BY ALEXANDER WHYTE
Lord, teach us to pray (Luke 9:11). A royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5).
“I AM (an) said Paul, “I magnify mine office” (Romans 11:13). And we also have an office. Our office is not the apostolic office, but Paul would be the first to say to us that our office is quite as magnificent as ever his office was. Let us, then, magnify our office. Let us magnify its magnificent opportunities, its momentous duties, and its incalculable and everlasting rewards. For our office is the “royal priesthood.” And we do not nearly enough magnify and exalt our royal priesthood. To be “kings and priests unto God” -what a magnificent office is that!
But then, we who hold that office are people of such small and such mean minds-that our souls so decline and so cling to this earth-that we never so much as attempt to rise to the height and the splendor of our
magnificent office. If our minds were only enlarged and exalted at all up to our office, we would be found of God far oftener than we are with our scepter in our hand and with our miter upon our head.
If we magnified our office, as Paul magnified his office, we could achieve as magnificent results in our office as ever he achieved in his. The truth is that Paul’s magnificent results were achieved more in our office than in his own. It was because Paul added on the royal priesthood to the gentile apostleship that he achieved such magnificent results in that apostleship. And, if we would but magnify our royal priesthood as Paul did, it has not entered into our hearts so much as to conceive what God has prepared for those who properly perform their office as Kings and Priests unto God.
Prayer is the magnificent office it is because it is an office of such a magnificent kind. Magnificence is of many kinds, and magnificent things are more or less magnificent according to their kind. This great globe on which it strikes its roots and grows is magnificent in size when compared with that grain of mustard seed; but just because that grain of mustard seed is a seed and grows, that smallest of seeds is far greater than the great globe itself. A bird on its summer branch is far greater than the great sun in whose warmth she builds and sings because that bird has life and love and song, none of which the sun has in spite of its immensity of size, light, and heat.
A cup of cold water only, given to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple, is a far greater offering before God than thousands of rams and ten thousands of rivers of oil because there is charity in that cup of cold water. And an exclamation, a sigh, a sob, a tear, a smile, a psalm are far greater to God than all the oblations and incense and new moons and Sabbaths and calling of assemblies and solemn meetings of Jerusalem because repentance and faith and love and trust are in the sob and in that psalm.
And the magnificence of all true prayer-its nobility, its royalty, its absolute divinity-all stand in this, that it is the greatest kind of act and office that man, or angel, can ever enter on and perform. Earth is at its very best, and heaven is at its very highest, when men and angels magnify their office of prayer and of praise before the throne of God.
The Magnificence of God Is the Source and the Measure of the Magnificence of Prayer
“Think magnificently of God,” said Paternus to his son. Now that counsel is the sum and substance of this whole matter. For the heaven and the earth, the sun and the moon and the stars, the whole opening
universe of our day, the Scriptures of truth with all that they contain, the church of Christ with all her services and all her saints- all are set before us to teach us and to compel us indeed to “think magnificently of God.” And they have all fulfilled the office of their creation when they have all combined to make us think magnificently of their Maker.
Consider the heavens, the work of His fingers, the moon and the stars, which He has ordained; consider the intellectual heavens also, angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim; consider mankind also, made in the image of God; consider Jesus Christ, the express image of His person; consider a past eternity and a coming eternity, and the revelation thereof that is made to us in the Word of God and in the hearts of His people-and I defy you to think otherwise than magnificently of God. And, then, after all that, I equally defy you to forget, neglect, or restrain prayer. Once you begin to think aright of Him who is the Hearer of prayer and Who waits, in all His magnificence, to be gracious to you-I absolutely defy you to live any longer the life you now live.
“First of all, my child,” said Paternus to his son, “think magnificently of God. Magnify His providence; adore His power; frequent His service; and pray to Him frequently and instantly. Bear Him always in your mind; teach your thoughts to reverence Him in every place, for there is no place where He is not. Therefore, my child, fear and worship, and love God; first, and last, think magnificently of God.”
Our Power in Prayer
“Why has God established prayer?” asks Pascal. And Pascal’s first answer to his own great question is this. God has established prayer in the moral world in order “to communicate to His creatures the dignity of causality.” That is to say, to give us a touch and a taste of what it is to be a creator. But then, “there are some things ultimate and incausable,” says Bacon, that interpreter of nature. And whatever things are indeed ultimate to us, and incausable by us, them God “hash put in His own power.”
But there are many other things, and things that far more concern us, that He communicates to us to have a hand in of cause and creation. He does not give these opportunities under the full control of our own
rash and hot hand nor at our precipitate and importunate will, but always under His holy hand and under the tranquility of His holy will. We hold our office and dignity of causality and creation under the Son,
just as He holds His again under the Father.
