Mrs. Berry used to say, “I would not be hired out of my closet for a thousand worlds.” Mr. Jay said, “If the twelve apostles were living near you, and you had access to them, if this intercourse drew you from the closet, they would prove a real injury to your souls.” Prayer is the ship which bringeth home the richest freight. It is the soil which yields the most abundant harvest. Brother, when you rise in the morning your business so presses, that with a hurried word or two, down you go into the world, and at night, jaded and tired, you give God the fag end of the day. The consequence is, that you have no communion with him. The reason we have not more true religion now, is because we have not more prayer. Sirs, I have no opinion of the churches of the present day that do not pray. I go from chapel to chapel in this metropolis and I see pretty good congregations; but I go to their prayer-meetings on a week evening, and I see a dozen persons. Can God bless us, can he pour out his Spirit upon us, while such things as these exist? He could, but it would not be according to the order of his dispensations, for he says, “When Zion travails she brings forth children.” Go to your churches and chapels with this thought, that you want more prayer. Many of you have no business here this morning. You ought to be in your own places of worship. I do not want to steal away the people from other chapels; there are enough to hear me without them. But though you have sinned this morning, hear while you are here, as much to your profit as possible. Go home and say to your minister, “Sir, we must have more prayer.” Urge the people to more prayer. Have a prayer-meeting, even if you have it all to yourself; and if you are asked how many were present, you can say, “Four.” “Four! How so?” “Why, there was myself, and God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost; and we have had a rich and real communion together.” We must have an outpouring of real devotion, or else what is to become of many of our churches? O! May God awaken us all, and stir us up to pray, for when we pray we shall be victorious. I should like to take you this morning, as Samson did the foxes, tie the firebrands of prayer to you, and send you in among the shocks of corn till you burn the whole up. I should like to make a conflagration by my words, and to set all the churches on fire, till the whole has smoked like a sacrifice to God’s throne. If you pray, you have a proof that you are a Christian; the less you pray, the less reason have you to believe your Christianity; and if you have neglected to pray altogether, then you have ceased to breathe, and you may be afraid that you never did breathe at all.
And now, my last word is to the ungodly. O, sirs! I could fain wish myself anywhere but here; for if it be solemn work to address the godly, how much more when I come to deal with you. We fear lest, on the one hand, we should so speak to you as to make you trust in your own strength; while, on the other hand, we tremble lest we should lull you into the sleep of sloth and security. I believe most of us feel some difficulty as to the most fit manner to preach to you—not that we doubt but that the gospel is to be preached—but our desire is so to do it, that we may win your souls. I feel like a watchman, who, while guarding a city, is oppressed with sleep; how earnestly does he strive to arouse himself, while infirmity would overcome him. The remembrance of his responsibility bestirs him. His is no lack of will, but of power; and so I hope all the watchmen of the Lord are anxious to be faithful, while, at the same time, they know their imperfection. Truly, the minister of Christ will feel like the old keeper of Eddystone lighthouse; life was failing fast, but, summoning all his strength, he crept round once more to trim the lights before he died. O may the Holy Spirit enable us to keep the beacon-fire blazing, to warn you of the rocks, shoals, and quicksands, which surround you, and may we ever guide you to Jesus, and not to free-will or creature merit. If my friends knew how anxiously I have sought divine direction in the important matter of preaching to sinners, they would not feel as some of them do, when they fancy I address them wrongly. I want to do as God bids me, and if he tells me to speak to the dry bones and they shall live, I must do it, even if it does not please others; otherwise I should be condemned in my own conscience, and condemned of God. Now, with all the solemnity that man can summon, let me say that a prayerless soul is a Christless soul. As the Lord liveth, you who never prayed are without God, without hope, and strangers from the commonwealth of Israel. You who never know what a groan is, or a falling tear, are destitute of vital godliness. Let me ask you, sirs, whether you have ever thought in what an awful state you are? You are far from God, and therefore God is angry with you; for “God is angry with the wicked every day.” O, sinner! Lift thine eyes and behold the frowning countenance of God, for he is angry with you. And I beseech you, as you love yourselves, just for one moment contemplate what will become of you, if living as you are, ye should at last die without prayer. Don’t think that one prayer on your deathbed will save you. Deathbed prayer is a deathbed farce generally, and passes for nothing; it is a coin that will not ring in heaven, but is stamped by hypocrisy, and made of base metal. Take heed sirs. Let me ask you, if you have never prayed, what will you do? It were a good thing for you, if death were an eternal sleep; but it is not. If you find yourself in hell, oh, the racks and pains! But I will not harrow up your feelings by attempting to describe them. May God grant you never may feel the torments of the lost. Only conceive that poor wretch in the flames who is saying, “O for one drop of water, to cool my parched tongue!” See how his tongue hangs from between his blistered lips! How it excoriates and burns the roof of his mouth, as if it were a firebrand. Behold him crying for a drop of water. I will not picture the scene. Suffice it for me to close up by saying, that the hell of hells will be to thee, poor sinner, the thought that it is to be forever. Thou wilt look up there on the throne of God, and it shall be written “forever!” When the damned jingle the burning irons of their torments, they shall say “forever!” When they howl, echo cries “forever!”