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A Child Visits Abraham Lincoln, and Saves the Life of a Condemned Soldier.
During the war I remember a young man, not twenty, who was court-martialed down in the front and sentenced to be shot; The story was this: The young fellow had enlisted. He was not obliged to, but he went off with another young man. They were what we would, call "chums." One night this companion was ordered out on picket duty, and he asked the young man to go for him. The next night he was ordered out himself; and having been awake two nights, and not being used to it, fell asleep at his post, and for the offense he was tried and sentenced to death. It was right after the order issued by the President that no interference would be allowed in cases of this kind. This sort of thing had become too frequent, and it must be stopped. When the news reached the father and mother in Vermont it nearly broke their hearts. The thought that their son should be shot was too great for them. They had no hope that he would be saved by anything they could do. But they had a little daughter who had read the life of Abraham Lincoln, and knew how he had loved his own children, and she said: "If Abraham Lincoln knew how my father and mother loved my brother he wouldn't let mm he shot." That little girl thought this matter over and made up her mind to see the President. She went to the White House, and the sentinel, when he saw her imploring looks, passed her in, and when she came to the door and told the private secretary that she wanted to see the President, he could not refuse her. She came into the chamber and found Abraham Lincoln surrounded by his generals and counselors, and when he saw the little country girl he asked her what she wanted. The little maid told her plain, simple story--how her brother, whom her father and mother loved very dearly, had been sentenced to be shot; how they were mourning for him, and if he was to die in that way it would break their hearts. The President's heart was touched with compassion, and he immediately sent a dispatch canceling the sentence and giving the boy a parole so that he could come home and see that father and mother. I just tell you this to show you how Abraham Lincoln's heart was moved by compassion for the sorrow of that father and mother, and if he showed so much do you think the Son of God will not have compassion upon you, sinner, if you only take that crushed, bruised heart to him?
There is no class of people exempt from broken hearts. The rich and the poor suffer alike. There was a time when I used to visit the poor that I thought all the broken hearts were to be found among them, but within the last few years I have found there are as many broken hearts among the learned as the unlearned, the cultured as the uncultured, the rich as the poor. If you could but go up one of our avenues and down another and reach the hearts of the people; and get them to tell their whole story, you would be astonished at the wonderful history of every family. I remember a few years ago I had been out of the city for some weeks. When I returned I started out to make some calls. The first place I went to I found a mother; her eyes were red with weeping. I tried to find out what was troubling her, and she reluctantly opened her heart and told me all. She said: "Last night my only boy came home about midnight, drunk. I didn't know that he was addicted to drunkenness, but this morning I found out that he had been drinking for weeks, and," she continued, "I would rather have seen him laid in the grave than have have had him brought home in the condition I saw him in last night." I tried to comfort her as best I could when she told me her sad story. When I went away from that house I didn't want to go into any other house where there was family trouble. The very next house I went to, however, where some of the children who attended my Sunday school resided, I found that death had been there and laid his hand on one of them. The mother spoke to me of her afflictions, and brought to me the playthings and the little shoes of the child, and the tears trickled down that mother's cheeks as she related to me her sorrow. I got out as soon as possible, and hoped I would see no more family trouble that day.
The next visit I made was to a home where I found a wife with a bitter story. Her husband had been neglecting her for a long time; "and now," she said, "he has left me, and I don't know where he has gone. Winter is coming on, and I don't know what is going to become of my family." I tried to comfort her, and prayed with her, and endeavored to get her to lay all her sorrows on Christ. The next home I entered I found a woman crushed and broken-hearted. She told me her boy had forsaken her, and she had no idea where he had gone. That afternoon I made five calls, and in every home I found a broken heart. Everyone had a sad tale to tell, and if you visited every house in Chicago you would find the truth in the saying that "there is a skeleton in every house." I suppose while I am talking you are thinking of the great sorrow in your own bosom. I do not know anything about you, but if I were to come around to everyone of you, and you were to tell me the truth I would hear a tale of sorrow. The very last man I spoke to last night was a young mercantile man who told me his load of sorrow had been so great that many times during the last few weeks he had gone down to the lake and had been tempted to plunge in and end his existence. His burden seemed too much for him. Think of the broken hearts in Chicago tonight! They could be numbered by hundreds--yea, thousands. All over this city are broken hearts.
