, is to study it. The author of this book
once doubted utterly that the Bible was the Word of God, and the firm
confidence that he has today that the Bible is the Word of God has come
more from the study of the Book itself than from anything else. Those
who doubt it are more usually those who study about the Book, than those
who dig into the actual teachings of the Book itself. But while the best
book of Christian evidences is the Bible, and while the most utter
skeptic should be encouraged to study it, we will not get the largest
measure of profit out of that study until we reach the point where we
become convinced that the Bible is God's Word, and when we study it as
There is a great difference between believing theoretically that the
Bible is God's Word and studying it as God's Word. Thousands would tell
you that they believe the Bible is God's Word who do not study it as
God's Word. Studying the Bible as the Word of God involves four things.
(1) First, it involves the unquestioning acceptance of its teachings when
definitely ascertained, even when they may appear unreasonable or
Reason demands that we submit our judgment and reasonings to the
statements of infinite wisdom. There is nothing more irrational than
rationalism, which makes the finite wisdom the test of infinite wisdom,
and submits the teachings of God's omniscience to the approval of man's
judgment. It is the sublimest and absurdest conceit that says, "This
cannot be true, though God says it, for it does not agree with my
reason." "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?" (Romans 9:20).
Real human wisdom, when it finds infinite wisdom, bows before it and
says, "Speak what You will and I will believe." When we have once become
convinced that the Bible is God's Word its teachings must be the end of
all controversy and discussion. A "thus says the Lord" will settle every
question. Yet there are many who profess to believe that the Bible is
the Word of God, and if you show them what the Bible clearly teaches on
some disputed point, they will shake their heads and say, "Yes, but I
think so and so," or "Doctor -----, or Professor this, our church doesn't
teach that way." There is little profit in that sort of Bible study.
(2) Studying the Bible as the Word of God involves, in the second place,
absolute reliance on all its promises in all their length and breadth.
He who studies the Bible as the Word of God will not discount any one
of its promises one iota. He who studies the Bible as the Word of God
will say, "God, who cannot lie, has promised," and will not attempt to
make God a liar by trying to make one of His promises mean less than it
says. He who studies the Bible as the Word of God will be on the lookout
for promises, and as soon as he finds one he will seek to ascertain just
what it means, and as soon as he discovers what it means, he will step
right out on that promise and risk everything on its full meaning. That
is one of the secrets of profitable Bible study.
Search for promises and appropriate them as fast as you find them, which
is done by meeting the conditions and risking all on them. That is the
way to make your own all the fullness of blessing God has for you. This
is the key to all the treasures of God's grace. Happy is the man who has
so learned to study the Bible as God's Word that he is ready to claim for
himself every new promise as it appears, and to risk everything on it.
(3) Studying the Bible as the Word of God involves, in the third place,
obedience--prompt, exact obedience, without asking any questions to its
Obedience may seem hard, it may seem impossible, but God has commanded it
and I have nothing to do but to obey and leave the results with God. If
you would get the very most profit out of your Bible study resolve that
from this time you will claim every clear promise and obey every plain
command, and that as to the promises and commands whose intent is not yet
clear you will try to get their meaning made clear.
(4) Studying the Bible as the Word of God involves, in the fourth place,
studying it in God's presence.
When you read a verse of Scripture hear the voice of the living God
speaking directly to you in these written words. There is new power and
attractiveness in the Bible when you have learned to hear a living,
present Person, God our Father, Himself talking directly to you in these
words. One of the most fascinating and inspiring statements in the Bible
is, "Enoch walked with God" (Genesis 5:24). We can have God's glorious
companionship any moment we please by simply opening His Word and letting
the living and ever-present God speak to us through it. With what holy
awe and strange and unutterable joy one studies the Bible if he studies
it in this way! It is heaven come down to earth.
8. The eighth and last condition of the most profitable Bible study is
The Psalmist prayed, "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in
your law" (Psalm 119:18). Every one who desires to get the greatest
profit out of his Bible study needs to offer that or a similar prayer
every time he undertakes the study of the Word. Few keys open so many
strong boxes that contain hidden treasure as prayer. Few clues unravel
so many difficulties. Few microscopes will disclose so many beauties
hidden from the eye of the ordinary observer. What new light often
shines from an old familiar text as you bend over it in prayer! I
believe in studying the Bible a good deal on your knees. When one reads
an entire book through on his knees--and this is easily done--that book
has a new meaning and becomes a new book. One ought never to open the
Bible to read it without at least lifting the heart to God in silent
prayer that He will interpret it, illumine its pages by the light of His
It is a rare privilege to study any book under the immediate guidance and
instruction of its author, and this is the privilege of us all in
studying the Bible. When one comes to a passage that is difficult to
understand or difficult to interpret, instead of giving it up, or rushing
to some learned friend, or to some commentary, he should lay that passage
before God, and ask Him to explain it to him, pleading God's promise, "If
any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all
without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he
must believe and not doubt" (James 1:5-6). It is simply wonderful how
the seemingly most difficult passages become plain by this treatment.
