Characteristics of the Three Sermons: God’s Love – The Excuses of Men – Reaping Whatsoever We Sow.
If one has known Mr. Moody for any great length of time, there are three sermons which doubtless would come before his mind as being more intimately associated with the great evangelist than any other sermons he has preached.
The first has to do with the love of God.
The second, with the excuses of men.
The third, with his special appeal made to men in every part of the English speaking world on “Sowing and Reaping.”
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE THREE SERMONS
The first sermon is remarkable because for a long time Mr. Moody felt called to preach the law, and was constantly crying out, after the manner of an Old Testament prophet, against sin, but under the influence of Harry Moorehouse, as suggested in another part of this volume, he seemed to come out from under the power of law into the power of grace, and his preaching was altogether different.
His sermon on the excuses is very characteristic of him, and one has but to shut his eyes as he reads, to see the greatest evangelist of the generation pleading with men, as he alone could do,- now moving his audience to tears, and then almost instantly having them convulsed with laughter, but as a result of it all, leading multitudes to Christ.
The third sermon is one which a host of men throughout the world will ever remember. It was the first sermon I ever heard him preach. Under the power of it, I saw my own heart as never before, and under the power of the Holy Ghost, as manifested in the preacher’s sermon, I began to feel the power of Christ to make me clean.
The sermons follow in the order mentioned:
I have often thought I would like to have but one text; and if I thought I could only make the world believe that God is love, I would only take that text and go up and down the earth trying to counteract what Satan has been telling them – that God is not love. He has made the world believe it effectually. It would not take twenty-four hours to make the world come to God, if you can only make them believe God is love. If you can really make. a man believe you love him, you have won him; and if I could only make people really believe that God loves them, what a rush we would see for the Kingdom of God! Oh, how they would rush in! But man has got a false idea about God, and he will not believe that He is a God of love. It is because he don’t know Him.
Now, in Paul’s farewell letter to the Corinthians, in the 13th chapter, 2d Corinthians, he says: “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect. Be of good comfort. Be of one mind. Live in peace, and the God of love” – he calls Him the God of love – “and peace shall be with you.” Then John, who was better acquainted with Christ, telling us about the love God has for this perishing world, writes in this epistle, in the evening of his life, these words. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God, and he that loveth not knoweth no God, for God is love.” We built a Church in Chicago a number of years ago, and we were so anxious to make people believe that God is love, that we thought if we could riot preach it into their hearts, we would burn it in, and so right over the pulpit we had the words put in gas jets, “God is love,” and every night we had it there. A man going along there one night glanced in through the door and saw the text. He was a poor prodigal, and he passed on and as he walked away, he said to himself, “God is love? No. God is not love. God does not love me. He does not love me, for I am a poor, miserable sinner. If God was love, He would love me. God is not love.” Yet there the text was, burning down into his soul. And he went on a little further, and turned around and came back and went into the meeting. He didn’t hear what the sermon was, but the text got into his heart, and that is what we want it is of very little account what men say, if God’s word only gets into the heart. And he stayed after meeting was over, and I found him there weeping like a child; but as I unfolded the Scripture, and told him how God had loved him from his earliest childhood all along, the light of the Gospel broke into his mind, and he went away rejoicing. This would be the best meeting to-day we have had yet, if we could only make this audience believe that God is love.
Now turn a moment to the 13th chapter of John’s Gospel, first verse: “Now, before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world He loved them unto the end.” His love is unchangeable. That night He knew very well what was going to happen. Judas had gone out to betray Hun. He knew it. He had already left that little band to go out and sell Christ. Do you tell me Christ did not love Judas? That very night He said to him, “Judas, what thou doest, do quickly;” and when Judas, meeting Him in the garden, kissed Him, and He said, “Betrayest thou thy Master with a kiss?” was it not the voice of love and compassion that ought to have broken Judas’ heart? He loved him in the very hour that he betrayed Him; and that is what is going to make hell so terrible, that you go there with the love of God beneath your feet. It is not that He don’t love you, but you despise His love. It is a terrible thing to despise love. He loved them unto the end. He knew very well that Peter was going to deny Him that night and curse and swear because he was mistaken for Jesus’ companion. He knew all His disciples would forsake Him, and leave Him to suffer alone, and yet He says He loved them unto the end. And the sweetest words that fell from the lips of the Son of God were that night when they were going to leave Him. Those words that fell from his lips that night will live forever. How they will live in the hearts of God’s people! We could not get on very well without the 14th of John and the 15th and 16th. was on that memorable night that He uttered those blessed words, and on that very night that He told them how much God loved them. It seems as if that particular night, when He was about to be deserted by all, His heart was bursting with love for His flock.
Just let us look at the 16th chapter and the 27th verse and see what He says: For the Father Himself loveth you because ye have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” I don’t know but what Christ felt that there might be some of His disciples that would not love the Father as they loved Him. I remember for the first few years after I was converted I had a good deal more love for Christ than for God the Father, whom I looked upon as the stern Judge, while I regarded Christ as the Mediator who had come between me and that stern Judge, and had appeased His wrath, but when I got a little better acquainted with my Bible those views all fled. After I became a father, and woke up to the realization of what it cost God to have His Son die, I began to see that God was to be loved just as much as His Son was. Why, it took more love for God to give His Son to die than it would to die Himself. You would a thousand times sooner die yourself in your son’s place than have him taken away. If the executioner was about to take your son to the gallows, you would say, Let me die in his stead let my son be spared.” Oh, think of the love God must have had for this world that He gave His only begotten Son to die for it, and that is what I want you to understand. “The Father Himself loveth you because you have loved Me.” If a man has loved Christ, God will set His love upon him. Then in the 17th chapter, 23d verse, in that wonderful prayer He made that night, “I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know Thou hast sent Me and hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me.” God could look down from Heaven and see His Son fulfilling His will, and He said “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” But when it is said, “God loved us as He loved His own Son,” it used to seem to me to be downright blasphemy, until I found it was in the Word of God. That was the wonderful prayer He made on the night of His betrayal. Is there any love in the world like that? Is there anything to be compared to the love of God? Well may Paul say, “It passeth knowledge.”