If all the sorrow represented in this great city were written in a book, this building couldn't hold that book, and you couldn't read it in a long lifetime. This earth is not a stranger to tears, neither is the present the only time when they could be found in abundance. From Adam's days to ours tears have been shed, and a wail has been going up to heaven from the broken-hearted. And I say it again, it is a mystery to me how all those broken hearts can keep away from Him who has come to heal them.
"That is Your Fault."
I remember a mother coming to me and saying, "It is easy enough for you to speak in that way; if you had the burden that I've got, you couldn't cast it on the Lord." "Why, is your burden so great that Christ can't carry it?" I asked. "No; it isn't too great for Him to carry; but I can't put it on Him." "That is your fault," I replied; and I find a great many people with burdens who, rather than just come to Him with them, strap them tighter on their backs and go away struggling under their load. I asked her the nature of her trouble, and she told me. "I have an only boy who is a wanderer on the face of the earth. I don't know where he is. If I only knew where he was I would go around the world to find him. You don't know how I love that boy. This sorrow is killing me." "Why can't you take him to Christ? You can reach Him at the throne, even though he be at the uttermost part of the world. Go tell God all about your trouble, and he will take away his sin, and not only that, but if you never see him on earth, God can give you faith that you will see your boy in heaven." And then I told her of a mother who lived down in the southern part of Indiana. Some years ago her boy came up to this city. He was a moralist. My friends, a man has to have more than morality to lean upon in this great city. He hadn't been here long before he was led astray. A neighbor happened to come up here and found him one night in the streets drunk.
When that neighbor went home, at first he thought he wouldn't say anything about it to the boy's father, but afterward he thought it was his duty to tell him. So in a crowd in the street of their little town he just took the father aside, and told him what he had seen in Chicago. It was a terrible blow. When the children had been put to bed that night he said to his wife, "Wife, I have bad news. I have heard from Chicago today." The mother dropped her work in an instant and said: "Tell me what it is." "Well, our son has been seen on the streets of Chicago, drunk." Neither of them slept that night, but they took their burden to Christ, and about daylight the mother said: "I don't know how, I don't know when or where, but God has given me faith to believe that our son will be saved and will never come to a drunkard's grave."
One week after, that boy left Chicago. He couldn't tell why--an unseen power seemed to lead him to his mother's home, and the first thing he said on coming over the threshold was, "Mother, I have come home to ask you to pray for me;" and soon after he came back to Chicago a bright and shining light. If you have a burden like this, fathers, mothers, bring it to Him and cast it on Him, and He, the Great Physician, will heal your broken hearts.
"It will Kill Her."
I was thinking to-day of the difference between those who knew Christ when trouble comes upon them and those who knew Him not. I know several members of families who are just stumbling into their graves over trouble. I know two widows in Chicago who are weeping and mourning over the death of their husbands, and their grief is just taking them to their graves. Instead of bringing their burdens to Christ, they mourn day and night, and the result will be that in a few weeks or years at most their sorrow will take them to their graves when they ought to take it all to the Great Physician. Three years ago a father took his wife and family on board that ill-fated French steamer. They were going to Europe, and when out on the ocean another vessel ran into her and she went down. That mother when I was preaching in Chicago used to bring her two children to the meetings every night. It was one of the most beautiful sights I ever looked on, to see how those little children used to sit and listen, and to see the tears trickling down their cheeks when the Saviour was preached. It seemed as if nobody else in that meeting drank in the truth as eagerly as those little ones.
