Young Man! A Prayer for You
Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, August 2nd, 1891,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha"2 Kings 6:17.
HIS YOUNG MAN waited upon a prophet: he could not have had a more instructive occupation; yet his eyes needed to be opened. He was well disposed towards good things, for the tone of his language to his master shows that he was heartily at one with him; but his eyes were not yet half opened. Being in great alarm for his master's safety, he ran to him to warn him: good servants should be their master's best friends. In return, his believing master prays for him. If we desire the good of our servants, our children, and our friends, let us take care that we make supplication for them. All that we can do for them at our best is to give them secondary blessings; but if we pray to God for them, they will receive the best of gifts from him who sends down in his mercy nothing but good gifts and perfect gifts. When we have come to the end of our teaching, and example, and persuasion, let us hand our young friends over to the Lord, who works effectually unto eternal salvation.
In thy marred visage any grace;
But now the beauty of thy face
In radiant vision dawns on me."
What else but such a heavenly vision could have scattered all our guilty fear? What else could have given us peace in the midst of tumult? We did not quite understand how it was done, nor did the change come to all of us in the same way; but we can all say, "One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see"; and since the prayers of others availed for us, we ought with double earnestness and hope to continue to plead for those who still have missed the glorious revelation. "Lord, open the eyes of the young man, that he may see!"
We call upon the Lord for this second reason, because only by his power can men be made to see. This we found in our own experience. In vain we struggled to behold the salvation of God; in vain we sought the help of godly people; no sight came to our souls, nor were the eyes of our understanding enlightened, until the Lord himself laved our eyes in the waters that go softly. Then we came seeing. And this we also discover when we try to lead others to the light. We speak to them of the glories we ourselves behold, and set before them the truth of God; but we cannot make them see. To bestow spiritual vision is as great a wonder as to make a world, and requires the same fiat of omnipotence. Only he who created the eye can give this second sight. "Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind." What folly, then, to attempt the greater task of bestowing the sight of the heart! How vain the boast of those who attempt to invade God's prerogative, and imagine that human ordinances or observances can open blind eyes! Beloved, let us, after we have done our best to make the people see the glory of the gospel, ever fall back on the God of the gospel, and entreat him to do his own blessed work.
To clear the mental ray;
And on the eye-belle of the blind,
To pour celestial day."
Do not try to hold up your tallow candles to reveal the chariots of fire nor parade your vain philosophy, as if that could clear away the darkness of the soul. Leave room for God to work; and, in a moment, at the touch of his finger, in response to the prayers of his people, the wondrous work shall be accomplished.
Most importunately do we pray when we see the people enquiring. The cry, "What shall we do?" sends us to our knees; for we know that what is necessary is, not something to be done, but something to be seen. And we feel persuaded that the Lord who awoke the desire in the hearts of the seekers, will surely, also, open their eyes to behold his glory. The very fact that we feel drawn to pray for them, is already a token to us that, ere long, the scales shall fall from their eyes; and through their vision of the splendor and sufficiency of the provision that God hath made for those who trust in him, the name of the Lord will be greatly glorified. Therefore, with much expectancy, we again utter our prayer, "Lord, open their eyes, that they may see!"
Another reason for this prayer isyou are not aware of your own blindness. You are trusting in yourselves that you can see well enough all you need to see. That young man, of whom I am thinking now, has no idea whatever that his eyes are stone blind to eternal things. He thinks himself a sharp and clever fellow; and I do not deny that he is so, in his own line of things. I am glad that he has such quick faculties for this life. God bless him; and may he prosper in his business, and in the enterprise upon which he is just entering! May the good Lord be with him concerning the matter on which his heart is set! But still, dear friend, I am rather afraid of your cleverness; I am somewhat frightened at that keenness of yours, because I have seen sharp men cut themselves, and I have seen the self-reliant make miserable failures. Something is to be said for confidence in its proper place; but self-congratulation is a proof of inward weakness, and forebodes a breakdown. If you are depending on an arm of flesh, at the very best you are resting on a broken reed; you require a strength beyond your own to fight the moral and spiritual battle of life. Your self-reliance, in this case, is a piece of groundless self-conceit. Do you not remember one, of whom we read in this very Book of Kings, that, when he was forewarned of what he would yet do, he exclaimed, in astonishment, "Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?" Hazael could not think himself capable of such crimes; and yet he no sooner had the opportunity than he fell into the evil up to the very neck. He was dog enough to be cruel, for he was dog enough to fawn upon himself. You do not believe, young man, that you will ever be dishonest; and yet that little gambling speculation of yours will lead to it. You cannot think that you will ever be godless; and yet you are even now departing from the good old ways of your home, and making a jest of sacred things when in certain company. They that trust in themselves are storing up the fuel for a great fire of sin. The pride which lifts itself up will throw itself down. Because the fine young fellow does not know how blind he is, we therefore lament his blindness, and are the more earnest in bringing him to Jesus, that he may receive his sight. "Lord, open his eyes, that he may see!"
