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How Moody's Mother Forgave her Prodigal Son.
I can give you a little experience of my own family. Before I was fourteen years old the first thing I remember was the death of my father. He had been unfortunate in business, and failed. Soon after his death the creditors came in and took everything. My mother was left with a large family of children. One calamity after another swept over the entire household. Twins were added to the family, and my mother was taken sick. The eldest boy was fifteen years of age, and to him my mother looked as a stay in her calamity, but all at once that boy became a wanderer. He had been reading some of the trashy novels, and the belief had seized him that he had only to go away to make a fortune. Away he went. I can remember how eagerly she used to look for tidings of that boy; how she used to send us to the post office to see if there was a letter from him, and recollect how we used to come back with the sad news, "No letter." I remember how in the evenings we used to sit beside her in that New England home, and we would talk about our father; but the moment the name of that boy was mentioned she would hush us into silence. Some nights when the wind was very high, and the house, which was upon a hill, would tremble at every gust, the voice of my mother was raised in prayer for that wanderer who had treated her so unkindly. I used to think she loved him more than all the rest of us put together, and I believe she did. On a Thanksgiving day--you know that is a family day in New England--she used to set a chair for him, thinking he would return home. Her family grew up and her boys left home. When I got so that I could write, I sent letters all over the country, but could find no trace of him. One day while in Boston the news reached me that he had returned. While in that city, I remember how I used to look for him in every store--he had a mark on his face--but I never got any trace. One day while my mother was sitting at the door, a stranger was seen coming toward the house, and when he came to the door he stopped. My mother didn't know her boy. He stood there with folded arms and great beard flowing down his breast, his tears trickling down his face. When my mother saw those tears she cried, "Oh, it's my lost son," and entreated him to come in. But he stood still. "No, mother," he said, "I will not come in till I hear first you forgive me." Do you believe she was not willing to forgive him? Do you think she was likely to keep him long standing there? She rushed to the threshold and threw her arms around him, and breathed forgiveness. Ah, sinner, if you but ask God to be merciful to you a sinner, ask Him for forgiveness, although your life has been bad--ask Him for mercy, and He will not keep you long waiting for an answer.
The Star In The East. Gustave Dore. Matthew, ii, 1-12.
Elijah's Ascent In A Chariot Of Fire. Gustave Dore. II Kings, ii.
A Rich Father visits his Dying Prodigal Son in a Garret and Forgives him.
There is a story told of Mr. William Dawson, which I would like to relate. While preaching in London, one night at the close of his sermon, he said that there was not one in all London whom Christ could not save. In the morning a young lady called upon him and said: "Mr. Dawson, in your sermon last night you said that 'there was no man in all London whom Christ could not save.' I find a young man in my district who says he cannot be saved, and who will not listen to me. Won't you go and see him? I am sure you can do more with him than I can." Mr. Dawson readily assented, and went with the young lady to the East End--up one of those narrow streets there, and at the top of a rickety staircase found a garret, in which a man was stretched upon straw. He bent over him and said, "Friend." "Friend!" said the young man, turning upon him, "you must take me for some other person. I have no friends." "Ah," replied the Christian, "you are mistaken. Christ is the sinner's friend." The man thought this too good; "Why," said he, "my whole family have cast me off; every friend I had has left me, and no one cares for me." Mr. Dawson spoke to him kindly, and quoted promise after promise--told him what Christ had suffered to give him eternal life. At first his efforts were fruitless, but finally the light of the gospel began to break in on the young man, and the first sign was his heart went out to those he had injured. And, my friends, this is one of the first indications of the acceptance of Christ with the sinner. He said: "I could die in peace now if my father would but forgive me." "Well," replied the man of God, "I will go and see your father and ask him for his forgiveness." "No, no," was the sad answer of the young man, "you cannot go near him. My father has disinherited me; he has taken my name from the family records; he has forbidden the mention of my name in his house by any of the family or servants in his presence, and you needn't go."
