By Beverly Carradine
One of the marvellous facts in the spiritual life is the possibility of communication with the invisible God. The eternal world can be heard from. A cable has been laid joining earth and heaven and its name is prayer. Upon this line flits the human cry, and back flashes the divine message perfectly understood by the one to whom it is sent.
Before such a fact, the telephone wire of hundreds of miles and the telegraph cable of a thousand leagues sink into nothing, for by this remarkable medium God and man are put in connection, and tidings flash from the invisible world, and eternity and time, in a sense, are linked together.
Of course the natural mind fails to believe and receive this great truth, and professes to be amused at the bare idea; but those who have heard and still hear from God in this manner have their confidence in no wise shaken by the unbelief of men, and continue to receive the blessed heart-thrilling messages from the skies.
The result of these answered prayers is deliverance from sin, transformation of character, usefulness and victory in life and heaven at last. This fact should cause men to study it carefully, and especially note certain points observed by a man who was signally successful in supplication. In other words, the kind of person who gets in touch with God and the invisible kingdom of glory.
Christ tells of a certain man, a Publican, who came upon the earth end of the heavenly cable and sent a message, and obtained a response that not only saved the individual himself, but filled the earth with his fame. Now as there are many who are skeptical about the possibility of such a divine interview, or whose souls have but barely entered upon the alphabet of heavenly communion and spiritual experiences, it is not only well and wise for them, but their duty to study this victor in prayer and see what things are mentioned about him, and what practices he observed which may be lacking in themselves, the performance and fulfillment of which will brings the lacking knowledge and glory to their own souls.
One thing Christ said about the Publican was that "He went up into the temple."
It is true that God is accessible everywhere, but some places are peculiarly favorable, for getting in touch with heaven. If there had been no need of the temple, tabernacle, synagogue and church, God would not have provided them, and that man is wise who places himself in the most favorable and helpful surroundings while he seeks salvation.
The very fact that the Publican went up to the temple showed a certain amount of faith in God to begin with, and in addition, that he recognized and bowed to the appointments and ordinances of heaven. The spirit of separatism from the church is certainly not taught here, while the individual who laughs and scoffs at the church gets a withering rebuke in this parable where the temple is seen to be a door of heaven to the seeking soul. The house of God has proved the same to millions of souls since that day.
A second thing said about the man is, that "He went up to pray."
The Saviour says that two men went up for that purpose, but one evidently forgot his original intention, and instead of supplicating, fell to praising himself. This individual was a Pharisee.
He is not the only person who seems to have misunderstood the character of the church, and has forgotten that Christ said that His Father's house was one of prayer, and made it a social hall, a lounging place, a Chautauqua auditorium, a Sunday rendezvous ground for friends and acquaintances; in fact, anything but what it should be a gateway to the skies and a vestibule of glory.
It has ever been a lovely sight to the writer to see multitudes of people flocking to the churches, even though many went not with the best motives. It is a good place to go, and a right thing to do, and blessings innumerable and unspeakable have resulted from it to countless thousands who even attended with little or no expectation of being blessed.
If, however, like the Publican, one goes up with the avowed purpose of prayer, blessing is certain to come.
A third fact appearing about the spiritual victory was his humility.
This is made manifest in the man's standing afar off, and in the casting down of his head. Poor heartsick one, he little knew that he was in the very best position to hear from heaven. Doubtless he did not know that the Bible said, "God resisteth the proud," and "the proud he knoweth afar off." Perhaps he had not even noticed the defeat of the boasting Pharisee in the court above him. He did not stop to reason how disgusting and shocking is the swagger and strut of any man in the presence of God; nor consider that outside of grace, the human soul has every reason for abasement in the dust and none for self-exaltation.
All these things were true, but the Publican doubtless never thought of them, he only knew he was a soul-sick, miserable man wanting deliverance, but feeling perfectly unworthy of anything at the hands of God. Hence the pathetic attitude in the outer court of the temple.
We have marked scenes wonderfully like this one of Christ's own drawing, and have had the eyes to fill and the heart to melt at the sight. If the spectacle of a heartbroken man with head bowed on his breast in some remote shadowy corner of the church, should so move us, how very tenderly will God regard such a drooping, grieving figure.
A fourth feature of life shows the man not only thoroughly humble, but deeply convicted. The Bible says "he smote upon his breast."
This alone plainly declares an inward, mental state of unrest and suffering. The naturalness and eloquence of the act is such that it needs no enlarging upon. Conviction had seized upon him, and the man was miserable.
When men get really convicted they will soon find God. The burden is so great that they must obtain relief, and as none but a divine hand can give this, that hand must be found. People with any spiritual knowledge worth speaking of know this, and are sighing for the return of that mental and spiritual distress which fell upon men not only under the preaching of the apostles, but of the Wesleys and Whitefields, and still later under the preachers who swept this land one and two generations back.