Next, we pray this prayer, because we have reason to fear that you are surrounded by those who will mislead you. We know the young man well. He has newly come to London from that sober, orderly, country home, and he has no notion of the snares which will be laid for him by fowlers, male and female. Oh, you who have no experience, and little discretion, hear the voice of warning! Satan has cunning servants about him, that hunt for the precious life with double diligence. Our Lord Jesus has about him servants who too often slumber; but the devil's servants are not slothful in their dreadful business. You will find them waylay you in the streets without, and press around you in the haunts of pleasure within. They are everywhere, and they leave no stone upturned that they may entrap the unwary. And what if this blind young man is put down in the midst of all these blood-suckers? They will devour him if they can: what if he is left to be their victim? It is like turning out a sheep among a pack of wolves. "Lord, open the eyes of the young man, that he may see!"
We pray this prayer for some of you, because you are going away from those who have hitherto watched over you, and this is a dangerous change for you. Your motherah! we can never tell what a blessing a godly mother is to a young manyour mother parts from you with great anxiety. Will you ever forget her tender words? Our fathers are all very wellGod bless them!and a father's godly influence and earnest prayers are of untold value to his children; but the mothers are worth two of them, mostly, as to the moral training and religious bent of their sons and daughters. Well, I say, you are going right away from your mother's holy influence, and from your father's restraining admonitions. You will now have nobody to encourage you in the right way. You will miss your sister's holy kiss, and your grandmother's loving persuasions. You are going out of the hothouse into a night's frost: well may we pray concerning you, that you may carry with you well-opened eyes, to see your way, and look before you leap. The young man is now to walk alone: "Lord, open his eyes, that he may see!" If he does not look before he leaps, he will soon be in the ditch; and who shall pull him out?
Again, we pray this prayer with the more pleasure, because you will do so much good if your eyes are opened. A blind man in the midst of such a world as this, what can he do? He cannot help other travelers, for he has to seek aid for himself. You wish to give rather than to take, do you not? Some here have great abilities, and I want them to use them aright. I am persuaded that I am speaking to young people whom God has ordained to be of great service to their age. That youth yonder does not as yet know what is in him. He is playing with himself; he is making a fool of himself; he is throwing his pearls before swine: he is wasting his strength. If the Lord should open his eyes, he would see what he is doing. What a man he would make if he were but right with God! Think of Saul of Tarsus, how he harassed the church of Christ; but when the scales fell from his eyes, the Lord had no better servant under heaven than that once-furious persecutor. With both hands diligently he built up the church which once he labored to cast down. "The thing which has been is the thing which shall be." Pray, therefore, O my brethren, for our young men, who have sinned, that they may be restored; and for those who are as yet ignorant, that they may be enlightened; for the cause of God has need of these, and in these the church shall find her champions! Little know we the wealth of comfort for the faithful which may lie in one young life. Surely, we ought to pile on our prayers, and make our intercession flame like some great beacon-light for the rising youth of our time.