One-night when an invitation had been extended to all to go into the inquiry room, one of these little children said: "Mamma, why can't I go in too?" The mother allowed them to come into the room, and some friend spoke to them, and to all appearances they seemed to understand the plan of salvation as well as their elders. When that memorable night came that mother went down and came up without her two children. Upon reading the news I said: "It will kill her," and I quitted my post in Edinburgh--the only time I left my post on the other side--and went down to Liverpool to try and comfort her. But when I got there I found that the Son of God had been there before me, and instead of me comforting her, she comforted me. She told me she could not think of those children as being in the sea; it seemed as if Christ had permitted her to take those children on that vessel only that they might be wafted to Him, and had saved her life only that she might come back and work a little longer for Him. When she got up the other day at a mothers' meeting in Farwell Hall, and told her story, I thought I would tell the mothers of it the first chance I got.
So if any of you have had some great affliction, if any of you have lost a loving father, mother, brother, husband, or wife, come to Christ, because God has sent Him to heal the broken-hearted.
"Father, Father, Come This Way."
I remember a number of years ago I went out of Chicago to try to preach. I went down to a little town where was being held a Sunday-school convention. I was a perfect stranger in the place, and when I arrived a man stepped up to me and asked me if my name was Moody. I told him it was, and he invited me to his house. When I got there he said he had to go to the convention, and asked me to excuse his wife, as she, not having a servant, had to attend to her household duties. He put me into the parlor, and told me to amuse myself as best I could till he came back. I sat there, but the room was dark and I could not read, and I got tired. So I thought I would try and get the children and play with them. I listened for some sound of childhood in the house, but could not hear a single evidence of the presence of little ones. When my friend came back I said: "Haven't you any children?" "Yes," he replied, "'I have one, but she's in Heaven, and I am glad she is there, Moody." "Are you glad that your child's dead?" I inquired.
He went on to tell me how he had worshiped that child; how his whole life had been bound up in her to the neglect of his Saviour. One day he had come home and found her dying. Upon her death he accused God of being unjust. He saw some of his neighbors with their children around them. Why hadn't He taken some of them away? He was rebellious. After he came home from her funeral he said: "All at once I thought I heard, her little voice calling me, but the truth came to my heart that she was gone. Then I thought I heard her feet upon the stairs; but I knew she was lying in the grave. The thought of her loss almost made me mad. I threw myself on my bed and wept bitterly. I fell asleep, and while I slept I had a dream, but it almost seemed to me like a vision.
"I thought I was going over a barren field, and I came to a river so dark and chill-looking that, I was going to turn away, when all at once I saw on the opposite bank the most beautiful sight I ever looked at. I thought death and sorrow could never enter into that lovely region. Then I began to see beings all so happy looking, and among them I saw my little child. She waved her little angel hand to me and cried, 'Father, Father, come this way.' I thought, her voice sounded much sweeter than it did on earth. In my dream I thought I went to the water and tried to cross it, but found it deep and the current so rapid that I thought if I entered it would carry me away from her forever. I tried to find a boatman to take me over, but couldn't, and I walked up and down the river trying to find a crossing, and still she cried: 'Come this way.' All at once I heard a voice come rolling down, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.' The voice awoke me from my sleep,' and I knew it was my Saviour calling me, and pointing the way for me to reach my darling child.
"I am now superintendent of a Sunday-school; I have made many converts; my wife has been converted, and we will, through Jesus as the way, see one day our child."
The Place of Safety.
My friends, there is one spot on earth where the fear or Death, of Sin, and of Judgment, need never trouble us, the only safe spot on earth where the sinner can stand--Calvary. Out in our western country, in the autumn, when men go hunting, and there has not been rain for many months, sometimes the prairie grass catches fire. Sometimes, when the wind is strong, the flames maybe seen rolling along, twenty feet high, destroying man and beast in their onward rush. When the frontiersmen see what is coming, what do they do to escape? They know they cannot run as fast as that fire can run. Not the fleetest horse can escape it. They just take a match and light the grass around them. The flames sweep onwards; they take their stand in the burnt district and are safe. They hear the flames roar as they come along; they see death bearing down upon them with resistless fury, but they do not fear. They do not even tremble as the ocean of flame surges around them, for over the place where they stand the fire has already past and there is no danger. There is nothing for fire to burn. And there is one spot all earth that God has swept over. Eighteen hundred years ago the storm burst on Calvary; the Son of God took it into his own bosom, and now, if we take our stand by the Cross, we are safe for time and eternity.
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