However, Mr. Dawson obtained the address, and went away to the West End of London; ascended the steps of a beautiful villa, and rang the bell. A servant in livery came to the door and conducted him to the drawing-room. There was everything in that house for comfort and luxury that money could purchase. He could not help contrasting the scene of poverty in that garret with the scene of luxuriant elegance everywhere around him. Presently a proud, haughty-looking merchant came in, and as he stepped forward to shake hands with Mr. Dawson that gentleman said: "I believe you have a son named Joseph?" and the merchant threw back his hand and drew himself up. "If you come to speak of him--that reprobate--I want you to go away. I have no son of that name. I disown him. If he has been talking to you he has been only deceiving you." "Well," replied Mr. Dawson, "he is your boy now, but he won't be long." The father stood for a minute looking at the Christian, and then asked: "Is Joseph sick?" "Yes," was the reply, "he is at the point of death. I only came to ask your forgiveness for him, that he may die in peace. I don't ask any favor; when he dies we will bury him."
The father put his hands to his face and great tears rolled down his cheeks, as he said, "Can you take me to him?" In a very short time he was in that narrow street where his son was dying, and as he mounted the filthy stairs it hardly seemed possible that the boy could be in such a place. When he entered the garret he could hardly recognize his son, and when he bent over him the boy opened his eyes and said: "O, father, can you--will you forgive me?" and the father answered: "O Joseph, I would have forgiven you long ago if you had wanted me to." That haughty man laid his boy's head on his bosom and the son told him what Christ had done for him; how He had forgiven his sins, brought peace to his soul; how that Son of God had found him in that poor garret, and had done all for him. The father wanted the servant to take him home. "No, father," said the boy, "I have but a short time to live, and I would rather die here." He lingered a few hours, and passed from that garret in the East End to the everlasting hills.
Moody in a Billiard Hall.--A Remarkable Story.
In a meeting recently a man got up. I didn't know him at first. When I was here he was a rumseller, and broke up his business and went to the mountains. This is how it happened. When I was here before, he opened a saloon and a grand billiard hall. It was one of the most magnificent billiard halls in Chicago, all elegantly gilded and frescoed. For the opening he sent me an invitation to be present, which I accepted, and went around before he opened it. I saw the partners and asked them if they would allow me to bring a friend. They said certainly, but asked me who it was. Well, I said it wasn't necessary to tell who it was, but said I, "I never go without him." They began to mistrust me. "Who is it?" they again inquired. "Well, I'll come with him and if I see anything wrong I'll ask him to forgive you." "Come," said they, "we don't want any praying." "You've given me an invitation, and I am going to come." "But if you do come you needn't pray." "Well," said I, "I'll tell you what we'll do, we'll compromise the matter, and if you don't want me to come and pray for you when you open, let me pray for both of you now," which they agreed to. It turned out that one of them had a praying mother, and the prayer touched his heart, and the other had a sister in heaven. I asked God to bless their souls, and just to break their business to pieces. In a few months their business did go all to pieces. The man who got up in the prayer meeting told me a story that touched my soul. He said with his business he hadn't prospered--he failed, and went away to the Rocky Mountains. Life became a burden to him and he made up his mind that he would go to some part of the mountains and put an end to his days. He took a sharp knife with him which he proposed driving into his heart. He sought a part of the mountains to kill himself. He had the knife ready to plunge into his heart, when he heard a voice--it was the voice of his mother. He remembered her words when she was dying, even though he was a boy. He heard her say, "Johnny, if you get into trouble, pray." That knife dropped from his hand, and he asked God to be merciful to him. He was accepted, and he came back to Chicago and lifted up his voice for Him. He may be in this Tabernacle to-night. Just the moment he cried for mercy he got it. If you only cry, "God, be merciful to me a sinner," He will hear you.
Moody and the Judge.
A number of years ago as I was coming out of a daily prayer meeting in one of our Western cities, a lady came up to me and said: "I want to have you see my husband and ask him to come to Christ." She says, "I want to have you go and see him." She told me his name, and it was a man
I had heard of before. "Why," said I, "I can't go and see your husband.
He is a booked infidel. I can't argue with him. He is a good deal older than I am, and it would be out of place. Then I am not much for infidel argument." "Well, Mr. Moody," she says, "that ain't what he wants. He's got enough of that. Just ask him to come to the Saviour." She urged me so hard and so strong, that I consented to go. I went to the office where the judge was doing business, and told him what I had come for. He laughed at me. "You are very foolish," he said, and began to argue with me. I said, "I don't think it will be profitable for me to hold an argument with you. I have just one favor I want to ask of you, and that is, that when you are converted you will let me know." "Yes," said he, "I will do that. When I am converted I will let you know"--with a good deal of sarcasm.
