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Moody in Prison.
I have good news to tell you--Christ is come after you. I was at the Fulton-street prayer-meeting, a good many years ago, one Saturday night, and when the meeting was over, a man came to me and said, "I would like to have you go down to the city prison to-morrow, and preach to the prisoners. I said I would be very glad to go. There was no chapel in connection with that prison, and I was to preach to them in their cells. I had to stand at a little iron railing and talk down a great, long narrow passageway, to some three or four hundred of them, I suppose, all out of sight. It was pretty difficult work; I never preached to the bare walls before. When it was over I thought I would like to see to whom I had been preaching, and how they had received the gospel. I went to the first door, where the inmates could have heard me best, and looked in at a little window, and there were some men playing cards. I suppose they had been playing all the while. "How is it with you here?" I said. "Well, stranger, we don't want you to get a bad idea of us. False witnesses swore a lie, and that is how we are here." "Oh," I said, "Christ cannot save anybody here; there is nobody lost." I went to the next cell. "Well, friend, how is it with you?" "Oh," said the prisoner, "the man that did the deed looked very much like me, so they caught me and I am here." He was innocent, too! I passed along to the next cell. "How is it with you?'" "Well, we got into bad company, and the man that did it got clear, and we got taken up, but we never did anything." I went along to the next cell "How is it with you?" "Our trial comes on next week, but they have nothing against us, and we'll get free." I went round to nearly every cell but the answer was always the same--they had never done anything. Why, I never saw so many innocent men together in my life. There was nobody to blame but the magistrates, according to their way of it. These men were wrapping their filthy rags of self-righteousness about them. And that has been the story for six thousand years. I got discouraged as I went through the prison, on, and on, and on, cell after cell, and every man had an excuse. If he hadn't one, the devil helped him to make one. I had got almost through the prison, when I came to a cell and found a man with his elbows on his knees, and his head in his hands. Two little streams of tears were running down his cheeks; they did not come by drops that time.
"What's the trouble?" I said. He looked up, the picture of remorse and despair. "Oh, my sins are more than I can bear." "Thank God for that," I replied. "What," said he, "you are the man that has been preaching to us, ain't you?" "Yes." "I think you said you were a friend?" "I am." "And yet you are glad that my sins are more than I can bear!" "I will explain," I said "If your sins are more than you can bear, won't you cast them on One who will bear them for you?" "Who's that?" "The Lord Jesus." "He won't bear my sins." "Why not?" "I have sinned against Him all my life." "I don't care if you have; the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses from all sin." Then I told him how Christ had come to seek and save that which was lost; to open the prison doors and set the captives free. It was like a cup of refreshment to find a man who believed he was lost, so I stood there, and held up a crucified Saviour to him. "Christ was delivered for our offenses, died for our sins, rose again for our justification." For a long time the man could not believe that such a miserable wretch could be saved. He went on to enumerate his sins, and I told him that the blood of Christ could cover them all. After I had talked with him I said, "Now let us pray." He got down on his knees inside the cell, and I got down outside, and I said, "You pray." "Why," he said, "it would be blasphemy for me to call on God." "You call on God," I said. He knelt down, and, like the poor publican, he lifted up his voice and said, "God be merciful to me, a vile wretch!" I put my hand through the window, and as I shook hands with him a tear fell on my hand that burned down into my soul. It was a tear of repentance. He believed he was lost. Then I tried to get him to believe that Christ had come to save him. I left him still in darkness. "I will be at the hotel," I said, "between nine and ten o'clock, and I will pray for you." Next morning, I felt so much interested, that I thought I must see him before I went back to Chicago. No sooner had my eye lighted on his face, than I saw that remorse and despair had fled away, and his countenance was beaming with celestial light; the tears of joy had come into his eyes, and the tears of despair were gone. The sun of Righteousness had broken out across his path; his soul was leaping within him for joy; he had received Christ as Zaccheus did--joyfully. "Tell me about it," I said. "Well, I do not know what time it was; I think it was about midnight. I had been in distress a long time, when all at once my great burden fell off, and now, I believe I am the happiest man in New York." I think he was the happiest man I saw from the time I left Chicago till I got back again. His face was lighted up with the light that comes from the celestial hills. I bade him good-by, and I expect to meet him in another world.