But instead of that lessening our dignity, to us, it rather ennobles and endears our dignity. All believers are agreed that they would rather acknowledge that all things had their spring and rise and rule in the wisdom and the love and the power of God rather than in their own wisdom and love and power, even if they had the wisdom and the love and the power for such an office. But then, again, just as all believing men put on Jesus Christ to justification of life, so do they all put on, under Him, their royal robe and their priestly diadem and breastplate, not as so many beautiful ornaments, beautiful as they are but as instruments and engines of divine power.
“Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel,”-as He clothes His priests with salvation, – “Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hand command ye me,” (Isaiah 45:11). What
a thing for God to say to man! What a magnificent office! What a more than royal dignity! What a gracious command and what a sure encouragement is that to pray! It is prayer for us, first, as His sons,-if His prodigal and dishonorable sons,-and then for our fellows, even if they are as prodigal and as undeserving as we are.
Ask of Me! Even when a father is wounded and offended by his son, even then you feel sure that you have his heart strings in your hand when you go to ask him for things that concern his son, even though he is a
bad son. Even when he sends you away in anger, his fatherly feelings are obvious to you as you depart, and he looks out his door to see if you are coming back to ask him again concerning his son. And when you
become bold and venture back, he falls on your neck and says, “Command me all that is in your heart concerning my son.”
Now, that is the “dignity of causality,” that in which you are the cause of a father taking home again his son and the cause of a son saying, “I will arise and go to my father.” That is your ”magnificent office.” That is your “royal priesthood.”
The Real Riches in Prayer
And, then, there is this magnificent and right noble thing in prayer. Oh, what a noble God we have-says Pascal-that God shares His creatorship us! And I will, to the praise and the glory of God this day, add this, that He makes us the architects of our own estates and the fashioners of our own fortunes. It is good enough to have an estate left us in this life if we forget we have it; it is good enough that we inherit a fortune in this world’s goods if it is not our lasting loss. Only there is nothing great, nothing noble, nothing magnanimous or magnificent in that.
But to have begun life with nothing, and to have climbed up by pure virtue, by labor, and by self-denial, and by perseverance, to the very top,-this world has no better praise to give her best sons than that.
But there is a better world, of which this world at its best is but the scaffolding, the preparation, and the porch; and to be the architect of our own fortune in that world will be to our everlasting honor. Now,
there is this magnificence about the world of prayer that in it we work out, not our own bare and naked and “scarce” salvation only, but undefilable, with all its unsearchable riches. Heaven and earth, time and eternity, creation and providence, grace and glory are all laid up in Christ; and then Christ and all His unsearchable riches are laid open to prayer; and then it is said to every one of us, “Choose you all what you will have, and command Me for it.”
All God’s grace and all His truth, have been coined-as Goodwin has it- out of purposes into promises; and then all those promises are made “Yea and amen” in Christ; and then out of Christ. They are published
abroad to all people in the word of the Gospel; and then all these who read and hear the Gospel are put upon their mettle. For what a person loves, that he is. What a person chooses out of a hundred offers, you
are sure by that choice who and what that person is.
And, accordingly, put the New Testament in any one hand and set the throne of grace wide open before him, and you need no omniscience to tell you that persons true value. If he lets his Bible lie unopened and
unread, if he lets God’s Throne of Grace stand till death, idle and unwanted, if the depth and the height, the nobleness and the magnificence, the goodness and the beauty of divine things have no command over him and no attraction to him-then you do not wish me to use words to describe the meanness of that persons mind. Look yourselves at what he has chosen; look and weep at what he has neglected and has forever lost!
But there are other people of a far nobler blood than that one is; there are great people, royal people; there are some people made of noble stuff and cast into a noble mold. And you will never satisfy or quiet those people with all you can promise them or pour out upon them in this life. They are people of a magnificent heart, and only in prayer have their hearts ever obtained full scope and a proper atmosphere. They would die if they did not pray. They magnify their office. You cannot please them better than to invite and ask them to go to their God in your behalf. They would go of their own notion and accord for you, even if you never asked them. They have prayed for you before you asked them, more than you know.
They are like Jesus Christ in this, and He will acknowledge them in this. While you were yet their enemies, they prayed for you and as good as died for you. And when you turn to be their enemies again, they will
have their revenge on you at the mercy seat.
When you feel, somehow, as if coals of fire were-from somewhere-being heaped upon your head, it is from the mercy seat, where that magnanimous man is retaliating upon you. Now, Paul himself never magnified his office more or better than that. And it was in that very same way that our Lord magnified His royal priesthood when He had on His crown of thorns on the cross, when His shame covered Him as a robe
and a diadem in the sight of God, and when He interceded and said- “They know not what they do.”