Harry Morehouse, one of the most remarkable Bible scholars among
unlearned men, used to say that whenever he came to a passage in the
Bible which he could not understand, he would search through the Bible
for some other passage that threw light on it, and lay it before God in
prayer, and that he had never found a passage that did not yield to this
treatment. The author of this book has had a quite similar experience.
Some years ago, accompanied by a friend, I was making a tour of
Franconian Switzerland, and visiting some of the more famous zoolithic
caves. One day a rural letter carrier stopped us and asked if we would
like to see a cave of rare beauty and interest, away from the beaten
tracks of travel. Of course, we said, yes. He led us through the woods
and underbrush to the mouth of the cave, and we entered. All was dark
and uncanny. He discussed greatly on the beauty of the cave, telling us
of altars and fantastic formations, but we could see absolutely nothing.
Now and then lie uttered a note to warn us to have a care, as near our
feet lay a gulf the bottom of which had never been discovered. We began
to fear that we might be the first discoverers of the bottom. There was
nothing pleasant about the whole affair.
But as soon as a magnesium taper was lighted, all became different.
There were the stalagmites rising from the floor to meet the stalactites
as they came down from the ceiling. There were the beautiful and
fantastic formations on every hand, and all glistening in fairy like
beauty in the brilliant light. So I have often thought it was with many
a passage of Scripture. Others tell you of its beauty, but you cannot
see it. It looks dark and intricate and forbidding and dangerous, but
when God's own light is kindled there by prayer how different all becomes
in an instant. You see a beauty that language cannot express, and that
only those can appreciate who have stood there in the same light. He who
would understand and love his Bible must be much in prayer. Prayer will
do more than a college education to make the Bible an open and a glorious
book. Perhaps the best lesson I learned in a German university, where I
had the privilege of receiving the instruction of one of the most noted
and most gifted Bible teachers of any age, was that which came through
the statement of one who knew him that Professor Dehtzsch worked out much
of his teaching on his knees.
The Christian Conception
God is light.
1 John 1:5
God is love.
1 John 4:8, 16
With God all things are possible.
His understanding has no limit.
We are to consider again today the Christian conception of God. We have
seen that God is spirit, that God is a Person and that God has a personal
interest and an active hand in the affairs of men today, that He
sustains, governs and cares for the world He has created, and that He
shapes the whole present history of the world.
1. The Infinite Perfection of God
The next thing to be noted about the Christian conception of God is that
God is perfect and infinite in all His intellectual and moral attributes
and in power.
1. First of all, fix your attention on our first text: "God is light."
These three words form a marvelously beautiful and overwhelmingly
impressive statement of the truth. They set forth the Absolute Holiness
and Perfect Wisdom of God. The words need rather to be meditated on than
to be expounded. "In Him there is no darkness at all." That is to say,
in Him there is no darkness of error, no darkness of ignorance, no
darkness of sin, no darkness of moral imperfection or of intellectual
imperfection of any kind. The three words, "God is light," form one of
the most beautiful, one of the most striking, and one of the most
stupendous statements of truth that ever was penned.
2. To come to things more specific, the God of the Bible is omnipotent.
This great truth comes out again and again in the Word of God. One
direct statement of this great truth especially, striking because of the
connection in which it is found, occurs in Jeremiah 32:17, 27, "Ah,
Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great
power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you." Here it is
Jeremiah who makes the statement, but in the 27th verse it is the LORD
Himself who says: "I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything
too hard for me?"
In Job 42:2, we read these words of Job, when at last he has been brought
to see and to recognize the true nature of the LORD: "I know that you can
do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted." In Matthew 19:26, our
Lord Jesus says: "With God all things are possible." Taking these
passages together, we are plainly taught by our Lord Himself, and by
others, that God can do all things, that nothing is too hard for Him,
that all things are possible with Him. In a word, that God is
omnipotent. A very impressive passage setting forth this same great
truth is Psalm 33:6-9, "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of
the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth
fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke,
and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm."
