A third element of successful prayer is RESTITUTION. If I have at any time taken what does not belong to me, and am not willing to make restitution, my prayers will not go very far toward heaven. It is a singular thing, but I have never touched on this subject in my addresses, without hearing of immediate results. A man once told me that I would not need to dwell on this point at a meeting I was about to address, as probably there would be no one present that would need to make restitution. But I think if the Spirit of God searches our hearts, we shall most of us find a good many things have to be done that we never thought of before.
After Zaccheus met with Christ, things looked altogether different. I venture to say that the idea of making restitution never entered into his mind before. He thought, probably, that morning that he was a perfectly honest man. But when the Lord came and spoke to him, he saw himself in an altogether different light. Notice how short his speech was. The only thing put on record that he said was this: "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold." A short speech; but how the words have come ringing down through the ages!
By making that remark he confessed his sin—that he had been dishonest. Besides that, he showed that he knew the requirements of the law of Moses. If a man / had taken what did net belong to him, he was not only I to return it, but to multiply it by four. I think that men in this dispensation ought to be fully as honest as men under the Law. I am getting so tired and sick of your mere sentimentalism, that does not straighten out a man's life. We may sing our hymns and psalms, and offer prayers, but they will be an abomination to God, unless we are willing to be thoroughly straightforward in our daily life. Nothing will give Christianity such a hold upon the world as to have God's believing people begin to act in this way. Zaccheus had probably more influence in Jericho after he made restitution than any other man in it.
Finney, in his lectures to professing Christians, says: "One reason for the requirement, 'Be not conformed to this world,' is the immense, salutary, and instantaneous influence it would have, if everybody would do busi■ ness on the principles of the Gospel. Turn the tables over, and let Christians do business one year on Gospel principles. It would shake the world! It would ring louder than thunder. Let the ungodly see professing | Christians in every bargain consulting the good of the I person they are trading with—seeking not their own wealth, but every man another's wealth—living above i the world—setting no value on the world any further than it would be the means of glorifying God; what do you think would be the effect? It would cover the world with confusion of face, and overwhelm them with conviction of sin."
Finney makes one grand mark of genuine repentance to be restitution. "The thief has not repented who keeps the money he stole. He may have conviction, but no repentance. If he had repentance, he would go and give back the money. If you have cheated any one, and do not restore what you have taken unjustly; or if you have injured any one, and do not set about to undo the wrong you have done, as far as in you lies, you have not truly repented."
In Exodus we read—" If a man steal an ox, or a ^ sheep, and kill it, or sell it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep." And again: "If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man's field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard shall he make restitution. If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith, he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution."
Or turn to Leviticus, where the law of the trespass- V offering is laid down—the same point is there insisted on with equal clearness and force.
"If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbor in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbor; or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein; then it shall be, because he hath sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add. the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertained, in the day of his trespass offering."
The same thing is repeated in Numbers, where we read—" And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the Lord, and that person be guilty; then they shall confess their sin which they have done; and he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed. Bnt if the man have no kinsman to recompense the trespass unto, let the trespass be recompensed unto the Lord, even to the priest, beside the ram of the atonement, whereby an atonement shall be made of him."
These were the laws that God laid down for His people, and I believe their principle is as binding today as it was then. If we have taken anything from any man, if we have in any way defrauded a man, let us not only confess it, but do all we can to make restitution. If we have misrepresented any one—if we have started some slander, or some false report about him— let us do all in our power to undo the wrong.
It is in reference to a practical righteousness such as this that God says in Isaiah—" Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness; ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen—to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee, the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward.. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here I am."
Trapp in his comment on Zaccheus, says: "Sultan Selymus could tell his councillor Pyrrhus, who persuaded him to bestow the great wealth he had taken from the Persian merchants upon some notable hospital for relief of the poor, that God hates robbery for burnt-offering. The dying Turk commanded it rather to be restored to the right owners, which was done accordingly, to the great shame of many Christians, who mind nothing less than restitution. When Henry III of England had sent the Friar Minors a load of frieze to clothe them, they returned the same with this message, 'that he ought not to give alms of what he had rent from the poor; neither would they accept of that abominable gift.' Master Latimer saith, 'If ye make no restitution of goods detained, ye shall cough in hell, and the devils shall laugh at you.' Henry VII, in his last will and testament, after the disposition of his soul and body, devised and willed restitution should be made of all such moneys as had unjustly been levied by his officers. Queen Mary restored again all ecclesiastical livings assumed to the crown, saying that she set more by the salvation of her own soul, than she did by ten kingdoms. A bull came also from the Pope, at the same time, that others should do the like, but none did. Latimer tells us that the first day he preached about restitution, one came and gave him £20 to restore; the next day another brought him £30; another time another gave him £200.
