Nehemiah 1:4,5; Daniel 9:3-5
The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I [Nehemiah] heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.
And I [Daniel] set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments…
SAMUEL MILLER (1769-1850): We have no less reason for fasting and humiliation than our fathers of former ages. Let us not imagine that there was some special character either in the men or the events of ancient times which rendered the exercise in question more needful to them than to us. By no means; human nature is the same, religion is the same, and the causes of Christian mourning are the same now as they were when [Nehemiah and Daniel] fasted and laid in the dust before the mercy-seat.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Why, at this moment we have sin rampant among us almost beyond precedent!
SAMUEL MILLER: Think of the abounding atheism and various forms of infidelity, the pride, the degrading intemperance, the profanations of the Sabbath, the fraud, the gross impiety, the neglect and contempt of the gospel, and all the numberless forms of enormous moral corruption which even in the most favoured parts of our country prevail in a deplorable degree.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Look at this attitude towards morality, towards law, and towards the Ten Commandments in particular. People feel that they’re against us, and yet when you come to examine the position, you’ll find that God gave these laws not to hold us down, not to bind us and to band us, but for our good, and for our benefit. Have you ever thought of this? Take the much maligned and criticized Ten Commandments…Thou shalt not kill. Is that a restraint? Is that a grievous band and bond tying you down, and standing between you and a glorious life? Is it wrong to ask you not to kill?
JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light…The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy.
MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): How great, therefore, the wickedness of human nature is! How many girls there are who prevent conception and kill and expel tender fetuses, although procreation is the work of God! Indeed, some spouses who marry and live together in a respectable manner have various ends in mind, but rarely children.
C. H. SPURGEON: Worse still, if worse can be: those who dare walk our streets after sundown tell us that Sodom, in its most putrid days, could scarce exceed this metropolis for open vice.
JOHN CALVIN: We see that many rush into such excesses of lasciviousness, as to glory in their shame.
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Their vices not only expose them to the wrath of God in another world, but often bring them to misery and ruin in this life; and surely such impudent offenders, who glory in their shame, and to whom openness in sin is an improvement of the pleasure of sinning, most justly deserve all the plagues of this life and the pains of the next [life].
C. H. SPURGEON: Deep is our shame when we know that our judges are not clear in this matter, but social purity has been put to the blush by magistrates of no mean degree.
HORATIUS BONAR (1808-1889): Nay, we glory in this as “progress,” “culture,” and “enlightenment,” as freedom from the bigotry of other centuries and the narrowness of our half-enlightened ancestors.
SAMUEL MILLER: Think of these abounding sins; and think also in how small a degree multitudes even of the professing people of God seem to be awake to the great responsibilities and duties of their high vocation; and then say whether we have not reason for special humiliation and prayer?
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: It is not difficult for us, therefore, to answer the next question: What is the call for us today? It is obvious that we must concentrate our energies on the church, and that the chief need is the revival and the awakening of the church itself. It is in the church, and often through individuals who belong to the church, that the big spiritual movements have always started…I have no hesitation in asserting that the failure of the church to have a greater impact upon the life of men and women in the world today is due entirely to the fact that her own life is not in order. To me there is nothing more tragic or short-sighted or lacking in insight than the assumption, made by so many, that the church herself is all right and all she has to do is to evangelize the world outside…We have to start with the church, not with the world outside. The chief trouble is in the church.
JOHN ANGELL JAMES (1785-1869): No careful reader of the New Testament and observer of the present state of the church can fail to be convinced that what is now wanting is a high spirituality.
HORATIUS BONAR: Jude speaks to the Church of the last days. It is against the evils within the Church that he specially warns. What a picture does he draw of error, licentiousness, worldliness, spiritual decay, and ecclesiastical apostasy! Who could recognize the image of the primitive Church in the description he gives of prevailing iniquity? The world had absorbed the Church, and the church was content that it should be so.
WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): It is no unusual thing in our day for the service of the sanctuary to be turned into an amusement.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: I ask you solemnly, is this a time for entertainment? Is it not a time, rather, for fasting, for sackcloth and ashes, for waiting upon God in an agony of soul?
E. M. BOUNDS (1835-1913): The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men…The prime need of the church is not men of money, nor men of brains, but men of prayer.
D. L. MOODY (1837-1899): I had often said that I had rather to be able to pray like Daniel than preach like Gabriel. What we want is men and women that know how to pray, who know how to call down fire from heaven.
DAVID BRAINERD (1718-1747): Oh, dear sir, let me beseech you frequently to attend to the precious duties of secret fasting and prayer.
SAMUEL RUTHERFORD (1600-1661): Know, therefore, that the best affected of the ministry have thought it convenient and necessary at such a time as this, that all who love the truth should join their prayers together, and cry to God with humiliation and fasting.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: For God’s sake, for the glory of His name, let us intercede and pray for a visitation of God’s Spirit.