There is yet another reason, fetched from the other side of the case. We should pray for the blinded one, since he may terribly sin if not soon made to see. How capable of doing mischief is a man blinded by ignorance, by passion, by ambition, or by any other form of sin! Who knows the capacities for evil that lie within a single soul? That once bright spirit, Satan, when he first thought of raising revolt against the God of heaven; it was, perhaps, a single momentary flash of rebellious thought; but before long he had become proudly antagonistic to his Maker, and the dragon had drawn down with his tail a third part of the stars of heaven to quench them in the eternal night of endless wickedness. Then he came to this earth, and polluted Paradise, and seduced our first parents from their happy innocence, so that they became the progenitors of an unhappy race, steeped up to their lips in sin. That one first thought of ill, oh, how pregnant was it with innumerable evils! So, too, among ourselves. A boy, his mother's pride, to whom she looks forward as the honor of the family, may for a while appear to be everything that love can hope; but he falls into the hands of one of those tempters to unbelief who are so abundant in this great city. He is taught to pour ridicule upon his mother's piety, and soon he casts off the bands of his father's God. He forgets the sanctity of God's holy day, and forsakes the house of prayer; and then he learns the way to the houses of strange women, and to the palace of strong drink; and he plunges into one sin after another, till he is himself the leader of others down to the abyss. That boy, who used to kneel at his mother's knee, and say his childish prayer, and then stand up, and sing of Jesus and his love, was fondly regarded as one who would honor Jesus in his life; but see him now: he staggers home after midnight, vomiting oaths! He is foul both in soul and in body, and those who love him best are saddest at the sight of him. Dear friends, if we would not see our children or our friends running to this excess of riot, and sinking in this superfluity of naughtiness, let us in agony of spirit plead with God at once on their behalf. Oh, for an immediate entrance of the light into their souls! Lord, open their eyes, that they may see! Lord, cause them to start back from the beginnings of sin, which are as the breaking out of the water-floods! O Savior, quench in them the spark of evil ere it grows into a fire, and rages to a conflagration!
III. I must now close by mentioning what OUR HOPE is about men when we pray this prayer for them, as I have been doing all along"Lord, open the young man's eyes, that he may see!" What is our hope in reference to this? What will they see if the heavenly eye-salve be applied?
Elisha, no doubt, felt that the answer to his prayer would be precisely what it really was. "The Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." We want men's eyes to be opened, that they may know, first, that spiritual forces really exist. The things which we see are not the only real things, nor even the most real things. The things that are seen are temporal; they are, in truth, but shadows of the unseen. The substantial realities are not seen by these poor eyes: the substance is only perceived by our true selves. All that is visible is the mere shadow: the very image of the things is out of sight. Faith teaches us to believe in the existence of that most glorious of all spirits, the great God, in whom we live, and move, and have our being. Faith reveals to the heart the existence of that divine and ever-adorable Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is at this hour with his church, and will abide with her to the end of the world. Faith also makes us know the existence, and power, and presence of the Holy Ghost, who dwelleth with believers, and is in them, working out the eternal purpose of God in their sanctification. No knowledge is more sublime than to know the Trinity in Unity; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one Jehovah. When we come to realize that the Lord God is the source of all things; that Lord hath made us, and not we ourselves, and that all things come into being by his sovereign will and power; then we come to recognize his presence, to consult his will, and to lean upon his might. God becomes real in our thought and apprehension. Since he whom we cannot see nevertheless supporteth all things that are, we feel that the invisible is the basis of all things. Oh, that we could get men's minds out of these time-worn ruts of things seen, these narrow bounds of space, and time, and seeing, and handling! Oh, that they could rise into the region where the dim faculties, which are bounded by so small a circle, would give place to perceptions which know the infinite, the eternal, the true the divine! Oh, that the human mind, which was made in the image of God, could find itself at home with God, whose child it may become, by a second birth, of the living and incorruptible seed, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever!