"Mr. Bradford, hearing Latimer on that subject, was struck in the heart for one dash of the p*n which he had made without the knowledge of his master, and could never be quiet till, by the advice of Mr. Latimer, restitution was made, for which he did willingly forego all the private and certain patrimony which he had on earth. 'I, myself,' saith Mr. Barroughs, 'knew one man who had wronged another but of five shillings, and fifty years after could not be quiet till he had restored it.'"
If there is true repentance it will bring forth fruit. If we have done wrong to some one, we should never ask God to forgive us until we are willing to make restitution. If I have done any man a great injustice and can make it good, I need not ask God to forgive me until I am willing to do so. Suppose I have taken something that does not belong to me. I cannot expect forgive ness until I make restitution. I remember preaching in an Eastern city, and a fine-looking man came up to me at the close. He was in great distress of mind. "The fact is," he said, "I am a defaulter. I have taken money that belonged to my employers. How can I become a Christian without restoring it?" "Have you got the money?" He told me he had not got it all. He had taken about 1,500 dollars, and he still had about 900. He said, "Could I not take that money and go into business, and make enough to pay them back?" I told him that was a delusion of Satan, that he could not expect to prosper on stolen money; that he should restore all he had, and go and ask his employers to have mercy upon him, and forgive him. "But they will put me in prison," he said. "Can you not give me any help?" "No; you must restore the money before you can expect to get any help from God." "It is pretty hard," he said. "Yes, it is hard; but the great mistake was in doing the wrong at first." His burden became so heavy that it was, in fact, unbearable. He handed me the money—950 dollars and some cents—and asked me to take it back to his employers. I told them the story, and said that he wanted mercy from them, not justice. The tears trickled down the cheeks of these two men, and they said, "Forgive him! Yes, we will be glad to forgive him." I went down stairs and brought him up. After he had confessed his guilt and been forgiven, we all fell down on our knees and had a blessed prayermeeting. God met us and blessed us there.
There was another friend of mine who had come to Christ and was trying to consecrate himself and his wealth to God. He had formerly had transactions with the Government, and had taken advantage of them. This thing came to memory, and his conscience troubled him. He had a terrible struggle; his conscience kept rising up and smiting him. At last he drew a check for 1500 dollars, and sent it to the Treasury of the Government . He told me he received such a blessing after he had done it . That is bringing forth fruits meet for repentance. I believe a great many men are crying to God for light; and they are not getting it because they are not honest.
A man came to one of our meetings, when this subject was touched upon. The memory of a dishonest transaction flashed into his mind. He saw at once how it was that his prayers were not answered, but "returned into his own bosom," as the Scripture phrase puts it. He left the meeting, took the train, and went to a distant city, where he had defrauded his employer years before. He went straight to this man. confessed the wrong, and offered to make restitution. Then he remembered another transaction, in which he had failed to meet the just demands upon him; he at once made arrangements to have a large amount repaid. He came back to the place where we were holding the meetings, and God blessed him wonderfully in his own soul. I have not met a man for a long time who seemed to have received such a blessing.
Some years ago, in the north of England, a woman came to one of the meetings, and appeared to be very anxious about her soul. For some time she did not seem to be able to get peace. Th» truth was, she was covering up one thing that she was not willing to confess. At last, the burden was too great; and she said to a worker: "I never go down on my knees to pray, but a few bottles of wine keep coming up before my mind." It appeared that years before, when she was housekeeper, she had taken some bottles of wine belonging to her employer. The worker said: "Why do you not make restitution?" The woman replied that the man was dead; and besides, she did not know how much it was worth. "Are there any heirs living to whom you can make restitution?" She said there was a son living at some distance; but she thought it would be a very humiliating thing, so she kept back for some time. At last she felt as if she must have a clear conscience at any cost, so she took the train, and went to the place where the son of her employer resided . She took five pounds with her, she did not exactly know what the wine was worth, but that would cover it at any rate. The man said he did not want the money, but she replied, "I do not want it; it has burnt my pocket long enough." So he agreed to take the half of it, and give it to some charitable object. Then she came back; and I think she was one of the happiest mortals I have ever met with. She said she could not tell whether she was in the body or out of it—such a blessing had come to her soul.
