|Lord, teach us to pray.| -- Luke xi.1.
|And Moses made haste . . .| -- Ex. xxxiv.8.
THIS passage is by far the greatest passage in the whole of the Old Testament. This passage is the parent passage, so to speak, of all the greatest passages of the Old Testament. This passage now open before us, the text and the context, taken together, should never be printed but in letters of gold a finger deep. There is no other passage to be set beside this passage till we come to the opening passages of the New Testament. That day, on which the Lord descended, and proclaimed to Moses the Name of the Lord, that was a day to be remembered and celebrated above the best days of the Old Testament. The only other days to be named beside that day were the day on which the Lord God created man in His own image; and the day on which Jesus Christ was born; and the day He died on the Cross; and the third day after that when He rose from the dead. And then, the only days we have to set beside those great days are these: the day we were born, taken along with the day we were born again; and that best of all our days, which we have still before us, that great day when we shall awaken in His likeness. These are the only days worthy to be named beside that great day when the Lord put Moses in the cleft of the rock, and covered him with His hand, and proclaimed, and said, |The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious|: and Moses made haste, and said, |Take us for thine inheritance.|
Now, what so draws us back to that Old Testament day, to that Old Testament mount, this New Testament morning, is this: we find on that mount, that day, an answer and an example to that disciple who said, |Lord, teach us to pray.| And that answer, and that example, are set before us in these three so impressive and so memorable words |Moses made haste.| And thus it is that if we approach this text this morning in a devotional mind, and in a sufficiently teachable temper, we shall without doubt find lessons in it, and carry away lessons from it -- lessons and encouragements and examples, and drawings to prayer and to God, lessons and encouragements and drawings that will abide with us, and influence us all our days, -- all our days, -- till our praying days are done.
What was it, then, to begin with, that made Moses in such a |haste| to bow his head, and to worship, and to pray with such instancy at that moment? Well, three things I see, and there may very well have been more that I do not see. But these three things, -- Moses' great need; God's great grace; and then the very Presence of God beside Moses at that moment. Moses was at the head of Israel. Moses had everything to think of, and everything to do for Israel. Israel was a child, and a wilful and a disobedient child: and it all lay heavy upon Moses. Moses had been put at the head of Israel by the election and call of God. He had just led Israel out of Egypt. The whole people lay beneath him at that moment, spread out in their tents in the waste wilderness. And Moses had climbed that mountain that morning with a very heavy heart. It was but yesterday that Moses had been so cut to the heart with the awful fall of Aaron his brother -- his awful sin in the matter of the golden calf: and altogether Moses was as near giving over and lying down to die, as ever a despairing man was. It was all that extremity and accumulation of cares and labours and disappointments and despairs: and then, at that moment, this so new, so unexpected, and so magnificent manifestation of the presence, and the grace, and the covenant-faithfulness of God; it was all that coming upon Moses at such a moment, and in such a manner, -- the stupendous scene: the cleft rock: the Divine Hand: the Divine Voice: the Divine Name: and Moses alone with God amid it all, -- it was all this that made Moses make haste, and bow his head toward the earth, and worship, and say, |Pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.|
Archdeacon Paley discovered for us this feature of Paul's mind and heart. Ever since Paley's day it has been a proverb about Paul that he so often in his Epistles |goes off on a word.| Now, what word was it, I like to wonder, that made Moses |go off| with such haste from listening to praying? All the words of the Lord moved Moses that day: but some of those so new and so great words from heaven that day would move Moses and hasten him off, -- some of them, no doubt, more than others. Was it I AM THAT I AM: and then, I will cover thee with My hand while I pass by? Would Moses need more? What angel in heaven, what saint on the earth would need more? Or was it I AM in His mercy? or was it the same in His grace? or again in His long-suffering? Whatever it was, it had scarcely gone out of the mouth of God when Moses had it in his mouth. Such haste did Moses make, and so suddenly did his whole heart go off and break out into prayer. The clear-eyed author of the Horae Paulinae throws a flood of light on the Apostle's mind and heart by pointing out to us the New Testament words and New Testament things that made Paul so suddenly break off into prayer and praise, into apostrophe and into doxology. And it is delightful to watch and see who |go off| into prayer and into praise: who at one word of God, and who at another: who |make haste,| and because of what. We see some who get no further than the very first word of the text. Notably the 136th Psalm: |His mercy endureth for ever.| |His mercy endureth for ever.| The Psalmist's heart so hastens him in this matter that he can only write a line at a time -- when his hot pen breaks in again with God's mercy. Six-and-twenty times in one psalm does that Psalmist after Moses' own heart |make haste| to hymn the |mercy of God.| The publican also in the Temple |went off| on this attribute, till he was sent down to his own house justified. |I obtained mercy,| said the Apostle, |that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering for a pattern.| |The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious.|
And Gracious! Not to speak of the countless prayers, and psalms, and sermons that have taken their stand on the Grace of God, we have a whole masterpiece in our own tongue in celebration of that Grace of God, and of that Grace alone. All who have tasted what Grace is, either in religion or in letters, must know and love that classical piece which has Grace Abounding for its title-page. |O! to Grace how great a debtor!| in that way another in our own tongue |goes off| on the same blessed word. |Long-suffering, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.| How many have hasted and bowed down at all these saving names of God!
