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ACT II.—DESOLATION; OR, THE FRUITS OF SIN.
Scene 1.—It is a gay one. The young man has reached the far country, and life is one constant round of pleasure; balls, wine suppers, races, card parties, theatres, operas, all kinds of amusements, innocent and sinful, are the order of the day. Every day is a day of parties and every night a night of dissipation, and the young fellow is having a right royal time. Oftentimes he looks back on the quiet home life. Ah! how humdrum it was; how he pities his elder brother staying home there in all that dull life!
Scene 2.—The scene shifts. He is still in the city, but the boom has burst; hard times have come, men are out of work, famine stalks the street. On every corner there are little groups of men in ragged clothes, with pinched faces, with starvation looking out of their eyes, standing around trying to earn a chance penny by doing odd jobs, and our friend is among the company. “There arose a mighty famine in that land, and he began to be in want.”.
Scene 3.—A rural scene, but not a pleasant one. A great pasture, but not a blade of grass. In the prolonged drought every spear of grass has withered. In the midst of the field stands a lonely carob tree, from which hang the long pods covered with dust; a herd of gaunt, hungry swine are nosing about in the sand, looking for stray carob beans. Our friend stands underneath the tree looking eagerly up at the carob beans, for “he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat.” At last, driven by hunger, but at the same time weakened by it, he wearily climbs the tree, and shakes it until the pods fall from its branches, but the hogs have devoured them before he can reach the ground. Again and again he climbs the tree, but with the same result, and at last he falls upon the ground in despair, starving, “and no man gave unto him.” In these scenes of the parable, we gave a picture of the fruits of sin. The first fruit of sin is pleasure; the young man has a good time at first. There are those who tell us that there is no pleasure in sin, but I will not tell you that; first, because you would not believe me if I did. You have tried sin and found pleasure in it. I will not tell you that there is no pleasure in sin, because I know it is not true. I tried sin and found pleasure in it. I will not tell you there is no pleasure in sin, because the Bible does not say so. It is true that the Bible says “there is no peace for the wicked,” and you know that is true, or, if you don’t know it now, you will before very long. But the Bible does not say that there is no pleasure in sin. On the contrary, the Bible speaks in Hebrews xi. of “the pleasures of sin.” Of course it adds that they are only “for a season,” very short lived. There is pleasure in sin. Some one has said, I think it was Mark Guy Pearse, that the devil is not such a fool as to go fishing without bait. The pleasures of sin are the devil’s bait. But mind you, the devil’s bait always has a hook in it. He is dangling his bait before some of you here tonight. “Oh,” he says, “don’t become a Christian; you will have to give up this; the ball-room, look at this; the theatre, look at this; the card-party and its pleasures, look at this.” And to-night, if you will snatch the devil’s bait, the first you know you will have the devil’s hook in your gills, and you will be on the bottom of the devil’s boat, beneath a pitiless sun, floating out over the sea of a hopeless eternity.
The second fruit of sin is want. “He began to be in want.” That is always the second result of sin—want, famine, starvation. Oftentimes they come in a very literal form. How many men there are in London to-night without a decent coat to their backs, without a meal in their stomachs, without a place to lay their heads, who once had plenty. A friend of mine pointed out to me a man one night in Chicago. He said, “Do you see that poor fellow there all curled up near the store, with his uncombed hair and ragged clothes? That man used to be a Congressman of this district.” Fast times followed by hard times. But it does not always come that way. There is many a man living in sin who has plenty of money, plenty to eat, plenty to drink, plenty to put on, plenty of all material things; nevertheless, want comes. There is other famine besides temporal famine. There is other starvation besides physical starvation. A man has a soul as well as a belly, though a good many men in London live as if they did not believe it; but it is a fact. The human soul is so large, so vast, so glorious that God only can fill it, and away from God there is starvation. Augustine was right when he said, “Thou, O Lord, hast made us for thyself, and our soul is never satisfied until it resteth in thyself.” Away from God there is barrenness, away from God is an aching void, away from God is the bottomless abyss of insatiable desire; away from God is woe, woe, woe! Look at that young fellow as he sits there in his tatters and with uncombed hair, the hunger of his stomach looking out of his half-crazy eyes, and see in that wretched prodigal a picture of your soul, a picture of every soul in this hall to-night that is away from God.
How well I remember a day and a night in my own life. I had started out one afternoon to have an afternoon and night of pleasure. With a little company of chosen companions I was in a hall that had been fitted up at great cost for pleasure. For a few moments I had left my gay companions, and I stood in the distance leaning against a pillar and looking at them yonder. And oh, there was such a cry, such an aching void, such a mysterious despair in my heart, that I leaned up against the pillar of that magnificent hall and I groaned in the agony of my spirit. I was starving. What do you think I did? I shook it all off and went right back to spend the afternoon and night as I had started out to spend it. What a fool I was!
The third fruit of sin is degradation and slavery. “He went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine; and he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat, and no man gave unto him.” Jesus was speaking to Jews, and if there is any position low and degrading in the sight of a Jew it is that of a swine-herd. Christ meant this, that you and I have our choice between being God’s sons and hog-tenders to the devil. That is the choice open to every man here to-night. That young man might have been a son in his father’s home, in glad, ennobling and well-requited service, but instead of that he is hog-tender to a stranger. It is open to you to be a child of God in full and joyous surrender to His will, in glad and ennobling and well-requited service, or to be hog-tender to the devil. Men say, “I will not be a Christian. I want my own way.” You cannot have it; no man has his own way. It is either God’s way or the devil’s. You cannot have your own way—unless you make God’s way your own. Young man, which will you choose to-night? To be a child of God, or to be a swine-herd for Satan?
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