It may be that there is something in our lives that needs straightening out; something that happened perhaps twenty years ago, and that has been forgotten till the Spirit of God brought it to our remembrance. If we are not willing to make restitution, we cannot expect God to give us great blessing. Perhaps that is the reason so many of our prayers are not answered.
"Who weald be cleansed from every sin,
Must to God's holy altar bring
The whole of life—its joys, its tears,
Its hopes, its loves, its powers, its years,
The will, and every cherished thing!
"Must make this sweeping sacrifice—
Choose God, and dare reproach and shame,
And boldly stand in storm or flame
For Him who paid redemption's price;
Then trust (not struggle to believe),
And trusting wait, nor doubt, but pray
That in His own good time He'll say,
'Thy faith hath saved thee; now receive.'
"His time is when the soul brings all,
Is all upon His altar lain;
When pride and self-conceit are slain,
And crucified with Christ, we fall
Helpless upon His word, and lie;
When, faithful to His word, we feel
The cleansing touch, the Spirit's seal,
And know that He does sanctify."
A. T. Allis.
The next thing I would mention as an element of prayer is Thanksgiving. "We ought to be more thankful for what we get from God. Perhaps some of you mothers have a child in your family who is constantly complaining—never thankful. You know that there is not much pleasure in doing anything for a child like that . If you meet with a beggar who is always grumbling, and never seems to be thankful for what you give, you very soon shut the door in his face altogether. Ingratitude is about the hardest thing we have to meet with. The great English poet says:
"Blow, blow, thou winter wind—
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen, ^
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude."
We cannot speak too plainly of this evil, which so demeans those who are guilty of it. Even in Christians there is but too much of it to be seen. Here we are, getting blessings from God day after day; yet how little praise and thanksgiving there is in the Church of God!
Gurnall, in his Christian Armor, referring to the words, "In everything give thanks," says: "'Praise is comely for the upright.' 'An unthankful saint' carries a contradiction with it . Evil and Unthankful are twins that live and die together; as any one ceaseth to be evil, he begins to be thankful. It is that which God expects at your hands; He made you for this end. When the vote passed in heaven for your being—yea, happy being in Christ!—it was upon this account, that you should be a name and a praise to Him on earth in time, and in heaven to eternity. Should God miss this, He would fail of one main part of His design. What prompts Him to bestow every mercy, but to afford you matter to compose a song for His praise ?' They are My people, children that will not lie; so He was their Savior.'
"He looks for fair dealing at your hands. Whom may a father trust with his reputation, if not his child? Where can a prince expect honor, if not among his favorites? Your state is such that the least mercy you have is more than all the world besides. Thou, Christian, and thy few brethren, divide heaven and earth among you! What hath God that He withholds from you? Sun, moon and stars are set up to give you light; sea and land have their treasures for your use; others are encroachers upon them; you are the rightful heirs to them; they groan that any others should be served by them. The angels, bad and good, minister unto you; the evil, against their will, are forced like scullions when they tempt you, to scour and brighten your graces, and make way for your greater comforts; the good angels are servants to your heavenly Father, and disdain not to carry you in their arms. Tour God withholds not Himself from you; He is your portion—Father, Husband, Friend. God is His own happiness, and admits you to enjoy Him. Oh, what honor is this, for the subject to drink in his prince's cup! 'Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures.' And all this is not the purchase of your sweat and blood; the feast is paid for by Another, only He expects your thanks to the Founder. No sinoffering is imposed under the Gospel; thank-offerings are all He looks for."