And then, I can imagine some of you saying, “Well, He loved his disciples and He loves those who serve Him faithfully, but then I have been untrue.” I may be speaking now to some backsliders, but if I am, I want to say to everyone here: “The Lord loves you.” Now, it says in John, first chapter: “He loved them unto the end.” That is, His love was unchangeable and you may have forgotten Hun and betrayed Him and denied Him, but nevertheless He loves you, He loves the backslider. There is not a man here that has wandered from God and betrayed Him but what the Lord Jesus loves him and wants him to come back. Now in this 14th chapter of Hosea He says, “I will heal every backslider. I will love them freely.” So the Lord tells the back-sliders, “If you will only come back to Me I will forgive you.” It was thus with Peter who denied his Lord; the Savior forgave him, and sent him to preach His glorious Gospel on the day of Pentecost, when three thousand were won to Christ under one sermon of a backslider.
Just turn to the 31st chapter of Jeremiah and the 3rd verse. He hath loved us,” he says, “with an everlasting love.”
Now there is a difference between human and divine love. The one is fleeting, the other is everlasting. There is no end of God’s love. I can imagine some of you saying: “If God has loved us with an everlasting love, why does it say that God is angry with the sinner every day?” Why, dear friends, that very word “anger” in the Scriptures is one of the very strongest evidences and expressions of God’s love. Suppose I have got two boys, and one of them goes out and lies and swears and steals and gets drunk; if I have no love for him I don’t care what he does; but just because I do love him it makes me angry to see him take that course, and it is because God loves the sinner that he gets angry with him. That very passage shows how strong God’s love is. Let me tell you, dear friends, God loves you in all your backslidings and wanderings. You may despise His love and trample it under your feet and go down to ruin, but it wont be because God don’t love you. I once heard of a father, who had a prodigal boy, and the boy had sent his mother down to the grave with a broken heart, and one evening the boy started out as usual to spend the night in drinking and gambling, and his old father as he was leaving said, “My son, I want to ask a favor of you to-night. You have not spent an evening with me since your mother died, and now I want you to spend this night at home. I have been very lonely since your mother died. Now, wont you gratify your old father by staying at home with him? “No,” said the young man, “it is lonely here, and there is nothing to interest me, and I am going out.” And the old man prayed and wept, and at last he said, “My boy, you are just killing me, as you have killed your mother. These hairs are growing whiter, and you are sending me, too, to the grave.” Still the boy would not stay, and the old man said, “If your are determined to go to ruin, you must go over this old body to-night. I cannot resist you. You are stronger than I, but if you go out you must go over this body.” And he laid himself down before the door, and that son walked over the form of his father, trampled the love of his father under foot and went out.
And that is the way with sinners. You have got to trample the blood of God’s Son under your feet if you go down to death, to make light of the blood of the innocent, to make light of the wonderful love of God, to despise it. But whether you do or not, He loves you still. I can imagine some of you saying, “Why does He not show His love to us?” Why, how can it be any further shown than it is? You say so because you won’t read His Word and find out how much He loves you. If any man will take a concordance and run through the Scriptures with the one word “love,” you will find out how much He loves you; you will find out that it is all one great assurance of His love. He is continually trying to teach you this one lesson, and to win you to Himself by a cross of love. All the burdens He has placed upon the sons of men have been out of pure love, to bring you to Himself. Those who do not believe that God is love are under the power of the Evil One. He has blinded you, and you have been deceived with his lies. God’s dealing has been all love, love, love, from the fall of Adam to the present hour. Adam’s calamity brought down God’s love. No sooner did the news reach Heaven than God came down after Adam with His love. That voice that rang through Eden was the voice of love, hunting after the fallen one – ” Adam, where art thou?” For all these thousand years that voice of love has been sounding down the ages. Out of His love He made a way of escape for Adam. God saved him out of His pity and love.
In the 63d chapter of Isaiah, and the 9th verse, we read: “In all their affliction, He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them. In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” In all their afflictions He was afflicted You cannot afflict one of God’s creatures without afflicting Him. He takes the place of a living father. There a man has a sick child burning with fever. How gladly the father or the mother would take that fever and put it Into their own bosoms. The mother would take from a child its loathsome disease right out of its body, and put it into her own – such is a mother’s love. How she pities the child, and how gladly she would suffer in the place of the child! That illustration has been often used here – ” As a mother pitieth her children.” You cannot afflict any of God’s creatures, but God feels it. The Son of His bosom came to redeem us from the cares of the world. I do not see how any man with an open Bible before him can get up and say to me that he does not see how God is love. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man will lay down his life for his friend.” Christ laid down His life on the cross, and cried in His agony, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” That was wonderful love. You and I would have called fire down from Heaven to consume them. We would have sent them all down into the hot pavement of hell. But the Son of God lifted up His cry, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
I hear some one say, “I do not see, I do not understand how it is that He loves us.” What more proof do you want that God loves you? You say, “I am not worthy to be loved.” That is true. I will admit that. And He does not love you because you deserve it. It will help us to get at the Divine love to look a little into our own. families, and at our human love. Take a mother with nine children, and they are all good children save one. One is a prodigal, and he has wandered off, and he is everything that is bad. That mother will probably love that prodigal boy as much or more than all the rest put together. It will be with a love mingled with pity. A friend of mine was visiting at a house some time ago, where quite a company were assembled and were talking pleasantly together. He noticed that the mother seemed agitated, and was all the while going out and coming in. He went to her aside and asked her what troubled her, and she took him out into another room and introduced him to her boy. There he was, a poor wretched boy, all mangled and bruised with the fall of sin. She said, ” I have much more trouble with him than with all the rest. He has wandered far, but he is my boy yet.” She loved him still. So God loves you still.