And, how many fathers of children have |made haste| as they read that God sometimes |visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children|! Now, as we know Paul so much better, when we know the words and the things that arrested him, took him captive, and started him off into prayer and praise, -- so would we know and love and honour one another if we could be told at what name and at what attribute of God our neighbour makes haste to pray. They had a bold, childlike way in Israel with the names of God, and with their own names. At a child's birth they would take a Divine Name -- El, or Jah, and they would add that name on to the former family name; and then give that compounded, fortified, ennobled and sanctified name to their child; till that child, all his days, could never sign his name, or hear his name spoken, without his father's God coming up before him. Now, which of God's names are so worked up and so woven into your home and into your heart? Is it mercy? Is it grace? Is it long-suffering? Or does God see you, as your son is born and so soon grows up, hastening lest it be said of you, |The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge|? What is it that makes you make haste like Moses? If we knew, we should, in that, read your heart down to the very bottom. If we knew, we should know how to pray both for you and for yours as we ought.
But, once a man has begun to employ the promises of God in Holy Scripture in that way, Holy Scripture, and all its promises, will not suffice that man for his life of prayer. He will go on to make every book he reads a Scripture: and he will not long read any book that cannot be so made and so employed. Every book will become to him a word of God, and every place a mount of God; and every new experience in his life, and every new circumstance in his life, a new occasion, and a new call to make haste to prayer. He will go about this world watching for occasions, and for calls, to prayer: he will be found ready and willing for all those occasions and calls when they come: and when they do not come fast enough, he will not wait for them any longer, but will himself make them. Every new beginner in prayer, for one thing, looks upon every approaching time and place of temptation as a summons to |make haste.| And not neophytes and new begnners only; but the oldest saints, and the wariest saints and the least liable to temptation, will not think themselves safe without constant and instant prayer. Look at Christ. Consider the Captain of our Salvation Himself. Just look at the Intercessor Himself. By the time He came to His last trials and temptations -- we should have thought that by that time He would have been above all temptation. We should have thought that by that time He would have fallen back upon His Divine Nature: or, if not that, then upon His perfect sanctification. But, what did He do? See what He did! He cut short His great sermon, after the Supper, in order that He might get away from the upper room to the Garden to pray. He made haste to get across the Kedron to the place where He was wont to go alone at night. He said, |Arise and make haste; let us go hence.| And as soon as He was come to His closet, among the vines and the aloes, He made haste to shut his door till the blood came throuh His forehead, and fell down on the midnight grass. He was in an agony, just as if He had been a new beginner closing, for the first time, with the world that lieth in the wicked one, and with the wicked one himself. He foresaw the trials and the temptations of that night and that morning, and that made him hasten away, even from the Lord's Table, to secret prayer.
But not only when the Bible, with all its promises, is in their hands; and not only when trials and temptations are at their doors, will your men of prayer |make haste.| Not only so: but if you know how to watch their ways you will find something that is nothing short of positive genius in their inventiveness, and in their manipulation of these times and these places to make them times and places of prayer. The very striking of the clock -- even in such a monotonous, meaningless, familiar and commonplace thing as that, you will find some men every time the clock strikes, making haste again to pray. In curiosity, at this point, I rose from my desk and looked up two first-class dictionaries, and was disappointed not to find this sacred sense of the word, Horology, in either of them. But that did not matter. I know elsewhere the noblest sense of that neglected and incompleted word, independently of the dictionaries. And all the members of the classes also know by this time the heavenly sense of Horology, though these dictionary-makers are ignorant of it. Yes, there have been men, and we know their names and have their |Horologies| in our hands -- men of God, who have so |watched| unto prayer and have so numbered, not their days only, but their hours also -- that their clock never struck without their making haste to speak again to Him, Who, in an hour when we think not, will say that time, with all its years and days and hours shall be no longer. They parted company with every past hour, and saw it going away to judgment with prayer: and they received and sanctified every new hour, consecrating its first moments to praise and prayer.