Charnock, in discoursing on Spiritual Worship, says: "The praise of God is the choicest sacrifice and worship, under a dispensation of redeeming grace. This is the prime and eternal part of worship under the Gospel. The Psalmist, speaking of the Gospel times, spurs on to this kind of worship: 'Sing unto the Lord a new song; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King; let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud upon their beds; let the high praises of God be in their mouth.' He begins and ends both Psalms with Praise ye the Lord! That cannot be a spiritual and evangelical worship that hath nothing of the praise of God in the heart. The consideration of God's adorable perfections discovered in the Gospel will make us come to Him with more seriousness, beg blessings of Him with more confidence, fly to Him with a winged faith and love, and more spiritually glorify Him in our attendances upon Him."
There is a great deal more said in the Bible about praise than prayer; yet how few praise-meetings there are! David, in his Psalms, always mixes praise with prayer. Solomon prevailed much with God in prayer at the dedication of the temple; but it was the voice of praise which brought down the glory that filled the house; for we read: "And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place (for all the priests that were present were sanctified, and did not then wait by course; also the Levites, which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals, and psalteries, and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them a hundred and twenty priests, sounding with trumpets); it came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets, and cymbals, and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, 'For He is good; for His mercy endureth forever;' that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God."
We read, too, of Jehosaphat, that he gained the victory over the hosts of Ammon and Moab through praise, which was excited by faith and thankfulness to God.
"And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, 'Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper;' and when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for His mercy endureth for ever,' And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, which which were come against Judah; and they were smitten."
It is said that in a time of great despondency among the first settlers in New England, it was proposed in one of their public assemblies to proclaim a fast. An old farmer arose; spoke of their provoking heaven with their complaints, reviewed their measures, showed that they had much to be thankful for, and moved that instead of appointing a day of fasting, they should appoint a day of thanksgiving. This was done; and the custom has been continued ever since.
However great our difficulties, or deep even our sorrows, there is room for thankfulness. Thomas Adams has said: "Lay up in the ark of thy memory not only the pot of manna, the bread of life; but even Aaron's rod, the very scourge of correction, wherewith thou hast been bettered. Blessed be the Lord, not only giving, but taking away, saith Job. God who sees there is no walking upon roses to heaven, puts His children into the way of discipline; and by the fire of correction eats out the rust of corruption. God sends trouble, then bids us call upon Him; promiseth our deliverance; and lastly, the all He requires of us is to glorify Him. 'Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me." Like the nightingale, we can sing in the night, and say with John Newton—
"Since all that I meet shall work for my good,
The bitter is sweet, the medicine food;
Though painful at present, 'twill cease before long,
And then—oh, how pleasant!—the conqueror's song."
Among all the apostles none suffered so much as Paul; but none of them do we find so often giving thanks as he. Take his letter to the Philippians. Remember what he suffered at Philippi; how they laid many stripes upon him, and cast him into prison. Yet every chapter in that Epistle speaks of rejoicing and giving thanks. There is that well-known passage: "Be careful for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." As some one has said, there are here three precious ideas: "Careful for nothing; prayerful for everything; and thankful for anything." "We always get more by being thankful for what God has done for us. Paul says again: "We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you." So he was constantly giving thanks. Take up any one of his Epistles, and you will find them full of praise to God.
Even if nothing else called for thankfulness, it would always be an ample cause for it that Jesus Christ loved us, and gave Himself for us. A farmer was once found kneeling at a soldier's grave near Nashville. Some one came to him and said: "Why do you pay so much attention to this grave? Was your son buried here?" "No," he said. "During the war my family were all sick, I knew not how to leave them. I was drafted. One of my neighbors came over and said: 'I will go for you; I have no family.' He went off. He was wounded at Chickamauga. He was carried to the hospital, and there died. And, sir, I have come a great many miles, that I might write over his grave these words, 'He died for me.'"
This the believer can always say of his blessed Savior, and in the fact may well rejoice. "By Him therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name."
"Speak, lips of mine!
And tell abroad
The praises of my God.
Speak, stammering tongue!
In gladdest tone,
Make His high praises known.
"Speak, sea and earth!
Heaven's utmost star,
Speak from your realms afar!
Take up the note,
And send it round
Creation's farthest bound.
"Speak, heaven of heavens!
Wherein our God
Has made His bright abode.
Speak, angels, speak!
In songs proclaim
His everlasting name.
"Speak, son of dust!
Thy flesh He took
And heaven for thee forsook.
Speak, child of death!
Thy death He died,
Bless thou the Crucified."