Here we see God by the mere utterance of His voice bringing to pass
anything that He desires to be brought to pass. We find this same lofty
conception of God in the very first chapter of the Bible, that chapter
that so many people who imagine themselves scholarly are telling us is
outgrown and not up to date, yet which contains some of the sublimest
utterances that ever were written, unmatched by anything that any
philosopher or scientist or platform orator is saying today. The very
first words of that chapter read: "In the beginning God created the
heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1), a description of the origin of
things that has never been matched for simplicity, excellency and depth;
and two verses farther down, in the third verse, we read: "And God said,
'Let there be light,' and there was light." These words need no comment.
There is here a excellency of thought in the setting forth of the
omnipotence of God's mere word before which any truly intelligent and
alert soul will stand in wonder and awe. There is nothing in poetry or
in philosophical dissertation, ancient or modern, that for one moment can
be put in comparison with these sublime words. Over and over again, it
is brought out in the Word of God that all nature is absolutely subject
to His will. For example, we see this in Psalm 107:25-29, "For he spoke
and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to
the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage
melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at
their wits' end. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and
he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a
whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed."
Another description of a similar character is found in Nahum 1:3-6, "The
LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the
guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds
are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and dries it up; he makes
all the rivers run dry. Bashan and Carmel wither and the blossoms of
Lebanon fade. The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away.
The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it.
Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His
wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him." What
a picture we have here of the omnipotence and awful majesty of God!
Not only is nature represented as being absolutely subject to God's will
and word, but men also are represented as being absolutely subject to His
will and word. For example, we read in James 4:12-15, "There is only one
Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you--who
are you to judge your neighbor? Now listen, you who say, 'Today or
tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on
business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen
tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little
while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's
will, we will live and do this or that.'"
Happy is the man who voluntarily subjects himself to God's will and Word,
but whether we voluntarily subject ourselves to God's will and Word or
not, we are subject to His will and Word whether we believe it or not.
The angels also are subject to His will and Word (Hebrews 1:13, 14), and
even Satan himself, although entirely against his own will, is absolutely
subject to the will and Word of God, as is evident from Job 1:12 and Job
The exercise of God's omnipotence is limited by His own wise and holy and
loving will. God can do anything, but will do only that which infinite
wisdom and holiness and love dictate. This comes out, for example, in
Isaiah 59:1, 2, "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor
his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from
your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not
3. The God of the Bible is also omniscient. In 1 John 3:20, we read, "He
[God] knows everything." Turning to the Old Testament, in Psalm 147:5,
we read, "Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no
limit." The literal translation of the last clause of this passage is,
"Of his understanding there is no number." In these passages it is
plainly declared that "God knows everything" and that "His understanding
is infinite." In Job 37:16, Elihu, the messenger of God, is represented
as saying that the LORD is "perfect in knowledge." In Acts 15:18, we read
that God knows all His works and all things from the beginning of the
world. Known to Him is everything from the vastest to the minutest
detail. In Psalm 147:4, we are told, "He determines the number of the
stars and calls them each by name." While in Matthew 10:29, we are told
that not one sparrow will fall to the ground apart from the will of God.
The stars in all their stupendous magnitude and the sparrows in all their
insignificance are all equally in His mind.
We are told further that everything has a part in His purpose and plan.
In Acts 3:17, 18, the Apostle Peter says of the crucifixion of our Lord,
the wickedest act in all the history of the human race: "Now, brothers, I
know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how
God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that
his Christ would suffer." In Acts 2:23, Peter declared on the day of
Pentecost (although the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus was the wickedest
act in all history) that, nevertheless, the Lord Jesus was "handed over
to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge." According to the
Psalmist (Psalm 76:10), God takes the acts of the wickedest men into His
plans and makes the wrath of men praise Him, and the remainder of wrath
He restrains. Even the present war [World War I] with all its horrors,
with all its atrocities, with all its abominations and all its nameless
wickednesses, was foreknown of God and taken into His own gracious plan
of the ages; and He will make every event in this war, even the most
shocking things designed by the vilest conspiracy of unprincipled men,
utterly inhuman and beastly and devil-inspired men, work together for
good to those who love God, for those who are the called according to His
purpose (Romans 8:28).