Can you tell me why the Son of God came down to that prison that night, and, passing cell after cell, went to that one, and set the captive free? It was because the man believed he was lost.
A Father's Love for his Boy.
A number of years ago, before any railway came into Chicago, they used to bring in the grain from the Western prairies in wagons for hundreds of miles, so as to have it shipped off by the lakes. There was a father who had a large farm out there, and who used to preach the gospel as well as to attend to his farm. One day, when church business engaged him, he sent his son to Chicago with grain. He waited and waited for his boy to return, but he did not come home. At last he could wait no longer, so he saddled his horse and rode to the place where his son had sold the grain. He found that he had been there and got the money for his grain; then he began to fear that his boy had been murdered and robbed. At last, with the aid of a detective, they tracked him to a gambling den, where they found that he had gambled away the whole of his money. In hopes of winning it back again, he then had sold his team, and lost that money too. He had fallen among thieves, and like the man who was going to Jericho, they stripped him, and then they cared no more about him. What could he do? He was ashamed to go home to meet his father, and he fled. The father knew what it all meant. He knew the boy thought he would be very angry with him. He was grieved to think that his boy should have such feelings toward him. That is just exactly like the sinner. He thinks because he has sinned, God will have nothing to do with him. But what did that father do? Did he say, "Let the boy go"? No; he went after him. He arranged his business, and started after the boy. That man went from town to town, from city to city. He would get the ministers to let him preach, and at the close he would tell his story. "I have got a boy who is a wanderer on the face of the earth somewhere." He would describe his boy, and say, "If you ever hear of him or see him, will you not write to me?" At last he found that he had gone to California, thousands of miles away. Did that father say, "Let him go"? No; off he went to the Pacific coast, seeking the boy. He went to San Francisco, and advertised in the newspapers that he would preach at such a church on such a day. When he had preached he told his story, in hopes that the boy might have seen the advertisement and come to the church. When he had done, away under the gallery, there was a young man who waited until the audience had gone out; then he came toward the pulpit. The father looked and saw it was that boy, and he ran to him, and pressed him to his bosom. The boy wanted to confess what he had done, but not a word would the father hear. He forgave him freely, and took him to his home once more.
I tell you Christ will welcome you this minute if you will come. Say, "I will arise and go to my Father." May God incline you to take this step. There is not one whom Jesus has not sought far longer than that father. There has not been a day since you left Him but He has followed you.
Mary Magdalene. Gustave Dore. Mark, xvi, 9.
Lady Ann Erskine and Rowland Hill.
There is a very good story told of Rowland Hill and Lady Ann Erskine. You have seen it, perhaps, in print, but I would like to tell it to you. While he was preaching in a park in London to a large assemblage, she was passing in her carriage. She said to her footman when she saw Rowland Hill in the midst of the people, "Why, who is that man?" That is Rowland Hill, my lady." She had heard a good deal about the man, and she thought she would like to see him, so she directed her coachman to drive her near the platform. When the carriage came near he saw the insignia of nobility, and he asked who that noble lady was. Upon being told, he said, "Stop, my friends, I have got something to sell." The idea of a preacher becoming suddenly an auctioneer made the people wonder, and in the midst of a dead silence he said: "I have more than a title to sell--I have more than a crown of Europe to sell; it is the soul of Lady Ann Erskine. Is there anyone here who bids for it? Yes, I hear a bid. Satan, Satan, what will you give? 'I will give pleasure, honor, riches--yea, I will give the whole world for her soul.' Do you hear another bid? Is there any other one? Do I hear another bid? Ah, I thought so; I hear another bid. The Lord Jesus Christ, what will You give for this soul? 'I will give peace, joy, comfort, that the world knows not of--yea, I will give eternal life.' Lady Ann Erskine, you have heard the two bidders for your soul, which will you accept? And she ordered the door of her carriage to be opened, and came weeping from it, and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. He, the great and mighty Saviour, is a bidder for your soul to-night. He offers you riches and comfort, and joy, peace here, and eternal life hereafter, while Satan offers you what he cannot give. Poor lost soul, which will you have? He will ransom your soul if you but put your burden upon Him. Twenty-one years ago I made up my mind that Jesus would have my soul, and I have never regretted the step, and no man has ever felt sorry for coming to Him. When we accept Him we must like Him. Your sins may rise up as a mountain, but the Son of Man can purge you of all evil, and take you right into the palaces of Heaven, if you will only allow Him to Save you.