That love, it ought to break your hearts to hear of, and it ought to bring you right to Him. You may say you do not deserve it, and that is true; but because you do not deserve it, God offers it to you. You may say, “If I could get rid of my sins, God would love me,” In Revelation, 1st chapter, 5th verse, it says: “Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” It does not say He washed us from our sins and then loved us. He loved us first, and then washed us clean. Some people say, you must turn away from sin, and then Christ will love you. But how can you get rid of it until you come to Him? He takes us into His own bosom, and then He cleanses us from sin. He has shed His blood for you; He wants you and He will redeem you to-day if you will.
An Englishman told me a story once that may serve to illustrate this truth, that God loves men in their sin. He does not love sin, but He loves men even in their sin. He seeks to save them from sin. There was a boy a great many years ago, stolen in London the same as Charley Ross was stolen here. Long months and years passed away, and the mother had prayed and prayed, as that mother of Charley Ross has prayed, I suppose, and all her efforts had failed, and they had given up all hope; but the mother did not quite give up her hope. One day a little boy was sent up into the neighboring house to sweep the chimney, and by some mistake he got down again through the wrong chimney. When he came down, he came in by the sitting room chimney. His memory began at once to travel back through the years that had passed. He thought that things looked strange and familiar. The scenes of the early days of youth were dawning upon him; and as he stood there surveying the place, his mother came into the room. He stood there covered with rags and soot. Did she wait until she had sent him to be washed before she took him into her arms? No, indeed; it was her own boy. She took him to her arms, all black and smoke, and hugged him to her bosom, and shed tears of joy upon his head. You have wandered very far from Him; there may not be a sound spot upon you, but if you will just come to God, He will forgive and receive you.
There is a verse in Isaiah xxxviii, – the 17th verse, – that I think a good deal of. It reads: “Thou has in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption, for Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back.” Mark you, the love comes first. He did not say that He had taken away sins and cast them ,behind Him. He loved us first, and then He took our sins away. I like that little word m-y “my” there. The reason we do not get any benefit from Scripture is because we are always talking about generalizations. We say: “God loves nations, God loves churches, and loves certain classes of people. But here it reads: “Out of love to my soul He has taken all my sins and cast them behind His back.” If they are behind His back they are gone from me forever. If they are cast behind His back, how can Satan ever get at them again? I will defy any fiend from hell to find them. Satan can torment me with them no more.
There are four expressions wherein God put our sins away. The first is, He has blotted out our sins like a thick cloud. You remember, don’t you, how in the morning we wake and sometimes find the sky covered with clouds, and by the afternoon there is not a cloud to be seen. Can any one tell where the clouds go to? They vanish and we see them no more, and no one can tell what has become of them. God has blotted out our sins like these clouds. Another verse is: “I will remove them as far as she east is from the west,” Another is: “I will roll them into the depths of the sea.” And there is this one which reads “Who will take them out of love to my soul and cast them behind his back.” They are gone through time and eternity. Bear in mind, it is out of love He does it, not out of justice. It is not justice we want, but mercy. God feels wonderful love, which it ought to break every heart here to contemplate, and the love of God ought to sweep over this audience, and bow every head here to-night, and fill our hearts full of gratitude and praise that God so loved us, and gave himself for us. It says in Galatians, 2d chapter, 20th verse, “Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Take that verse in Isaiah, “Who loved my soul” and put it with this verse, “Who loved me and gave Himself for me,” and you have it all. Christ shed every drop of his precious blood for sinners. Some people say “only one single drop of Christ’s blood is enough to cleanse you from sin.” It is not true. If one drop would have done it, He would have shed but one drop; but it took every drop of blood that His life had, and He gave it all up to save us. Paul says, “He loved me and gave Himself for me, and so Paul loved Him in return. If you could but get that thought in your mind that Christ has loved you so much as to give Himself for you, you cannot help loving Him in return.
EXCUSES OF MEN
“And they all with one consent began to make excuse.”–St. Luke, xiv., part of 18th verse.
We read in the 14th chapter of Luke that Christ is invited by one of the chief Pharisees to take supper with him on the Sabbath. I think by reading it carefully you will find it was a snare that the Pharisees were setting for Christ, that they were trying to get Him into some trouble, in order to get some reason that they might put Him out of the way. The law was that a man should not work on the Sabbath day, and the Pharisees were all the time bringing charges against Christ, because He was, as they said, working on the Sabbath! And so this Pharisee invited Him to his house, and there was a great company there. They had a certain man there who had the dropsy. Undoubtedly they had sent a servant out to get the man in so as to have him ready for the occasion. They had him sitting right opposite to Christ. Christ said to the Pharisees and the others sitting by, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?” And there wouldn’t one of them answer Him a word.
