451) The House of the Lord

From The Clergy of America: Anecdotes, pages 28-30, 1869, J. B. Lippincott Publishers, Philadelphia

     About a half century ago a Christian church was organized in a small town in Virginia.  For some years it flourished, but after a while the pastor died, some of the members moved to different parts of the country, and others returned to their worldly ways.  The house of worship fell into decay, the doors were broken from the hinges, and birds built their nests upon the deserted walls.  The pulpit was ready to collapse, and utter desolation reigned where once the praises of Zion’s King had resounded.  Close by arose a grog-shop, and it soon became the Sunday gathering place for the young and old in the vicinity, instead of the old church.

     In that neighborhood lived a wealthy gentleman who had a son, a youth of great promise.  This youth was in the practice of spending his Sabbaths with other young men at the grog-shop above named, though he was not guilty of any outstanding immorality.  One Sabbath, as he was going to the general place of rendezvous, when passing the old meeting-house, he turned his head and saw and old gray-headed Negro sitting on one of the benches.  A degree of superstitious fear came over his mind, and an impression was produced which rendered the society at the grog-shop irksome, and he soon returned to his father’s.  On the next Sabbath, as he was again passing the old church, he saw the old Negro again, seated on a bench, leaning his head on the top of his staff.  Riding up to the window, he asked the old man what he was doing there.  “Get down, young man, and come and sit down, and I will tell you,” was the reply.  He accordingly went in and took his seat by the side of the old man, whom by this time he recognized as the aged servant of a neighboring planter.

     “Thirty years ago,” proceeded the old man with deep emotion, “I used to come to this house every Sunday to meet God and his people, and precious times we have had here.  This house used to be filled with professed Christians, engaged in the service of God, and anxious sinners, inquiring of the way to be saved.  In that old pulpit, now leaning and ready to fall, used to stand the servant of God, telling us the precious truths of the gospel of Jesus.  Now he is dead.  Some of the members have moved away, some have gone back to the world, and some are dead, while the old church is ready to fall.  Young man, I used to, in those days, come here to meet God.  I have come here today to meet him in this house, and he has met with me.  He is here now.”  The aged man then respectfully, yet earnestly, pressed upon the youth the importance of religion and the danger of neglect. “Young man, you see my head, it is white.  I was once young like you.  I am now old and shall soon die.  And you will die too.  Are you prepared?”

     The young man wept, and the old Christian proposed that they should kneel down and pray for the salvation of his soul.  They knelt down, and God was there.  During the ensuing week the young man was greatly distressed, and early the next Sabbath morning returned to the old church to meet the old Negro, and he preached to him Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.  In a few days the young man obtained a hope; and by his exertions, and the blessing of God’s grace, an extensive revival of religion very soon commenced in that town.  A new church was soon organized, the old building was repaired, a minister was called, and many were converted to faith in Jesus.

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Psalm 84:12  —  Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Psalm 122:1  —  I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Psalm 86:11-12  —  Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.  I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.

Romans 10:17  —  Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

James 3:17  —  The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

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PRAYER on the THIRD COMMANDMENT; “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”

Dear Lord, I thank you for your great blessing which you have given us in your Word and the preaching of it.  This is a treasure that no human heart can fully appreciate.  You have especially commanded that we make use of these blessings on the Sabbath day, for your Word is the only light in the darkness of this world.  It is a Word of life and comfort that brings peace and every blessing.  Where this beloved and healing Word is not found, there are, as we daily see, dreadful and horrible darkness, error, strife, death, every misfortune, and the devil’s tyranny.  From this preserve us, dear Lord.  Amen.

–Martin Luther, adapted from Luther’s Prayers (#92), tr. by Charles Kistler (1917)