The whole plan of the ages, not merely of the centuries, but of the
immeasurable ages of God, and every man's part in it, has been known to
God from all eternity. This is made very clear in Ephesians 1:9-12,
He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his
good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into
effect when the times will have reached their
fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth
together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also
chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him
who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of
his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in
Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
And in Ephesians 3:4-9, we read,
In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my
insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known
to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by
the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This
mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs
together with Israel, members together of one body, and
sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a
servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me
through the working of his power. Although I am less than
the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to
preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
and to make plain to everyone the administration of this
mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who
created all things.
God has no after-thoughts. Everything is seen, known, purposed, and
planned from the outset. Well may we exclaim: "Oh, the depth of the
riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his
judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" (Romans 11:33). God knows
from all eternity what He will do through all eternity.
4. God is also absolutely and infinitely holy. This is a point of
central and fundamental importance in the Bible conception of God. It
comes out in our first text: "God is light; in him there is no darkness
at all." When he wrote these words John gave them as the summary of
"This is the message we have heard from Him [God]" (1 John 1:5). In
Isaiah 6:3, in the vision of the LORD which was given to Isaiah in the
year that King Uzziah died, the "seraphim," or "burning ones," burning in
their own intense holiness, are represented as standing before the LORD
with covered faces and covered feet, and constantly crying, "Holy, holy,
holy, is the LORD Almighty." And in 1 Peter 1:16, God cries to us, "Be
holy, because I am holy."
This thought of the infinite and awe-inspiring holiness of God pervades
the entire Bible. It underlies everything in the Bible. The entire
Mosaic system is built on and about this fundamental and central truth.
Its system of washings; the divisions of the tabernacle; the divisions of
the people into ordinary Israelites, Levites, priests and high priests,
who were permitted different degrees of approach to God under strictly
defined conditions; insistence on sacrifices of blood as the necessary
medium of approach to God; God's directions to Moses in Exodus 3:5, to
Joshua in Joshua 5:15; the punishment of Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26:16-26;
the strict orders to Israel in regard to approaching Sinai when the LORD
came down on it; the doom of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in Numbers 16:1-
33; and the destruction of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10:1-3--all these
were intended to teach, emphasize, and burn into the minds and hearts of
the Israelites the fundamental truth that God is holy, unapproachably
The truth that God is holy is the fundamental truth of the Bible, of the
Old Testament and the New Testament, of both the Jewish religion and the
Christian religion. It is the preeminent factor in the Christian
conception of God. There is no fact in the Christian conception of God
that needs more to be emphasized in our day than the fact of the
absolute, unqualified, and uncompromising holiness of God. That is the
chief note lacking in Christian Science, Occultism, Buddhism, New
Thought, the New Theology, and all the base but boasted cults of the day.
That great truth underlies those fundamental doctrines of the Bible--the
Atonement by Shed Blood, and Justification by Faith. The doctrine of the
holiness of God is the keystone in the arch of Christian truth.
5. God is also love. This truth is declared in one of our texts. The
words, "God is love," are found twice in the same chapter (1 John 4:8,
16). This truth is essentially the same truth as that "God is light" and
"God is holy," for the very essence of true holiness is love, and "light"
is "love" and "love" is "light."
6. Furthermore, God is not only perfect in His intellectual and moral
attributes and in power, He is also omnipresent. This thought of God
comes out in both the Old Testament and the New. In Psalm 139:7-10, we
read: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your
presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in
the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I
settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast." There is no place where one can flee
from God's presence, for God is everywhere. This great truth is set
forth in a remarkable way in Jeremiah 23:23, 24, "'Am I only a God
nearby,' declares the LORD, 'and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in
secret places so that I cannot see him?' declares the LORD. 'Do not I
fill heaven and earth?' declares the LORD."
We have seen that God has a local habitation, that there is a place where
He exists and manifests Himself in a way in which He does not manifest
Himself everywhere; but while we insist on that clearly revealed truth,
we must also never lose sight of the fact that God is everywhere. We
find this same truth set forth by Paul in his sermon to the Epicurean and
Stoic philosophers on Mars Hill, Acts 17:24-28,
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord
of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by
hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed
anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath
and everything else. From one man he made every nation of
men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he
determined the times set for them and the exact places where
they should live. God did this so that men would seek him
and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not
far from each one of us. "For in him we live and move and
have our being." As some of your own poets have said, "We
are his offspring."
From these passages we see that God is everywhere. He is in all parts of
the universe and near each individual. In Him each individual lives and
moves and has his being.