One after another, I can imagine, looked down, and it was as if they had said, “Keep still now,” and they held their peace. Christ said to the man who had the dropsy, “You may be healed,” and the man got up and walked borne a perfectly sound man. Christ said to the Pharisees, “If any of you have an ass or an ox fallen into the pit, will you not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath day?” And they said not a word. They knew very well that if any of them had an ox or an ass fallen into the pit they would save him if it was on the Sabbath day. But they said nothing. They were all the time putting questions to Him; but see how Christ answered all these questions. It would be well for you to take your Bible and go through the Scriptures and see with what wisdom and tact those questions were answered that were put to Christ.
He said to the Pharisees gathered there – for he noticed that there was a great rush to see who was going to get the best seats. There they were pushing and elbowing each other back in order to get the best seats. Christ said, “Let me give you counsel. When you are invited to a feast take the lowest place. Do not be so ambitious to get the best place, to get to the head of the table; because if you get there, and a more honorable person comes, the head of the feast will make you sit further down, and you will be mortified and ashamed.” Then He turned to the chief of the Pharisees who invited Him and said: “When you get up a feast, do not go and invite the rich, or you will be looking for them to invite you again.” Isn’t it the same thing to-day in the world? When people get up a feast, they invite the rich and influential, so by that means they will get into society, and their invitations will be returned. But, He said, go to the lame, the halt, the dumb, the blind, and ask them, and you will be well rewarded for what you do by our Father in Heaven. A man sitting at the table burst out and said, Blessed is the man that shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God.” Then Christ said, “A certain man made a great supper and bade many;” here He described the great spiritual feast -” and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ And they began to make excuses.” They made excuse. They did not have any to offer without making them. “And they all with one consent began to make excuses.” A man gets up a feast, and his friends make no excuses; but God gets up a feast, and not only prepares a table, but He goes forth and invites them all to come. They cannot go; they would like to go, they say, but cannot possibly, they have so much to do. Let me show you what these excuses are, and you will see on the face of them that they are downright lies. The Scripture says, “One after one they began to make excuses.” If those, men had been invited to go out and walk, if they had been invited to go to a hospital to witness some terrible operation, or if they had been invited to an execution, they would have had some reason for giving excuses; but these men were invited to a royal feast. It is not often that common people like us get an invitation to a royal feast. If Queen Victoria were to invite us to a feast at Windsor Castle, do you suppose we would not regard it as a great honor? Do you suppose you would make excuses? O, my friends, I have an invitation to-day that is a thousand times beyond that. It is from the very King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is the Marriage Supper of God’s own Son. Blessed is he that shall be at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. He wants to see you all there. The invitation is to every one here. All are invited – the lowest, the highest, the richest, the poorest, all can come if they will.
Do you ever think what would take place in a city like New York if God should take men at their word when they make excuses, and should say to-night, “Well, I will excuse you,” and so, with one stroke of Providence should sweep them all away, and cease to care for those who refused Him? Why, the grass would right away begin to grow in your streets. There would be very few stores open to-morrow. Most of the merchants would want to be excused; their stores would be closed up, every solitary one of them. The rumsellers would all want to be excused. You cannot find a rumseller in all New York but wants to be excused. Every man that is carrying on a dishonest business would want to be excused. I do not think there would be any crowd here to-morrow, if that should take place in the next twenty-four hours. What desolation would reign in the streets of New York, and how many of all classes would make excuses! If I should step down from this place, and go right down the aisle among the audience, beginning with that little boy, and asking every one down the line, if you had not an excuse, how many of you would not have them? You would begin to find one before I got to you, and if you could not find one, you would make up one, and if you could not easily think of one, Satan would help you to get up one.
Let us take up the excuses of those three men mentioned here. The first man had bought some ground, and he must needs go and see it. Why didn’t he see the ground before he bought it? If he had been a good businessman, he would have seen it first. If he had been, he would have been looking at the title. That would have been the better way. But he said he must go and see his ground. He had an invitation to the supper, and said, I would like to go, but I cannot.” And he said to the servant, “Tell the Lord I would be delighted to be there. I do not know anything that would please me more than to go, but business is so pressing it will be utterly impossible for me to go.” If the devil can only get us off into some cradle of excuses and rock us off to sleep, that is all he wants. If would have been better if this man had been honest and said to the servant, “Tell the Lord I don’t want to go to the feast.” It is better to be honest than to seek a refuge of lies and false excuses.
And the other man could not accept the invitation either I suppose he thought to himself, “How shall I get out of it?” So he said, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen. I will give them as my excuse.” I suppose, perhaps he asked his wife, “What shall I tell him?” Perhaps his wife told him, “Say you have just bought five yoke of oxen, and that you have to go and prove them.” Now, why didn’t he prove them before he bought them? And besides, did he not have plenty of time to prove them? It was not necessary for him to go Just at the hour of the feast to prove his oxen. He manufactured the excuse. The third man’s excuse is more absurd, if possible, than the others. He said, “I have just married a wife.” What difference did that make about his going? Why didn’t he take his wife along? You can see that that excuse was a downright lie. So these three men made excuses, and when the messenger came back and gave them to the Lord, he said, “Not one of those that were bidden and have refused shall taste of my supper. Go and get the beggars from the highways and hedges, and the tramps and the poor, the lame, the maimed, the dumb, the blind, and if these men won’t accept the invitation, let those who will, come. Let those that will accept of the invitation and press into the Kingdom. Thank God that His Gospel is for the poor as well as for the rich. If the rich won’t have it, thank God that the poor are pressing into the Kingdom.