Then, again, the attractions of life, youth, manhood, middle life, declining life, old age: wise and prudent and foreseeing men take all these admonitions to heart and |make haste.| Severe sickness and approaching death make all men to be up and doing. Donne, whom James the First persuaded to become a minister, -- and to James, with all his faults, we are deep in debt for that, -- has left behind him a very remarkable book, |Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, and at the Several Steps in my Sickness, Digested into Meditations upon our Human Condition: into Expostulations and Debatements with God: and into Prayers to Him, upon the Several Occasions.| Donne's all but fatal illness came, according to his Book of Devotions, through twenty-three stages: and at each new stage the sick scholar, saint and superb preacher made haste with another threefold Devotion. The first, at the first Grudging, as the old doctors called it, of his sickness: the third, when the patient takes his bed: the fourth, when the physician is sent for: the sixth, when the physician is afraid: the eighth, when the king sends his own physician: the fifteenth, when |I sleep not day nor night|: the sixteenth, when I hear the bells ringing for another man's funeral: the nineteenth, when the physicians say that they see the shore: the twenty-third, when they warn me of the fearful danger of relapsing. |Most excellent Prince| -- said Donne, in dedicating his Devotions to James' eldest son -- |Most Excellent Prince, I have had three births -- one, natural, when I came into the world: one, supernatural, when I entered into the ministry: and now, a preternatural birth, in returning to life after this sickness.| And this is the best record, and the best result to Donne, and to us of all his births, and of all his health, and of all his disease: this, that he was a man who |made haste| to take all that befell him to God in prayer. |Devotions,| he calls his work, |upon Emergent Occasions: the Several Steps of my Sickness.|
Others, again, will strike out ways of prayer and a course of prayer in this way. One will take seven friends, and, without telling them, he will make himself certain to pray for them, by giving up a part of each day of the week to each one of his seven friends. And another will have seven children, and he will distribute them over the week for special and importunate prayer. Another will take certain hours and certain days to work before God certain vices out of his own heart, and life, and character, and to work in, before God, certain virtues. Another will have certain seasons, and at those seasons certain devotions, to keep in mind some great catastrophe, or some great deliverance, or some great and fearful answer to prayer, and so on. |Some great calamity happens to you,| says one of those original men; |you do very well to make it an occasion of exercising a greater devotion.|
But, excellent and approved and seen to be very profitable as all that is, yet it is ejaculatory prayer that is the perfection and the finish of all these kinds of prayer in which we |make haste.| And when ejaculatory prayer has once taken possession of any man's heart and habbits, that man is not very far off from his Father's House. For
Each moment by ejaculated prayer, He takes possession of his mansion there.
Jaculum, all boys know, means |a dart.| Ejaculatory prayer! A prayer shot up like a spear out of a soldier's hand: shot up like an arrow sped off an archer's sudden string! You have seen charts of the air and of the ocean, with a multitude of rapid and intricate lines to mark the origin and the direction and the termination of the air and the ocean currents. You have seen and have admired beautiful charts and maps laid down like that. Well, if you could, in this life, but be let see into the Charthouse of Heaven, you would see still more wonderful and still more beautiful things there. You would see there, kept secret against the last day, whole chambers full of nothing else, but of charts and maps of ejaculatory Prayer. You would see prayer-plans of the cities and of the scattered villages where God's best remembrancers are now living, -- plans and projections laid down and filled up by those ministering spirits who are sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation. You would see, filling the heavens above those cities and villages, showers of ejaculatory prayer going up and showers of immediate answers coming down. You would see shafts and darts and shootings upwards of sudden and short prayers wherever those men went in life, wherever they walked, wherever they worked, and wherever they went to rest and recreate themselves. From the street when those men pass along the street: from their tables where they eat their meals: from their beds: all day, and all night. You could follow and make out from these charts of ejaculation their times and their places of temptation. You would see a perfect sheaf of upward arrows, with all their points sharpened with love, as those men passed your house or met you in the street. Where you shot your arrows -- not of prayer -- at them, to your confusion you will see that they shot their arrows -- not of envy, or ill-will -- up to God. What you see not now, you shall see hereafter. And that because, like all else in earth and in heaven, the chartularies of heaven and of earth will all be laid open at the last day: and then, when Christ shall appear, all who, with Moses, have |made haste| to pray shall appear with Christ in glory. And on that day, and at that hour, all those hidden schemes and methods and devices of secret and ejaculatory prayer shall be the astonishment of the whole world, and the admiration, and the praise, and the justification of God, and of all godly men, at that day.
|Seek ye the Lord,| then, |while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near.| At every Name of His, call. Every time the clock strikes, call, ejaculate and call. For He saith, |I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.| |To-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.|