I went off, and requests for prayer were sent here and to Fulton street, New York, and I thought the prayers there and of that wife would be answered if mine were not. A year and a half after, I was in that city, and a servant came to the door and said: "There is a man in the front parlor who wishes to see you." I found the Judge there; he said: "I promised I would let you know when I was converted." "Well," said I, "tell me all about it." I had heard it from other lips, but I wanted to hear it from his own. He said his wife had gone out to a meeting one night and he was home alone, and while he was sitting there by the fire he thought: "Supposing my wife is right, and my children are right; suppose there is a heaven and a hell, and I shall be separated from them." His first thought was, "I don't believe a word of it." The second thought came, "You believe in the God that created you, and that the God that created you is able to teach you. You believe that God can give you life." "Yes, the God that created me can give me life. I was too proud to get down on my knees by the fire, and said, 'O God, teach me.' And as I prayed, I don't understand it, but it began to get very dark, and my heart got very heavy. I was afraid to tell my wife, and I pretended to be asleep. She kneeled down beside that bed, and I knew she was praying for me. I kept crying, 'O God, teach me.' I had to change my prayer, 'O God save me; O God, take away this burden.' But it grew darker and darker, and the load grew heavier and heavier. All the way to my office I kept crying, 'O God, take away this load of guilt; I gave my clerks a holiday, and just closed my office and locked the door. I fell down on my face; I cried in agony to my Lord, 'O Lord, for Christ's sake take away this guilt.' I don't know how it was, but it began to grow very light. I said, I wonder if this isn't what they call conversion. I think I will go and ask the minister if I am not converted. I met my wife at the door and said, 'My dear, I've been converted.' She looked in amazement. 'Oh it's a fact; I've been converted! We went into that drawing-room and knelt down by the sofa and prayed to God to bless us." The old Judge said to me, the tears trickling down his cheeks, "Mr. Moody, I've enjoyed life more in the last three months than in all the years of my life put together." If there is an infidel here--if there is a skeptical one here, ask God to give you wisdom to come now. Let us reason together, and if you become acquainted with God the day will not go before you receive light from Him.
The Tower of Bable. Gustave Dore. Genesis, xi.
The Destruction of Sodom. Gustave Dore. Genesis, xix.
Reuben Johnson Pardoned.
I want to tell you a scene that occurred some time ago. Our Commissioner went to the Governor of the State and asked him if he wouldn't pardon out five men at the end of six months who stood highest on the list for good behavior. The Governor consented, and the record was to be kept secret; the men were not to know anything about it. The six months rolled away and the prisoners were brought up--1,100 of them--and the President of the commission came up and said: "I hold in my hand pardons for five men." I never witnessed anything like it. Every man held his breath, and you could almost hear the throbbing of every man's heart. "Pardon for five men," and the Commissioner went on to tell the men how they had got these pardons--how the Governor had given them, but the Chaplain said the surprise was so great that he told the Commissioner to read the names first and tell the reason afterward. The first name was called--'Reuben Johnson'--and he held out the pardon, but not a man moved. He looked all around, expecting to see a man spring to his feet at once; but no one moved. The Commissioner turned to the officer of the prison and inquired: "Are all the convicts here?" "Yes," was the reply, "Reuben Johnson, come forward and get your pardon; you are no longer a criminal." Still no one moved.
The real Reuben Johnson was looking all the time behind him, and around him to see where Reuben was. The Chaplain saw him standing right in front of the Commissioner, and beckoned to him; but he only turned and looked around him, thinking that the Chaplain might mean some other Reuben. A second time he beckoned to Reuben and called to him, and a second time the man looked around. At last the Chaplain said to him: "You are the Reuben." He had been there for nineteen years, having been placed there for life, and he could not conceive it would be for him. At last it began to dawn upon him, and he took the pardon from the Commissioner's hand, saw his name attached to it, and wept like a child. This is the way that men make out pardons for men; but, thank God, we have not to come to-night and say we have pardons for only five men--for those who have behaved themselves. We have assurance of pardon for every man. "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
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