I want, to call your attention to the fact, that since these 1900 years have worn away, men are becoming very wise, or think they are, and they say, “We have now outgrown this old Bible, and are now living in a more intellectual age. Men are wiser than they used to be. They have got a great deal more culture; they have a great deal more refinement.” But, my friends, with all your culture and all your refinement, can you find one man who has any better excuse than these three men had? I have met hundreds here in New York, in the inquiry room and outside of it, during the past few weeks, and I have yet to find the first man who has a better excuse. My friend, what is your excuse? Have you got a better one? Why do you not accept the invitation? God invites you.
I have often heard people say “I would like to be a Christian very much, but O, it is so hard to serve God.” Is that true? Is God a hard master? Is the devil an easy one? Is it true that those who have served both masters have found that .God is such a hard master? Is He austere? Does He require us to perform more than we can? Does He reap where He has not sown? O, ye saints of the living God, is that your testimony? There never was a greater lie forged in hell and told on earth, than that. “The way of the transgressor is hard.” Ask the men in prison, ask the drunkard, if the way of the transgressor is one of ease.
Go down to the Tombs. I am told that that little bridge over the prison yard over which the prisoners are led has written on one side the words, “The way of the transgressor is hard.” If that is not true, how do they dare put it on there? They ought to take it off. There is not a man in all New York but knows as he goes down deep in his heart that the way of the transgressor is hard. On the other side of that bridge it is written, The Bridge of Sighs;” and over that the young men pass every day, and every one of them will testify that that portion of the Bible is true where it says the way of the transgressor is hard. So don’t give that as an excuse.
There is another class that say, “I believe that. I believe the most delightful service in the world is serving Christ. That is not my excuse, but my excuse is this: There are so many things in that Bible that are dark and mysterious. I don’t understand the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. If I could understand the Bible on reading it through once, I could accept the invitation; but there are so many dark and mysterious things that I cannot accept the invitation,” and so we find a good many giving the Bible as an excuse. I contend there is no book under the sun that has been so misjudged as the Bible. Of all the skeptics and infidels I have ever met, I have yet to meet the first one that has read the Bible through from beginning to end. Now, if a book comes out and you have not read all of it, and you are asked your opinion of it, you say, I have not read it through yet, and don’t like to express my opinion until I have more carefully read it.” But people are not afraid of expressing their opinion of God’s book after having read a few chapters, and because they don’t understand what they have read, they condemn the whole.
I have a boy about say four or five years, and I send him to school to-morrow, and he comes home, and I ask him, “Willie, can you read and write and spell? Do you understand all about geometry? Have you finished your algebra?” “Why, papa,” he says, “why do you talk that way? I have been all the time trying to learn what A, B and C are.” “What!” I say, “have you not finished your education? I will take you right away from that school if you have not.” Now there is just as much reason in my doing that as there is in a man’s taking up the Bible and condemning it before he has studied it, and that excuse that these men are giving that they cannot accept the invitation because they don’t understand the Bible, will not stand before Christ’s tribunal.
When they go up and stand before the Lord they will say, “I was very anxious to accept the invitation to be at the marriage service of your Son, but there were many things in the Bible that were dark and mysterious, and so I could not accept the invitation.” That excuse sounds very well here, but up there you can’t tell that. You will be speechless when you stand before God’s bar.
“Well,” says another, “my trouble is not with the Bible, which I believe in from end to end, nor do I have any trouble about that other excuse about serving Christ: but the trouble I have is in seeing so many hypocrites, and I am not going to join the Church, there are so many hypocrites. I know a person who cheated me out of $5. and that same person pretends to be a Christian, and so you must not ask me to associate with hypocrites.” Well, I say, if you don’t want to associate with hypocrites, you had better get out of the world as soon as you can. You will find one hundred hypocrites outside of the Church where you will find one in it. If you don’t want to associate with hypocrites, you had better accept this invitation at once. If I ever find a man who is a hypocrite, and betrays the cause of Christ, it only makes me want the love of Christ all the more, and I want to serve Him all the better. Because this or that man is untrue, is it any reason that I should like less the cause they betray? That is no excuse either, then. It is a personal, an individual matter with you. Suppose almost all men on the face of the earth are hypocrites, it is no sign that I or you should be so. Is that any reason why you should not become Christ’s follower?
There is a young man over there who says, “Mr. Moody has not touched my case at all. My trouble is different. I would like to become a Christian, but if I become one, I am afraid I won’t hold out.” That is a very common excuse. We have it in the inquiry room every night. “There is no one in New York that feels more anxious to become a Christian than I do,” said a young man the other night, “but I am afraid that I will not hold out.” Now, is it our work to keep ourselves, or is it the work of the shepherd to keep the sheep? The keeper of Israel never slumbers and sleeps, and is not the God of Israel able to keep us? The work of the shepherd is to take care of the sheep, and not the sheep to take care of the shepherd.