The Czar and the Soldier.
I remember hearing a few years ago a story about a young man away off in Russia. He was a wild, reckless dissipated youth. His father, thinking that if he could get him away from his associates, a reform would be worked, procured a commission in the army for him. And this is a mistake a great many Christian people fall into in dealing with their sons. It is not a change of place they require, it is a change of heart, A change of place will not take them away from the tempter. Well, off to the army this young man went, and, instead of reforming, he gambled and borrowed, and took to drinking as vigorously as ever. At length he had borrowed all the money he could, and, as we say he "had come to the end of his rope." A certain sum of money had to be paid the next day, and he did not see how it could be done without selling his commission, and if he did that he would be compelled to leave the army and go home to his father disgraced. The laws were very rigid in Russia upon the matter of debt, and if he couldn't pay he knew he would have to go to prison.
That night as he sat in his barracks, heart-broken at the prospect before him, he thought he would take up a paper and figure up his debts, and see how he stood. And here, let me say, it would be well if the sinner would pause occasionally, and try and figure up his sins, and see where he stood with God. Well, this young man put down one debt after another, until they made a long column. The total completely disheartened him; and he just put at the bottom of his figures, "Who is to pay this"? He laid his head upon his desk wearied, and fell asleep. That night the Czar, according to his custom, was walking through the barracks while the soldiers slept, and happened to come to that spot where the young soldier slept. He saw upon the desk the column of debts, and when he came to the bottom saw the question: "Who's to pay them?" and wrote underneath the name "Nicholas." When the young man awoke he took up the paper and found written at the bottom the signature of the Czar of all the Russias. What did it mean? Had an angel dropped down and canceled the debt? It was too good to be true. He couldn't believe it. But by and by the money came from the Emperor himself. This story may be true or not. I don't care whether it is or not; but there is one thing I do know is true, and that is that the great Emperor of heaven is here, and if you put down all your sins and multiply them by ten thousand, He will pay it and shelter you underneath the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanseth us from all sin.
The Artist and the Beggar.
I have read of an artist who wanted to paint a picture of the Prodigal Son. He searched through the madhouse, and the poor houses, and the prisons, to find a man wretched enough to represent the prodigal, but he could not find one. One day he was walking down the streets and met a man whom he thought would do. He told the poor beggar he would pay him well if he came to his room and sat for the portrait. The beggar agreed, and the day was appointed for him to come. The day came, and a man put in his appearance at the artist's room. "You made an appointment with me," he said, when he was shown into the studio. The artist looked at him, "I never saw you before," he said; "you cannot have an appointment with me." "Yes," he said, "I agreed to meet you to-day at ten o'clock." "You must be mistaken; it must have been some other artist; I was to see a beggar here at this hour." "Well," says the beggar, "I am he." "You?" "Yes." "Why, what have you been doing?" "Well, I thought I would dress myself up a bit before I got painted." "Then," said the artist, "I do not want you; I wanted you as you were; now, you are no use to me." That is the way Christ wants every poor sinner, just as he is. It is only the ragged sinners that open God's wardrobe. I remember a boy to whom I gave a pair of boots, and I found him shortly after in his bare feet again. I asked him what he had done with them, and he replied that when he was dressed up it spoiled his business; when he was dressed up no one would give anything. By keeping his feet naked he got as many as five pairs of boots a day. So if you want to come to God don't dress yourself up. It is the naked sinner God wants to save.