Verily, if we get our eyes open, we shall begin to recognize that God is greater than this world, and all worlds; and then the mighty truths, which concern his way of mercy in Christ Jesus, will ennoble the soul. Then shall we become true comrades of those bright messengers of God that fly to and fro, fulfilling the behests of the Most High. That there are devils, I think no Christian man will ever doubt; for at certain seasons we have been sadly conscious of a singularly terrible presence, with which our souls have been in agonizing conflict. In that tearful battle it has gone hard with us; our armor has been battered, our comfort has been grievously wounded, and our courage badly mauled. We have been saved as by the skin of our teeth. We hardly knew how to hold on at all, we were so sore beset by unnatural temptations, and suggestions nothing less than infernal. Then, at the Lord's rebuke, this great adversary has taken sudden flight, and angels have come, and ministered to us new joys, and fruits of consolation, fresh from the tree of life. Then have we enjoyed communion with unseen messengers of God, who have seemed to bind up our wounds, and bring us on our way, and whisper peace. Did not an angel come to strengthen our Lord in Gethsemane? Have we not, in our measure enjoyed a similar visitation? It is a grand thing to see the hosts of God attending us, and to know that bright convoys of these shining ones will come to salute us at the last. It is a great gain to have the eyes opened, to see the Lord's goodness and mercy following us all the days of our life, and ourselves, even here, dwelling in the house of the Lord for evermore. Open your eyes to spiritual things, and at once you are encouraged. The present is grievous, while you know only the visible; but the wilderness blossoms as the rose when you see the invisible. Project yourself beyond this narrow region, and behold the infinite, and sources of joy spring up around you everywhere. Poverty is forgotten in the midst of such riches; and even pain and disease have lost their sting.
Elisha's young attendant, when his eyes were opened, saw, next, that God's people are safe. He perceived that there were more with Elisha, after all, than could possibly be against him, and he felt that he himself was safe as the servant of the servant of God. Thus he believed in his master's God, and found a shelter from his own fears. The invaders were flesh and blood, but the defenders were of fire, and thus were able to consume the adversaries at once. He saw, and saw it so joyfully, that God's horses of fire, and chariots of fire, were more than a match for all the forces of evil. I pray that the eyes of every Christian person here may be so opened that they shall never doubt that the powers on the side of truth and righteousness and God are, after all, mightier than the hosts of evid. It maybe that you live among those who scoff at your faith, and despise all that you hold dear; indeed, it seems that, wherever you turn, everybody is against you in this day of doubt. I think I hear you cry, with David, "My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword." Courage, my comrade, God is near thee! His angels are keeping watch and ward about thee! We are not alone, for the Father is with us. Oh, that our eyes may be so opened as to see that more are they that are with us than all that are against us! Indeed, "if God be for us, who can be against us?" Let us be strangers to fear. In holy confidence, let us be "stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." Never allow a doubt as to the ultimate issue. Is God himself your shield, and your exceeding great reward? Then, what can man do unto you? Perhaps, within a month, some of you, to whom I now speak, may be in so severe a fight that you will be almost driven to throw down your weapons in utter despair, saying, "How can I stand against so many?I that am so feeble?" I beseech you, remember this warning. Have not I told you of it? I would plead with you to play the man. Gird up the loins of your mind; be sober, and hope to the end; for if the Lord has opened your eyes, you will perceive that you are on the winning side, and that HE is coming soon who will smite his enemies upon the cheekbone. If you are on the side of God, and of his truth; if you do the right; if you believe in the Lord Jesus; if you commit yourself to the keeping of the hand which was pierced with the nails; heaven and earth may pass away, but the Lord can never desert you. The skies may be rolled up like a shrivelled parchment scroll, and all the things that are seen may melt away; like baseless fabrics of a vision, earth and sea may vanish; but a believing soul must live, and triumph, and be exalted to a throne with Christ; for he hath said, "Because I live, ye shall live also." Hold fast your integrity. Believe the truth of God even to the end, for the Lord Jesus will not fail, nor be discouraged, till all his foes are beneath his feet.
If your eyes are opened, you will know that saints are honored by their Lord. See! he despatches his squadrons to be a body-guard to one of them; would not you wish for such honors? See here the secret of the peace which abides with the man of God: as he has meat to eat that men know not of, so has he company that men cannot see. He lives like a prince in the center of a camp, and sleeps securely. Faith makes the difference between the tranquil prophet and his frightened boy. Oh, that you would believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and so enter into his peace! May this be the red-letter day in which your eyes shall be opened to see spiritual things, and you shall begin to live a spiritual life! For this I have prayed. For this let us all breathe for a moment a silent prayer. (Here followed an interval of silence, and then the preacher spoke in prayer.) "Lord, I pray thee, open the young man's eyes, that he may see: yea, Lord, open the eyes of all the blind among us, for Jesus' sake! Amen."
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON2 Kings 6.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"560, 499, 461.
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