Now the question comes, will you trust Him to-day? You will be able to stand if God stands with you. When I was talking with that young man, it reminded me of a boy whom I knew some years ago, whose father was a miserable drunken wretch and infidel, and he would not allow a praying man under his roof, for he said a man that prayed was nothing but a blackhearted hypocrite. Somebody got hold of his little boy, and got him into the Sabbath school, and he was converted. One day afterward, the old man caught him praying, and he caught him by the collar and jerked him to his feet, commanding him with oaths never to be caught doing that again, or he would have to leave home forever. Twice after that he caught him in the act of praying, and the last time told him to leave his house forever. The little fellow packed up his things in a handkerchief, went down into the kitchen where his mother was and bade her good-bye, then went and bade his little brother and sisters good-bye, and as he passed his father on his way to the door, he reached up his arms to put them around his father’s neck, and said, “Good-bye, father. As long as I live, I will pray for you, and he went down the street, but he had not gone a great while, before his father came after him, and said, “If that is Christianity, I want it.” And the boy went back and prayed with his father, and led him to Christ. So you see you cannot give any excuse for not coming to Jesus, so accept His invitation this hour and be saved.
But there is another excuse, and a good many of the young people give it. I have no doubt many of these little boys and girls here say, I don’t want to be a Christian, for if I do, I shall have to be gloomy.” I know that was one of my excuses before I was converted. I thought if I became a Christian, I had got to put on a long face, and walk on through the world, looking neither to the right nor to the left, and have no more joy until I got into the other world. In other words, that Christianity was to make me sad and gloomy and despondent. But no; that is not religion, for religion should make you happy and joyful. See this man on the way to execution. A pardon from the Governor is put into his hands, and the poor man goes home to his family. Do you think that is going to make him gloomy? That is what the Gospel is. A pardon comes from the throne of Heaven, and that is not going to make us gloomy, is it? If a man dying for bread is given bread, is that going to make him gloomy? That is what the Gospel is – bread to the soul. If you give water to a man dying of thirst, a clear draught from the spring, isn’t that going to make him happy? Christ is the water of life. My friends, it does not make people gloomy. It makes people gloomy to want Christ. There are many who profess Christianity that don’t have a living Christ in them, and those are the people who are gloomy. But when Christ is with us a living well of water gushing up, it is a living well of gladness. And so, little boy, little girl, young man, young maiden, don’t give that for an excuse. Don’t say, “I will not accept of this invitation because it will make me gloomy and sad.” That is not the experience of the true Christian. If you want to see a person truly happy, with a joy that the world does not know anything about, you must go to those that have been Christ’s, and have caught the spirit, for He brings us joy and true peace and happiness.
Then another thing. There are a great many men that want to come, and they say, “Wait until I am a better man, and then I will come.” I never knew a man to be saved that came to Christ in that way. You cannot make yourselves any better. You cannot cleanse yourselves. Every day and hour that you are staying from Christ you are getting worse instead of better. The very act of your staying away is a sin, and so instead of trying to get better, and get ready to come, just come as you are and be clothed with the garments of salvation. He will clothe you with His own righteousness I noticed when our war was going on, men used to come to enlist, and the man who came with a fine suit of clothes on, and the hod-carrier in his dirty garments, would both have to take off their clothes and put on the uniform of the Government. And so, when men go into the Kingdom of God, they have to put on the livery of Heaven. You need not dress up for Christ, because He will strip you when you come and put on you the robes of His righteousness. My friends, you cannot stand before God in your own righteousness. Come to God as a poor beggar, and He will have mercy upon you.
I heard some years ago of an artist who wanted a model for the Prodigal. He went to many institutions and prisons, but could not get a man who suited his ideas of the Prodigal. One day, however, while walking down the street, he met a poor miserable tramp, and he suited the artist’s eye, so he asked him if he would be willing to sit for his portrait. The tramp said he would, if the artist would pay him for it. The artist promised and set a day and hour for him to come. At the appointed time, when the artist was sitting in his studio, the man came in, but he was so well dressed, the artist didn’t know him, and told him he had no appointment with him. When the beggar told him the circumstances, the artist said, “What have you been doing?” “Why,’ said the man, I thought if I was going to sit for my portrait, I would get a new suit of clothes.” “Ah,” said the artist, you wont do; I wanted you just as you were.” So, when you go to Christ, go just as you are, with all your rags, your filth, and your sin, and He will receive you. I don’t care how bad you are. He came for that purpose, and there is not a man or woman in this hall to-night that is so bad that Christ would not have you if you will only come. You may be a thief, a drunkard, a libertine, polluted with sin, and corrupt as the devil would have you, and yet the Lord Jesus Christ will receive you if you will just come, and come without delay, just as you are.
But I need not go on enumerating excuses; if you drive a man from behind one excuse, he takes immediate refuge behind another. If you drive him from that, he gets behind another like a flash. You cannot exhaust excuses. They are more numerous than the hairs upon your head. I will tell you what you can do with them You can take them up and bind them in one bundle, and mark it, “Lies, lies, lies” in great big letters. God will sweep away those refuges of lies. It is only a question of time. By and by you will be left without an excuse. He that believeth not, will be without God, without hope, without excuse. Do not think of giving excuses here. If you have any excuse that you call good, if you have any excuse that you think will stand the light of eternity and of the judgment day, if you think you have any excuse that God will accept, do not give it up for anything I have said. Take it into the grave with you. Let it be buried with you, and when you come before Him, tell it out. If not, then give your excuses to us here to-day. It is easy to excuse yourself into hell, but you cannot excuse yourself out of it. It is easy to take a seat here, and to make light of everything you hear, and go away laughing and scoffing at the whole thing; but ah, it will be terrible to stand before God without an excuse.