It is a blessed sight to see men smite their breasts, and fall down and struggle in agony on the ground. This is much more impressive and awe-inspiring; than the sight of a congregation of perfectly composed looking people signing cards to the effect that under the circumstances and considering all things they would like to be Christians.
To see the genuinely convicted man today, one has to attend a full salvation meeting where men preach with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Some of us are very familiar with the sight of men and women rushing up the aisles, falling down at the altar, beating their breasts, and filling the air with cries which pierce every heart. And we also know that when people get this far they are exceedingly close to salvation.
A fifth feature in the case was the man's confession. He called himself a sinner.
It is to be remembered that the individual who went up to the temple with the Publican spent quite a while in complimenting himself. He was very thankful that he was not like other people, etc., etc. The record is that he went down as he came, empty, and doubtless much emptier and worse in heart.
The condition of hearing from heaven and having God speak to the soul is an honest admission or confession of what we are in the moral world. Herein is the explanation of many an unanswered prayer, and the greater, less, or utter failure of certain meetings held in churches and tents. The preachers and people tried to fool God. They presented the wrong ticket at the gate. They appeared at the door with non de plumes and aliases. They were not what they seemed. They tried to make God a partner to deceit and hypocrisy. They tried in this condition to press through a door over which hung such words and sentences as, "Nothing that maketh a lie can enter in," "They that do his commandments may enter in through the gates."
We all know that the worst of characters can be saved and all--and to come into the kingdom of grace. But the condition is that all sin must be left at the door. One may appear at the threshold as a liar, thief, fraud and hypocrite, but to cross it, all lying, theft, deception and dissimulation must be left on the earthward side of the door. Confession of sin and separation from it is indispensable to entrance. Honesty with God is absolutely imperative.
To insist on admission into grace, the possession of the divine favor, and walking with God in the ostensible light of a character which we do not possess, is to make God smile on fraudulency and take liars and impostors as companions.
If we want the word "Son!" to ring over the heavenly cable to our delighted souls we must first send the cry along the wire--"Sinner!" If we want God to come down in power on the meeting, we must uncover hearts and lives and tell the Almighty what kind of a crowd is calling upon Him. He insists upon truth. He demands that we call ourselves, and the things we have done by their true names, and then He will come. He will not have fellowship with deceit of and kind. A falsehood is the same to Him, whether it is covered by a broadcloth coat, silk dress, jeans garment or the rags of a beggar. We must be true, we must uncover, we must confess.
A sixth fact in the Publican's case was that he asked only for mercy. His brief, but heart thrilling cry was, "God be merciful."
The man out of and away from God might as well learn the force of this truth. It is the only cry for a sinner to make. If men pleaded for justice the whole world would be damned. In all our wrongdoing we are without excuse. We have sinned in the face of knowledge, privilege, providence and grace. So the man who wants to hear from God in his pardon and adoption, or in his restoration to divine favor, must come with the single plea, "Be merciful." This, of course, brings the victim on the cross into sight, for Calvary, dreadful as it is on the heavenward side, is mercy on the earthward side. Christ is the mercy of God to this world, and we can only come to God through Him.
A seventh feature of the case was the strictly personal nature of the prayer, "God be merciful to me."
To draw the mind in from all others, to turn the attention from many disturbing and distressing things without, and fix it on the peril and present spiritual necessity of the soul is a victory in itself and means a speedy answer from heaven. We find many not only shut out from pardon, but from the blessing of perfect love, because they allow the spiritual condition of friends and family to divert their gaze from their own need.
It is not selfish to say, God be merciful to me, God save me, God sanctify me. It is the quickest way to bless others, the nearest road to the salvation of the family.
The eighth feature in reward to the spiritual victory was that the man used his voice.
We have been a close student for quite a number of years of people who are seeking salvation, and find a most remarkable difference as to clear and immediate results between those who bow in gloomy silence at the altar, and those who cry aloud to God for mercy. Whether the calling intensifies the desires of the soul, strengthens faith, and builds a wall between the man and the old life, we do not stop to answer; we only know that such a method pursued by the seeker meets with an amazingly swift response from God, who has already stated in his Word, "Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it," "Call upon me and I will deliver thee."
In looking back upon the Bible conditions necessary to obtain the heavenly answer, and the life interview between man and God, we see no mention of dress, position, accomplishment, learning, influence, culture, grace, dignity or any of the things so magnified by men. One needs not to be a gentleman by birth, a graduate of a college, or possess fine standing in church or state. But if any man will put himself in the way of truth and duty, will honor God's house and divinely instituted means of grace; if he will call on the Lord humbly, earnestly, continuously, with his eyes fixed on that unspeakable. mercy of God, Jesus Christ, Heaven will catch the cry, the King will receive it, the skies will bend and smile, while the celestial cable will flash the message of pardon or purity back to earth, and another miracle of grace be beheld in our midst.