The Power of Secret Prayer
And then there is this fine and noble thing about prayer also, that the acceptableness of it, and the power of it, are in direct proportion to the secrecy and the spirituality of it. As its stealth is, as its silence is, as its hiddeness away with God is, as its unsuspectedness and undeservedness with men is, as its pure goodness and pure love and pure goodwill are-so does prayer perform its magnificent part when it is alone with God. The true closet of the true saint of God is not built of stone and lime. The secret place of God as well as that of people, is not a thing of wood and iron, and bolts and bars.
At the same time, Christ did say, shut your door. And in order to have the Holy Ghost all to himself and to be able to give himself up wholly-body, soul and spirit-to the Holy Ghost, the man after God’s own heart
in prayer always as a matter of fact builds for himself a little sanctuary, all his own; not to shut God in, but to shut out all that is not of God. He builds a house of God before he has as yet built a house for himself. You would not believe it about that man of secret prayer. When you see and hear him, he is the poorest, the meekest, the most contrite, and the most silent of men. As a result, you rebuke him because he so trembles at God’s word.
If you could only see him when he is alone with the King! If you could only see his nearness and his boldness! You would think that he and the King’s Son had been born and brought up together-such intimacies and such pass-words are exchanged between them. You would wonder, and you would not believe your eyes and your ears. If you saw him on his knees, you would see a sight. Look! He is in the audience Chamber. Look! He is in the Council Chamber now. He has a seat set for him among his peers.
He is set down among the old nobility of the empire. The King will not put on His signet ring to seal a command till your friend has been heard. “Command Me,” the King says to him. “Ask me,” He says, “for the things of my sons, command me things to come concerning them.”
And as if that were not enough, that person of all prayer is still on his knees. He is “wrestling” on his knees. There is no enemy there that I can see. There is neither anything nor anyone that I can see near him, and yet he wrestles like a mighty man. What is he doing with such a struggle? Doing? Do you know what he is doing? He is moving heaven and earth. The man is removing mountains. He is casting this mountain, and that, into the midst of the sea. He is casting down thrones. He is smiting old empires of time to pieces. Yes, he is wrestling indeed! For he is wrestling now with God and now with man; now with death; and now
with hell. See, the day breaks over his place of prayer! See, the Kingdom of God begins to come in on the earth! What a spot that is! What plots are hatched there! How dreadful this place is! Let us escape for our life out of it! Is that man, in there with God, your friend? Can you trust him with God? Will he speak about you when he is in audience? And what will he say? Has he anything against you? Have you anything on your conscience or in your heart against him? Then I would not be you for the world! But no! Hear him! What is that he says? I declare I hear your name and your children’s names! And the King stretches forth His scepter, and your friend touches it. He has “commanded” his God for you. He has “asked concerning” you and your sons. Such access, such liberty, such power, such prevalency, such magnificent office has he, who has been made of God a king and a priest unto God.
The Power of Humble People in Prayer
And, then, to cap and to crown it all-the supreme magnanimity, and the superb generosity of God, to its top perfection, is seen in this-in the people He selects, prepares for Himself, calls, consecrates, and clothes with the miter and with the ephod and with the breastplate. It is told in the Old Testament to the blame of Jeroboam, that “he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi (1 Kings 12:31). But what is written and read in the Levitical Law to Jeroboam’s blame, that very same thing, and in these very same words, God’s saints are this Sabbath day singing in their thousands to His praise before the throne of God and the Lamb.
For, ever since the day of Christ, it has been the lowest of the people-those lowest, that is, in other men’s eyes, and in their own-it has been the poor and the despised, the meek and the hidden, the down-trodden and the silent, who have had secret power and privilege with God and have prevailed. It was so, sometimes, even in the Old Testament. The New Testament sometimes broke into the Old, and in nothing more than in this in the men-and in their mothers-who were made kings and priests unto God.
“The Lord maketh poor,” sang Samuel’s mother, “and maketh rich: He bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes,
and to make them inherit the throne of glory” (1 Samuel 2:7,8). And the mother of our great High Priest Himself sang, as she sat over His manger- “He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden. . .He hath
filled the hungry with good things; and the rich hath He sent empty away” (Luke 1:48,53). This, then, is the very topmost glory, and the praise of God-the one from among humanity takes and makes of them kings
and priests unto God.
Let all such people magnify their office, and let them think and speak and sing magnificently of their God!
Alexander Whyte (1836-1921) was known as “the last of the Puritans,” and certainly his sermons were surgical as he magnified the glory of God and exposed the sinfulness of sin. He succeeded the noted Robert S. Candlish as pastor of free St. George’s and reigned from that influential Edinburgh pulpit for nearly forty years. He loved to “dig again the old wells” and share with his people truths learned from the devotional masters of the past. His evening Bible courses attracted the young people and led many into a deeper walk with God. This sermon is taken from Whyte’s Lord, Teach Us To Pray (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1900), a book of twenty three remarkable messages on prayer.
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