One of the most solemn things in Scripture is that not one of these men that were bidden to the feast of the Lamb and refused should taste of the supper. That is to say, that God would excuse them, taking them at their word. It will be a terrible thing to be excused from that feast. Do you really want to be excused? Is there a man or woman here that will say honestly that he or she would willingly be excused? Why not accept of the invitation now? Let the plough stand in the furrow, let the oxen stand in the stall until you accept the invitation. Let your business go until this question of eternity is settled with you. It is better for you to press into the Kingdom than it is for you to attend to any other duty. That is the first thing. A man must first attend to the soul’s salvation. If your wife won’t go, leave her at home. If you cannot get your family to join you, go alone. Make up your mind that to-day you will be up and pursuing that one object. If your companions make light of it, let them do it. It is Christ that invites you. Did you ever stop to think who will be there? Not one who has washed in the blood of the Lamb will be missing on that occasion. I would rather have my heart torn out of my body here on this platform, and go from here right straight to Heaven and be with Him at last, than live a hundred years and lose that opportunity. I want to be at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. I want to sit with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. I want to be in the presence of the King of Kings Do not make light of it.
I can imagine some of you saying, “I never yet got so low that I have been willing to make light of religion and serious things.” Let me ask you: Suppose a man invites me to his house. Suppose he sends me a note and invites me to dinner with him, and I read it and simply tear it up or throw it aside and pay no more attention to it. Is not that making light of it? How many will thus walk out of this hall, and make light of everything they have heard? Suppose here we just write out a refusal of the invitation. “To the King of Heaven While sitting in the church on a beautiful day, January, 1899, I received a pressing invitation from one of Your servants to be present at the marriage supper of Your only begotten Son. I pray Thee accept my excuses. Now, who would come forward and take a pen, and dip it in the ink and put his name to that? I can imagine you saying, Let this right hand forget its cunning and this tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, before I would be guilty of such a thing ten thousand times, No?” But I will tell you what you will do. You will get up and go out and make light of the whole thing. Let us write out an acceptance “To the King of Heaven: January, 1899. While sitting in the meeting, I received a very pressing invitation from one of Your messengers to be present at the marriage supper of Your only begotten Son. I hasten to reply. By the grace of God I will be present.” Who will sign that? Will you say from the depth of your heart, “I will do that?” Some one up there says, “Yes, I will.” Thank God for that! Why should not the one person speak for the whole audience?
REAPING WHATSOEVER WE SOW
“Be not deceived God is not mocked for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to tile Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” – Galatians, 6th Chapter, 7th and 8th verses.
It is very easy for us to deceive ourselves and one another, and there is a good deal of deception in the world. But you cannot deceive God.
When we try to deceive Him, we are thinking all the time that He is like us. We are told in Jeremiah that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Any man who leans on his own understanding will be deceived. How many times have we deceived others, and because we succeeded in doing so, thought we could deceive God; but we cannot do it. You may mock us, but whatever you do in that way, don’t mock God. I was reading some time ago of a young man who had just come out of a saloon. He had mounted his horse. As a certain deacon passed on his way to church he followed the deacon and said, “Deacon, can you tell me how far it is to hell?” The deacon’s heart was pained to think that a young man like that should talk so lightly; he passed on and said nothing. When he came round the corner to the church he found that the horse had thrown that young man, and he was dead. So you may be nearer the judgment than you think. Now, in the first place, a man expects to reap. That is true in the natural world. Men are sowing and planting, and what for? Why, to reap. And so it holds true, you will find, in the spiritual world. Not only that, when he sows he expects to reap more than he sows, and the same that he sows. If he sows wheat, he doesn’t expect to get potatoes; if he wants wheat, he sows wheat. If a man learns the trade of a carpenter, he doesn’t expect to be a blacksmith. It says in the 5th chapter of Matthew: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” See how God has dealt with the nations. See if they have not reaped what they sowed. What has become of the monarchs and empires of the world? What brought ruin to Babylon? Why, her king and people would not obey God, and ruin came upon them. What has become of Greece and all its power? It once ruled the world. What has become of Rome and all its greatness? When their cup of iniquity was full, it was dashed to the ground. What has become of the Jews? They rejected salvation, persecuted God’s messengers, and crucified their Redeemer, and we find eleven hundred thousand of them perished at one time. O, my friends, it is only a question of time!
Look at the history of this country. With an open Bible our forefathers planted slavery; but judgment came at last. There is not a family North or South that has not to mourn over some one taken from them. Instead of that war humbling us, how defiant we became. Look and see how crime has increased during the past few years. Ah, this fair republic will go to pieces, if there is not more righteousness; it will perish like the other nations, if we don’t repent in time. I happened to be in France in 1867, and I confess I could not tell the difference between Sunday and any other day; and did not God punish France for her sins? She went down from her high station very quickly. But a few years ago she stood shoulder to shoulder with the leading nations of the earth.
Why have those nations fallen? Just because God made them reap what they sowed. Now if a man sows for this life, why, he will reap in this life; and if he sows for eternity, he will reap in eternity. If he sows to the Spirit, he will have his harvest up yonder. If he sows to the flesh he will reap disappointment and despair; he will reap gloom, and death and hell; but if he sows to the Spirit, he will reap joy and peace and long-suffering and gladness, for these are the fruits of the Spirit; and not only that, but he has everlasting life. Now just ask yourself to-night what are you sowing? Are you sowing for time, or are you sowing for eternity? Are you sowing good seed, or are you sowing bad seed?
