By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer
LETTER TO A YOUNG MINISTER ON CLOSET PRAYER
By E. E. Shelhamer and Others -- Selected by A. Sims
All the mighty men of God who have shaken the kingdom of darkness have been men of prayer. Moses pleaded until he had power to turn aside heaven's thunderbolt of wrath, although God had said, "Let me alone that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven." After long and powerful pleading Elijah shut and opened heaven. But I will not speak of what prophets, apostles and other inspired men have done through faith and prayer, lest you should be discouraged, although they were men "subject to like passions as we are."
Look, then, at Baxter, who stained his study walls with praying breath; and, after receiving a rich anointing from the Holy Ghost, he sent a river of living water through Kidderminster, and was the means of converting hundreds.
John Knox grasped all Scotland in his strong arms of faith. His prayers terrified tyrants. After much holy, faithful Closet pleading, Whitefield went to the devil's fair and took more than a thousand souls Out of the paw of the lion in one day. See praying Wesley, pleading Bramwell, Stoner, Smith and Carvosso, each of whom led thousands to Jesus; Ann Cutler and Mr. Fletcher, whose breath was prayer, and who had souls in every place. In 1820 and 1821, a few plain, holy, praying Christians were instrumental in leading 17,000 souls from Satan to Christ. John Oxtoby, with his one talent, sighed, wept, fasted and groaned and prayed for sinners many hours, pleading the atonement, and casting them on it by faith's strong arms; then, entering the pulpit, he spoke words of flame, so that hundreds were saved by his means.
If you only want sinners converted to gain a name in the church, to swell your party, or show what great feats you can do, God will not use you. Your state of soul is poor indeed.
If your heart is burdened and ready to break for the salvation of souls, and you feel willing to be anything -- even a fool in the eyes of a God-dishonoring world and of a sleepy church -- so that souls may be saved, then, if we knowing anything of the matter, you are in a proper state of soul to begin work for God. And if you have none of this yearning of heart for souls, alas! how are you anything better than a hireling shepherd? To strengthen your desire for the salvation of the lost, look at the multitudes around you hurrying on to a dark perdition. How many thousand within the pale of the professing Church who have nothing of religion but the name! and how many who have renounced even the name! They never open a Bible. They never enter a church. They never bend a knee. They live as heathen live -- as godless and as sensual as the sons of Athens and Rome in the olden time. How sad the thought! You are moving through time to eternity in the midst of a vast mass of perishing souls. They surround you on e very side. Go out, like Nehemiah, by night, and survey the desolations of the city. See the dramshops, and the pawnshops, and the dens of infamy, and the gambling houses, and the many places of sinful amusement- Count, if you can, the number of their victims or realize the amount of the evil which, unitedly, they produce. Death and damnation are moving to meet them. Look, my brother, at the whole mass of sinners trampling under foot the redeeming blood of Christ, and steeling their consciences against the Holy Ghost: making God's Book a stepping-stone to hell. See them shut their eyes. Yes! they are emphatically in earnest to damn their bodies and souls for ever.
Look at them -- look at them -- LOOK AT THEM! Do you see them? Then you see them on a slippery hill, going down to hell! Think how they dishonor God. Think how they pierce the Savior. Think how they grieve the Holy Spirit. Think how they damn the rising race. Think how they people the wide, burning pit! See how they push one another off the stage of life into perdition! See! thousands of them have taken all but the last step; so that, if you do not pluck them thence at once, the next step will be hell, with all its remorse and despair, its blackness and darkness, its weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, and that forever, and forever! and FOREVER! Oh, brother, all this is true! and will you not use the weapon which God has Himself placed in your hands, and go and wrestle with Him to save this people? Think of the value of their souls! Think of the bleeding, pleading love they are slighting! Think of the eternal damnation they are going to! Think of the heaven of increasing glory they are all losing! Think of the influence they have in drawing millions after them to hell! Think what glory it would bring to God the Father, Son and Spirit, if you could be the means of their conversion! Think deeply earnestly and soberly, that there is but one alternative -- either a life of sin, or conversion to God -- a conversion that will empower them also to become instrumental in the salvation of others. Think of Gethsemane, Calvary, and the blood-sprinkled mercy seat! Think what Jesus has done, and is willing to do for them! Think of what H e has done for millions as bad as they, when they repented, forsook sin, and believed.
Think of what He did for bloody Manasseh, the murderer; mad Saul, wicked Magdalene, swearing Bunyan. the infidel Rochester, and millions of others -- thieves, drunkards, and the very worst of sinners, on this side the pit. Nay, think until your soul is harrowed up within you, and melts into pity or flames into burning charity. Then with your full, love-stricken heart, enter your closet and bewail the sins of the people before the Lord. Take up a deep lamentation, and bewail their lost condition and their aggravated sins. Make their sins your own, so to speak; that is, feel for them and pray for them, as though you were in their almost lost condition. Yoke yourself in with them. Be particular in confessing their sins. Do not cloak them. Like Moses, Daniel, Jeremiah, Paul, and other holy men, confess them again and again and again; while you are confessing and mourning over them, continue casting your soul and their sins on the atonement; recognize the infinite willingness of the Redeemer to save them, and p lead with God to do it now. Plead the death of Jesus. Cast your strong-nerved arms of faith around sinners, and bring them to the cross of Calvary. Plead heaven, with its everlasting glory; hell, with its darkness, fire, and adamantine chains. Plead the shortness of time; plead the length of endless eternity. Enter deeply and fully into their awful state. I do not want you to be a mere happy, joyful Christian; but one who drinks with Christ the bitter cup. But mind and do all in faith with a single eye to the glory of God; and, if you plead this way for hours you will soon learn the grand secret of shaking any town, and sending a wave of living water over the land. Christ says, "He that believeth, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." Believe, then, and flood your district, no matter what stands in the way. If, while you are pleading, you only believe, something great will be effected. Oh, for a few Moseses, Jeremiahs, or Pauls, to stand in the gap! -- From Grace to Glory, by A. Sims.