I remember when preaching in New York City, at the Hippodrome, a man coming up to me and telling me a story that thrilled my soul. One night, he said he had been gambling; had gambled all the money away he had. When he went home to the hotel that night he did not sleep much. The next morning happened to be Sunday. He got up, felt bad, couldn't eat anything, didn't touch his breakfast, was miserable, and thought about putting an end to his existence. That afternoon he took a walk up Broadway, and when he came to the Hippodrome he saw great crowds going in and thought of entering too. But a policeman at the door told him he couldn't come in as it was a woman's meeting. He turned from it and strolled on; came back to his hotel and had dinner. At night he walked up the street until he reached the Hippodrome again, and this time he saw a lot of men going in. When inside he listened to the singing and heard the text, "Where art thou?" and he thought he would go out. He rose to go, and the text came upon his ears again, "Where art thou?" This was too personal, he thought, it was disagreeable, and he made for the door, but as he got to the third row from the entrance, the words came to him again. "Where art thou?" He stood still, for the question had come to him with irresistible force, and God had found him right there. He went to his hotel and prayed all that night, and now he is a bright and shining light. And this young man, who was a commercial traveler, went back to the village in which he had been reared, and in which he had been one of the fastest young men--went back there, and went around among his friends and acquaintances and testified for Christ, as earnestly and beneficially for him as his conduct had been against Him.
Governor Pollock and the Condemned Criminal.
When I was East a few years ago, Mr. Geo. H. Stewart told me of a scene that occurred in a Pennsylvania prison, when Governor Pollock, a Christian man, was Governor of the State. A man was tried for murder, and the judge had pronounced sentence upon him. His friends had tried every means in their power to procure his pardon. They had sent deputation after deputation to the Governor, but he had told them all that the law must take its course. When they began to give up hope, the Governor went down to the prison and asked the sheriff to take him to the cell of the condemned man. The Governor was conducted into the presence of the criminal, and he sat down by the side of his bed and began to talk to him kindly--spoke to him of Christ and heaven, and showed him that although he was condemned to die on the morrow by earthly judges, he would receive eternal life from the Divine Judge if he would accept salvation. He explained the plan of salvation, and when he left him he committed him to God. When he was gone the sheriff was called to the cell by the condemned man. "Who was that man?" asked the criminal, "who was in here and talked so kind to me?" "Why," said the sheriff, "that was Governor Pollock." "Was that Governor Pollock? O Sheriff, why didn't you tell me who it was? If I had known that was him, I wouldn't have let him go out till he had given me pardon. The Governor has been here--in my cell--and I didn't know it," and the man wrung his hands and wept bitterly. My friends, there is one greater than a Governor here to-night. He sent His Son to redeem you--to bring you out of the prison home of sin. I come to-night to tell you He is here.
A Man who would not Speak to his Wife.
I remember while in Philadelphia, a man with his wife came to our meetings. When he went out he wouldn't speak to his wife. She thought it was very queer, but said nothing, and went to bed thinking that in the morning he would be all right. At breakfast, however, he would not speak a word. Well, she thought this strange, but she was sure he would have got all over whatever was wrong with him by dinner. The dinner hour arrived, and it passed away without his saying a word. At supper not a word escaped him, and he would not go with her to the meeting. Every day for a whole week the same thing went on. But at the end of the week he could not stand it any longer, and he said to his wife: "Why did you go and write to Mr. Moody and tell him all about me?" "I never wrote to Mr. Moody in my life," said the wife. "You did," he answered. "You're mistaken; why do you think that?" "Well, then, I wronged you; but when I saw Mr. Moody picking me out among all those people, and telling all about me, I was sure you must have written to him." It was the Son of Man seeking for him, my friends, and I hope there will be a man here to-night--that man in the gallery yonder, that one before me--who will feel that I am talking personally to him. May you feel that you are lost, and that the Lord is seeking for you, and when you feel this there is some chance of your being saved.
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