You must remember the judgment sometimes comes down very suddenly, and sometimes it is deferred; but all through Scripture we find that God deals in grace before He deals in judgment. I have showed you that God dealt in judgment with Lot, and what a bitter end his was. Just take up your Bible, and, all through it, you will see that God deals in grace and government. Take that priest of His, Eli; he had two sons who didn’t care for God. He failed to bring them up right. They sold what was offered to God, and became very wealthy; but they were slain in battle against the Philistines, and Eli himself, when he heard the news, fell back and broke his neck. God sent a message twenty years before that sentence was carried out, that judgment would come. Look at the sons of Jacob. They sold Joseph and deceived their father. Twenty long years rolled away, and away down in Egypt their sin followed them; for they said: “We are guilty of the blood of our brother.” ‘The reaping time had come at last for those ten boys that sold their brother. If God will punish His own priest, Eli, one of His own children, won’t He punish those who have not accepted the offer of salvation?
Mr. Moody proceeded at length to show that Jacob and David, though children of God, were severely judged in this life for their sins, and so continued. So keep this in mind that God has got a government. He may forgive us, He may give us eternal life, but it is the law of high Heaven that a man must reap what he sows.
Now bear in mind that these three men were men of grace. We will see them in Heaven, there is no doubt about that. Now some of you will say, “If God is going to forgive me my sins, how does he make me reap what I have sown?” Well, I will illustrate it. Suppose I send out a man to sow wheat; he neglects to do his duty and sows tares. When the wheat grows up I find it out, and call him to account. “Well, to be honest with you,” he says, “I got mad and sowed a lot of tares, but I am very sorry for it.” I forgive him for sowing the tares, but when the reaping time comes, I make him reap them. Why, one of those men who spoke here to-day was a drunkard for thirty years. I have no doubt his sins are forgiven, but O, how he is reaping what he has sown! His wife and his children are away from him; he has not seen his little boy for fifteen years! I see a man in this audience to-night, and O, how he is reaping, how I pity him. A few months ago he was in a happy home in England. He gambled his employer’s money all away, and now he is an exile, a stranger in a strange land. God may forgive him, but he must reap what he has sown. Some men think that is hard, but it cannot be otherwise.
I tried to help a poor man in Philadelphia. He had been in prison, and I could not help but try to lift him up. He betrayed my confidence, so we don’t know whom to help. Now suppose here is a father; he has got a boy who has gone out and stolen some money. His conscience is thoroughly roused, and he goes and confesses it. “Yes, my boy,” the father says, “I will forgive you, but you must go and confess it.” He don’t want to do that, but he must do it; he has got to reap what he has sown. Do you think God would punish Jacob and his own children and let unbelieving sinners go unpunished? Do you think the ten thousand rumsellers of New York are not going to be punished? I would not take the place of one of them, if you gave me all the world. Look at that little, weak, pale, thin girl, only six or seven years old; she went into a saloon and went to the bar and said to the saloonkeeper: “O, sir, don’t sell papa any more liquor, for we are starving.” The rumseller ordered her out. You think there was no God to witness that? O, there is a just God yonder, and men are going to be gathered there to give an account of their stewardship by and by. Do you think that libertine who has gone and lied to that lady, and then ruined her and fled do you think he is going unpunished? He may escape the law on earth, but he will be tried at God’s bar, bound hand and foot and cast into hell. There is a day of grace now. He will forgive you the sin, though He will make you reap what you sow. He will give you your eternal life, if you will only come to Him and confess your sin, and is it not the very best thing you can do to come to God to-night?
While preaching this sermon in a western city, and saying over and over the text, “Whatsoever a man sow, that shall he also reap,” one man in the audience was deeply impressed. He sought Mr. Moody at the close of the sermon, and when he could speak to him, he said, “I am a defaulter. I have taken a great amount of money from my old place of employment in the State of Missouri. I have a wife and three children, and under your sermon to-night I have been convicted. Now what must I do? The penitentiary faces me if I return to Missouri.” Mr. Moody said to me, when the man came to me I was on the eve of telling him instantly to go back and confess his sin and pay the penalty, but when I thought of my own wife and three children, I said, let me think about it until to-morrow, and then see me at my hotel. I met him next day at the hotel, and as soon as he entered my room, he said, “The question is settled. I have decided to go back.” Sometime afterward when he had been sentenced to the penitentiary, he wrote me a letter in which he said that he had gone back to his old home; had stolen into the city in the night-time and after the children were asleep, had gotten into his house. He desired to spend a few days in fellowship with his wife, and he knew, if the children were aware of his presence, that the law would come down upon him, and so he remained hidden in his own home. Each night, when his wife would put the children to bed, he would stand near the door of an adjoining room and listen to their prayers and innocent talk. Finally he said, “Mr. Moody, I heard my little boy say, ‘Papa does not love us any more; he has gone away, and he never writes us. I am sure he doesn’t love us,’ and Mr. Moody,” said he, “I thought my heart would break, but it is true, as you have said, I am reaping what I have sown.” He confessed his sin; was sentenced to the penitentiary and was pardoned out, after some little time of penal servitude.
Mr. Moody was one day giving this illustration in the State of Missouri, and he said, “Some people have been disposed to question the truth of this.” When he made that statement, a gentleman arose in the audience and said, “I am a former Governor of the State of Missouri.” It was Governor Francis, who was speaking. “I can vouch for the truth of all Mr. Moody says, for I pardoned the man out myself.” “But, in the sad story of the brokenhearted mans” said the great evangelist, “we have a perfect illustration of the text, ‘whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.