7. There is one other thought in the Christian conception of God that
needs to be placed alongside of His omnipresence, and that is His
eternity. God is eternal. His existence had no beginning and will have
no ending; He always was, always is, and always shall be. God is not
only everywhere present in space, He is everywhere present in time. This
conception of God appears constantly in the Bible. We are told in
Genesis 21:33 that Abraham called "upon the name of the LORD, the Eternal
God." In Isaiah 40:28 we read this description of the LORD: "Do you not
know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator
of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his
understanding no one can fathom." Here again He is called "The
everlasting God." Habakkuk, 1:12, sets forth the same conception of God.
He says, "O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One."
The Psalmist gives us the same representation of God in Psalm 90:2, 4,
"Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. For a thousand years in
your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the
night." We have the same representation of God in Psalm 102:24-27, "I
said: 'Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days; your years
go on through all generations. In the beginning you laid the foundations
of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will
perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like
clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain
the same, and your years will never end.'"
The very name of God, His covenant name, LORD, sets forth His
eternity. He is the eternal "I am," the One who is, was, and ever shall
be (Exodus 3:14, 15).
II. There Is One God
One more fact about the Christian conception of God remains to be
mentioned, and that is: There is but one God. The unity of God comes out
again and again in both the Old Testament and the New. For example, we
read in Deuteronomy 4:35, "the LORD is God; besides Him there is no
other." And in Deuteronomy 6:4 we read, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our
God, the LORD is one." Turning to the New Testament in 1 Timothy 2:5, we
read, "There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man
Christ Jesus." And in Mark 12:29 our Lord Jesus Himself says, "Hear, O
Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one."
But we must bear in mind the character of the Divine Unity. It is
clearly revealed in the Bible that in this Divine Unity, in this one
Godhead, there is a multiplicity of persons. This comes out in a variety
1. First of all, the Hebrew word translated "one" in these various
passages denotes a compound unity, not a simple unity (1 Corinthians
3:6-8; 12:13; John 17:22, 23; Galatians 3:28).
2. In the second place, the Old Testament word most frequently used for
God is a plural noun. The Hebrew grammarians and lexicographers tried to
explain this by saying that it was the "pluralis majestatis," (Greek) but
the very simple explanation is that the Hebrews, in spite of their
intense monotheism, used a plural name for God because there is a
plurality of persons in the one Godhead.
3. More striking yet, as a proof of the plurality of persons in the one
Godhead, is the fact that God Himself uses plural pronouns in speaking of
Himself. For example, in the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1:26,
we read that God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness."
And in Genesis 11:7, He is further recorded as saying: "Come, let us go
down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."
In Genesis 3:22, we read: "And the LORD God said, 'The man has now become
like one of us, knowing good and evil.'" And in that wonderful vision to
which reference has already been made, in which Isaiah saw the LORD, we
read this statement of Isaiah's, 6:8, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord
saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here
am I. Send me!'"
4. Another illustration of the plurality of persons in the one Godhead in
the Old Testament conception of God is found in Zechariah 2:10-11, where
the LORD speaks of Himself as sent by the LORD in these words: "'Shout and
be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,'
declares the LORD. 'Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that
day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know
that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you.'" Here the LORD clearly speaks
of Himself as sent by the LORD, thus clearly indicating two persons in the
5. Another indication of the plurality of persons in the Godhead in the
Old Testament conception of God is found in the fact that "the Angel of
the LORD" in the Old Testament is at the same time distinguished from,
and identified with, the LORD.
6. This same thought of the plurality of persons in the one Godhead is
brought out in John 1:1, where we reach the very climax of this thought.
Here we are told in so many words: "In the beginning was the Word, and
the Word was with God, and the Word was God." When we study the Deity of
Christ and the Personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit, we shall see
that the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit are clearly designated as Divine
beings and at the same time distinguished from one another, and from God
the Father. So it is clear that in the Christian conception of God,
while there is but one God, there is a multiplicity of persons in the one
This conception of God runs through the whole Bible, is from the first
chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation. It is one of the
many marvelous illustrations of the Divine unity of the Book. How
wonderful is this Book, in that the unity of thought on this very
profound doctrine pervades it throughout! It is a clear indication that
the Bible is the Word of God. It contains a profounder philosophy than
is found in any human philosophy, ancient or modern, and the only way to
account for it is that God Himself is the author of this incomparable
philosophy. What a wondrous God we have! How we ought to meditate on
His Person! With what awe, and, at the same time, with what delight we
should come into His presence and bow before Him in adoring contemplation
of the wonder and beauty and majesty and glory of His being!
Transcribed by Tony Capoccia of
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